"I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life;
to put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived." ~Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, August 17, 2013

On Finishing a Triathlon

I decided that I should journal exactly everything that happened today during and surrounding the triathlon.  Last night (Friday) we went over to Enos and Audrey's house for a carb loading night.  Audrey made the most delicious homemade pizzas and french bread, and I made fettuccine alfredo and brownies (for Sundaes) for dessert.   We had a really great time, and Missy and Ellie Ackerson ended up coming by for dessert.  The only bad part is Hailey threw up about fifteen minutes after we arrived so Cody took her home and ended up missing out on the fun.

Last night I was a nervous wreck.  I kept switching between overly excited, to feeling like my stomach was turning itself inside out.  Cody kept trying to talk me out of being scared by reminding me of just how prepared I was for this event.  So I got everything ready, my clothes laid out and bag packed, took a sleeping pill and hit the hay about 11:00.

My awesome friend, Erin, has done a very similar triathlon in the same place and has been on of my go-to people for advice as I've been training for this.  Originally she and her family were going to be out of town this weekend, but last minute their plans changed and I called her on Thursday night to pick her brain (once again) and she said "How about I come and pick you up on Saturday morning, load your bike into the truck, I will take you and walk you through everything and be a support, then Cody can get there later with the kids.  That way he doesn't have to come up with you at the butt crack of dawn."  I was speechless at first, because that was a HUGE thing to offer.  Who wants to leave the house at 6:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning and go through all of that if you're not even racing??  ERIN!!  That's who.  My alarm went off at 5:00 and I rolled out of bed, grabbed a quick shower, ate a banana and PBJ sandwich for breakfast, and Erin came over and we left, me following in Cody's car.

We don't have a bike rack on our van so the plan was that I would put the backseats of the van down and leave the little boy's carseats in the second row, and fit my bike into the back.  Cody would drive over with the three big kids in his sedan.  But now that Erin was taking me, we didn't have to get the kids all ready at 5:30 in the morning.  It worked out GREAT because they ended up showing up at the Nadatorium about 8:40, which was 15 minutes before I got in there for the swimming (and final) portion of the race.

Let me back up.  On Friday after lunch, Jessica came over to babysit while I went to the bike shop to get my rental.  That place is amazing and it's hard not to feel overwhelmed and intimidated.  But the guys were so nice and helpful and very encouraging about my race.  The one guy who was fitting the seat said "Even if you come in dead last, you're coming in a million times faster than the people who aren't doing the triathlon."  That made me a feel loads better.  I got the bike home and took it for a practice ride while Jessica stayed with the kids.  That bike was amazing.  It was a Specialized that retailed for almost $3,600 and I felt a little uneasy toting it around.  As I rode down the trail near our house, I realized I was cutting through the asphalt like a knife through soft butter.  All that training on a mountain bike seemed to be paying off.  It's a good thing I took it for a practice ride because I was able to get everything set exactly as I needed it. 

So, we pulled into the Rec parking lot at 6:25 and I about threw up as I saw people showing up for the race with their fancy bikes and attire and just looking like they knew what the hell they were doing.  For a second I felt stupid for even showing up, like I had no business being there at all.  Like I was  fraud.  But then I remembered all the months of training and preparing and I knew that I was where I belonged.

The nervousness never ever went away.  After I got checked in and numbered and my ankle tracker on, Erin and I got my bike put on the rack and I set up my transition camp. I stretched and we talked and took a few pictures, then I downed my Gatorade prime liquid and gels and got ready for the start of the race. 

I decided to go in the first wave of people.  I figured that if I fell behind, I would fall somewhere in the second wave of people coming up behind me and that way I would never be alone.  The race began and Erin stood on the sidelines snapping pictures of me going through (I will get those pictures from her sometime).  The rush of adrenaline I felt was intense.  You could feel it in the air amongst all the athletes.  There was this sense of togetherness that's hard to describe.  The run was going great until the start of mile two when I felt my previously sprained ankle give out.  I had injured the tendon all over again!!  I about cried, and had to slow to a walk for 20 seconds or so.  This ended up being the pattern for the rest of the run.  But not only was my ankle sprained again, the problems in my right foot where acting up worse than ever before and it felt like there was a burning hot coal inside my foot where the tumors are (yes, I have tumors growing in the nerves in that foot and need surgery again.  But that's another story.) So right off the bat, in the FIRST leg of the race, I was doubly injured below the knees.

There were several times during the run when I thought to myself "Screw it.  Who am I kidding.  My body is old and falling apart and I have no business attempting this."  But then I'd hear another voice telling me to keep moving ahead, to not stop, to push through the pain.  I finished the run and about cried, but my adrenaline carried me through transition and I am impressed with myself for how smoothly that went.  As I ran into the transition station, I pulled my hair down from the knot on my head and put it in a low ponytail at the base of my neck so I could put my helmet on.  I never stopped running the whole time, hopped on my bike, put my helmet on, all in one stride.  I was off to the second leg.

I was sooooo relieved to be on the bike.  It gave my ankle and foot a little break, until my foot started throbbing again and going tingly and numb.  Those nerves were furious at me!!  I was flying by people on that amazing bike, and I almost wiped out at the first turn because I went to brakw and forgot that the brakes were in a different part of the handle bars than I was used to with my mountain bike.  But, I didn't wipe out.

The cycling portion was good, hard, exhilarating, and quite painful.  My foot was killing me as I pedaled.  When I approached the steepest part of the ride, which was a giant overpass, I watched as the racers struggled to get to the highest part.  I geared myself up and pedaled as fast as I could.  Keane's "Somewhere Only We Know" was blaring in my ears and I thought how appropriate those lyrics were at the moment.  I felt like me and my fellow racers were alone in this, all pushing for the same finish line, all struggling, all tired, but all experiencing the same rush and excitement.  So push ahead we all did.  Getting to the other side of that overpass was freeing.

I should mention that my water bottle fell out of the holder only one mile into the ride.  No bueno.  I was DYING of thirst.  Luckily I had been drinking a liquid that was intended to keep you hydrated longer, I never got dehydrated, just seriously cotton mouthed.  And my shoe lace came untied at one point and wrapped itself into the chain.  I caught it before it caused any harm, but it was a set back.

Several cyclists were stranded along the way with flat tires.  That was my biggest fear while cycling, aside from crashing.  I probably could have gone faster, but I was so busy watching the road to make sure I didn't hit rocks or debris.  Being accustomed to large mountain bike wheels that are far more forgiving, this was a tedious event.  There was NO WAY I was going to get stranded with a flat and have the race be over.  I almost crashed two more times because of other cyclist not following the rules, like when we went through a long dark tunnel and people were trying to pass one another.  Everyone kept yelling "Stay in your own lanes!!!"  Luckily, I made it back to the transition station after many painful miles on my foot.  I hopped off my bike and stripped my outer clothes and shoes off (just threw them on the ground like everyone elses clothes were) again ran while I re-did my hair into a bun, threw my swim cap and goggles on, and grabbed two cups of water at the water station.  One to douse myself with, and the other to drink.  I was sooooo thirsty!

I got into the Nadatorium and wanted to cry.  I saw that pool, saw my family and Erin in the stands, and knew I wasn't done.  But oh how I wanted to be done!!  14 laps in the pool.  It wasn't far and I could do that swim like cake on a normal day if I wasn't so tired.  But at that moment, it looks like swimming across Lake Ontario.  I jumped in and all I wanted to do was sink to the bottom.  I had prepared myself for the possibility that I was going to be too tired to do any real swimming, so I had been practicing side stroke and a lot of superficial breaststroke and freestyle.  It's a good thing I'd been practicing those strokes and not just freestyle.  I could barely put my head under water because my lungs and muscles kept screaming at me for oxygen. 

I could hear my family, especially Chudda, screaming at me from the stands.  I never once stopped.  Several swimmers where taking breaks my standing in the pool, but i never stopped and never lost speed.  I wasn't going terribly fast, but I was going at a steady pace.  At some point I yelled "I am too tired!" I snaked my way around that Olympic pool, lane by lane.  And then I realized that there was only one lap to go.  I pushed so hard and touched the wall.  I climbed up the ladder and felt like jelly.  I could barely stand on my legs but managed to run to the other side of the pool and cross through the sensors.

I was finished.  I did it.  All of it, and never stopped.  Not even once.
That's me in the blue cap and white goggles.

The whole race I kept thinking "There's no way in hell I'm doing this again.  Never.  That'd be stupid and pure torture." But as soon as I finished, all I could think of was that I was going to do the next one in May.  Okay, I was also thinking that I wanted to throw up.
Me in my new Tri shirt.  All the writing is on the back but I didn't get a picture.

I was just a tad tired and fatigued here.
Erin finally took off, but I was so happy she was there.  I feel like I owe her so much for being there for me.  Can't wait to do one of these races with her one day!  We went and ate some of the after race snacks, but everyone was ravenous (especially me) and we needed real food.  After we loaded everything up, we headed to Ihop.  I don't know that I have ever eaten that fast in my life.  My body was screaming at me to fuel it!!
After we got my bike returned and back home, I showered and the crashed in bed.  I just woke up from a 2 1/2 hour nap and in spite of feeling exhausted, I feel incredible.  There are not a lot of people in this world who can say they have done a triathlon, especially not women in their mid thirties who have five kids.  This race wasn't easy for me,  nor have the months of training.  But I did well and I finished.  People think I'm nuts for doing an intermediate-advanced tri as my first one.  I say either go big or go home!!  I really am going to attempt the Spudman next summer.  If I can get my foot operated on and fixed, go through physical therapy and not lose my game too much, I will start training again in a few months.  This experience was amazing and I feel so good about myself. 


Jeanne said...

This may sound lame, but I'm sitting here bawling because I am so impressed and proud of you! You are an amazing woman. Seriously one of my heroes.

Veronica said...

Thanks Jeanne!! It feels kind of surreal. Never saw myself doing something like that :)