Sunday, June 16, 2013
Hubby Ferrett and I drove to Oregon, Ohio Saturday afternoon to pick up the race packet at Maumee Bay. I happened to arrive just in time to hear the orientation talk. Which included a talk about how there have been a number of deaths at triathlons. Not from drowning, but from people panicking in the water and having heart attacks. He told us how it was going to be intense and disorienting and that it was important to relax and pay attention to our reactions.
After taking a look around, we checked into our hotel, then met up with dear friends Steve and Lea, who had driven down from the Detroit area to cheer me on. After a lovely dinner and a soak in the jacuzzi, it was early to bed. But somewhere in late afternoon and evening I noticed pain in my left foot, just to the side of the ball of my foot, below my toes.
At about 4:30am I woke up about halfway out of the bed, thanks to a crash of thunder that was the topic of discussion among runners the next morning. Dayum, that thing was loud. Fortunately, all the wild weather passed in the wee hours and by the time we got to the race site the weather was merely overcast.
Ferrett woke me up at 5:00, which was a damned good thing since I'd cleverly set my alarm for 5:20 PM--I am dumb. But thanks to Ferrett, we were able to have some of the complimentary breakfast and load Greta, who'd spent the night safe in our room, back on the car. We had a late checkout at the hotel so that I'd have time to come back and shower before lunch. I found myself limping a bit. Bending my toes up or down hurt.
Got my race numbers written on me, my ankle tag attached, and my wrist band--no race bib for this one. Ferrett walked with me while I warmed up. Then I slivered into my wetsuit and went down to the water to take some warmup strokes.
The water was really murky. Like, can't see my hand in front of my face murky. And choppy. This is when I realized that I hadn't spent enough time in the water, and that I should have gotten into it in my wetsuit, because it made me float higher and made it harder to lift my head out of the water and look around. But hey, it wasn't THAT far out to those buoys.
Then the race waves began. Elite men and men ages 19-29. Men ages 30-39. Men over 40.
Yes, all the women at once. I don't know if large group had an effect on what happened. But it might have been a contributing factor.
Because when I got into the water and started swimming in all those arms and legs, I suddenly went into a complete panic. I tried to swim the crawl, but I was gasping for air. I tried lifting my head to stroke and got a nose full of water. I finally had to roll over and start back-stroking. Even then I felt like I couldn't get my breath. The mass of swimmers left me far behind. And I couldn't swim in anything like a straight line. I probably swam an extra 30% of the distance zigzagging around.
But I didn't stay alone. Because just 5 minutes later, the Olympic-distance swimmers entered the water. So pretty soon I was surrounded by a lot of aggressive swimmers, definitely making things more difficult.
Eventually I reached the turn. It seemed like it took forever. I reached the second buoy and headed back toward shore. Still trying to turn over and swim freestyle, still not able to keep calm and keep my face in the water. Still zigging and zagging. I resorted to the side stroke and breast stroke, and slowly, slowly, sloooowly, the shore neared. At last I was able to stand up and stagger toward the beach. Olympic distance runners were jogging past me, but I was still trying to catch my breath. And my foot hurt. So my exit from the beach was...leisurely.
And Ferrett was there, cheering me on.
Change of shoes, and off on the bike. Quick departure. Except I manage to drop my chain right at the mounting spot. So, pulling over to get the chain back on. Argh.
The bike ride was...not brilliant. It was very windy, and I was slow as hell. And my legs were unhappy, probably not helped by the adrenaline mess from the swim. But I kept pedaling. And eventually the biking ended. Back into transition, off the bike. Staggered a bit, but stayed upright--yay! And Ferrett was there, cheering me on--awesome hubby!!
Change of shoes, and a wander to find the beginning of the 5k. As I walked through the transition area I was completely unsure that I could actually manage a jog--my foot wasn't happy about any of this. But once I actually reached the start of the 5k I manned it up and began my slow, crawling jog. I was being passed continually, but I kept chugging on. Lots of those people took a breath to cheer me on; it's one of the awesome things about participants, that they are so supportive. Finally reached the turnaround, and did my own cheering on of the few sprint people who were behind me.
Without any music to help my pace, I was having a little trouble keeping the pace up. And when I could see the finish line, halfway around the lake, there was a moment when I almost gave up and dropped down to a walk. But I doubled down mentally and kept up my excruciatingly slow jog.
And eventually I turned that last corner and headed toward the finish line. Steve and Lea were there along with Ferrett, cheering me on as I jogged those last few yards. Ferrett has a funny video of me staggering forward, snatching a cup of water from one volunteer, my finishers medal from another, pausing just long enough to rip off and return the timing chip from my ankle, and then staggering out of the finishers chute. I look completely grim and all business.
They were all waiting to hug me. I waved them off while I bent over, hands atop a traffic cone, and caught my breath for a moment. Then, still wet, sweaty, exhausted, I took those cheers and hugs.
On the advice of other friends who've done tris, they took me straight to food. As I described the event, Steve asked me, "So...did you *enjoy* this?"
I had to pause. Honestly, there were almost no moments of it that I can point to and say, "That part was enjoyable." But as a whole? It made me very satisfied.
And I'm already planning how to improve my training for the next one. There will definitely be more pool. And more open water swimming.
And, I fear, a trip to the doctor for an x-ray. Because this foot is not happy. Not swollen or anything, but definitely sore.
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
I am now fully equipped for the triathlon, having received my wetsuit in the mail. And having tried it on to make sure I could actually get into it. With black boots and a mask, I could be a chubby superhero:
Yesterday, as I was biking in the pouring rain, I contemplated the fact that there is a substantial non-zero chance that I will be in last place at this triathlon. This is not some kind of ploy to have people cheer me on or anything, it's just a reality: I am fat, I am old, I am slow. I do not mind being last, but I mind the reason WHY I will probably be last.
And it has nothing to do with my own fat/old/slowness. It has to do with the fact that most people who are in the shape I'm in, or even slightly better, wouldn't even consider entering a triathlon. Not because, "ugh, I'd never want to do that" -- which is a perfectly legitimate way to feel, as no one is required to participate in athletic events that don't appeal to them. No, it's because there are many people in this shape or slightly better who are thinking, "wow, I could never do that."
And that's sad to me. It's sad that people don't feel like they should participate in such events unless they are going to be good at them, and they will never get good at them because they won't participate.
I have seen this at pretty much every 5k I've attended, particularly the ones that are labelled "5k run/2-mile walk." I realize that the race coordinators are trying to make the event appeal to a wider audience, but there seems to be an implication that if you can't RUN for 5k, then you'd better settle for the walk. At every one of these events, I start out in the middle of a good-sized crowd of walkers and slow joggers. Then we get to the turn-around spot and suddenly I'm at the back with only a handful of people. After a while, that handful diminishes further as people who can't jog the whole way drop out. Some of them, no doubt, have a physical reason why they can't continue. But others would rather slink away and remain anonymous than finish and see a time that embarrasses them.
I say nuts to that. If it takes you 50 minutes, or 75 minutes to finish a 5k, you are still lapping the guy on the couch. If it takes me 4 hours to complete this sprint-length triathlon, I will still be able to say that I did it. And I will have fun, because I don't have to be young and thin and fast to enjoy my body moving and taking on a challenge.
Sunday, June 02, 2013
As I mentioned elsewhere, I took Greta (yes, my new bike now has a name--like, just as I was writing this!) on our
first ride together Thursday evening. In doing so, I made a number of mistakes, mistakes you should all learn
1. I'd ridden 19 miles in 88 degree weather earlier in the day, but hadn't bothered to eat much of anything,
particularly anything potassium-heavy, so I was starting with an electrolyte deficiency.
2. Despite the fact that I was on a new bike with a totally different riding position, I started our training
together by taking on a 21 mile ride. A ride that begins with 5 miles of gradual but unceasing uphill pedaling.
3. Despite knowing better, I jumped right up with the leaders and pushed myself HARD to stay with them.
By the time we reached the summit of the ride, I was hurting some. But from there, I knew it was an out-and-back
of very straight roads on rolling hills. Plenty of rest, and a chance to finally see what Greta could do.
And she was magnificent! On a minor descent, I was coasting at 19 mph! Coasting! I have no idea what her top speed
might be because I was too nervous to pedal faster than 22! Everything was brilliant!
Then we started climbing again. And that's when things went pear-shaped. My thighs began cramping and my wind
just...died. My back was aching as well. I had pushed through everything I had in those first 5 miles of climbing,
and I simply wasn't recovering on the downhills.
But I kept pedaling. I was climbing even the relatively minor grades at under 10mph, and the bigger ones I dropped
down into the 5-6mph range. At one point I just plain had to stop, get my feet out of the pedals, and just stand
and stretch for a few minutes.
Honestly, I felt worse then than I did at the end of the 81 miles I'd ridden on the first day of Pedal to the
Point last year.
My friend Mike was a hero, though. He kept looping around and checking in on me, giving me encouraging words but
not hanging at my shoulder and nagging. And I got back on the bike and began pedaling again.
It didn't get any easier. By the time we were climbing toward the apogee of the ride, the highest point in the
county, I was just lost in the pain of the cramps, the breathing, the heartrate, the back pain. The good thing was
that I could tell that none of this was injury-threatening pain. Just glycogen-deprived misery.
And so I made it to the top of that hill. Mike was there, cheering me on. "It's all downhill from here!" he
yelled. And mostly it was. There were some minor uphills, the kind that I had barely even noticed in the past.
This time, each one was a tiny bit of hell. We finally got to the last couple miles, which were all downhill. I
pushed my pedaling speed up so that I was going around 15. There will be other days when I take that part at 20 or
more. But it was not this day.
This day was all about struggling, pushing beyond what feels like the outside boundaries, and then accomplishing
the task anyway. It was a humbling lesson in proper preparation, but also an exhilerating lesson in the power of
the will to keep pushing. I staggered back into Mike and Patti's house and gulped down fruit smoothies like there
was no tomorrow. In an hour I was recovered enough to drive home.
I lived to ride again.
Ride two was on Saturday. Erin and I were signed up for a 5k run downtown, so I suggested that we bike the 10 miles there, do the 5k, then bike home as a good training exercise for triathlons. Unfortunately, Erin didn't get up early enough to ride, so I rode in without her and she drove in. We completed the 5k (her in record time; me...not last!!), and then had enough energy to do the Cupid Shuffle at the post-run party!
Oh, and I ate bananas.
When we parted, I got on my bike and headed home. But with Captain America filming in Cleveland, one of the two major routes west was closed, and one of the only two exits from the parking area was closed. I was able to escape, though, via the one open sidewalk.
The wind on the way home was blowing against me so hard that I honestly think I could have gone backwards if I weren't pedaling. It was a grind, but I felt much better in this second half of 20 miles of riding than I had in the second half of Thursday's. And, finally, I pulled into the driveway.
Followed shortly by Erin. Traffic was so bad that I actually BEAT HER HOME. I was completely exhausted, though, and pretty wiped out for the rest of the day.
This evening I decided to take Greta out again. I took her on our first ride through the MetroParks together. And for the first time I really felt like I was actually using the clips effectively. It's a very different muscle motion and I can feel that I'm going to be sore in new places. After 15 miles of riding hard, I eased back and cruised the last 9 miles home. I was worried about the climb out of the park because I was having some cramping issues in my left leg again. Then I realized that much of that was coming from the fact that I was only stepping out of the pedals on the right, so my left leg was never getting a stretch out. I took a 3-minute break at the bottom of the climb and then made it out pretty easily. The climbing is both easier and harder: easier because Greta is so light, but harder because she doesn't have a super-low "granny gear" that I can just spin without using much muscle. But building more muscle? Not tragic.
So, since I got her on Thursday, I've put 63 miles on Greta. I'm going to take her back to the bike shop for a couple minor adjustments (moving the seat back, decreasing the reach on the brakes), but I absolutely love her!!
Friday, May 31, 2013
Meet my new baby! I have been wanting a road bike for some time, and I managed to get a great deal on this one! I picked her up yesterday afternoon, and even though I'd ridden 20 miles in the 85 degree temp in the morning, I *had* to take myself over to the Patti's Paladins training ride.
Which was, as always, humbling. I am slow, slow, slow and the riders are fast, fast, fast. Also, riding 20 miles in 85 degrees and then not bothering to eat anything containing potassium. Or carbs. I bonked a bit, cramping up.
But I made the ride and LOVE my bike! I will need some seriously training up on the new riding position, but it's wonderful!!
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Well, I have done it. I've nailed my colors to the mast, so to speak.
I have actually registered for my first triathlon.
I'm registered for the Maumee Bay triathlon in Oregon, Ohio on June 16. I am signed up for the sprint distance: Swim 750 Meters, Bike 20 Kilometers, and Run 5
Nevertheless, the statistics on this event are pretty clear:
1. It's barely 2 weeks away;
2. I will have to be there by 7am. Oregon is about 2 hours away, so I will have to be up around 4:30 in the morning to make final preparations and head out; and
3. I am in no way "trained" for this event.
I haven't been in the water since February. At that time I swam the distance in laps pretty easily. But this will be an open water swim, and I haven't done one of those at all. I will have a wetsuit, at least--open water without one could be downright dangerous. But I have had no practice in getting into or back out of a wetsuit, and I won't be getting the wetsuit for another week.
Each one of the events is a distance I have no worry about. It's the combination of them that's going to be the challenge.
And I am doing this alone. Erin will be out of town. In some ways, I'm sort of glad--no matter how cumbersomely slow and awkward I am, no one will be watching me. On the other hand, when I finally stagger across the finish line there won't be anyone there to provide any sincere pity claps.
Still, once it's done I will have bragging rights!
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