The Scarlet Letter A

Athena, the goddess of justice, wisdom, war, and… plus-sized women participating in endurance sports. 

500 meter open-water swim. 12 mile bike ride. 5K run.

I was tattooed with the number 824 and a big letter A to represent Athena. To compete in the Athena category, you must be a female over 150 pounds. I guess triathletes are typically very slim as I would never call 150 pounds heavy for a female. The Clydesdale division, “the big boys” as one Clydesdale called it, is for men over 200 pounds. We were our own separate wave start.

At 5:50am on race day, my bf dropped me and the bike off, wished me luck, and went to spectate. I set up my transition site, donned my wetsuit (wetsuit – 1; LP – 2), and waited for our wave to start. When it was time for the As and Cs to get into the water, they instructed us to jump right in – “No dallying.” And so, I hopped into the 60-degree, salty Chesapeake Bay water and bobbed for two minutes. Someone told their friend to “sight to the towers.” I found that helpful advice…and what seemed like no time at all, we were off.

I panicked. Again. I thought I could doggie paddle my 500 meter swim. Well, technically, I could have if I wanted to, but I was going nowhere fast. I took mouthfulls of disgusting water, I got shoved aside, and I stopped swimming altogether. It was about 50 meters out when I decided, if I was going to make it, I needed to freestyle. Stroke, stroke, breath. Stroke, stroke, breath. Not typical for my freestyle, but I needed more Oxygen because I was so nervous. Before I knew it, I was passing some stragglers in the water. I got to the first turn and heard the horn for the next wave. Stroke, stroke, breath. My swimming wasn’t pretty, and any stroke coach would have been horrified, but I had made it through one piece.

I transitioned to the bike relatively easily. The wetsuit came off without a problem, and I was ready to tackle the bike portion. I saw the bf and gave him a smile and a high-five, and began pedaling. There was a small incline leading up to mile 2, The Bridge. I down -shifted, pedaled slowly, and made it over. I was being passed, but I didn’t care. My goal was to just get through this portion of the race.

As I approached the second hill, I tried shifting from gear 2 to 1, and my chain slipped off. I stopped, calmly put the chain back onto gear 1, and with grease-covered hands I continued on. I shifted back to gear 2, and decided that was going to be my gear for the entire race, knowing gear 1 would make the hills easier. (It seems my bike doesn’t like this Athena mashing hard on hills.) As I circled back, the theme song to Big Red gum (80’s throwback, holla!) came into my head. Right then and there, I nicknamed my bike “Big Red” and sung to myself for the remaining 7 miles, “So bike a litter longer, make it last a little longer, Longer with Big Red!”

I was relieved to see when I was starting loop 2, some triathletes were starting their first loop on the course! As I was going over the bridge for the third time, I saw some Athena walking her bike over the bridge, and I was then really proud of myself for pushing on without walking. The other cyclists were very friendly as they passed, many encouraging me to keep it up. After what seemed like forever, the bike portion was finished.

I transitioned to the run with rubber legs. My legs were completely exhausted, and I felt like I was shuffling more than actually running. I didn’t even notice the hill right at the beginning of the run because my legs felt so weird. There were volunteers giving gummy bears at the top of the hill, so I took a few and plodded on. Runners were also very encouraging, cheering on those they passed. I heard a few, “We Are…” and I yelled back, “Penn State!” I had the biggest smile on my face when I passed the two-mile mark. I ran down the hill (which I thought was pretty sizable, and happy I didn’t remember going up it), and was waving to the spectators cheering us on. I came up to the finish line and finished strong. I had done it!

2:10:36. 14:18 – 500 meter swim; 1:10:01 – 12 mile bike;  38:01 – 5K run.

I was pleased with my swim and run times, and I definitely have room for improvement on the cycling. But, I was happy to have just finished on my own two feet, I can save the PRs for future races. I am a triathlete!

I am planning to compete in the Super Summer Sprint Triathlon in Manassas in August, and the Presque Isle Triathlon in Erie if anyone wishes to join me! 😀

Did you get any activity in this weekend?

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5 thoughts on “The Scarlet Letter A

  1. I am SOOOO proud of you!! And holy cats, 38:01 for a 5k AFTER all that grueling swimming and biking?! That’s freaking awesome!! I am so inspired!

  2. Thanks, Tracy! I was shocked by my 5K time too. It felt like I was moving a little faster than a walk. I am doing the Erie Tri in August if you are interested in joining! 😀

  3. Lauren, congratulations and well done! Your 5K timing was INDEED amazing!! I do just over 3K in that time, but I think of you and I want to do better! Much love from Singapore ❤

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