Sunday, July 28, 2013

Week 5 and Marble Falls Triathlon

Week 5: Mon- 1,000yd swim, 20 mile bike
               Tue- 1,500yd swim, 4.5 mile run
               Wed- 25 mile bike
               Thu- 1500 yard swim, 4 mile run
               Fri- off
               Sat- 6 mile run
               Sun- 40 miles
Total: 101 miles
Total mileage so far: 459. Equal to driving from Austin through Lubbock to Tulia, TX.

            Since this week I "passed through" Lubbock, I asked my friend Braden, who worked with me under Chuck at the ranch, to share his favorite memory of him. It's added to the "Memories of Chuck" tab above, so please go check it out and learn more about the kind of man he was.

            First and foremost I have to say a special thank-you to my parents and my grandma. Not only did my mom come watch the race on Sunday (She both got up at 4:30am with us to go to the race and made me a sign) but she also brought me a surprise from my dad, who is working in North Dakota right now. They gave me a gift of $500! Then, I got a sweet note of encouragement from my grandma with another donation in it! This took such a burden off my shoulders, because I have been struggling to save the $300 entry fee for the race in October. Now, I'm officially registered! Their support covered my entry fee, and made a great $200 donation to the fundraiser for Chuck, rocketing me closer to the $1,000 by bringing the total raised so far to $375. I'm not sure if my dad has the full idea of what I'm doing in October, but it doesn't matter to him, he just wants to help, and that is what matters most to me.  Love you mom, daddy, and grandma!
          My mom, on the other hand, got a first-hand look at the sport of triathlons this weekend. She got up well before dawn to ride with my boyfriend and I to Marble Falls, TX from our house near Austin so I could participate in the Marble Falls Triathlon (The One With the Hills). We got there and nabbed a great parking spot close to the transition area and unloaded my bike. As I got my things together and picked a spot on the racks, she got a look at the competition- everything from 12 year olds to men and women in their 70s, boasting rigs and outfits of all kinds, some obviously dusted off from the garage, others possibly worth more than my car. 

My mom and I waiting for the sun to come up!

            This race was my first full triathlon. I attempted to do the Athleta Iron Girl race in Austin in June, but ended up completing a duathlon instead because the swim portion was rained out. I have been training hard, and felt good about this race! Things went pretty well, despite some hiccups I'll list below, but I'll say in summary, I feel much more prepared for what's coming in a few months than I did before!

Observations of a first time Olympic Distance Triathlete:

1. Get creative with your transition bag! I think I've said this before, but there is no reason to spend over $100 on an official transition bag, especially if the races you are doing are too hot to require lugging around a wetsuit. I am actually really proud of the idea I came up with on Saturday, and want to share it. Rather than use a backpack, I used a this cooler instead! We have had this thing for a couple of years and use it for the floating the river all the time. It is big enough to hold 24 cans and ice, has an expandable pocket on the top, on the front, and two mesh stretchy pockets on the side. I was able to pack 2 water bottles, my hydration backpack, a third bottle full of a sports drink, a baggie full of PowerGels, my running shoes, my cycling shoes, socks, shin compression sleeve, SpiBelt, Handana, a towel, a sport towel, a headband, my goggles, and my sunglasses all in this pack with room to spare. Therefore, I not only had everything I needed, but everything I needed was niiiiice and cooooooold when I wanted it the most! I am totally sticking with this plan, and I think a few people who saw my setup and got jealous while they sipped their hot water and melty nutrition bars will be copying it.

2. Good rack spots are a hot commodity. I got there early and got a good spot at the end of a pipe section, so my bike was easy to find and my stuff wasn't at risk of being run over. I got set up, and then took my bike to the Sun and Ski Sports tent to see if they could figure out what an obnoxious clicking noise was being caused by. (I finally figured it out myself- loose pedal had some grit in it!) I came back to the spot to grab my helmet, and some guy had already tried to take over! I was nice, and told him hey, is that your super brilliant cooler pack there? No? Then move it, bud. He complied. Even so, I got my bike back as soon as I could.

3. The swim was a lot harder than I thought! I read it over and over before I did it, but thought I'd be fine. I've been a swimmer my whole life, have worked as an open-water lifeguard, and can already do well over the 2,000 yards the 1/2IM is going to require. Didn't matter. As soon as I slipped in to the warm waters of the Colorado River and treaded water waiting for the gun to go off, I knew I was in for it. The current! The murky water! The people! I am slowest at the breast stroke, but as soon as I got about 25 yards, that was the stroke I stuck with because it allowed me to breath and remain steady. I don't think I panicked, but I did get overwhelmed. The biggest issue for me was not being able to see. I could spot when I raised my head to breath, but my face in the water was another story, and my brain didn't like it. Thankfully, I found out that Lake Pflugerville near my house has an open-water swim course set up people can use for free. I am planning from now on to do most of my yards out there to get as used to it as possible. 1,000 yards was a long way in open water, and double that will be even tougher if I'm not prepared. The only other issue during the swim was the sprinters. Right as I got to the halfway-back point, the sprint wave reached it and swarmed me. People do not let you pass, even when they should (probably because they are as panicked as you are!) and they cannot see in the water, just like you can't. Due to this, someone pulled my race chip off my ankle- eek! I was thankfully able to grab it, and stuffed it in my shorts for safekeeping. I made it out of the river alive, and moved on to the next part.
Bryce captured my emotion perfectly- thankful to be on land again!

3. Don't panic if you find yourself alone on the bike ride.  So I didn't have the fastest swim ever, but I was still done in a reasonable time. I had a small moment of panic when I got to the mounting line from transition and realized I never put my chip back on (THANKFULLY I remembered!) but got going on the bike ride with a good number of people. I made great time and got to the split between the sprint and the Olympic course, and then suddenly found myself alone on the road. No other bikes either passing me heading back, or behind me. I took about an hour and a half to complete the 23 mile bike ride (not bad considering my post swim daze) and was by myself and bewildered for at least 45 minutes of the ride. How could I  be that far behind? Did I go the wrong way? Am I somehow behind the cutoff time? I was so worried that when I got back to Transition, I wasted time asking a volunteer if I was the last one on the course. He said no, there were others, but I almost didn't believe him. There were people already packing up and leaving, for goodness sakes! Were they laughing at me? Sheesh, what could have happened? I was confused and distracted enough, that when I got transitioned for the run, I forgot my water bottle and my gel pack, two things I was sorry about later.

4. The run is the hardest and easiest part, all at the same time. When I got on the run course, there were indeed people still racing, and I began to feel better and concentrate. My training has paid off so far, because unlike the race in June, my legs were still feeling fresh and lacked that lead feeling you get from a brick workout sometimes. It was only 4 miles- time to ruuuuu.....and walk. Run, then walk. It needs repeating but it is ok to walk if you need to. I could have run the whole thing, but it felt like a million degrees, I had forgotten nutrition and electrolytes that I really needed, and my power walk was faster. So I put my pride aside, and let myself walk for about a quarter of a mile. Let me tell you- worth it. I felt so much better, got my thoughts and my body collected and together, and finished without feeling death knocking at my door. I may not look it in the picture, but I felt good when I was done!
Looking like a champion, or trying not to fall over? You decide.

4. Not all races are created equally. I got through the finish line at 10:25am, and realized that the awards had already started, when the race info had said they were at 11. I was bummed. I thought I had missed my division and didn't place. Then, to add to my disappointment, there was no finisher's medal. Now, I was not raised in the entitled generation where everyone wins a trophy and there are no losers, but I think endurance sports like this are different. People train and compete to beat themselves- to beat their fears, their insecurities, their old bodies and their old lifestyles. These races are grueling, no matter your skill set, and being able to win is often tied very directly to your total monthly income. I think everyone who finishes deserves a medal, period. Then, to top it off, the meal at the end was pizza. In 90 degree weather. After a 27 mile race. I love pizza, but no. No way. I wanted fruit. I wanted something not greasy. But, those were the breaks. The course was beautiful, at least, and it was a valuable experience.

5. Try hard, and you just might win! Or, in my case, at least place! Although we were bummed and left, it turns out I placed second in my division! THAT meant I should have gotten a medal. I emailed the race director when I found out, and he very kindly got back to me and promised to mail my treasure to me. Yay! Thank you again to the race director for taking the time to send it to me- it meant a lot to me.
It came! I jumped for joy at the mailbox. :)
2nd place in the Athena (women over 150lbs) division! 

6. Celebrate your body! When I signed up for this race, I was a huge mixture of embarrassed and a little mad. I had never heard of the "Athena" class, and wasn't sure what to do about it. Did I have to sign up for it? I hadn't been below 150lbs since, like, 8th grade. Was I really a plus-size triathlete? There is nothing wrong with being "over"-weight, not having the perfect BMI, looking like a supermodel, being thin as a rail, or whatever, as long as you are healthy and taking care of your body.  However, especially since this January when I had lost 20lbs and really toned up, I felt like an athlete, not someone who needed a special class. Unsure if I should or not, I just went ahead and signed up for the division and I'm glad I did. The more I thought about it, the more I could understand. Yes, I felt like an athlete- I have a strong body, flawless (if I do say so myself!) legs that carry me as far as I want to go, and a strong heart- but I was never going to be able to beat out the 100lb girls who are 5'2" (I'm 5'9") and able to zip past me without even creating a breeze, unless I got a serious equipment upgrade. Then, at the race, I will be the first to say that we ladies in the orange swim caps were the ones with the biggest smiles- we worked hard to be there, but we felt a sisterhood and camaraderie that spanned our ages. We were able to "admit" our weight and embrace it, and still race hard and whip butt. I am totally okay with being an "Athena"- Athena was a warrior goddess! She was strong, she was tough! When I let go of my worry and took hold of my connection to the other tall, strong, beautiful women out there, I had a lot more fun. "Real Women" are all women, of every shape, height, and stamina, and I'm totally OK with USAT creating an avenue for women who might otherwise shy away from racing because they may not be able to keep up. We all rock, and there were definitely some boys left in our dust. ;)

7. Always thank your sponsors. I didn't have any for this race, obviously, at least not in the monetary or equipment sense. But, I had a cheering section bigger and brighter than anyone there. My mom and boyfriend made signs, and followed me everywhere, as much as they could near T1, T2, and the finish line. They took pictures, they yelled my name, they rode home in the truck with me and all my stinkyness, and they let me know they were there for me. My mom even hunted down three different volunteers to make triple-sure I wasn't missing out on a finisher's medal somehow. It made a world of difference knowing I had people there willing my legs to keep going, right along with me, and I look forward to them being there in October.
My mom's sign on the left and Bryce's on the right. Oreo is my dog. :)

           That's it for my race report! Keep your eyes out for for the next couple of weeks' posts, because they're going to be good ones. (HINT HINT. If you like free stuff- make sure to follow it!!) I have some goodies, and when I "reach" the Texas state line, anyone following is going to be glad to celebrate with me!

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