Saturday, July 26, 2008
Next week I turn 35, which by numeric standards is "middle aged".
I run miles every week.
I bike even more.
I swam nonstop for an hour the other day.
Young at heart, right?
So how the hell did I pull a muscle in my back and resort to the use of a heating pad and Motrin just to be able to sit on my own couch and watch a rerun of The West Wing? In what insanely vigorous task was this young-spirited triathlete engaged to cause such an instant and painful reaction?
I was bent over the other day...
scrubbing the toilet.
You're only as old as you feel. Do I qualify for the Senior Discount now?
Saturday, July 19, 2008
We were tired from our 4 AM wake-up call (Erika didn't sleep at all last night) and save the $80 registration fee I was more than half-hoping a single bolt of lightning would've called off the race so we could go home and crawl back into bed.
After we spent some time sitting in the car and grumbling, we made our way back down to the beach to watch the start of the Women's Triathlon, an hour and a half before mine. The fog had lifted and the rain was temporarily holding off. The horn went off for them and we watched as they high-stepped into the water and immediately began screaming four-letter words. The women in the front bravely dove in and we walked along the shore as the leader swam her route parallel. I can't explain fully what it did for my optimism, my attitude to watch her swim. It meant it was possible. It meant it wasn't the end of the world. She emerged 12 minutes later to cheers and applause, and by her not being dead it meant that I could do it, too. I was starting to change my mind about today.
The next half-hour or so I spent setting up my own gear. The rain stayed away and so I started to picture actually getting through the race instead of driving home. With time to spare, we were back at the Starting Line so I could acclimate to the water.
Fifty-nine degrees is cold. I'm talking burning, biting cold. I'm talking "I've been standing in this sh** for 30 seconds and now I can't feel my own damn feet" cold. I stuck my face in only because I was warned that if you're not ready for it, it will take your breath away. I should mention at this time that on BT, the website I frequent for triathletes, I've read a variety of advice in the discussion forums on handling cold water. Wear two swim caps instead of one. Check. Pull your caps over your ears to minimize dizziness from inner ear hypothermia. Done. Pee in your wetsuit. What?!
It's true. In all seriousness it's been suggested to pee in your wetsuit to warm up the material in contact with your skin. The advantage is that given the material of a wetsuit, you can be surrounded by hundreds of people and start peeing and no one will know it. So partly out of necessity to pee, partly to feel the affects and partly just for fun, I peed in my wetsuit about five minutes before the race started. My lobster was on hand for the picture.
There's not much to say about the swim part of the race. Lake Michigan was surprisingly clear and clean, but with my poor vision (and double vision) I was entirely too focused on heading in the right direction. I felt strong in the water, but I was still getting passed. It became in my head the part I just had to get through. I checked my watch when I was finally able to stand up again half a mile later--best swim time ever. Who knew.
Six minutes later I was on the bike, my least favorite leg of the race, but I felt cruisin' and I was making good time. It started to dawn on me--maybe this isn't a race you just need to get through. This could actually be a good race. Let's see what happens.
Now I'm running on a course I heard was "flat and fast", so what the hell is this hill doing here? A girl I stuck with on the bike was walking, and I passed her on the hill, only to have her pass me again when she started running. Stupid luck. But the cloudy sky and 70 degree temps were perfect running weather, and the end was in sight.
I raised my hands in victory when I crossed the finish line, not just for getting myself back in the game after the summer's events but for a personal best time by three minutes. Near the end of the finish line chute a young volunteer handed me a plaque--Third Place. What the? In each age group (mine being 35-39, even though I'm not 35 yet--bitches) this race gives out awards to the top five, and the plaque said Third Place. I'd never even come close to an award before. My lobster flooded me with praise and pictures, we sat and ate a post-race PB&J sandwich, scooped up my now-soiled wetsuit, and headed for home.
On the race website I checked my official times this afternoon. It turns out I came in 4th place, not third. But I don't care. It was a good day, and I'm back in the game.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Anyway, this Saturday's triathlon, Spirit of Racine, is starting to feel like the first one ever. Let me break it down:
A. The forecast calls for rain, and races don't cancel except for lightning. But it doesn't call for lightning, it calls for rain. Like normal humans, I don't go outside in the rain, at least not to hang out.
2. The swim is in Lake Michigan--current temperature at location, 66 degrees. I'll be racing in a wetsuit for the first time ever, and how on earth am I supposed to show off my well-toned calf muscles in a wetsuit??
D. I started training again about a week and a half after the accident, but can't hit my pre-accident times. I'm just not as fast as I used to be, so I've affixed a small outboard motor to the back of my bicycle.
5.2 This is the first all-out, puke-at-the-end race since the accident.
So I'm a little nervous. If you happen to be awake and aware at about 9:00 AM on Saturday, send a good vibe my way? Reader?
Monday, July 14, 2008
A while back my mother-in-law Tracy was deep in her new obsession with finding half-marathon races and walking them at breakneck speed. (Seriously, I've been out training with her--I have to jog to keep up.) We were comparing notes about our prospective athletics-of-choice, and from nowhere she had decided that with someone with her during the race as a guide (Tracy is legally blind) and with a whole lot of work (Tracy doesn't swim), she could do a triathlon too. She signed up for Danskin '08, which was yesterday.
We knew she wasn't the only first-timer; at the expo yesterday they asked for a newbie
show of hands and nearly every hand went up. It didn't matter--we could still feel the anxiety she felt as we walked to the transition area to set up this morning at 5:30 AM.
SIDEBAR: Triathlons are pretty short races overall--the winner is finished in a little over an hour. A person could complete a sprint and still have time in the day to go grocery shopping, meet a friend for a movie, cook brats on the grill for dinner, and finish a book. More importantly, there's time in my case to go back to bed for four hours, because the price you pay for your early finish is an early start. We live an hour from Danskin, which meant a 3:45 AM rise. That's freakin' early in the day.
We were in Wave 8 for the race, which (fortunately) meant not much time to get nervous. I requested a "swim angel" for Tracy. Swim Angels are volunteers with styrofoam noodles who accompany swimmers across the lake to offer support, encouragement, and styrofoam when needed. They were short a few angels, but gave me a noodle to use. I was her guide and her angel all in one. The countdown began and Tracy put on her Game Face.
I had told her all along to just "get through" the swim, and the rest will take care of itself. So here we were, in the middle of the lake, rotating between a made-up stroke on her back, a surprisingly strong sidestroke, and some kicking with the noodle. We saw swimmers cruise on by us, swimmers clinging to the rafts for a break, even a swimmer rescued from fatigue by a lifeguard, but mostly we saw a lot of women getting through the swim any way they knew how. We finished the swim 17 minutes faster than her estimated time. I think it's because she never stopped moving forward.
Our plan for the bike ride was for me to follow closely behind her so she could set the pace, and I would zoom ahead temporarily only if a turn or hill were coming. We scrapped that plan the moment we left the transition area; there were just too many bikers, spectators, cones, and volunteers. I led the way, looking back once in while to make sure we were still together.
SIDEBAR: My opthamologist prescribed a stronger prism for my eyeglasses this week--my double vision just isn't getting any better. The good news of this is that I'm now able to turn my head while moving; with the weaker prism I would've tipped over.
Many times I'd look back and hear a polite but chipper "I'm right behind you!" This was code for "C'mon Jenn move it, we can go faster than this." A few times I looked back and she wasn't there. This happened on steeper-than-rolling uphills, and her fat-tired bike combined with the 20 MPH headwind caused a few unannounced stops to walk the bike. I'd wait for her, we'd continue our trek, and before long I'd get another "Right behind you!" We finished the bike at the very beginning of our estimated range.
We already knew at this point that the race was hers. Tracy has completed three half-marathons in the past year, each one faster than the last. She was giddy with excitement in the first mile, chatting to no one in particular about how the day has gone so far.
Erika and Dan (Tracy's husband) had positioned themselves at several key points in our race, so we talked about the times we'd seen them and how surprised and excited they were at our progress so far.
When the finish line was in view we ran in with arms raised and big smiles. It was a victory for both of us. Tracy knew she could walk fast all day long if she wanted, but today she took a leap of faith and tried things she never thought she was capable of. And she succeeded. She felt on top of the world. For me, I got to run a race post-accident, without the pressure of beating my times or the girl next to me. I got to see if I would be able to get back in the game. And I did.
Then it slowly dawned on her: If she buckles down and keeps a solid pace, she could beat her goal time...by twenty minutes. We stopped chatting. I can't walk at her pace, so I would jog ahead a little, stop to walk, and let her catch up to me. She jogged with me a few intervals.
We crashed from our adrenaline highs on the ride home. Full of our post-race snacks (chocolate milk and a gluten free nut bar for me), Erika and I walked in the door and immediately sank into bed--for four hours.
Not a bad way to spend a day.