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Race day through the eyes of a triathlete
September 27th, 2012
09:04 AM ET

Race day through the eyes of a triathlete

Editor's Note: Adrienne LaGier Forgette is one of seven CNN viewers selected to train for and compete alongside Dr. Sanjay Gupta in the Nautica Malibu Triathlon, which took place on September 16 in California.  Adrienne and her husband Chris did the race together, just two weeks after their wedding. This is her race day journal.

As I walk up to our pre-race meeting and delicious vegan feast at Rich Roll’s house in Malibu, the song "Home" by Philip Phillips pipes through the room.

     Settle down… it will all be clear…

     Don’t pay no mind to the demons they fill you with fear

     Trouble it might drag you down.

     Just know you’re not alone…

     I’m gonna make this place your home.

After dinner, the pep talks began.  Sarah Reinertsen reminds us of our power and strength.  One of our producers, Caitlin, shares that 7 million people have read our blogs on CNN and have connected to our stories. Chrissie Wellington tells us that our potential is limitless.

Then, Julie, Rich’s wife, and her sons close the night with a musical offering. The guitar that was propped up on the wall is now in her son’s arms; a tambourine lays in another son’s hands.

     It’s been a long hard road down the line…

     In the sun…

     You are more than you know

As the tears streamed down my face, it became clear.  This is not just my race tomorrow. I’m racing for all of the people who have believed in me along the way; I’m racing to give hope to others that anything is possible despite what fears may fill me.  This race is bigger than me.   It’s more than I know… I’m more than I know.

All of a sudden, I’m calm.   The anxiety about the waves and the sharp bike turnaround leave me.

I wake up the morning of the race, eat my oatmeal with a spoonful of hazelnut almond butter and play “Home” on repeat until I leave the hotel room.

Throughout the swim – the crazy calm swim where I touched not one person– I hear the chorus:

     Settle down

     It will all be clear.

     I’m going to make this place my home.

Before I know it the waves are crashing over me, leading me to shore.

As I run up the sand, completely out of breath from the pounding I got coming in, I see a familiar face – our producer Matt - on the side cheering and reporting on the walkie-talkie: “Adrienne’s out."

Cue the face plant into the sand. Note to self: don’t get distracted. With my heart rate still racing, I start the trek into transition, wanting to stay in the shower stream for at least a minute, but I continue on.

At the bike rack, Chrissie Wellington is waiting for me. As I down two electrolyte gum drops and drink some more electrolytes, she is there talking me through it all.

“That’s it. Step on your wetsuit to get out of it.”

“Put on your sunglasses. Helmet. Racebelt.”

“Remember, Adrienne, you can do this. Trust yourself.”

And off I go. I hear on the PA system, “And here comes another athlete from CNN Fit Nation.”  I pump my fist in the air and reach the bike mount line.

It’s less hectic than I thought. I have the time and space to mount the bike, get clipped in and get started at my pace.  Visions of a crazed, crowded start were unfounded.

At the pre-race mandatory talk, the race director mentioned there were four crashes from the international distance race the day before. He told us to take caution at the speed bumps – one of the crashes occurred there.

I can see why.

At two of the five speed bumps going out of the Zuma Beach parking lot, racers came zooming up behind me trying to beat me to the one foot of flat ground that allows racers to sneak by the speed bump unscathed.  One of them gets there before me, causing me to brake unexpectedly.  The second time, I stand my ground and the speed racer comes screeching to a halt as I pass through.

As I get to the turn to go out on the Pacific Coast Highway, Jeff Dauler comes up from behind me. Jeff’s a natural on the bike, and I know he’s going to totally kill this leg of the race. I tell him “Have a great ride” and off he goes.

Slow and steady… and far on the right.  This describes my biking experience.  I did end up having to pass a few people, more than I imagined.  And a ton definitely passed me. But I met my goals for the bike: to not get a flat, not get hurt and not drop my chain.

At the first downhill, I hear from someone on the sidelines say, “You need to shift down three clicks." It catches me off guard at first…. shift down while going downhill?? But I obey and soon see why.  The steep ascent that awaited me was claiming causalities.

I see Glenn up in front of me who has fallen off his bike as he struggled to make it uphill.  He’s putting his chain back on his bike, and as I pass by, I tell him, “You got this GK.” I find out later, this is one of four times his chain fell off. I give him so much credit for sticking it out.

At every downhill, I brake cautiously while others race on by. Speed still scares me. My overall time could probably have been 5 to 10 minutes faster if I didn’t brake so darn much. But at least I feel like I was in control.  Actor Jon Cryer suffered a nasty crash going downhill that took him out of the race. Supposedly he was trying to be aggressive on the downhill and lost control, skidding 15 feet on his skin while cracking his helmet.  So glad I didn’t see that happen.

The most anxiety for the entire tri was at the turnaround point on the bike course. We didn’t have the chance to ride the course before the race, but I was warned of a “hairpin turn” at the turnaround after the sharpest descent on the course.  No worries – I came into that baby going about 5 mph, much to the chagrin of the pros who were trying to race by me in the 3 foot wide bumpy path.

Once I turn south, I begin grinning from ear to ear.  I take my time to admire the view. Even though I have a few steep hills ahead of me, in my mind I am home free.

When I came into transition, I feel like a million bucks. I knew Nancy, Rick, and Jeff were ahead of me on the run, but I also knew that this was my strongest leg of the race.

The first mile seemed the longest. As I approached the aid station, I see my husband Chris on his last mile on his way to the finish line.  He looks strong. Soon, April passes and yells to me, “Rick is walking up there – go catch him.”

And so I did.

I see Jeff up ahead and wish I could give him words of encouragement to get him through. As I pass him he says, “See you at the finish line.”

I’m picturing Chris waiting for me at the finish.  In the last mile, I pass this van blaring Brittany Spear’s “Toxic” and I stop and bust a few moves.

The finish line is just within reach. As I pass under it, my arms go up, fists pumped and the first person I see isn’t Chris but Chrissie, waiting to congratulate me.

“You did it!  You looked fear in the face and conquered it!” she says.

Caitlin, our producer, is around the corner with a camera and microphone asking me how it went. I started incoherently trying to recite the words to “Home” but just got out “Settle down… It will all be clear.”

Finally - there he is.

I reach over the barrier and hug the man who has supported me the most during the months of training.

He is my home.

     Hold on to me as we go

     As we roll down this unfamiliar road

     And although this wave is stringing us along

     Just know you’re not alone

     Cause I’m gonna make this race your home.

And now this race now feels like home too. See you in 2013, Nautica Malibu Triathlon!


soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Julia Jordan

    Beautifully written! You are such an inspiration to so many. I am proud to call you my friend. Looking forward to seeing you accomplish the next goal(s) that you set for yourself.

    September 28, 2012 at 08:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Erika

      I think you did a great job with the lighting… and your first time out! Good for you. Please cnocatt me, and maybe we can work out a deal for me to get a copy of these shots? Something to inspire me for next season?Thanks,Frank

      October 14, 2012 at 02:25 | Report abuse |

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.