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Why Tri Now? — I did it!

September 6, 2012

Done! Having completed her first triathlon, Joyce looks back–and to the future. Great job, Joyce!


 I did it!

by: Joyce Nugent

Well, after twelve weeks of training, preparation, and anticipation, the big day came. I spent so much time thinking about it all, that when the TriRock Austin 2012 finally got here, it felt surreal.

For the few days leading up to the race, my coach, Claudia Spooner, had me tapering my workouts. It was a short tapering period as the race was a sprint distance. The weird thing to me was that I felt very tired last week while doing less intensive workouts, but she said that it was common to feel that way. I hoped that my energy level would return in time for Labor Day and my first tri.

Saturday was a day off and Sunday, the day before the race, included a short bike and run with intervals. And then it was Monday.

The alarm went off at 4:20 AM, which was really a relief as it put an end to the tossing and turning that substituted for sleep that night. I jumped up and began the day by applying temporary triathlon “tattoos” with my race number on them.  They are the latest and greatest substitute for Sharpie markers, which now look so old school in comparison. Next came a judicious application of Body Glide and the donning of my tri kit. By this point, I at least had all the appearances of a triathlete. I had packed my bag the night before, so I grabbed it and headed out, coffee and peanut butter sandwich in hand. I intended to get to the transition area before 6 AM just to get the lay of the land and settle in. I didn’t want anyone going with me. I just wanted to clear my head and lay out my little area, doing my best to copy the more experienced folk around me.

I went through the gate at just a little past 5:30. There was a sound system blaring upbeat rock songs and an announcer already doing a countdown as to when the intermediate and sprint distance transition areas would close. It was still dark outside, save for the stadium level lights they had shining on the area. I felt a little bit like an imposter, but kept telling myself that I needed to trust the training and believe that I could do this. I went to the bathroom 42 times. The sun started to rise over the city of Austin and it was truly inspirational. Someone sang the national anthem. And then I decided that I needed to just enjoy this day and drink it all in.

The first competitors got started at 7 AM, a full two hours before my wave of women, old and older, was to start. I watched from a distance as wave after wave got in the water and waited for their start. It was a “deep water start” where swimmers actually had to hop in and tread water until the horn sounded. By the time they called women 40 and over to line up, I was ready to get the swim over with. Waiting for so long made the buildup of adrenaline so great that it was borderline numbing.

Joyce at the start, before the swim.

I jumped in toward the back of the 120+ pack of women and purposefully stayed to the rear and outside to avoid the thrashing about of so many people, having heard numerous horror stories by this point of otherwise rational human beings succumbing to panic attacks in the water. The horn went off and we started and although it took me a little while to settle in, I almost found comfort in the fact that I wasn’t out there alone. I started overtaking people little by little and speeding up as time went on, mostly because I figured once the swim was over, the rest would be gravy. I came out of the water mid-pack, which felt like a huge accomplishment in and of itself.

Success on the swim leg!

From the water, I jogged up the ramp and to my transition area, preparing for the bike leg. I kept telling myself to calm down and think everything through…shoes, helmet, glasses, down a gel packet, turn on the Garmin. I then jogged with my bike (not easy in bike shoes!) to the mounting area, got on and rode away. I felt awesome. I tried to stay at an exertion level that I knew I could maintain for 17.5 miles, but then I thought, cycling is my thing and I’m just going to ride the best I can since it will be my only chance to excel at something here. The ride up Congress and then back down toward the capitol was great, with the exception of having to get around slower riders who were riding three and four abreast at times, in violation of the rules. But it felt exhilarating to hammer on the bike, ignoring red lights, and flying by people one, two, or three decades younger than myself. (The best thing I’ve found about having everyone’s age tattooed on their left calf.)  By the end, my Garmin showed my average speed as being 19.1 mph. My goal was to get as close to 20 mph as I could, so I felt that it was respectable.

Finishing the bike leg of the Austin TriRock 2012.

Off the bike, back to transition, throw on running shoes, visor, more gel, and off to the run. I felt better than I ever have on a bike to run transition, adrenaline making up for a lot. I took off at a good steady clip and then it hit me. When I changed shoes, I didn’t remember ever seeing my timing chip, attached to my ankle with a Velcro strap. I looked down. No chip. I said some words that are unmentionable here and came to a grinding halt. I felt sucker punched. Would anyone even know I was here? Without a chip, do I even exist in the system? Should I keep running? I turned around and ran back to the transition area trying to find someone who could help me. I rifled through all my stuff to see if I’d dropped it, to no avail. Finally some volunteer told me to just go run and tell someone at the end that I’d lost it.

I went back out to the run course, but this time I suddenly felt hot, tired, and discouraged. And then I had to give myself “the talk.” What were my goals in doing this? Wasn’t it just for the experience and the sense of personal accomplishment? Did it matter if it wasn’t “official?” It’s not like I was a podium contender. I realized that I would be ashamed of myself if I didn’t still give it my all. My pace picked up a little bit. At this point I saw my husband on the sidelines who was positioned to take a picture. I yelled to him, “I don’t have a chip anymore!” and threw my hands up. He disappeared. On the homestretch he reappeared and yelled, “It’s OK.  You’re not disqualified.  Just go!” A sudden surge of energy I didn’t know I had materialized out of nowhere and I sprinted through the finish to my fan club…my husband and son who had cheered for me at every juncture of the course.

Joyce crosses the finish line!

I did it.

Lessons learned? You really can do anything you decide to learn how to do. For me, training and preparation were key. Do it for yourself, not for anyone or anything else. And be careful what you wish for. Because now I’m hooked.

Okay, so next time….


 About Joyce:

Joyce started her Bicycle Sport Shop career on the sales floor at the Lamar location about a year and a half ago, having relocated to Austin from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Then new to mountain biking and road riding, having been introduced to it just a couple years prior by her now husband, she was previously a runner and an equestrian. As soon as she started riding all she could think was, “where has this been all my life?” and was hooked.  As of April, Joyce became the new Marketing Director for Bicycle Sport Shop combining nearly twenty years of marketing experience at both ad agencies and on the corporate side and her passion for bikes. As Joyce says, “it doesn’t get much better than that!”

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Laura Jane Stephens permalink
    September 6, 2012 6:33 pm

    I am sooo happy your first tri was what it should’ve been – a great time (including the mishaps!) We talked extensively at the August BSS Women’s Ride, and Monday was my first Olympic distance. I was looking for you pre-race, and kept you in my thoughts during my own swim 🙂 My bike portion was the best so far (thanks in part to my beautiful new ride from BSS!!), even though the run is always my favorite.

    I laughed about your timing chip because someone pulled mine off in the lake during my last race a few weeks ago. It really is a gut check moment on how and why to go on. But, you do, knowing that the race is yours and yours alone. Chip or no chip.

    Laura Jane “LJ”

  2. Julie H. permalink
    September 6, 2012 8:50 pm

    So inspiring!! Nice job!

  3. September 6, 2012 9:29 pm

    That is awesome…and we live in the same city…*again*. Doing my first tri in almost 2 years on Saturday. I’m taking my bike, some gel, and a big dose of Joyce inspiration! (Now can you make me a better biker?)

  4. Esther permalink
    September 6, 2012 10:46 pm

    Way to go, Joyce! I am inspired:) great post!

  5. Joyce Nugent permalink
    September 7, 2012 2:40 pm

    Thanks, everyone, for all the encouraging words! Which tri are you doing, Matt? Is it in Austin? And I look forward to seeing Laura Jane at our next Women’s Ride Day on September 15th!

  6. September 21, 2012 12:00 am

    So very proud of and excited for you. You are in a position to inspire so many people, in particular, women. That is a great role and you do it well. It’s been a lot of fun getting to know you.

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