A few months ago, I was asked to be part of a panel discussion for my local triathlon club, representing beginners to the sport. I had done one tri in 2013, and after the panel event, I felt pretty motivated to add another triathlon to my race schedule for this year. I found the Esprit de She race series, and was happy to see they were offering a race in Tempe, AZ which is about 5 hours from Las Vegas. Race #44 would be the Esprit de She Sprint.
I had been to Tempe one other time, and knew that the hotel I stayed at previously would be super close to where the race was taking place, so we stayed there again, they also had a group rate for race participants. I liked that it had a full kitchen, so I didn’t have to worry about breakfast on race morning, and the full-size fridge had an ice machine, for a post-race ice bath.
My husband and I dropped our dogs off to board at the vet’s office Friday morning, and were on our way. Once we got to Tempe and checked into the hotel, I brought my bike inside, and we grabbed dinner, and settled in for the evening. I have been having some issues with swelling in my right knee, and the long car ride had caused me to have some inflammation. I had brought a reusable ice-blanket with me, along with my tens unit, so I did some rehab and tried to relax.
Saturday morning I woke up on my own around 5 am, and managed to go back to sleep for a few hours. My nerves were already starting to go into overdrive. We got some breakfast, and checked out the Japanese Friendship Garden in Phoenix, before grabbing my bike and heading over to race registration which started at 2 pm.
Temperatures were in the 90s, and the afternoon sun was blazing, so I got my race packet, and racked my bike, and tried to find some shade, to wait for the mandatory course talk. I liked that our transition spots were assigned, so I didn’t have to worry about picking a spot. The expo area included a little bit of race merchandise, less than I was expecting to find, and fairly expensive ($20 for a visor??). My favorite “swag” item, was a pack of yellow tomatoes, very unexpected, but awesome! Instead of an event shirt, we received a Moxie Jersey, which would be awesome, except the sizing for race apparel is different from regular clothing, and the XXL barely fits my much-thinner-than-me husband. I’ll hang onto it and stick it in the “someday” pile.
The talk finally started around 3, and as a visual learner, I had a difficult time understanding the directions for the bike course, in fact I was pretty confused by the time the guy was finished talking.The person describing the swim course made some crack about how when you reached the bottom step “it wasn’t time to check your makeup” which I thought was kind of inappropriate, but whatever. My knee was really bothering me, so we left as the talk was wrapping up. We went back to the hotel and I iced and elevated my legs some more, and we headed out to look for dinner.
I have been trying to stick with a low FODMAP diet, under the direction of my doctor, in an effort to reduce inflammation in my body, and reduce some stomach issues, so no pasta dinner for me before the race. We found a local microbrewery and grabbed burgers (no bun) and fries, and sadly, I had to skip the beer. My race-anxiety was pretty much at a maximum, so we went back to the hotel after dinner, and I laid out everything I needed, took a nice cool bath, applied fresh kinesiology tape, and tried to calm myself down.
I woke up around 2:50 am on Sunday (race morning) practically having a panic attack, so i did some deep breathing exercises. I wasn’t able to go back to sleep, but I was able to relax until I finally got up at 4:30. I braided my hair, got dressed, microwaved the oatmeal I brought with me, and was out the door by 5:15.
I’m part of a Facebook group for Athena category triathletes – female athletes who weigh over 165 pounds, and a few of them were also doing this race. I got to the transition area about 5:30, got my body markings and set up my area, and was able to meet the other Athena ladies for a group picture. Even though we hadn’t met in person before, I was instantly comforted knowing they were there.
I finished setting up my transition, which was interesting since the person beside me had a lot of stuff, including a bucket of water for her feet, which took up a lot of room, and I actually had to ask her to move her things over, so I could squeeze my stuff in underneath my bike. The race website had asked for stories of inspiration, and I had submitted my own story of not being able to walk through a grocery store without breaking a sweat, to being an endurance sport athlete, and just as I was leaving transition, I heard the emcee read my story, which was a great feeling, and a much needed morale booster.
The swim was about thirty minutes late getting started, but luckily for me, J, one of the Athena’s was in my age group category, and we chit-chatted while we waited for the start. When it was finally go time, I took some long deep breaths, and jumped in – without checking my makeup Mr. Course Talk guy.
I had a decent swim, I didn’t go out too hard, as I wanted to save my legs for the bike. I had heard the water was pretty disgusting, but I thought it was much better than Lake Las Vegas, where my first tri was held. It was warmer than Lake Mead, but not too warm. I had a long transition time, but I wanted to make sure the bike portion was as comfortable as possible. When we drove the course, I was worried about a couple of hills, especially since I had been neglecting my bike in training. I was pretty pleased with myself for not having to walk my bike at all. My favorite thing from the bike was getting to see a Quail hen, and a bunch of chicks crossing the road in front of me….oh and passing people on the bike, sometimes even while going up hills, was pretty awesome for me too, as that usually never happens.
When I got back to transition, the people on either side of me had already racked their bikes, and it was kind of a mess trying to squeeze mine back on the rack. I briefly considered just propping it up against the fence, but decided that would be frowned upon. In the midst of this, I forgot to grab my race number to pin on my shirt, and also forgot to take my cycling gloves off…cue Homer Simpson’s “Doh!”
I see a chiropractor who specializes in sports injuries, and he had told me a few days before the event to start my hydration early in the week, and I was glad that I listened to him. At this point, it was pretty warm, and I was getting hot. I used my camelbak on the bike course, and was glad I had filled it with ice water. I switched to my handheld bottle for the run portion…which I walked.
The run portion was an out and back, and you went out on an unpaved trail surface, and back on concrete. There were several aid stations, with lots of volunteers and they offered both cold water, and Aspire, a natural sports drink. They were also stocked with oranges, pretzels, and gels. As I was one of the last people doing the sprint to finish, it was mostly olympic distance athletes on the course by this point. Everyone was hot, but still smiling.
As I finally got to the finish, I knew I was close to the time I had wanted to beat – my time from my first tri, but I ended up missing it by about 3 minutes. Considering my longer transition time, a little bit longer of a swim than the other race, I was/am still very happy, as my ultimate goal was just to finish.
The finish line area was fantastic, once of the nicest I have encountered. They handed out medals and ice cold Aspire, and had a nice photo area set up. There was an area with free massages, and stretching cages, manicures, hair braiding, an area with tapas, and a Bubbly Bar with mimosas and sangria…and numerous other tents. After a couple of mimosas, we walked back to the hotel where I got a shower and ice bath, packed up, and made the drive back to Las Vegas….after stopping for a post-race sammich, FODMAPs be darned.
The race offered 3 distances, Super Sprint, Sprint, and Olympic. They didn’t offer an Athena Division, but they did have Buddy Waves which allowed women who knew each other, but were in different age groups to start together, which I thought was nice. The course was challenging, but not discouraging, in fact, I gained some confidence from the bike course.
I would definitely do this race again!