There wasn’t a stitch of wind as I watched the sunrise over the Big Rock at Lake Perris. Schools of tiny fish made intersecting circles on the glassy lake as mist rose off the water in mid-40 degree temps. Then I saw something that took my breath away, an enormous fish surfaced through the still water. Was this Loch Ness?
“Yeah, the big mouth bass get pretty huge out here,” the park ranger informed me, “but I’ve never seen one bother a swimmer yet.”
Maybe the reassurance that I wasn’t going to be swallowed whole during the swim portion of the race explained my feeling of calm as I stood waist deep in the water waiting for my wave to start. Or maybe it was deep breaths of foggy air filled with that indescribable smell of chaparral. Or maybe it was because it wasn’t my first tri anymore. This was #2 and I knew I could do it.
Ron took off two waves ahead of me. “Just enjoy it,” he said before he left. It was his birthday and he was celebrating by doing the Olympic Distance, with two laps around the swim course. I was doing the Sprint and only had to do one, and joked that he would probably lap me. I wasn’t far off. Although I finished the swim ahead of him, he blew by me about a mile into the bike. “You go, Birthday Boy!”
The ride took us out of the south exit of the park, onto the Ramona Expressway, and looped us back up to the north park entrance. There were several other riders around. Some passed me, others I passed. “Where are all the women?” I wondered. It wasn’t till the 300-foot climb toward the end of the ride that I saw the first other female cyclist, stopped mid-climb on the steepest part of the hill. “Bad place to have to start up again,” I thought as I reached the crest and enjoyed a nice downhill back to the transition area.
I was looking forward to the run to the dam and back on a trail that gently wound through chaparral. Cheers of “girl power” from the volunteers encouraged me as I started feeling a bit more confident on my legs. About a third of the distance into the run, I saw the first woman coming back the other way, running strong. I turned and spyed a 40 on her leg. She was in my age group. Then three more women, not in my age group, ran past before I made the turn at the halfway point and started back to the finish. Could I be second in my age group? No, I couldn’t believe it, as I passed a 14-year old boy, the same age as my oldest son.
With the finish line in sight, I picked up my pace and felt excited. The last thing on my mind was to look over my shoulder for approaching racecars, and that’s what it felt like when a speedy 15-year old girl passed me on my right. “What just happened?” I just had to laugh, especially when the announcer called out, “Janet Richard from Lake Forest just crossed the finish line.” Feeling like a celebrity as my transponder was removed, I celebrated with some oranges and Fig Newtons, as I waited for the results to be posted.
To my surprise, I was the 6th overall female, and 2nd in my age group, beaten by the overall first place woman with a time about 12 minutes better than mine. Well, I wasn’t about to beat her anytime soon. But getting passed by a 15-year old at the finish line? That vexed me! If only I had transitioned a little faster. If only I had attacked that climb a little more, or swam in a straighter line. If only I hadn’t gotten stuck at that traffic light! I know I did great, but next time I want to do better.