Tuesday, November 12, 2013

On becoming the Master of my domain

Last evening, my husband and I tried a new Masters swim group that is being offered through our kids' swim club.  It is a near-perfect situation: the class is immediately after our daughter's practice, it is coached by our son's coach, and therefore the comfort level is way up there.

Now, I have not been coached in many, MANY years.  I was 17 when I last took instruction from my high school swim coach, Coach Lavallee, and I am now 40 (ugh).  You do the math, it might give me an aneurism to do a subtraction problem that large.  What I remember of Coach L was that he was very kind, never raised his voice, always demonstrated the breaststroke on-deck with the left side of his body, and repeatedly told us to "undulate" our hips during butterfly.  What I remember of myself during those days is that I hated kick drills, especially freestyle because I just about went backwards (I was so slow) and would cheat with frog kicks when Coach wasn't watching, and that I loved being guided toward doing something that I truly loved better.

I have been throwing around the idea of joining Masters swimming for a while now, not because I want to be super fast (lie) or swim in meets (another lie) or even win races (yep, that's a lie, too), but because in the last few years of training for triathlons, I have rediscovered just how much I love being in the water (that's the truth).  It's like I was born to be there.

I don't have the benefit of a childhood filled with hours of swim practices, dry lands, and swim meets to quell my idealized and romantic notions of the sport of swimming.  I came late to the party, and only enjoyed the briefest time as part of an organized club and team.  And even after being a swim mom for the past few years, and spending pretty much half of every single weekday driving one kid to one pool then the other kid to another pool and then BACK to the first pool to pick the first kid up, and also sitting through the hell that is a weekend swim meet, not to mention practically mortgaging my house for practice fees, meet entries, fundraising, kick boards, goggles, paddles, buoys, caps, swimsuits, drag suits, gear bags, fins, team t-shirts, team sweatshirts, and hotel rooms for travel meets, I am still not disillusioned by swimming.  But, I digress.

Back to last night's Masters trial.  My husband and I surrendered ourselves to our wide-eyed coach (Well, I did. More on husbands reticence in a bit), and as he outlined the workout he would have us do, I realized how ignorant I was to all of the drill and interval terms - base, drill, descend, build - that are part of my own kids' vernacular.  After getting clarification and then MORE clarification, we were sent off to drill, build, kick, and descend for the next hour.  I have to say, that even though I found myself worried the entire time that the coach was shaking his head, face palming, and even wondering why he was wasting his time trying to teach this old dog any kind of new trick, I had a fantastic time.

I realized that, despite my personality, which tends to be headstrong, stubborn, and pretty omniscient (don't I sound like great fun to live with?), I actually respond really well to coaching and critiquing.  I guess it is because I have an openness to getting better, to knowing more about the strokes and how to get faster, that it doesn't bother me to be told not to bring my knees up during breaststroke and that I don't roll enough when I swim the crawl.  And I think I was even like that back in my pissy teenaged days, too.

My husband, however, is a completely different story.  Though he was perfectly willing to succumb to the expertise of a coach (and one that is LITERALLY half our age at that), once the down and dirty instruction started happening, he clammed up and acted really reluctant to heed any advice or instruction.  This surprised me somewhat, because I've always thought of my husband as a pretty open guy.  But when the coach gave him some tips on keeping his legs together when kicking and to use his feet in a less, um, spastic, manner well, he wasn't having any of that.  Head shaking, eye rolling, and downright ignoring followed, and I began to wonder why he was being so closed off to the idea of getting an outsider's viewpoint.  He's the one who always says he wishes someone could watch him swim and tell him what he's doing wrong (MY opinion on that does not count, because I have offered it more than a few times).

After we finished the workout, my husband acted totally annoyed. "I got NO feedback." "That was NOT what I expected." Yes, he did get feedback, but you can't receive something that you are not open to.  And it wasn't what he had expected because it was something new, and again, he was not open to it.

I suppose some people can be coached, and some people try to rebel against it.  Is it an ego thing?  Possibly.  In my situation, I think there really was a reversal of roles where I, the one who usually thinks she knows it all, welcomed the coaching with open arms and where my husband, the more "agreeable" of the pair, shut his mind off to any feedback and criticism completely.

When it comes to being coached, where does your ego land? Are you coachable or not?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

If a tree blogs in the forest, does anybody read it?

So, I'm on day 6 of blogging for NaBloPoMo. It's difficult to come up with stuff to write about on a daily basis, especially for a blog that has a very focused subject, and also since I spend my mornings writing stuff for other people.  

I started this blog out of the desire to write about my hobby, to complain about the doldrums of training, to share the mistakes I've made along the way, to revel in my achievements, and to put my thoughts down in a forum that (ideally) people with similar interests will read and relate to.

So that's not working out too well.  Based on my visitor stats, it looks as if the only folks that read my blog are the ones that have had it thrown in their faces on their Facebook feeds.  

I wrote a blog several years ago, back in the early days of blogging, and even without the "benefits" of social media and social networking, I quickly and rather surprisingly found myself with a small but loyal following of readers.  I never had to share or post or tweet or hashtag anything, and still they found my posts, and commented on them.  Ideas were exchanged, debates were had, and even some friendships were forged.  Folks sent me trinkets in the mail, birthday cards, books for me to review on my site, it was surreal and fun.

I stopped writing that blog when it became all-consuming, when all I thought about was the next day's post and how I could amuse, confuse, or flabbergast the few readers I had.  And when I decided to blog again, I had a few starts and quick stops, kind of afraid to put myself out there again.  And then I landed here.

I'm not looking for a huge army of followers, I'm not looking to benefit financially from my blog (although, if there is a bike company out there that would like me to promote their brand all over this place, I'm ALL YOURS, just send me a size medium all-carbon tri bike. Thanks!).  I'm just a little shocked at how much different the blogosphere is now.  Social media lives under the guise of bringing us closer together, and making it easier to network and promote yourself, but it really just opened the gates to a flooded market of bloggers looking to be the Dooce or Pioneer Woman or Swim Bike Mom.  And it ain't like that.  Capturing lightning in a bottle is too difficult.  And the landscape is all watered down with everyone doing the same thing as I am.  Ultimately, I am not on this blog for anyone but me.

How about a little experiment?  If you read this post, please leave me a comment.  Let me know you are out there!  Tell me you like my blog, tell me you think I'm obnoxious, just let your presence be known!  Thankyouverymuchandhaveaniceday!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Stretchy is the New Black

I've become one of those women. I'm a lycra-clad, visor-sporting, ponytail-wearing mom who struts around town in glorified pajamas.  I used to look at those women and think, "Can't you do better than that? Maybe a pair of jeans or a flowy skirt?" Stretchy pants were for yoga class, NOT for the daily grind.  Oh, but how misdirected I was.

Because I spend so much time training, my wardrobe has morphed into what looks like the clearance rack at Sports Authority.  I now own more running shorts and yoga pants than I do jeans and shorts.  In my dresser drawers you will find more sports bras than actual attractive bras, along with more workout and race shirts than actual blouses whose function is to be stylish and flatter my figure.  My shoe rack sports approximately 9 pairs of running shoes - most are too worn out to run in - and just as many flip flops.  My cute work shoe wardrobe, oh I have some great shoes, sits lonely in the corner collecting dust, my dark brown faux suede ankle boots, my beautiful gray faux leather riding boots, and my 3-inch black Mary Janes have all been mercilessly overshadowed by shoes that I now refer to lovingly by pet names such as Cadies (my Brooks PureCadence), Ravers (my Brooks Ravennas), Old Faithful (my Brooks Adrenaline 9, still my favorite shoes ever), and my Sweat Hogs (my Asics Gel Lyte 33 minimal shoes).  I own 6 pairs of swimming goggles: tinted, clear, racers, green, blue, and purple, and I have about 15 pieces of tri clothes, including 3 full suits and multiple separates.  Plus, there are the cycling shorts, cycling jerseys, swim suits, blah blah blah.

My days as of late are spent working out, writing, driving, and waiting.  I quit my job to do this, and I don't have any regrets about the decision.  For about 5-6 hours out of every day, I drive my children to every corner of town multiple times, and then I wait for them so that I can drive them to yet another location.  Nothing I do requires me to wear my cute army green sleeveless cute cargo vest with my black ankle pants, and it is pointless to sit in a car while wearing my navy blue belted dress that always reminded me of Mary Tyler Moore when I wore it.  

So here I am today with a wardrobe that has evolved out of both hobby and function. I find myself without makeup most days, hair pulled tautly back in a ponytail, and sporting very black and very stretchy yoga pants.  Some days I miss playing dress up, and exchanging words with others about my cute shoes or where I found my moonstone drop earrings.  But most days, I just want to be comfortable.

My new work wardrobe is that of mom on the run, wannabe athlete, and always 5 minutes behind schedule.  It's life, and I'm living it every day.  In stretchy pants.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

On the Search for a New Yoga Dog

This past June, my family had to say goodbye to our family dog, our source of entertainment, endless cuddles, and our seemingly bottomless pit of love.  He was my yoga dog, my companion throughout my days in both fitness and leisure, and he was just short of total perfection in an animal.  His death was too soon and too painful, both for him and for us, and everyone in the family, myself included, knows that there will never be another Oliver on the planet.

But, as is typical after the loss of a pet, after the initial pain begins to subside, and you stop tearing up at the mere thought of your furry friend, and after you've stopped thinking you see him every time you turn a corner in your house, you begin to feel that nag.  That familiar pang of wanting to welcome a new member to the family.  Dog people know what I am talking about, cat people know what I talking about.  You know you can't replace or substitute that ideal animal that you've been forced to say goodbye to, but you know that you have room in your heart and your home for a new soul to squeeze.

Saturday afternoon, my husband and I took a trip to the county animal shelter to look at dogs.  We weren't adopting that day, and we knew it, but we wanted to see what kind of pups were available.  I am a rabid (pardon the pun) advocate of rescuing animals, and for $30 at my local animal shelter, I can adopt a dog or a puppy who has been vaccinated, fixed, registered, and microchipped.  You can't beat that deal for a decade of love and companionship.

While at the shelter, we (of course) zeroed in on a precious little Boxer mix puppy named Panda.  She was spritely and energetic, but not overtly so (at least at the time), and seemed to zero in on us as well.  As the shelter was getting ready to close for the day, we only had about 10 minutes with her, inside her dog run.  We both took to her, and talked about her for the last few days.  We told the kids all about her, and decided that I would take a trip to the shelter this morning and begin the adoption process.

When I got there, I filled out the paperwork and asked to have some play time with Panda, outside of her dog run.  I got a leash, went to her run, and my hear sank immediately.  Not because she was gone, and not because something happened, but because when I looked at her, she wasn't Oliver.  I knew at that moment that she was not the dog for us.

Things devolved quickly when she wouldn't let me pick her up.  I managed to get her to the play area, and she was about a lightyear passed crazy.  She never zeroed in on me like she had on Saturday, and she never stopped jumping and barking.  There was no yoga dog in her, she was too fiery and too spunky to even let me rub her belly.  I knew I wouldn't be taking her home with me.

The ride home was filled with disappointment.  I am disappointed that I didn't feel THAT connection with this beautiful and spritely puppy.  I am disappointed that I still compare every single dog to my Oliver.  I am disappointed that I had to say goodbye to my yoga dog, and that I can't seem to move on.

More time is needed, obviously.  I still have not accepted Oliver's death fully, and it would be cruel to try to bring home a new dog with me wearing that attitude.  No pet deserves the pressure of having to live up to that, and the inevitability that s/he will fall miserably short of the mark.  

So, I will let another month or two go by.  Another month of that palpable absence of a pet in our home.  Another month of my daughter asking when we are going to get a new dog.  Another month of doing yoga without a companion.

The time will be right when it's right.  A new yoga dog will make his or her presence known, and it will be undeniable when it happens.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Looking Ahead

It has been a month since my big race, the glow has faded somewhat, and reality has set in.  The grind of daily life has ramped up, and I have found myself struggling to figure out how I was able to fit 9-10 hours of training in each week for 4 months amid all of the chaos swirling around me.  From my current vantage point, it seems impossible to undertake such an ambitious goal as I did, and it makes me feel tremendous mommy guilt.  A natural feeling, I suppose.

The best thing I can do for my family and myself is to keep pushing forward.  In the three years since I began running and racing, I have changed in such a fundamental way and it has been all for the better.  Sure, I have lost weight from my thighs, my arms, my tummy.  Even more important, though, has been the weight that has been lifted from the places that nobody can see.  I am physically and mentally stronger than I have ever been in my life, and I see no options other than to keep moving forward and to keep getting stronger.

I am ready to race again, but I know that my body needs a break.  I've been swimming and running (still not ready to hop back on the bike), working out about 4 times a week.  Core training and yoga are creeping their way back in to my routine, and all I can say about that is YOWCH! Take my advice, don't stop working on your core for 11 months

I have outlined very specific fitness and racing goals for 2014, and none of them involve a Half or a Full Ironman race.  Those days will come again in the not-too-distant future, I just need to have the time and energy to devote to those huge physical and mental undertakings. But, for now, I am looking to get faster, to improve and even perfect to a degree my short distance racing because, as slow as my time was at IM 70.3 Augusta, I really feel like my body and temperament are more cut out for long distance racing.  So, my challenge for 2014 is to conquer the short distances, and to feel fast.  And maybe see a podium finish here and there.

2014 Fitness Goals

1. To run a 25 minute 5k. That's an 8:02 min/mile pace, folks. Not exactly Usain Bolt territory, but lightning fast in my mind.

2. To run a 53 minute 10k. An 8:31 pace.  For me, that's equivalent to breaking the sound barrier.

3. A sub-3 hour Olympic triathlon. I'm planning on racing at St. Anthony's next April, which is where I did my first Olympic distance. It didn't turn out so well for me, I died on the run. Training for the race might have helped.  This time around, I plan on training long and hard. 2:59:59 is fine with me.

4. A podium finish in a Sprint triathlon. I won my age group once at a sprint triathlon.  It was beginner's luck, and all of the fast people were obviously racing elsewhere that day.  This time, I want to RACE and I want to EARN that podium spot honestly.

5. To get stronger on the bike. This is a bit ambiguous, but being that I am consistently at the bottom of the list in the bike department, I have nowhere to go but UP!  Strength training and long rides will be on the agenda in the coming year.

6. To join a Master's swim team. This is a big one. I have the opportunity, I have the means, now I just have to work up the courage to submit myself to a coach for the first time in a really long time.  I just hope she goes easy on me.  Well, not too easy.  Otherwise, what's the point?

I would love to hear some of your fitness goals!  None are too small and all are big!

NaBloPoMo - The experiment

It just came to my attention that it is National Blog Posting Month.  Bloggers everywhere vow to post one post per day for the entire month.  For someone like me, a "blogger" who is lucky to get 3 posts in an entire month, it seems like a pretty big task.  But I am going to give it a shot.  It has been my intention to devote more time to this little spot on the Internet, and NaBloPoMo seems like the perfect challenge and the right time.

I am already three days behind in this little experiment, so I might just write up an extra post today (and tomorrow and the next day) to get up to speed.  I've got ideas, I've got plans, and I just hope I can find the words!

So, if you'll excuse this short and sweet post, stay tuned! More to come in my quest to find an audience and to exorcize the voices in my head!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Observations in Idleness

I have made a few key observations since my last race.  This is the first time in close to three years that I am not actively training for some race, even just a 5k, and aside from the mental issues (that sounds weird, right?) I am dealing with, there are the physical issues that have arisen that have taken me completely by surprise.  I made a conscious decision to back off training and to not race anymore this year; not to be completely idle, but to just give myself a little rest after a tough year of races, injury, and general bad crap that has happened in my life.  I expected to feel fatigue as an after-effect of the months of heavy training I did for Augusta, but wow, am I surprised to see and feel my body's reaction to well, inactivity.

I am TIRED.  Like physically exhausted.  All the time.  Saturday night I fell asleep at 7:30 p.m., and did not wake up until almost 7 the next morning (which, for someone like me, might as well be lunchtime).  And my normal afternoon lull is more like a walking coma.

I am SORE.  My everything hurts.  My knees are achy, my shoulders hurt, my back is acting up.  When I have done a workout, I notice that my stamina is already beginning to wane.  It seems that the LACK of activity makes me hurt more than any punishment of hard training ever did.

I am HUNGRY.  ALL. THE. TIME.  You'd think the decrease in training would equate to a decrease in appetite. Listen closely to the sounds of the diet gods slapping their knees and guffawing wildly at the presumption!!  My tummy still thinks it's feeding a person engaged in 8-10 hours of training per week.  My hips are fully aware that the exact opposite is true, and have laid out the welcome mat for the excess calories that are being consumed.  I know, I know, I need to put the kibosh on the carbs.  I don't need a lecture.

I am SQUIRRELY.  One minute I want to sign up for every race within 100 miles of my house.  The next minute I want to get a bowl of ice cream.  When I do get out for a workout, I feel good, but sitting on the couch feels pretty amazing, too.  There are two distinct personalities waging a little battle within me right now: the Type A triathlete who is dying to race again and the lazy slacker who wants you to pass the Chips Ahoy.

My MIGRAINES have returned.  I used to get migraines pretty regularly.  As a teen, I was on copious amounts of meds for them.  They subsided greatly when I was pregnant and nursing, but returned with a vengeance in my mid-30's. When I began running and racing, I noticed that they only came around a few times a year, and didn't hang around for as long.  In the last three weeks since I raced at Augusta, I have gotten three doozies, two of them in the past seven days alone.  Migraines make me MUCH less pleasant than I am now which, unless I am driving, is pretty darned pleasant.

I thought taking a break from training would be exactly what I needed.  And it is.  The problem that I am faced with, though, is that I don't know how to just go for a run, or take my bike out for a ride.  I think with all the training that I've been doing over the last few years, I never learned how to just enjoy a workout that has no real purpose but to release stress, burn calories, and clear my head.

My body is sending me a loud and clear message.  That message being, "Get off your butt, or I am going to go into full-on attack mode."  So, obviously, it is time for action.

My goal for the next two weeks is to head out my front door, and just run.  NO intervals, NO tempo, NO time or distance goal.  I want to see if I can find a happy running place, because goodness knows that has been an issue in the short history that is this fitness lifestyle of mine.  Then maybe my bike and I can kiss and make up.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Triathlon Life For Me

Sunday, I got to play a brand new role: I was a sherpa/cheerleader/triathlon groupie at the Ameliaman/Atlantic Coast Triathlon in Fernandina Beach, Florida.  Having just come off Ironman Augusta 70.3, I was in no shape to "race", so I got to be a spectator at a triathlon for the very first time.

My husband was racing his very first 70.3 distance, and since he was patient/generous/gracious/wonderful enough to play the role of MY sherpa/cheerleader/triathlon groupie in Augusta, I thought it only fair that I do the very same thing for him.  That way, the kids could whine and complain cheer for their dad and their dad would have a reluctant enthusiastic cheering squad!

I was also fortunate enough to be able to cheer on and photograph many members of my tri club, who were competing in both the sprint and Olympic distance races.  And while in the wee hours of the pre-race dawn I was feeling edgy and weird that I wasn't zipping up my own wetsuit to race, I soon came to relish my opportunity to see my friends and fellow triathletes do what they do best, and see into their souls just a little bit.

It became obvious to me just why I have fallen so fast and hard for this triathlon life.  Yes, the training can get long and arduous.  Yes, the early morning wake-ups for races can be less than thrilling.  Yes, the hassle of hotels and travel can get old.  But, everything else makes up for those little things and then some.

Besides, how can anything be wrong with having the opportunity to witness this?

Or this?

I don't know that I usually take the time to appreciate the colors of sunrise when I am racing.  But I did yesterday, and I made a mental note to take a picture with my eyes of each and every sky before each and every race I do henceforth.

Watching my friends and teammates race yesterday gave me a little glimpse into their cores, and I came to love and appreciate them so much more.  Seeing their joy, their struggle, and their triumph made me appreciate the journey - both theirs and my own.  I mean, how can you NOT love triathlon when you know someone who can't stop smiling when she races?

Or these two bright and beautiful people who don't spend their days gardening or golfing, but who race and win at triathlon and life?

And sometimes, you have to turn the world upside down to really appreciate it:

Training for Augusta completely exhausted my body and my mind.  It took everything out of me, churned it up, and threw it into oncoming traffic.  Spending yesterday with my triathlon family was just the therapy I need to jolt me back to life.  Now, I can't wait to race again.

And the greatest payoff of all yesterday, for me, was seeing this guy cross his finish line:

Real men do triathlon!

My husband didn't think he could do a 70.3.  Even after watching me finish my race, he felt less prepared and less able.  But, as with everything else he puts his mind to, he showed himself that he WAS prepared and the he WAS MORE than able, and he showed that race who the boss was yesterday.  And I was happy to be a blissful observer.

The triathlon life.  It is SO for me.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Post Ironman Blues

Yeah, I know I didn't do a FULL 140.6. Tell that to my legs, though.  Eleven days later, and I am now feeling like I have been steamrolled.

Since Augusta, I have worked out exactly 4 times: 2 swims and 2 runs - well, if you want to call them runs.  They were slow, frustrating, and eye-opening.  It became painfully clear that I am a 40-year-old broad who's athletic career only began 3 1/2 short years ago.  My body is pooped.  I know I need to rest and recover, yes, I know that.  It's hard, though, to think that it wasn't two weeks ago that I was in the shape of my life, participating in a Half Ironman.  Where did that chick go?

In the days following the race, I was high.  I had the Iron High.  I felt invincible, like I could climb any mountain with my bare hands.  It reminds me a lot of how I felt after I delivered my two kids.  I felt like Superwoman because I had delivered life forth into the world from my womb!  And much like those experiences, my bliss was short-lived.  For the honeymoon always ends, and reality sets in, and we are back to the drawing board.

**And much like after I gave birth, my body at this very moment feels flabby, blubbery, slow, and uncooperative.  It's a bummer, man.

I have been doing a little reading on what's going on inside my noggin these last few days and, as it turns out, I am not alone.  Post Ironman Blues strikes athletes of every shape, size, and ability.  It makes sense.  You spend months preparing your body to go through the punishment of 5-8 hours of constant energy output (8-17 if you are training for a 140.6), and when it is all said and done, your body is sort of a shell of its former self.  It's like you leave yourself on the course, and have to endure a long wait to regenerate.  I'd reckon that I left a bit of myself somewhere in South Carolina on the bike course, as well as a tad on Broad Street in Augusta.

What's left is a battle in your brain.  A battle between common sense telling you to STOP ALREADY AND TAKE A BREAK and that ADHD/Type A compulsive triathlete person on the other shoulder desperately begging you to chase another finish line like, yesterday.  It's a lonely and aimless kind of feeling, being without a training plan to stick to, longing for some guidance because, just going for a run seems to have no purpose right now.  I've done big races before, and felt antsy to move on to the next goal.  But I wasn't really prepared for this.

I know I am not alone.  Right?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Now what?

I knew it was coming.

That inevitable withdrawal that happens after a big race, after the dust has settled, and the excitement has worn off.  Although, I still haven't quite come down from my Ironman high just yet.  I catch myself silently gloating, inside my head, "I did a Half Ironman!" and I'll a little bit, because I just never thought I would do anything like this in my life. Ever.  I never thought I would be a runner.  I never thought I would be a triathlete.  I never thought I would be an Ironman, even HALF an Ironman.  So, this is a big deal.  And I am enjoying my accomplishment.  But I am feeling a tiny bit lost.

I promised myself I would take the week off from any training.  My body and my mind needed the break.  I broke down on Thursday and went to the pool for a swim.  I thought it would be a good way to ease into some light training after the race, maybe do 3000 yards or so before picking my daughter up from school.  Ha!  About 1000 yards into my workout, and in the middle of a backstroke set, my legs said, "Uh, whatcha doin?"  I was definitely still feeling fatigue, even though my muscle aches had subsided the day before.  So I eked out 2300 yards and called it a day.  Tomorrow I might try some light running, 3 or so miles.  Because I have to do something, or I will go crazy!

To go from training 6 days a week and 7-8 workouts to basically not doing anything but a swim workout and some yoga has got me all cagey.  I got so used to being a slave to a training program, and I realize now that I really do function well when I have a plan (please do remind me that of this statement when I am in the middle of the next training program and I am moaning and groaning about being burned out from training, I can take the verbal spanking).  So, I have started thinking about the next few months, and the next year.  What do I want to accomplish, and how much do I want to punish my body again?

The more I cross the finish line, the more I crave it again.  For the rest of 2013, I am dialing way back.  I might do a 5k and the annual Turkey Trot 10k on Thanksgiving, but that is about it.  But for next year, I want more.

No, I'm not talking a full 140.6.  I'm not ready for that, and the training time that a race of that magnitude requires is unreal.  Hubby and I have already decided that if we are going to slay that dragon, it will be when at least one of our kids is in college.  And that's about 4 years off.  Training for a 70.3 was very time consuming, but we were able to make it work well enough, so I am thinking of tackling that distance again next year.  Maybe Augusta - that damned bike course is my nemesis - or maybe a different course.  I love having options!

It's funny.  For months, I was all big talk and "I am NEVER going to do another 70.3 again, this is killing me!" and "This is a one and done deal." Never, though, in any space in my brain did I ever make room for the possibility that completing a long course triathlon would make me feel so GOOD.  I feel good physically, I feel good mentally, I feel good old-fashioned HAPPY for the first time in a long while.  It certainly is one good natural high.

Ridiculously happy triathlete!

Everyone should try the drug called triathlon.  The high is unbeatable, and you can get it again and again and again.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Race Report: Ironman 70.3 Augusta, 9/29/13

Where to begin, where to begin...

In the days leading up to this race, I went from terror to doubt to resignation.  I figured I had done the best I could in terms of training, and the only way to see that was to just get out there and do it.  Being my first long distance triathlon, I know that my fear stemmed from the uncertainties: what would my body do, what would my mind do, would I drown, wreck, or cramp up?

Driving to Augusta, I was a ball of nerves.  My heart raced, my stomach fluttered, but it was all in a very good way.  I was excited to get there and I was finally excited to race.  As we drove through town toward the convention center (am I the only one that thinks that Augusta just might be the Detroit of the South?  I mean, there were dozens of abandoned buildings and store fronts!), I practically wanted to jump out of the car and run toward the expo.  The closer we got, the more bikes and Ironman bumper stickers I saw, and I wanted to sing, “I am actually doing this!”, but I kept my composure, lest I look like some kind of triathlon dork.  It was, after all, a race expo, not Comic Con.

I went to athlete check-in (it still makes me giggle to think that I am an ATHLETE), signed my life away to WTC, and got my beautiful blue wristband.  Talk about a badge of honor!  It was like being let into some very exclusive club, and I was giddy like I had just been handed a free puppy.  Then, on to collect my swag bag which, in my humble opinion was sort of pitiful.  The bag that our “swag” came in is beautiful and great and all, but where were the Gu samples, the Clif bars, even coupons for a free beer at the local pub after the race?  But, I digress.  I didn’t come for the free samples of Biofreeze, I had come to do an Ironman race!

Getting the wristband, no turning back now!
I dragged my husband and kids through the expo, including the Ironman store, where I emptied our bank account on a Finisher t-shirt, a water bottle, an Ironman visor, and cowbells for my kids/cheering section.  I also got to see some old triathlon friends from home, which helped to ease my nerves just a bit.

As the hours ticked away, and after I made the pilgrimage to transition to check my bike in (which involved a 1.2 mile hike from the swim start with my son...ant bites and sliding down hillsides were featured prominently, along with some good memories made with my favorite teenaged boy in the world) and we got checked in at the hotel, we went to dinner, and I began feeling oddly at peace with everything that was happening.  I was relaxed, feeling good, and had arrived at the point of just wanting to be in the race.

I slept like a baby, and at 4:15, the alarm sounded, and it was time to get it done.  I ate - half a peanut butter sandwich, a cup of Greek yogurt, and half a cup of coffee, along with a bottle of water and banana in the car on the way to transition - got myself dressed, and got my bleary-eyed children out of bed and to the car.  My husband dropped me off at transition so that I could unload my gear by my bike, and then I took the shuttle (actually a school bus) back to the swim start, where I met up with my family.  All before 6 a.m.  You gotta love living on triathlete time!

Then came the wait.  My swim wave was #14, and it left at 8:24.  The first wave - the pro men - left at 7:30.  We watched the pros leave from a bridge overlooking the Savannah River, and I tell you, watching those pros swim is impressive (and pretty intimidating).  After that, I had time to use the bathroom one last time, wriggle into my wet suit, eat a Huma Gel, and take a few photos with the family.  By that point, it was only a few minutes before shove-off.  Thankfully, I had run into a friend who was in my swim wave, and we were able to chat as they queued us up to pile on to the dock before the race start.  It really eased my nerves to have someone to talk to in those last moments!

Do I look like a triathlete to you?
It was finally time for our wave to approach the start line (the dock)!  We were not allowed to dive in, so rather than standing and taking a feet-first plunge, I decided to sit on the edge of the dock so that I could get my feet used to the water.  The water was 69 degrees, a little chilly, but not that bad at all.  Suddenly, our gun went off, and it was go time!
Wave 14 swim start
I hadn’t had any real warm-up time, so I decided to start slow and let my shoulders loosen up a bit.  I knew the swim would be faster than in other races, because we were swimming with the notoriously strong current of the Savannah River.  Within about 200-300 meters, I felt good enough to dial it up, and I was able to swim a good, strong stroke.  We all had a good amount of room to swim, and I only bumped into a few people along the way.  It was much less chaotic than any other race I have ever done.
My husband says I'm in there somewhere!
As I swam, I tried to sight the buoys to my left.  When I hit buoy number 8, I knew that I was almost done, and I felt like I had only just gotten in the water!  As I made the slight right turn toward the final buoy at the boat ramp, I realized that I felt really darned good.  I made my way up the boat ramp, and began the long jog to transition.  The transition area at this race was kind of labyrinthian, in that you had to snake up one side, then enter the area, then find your row, then find your bike.  I am happy to say that I did not get lost in transition once during the day!

In T1, I took time to dry my feet well, throw my wetsuit, goggles, and cap in a bag, and then I was off!  My family was waiting for me at the bike start to cheer for me, and it was beyond amazing to see my kids’ smiling faces. 

**I purposely did not try to rush through either T1 or T2, because I wanted to do everything to guarantee my comfort and nutrition.  My T-times were ok, around 6 and 8 minutes respectively, but I definitely know where I could trim seconds in the future.

Now came what I knew would be my ultimate test of the day: the bike ride.  I really don’t enjoy sitting on a bike from more than about an hour, so this was not only going to test my fitness, but it was also going to test my mental and emotional strength.  And it proved to be so much more than I had ever anticipated.  Weatherwise, it felt great.  Except for the requisite headwind that seemed to be present for about 70% of the ride.  Then there were the hills.  The damn hills.  What seemed like dozens of them, spread out over 56 long and arduous miles.  Long, slow inclines that never seemed to end.  Rapid descents that were actually fun and relieving.  And sharp points that felt like actual mountains rather than hills.  My top speed of the day was 37 miles per hour, which I hit briefly on a descent.  My slowest speed? An embarrassing 5.2 mph on this one short but brutal hill toward the end of the bike course.  We had just come down a good descent, took a corner, and this hill smacked us in the face.  Nobody that I was riding around saw it coming.  One poor woman and her bike tipped over because she couldn’t spin her pedals fast enough to keep climbing.
Pretty much the only time you would catch me smiling on the entire bike ride!
With each passing hill, from about 20 miles into the ride, I could feel my back getting a little worse.  Then my left hip.  Then my left IT band, which NEVER bothers me.  There was a point on one particularly long incline that I actually considered dismounting and walking my bike up the hill.  Of course, I realized how silly that was, and just soldiered on.  As much as I was hating the bike ride, I never EVER wanted to quit.  I wanted to be done, and I even told myself that it was the LAST time I would ever ride a bike, but I never even thought of throwing in the towel.

Aside from the hills, there were the bumps in the road to contend with.  I thought the roads here in Florida were in pitiful condition, but they are nothing compared to the roads in South Carolina.  It was bad enough having to dodge other racers’ litter - water bottles, bento boxes, power bars, gels, etc. - but the bumps were just awful.  I know that is what contributed to my back pain during the race.  I would say that about 30-35 miles of the roads were so bad that I thought for sure that I was about to blow a tire at any moment.  Thankfully, I didn’t, but I saw plenty of people who did.  And there were plenty of sections, especially close to Augusta, that had had recent road repairs, so at least there was something to be thankful for.  Rapport among the athletes on the bike course was ok.  I briefly chatted with several nice folks, mostly commiserating about the hills and bumps.  I got passed A LOT, and I knew I would.  Most everyone did the right thing, announcing “on your left” as they approached.  But there were a few occasions when I nearly got run down by some meathead who couldn’t be bothered to have manners.  On the rare occasion that I passed another cyclist, I looked over my shoulder 2 or 3 times before passing, and almost always there was a cluster of bikes coming up behind me.  The course was crowded in a few spots, especially at the aid stations, so you really had to be alert the entire time.  There was no room in my plan for a bike wreck.

One thing that I was successful with during the bike ride was my nutrition.  Two bottles of electrolyte drink in my aerobottle, and a strawberry Huma Gel every hour helped keep me going.  Though, I did begin to feel actual hunger toward the end of the bike ride, which scared me a bit for the run.  I was ok, though, and made sure to take the Coke that was offered at the last few aid stations of the run course.  You wanna know what tastes better than just about anything on this planet?  Warm, flat Coke after having been working out for 6+ hours.  Don't believe me?  Try it.

As the bike ride blessedly came to an end, I knew from my bike computer that I had gone about 3 hours, 40 minutes, which is about what I had expected.  Slower than I should be, but considering I’d never biked any of the course, it was ok with me.  The most important thing was that it was OVER, and it was time to run a half marathon.

I racked my bike, changed my socks, put on my running shoes, race belt, and visor, and headed off to the maze toward the run start.  I stopped at the sunscreen tent and let them lube me up, which likely contributed to my longer T2 time, but I was glad I did.  The run course had lots of shade, but it also had lots of spots in the open sun, and I tell you, it was one gorgeous day out.  

I did my 60 second walk out of transition, like I had trained for, before beginning to run.  I went slow, which was ok with me.  In order to finish in 7 hours, I knew I had to run between a 2:45 and 3:00 half marathon.  This killed me, because my slowest half to date was Iron Girl back in April, and I did that in 2:23 while suffering from debilitating calf cramps.  But, I was more focused on finishing this race than setting any sort of land speed record.

I felt pretty good as the run began.  I was 2/3 done with the race, and most importantly, I had survived the bike ride!  I walked through the first water station, drank some electrolytes and some water, and moved along.  About 2 1/2 miles into the run, we were into downtown Augusta, and the crowds picked up.  The course support all day long was incredible, from the volunteers to the local folks who had come out, sporting funny hats and hilarious signs to keep the athletes moving, motivated, and smiling.  It was at this point that I looked up, and standing on one corner were my kids, screaming and smiling for me, shaking their cowbells at me.  In that moment, I was so overcome with emotion, and I could feel the tears welling up, and I wanted to just break down right there.  I knew right then and there that I was going to finish the race!  The emotions were powerful, powerful beyond words.  For my kids to see me pushing through the pain and exhaustion to reach a goal was humbling.  There was no way I wouldn’t cross that finish line.
Are we having fun yet?
I felt great for about 7 miles of the run.  Then fatigue really began to set in.  I started walking more and for longer periods of time.  I never wanted to quit AT ALL, I just wanted to be finished.  As I made the second loop downtown, I had noticed the crowds were a lot smaller than they had been, so the encouragement began to come from us athletes.  We were in the final stages of this journey together, and we lifted each other up.  We talked about how much food we were going to eat, how we couldn’t wait to have a beer, whether this was our first Ironman 70.3.  I congratulated a fellow 40-year-old woman, who promptly answered back with, “you go girl!”.  I watched as runners began to lose hope, and their physical strength, but never their spirits.  I was inspired by those around me, some much younger and some much older, who were out there doing it for their own personal reasons, reasons as important and huge as mine or anyone else's.  To be surrounded by that kind of  emotion makes you feel super human.  In the midst of the pain and the exhaustion (and the extreme hunger!), I had never felt more alive in my entire life.

Turning the corner at 11 miles, I could hear the finish line commotion, and I knew that it was inevitable.  I was going to finish the race, wow!  As I turned the final corner, a lady standing there shouted, “one more corner and you can SEE the finish line!” I picked it up.  All of the aches and twinges I was feeling were suddenly gone!  I rounded that last corner, and there it was: the finish chute!  Lined with people, and the gray Ironman carpet, it was a sight to behold.  I tore down the chute, and as I crossed the line I pumped my fists in victory.  It was an unbelievable feeling.

They know their mom is one tough old lady now!

All of the training.  All of the pain.  All of the time.  It had all led to that moment.  And it was so worth it.

I was ready all along.  

Ironman 70.3 Augusta 
Swim: 29:48
Bike: 3:40:32
Run: 2:31:44
Finish Time: 6:57:48

**My race wasn’t perfect.  I beat my goal time of 7 hours, but I know I could have done better, especially on the run, and probably shaved off at least 10 minutes.  But I hadn’t felt that kind of jubilation in a race since my very first triathlon two years ago.  So, after all of that talk about “one and done”, I think I want to go again.  

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Taper Madness

As the days tick away, and race day approaches rapidly, I have become one horrible person to live with (just ask my husband, he will nod his head enthusiastically).  My training has tapered WAY DOWN, and my body aches from the shock of not punishing it with 4-hour megaworkouts.  My mind is racing constantly with fears, worries, scenarios, and images of the FINISH LINE on Sunday.  I am positively irrational with my husband and kids, and I know they think I have lost my mind.  I have gone from defiance to denial to downright depression to finally, excitement, all in the span of about 7 days.  But, the fact remains, 


I think - no, I know - I am ready.  The bike ride still scares me to death.  I worry most about getting a flat, getting flustered and taking 3 hours to change it, causing me to get swept off the course by the clock police.

The run scares me a bit, too.  But only because it will feel like an eternity after sitting on my bike for 3 1/2+ hours.  I just hope my legs and brain can work together to get me to the end!

I keep envisioning the finish line.  If I don't puke, I will cry.  Like a baby.  Ugly crying, too.

I've been thinking a lot about my dad lately.  Always my biggest critic - and loudest cheerleader - my dad would have doubted my ability to do this, but would have supported me to the very end.  I wonder if he would understand and respect what an undertaking this has been, what a physical and emotional trip I have taken?  Probably not.  But I hope that he will be with me on Sunday, shouting at me to "GO Goddamn it!", just like he did when I wasn't swimming fast enough for his liking so many years ago.

Two years ago I did my first triathlon.  Two years ago, I did that little sprint race, and it changed me.  I was scared then, and I showed myself that I was made of more than I ever knew.  I crossed the finish line that day and fell into the arms of my husband and my kids, and they celebrated with me.  Sunday, when I cross the finish line in Augusta, my husband and my kids will be there, and I will remember that feeling I had at that first race, and I am sure that I will be overwhelmed and exhausted and elated and about 100 other things that I have yet to experience.  But, above everything, I will be grateful.  Because, you know, I am just a 40-year-old mom, an ordinary old lady who hopes that her kids can take something away from watching their mom suffer a little bit.  

See you again in 70.3 miles!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What's so wrong about being afraid?

Wow.  I've been gone a while.  All 2 of my readers have undoubtedly abandoned me, so I guess I am left to blog at a blank wall.  It has been a long couple of months, but here I am, a mere 10 days (10 DAYS!) out from the race that I have put my life on hold to do.  Ironman 70.3 Augusta is almost here, and I have to be at the starting line on September 29, ready or not.  Am I ready?  That remains to be seen.

I have been training.  Hard.  Hard for me, anyway.  Bike ride after bike ride, and run after run, and swim after swim have left me mentally and physically drained.  I've discovered new limits for myself, and I just hope that I will have the capacity to bust through them on race day.

I've made no secret to friends and family about just how scared I am to do this race.  And I have taken a bit of crap for expressing this feeling.  Among my favorite (note sarcasm here) comments are:

  • What are you so scared for?  It's easy! I doubt you'll find a long course triathlete ANYWHERE that would say that what they do can be described as easy.
  • Noone is making you do this.  NO shit.  I entered into this willingly.  I also entered into childbirth willingly, and I was scared to death of that the first time, too.
  • It is supposed to be fun.  It is fun.  Otherwise, I would have taken up knitting (which would likely NOT be fun and end with me shoving the needles in my eyes from boredom) or raising chickens or puppies or something else.  But I like to race, and I love the finish line!  
  • Don't give in to the fear monster.  New age crap like that really annoys me.

First off, let me begin by saying that it warms me when anyone cares enough about me to make an attempt to help me assuage my neuroses.  With that being said, it is obvious that you don't know me.

I am not a quitter.  I have not suffered through months of injury, given up weekends with my kids, and awakened at 3:30 in the morning for workouts in order to run in the opposite direction of this race.  I am not a fall-down-and-die kind of gal when things seem tough or frightening.

But, if you are afraid of something, it is OK to say it, write it, and feel it.  Boys and girls, fear doesn't define you if it resides in you.  Fear is just renting space until you kick it to the curb by showing it the door.

The fear that I feel is very palpable, and it is sitting squarely on my bicycle.  About halfway through my training, I began to experience terrible back pain during even short bike rides.  Soon, I was rendered pretty much immobile.  I couldn't bend over, reach, lift anything at all, or sit upright for even a few minutes.  Icing, heating, stretching, NOTHING helped.  Except for training.  Training - running, mostly - made the pain go away temporarily, but it would return a few hours after my workouts.  After having to take a week off from my training when the pain got unbearable - missing a few key long rides - I went to an Orthopedist, who x-rayed my back.  As it turns out, I have a stress fracture in one of my lumbar vertebrae, which I have probably had for years and years.  When the volume of my training jacked up, it irritated the fracture, and caused me the intense back pain along with severe sciatica.  I powered through workouts (medicated, mind you), despite the pain, and eventually the pain subsided.  I got my bike adjusted, too, which has helped tremendously.

Because my long rides have been so extremely painful, thanks to the achy breaky back, I am seriously dreading sitting in the saddle for 3 1/2 + hours on race day.  I worry that I will be in that same terrible pain, with no strength to do the most mundane things after I cross the finish line.  And it makes me wonder if all of this has been worth it.  So, you see, I'm not just a scaredy cat because it is new and unknown - that fear is there, of course - but I am afraid that I won't be able to do it again if I choose to.  I am afraid that my body is going to fail. 

But I will not quit the race.

What is so wrong with being scared of something?  Better yet, what is so terrible about acknowledging it aloud?  Fear is a powerful force, motivating even.  It's true, some people would avoid, run, and hide from fear.  But that's not me.  But I am also not going to ignore the "fear monster" that is lurking inside my head.  Ignoring it doesn't make it go away.  Acknowledging it means that I am ready to put up a fight.  Without the gloves.  So FEAR better be ready to rumble come September 29.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


Today is my 40th birthday.  I have passionately disliked most of my birthdays throughout my life, but I can confidently assert that I hate this particular one the very most.  Despite what everyone has told me how 40 feels, how everything is so great and wonderful and birds land on their shoulders and they have their own theme songs as they skip down the street, I don't feel like celebrating, I don't feel happy or triumphant, and I certainly don't feel wiser and more comfortable in my skin.  I don't feel like I know myself, and I certainly don't feel that I can face the world because I have unlocked the secrets of the universe.

I feel the complete and exact opposite of all of those things.  For me, there is nothing great about turning 40.  40 is not the new 30.  What a bullshit notion.  40 is just 40, and it is probably way past the halfway point of my life.  I now have to think about things like mammograms and menopause, and I will probably be the proud owner of a goatee in the not-too-distant future.  I have more gray hair on my head than most octogenarians, but at least I am not going bald - so there is an upside I suppose.  I feel like I have made no impact on the world.  Not that I ever knew what kind of impact I wanted to make.  I don't feel "comfortable in my skin" - I hate that expression.  In fact, I'm tired of trying to convince myself that I'm not completely dissatisfied with where the ball landed on my genetic roulette wheel.  I don't "know who I am as a woman" because I still feel like a child inside my head, complete with all of the fear and trepidation of having to grow up someday.  I am not wise to any big secrets, I've had no "A-ha" moments, other than realizing that I'm not turning into my mother when I look in the mirror but that I am actually turning into my father.

You get no gold watch when you turn 40.  The day comes and it goes and there you are.  40.  4-0.  Middle-aged and riddled with guilt about all of the things you didn't accomplish.  All of those things that, as a child, you'd dreamt about achieving.  As I sit here today, I am not an archaeologist, I have not written a book, and I did not win a gold medal in the Olympics.  I am a mom, a wife, a sister, and a friend.  All things that I do with varying degrees of success and failure depending on the day.  I like to cook, I like to take photographs, I run and swim and try to cycle, and I write the occasional word here and there that less than .0000001% of the population reads.  I am an average woman, with very little drama in my life.  And I guess I'm ok with that.

But I am still pissed about being 40.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Do these rest days make me look weak?

All I wanted to do was train for this little Half Ironman race without getting injured.  Unrealistic?  Probably.  Too much to ask?  I suppose.  Inevitable?  Yep.

My back, to put it bluntly, is jacked up.  I've strained my lower back but good, and some days I can't even bend over.  Ironically, I feel great when I race and workout.  But the day to day activities of life are painful.  It hurts to stand, it hurts to sit, it hurts to lay, it hurts to reach, it hurts to walk.

I know exactly how I did it, too.  Such a rookie mistake.  I got a new saddle for my bike and I didn't get it properly fit on my bike.  In an effort to alleviate the complete and total numbing of my nether regions during long rides, I have turned the back side of my body inside out.  

My husband installed my saddle.  And no, I'm not blaming him, it's my fault.  When it comes to pain, I don't like to complain, and I figured the sit bone pain was normal, along with the achy lower back.  I figured it was just because I was sitting differently on the new saddle, and as my body adjusted, the pain would subside.  Boy, was I incorrect about that assumption.

I awoke one morning after a long ride and I could not get out of bed.  I couldn't bend over the sink to brush my teeth without having to support my upper body with my elbows.  I couldn't turn, I couldn't do anything.  And no, I didn't go to the doctor.  That's another story for another day.  But I did ice it, and I did spend several consecutive days doing agonizing yoga poses that weren't ordinarily agonizing.  I felt 100 years old.

So I've suffered through a few bike workouts, I've even raced a short sprint tri.  I felt great during and after the race, even the next morning.  But the aches crept back in my back.  And they haven't gone away entirely.  As I sit and type this, my lower back feels tightly wound.  

And now, smack in the middle of my half Ironman training program, I have missed several key workouts in an effort to get better and feel stronger, so that I can tackle the hell that comes in the back half of the training program, not to mention the 8 hours of hell that will come on race day.  I took 4 days off from training, luckily during a recovery week.  Yoga had become a daily routine again, and I realized that it never should have stopped being part of my daily routine.  And ice is my new best friend.

I'm finding that my social media does little to make me feel better.  Friends are training hard and strong, and I feel soft and weak.  Others inadvertently post comments about getting out there and killing it and crushing it and getting it done, as if I don't want to be doing those things.  I'm trying to tell myself that I have to live with this body for the next 40 years or so, and one damn race is just a speck in the grand scheme of things.  I am jealous of people who can bend over and pick something up from the floor and not think twice about it.

But I am getting better each day.  Those 4 days with no workouts (other than my yoga) were long and frustrating and riddled with guilt, but I am ready to face this week with mew eyes, a stronger back, and the determination to move forward in my quest to be half an Ironman.  So if those 4 days off make me look weak, so be it.  My body was screaming out to slow it down, take it in, and enjoy the ride at a bit slower pace.  The finish line at Ironman 70.3 Augusta will be there, and so will I.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Race Report: Twilight Triathlon Crystal River, FL 7/28/13

This was only my second triathlon of 2013.  I know, I'm way behind.  But I've been training hard for the big boy - IM Augusta 70.3 - so it's not like I've been just hanging out.  It was a shorter sprint distance race - 400 meter swim, 10 mile bike ride, 3 mile run.

This race was a little bit different.  Like the name implies, the start was around dusk - 7:30 p.m.  The race organizers touted that almost everyone would cross the finish line at sunset. What a romantic sentiment.  They obviously hadn't given much thought to the likes of this mediocre triathlete. 

I wasn't really nervous at all for the race, I was very much looking forward to it, actually.  I have been putting in a lot of time in the pool, and I was anxious to see if my swim had improved.  I never have great swims in the open water, but I was determined to get over that and PR on the 400 meter swim.

At the race start, all of us women lined up on the shore in our pink caps.  Following my husband's advice, I planted my toes in the sand right up front.  I am usually in the back, so as to avoid getting kicked, punched, puled, etc.  As the siren sounded for the start, I took off, dove in, and went for it.  The water was bathtub warm, pretty swirly, and really cloudy - this swim is not the best representation of the normally clear and beautiful Gulf of Mexico.  I felt great as I swam, I managed to not get punched, and only had minor collisions. Until about 150 meters in, that is.  As I brought my right arm up mid-stroke, I realized that I had something in my hand.  It was a swim cap.  I had somehow yanked a cap off a fellow athlete.  I immediately looked up and saw her behind me.  All I could do was toss the cap at her, apologize profusely, and keep going.  That was definitely one of the weirder things that's happened to me in a tri!

I stayed the course on the swim, I saw myself passing a lot of swimmers, even some men that had left in a wave 3 minutes before mine.  I was elated, thinking I was going to do it!  I was going to beat the hell out of this swim.

I made it to the swim exit, ran up the beach - which I hate, by the way.  The soft Gulf sand KILLS my feet, even for only a teeny tiny run, and slows me down.  I got to T1, and managed to get my bike gear on, including socks, in what felt like record time (my transition times are normally glacially slow).

It was a hot and humid evening, and even though the water had been really warm, it felt great heading out on the bike wet from the swim.  There was quite a stiff breeze, so it really cooled me off.  It was a short bike ride - 10 miles - to help with getting people in close to sunset.  5 miles out was flat and fast, and there was a good tailwind that pushed me along.  I stayed over 20 mph before the turnaround.  For me, that's like breaking the sound barrier! Then came the turnaround and the inevitable headwind.  No hills, but enough of a sock to the face to slow me down to about a 16 mph average.  Bummer. 

It was at this point in the race that I remembered exactly why I dislike this particular course.  I had raced this course once before, and really didn't enjoy it.  It's an open course, meaning the roads are open to traffic, and athletes - cyclists and runners - are sharing the road.  This venue is at a park that only has one way in and out, and has several boat ramps and next to no parking.  Many large trucks with trailers are parked along the road, are pulling in and out during the race, and generally being pretty inconsiderate to us annoying triathletes.  In races past on this course, I have heard of cyclists getting knocked off their bikes by the trailers attached to trucks that couldn't be bothered to slow down just a tiny bit.

I was finishing up the ride as the sun was setting, and even though I don't love the course, it is really visually striking in some spots - save for the giant nuclear power plant in the background.  The sky was gorgeous, a palette of oranges and bluish grays, just stunning.

I biked into T2, parked my stuff, and headed out for the run, again in a much quicker fashion that normal for me.

During the ride, I made sure to drink A LOT, to avoid dehydration.  I've gotten sick because of that in other races, and it was so humid that I knew if I didn't drink a lot, I would likely puke.  As I started my run, I began to feel really queasy anyway, like I had eaten too much too soon before the race, which wasn't the case.  It was the humidity, which has a really negative affect on me.  I've been dealing with it all summer, and my runs have suffered.  But, I soldiered on, at a snail's pace.

I walked through the water stations at miles 1 and 2.  At the mile 2 water station, I made the huge mistake of pouring a cup of water down my front.  Not only was the water super warm, making it feel as if I was peeing myself, but the water quickly traveled down my legs, into my socks, and into the bottoms of my running shoes.  Immediately, my feet were soaked and I could feel the chafing begin.  ***I always learn something in every race.  Sometimes it is an unpleasant lesson.

Sure enough, over the course of the last mile, I could feel a hot spot on my big toe.  Bummer again.

As it began to grow dark, traffic picked up.  Boaters were leaving the park, and while most of the drivers were cautious of the runners and cyclists, there were a few jerks.  At about the 2 1/2 mile mark, I had picked up my pace considerably, and as I rounded a last corner, a ridiculously overcompensatingly large white dually truck pulls out into a 3-point turn in the middle of the road, in front of me, another runner, and a cyclist just finishing up.  We had to stop to avoid getting hit, and as I screamed obscenities at the idiot, he just looked up with a great big douchebag grin.  He had done it on purpose, because we were in his precious way. People are amazing in a really bad way sometimes.

I got past the truck, and could see the finish line.  I could also see a woman creeping up on my left.  Even though I hadn't really been racing during the entire run, it was then that I was all like, "Oh HELL no" and turned on the boosters to put some distance between us.  I crossed the finish line, and promptly felt the urgent need to puke.  Though I didn't, I realized that this is becoming an issue, and I need to figure out what is causing it, because there will come a time when I won't be able to stifle it, and someone in front of me will get an unwelcome shower.

Before the race, I had set a goal time of 1:20:00 for myself.  I ended up coming in at 1:16:19.  I was thrilled.  Of course, all of my friends that had been racing, my husband included, blew me away, but I'm the one who held back on the run.  No podium finish for me, but it was a victory nonetheless.

I was elated with my performance, until I saw the split times.  Thinking I had killed it in the water, I was upset when I saw my swim split was a lousy 9:10.  Even though I felt the best I ever had in a race during that swim, it was my slowest swim ever in a triathlon (at that distance).  I'd like to think I lost time hobbling up the beach - why do they make you run so damn far up the beach into the transition area? - or maybe I conserved my legs too much and didn't kick enough.  Or maybe I swam off course a bit and added distance.  Or maybe I'm just a crappy swimmer.

At the end of the day, I did better than I had expected to, I had a good bike ride, and I did really feel great during the swim.  My run can always improve, it is by far my least favorite thing to do - in a triathlon and in life.  Every race is a learning experience.  I learn about each discipline in the race, I learn how to make faster transitions, and I learn about myself and how hard I am able and willing to push.  Win or lose, if I get stronger, that is what counts the most.