Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Race Recap: Oshkosh Sprint Triathlon

This past Sunday, I completed my first triathlon. As always, the journey was the reward. I registered way back in January for this frightful new challenge, because I knew I'd probably chicken out otherwise. The thought of a swim and bike sandwiched amongst other people scared the crap out of me. Slowly but surely, I taught myself to swim and grew more comfortable in the pool. (I'm still no expert and have a long way to go... but that only intrigues me to keep trying.) The skinny tires of a road bike also kinda freaked me out. But I took the plunge and bought myself a road bike...  I can't even imagine riding anything else anymore! I love that bike. And through the six month process of adding  two sports in my routine, I lost 20+ pounds the healthy way. The cherry on top? All that cross-training made me a stronger faster runner.  Win. Win. Win.

I woke up Sunday morning feeling anxious, but ready. I fueled up with my regular breakfast and a dose of coffee. My mom marked my arm/calf, and I was on my way to Winneconne, WI, home of the Oshkosh Area Triathlon and also my high school alma mater. As soon as I stepped outside, I noticed the cool temps (60 degrees) and the tree tops swaying. Wind, strong winds. The park was no different. Waves crashed into the banks, promising a tough swim. The longer I gazed at the lake's waves, the more my stomach turned. At one point, I sat down to calm myself, knees to chest, eyes closed and rocked like a baby. Focus. I can do this.

I set up my transition area quickly, chatted with other racers, and waited for the last possible minute before transition closed to drop my jacket and move towards the start. There were a total of 9 waves of swimmers (max of 100 each we were told, released every 4 minutes). My Team Triumph and the Olympic participants took the water first. I was in wave 6, and before I knew it, we were up. Surprisingly (and thankfully!), the lake water was warmer than the air that morning.

 Above: My dad (on camera duty) found me right before I entered the water!
Above: Fist pump to take on these rough waves

I started off the swim with a freestyle stroke, which quickly seemed ridiculous. We were swimming against the waves at the start and every time I'd come up for air, a big wave would crash into my face. I found it nearly hopeless to breathe and started to panic.  I switched to a side stroke so I had a clear visual of when the waves would strike. I could feel my heart rate soaring and I tried to focus on staying calm. There were lifeguards in the water with floats and I saw other swimmers struggling towards them for relief.
Just keep calm. Move forward.

By time we reached the first buoy, I was starting to find comfort. I kinda chuckled to myself because this was not at all the swim I had trained for! Now the waves were hitting us sideways. The guy next to me switched to a back stroke and kept swimming crooked into me. It gave me the extra encouragement to swim faster to get past him. Finally, I hit the last buoy and made the turn back to the shore. Ahhh-Finally!!  I put my head down and put forth the best freestyle swim I had in me.

1/4 mile SWIM = 11:57
My goal had been to slide in under 10, but the rocky lake definitely threw a wrench in that plan. In fact, both the overall male/female winners mentioned in their "speeches" that this was the hardest swim they've ever done. Whew-good, it wasn't just me.

As I made my way out of the water, I heard my dad cheering me in and later along the transition chute, I saw my little girls with my mom and grandma. I can't imagine doing this one without my cheerleaders. It was so cool to hear them yell as I came in/out each transition.

The first transition felt pretty smooth. I towel-dried my legs and feet, slipped on my socks, shoes, headband, glasses and helmet. After a couple words to the few guys around me, I ran towards the 'bike out'. I really didn't want an accident, so I decided just to stop and mount my bike as normal rather than trying anything fancy.
T1 time: 2:00

When it comes to the bike leg of the race, I really had no goal... except not to fall! I had driven the course the day before so I knew there were a couple rough gravel and broken pavement spots to avoid. The event had great volunteers at each and every one of those spots warning bikers of the hazard. In fact, the best thing about the bike was the volunteers. They were ample-staffed at every cross road so we could just zoom right through. That was fun! The 16 mile bike course had some rolling hills, but nothing difficult. I found it fairly easy to keep a consistent pace the entire ride. In hindsight, I probably could have pushed a little faster on the bike, but at the time, I kept warning myself to save something for the run. Being my first tri, I didn't know what to expect and I certainly didn't want to bonk on the run.

This was the first time I rode bike in a group of any number, much less a race situation. I found it absolutely thrilling!! There are definitely more duathlons and triathlons in my future. 
16 mile BIKE = 50:55 (18.8 mph)

As I came into the second transition, I was delighted to see an empty rack. There were only a couple bikes back from my wave so far. I must be doing something right? I had decided not to use my clip shoes for the bike portion, so T2 was quick... rack the bike, off with the helmet and a new headband. I swallowed down a GU energy as I exited the transition area and I was out for the final leg of the tri.
T2 time: 1:12

As always, the run felt so weird after the bike. I felt like I was running in slow motion. I couldn't tell if my legs were tired or just numb. The run course crossed over the bridge (Wolf River) and wound through the neighborhoods that I knew so well in my hometown (but have never run!). I enjoyed this run very much. The course was busy with athletes of all levels, but never congested. I settled into what felt like a comfortable working pace. I was surprised to see my first mile split as an 8:22. I ignored my watch the rest of the run and just took it home. The final stretch had a little uphill that hurt, but when we turned the final corner back into the park, the street was lined with spectators. Just then, someone came up on my left to pass... ah, no way buster! We sprinted it out to the finish side by side. I love ending races like that! Thank you whoever you were...
3.1 mile RUN = 26:02 (8:24 pace)
This is also a new 5k PR for me! Shocking even to me that I was able to run a PR time at the end of a triathlon. It also gives me hope that I can get into the 25's?

Official Finish Time 1:32:08

I was feeling really good about how my first triathlon had played out. My cheering section was right at the finish line so I got to celebrate and rehash the race with them right away. (Although my dad was still waiting on the bike course with the camera... he totally missed me zoom past. Poor thing, he was all worried about me stranded out on the course, while my mom was ticked cause they couldn't find him. Races are tough on more than just the athlete...)
My cheering section (minus 1 missing father...)

I wandered to the results board and saw this...

"We'd better stick around for the awards ceremony," I told my mom with a smile.  I usually don't register for the the Athena division (women 150+lbs), but for some reason I did back in January. I was still over 150 so it was the right place for me.  We laid out our sweatshirts, relaxed and waited for the Sprint Awards to begin.  Sure enough, they called out my name... "And first place for the Athena division from Peoria, IL is Jessica McMullin."  OMG, I never thought I'd hear those words!

Collecting my very first trophy!

I'm not sure WHO was more excited over my trophy?!?  Smiles all around!

Note: I went online to double check my official times and it looks like the results have been revised. There are now two ladies in front of me (who deservingly earned the spot with better times). So it looks like I ended up with 3rd place rather than 1st. No biggie... just happy I don't have to return the trophy! Seriously, if I would have been bumped to fourth, I just might have cried... 

If I had registered in my typical age division F35-39, I would have came in 7th place out of 33, based on my time.  Overall #43 amongst 256 females.  Not too shabby for my first tri.  No doubt, there will be more...


  1. SO amazing and inspiring (I'm training for my first triathlon)!! Congrats!!

  2. You made a triathlon sound fun to me for the first time ever! Nice job, way to go, so amazed at what you accomplished.

    Hey, new rule, post race we don't go back and check results after earning an award.

    I wish every race had an Athena division. That would be so awesome!

  3. Wow...I felt so proud and motivated reading this! Excellent job!

  4. I loved reading your recap! You did such a great job and I'm so proud of you for going into the "unknown." You continue to motivate me and I always appreciate your positive attitude! It is truly contagious. Thanks, Jess!

  5. Great job Jess! This is SO fantastic! I rode 50 miles the same day you did your triathlon. The wind was VICIOUS on the east side of the lake too!


  6. Congrats! I really enjoyed reading your recap and look forward to more in the future!

  7. Congrats on your first tri! They are addicting. ;)

    I think you will def get into 25:xx for a 5k. That's so awesome you PR'd during a tri! What are your other PRs? I finally got my first sub 26 minute 5k in April, but I think your other race PRs are faster than mine so I think you will TOTALLY get there. ;)

  8. Jess that is awesome! You go girl! My goal is to do it with you next year. Hold me to it!

  9. Congrats Jess!!! So happy it went so well - and it's unbelievable you PRd your 5k during a tri!!

  10. Good job Jess! Glad to hear it went well and that you more than survived your first tri...you crushed it!!!!

  11. I've been anxiously awaiting your triathlon blog .. You had me on the edge of my seat right up to the end! Your goal had been to complete a tri and you blew that out of the water!! You're such an inspiration for me!! Many congratulations on your successful tri!! :)

  12. Amazing! I'm so proud of you. I know how scary it is, particularly the rough water starts and crazy swimmers. I'm still traumatized by Muncie!

    Great job, great recap and so happy you got a trophy!

  13. Congratulations! Your smile says it all!

  14. Amazing! You deserve that trophy! Way to make it through such a tough swim and remain so calm!

  15. Great Job! I am doing my second tri this Sunday, and I definitely feel under trained (I had a foot injury that just got sorted. But, I am going to go out there and TRI my best, and finish for me! Thanks for your inspiration.

  16. Congrats again! What an amazing job! Woohoo!

  17. Congrats! One of these days I'm gonna get on the tri-bandwagon, looks like so much fun!

  18. Congrats!! What an amazing triathlon, especially since it was your first! LOVE the trophy!!

  19. Wow, I can only imagine how great you feel! What a wonderful showing.

  20. Congrats on your first tri! What an amazing time you got. You are so brave to teach yourself to swim and do a triathlon once you learn how to. I also love that saying "You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new." I needed that reminded this week as I'm in a new job. :) Thanks!

  21. Congrats on an epic first tri!!! That picture of you coming out of the water is awesome!! I now want to try a tri :)

  22. It's amazing what you learn about your body during a TRI, way to pull that 5K out of nowhere!!

  23. So amazing! I have a bunch of friends on facebook who have recently become Iron Girls and between that and reading all about your training I've got the idea of 'tri-ing' in the back of my head now. It will take some time to marinate (It took a year of thinking about a half marathon, and a year of SAYING I was going to do one before I finally committed. I'm half way through training for that now, so...) but I can see myself having a great time at one, after seeing your process! Thanks! (Also, re: your placement...did the ones 'ahead' of you actually get the over all award? I placed in a race and later saw I was lower in my age group and was bummed, but then found out that the race was 'one prize only' so if someone placed in the top 5 over all, they were inelligable for age-group prizes. I don't know if that makes it better or not! LOL!)

  24. Amazing job!! I did my first sprint tri in June and have #2 coming up in a couple of weeks! I loved reading your recap--I totally struggle with OW swimming, especially when it's rocky--I start to freak out and can't catch my breath, then convince myself I'm going to drown...hopefully #2 is an improvement in that area! Your pictures are fabulous. Isn't triathlon such an awesome sport? I'm already hooked!

  25. Wow! Way to go! I was so moved by your recap, especially the swimming recap! So happy for you!


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