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I am an IronGirl

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Aflac Iron Girl Triathlon- Columbia, MD 2010

What an amazing day. Empowered by 2000 women triathletes and countless spectators. This was by far the largest race I have ever competed in. My friend, Denise and I got to Centennial Park, where the race was taking place before dawn, and already realized we had forgotten something. A flash light. We met up with another future IronGirl and her supportive husband and very young child in a stroller. Managed to find the path to the other side of the lake to the transition area. The sky got lighter during the 10 minute walk. It was overcast and humid with a little intermittent sprinkling of rain. The forcast kept moving the rain to earlier and earlier in the day. We had racked our bikes the night before at our predetermined spots. I was extremely happy to find my name and number at the second spot from the end. Even happier in the morning to learn that the girls on either side of me, did not show up. I had plenty of space to lay out my gear. Luckily I had a large plastic trash bag to use to lay on the ground and to cover my bike and running shoes, socks, towel, hat, etc. It was starting to rain a little harder. I got body marked and headed to the starting line, 45 minutes until my wave was to take off. The Star Spangled Banner played over the speakers. The lines at the porta johns were long. The first wave of elitists and professionals were about to take off. The race has now officially started. We made our way to the bathrooms with the shortest line. There was less then 15 minutes to our start time and still 10 people in line in front of us. We put vanity aside and headed for the woods. We put our light blue swim caps on and lined up with the rest of our wave. I am not sure how many people were in our wave, maybe 150-175 women. We waded into the water and the whistle blew. We were off. I started exactly where I did not want to be. I was in front. At least I was on the outside of the group and apparently in front of a lot of women who were not much fast to me. I did not get run over. I tried to concentrate on my breathe and establish my pace as quickly as possible and not go out too fast. The seaweed was something I had not planned on. It was thick. It wrapped around my arms and legs and got caught between my fingers. I tried to just ignore it. As I got farther out to deeper waters, the seaweed disappeared. I had a good one, two, three, breathe pace going. Got kicked in the face within the first 10 minutes. Glad to have that out of the way! Found myself in a good spot on the out side, I passed a few women and just as many passed me as well. Maneuvered around two buoys and I thought I was making good time.I looked over and realized I was only even with the start. Not quite half way. "You Just Do" was the motto of the day. Just keep your wits about you and make the best out of any situation. Don't worry about what you can't control. I sighted and found myself in a group of green swim caps. The wave ahead of me. Then, I realized that it was pouring rain. It didn't bother me in the water but I knew what was ahead. The seaweed started getting in my way again. Finally, there was the time clock and the shore line. My left calf was knotting up and starting to cramp. The crowd of swimmers got heavier and as I tried to give it all I had, I was pumping into more and more people. So much for sprinting my way to the shore.

As I climbed out of the lake and took my goggles and cap off, I realized that my leaky goggles had caused my right eye to become completely blurry. Volunteers were handing out towels as we headed to transition. I tried to wipe off my eye, trying to regain clear sight. Didn't work. It was still pouring rain. Didn't bother to try to dry off. got my socks and bike shoes on. Helmet on. Sunglasses on. Got my bike off the rack, turned around and headed up the hill to exit transition and start the bike portion. Still couldn't see clearly out of my right eye. Made it out of transition and mounted my bike. Still pouring rain. Had trouble getting clipped in, but was, at least, on my bike and moving forward. I got clipped in, and headed out of the parking lot onto the main road. My glasses were fogging up and still couldn't see. Decided to ditch my glasses and ride without eye protection. Happily, I got them into the back pocket of my shirt without loosing them. Finally, I blinked and eye sight was clear. Still pouring rain. I think it finally stopped or let up about five miles in. My bike was operating smoothly and I was feeling good. The wet roads didn't bother me as much as I had often feared. I really didn't feel like it was slowing my down. I maneuvered up and down the hills and passed other riders. I tried to encourage as many women as I could, especially those that I could tell were struggling but giving it their all. Made it to the turn around, and headed down the long decline, knowing I could make up some time here. I had been riding and leap frogging with a few other girls. We were in it together. We made it up the last big climb and headed back to transition. I was absolutely blown away when I turned left into the park and saw the thousands upon thousands of spectators lining the road, cheering everyone on. I dismounted and ran back down the hill to my bike rack. Quickly took off my helmet, changed shoes, put on my number belt and hat. I was off on the run.

I was feeling good. Adrenaline was pumping strong. Hundreds of more spectators cheering you on as you heading around to the back side of the lake. My left calf started cramping up again and then my right. Uh-Oh. This could be bad news. "Just do, Just DO!" So, I just did. I knew the route and what was ahead. It was a hilly course with a good climb towards the end. Had to save something for the end. I got water at the first stop, it was only one mile in. Crap. But my legs were loosing up. It was starting to rain again. Lengthened my stride down the hill then headed up the first climb. I ended up power walking up part of the hills trying to stretch my calves. After the last climb and was also the last water stop at the top. One mile to go. A nice downhill ahead followed by small rolling hills to the finish. With less than a half mile to go, Kicked it into the highest gear I had. I didn't want to have anything left at the end. I wanted to give every ounce of everything I had. I came around the last bend, climbed the last hill and headed toward the finish. Spectators cheered my on by name. (Our names were on our bib numbers.) I came into the finish shoot. Crossed over the first set of mats. Then I heard "Erin Griffin, from Felton PA- You Are An IRON GIRL!!!" Then I crossed the finish line. I got hugged by people I didn't know. Volunteers were taking off timing chips, handing out water and Gatorade, cold wet sponges, and placing the IronGirl Medal around my neck. I just wanted to take it all in. I stood by the finish to cheer on my dear friend Denise as she finished her very first triathlon.

It was an Amazing day. Absolutely Amazing. I don't know how else to describe it. As we wondered around looking for Denise's husband and kids, the skies opened up and poured rain once again. We finally met up with them and shared our experiences and stories of the race. We made our way up to the top of the hill to the food tent and ate some delicious tabbouleh and salty chips.We eventually made it back over to the transition area again to collect our things and head home. I didn't want the experience to end but couldn't wait to get out of my tri clothes and into a hot shower! Time for lunch and some Champagne!

I had a communicated goal of 2:17. (My start time was 7:13, so wanted to finish by 9:30). My UNcommunicated goal, and what I reallllllly want was to finish in 2 hours. As I closed in on the finish of the run, I saw 2 hours go by. When I crossed the finish, I estimated it to be about 2:05. We saw our times posted about an hour after we finished and almost fell to ground with pure excitment to see my finish time at 2:00.39. Well that was short lived. By the time I got back to home to PA, the "official" times had been posted and there it was, just as I had expected, 2:05. I am not at all dispointed!
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