3:22:03 Pt. 2

14 Sep

After I ate a little bit, I went back to my room, grabbed my bike and backpack, said goodbye to Chad, and rode the 3 or 4 miles through the dark morning along the Bay to Lover’s Point, where we set up our transition area.

Mental note for next tri: Bring your number with you when you get marked. I accidentally told them the wrong number.

About ten minutes before our wave started, we all went in the water “warm up.” It was freezing. My feet went instantly numb. I suddenly remembered a story that another TNTer told me (I forget who) about doing the Pac Grove tri last year. He said it took him halfway through the bike before his feet stopped being numb. I thought it was nonsense at the time, but now I know.

Although most of the TNT women (in purple caps) stayed to the right, I decided to head to the less-populated left side of the crowd, to avoid as many flying limbs and kicking feet as possible.

The starting gun goes off and we run to the water, getting in not quite waist deep before we start swimming, heading for the first big orange buoy and hopefully away from the surfboarders and kayakers marking the rocks in our way (which I had swum over the day before). A channel had been cleared through the kelp from the earlier waves; the only challenge was staying on course as lots of other folks swim right next to you. Someone kept swimming right in front of me, on my left side, but always veering slightly off-course to the right. Annoying.

The swim was basically a triangle, with the point heading toward shore. As I swam around the far side, I got into a really nice rhythm. Once I get a good rhythm/cadence/pace going, it’s no problem. Well, almost. After the first lap, we had to swim to the beach, get out of the water, and run around a cone. I walked it pretty well, considering, although I look like I’m about to be sick in the pictures Chad took. I didn’t fall over or stumble, at least. Then back in the water and another lap.

As I got out of the water for the second (and final) time, I realized that Miller was right next to me. Miller, who got second place in the Lake Del Valle swim a few weeks before. I was pretty proud of myself for staying up with her. Maybe I wouldn’t do so bad at this.

On to T1 to wrench myself out of my wetsuit, make a vain attempt to dry off my feet before putting on my socks (I can see why the pros skip the socks), on with the bike shoes, sunglasses, and helmet. Down with the bike, and off to the start. That’s when I realized I had forgotten to do two things:
1) Fill my tires up with air
2) Fix the left brake after putting the wheel back on

I decided it was too late for #1, but brakes would come in handy, so I fixed that, hopped on the bike, and off I went.

Coach April had said the night before that the Pac Grove course is one of the prettiest around, and she was right. Even in the fog (which never let up the entire day–to my relief), the views were so pretty. I tried to take it easy on my first lap, just like April recommended, keeping my pace at around 15 mph. But that was kind of hard to do–I kept going faster, about 16 or 17 mph.

Towards the end of my first lap (we did 4 total), Bryan, another TNTer, rode by. “You wouldn’t happen to have any extra food, would you?” he asked. I had overestimated my ability to chew while riding, so I handed him my unopened Gu, keeping the half-eaten Clif bar to myself. I figured it was good karma.

There were so many folks cheering for TNT, and a bunch of people were just cheering, period. “You go, girl!” “Way to push it up that hill!” Near the start of the bike loops, the crowd was cheering like mad.

And I was having a blast. The whole bike ride, I just kept thinking that this is what it’s like to be a kid. Chad has photos of me grinning ear to ear as I rode by. It was just so fun, riding my bike in this beautiful place, out with so many other people, not collapsing from exhaustion. I even pushed my pace a bit. My goal was about 15 mph, but I kept it at about 16 or 17 on the flats and 14 or 15 up the hills.

T2 was far–I felt like I had to run so far with my bike to my transition area and even back towards the start of the run. Off with the helmet and bike shoes, on with the sneakers. I grabbed a Gu and downed it as I started the run.

The run was 3 2-mile loops: the first mile of the loop was a gradual downhill and the second a gradual uphill with a bump, as April told us. It was a bump on the first lap. I went up it no problem, started my second lap, looked at my watch, and realized that not only was I keeping a great pace (and still feeling fine) on the run, but that if I kept my pace, I could easily finish in less than 3:30 (my goal was between 3:30 and 4:00).

Everyone in the purple TNT jerseys were cheering each other on. It was great–the minute you started feeling tired, someone would yell “Go Team!” or “Go, Nicole!” Coach April was standing a little bit before the start of the “bump,” cheering us on and slapping our hands as we went by. The bump was a little harder on the second lap, but not too bad.

I was still grinning as I started my third and final lap. My legs were starting to get tired, so I tried kicking up the positive self-talk: “You can do it, Solis!” (I always take on the persona of a high school coach in my self-talk) and tried to get a good song stuck in my head. When I got to the second water stop at the mid-way point, I grabbed a cup, took a few sips, and dumped the rest over my head to cool myself down.

My legs were starting to feel like lead heading back up towards the “bump.” I was having trouble getting enough air and the self-talk wasn’t working. At the top of one small incline, I walked for three steps.

No, I thought. I’m not giving up now. I started running, saying over and over to myself, “Allison and Patti, Allison and Patti.” They don’t have a choice about having cancer, and I didn’t want to give myself a choice to walk. I jogged up the “bump,” which seemed to have grown from into a bona fide hill over the three laps, and just tried to keep moving.

Everyone was cheering at the end. I kept up my mantra and pushed it out to the finish line. As I crossed, I heard the announcer say, “Nicole Soils!” Soils? What the heck? My moment of glory and they mispronounce my name?

Chad came right up to the barrier after the finish line, which I was clinging to to catch my breath. “You finished that in, like, 3:25!” he said. No way, I thought. I didn’t quite know if I had kept up a decent pace on the last lap, and I wasn’t sure if I had beat 3:30 (and since I forgot to turn off my stopwatch after the race, I didn’t have any evidence either way). I walked around to meet him, and after drinking some much-needed water and cheering on some of my teammates, we went to check the times.


I did it! I couldn’t believe it. I was so proud of myself! And it didn’t even feel that hard (until the last mile). Hooray!

Thanks to everyone for all their support during my training, and thanks especially to the folks who donated on my behalf. It really amazed me how generous everyone was and how many people dug deep into their pockets and donated what they could, even though they had just bought a house (or a house and a car, in the case of one friend) and were pretty strapped.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I exceeded all of my goals, and I couldn’t have done it without you.

I think I might do Wildflower in the spring…


One Response to “3:22:03 Pt. 2”

  1. Gillian September 15, 2004 at 6:49 am #

    Nicole, you rock! What an inspirational story!!! I’m totally psyched for you, and I can’t wait to see pictures!

    So, Ms. Solis, what are your post-triathlon plans?

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