It took me a while to write this because I didn’t even know where to begin! The triathlon is over and I not only survived it, but had an amazing time doing it. It was so much fun and I kind of can’t wait to start training for next year!! The weekend started on Friday with the Team in Training Inspiration Dinner where we gathered together one last time and basically patted ourselves on the back for getting through the training and making it to race weekend. When we walked in to the banquet room all the mentors were lined up in the doorway with cowbells and cheering for us, which was actually pretty awesome. We heard from a cancer survivor (and fellow triathlete) who reminded us just how important the nearly 1 million dollars we had raised were to patients and their families. And then some awards were given out. I was one of the top 10 fundraisers (which was a surprise to me!) and got a certificate and a TNT visor. At that point I had raised $6,320, but donations are still coming in and I am now up to $6,475 and counting! Thank you to everyone who donated. Seriously – it means so much to me. I have until the end of September to stop fundraising, so let’s get to an even $6,500! (You can donate here: http://pages.teamintraining.org/nyc/nyctri14/meredith)
On Saturday I went to a mandatory briefing where we were told pretty much everything we would need to know for race day. I thought it would make me a little more relaxed about everything, but by the end of the briefing my stomach was in knots. And where there weren’t knots, there were butterflies fluttering around. And where there weren’t butteflies, there were feelings of anxious uneasiness. I picked up my race packet (which made the anxious uneasiness change over to excited anxiety), bought a triathlon t-shirt that had the names of all 4,000 participants, and went home to grab my bike and bring it to the transition area. I got some good advice to stop in at the bike shop before checking in my bike, which turned out to be a great idea because my front wheel was really loose and a bad pothole could have been disastrous! It seems one can’t ride without a front wheel. Live and learn, I guess. 😉 I also got some more air put in my tires by a shocked employee who could not believe that I was doing a triathlon with such an old bike. He wished me luck and told me to stop in sometime to try out some “real bikes.”
My transition – yellow transition – was in the same place where we had met for alot of TNT group training bike sessions and where I’ve played wiffleball a few times so I was very familiar with the area. The field was pretty unrecognizable, though. There were hundreds of spaces for bikes – most of which were already filled with the bike of a corresponding race number, and people were rushing around getting last minute things in order. I racked my bike (with help from a seasoned triathlete and super nice stranger who actually knew what he was doing and could tell I was clueless about the whole thing) and walked home with adrenaline building with every step.
I had been too busy and overwhelmed with all the pre-triathlon stuff to really be excited before, but now it was real. Now there really wasn’t much else to do aside from putting my number tattoos on my arms (which I had almost forgotten about), making sure all my stuff was packed and ready to go (which it wasn’t) and going to bed early (which I didn’t).
Ok – fast forward a few hours. Dinner was eaten, last minute supplies were picked up and I was excited, feeling like I could bounce off the walls and not the least bit tired. It was Christmas Eve x 10. My birthday x 50. The last day of school before an epic summer vacation x 100. Time for number tattoos, which were carefully stuck to my arm like tattoos from a Cracker Jacks box. I also wanted names on my arm so that I could look down at them in case things got hard during the triathlon – names that had inspired me to do this in the first place with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and TNT. The cancer fighters. The survivors. The victims. My grandma. Her name was first, followed by three more, and the list ended with initials of a good friend – a survivor who helps motivate me every day.
Then I set my alarm for 3:30am so that I could get to my transition by around 4:15am and tried to sleep. Much easier said than done. I slept for maybe 3.5 hours, jumped out of bed at the sound of the alarm and headed for yellow transition with one hand squeezing my boyfriend’s hand while my thumb on my other hand nervously played with a ring I had on. (Props to him for everything – for getting up so early, for making my tattoos and the names on my arm perfect, for just being there.) We made there just around 4:30am and I ran into the transition area to make sure all my stuff was set up and ready.
I got my stuff situated, met a few of my teammates, and we started the mile walk to the starting line. I was in my corral with 2 of my teammates by 6am, and kept going from excited to nervous as we pulled on our wetsuits and talked about who knows what for the next 40 mins.
One thing that kept me calm though was my fan club of 7 (and counting!) who were already assembled right on the other side of the fence cheering me on with posters and everything right at 6am!! I didn’t expect that – especially so early and in the cold drizzle.
Ok – now it was around 6:40am and the line was moving. I was freezing and ready to be in the water, but was really wishing that the rain would stop and the sun would come out. There were 15 people in each 15-second wave, and so the line was moving quickly. We were told to put our goggles on and make sure we were ready before even stepping onto the barge. I was so happy to be with my 2 teammates because I think I would have been freaking out if I were in a wave where I didn’t know anyone. Now we were on the barge – and waiting. Waiting for the horn to sound. Waiting to officially get this triathlon started. Waiting for the plunge into the Hudson River. It couldn’t have been longer than 10 seconds, but it seemed like forever. I was ready, I was excited, and I knew my fan club had my back every second of the way.
And then the horn sounded.