Sheikh’s Triumphant Return to Tri Garners 1st Women’s, 2nd Overall at Gull Lake Tri

July 7th, 2015 by Team OAM NOW / Athletic Mentors

By Elaine Sheikh, Team OAM Now Triathlete

IMG_0735I’m sure everyone is sick of reading about wet, cold triathlons this season. So far, I am 3 for 3 for triathlons in the rain. When I woke up Saturday June 27th at 4:50 am for the Gull Lake Triathlon and heard rain pattering on my roof, my heart sank. I had checked the weather at 11:30 pm the night before, and there had only been a 30% chance of rain at 11 am for the next day. However, here we were, with a steady stream of rain coming down all morning. As I arrived at the race site, I felt an impending sense of doom. Here I was, about to race my first triathlon since my injury , and it was 57 degrees and raining. Not ideal conditions for a stellar race. To make things even better, by the time I walked fifteen minutes from parking to the race site, I realized that I had left my goggles in my car. Luckily, coach Mark Olson came to the rescue with a pair of goggles I could use! In addition, Cheryl Sherwood had been awesome enough to come set up the Team OAM Now tent, where we could huddle out of the rain while getting into our wetsuits.

The swim started out with rapid-fire waves, one minute apart each. The olympic swimmers were off quickly and soon the sprint waves were starting. There was a two-minute gap between the men over 45 and the women 44 and under, which was my wave. For once, I actually started off in the front of the swim and was able to sprint strong off the front. I soon realized that was unnecessary for securing a clear position though — by 150 yards into the swim, only me and one other woman were off the front of the pack. Soon she slowed, so I swam around her and started catching up to the men. Fortunately, because of the two minute gap, by the time I reached the men, they were fairly spread out and I had no problem swimming around them. I exited the water feeling strong, confirmed by someone who announced I was the first woman out of the water. I had a little trouble getting out of my wetsuit, but soon was on the bike and pedaling through the wind and the rain. Unfortunately, the weather took its toll on the bike. Although I was less cold than I had feared I would be, my pace was 1.5 mph under what I had projected.You know it’s bad when you ride slower for ten miles than you did in a half-iron two weeks prior! Everyone else was suffering the same conditions, though, and an out-and-back course allowed me to see that there was a considerable gap between the next woman and me. I did my best to finish the bike strong, even though I knew my pace would be far below what I had hoped. I was more worried about the run. Visions of having crippling pelvic pain again and being put out for the rest of the season kept creeping into my mind and I tried to shut them out.

IMG_0728I hopped off the bike rather clumsily, slipping on the wet pavement and wet pedals. Then, in transition, I realized I forgot how to do an efficient T2! That’s something I need to practice, for sure. I tried to sprint out of transition, but kept slipping on the wet grass and had to slow down. Once I exited the transition area and hit the pavement, though, it was showtime. My watch had frozen, so I had no idea what my pace was. I just focused on picking off the men ahead of me one at a time. Finally, my watch started working and I saw that I was holding around 6:30 min/mile. I had been hoping for between 6:20 and 6:30 for this race, so I was right on pace. There were fewer and fewer people ahead of me and I was starting to have a lonely run. Then, just before the turnaround, I caught up to a guy who picked up the pace as we headed back towards the finish. Trying to stick with him helped me hold pace and he started shouting back encouragement to me when I slowed down a bit. I was just so happy to finally be running in a race again!

I didn’t see another woman until I hit mile 2. That meant I had a mile on her, which would be impossible to make up unless I decided to completely stop moving. I was happy to see Teammate Kathy Braginton as the second place woman! She had a solid gap on the woman behind her, so I felt confident she would maintain her position until the finish. I finished strong and couldn’t stop smiling for hours, despite the fact that I was shivering uncontrollably and my teeth were chattering. I asked if I had time to walk to my car and change before awards, but I think the volunteer forgot to account for how far away the cars were.

I finally got dried off and changed, and came back to the race site…. just in time to see people walking away with their awards. I won first woman overall, and second place overall (only one guy beat me!), and yet, I missed the award ceremony while getting changed. Luckily, I had been chatting with the photographer beforehand so he happily had me stand on a tree stump with my award and took my photo for the gallery. It was a great day despite the weather — now, I just need all of the huge blisters on both of my feet to heal!

Team OAM Now rocked the stage once again, with Kathy Braginton as first overall for the masters women division in the sprint, Paul Raynes as 2nd for his age group in the sprint, and Michelle Dalton had first for her age group in the olympic. A shout-out goes to Brian Reynolds who braved the dreary weather to come out and volunteer at packet pickup as well. June was a solid month for Team OAM Now multisport athletes — here’s to a great month in July with some non-rainy race mornings!

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