Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mighty Mermaid Triathlon

Mighty Mermaid Triathlon 9/27/2009
By Margie Biddick (on the left in photo/Teresa on right)

I've dreamed about completing a triathlon for decades. My obstacle - the ocean swim. It was Maria Marsillo from the Santa Cruz Track Club that gave me the needed perspective and challenged me to face my fears.

What I had before me was an opportunity to push myself beyond my comfort zone in a sport that didn't come naturally. The final nudge came a year ago, after placing first in my age group in the Mermaid Duathlon, fifth overall finisher. As satisfied as I was with my performance, I felt as though I'd cheated by doing a duathlon (run and bike... no swim).

This year, I found myself at the shoreline, suited up in a wetsuit, swim cap and goggles among the 245 other mermaids ready to hit the open water. It was a clear, sunny morning and the perfect weather for a race.

Prior to the start, I swam around to get used to the water temperature and attempt to calm my nerves. Adrenaline got the best of me, and despite all advice I'd received from experienced triathletes, I went out with the sound of the horn among the mass of mermaids.

Everything I'd been warned about came true within the first 50 meters - fluttering feet in my face, women swimming over me, stroking arms everywhere. It was so unnerving. I decided to calm my pounding chest by swimming off to the left and creating a comfortable distance between me and the school of swimmers.

It wasn't until I made it to the halfway mark that I got into a groove. My swim time just reinforced what I know to be true - I've got a lot of work to do if I want to thrive and not just survive in the open water. Today was not the day to prove that I could accomplish this, but it sure motivated me to keep trying. My practice swims on this course were about 15 minutes. On race day, I swam the course in a pathetic 19:54.

The transition from the beach to the staging area was also slower than I would have liked. I had taken my wetsuit off at the base of the stairs, ready to run up, and was interrupted by those choosing to walk. There was nothing I could do about it and I certainly wasn't going to push my way through.

I was chomping at the bit to hop on my Cervelo. The course was an 11-mile ride from Seacliff Beach parking lot to La Selva Beach and back. A few short hills made the ride interesting: up Rio del Mar from the Rio flat, up Seascape from San Andreas, and up Center St. from Spreckles. I was curious about my performance on the bike because I haven't raced this season, done any speed work, nor participated in many of Bike Trips interval training sessions with Coach Mark.

My training on the bike consisted mostly of commutes to work, an occasional ride with my husband or friends, running errands in town, etc., Luckily, I was on the course with another mermaid who challenged me to push my pace. I finished 3rd place overall with a time of 36:53. I kept my transition from the bike to the run under 60 seconds.

I felt the expected sluggishness in my legs when I set out on the run. I'd practiced this transition a few times, so I knew what to expect for the first half mile or so. I saw my good friend, and first place 50+ women finisher, Teresa Clayton, on the run looking like a gazelle and we
cheered each other on. I ran the course averaging an 8 minute 10 second pace.

My total time of 1:23:16 was enough for a 30th over-all and second place finish in my age category. I can't help but think what my time had been had I not panicked on the swim, participated more often in Mark Edwards' training regimen, and trained for speed in my running.
Shoulda, woulda, coulda.

Naturally, I'm dreaming about my next endeavor - the 2010 Mighty Mermaid, the only all women Olympic-distance triathlon in Northern California. Between now and then, I'm sure that other local tris will be too tempting to pass up. For now, I need to purchase myself a tri suit with a prominent Bike Trip/Symantec logo!


Winona said...

Inspiring! I'm freaked out by open water swimming. What an accomplishment to overcome that fear.

Satin Matt said...

congrats for expanding your horizons Margie - sounds like you've identified lots of ways to improve your time