Tuesday, July 26, 2016

YYC70.3, part 3, the famous Michelle

Last year I did the swim, and Michelle did the bike and run. This year the swim was all hers! Take it away, Michelle!

I wasn’t ready to swim, bike and run all by myself yet but was delighted when half a dozen friends answered my call to form a team.  We ended up with two teams.  Yarn Bombers and Triple Threat.  The story continues…

Friday I did my practice swim at Auburn Bay in about 42 minutes and figured I had seriously shorted the course but was able to practice sighting.  My swim cap and goggles slipped off so I made sure to crank everything down for race day.  Friday package pickup went smoothly.  The information on the website wasn’t consistent with information in the promo video, on FB and twitter and the maps at package pickup but it was the same thing last year so I just didn’t sweat it.  Luckily, someone filmed the athlete briefing and posted it there so I was able to get that most reliable information very easily and it answered all  my questions. 

Saturday:  Bike drop-off had some challenges but luckily I had lots of time to deal with them.  As I added air to the tires of Tigerlily for Antje to borrow for her ride, I noticed the back tire was 50% flat and was hissing as I added air.  I discovered a horizontal slash in the valve stem.  The pump had not been put straight on and had pushed the valve against the sharp hole in the aluminum rim.  I took both wheels off, zipped over to MEC for new tubes, hubby ground off the sharp edge on the rims and we re-installed new tubes before I dropped her off.  I made sure to ride her and adjust the brakes and check the quick release before checking her in.  Good thing I had nothing else planned for the day.  We all made sure to stay hydrated and carbo-load.  Pasta for dinner for me (although it was a bit too much in hindsight). 

Sunday race morning:  I woke up around 3 a.m. (an hour earlier than my alarm) so just got up to have breakfast and get ready.  Antje and I drove to the start for 6 a.m., parked at the hospital and got Jennifer to do our body marking.  Jennifer was volunteering to do body marking and wetsuit stripping at T1 before she headed to T2 to rock the run.  We found the bike, checked the air in the tires.  The front was good but the back tire needed a top up.  We had been told not to bring pumps as volunteers would be on hand with pumps but we couldn’t see any.  A nice gal next to us offered her pump to us.  I supervised so the valve wouldn’t go sideways while pulling my wetsuit on.  Unfortunately the pump seal was broken and wouldn’t put air in.  The back tire was about 80 psi and should have been 90 but we just went with the flow. 

The start:  I was a bit frazzled by then with everything going on around me.  Antje recognized my parents who came out to cheer us on.  Tara came over around then and it was great to chat with her to calm my nerves.  I headed out to the beach and recognized Saskia (way to go girl – she is competing in worlds!) who sized me up and asked if I had already been in the water.  Nope, I had not.  Jeez.  I ran in to get some water down the front of my wetsuit and get my face and goggles wet before the start.  Back on the beach, I was looking around for my parents and Keith but couldn’t see them.  I heard the announcer tell us to all go over the mat if we were in the first two waves (pros followed by relay teams).  I heard the first horn go and figured that was the pros.  I was still looking around.  Then I heard the announcer say the relay teams were off but hadn’t heard the second wave horn!  I looked over, and my eyes focussed on a pod of swimmers wearing green caps.  My pupils dilated… OMG, that’s supposed to be me!  I ran into the water and threw myself in and paddled like crazy. 

The swim:  We headed west and then north around the first buoy and by then the male age groupers were coming up behind us and passing us…  I remember thinking “I don’t like this.  I don’t think I want to do another open water swim ever.”  I got bumped but not kicked so I know I got off easy.  I sighted the additional buoys on the route north, then around that big buoy and headed east. 

Somewhere around the north end of the lake, I got off course.  I found it quiet and peaceful… because all the swimmers were off to my right.  Argh!  Time to sight more and head back to the pack.  By now, I was getting in the groove.  I definitely ate too much and felt heavy and burpy but my inner shark came out!  I pulled hard!  I even kicked!  I had now graduated from “Goldfish 101” and was taking the test for “Shark 201!” 

Heading east into the sun, it was hard to see the buoys.  I realized my goggles were completely fogged up as I almost swam into the corner of someone’s dock.  I was able to put my feet down and touch the bottom, pull my goggles forward, dunk them in the water and stick them back on and keep swimming.  Much better.  Much clearer.  Stupid anti-fog treatment I used the night  before. 

Around the next big buoy and it was time to head south.  I just kept swimming and tried to stay clear of the breaststroke kicker beside me.  He was a fast breaststroker and/or I was a slow front-crawler!  There were swimmers doing head-up front crawl.  I agonized over learning to front crawl for two years.  Jeez!  Right then, I caught a tsunami wave off the elbow or foot of another swimmer and gulped in a cup of water, dog paddling, coughing and choking.  Wheezing until my breathing returned to normal.  Face down, arms forward, pull, kick, keep moving.  This thing is ON!  

Swim finish; T1:  I could see the triple yellow triangle buoys and knew I was almost done.  Pedal to the medal.  Go go go!  Around the first triangle buoy and heading east to the finish line.  I kept swimming toward the shore until I could dig my hands into the sand the way Keith had me practice before jumping up to run over the finish line, and heard Amy call my name before heading into the tennis court to hand off the timing chip where Antje was waiting with Tigerlily to head off on her 90K ride to Bragg Creek and North Glenmore Park.  (That was possibly a run-on sentence but that’s how my brain was).

(Ed note, I think this picture says everything there is to say about how the swim went!)

The bike:  This story belongs to Antje. (Her blog, but at publication time her race story wasn't up.)

I tracked Antje on Find Friends and knew she was fine when I saw she was in Bragg Creek.  I had time to have coffee with Keith and my parents before heading home for a shower and to meet Jennifer at T2.  My parents really enjoyed hanging out with Keith during the swim as he broke everything down for them and gave them the play-by-play. 

Tigerlily is so proud to wear her shiny new sticker on her stem.  She spent many years collecting dust listening to the odysseys and journeys and feats and accomplishments of another road bike named Estela.  Tigerlily is my favourite bike.  She is so enthusiastic all the time like “Pick me! Pick me!” while Luna is a little more reserved and deigns to let me ride her if I treat her like royalty. 

At T2, I found parking (yay!) and met up with Jennifer to chat while we tracked Antje and waited for her to arrive at T2.  Transfer done and Jennifer was off like a flash!  I got video of that. 

The run:  This story belongs to Jennifer.  

While Jennifer ran, Antje and I sat on the grass between the two paths to watch for her and cheer her on but sadly, we completely missed her.  Eventually we headed to the finish line.  Everyone thought our Cookie Monster “Ride bike, Eat cookie!” jerseys were hysterical and many people asked where we got them.  We waited for Jennifer to run and both started getting suddenly very hot, thirsty and hungry. 

The finish:  Yay!  Jenn was there and we ran in with her but the video I took didn’t work.  Grrr.  We each got awesome medals and finisher shirts.  Time for some refuelling and visiting.  Thank goodness the sausage was gluten free and there were yummy little potatoes.  My favourite gluten-free Cliff bars were on hand as well. 

Reflections:  Two years ago I couldn’t swim.  Last year I biked and ran while Keith swam. This year I worked really hard on my swim and was so happy that Antje biked for our team and Jennifer ran.  I have been biking with Antje on her long rides and commuting to work as well as running with Keith on his long runs and running at lunch but my focus has been on the swim 3-5 times a week before work.  Keith has been a great coach, mentor and training buddy!

I was really worried up until about two weeks before the race that I might not make the cut-off in 70 minutes but was pleasantly surprised by a fast swim and then a second and third fast swim to reassure me it wasn’t a fluke.  I’m now a MID-PACK AGE GROUP SWIMMER!  How did THAT happen?  I’m no longer a dork-a-saurus goldfish.  I’m a SHARK too now!  I can’t wait to swim, bike and run solo in IMYYC 70.3 2017! 


  1. Such an awesome race and race recap!! So amazing, all you ladies!! Congrats, and esp congrats on your 1st open swim race Michelle!!

  2. this is just MOST EXCELLENT!!!!! how awesome for you! so excited for you to kill it because you most certainly will.xx

  3. Wonderful! Congrats, girl! You and your team killed it. And well done, Keith. Wish you lived closer so you could coach me too! You should all be very proud.

  4. Great description of your first tri swim! You did well overcoming all the stuff that happens in a swim and are totally ready to tackle the whole race next year!!! Yeah Michelle!!!! Well done!


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