My 1st Tri

by Abra McNair,
Team Estrogen Staff Member

Abra's 'tough face'

My triathlon preparation was coming to a close. There had been countless trips to the crowded city pool, loping runs through the local park, and breathless pedals up hills on my commute home from work. The night before the race I had my shoes and clothes laid out, two towels, a race belt, sunglasses, and anything else I could think would be necessary. The alarm was set and my bike was clean. Yet, the one thing I found I needed most to fully prepare for my first triathlon was a dance around my kitchen while doing the dishes in my new tri suit.

Looking back, at about three weeks out from the actual event, if anyone mentioned anything about any activity even remotely related to a triathlon, my heart would start racing and I would begin perspiring just like my hormonal freshman year of high school. Back then I could pit out through two shirts at once(!), but mainly just in my left arm.

Yes, I was nervous. An incessant gurgling stomach and heat steaming from my body core stemmed mainly from not having swum competitively since 1999, when I was assigned to the last practice lane with two girls who couldn't really do the strokes right. (Maybe I couldn't do them right either, now that I think about it.) Having forgotten or not had time do any running for about two weeks also made me a little wary. But on that fateful 'First Triathlon Eve' as I pranced around the kitchen clad in a hot coral unisuit, I began to realize that this was supposed to be fun. I wasn't vying for a gold medal, my country's reputation wasn't at stake, and this small town sprint race where people wriggled biking shorts on over wet bathing suits in transitions certainly wasn't going to qualify me for Kona. There was nothing to worry about. Everything was cool.

Yet, that Zen-like state of whirly dancing, dishes and Lycra, which had infiltrated my soul for a half hour on a Friday night was mysteriously gone the next morning. Those evening meditations were replaced with not-so-relaxing thoughts of 'What were you thinking signing up for a swim time you have no idea you can match??' and 'Who told you you looked good in a unisuit?' It was going to be a long morning filled with anxiety until that 9:15 start time rolled around.

Watching other heats begin their swim seemed to be the worst way to calm any nerves, so I spent most of my time using the bathroom and allowing multiple photographs to be taken of my �tough face� by friends and family who showed up to cheer us on. Apparently, flexing muscles and not smiling for pictures is a better way of calming nerves; or just a better way to ignore a heart beat that was unusually similar to my childhood rabbit's during the summer heat.

Not being able to stop time, and not having many more ideas for picture poses, it was the big moment for my heat to peel off our towels and enter the pool. No Zen, no calming thoughts, and definitely no composure accompanied me into the water � just pure nervous energy and shaking hands. Yet, as soon as that whistle blew and I shoved off into the lane, my competitive nature kicked in. This is the same nature that compels me to race other bike commuters without their consent and grunt loudly when I take shots on goal in lacrosse. A good nature to have around during competition. (Maybe not the grunting.)

Abra swimming - she's so fast her arm is just a blur!

My race went smoothly from there. Despite immediately gasping for air and taking sloppy strokes near the end of my swim leg, I was right on with the nine minute swim time I had predicted. Transitions were quick, my bike leg felt like I had wings, and I didn't feel entirely uncomfortable running in a Lycra unisuit, as I had thought I might. And as I took off on my bike, chasing mercilessly after some guy in a Primal Wear jersey while also trying to remember that we still had 12 miles to go, I realized that yes, this was fun. Passing people, pumping up hills, sloshing water all over myself in an attempt at a drink on the run leg, finding that surge of energy to sprint towards the finish was all fun. There was some pain, many sore muscles, and a sunburn consistent with the redhead way of life, but all was forgotten or ignored as adrenaline surged through my veins after crossing the finish line. I felt like taking on the world in the art of sprint triathlons. I felt like taking on the universe!

Is there any better way to start off a Saturday than an empowering event that leaves your heart beating rampantly, your face in a wide grin, and your mind racing to find out if there's another triathlon that could possibly be coming up soon? Sure, but would any of those events involve me dancing around my kitchen the night before in a unisuit? Probably not.

Renata, Molly and Abra with their ribbons from the 2006 Canby Gator Grinder Triathlon

Editor's Note: Abra's competitive nature served her well. She won her age group AND placed second overall among the women. Congratulations Abra!! (Oh, and that Primal Wear Guy?? She chased him down and dropped him on a hill.)