Last Sunday I participated in the Jersey Girl Triathlon, a premier woman’s only event at the Jersey shore. 1800 women of all shapes, sizes, ages and color congregated in Long Branch to swim, bike and run in the spirit of achievement. This sprint distance of 300m swim, 10.5 mile bike and 3 mile run has become an annual mecca for women ready to test their stamina, drive and determination to finish strong.
When I first signed up for the event, I contacted more than 50 women to take on the challenge with me. 6 brave stepped up, including my friend Connie who completed last year and inspired me to step out of the spectator zone and be a player. Connie rode five miles of the bike on a flat tire before getting pumped up by the Red Bicycle – sponsor of the race and new business on Front Street in Red Bank.
Separated into “heats” by age, we started the race on the beach in front of the Ocean Plaza hotel. Purple caps like me were heat 16 and my friend Kate was in heat 19 with the 50 something green caps. It was controlled chaos as we were herded into groups hitting the water every 3 minutes. The water was a fresh 72 degrees with rolling waves and a course protected by “swim angels” that would take a novice swimmer like me about 8 minutes to complete. Twice before the race Eric took me to the beach at Sandy Hook and together we swam 300m for practice. It was enough. My friend Dave Ferrell was one of the angels who swam with the scared or noodle-needy. He’s a seasoned triathlete who races regularly as Team LB with his special needs son Blake. It’s quite a supportive and enthusiastic community of people with “I can do it attitudes.”
I felt strong coming out of the water and raced to the transition area to get on my basic hybrid cruising bike to pedal the 10.5 miles. The transition area is more controlled chaos with racks and racks of bikes ranging from mountain to high speed racers. My friend Charlene taped US Flags on our racks so we could quickly find our bikes. Brilliant!
The course was flat, traversing upscale jersey shore towns like Oceanport and Deal. The first half of the ride was awesome – I set the gears to 2-5 and took off. The second half was riding into the wind which was more taxing than I expected. My training consisted of a few rides thru Sandy Hook with Eric – never more than 12 miles so I was confident I could complete that leg without issue. The 50 somethings were passing me! A wake-up call that I need to focus more on fitness, as life gets better with age and I want to be ready for it!
Back in the transition area, it was time to run. I popped an Espresso Love energy pack and took off. This was the part I was most worried about as I suffer from plantar fasciitis and heel spurs. I have been aggressively treating it with ibuprofen, ice packs, foot roller and stretching exercises for a month, but still feel the pain. I trained minimally for the run, going to the Red Bank Regional High School track a few times and run/walking 9 times around to hit 3 miles.
At the end of the day, Connie, Charlene, Gina, Kate, Natalie and I became official Jersey Girls who Tri Harder! It was a great sense of accomplishment to have watched on the sidelines last year and beat my goal time of less than 2 hours with friends by my side. 1:41:44!
While we were all winners that day, Eric’s daughter Nicole was a big winner, taking 1st place in her age group of 24 and under with a time of 1:03:07. This also placed her 11th overall in a field of 1800. WOW! Go Nicole!
Life gives us lots of lessons, for me this was the Nike “Just Do It” moment. There were lots of reasons not to do it … out of shape, foot pain, wrong clothes and equipment, looking silly, maybe not finishing … but in the end, I Tri’d. Mind over matter, have confidence and go for it!
Location:Long Branch, NJ