Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Ahh. The 5K.18 months ago I did my first, the New Paltz Turkey Trot. I weighed 197 lbs. Every time my foot hit the ground, the floor didnt shake, but my fat definitely jiggled. I could feel the flab-momentum (flab-mentum?) in my joints.
One of the trainers at my gym (and a triathlete herself) swore to me that it would get better. I remember laying in bed one morning in March this year poking at my legs and thinking that my bones felt stronger. In 6 month, I've worked 20 lbs of ass off and I don't feel cartilage banging together when I run any more.
I've done 2 additional 5Ks since, the Turkey Trot again and the Orange County Chopper 5K. I had a personal best on the OCC race: 32 min. Quick! Alert the media! (That's more irony, folks.)
I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm not fast. For many people 10 min/mile would be appalling. But I've come a long way. Running is the easiest thing to train since it doesnt involve much equipment other than a pair of shoes. I run when I have to shoehorn in a workout with other commitments. Sneakers, Door, Go.
And this morning …. this pissy, rainy, gray, glorious morning....I have already swam half a mile, and biked 12 including a hill that would make you weep. All we have left is a little run in this 3rd Act? BRING IT!
...and somebody stood in my sister's way just as she took the picture. You can see my yellow shirt.
There is no two ways about it. Running right after biking stinks on ice. My legs dont want to go high enough for a proper step, so each effort only gets me about half the distance a normal stride would go. I'm running in goo. The route is beautifully marked with cones into the woods. I'm glad I did so much running on the gravel paths at my MILs house. This footing could be tricky, but I've got experience on my side. The path goes down to a second beach and then past a playground onto the roads. My mind wanders to Child and coming back next year. I passed signs for hiking trails that look interesting. My sister is an avid hiker. I wish the weather was nicer and we could go for a walk after the Race is done.
Maybe delirium is starting in.
The hills are no more challenging than the ones on my regular run. It just feels like it goes on forever. I finally pass the one mile marker with a huge sense of disbelief. Maybe I got on the Olympic course by mistake? But no, the sign says “Sprint 1” I have to own it. I gave myself permission to walk up the hills. Flats & downs, get moving feet! Lots of people coming in the opposite direction, but when I look forward and backwards, I'm on my own.
When I first started running 6 months ago, Jillian Michaels would scream in my head “Get Moving!” Now, its my own voice I hear. Idily my mine turns over ideas as my feet keep going. Hey, wait, I can see the turn around from here! Kindly volunteers offer water or Heed, but I'm too excited. I'm Mimi, doing her aria in the 5th act – although why I want to be a dying woman I'm not really sure. Maybe because the end is in sight. Just as I am about to finish, another Sprint competitor is coming towards me! I'M NOT LAST!! We fist bump as we go past.
There is honor in being last. You were working harder than anyone else for longer than anyone else.
“What do you call the last guy in the class at Medical School? Doctor.”
I fishhook around to go to the finish line. Another Sprinter who finished earlier sees me coming. There's no kick left in my caboose; she paces me to keep me going the last 100 yards into the finish line. My sister takes my picture. A volunteer hands me a finishers medal. I know I wasn't first. I know I wasnt last. My goal was to finish. And I did.
Notice: there are only two dry spots on my entire body, one on each hip.
I'm exhausted. Exhilarated. I feel the same way I did when I finished my first 5K. I did the best job I could on the training I did. I went as hard and fast as I could without throwing up or passing out. We toddle over to the race fair to see if I can find out my results. They are printing them out every 10 minutes or so, but I'm not on that collection of sheets. I would have to wait for the next round. I eat half a banana with peanut butter. I try some Chocolate Powder Nutrition drink that the caterer has. I drink some water.
As my core temperature goes down, I start to realize how completely soaked I am. We try to say hello to Ironman in his booth, but he's having computer problems and is being pulled this way by his boss and that way by someone on the phone that needs something. My sister wants to buy me a shirt that says “Run Like A Mother” - but I dont really need it. I need a reflective vest for biking at night and she's already been REALLY generous with her time: she found the B&B, put it on her credit card, stood around in the rain for hours.
No, its time to pack up and go. We head back to the B&B, I take my sister on the first crazy hill from the bike run and she started giggling nervously. “I would have given up.” We pass one lone rider from the Olympic race coming back with two police motorcycles on her tail. Her face is grim, but she's holding on and going as not-fast as her legs can. I know the feeling. She's not racing. She's enduring.
We shower. I stretch and called DH to let him know I survived. I use hot water to thaw my now thoroughly chilled insides. We return the keys to the B&B and seek out food. A local diner obliges and I eat a pork souvlaki with such vigor, my sister is afraid I'm going to loose a finger. Then we're on the scenic route to Vermont for my Uncle's 65th birthday party. We stopped in Troy and walk from the bookstore to the bakery for some party treats. It's the longest mile I have ever walked. Hey, my sister needs her exercise too. The fat doesn't melt itself.
I decided to leave my tattoos on as long as possible. 1) it will amuse Child – he's 5, we're veteran temporary tattoo artists. I spend a big chunk of the party talking Triathlon with people: evangelizing. 2) If I take them off, it means the experience is over. I dont want to look at the pictures for the same reason. I finally force myself to take them off the camera.
Finally I checked the race results and got the surprise of my life.
Athena 39 & Under - 1st place.
What??!? Slow duckling, first timer made a first place???! Well how about that!
Here are my times:
Bike – 1:19:03
T2 – 1:08
Run – 39:06
Dont get too excited, I was 94th overall out of 102. First place made it in 1:10:14. But when I checked with Ironman when I returned the wetsuit he said my First Place still counts! Geeze, I wish I had known. Apparently, I should have gotten some kind of award at the event. Who'da thunk it tho?
Of course, who would have thunk I would do a Triathlon. Just goes to show YOU.
Epilogue: Some thoughts on training, improvements, next steps and new gear.
Monday, June 11, 2012
There are no pictures of this section. Use your imagination.
This out-n-back takes us into town and back again. We were on normal roads, not closed to traffic although there were police at intersections holding back traffic. I was so grateful that I spent so much time training under similar conditions.... except for those hills. Hunter is in the Catskills. We had driven the course the night before and I started to have a panic attack, “oh my god, this is so far!” My sister, who is a biker and hiker talks me down “You dont have to get all the way there, you just have to get to the next tree, to the top of the next hill. It's gotten me through some pretty tough hikes!”
I'm slow on the bike too. This was the leg that I anticipated being my toughest.
Off I went. The Race Director warned us. The road out of the campground has been marked with cones where there are occlusions, potholes and serious cracks in the road. Some have been filled in with stone dust. There are no branches or leaves, but the light rain has me feeling grateful for my normal tires instead of racing slicks. Mindful of the need for hydration, I take mouthfuls of my 50% Gatorade mix.
The first mile is reasonable ups and downs and then there is a long mile downhill. I'm grateful because it gives me a chance to finish catching my breath from the swim, but in the back of my mind, I know I will face this hill again. At the end. Going uphill.
Pay attention. This hill will be important later.
At mile 2.1 I start to see the Elites on their way back in. I call out positions to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd placers. I call out thank you to the volunteers that I see. I hug the right when I get passed and wish them good luck.
Then there is the first major uphill. Its some incredible grade, where if you lived on it, you would have to have stairs into your front door. Its about half a mile and I spend more time in 1st gear than any other time on my bike – possibly combined. At one point my chain popped … but God must have seen me, because it spiraled itself right onto the next gear and I never had to get off the bike. And I never walked.
I never passed a soul. The only person I passed was someone who also popped her chain and had to put it back on. Then she passed me again on a flat bit. I was passed by loads of people. I wanted to feel jealous, but I was really just working too hard.
Its difficult to describe the physical/mental/emotional tangle that was going on during the bike portion of the race. Physically, I was going as fast as I could. Physically, I recognized all the same feelings as when I trained. Sort of like a comfy pair of sweatpants. I'd like to go faster, but I just cant seem to move my legs any more. It is my biggest area for improvement.
The kicker was when some old guy passed me. “Can you believe these hills?” he said as he passed. And I was thinking of doing this on my single gear!” Well, at least I know I'm not the only one feeling it.
Finally I come down that uphill. The breeze is wonderful. There's a pretty strong turn at the bottom, but I enjoyed it while it lasted.
Then there was that less steep, but longer uphill that I knew was waiting for me. I start pedaling again. My running sneakers bend, melting over the pedals, my toes jammed into the front. I feel my heart start to pound. I check in, it assures me that its working hard, but “We got this. You keep going.” The uphill continues.
“It feels just like when you're at 90% on the HR monitor. We're ok for now.” Still more uphill. The pounding in my sternum moves up so now I can feel the arteries in my head actually thumping on the inside of my ears.
“We're not going to die, but is there a top to this hill sometime soon?”
I start heaving like an asthmatic and pleading with God & my Body: “I can see the top. We're almost there. If it's flat, we'll have time to recover. If there is a downhill, we're golden.” I really dont want to walk. That would be defeat.
Plus, I know my recovery rate. Within 10 seconds on a flat, my HR would be back down out of the painful territory. If I get so fortunate as to be on a bit of a downhill, I could really begin to get my wind back.
Finally, I crest the hill. There were no fireworks, but my pulse came out of my ears and I stopped worrying about heart damage. A few more up and downs, then I see the big “Stop and Walk Bike” sign. Only I misjudged and ended up skidding the tires for a few inches in order to stop on time. I walk in trying to shake the worst of the Brick feeling from my legs.
Proof of how slow I was? The woman in the stall next to me? She's cleaning up to leave just as I pull in for T2. We exchange pleasantries as I park, “ Could you believe those hills?” she says to me.
Since I'm already wearing my sneakers, there is nothing to this transition. Park and go. My sister has taken refuge from the sporadic showers under one of the volunteer's tents.
Only the run to go. Triathlon, you are mine, BITCH.
Monday, June 11, 2012
After deep but short sleep, its time. The alarm found both me and my sister waiting in anticipation. I had laid out my clothes the night before. So I sling them on, my sister applied my tattoo numbers, we brush teeth and hit the door.
The transition area is a hive of activity. Some good advice the night before said I only needed to arrive one hour before. So we didn't dawdle setting up my stall.
Remember I said mornings were cold? I'm wearing 2 shirts.
We hit the catering for a light breakfast. There are some that can do this type of race on just coffee, but I've found that a little something makes AM exercise a lot more pleasant for me. Half a bagel with PB and Apple Butter, a handful of grapes and some more water and I'm ready to go.
About 20 minutes before the gun, I put on my wetsuit. I was able to have one practice session on my own. The trick is to peeling it *on* to me.
The Race Director gathered us for some final words and reviewed the course one last time.
I am wearing a black wetsuit and a yellow swim cap. Can you see me?
(That was irony.)
Then its down to the water for the start! The paved walkway is hard on my feet. I hear the Ironman's words in my head “walk, dont run to the transition after swim.” Its not going to be a problem!
I position myself in the middle of the pack. I dont want to get run over or feel like I'm being left behind. The first wave, all men, plunge in and 3 minutes later we go!
The water is not that cold. I would call it “fresh.” The adrenalin of the moment makes me swim at first with my head out of the water. Then I realized what I was doing, and start doing my proper freestyle/ crawl like in practice. But what I didnt anticipate was the mild anxiety attack that I had facing down into the black waters. I flipped onto my back and backstroke, catching my breath. I take about 3.5 seconds to make my peace with backstroking the course and make my way around the 2 buoys into shore. As I am headed into shore on the last leg, I felt the last of my anxiety leave me. I can do this!
Up the hill to the transition area. My stall is one in from the rail so my sister can support & photograph me peeling off the wetsuit and putting on my clothes. The day is overcast and it has spat a few drops of rain, but I choose sunglasses anyway. Helmet, trot to the door and exit. I'm off on my bike.
Up next: The tough get going .. up a hill.
Sunday, June 10, 2012
Triathlon (1 of 5): Prologue
To say I was nervous before this weekend was an understatement. Unsettled, anxious, jumpy, frayed are also words that spring to mind.
I made a list and checked it twice. I spent 2 days packing. Worried about what to do and what to eat, I tapered and carbo-loaded, neither with tremendous success. I was going to only do a 2 day taper, but crap weather all week made it difficult to even get out for any type of exercise. After a full week of inactivity, I broke down on Friday morning and ran around the block twice (only 0.6 miles, but there is a mondo hill) which was enough to take the edge off. When did I turn into an exercise junkie?
Finally realized: This is like Opening Night Jitters. My family are all gigantic Theatre Nerds. We've all been to multiple shows, my sister has a degree in Music: Vocal Performance, my father was in a community theater group when I was younger, I directed plays in college...you get the pictures. So I know what Opening Night feels like. Once I understood it was the same emotion, I was actually able to harness the energy and channel in a productive manner. I will not be ruled by Stage Fright.
This was my packing list:
Swim: Wetsuit, swimsuit, Goggles
Bike: Bike, Helmet, Shorts, Tshirt, bike bottle, socks, sneakers
Run: Hmm. No special equip, here
Etc: Big towel*, Small towel*, Dishpan, Big waterbottle, gatorade, racing belt, Bra, camera, parking pass, Chair for my sister/support team, hairbands.
My sister/ support team decided to stay locally the night before, so I also need personal items: toiletries, pjs, etc.
*Optimist, she's such a hoopy frood, she always knows where her towel is.
What I should have brought: Sweatshirt. Mornings are cold.
It doesnt sound like much, but I had 2 additional lists, following the Tri was a Saturday night birthday party at a relative's house so I need additional clothing for myself and Child. Logistics and planning were key for getting through this weekend.
Friday night was the Athlete's Dinner and Meeting. The event is much smaller and lower key than anticipated. I mindfully consume lasagna, vegetables and salad.
The Race Director welcomed all the triathletes (about 60 of us there) and asked for a show of hands for 1st timers. About half the crowd, which makes me feel better. He reviews the course and we toddle off to go look at the transition area and the lake. I dipped a toe in, it doesnt feel too bad.
I love this man; he was carefully removing all goose poop from the beach.
I dont mean to scare you, but I will. That orange pillow was our starting point. See the little blotch WAAAY in the distance? That's 250 meters. It *looks* really far, but as you read in the next chapter, is not as far as you think.
We got back to the B&B by 8:30 and relax with some drinks on the patio. Seltzer for me, beer for sister. Bed by 9:30 and lights out at 10. The alarm is set for 5.
I *could* still chicken out...
Sunday, June 10, 2012
I am the #1 finisher for the HITS Hunter Mtn Sprint Triathlon in the Athena 39 and under!
Does it count if there was nobody else in the category?!
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