The Dream Star's Corner

Dare to Dream...and DO!
walk. run. fly.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Atlantic City International Triathlon Race Recap

On Saturday, I competed in the Atlantic City International Triathlon in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It was my first triathlon EVER! I got it done and earned the medal...but let's start from the beginning...

On Friday, Tri Training Partner and I met up and packed up the car and got on the road for Philly! First stop was the Rock 'n' Roll Philly Half Marathon packet pick up and expo (to be continued in the next post). Later, we took off for Atlantic City and made it just in time for the pre-race meeting.

Race Director in the distance telling us what to expect

The Race Director went over the course and the procedures for going through each part of the race. He practically reiterated all of the information that was written in the Official Athlete's Guide which was totally great. After going through the general information, he answered questions. It was nice to see the Race Director providing the answers and not someone from the staff or a volunteer. He reassured us that the course would be safe and that we were responsible for making sure that we simply kept some distance between ourselves and other participants. For some reason, this made me feel so much better about everything. I had fears of being kicked and held under during the swim, and run off of the road on the bike. But when the director said that an infraction as small as being rude to a volunteer wouldn't be tolerated, the weight was lifted off of my shoulders.

Next, we picked up our packets and found our transition racks! Naturally, we took photos.

I have the rack all to myself!

Somebody's owning that space!

We surveyed the end goal and made some mental notes about the course. We took a look at the water and got an idea of how we would enter and exit and captured an image of the most important point in the entire race... where we would go from being runners to triathletes.


The weather was gorgeous and we knew we could expect much of the same the very next day. We went to Egg Harbor Township and got settled in at my best friend's parents' house. They are super awesome for letting us crash at their house... the house that was so comfy and nice that we never wanted to leave...ever. We asked if they were open to adopting more children but given that they have been without their 3 children for quite sometime, this suggestion wasn't a crowd favorite.

So, instead we unpacked our things and laid everything out for the next morning and went to bed.

My triathlon person and all of her stuff!
Well 4:30 a.m. came fast! Soon, I was up and eating oatmeal and enjoying hot tea. We made it to the race by 6:05 a.m. Plenty of time to inflate our tires and get set up in transition before it closed at 6:45 a.m. NOT!

After getting settled with parking at 6:15 a.m., it was a MAD DASH to pump up the tires and make the long trek to transition. This does not include getting set up in transition. Lesson #1: If the Director says transition opens at 5 a.m., it's for a reason. GO EARLIER THAN EARLY! After scrambling to get body marked, and to affix stickers on bikes, we were finally allowed into transition. Once I found my space (so glad I found it the day before), I set everything out and lubed up for the donning of my wetsuit. The voice over the loud speaker said it was 6:35 a.m. and transition was slated to close in 10 minutes. So on went the wetsuit and before I knew it I was posing for photos with Tri Training Partner. lol

I was saying "What are you doing?!" moments before she snapped this photo lol
Then we heard the voice say "the closing time for transition has been extended by 10 minutes". YAAAAY!! Even though we were ready, we were still happy to find out that we had time to chat with other triathletes around us...many of which were competing for the first time like us!

And then asked them to take our picture. :)

Soon we headed over to the swim start which was at the boat ramp of the back bay. We stood there in our orange sherbert colored swim caps anxious and wide-eyed! But honestly, I think the wait between waves helped to calm our nerves. Sometimes all you need is time...and to see someone else do it... over and over again. We stood there watching wave after wave enter and exit the water. It got to the point where I felt like a total spectator then as I was standing there singing the song that was blaring over the loudspeaker, the race director called out "Females 30 - 34, you're up." It still didn't register until the girl standing in front of me said "THAT'S US!!" I was excited at know, like in a "OMG! I just won the lottery!" kind of way... then I realized that something different was about to happen... I was about to embark on a new challenge that started with a single stroke.

In I went... anxious to see how cold the water felt... inching closer and closer to the water... letting my feet shuffle in, then my ankles... waiting for the shock of cold... then...nothing. It wasn't cold at all! It was really warm, actually. Nice! So I allowed the water to take me away, onward to the buoys that were set out about 50 yds away. I floated a little, backstroked, played like my triathlon training mentor taught me. I made my way to the buoys and waited for the count down... floating around, smiling anxiously at the ladies around me. I noticed how far away from the buoys that I positioned myself and started to swim forward as the director counted down "5...3....2... GO!" That's what I heard as I stroked forward, not hearing all of the words. The mental voice started coaching me... "Ok, KJ, nice and easy, just like the pool, sight! Keep your head neutral... *splash!* WHOA! That's salty!" Yeah. Super duper salty water in the bay knocked me off of my mental game.

I don't mind water over my head, in my face, in my mouth, up my nose... that's expected. But super salty water in the back of my throat and in my nose? I'm not a fan. I tried all I could to refocus but the cough-inducing salty water wasn't working for me. I had to make it through the swim, so I flipped on my back and back stroked a bit, but I didn't feel comfortable doing that because I couldn't see where I was going and really, what weak swimmer wants to make the swim portion of the tri longer than it has to be? So I flipped back over but not before seeing someone else in my wave get pulled out by the tug boat. I erased the image from my mind and told myself to "finish this swim on your own!" All around the course were guys on surfboards, waiting to assist in whatever way possible. I waved one over so I could rest. I had to think of a game plan...but in the middle of my thought, the guy said "ladies (as there was one other sherbert cap hanging on) I'd stay with you if I could, but I must go back to the start for the next wave. You're more than welcome to come with me but I don't think you want to do that." So off we went. I tried the backstroke again, but this time the leader of the blue caps was glaring at me and was only one body length away from me. I audibly let out a "UH OH!" and flipped back over, determined not to have anyone swim over me. I doggy paddled in a consistent line, allowing the next wave to swim by me. Once they were passed, I found that the default survival mechanism of the doggy paddle was working for me. I was moving forward, and not sucking down salty water, and I could see exactly where I was going! SCORE!

And there I was... doggy paddling my way through the tide. I made it around buoy #1 but not before almost getting sucked in by the turbulence caused by the hot pink swim caps that met me there. The salt water went flyin, and I was in need of some relief so I waved over a surf board and proceeded to cough up a lung. I apologized for my unladylike reaction and went on my way once the herd passed.  I was met with shouts of encouragement from ladies straggling from the other two waves, telling me that it was half over and I was doing great! One of the lifeguards told me that the waves that were giving me so much trouble on the first half will help me and carry me to the finish on the way back. This brought a big smile to my face, one that wouldn't leave my face until I crossed the finish line.  I paddled to the finish line, thinking "I'm doing it! I'm finishing on my own!!" And like that, I crossed the threshold of the "SWIM FINISH". WOOHOO!

T1 was...interesting. It's so hard to put dry socks on wet feet. lol That was probably the hardest thing to do. I tried to put my things up neatly and found myself piddling with things that didn't matter... hence the 8 minute transition time. The run from transition to the bike mounting line had to be a quarter mile. I wanted to lay down and take a nap halfway between the distance. lol But I kept pushing... I finally made it to the line and got on my bike. I pushed off and focused on gaining control of my bike and downshifting to make it easier to manage the flat terrain. The 10 mile bike ride was smooth and easy. The rides we go on through the tri club are MUCH more difficult than this one. I passed lots of people but I assumed many of them were International distance riders, going for 20 miles. But as I reviewed my results, I passed more than 50 Sprint distance people on the bike. I was shocked! I faced a nasty headwind on the first half but pushed through it. I glanced across the road at the people coming back down to the bike dismount and didn't see anyone grimacing in frustration so I read that as a sign that my torture was a lovely tailwind for them. And indeed it was! On the way back, I was flying in!

I got off of the bike feeling awake. :) I ran into T2 and didn't have to do much. I decided not to busy myself with learning how to clip in and unclip on the bike for this triathlon so I was already in my running shoes. I chose to cycle in them and that worked out fine. So T2 only involved me taking off my helmet and gloves and putting on my visor and race belt. I grabbed my Honeystinger Waffle and ran out. Here's the thing. Honeystinger Waffles are awesome when you're riding a bike. Not so awesome when you're running. Holy indigestion, batman! I kicked myself for not bringing any Gu gel with me. I've never fueled with anything differently before. But I've run on less so I pushed through. Afterall, it was only a 5k. Once my legs adjusted to the run, I decided to keep an even pace. I didn't wear my Garmin so I had no idea how fast I was going. This was probably for the best. I still had to run the RnR Philly half marathon the next day so I had to save something in the tank. I just wanted to finish this race and take it all in. I looked around and enjoyed the view of the ocean from the boardwalk and took note of the kinds of shops and restaurants along the way. Once the run started getting good, I was already back to the race site and on my way to crossing the finish.

I pushed through and crossed the finish line and received my medal. Yep! I became a triathlete! Woohoo!!

YAY! I did it!!

The organizers provided a hot breakfast with bacon, sausage, eggs, danishes, donuts, bagels, and fruit. A nice spread!! The weather was beyond gorgeous and everything just seemed perfect. I didn't pick apart my performance, and didn't have a real interest in running over to the results tent. I knew I didn't win. I knew I didn't place in my age group. But I didn't care. I did the one thing I set out to do and that included finishing and having fun! I just wanted to enjoy the moment. When you're an established athlete in one sport, it's hard to remember that baseline race... the one that you don't have anything to compare it to. I forgot what that felt like... it was nice!

We did it!
It was a long journey to this point, but we made it! It's only the beginning. All in all, the Atlantic City International Triathlon was a WONDERFUL triathlon. I never felt intimidated or confused. Everything was laid out for us and made simple. It was safe, and organized. I'd suggest it to ANYONE looking for a good triathlon in a great location. And afterward, all athletes are given complimentary admission to the Atlantic City Seafood Festival.

Sooooo worth it!
So if you're in town for the race, be sure to attend the festival! You can also chat with other athletes from the race! We met John from Facebook who shared his story with us. Many years ago, he experienced cardiac arrest and actually died! After being resuscitated, he laid in a coma for quite some time. When he recuperated, he decided to lose some weight and get in shape. This was his first triathlon but he's shooting for an Ironman someday.

Go get 'em John! What a way to LIVE!

At the end of the day, I went through my bag and found the race shirt that displayed the most befitting theme for the entire experience from start to finish.


  1. Congrats! Great Recap! I wish I had been there to do it too!

    Was that the race shirt?? I WANT ONE!!!

    Here's a tip for putting on socks with wet feet: before the race, put baby powder in the socks, they'll slide right on! I don't put on socks until the run portion, but it sops up the sweat right away!

    1. You are amazing! Thanks so much for that tip! I'll definitely employ it in the future!! :) And yes, that was the race t-shirt. Maybe you could write the race director and see if they have any extras! Thanks again for writing the recap that piqued my interest in this race!!

  2. AWESOME RECAP! I am gearing up for a Tri next year...but not in open water...exactly all the things you talked about in the swim are all the things that scare me... so my first tri will be in a pool at the rose bowl in Pasadena!

    1. I'm so proud of you Leeann! You are going to ROCK your tri! It's important to take baby steps until you're comfortable. The key is to just have fun! Good luck!!!

  3. I am so proud of you, girl! Yay! You're a triathete! Yeah, always leave way earlier than you think you need to. Especially for a tri, when you have lots of things to do and set up. Another tip for putting on socks---have them pre-rolled down, so they look like a donut. So when you come into transition, just put it on your foot and roll it up your ankle. Way easier.

    1. Thanks Sugar!!! And thank you for all of the advice and encouragement you gave me along the way. :) You continue to inspire me everyday!

  4. This is so awesome! I remember when I did my first, and only triathlon...that swim was vicious, and as long as you remain calm you'll be good to go! Can't wait to read the recap! Triathlon suit

  5. Great recap! I had to doggy paddle the whole swim in my first sprint tri, and then walk most of the run. This year I finished two Ironman races (still a really slow swimmer, but now I'm steady and not scared). Keep at it! This sport is a blast. Congrats on your first tri.

    1. Now I don't feel so bad. lol Thank you!

  6. Kay Jay !!!! It's me John Kolker - they guy you met (see my pic above) last year at the AC Tri - my first one only 9 months after my cardiac arrest sudden death incident - Soooo much has gone on since - I have finished 3 Sprint Tris and will be at AC 2013! Here is my FB page - friend me and I joined for cardiac athletes - check out my donation page here - can't wait to race with you again - GTBA

    1. John!! I will definitely look you up!

    2. John!! I will definitely look you up!