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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Unlikely Triathletes or Team Badass Librarians

by Guest Blogger Kathy Helmond

My first (and likely only) venture into the world of triathlons came last Saturday at the Go Girl Triathlon at Eagle Creek.  This all-women event provided a great way to try something new and be surrounded by inspiring women athletes.  Long a fan of the Kona Ironman specials on television, the triathlon is a challenge that this shaky swimmer will probably never attempt, but I love to watch others giving their all to this three event race.  I am always moved to tears watching the men and women in the Hawaii heat and wind overcoming obstacles and persevering to the end.

 A co-worker (Penny) of mine competed in some triathlons with Team in Training some years back (pre-knee replacement) and we sort of fantasized about doing it as a team “someday.”  One day during one of these conversations another co-worker (Carrie) joined in the conversation and revealed that she was a swimmer in high school.  That was all we needed to decide that the idea could become a reality!  Before we could talk ourselves out of it, we signed up for the Go Girl Triathlon and Team Badass Librarians was formed!  The name was obviously tongue in cheek for this 2/3 middle aged, past our prime team.  But we had a lot of fun anticipating it all summer.  As life usually does, things came up for all three team members and training was not what it should’ve been! 

The forecast called for storms that morning and we were afraid the event might get rained out.  But we woke to clear skies with the heat and humidity that has finally moved into Indiana.  Carrie and I ran into each other while parking and made our way to the transition area, where Penny was already set up with her bike.  I have asked each of them to write about their experiences since each of us did a different leg of the event.  Carrie was up first with swimming-

          I had the pleasure of starting off the relay with the 500 meter swim.  We were #502/515 and they started the swimmers in waves of 50.  I’d never swam at Eagle Creek so I spent some time scoping out the course while the first waves of swimmers made their way around the yellow buoys that marked the area we had to stay outside of.  I ended up being the very last person in the water, but found that I quickly had to find holes to swim through as there were so many people in the water at once!  Staying to the outside of the other swimmers ended up being easiest so I could put my head down and swim freestyle without worry of running into people.  Besides the congestion, I was also not prepared for just how murky the water would be.  My goggles provided little help in keeping me on course so I did a lot of breaststroke to stay focused on swimming in the right direction.  If I do this again, I’ll probably take the opposite approach and swim closer to the inside, rather than swimming outside everyone else to save time and strength.
          There were several volunteers on kayaks making sure everyone was safe, and many of them cheered us on.  When I could see I was getting close to shore, I sprinted as well as I could and ran up the steps to more cheers from the spectators, including my husband who was out in front to take my picture!  The best part of the entire race was seeing Kathy and Penny cheering me on from the transition area as I ran up to pass our timing chip to Penny.  There was so much camaraderie and support from the other women that it made it a really fun event.  In fact, I’m planning to participate again next year as an individual!  I’ll need to work on my running quite a bit before that…

Carrie passed the chip to Penny and she was off on the bike!

          So then came the bike part. I hadn’t ridden competitively in a while, so I had been doing short (5-7 milers) to get ready for my part of the Go Girl. We had a weird summer… cool temperatures, low humidity. So the week leading up to the triathlon, the humidity soared. I had ridden 2 miles the night before, so I felt I was definitely ready. After Carrie got out of the water, I was ready. I got the timing chip and trotted up to the start line. Got on my bike, pedaled a bit and fell off…that’s right, fell right off! Talk about being embarrassed! With some help from the wonderful volunteers, I was able to start again. Then it happened again, I just couldn’t pedal. What’s a little more road rash? So, I was off again. Something was off, like my equilibrium. I made it back, though only doing 5 of the 10 miles. I am upset, embarrassed, disappointed and angry at myself. I let my team down. I passed the timing chip to Kathy and she was off for a great run. All in all, I had a great time!

So let me emphasize here that Penny did NOT let us down!  We were just in it for fun and for the experience – which none of us could’ve done on our own.  As Carrie mentioned, the camaraderie was the best part of the event.  Not just between the three of us, but the other teams set up near us.  When Penny came in, you could tell she was struggling.  She had to walk the bike from the mat to the transition area, which was a good stretch.  The gals around us were cheering her on all the way.  The best thing about starting to run for me (at an older age) has been the support from other runners.  I am slow and will most likely never be fast, but everyone I have encountered has been supportive and encouraging - from other racers to the women’s training group where I met Teresa.  There is always someone willing to slow down and train with me.  I have to say, runners are nice people!

So I was hoping for a good strong run.  I’ve been regularly training for a fall mini.  Nothing super long yet but I have been running regularly three times a week or so for about a month.  As Penny mentioned, the day was hot and humid.  My event was last so the day was warming up!  Eagle Creek is also a little hillier than what I normally run.  I think I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to go fast because I didn’t want to let the team down.  I started out too fast and eventually had to stop and walk a little.  I never really felt like I found my comfortable pace.  I think most of the runners out there were stronger and faster than me, even though they were on their third event and I was on my first!  I did come in at an 11:34 pace on my Garmin though so I was happy with that.  I’ve been hovering around the 12:00 minute mile pace all summer so to come in under with the heat was okay with me.  I crossed the finish line, grabbed my medal and went off to find Carrie and Penny.  We celebrated with chocolate milk and pictures.  Carrie got the bug and wants to do the whole thing herself next year.  I will be happy to go and cheer her on!

Teresa here: I am super-inspired by these ladies.  Laura, Cindy & I hope to someday do a triathlon relay, and I was so happy when Kathy & her friends agreed to share their story with us!


  1. Carrie, Penny and Kathy, I hope that you've had enough time to reflect on what you accomplished. YOU EACH set out to complete something that was new and different and you learned from the experience. YOU EACH are women athletes who inspire and motivate others and I wish that you'd see that and focus on the positive instead of putting yourselves down by thinking that you disappointed your teammates. Celebrate the abilities that EACH of YOU have and continue to be an example to women everywhere! ~Denise