Saturday, June 30, 2012

Another Triathlon?? Stoneman 2012

So last year, if you read my first triathlon experience, you'll know I got worked over, but vowed to try it again, and hopefully do better.  With that in mind, I started working on swimming after joining the YMCA in December 2011.  While I loved swimming as a kid, swimming laps seems to frustrate me a little.  It's tiring, I don't ever seem to do better, and I have a tendency to want to give up on things I don't excel at.  The perfectionist in me wants to focus energy into things I'm good at--not this flailing around in a pool trying to get to the other side while not drowning.  Silly, really.

But I keep at it because I had to try this thing again.  I worked on swimming, got a new bike since last year, and the running will always be my saving grace.  As spring approached, most things were getting neglected except the running.  I was training for half marathons, so finding time to bike was ridiculous.  I found myself swimming one lunch hour per week when I felt like it.  It was hard.  I couldn't really go more than 50 yards without running out of steam.  How was I going to do a 500 yard open water swim? 

Eventually, I worked myself up to about 700 yards and tried to not rest very long in between 50 yard intervals.  I would try to go 75 or 100 yards without stopping at times, but it was just so hard.  When I got really tired, I would switch over to breast stroke, which I felt like I could go forever.  A week before the triathlon, I knew I could definitely do breast stroke for 500 yards.  It may not be pretty, and it may not be fast, but it would get the job done!

The days leading up to the tri, I was a nervous mess.  Last year I could proceed blissfully unaware of what was in store for me.  This year--not so much.  That swim was one of the hardest, scariest things I have done in my life.  I don't know if I'm ready.

It is the morning of the race, and I am just nervous.  Everything is laid out and planned out, so I am able to get to the race location without problems.  Since I experienced this all last year, I wasn't as freaked out about getting there and getting set up in the transition area.  We watch the Iron Abe competitors start and a few of them come in before they call our waves to get ready.  Oh, the butterflies!

I am with Sarah, someone I met recently.  Her husband is a musician as well and knows Shane.  We also did a portrait shoot for her kids a couple months back.  This is her first triathlon, and she is pretty nervous as well.  I try to tell her she will do fine, she can rest if she gets tired just like I did last year.  She has never done an open water swim before, and it can be very intimidating.  We head down the boat ramp into the water.  I am waiting for the others to get out ahead of me just like I did last year.  Sarah and I hang back.  It's time to go, they start our wave.

With a rush of adrenaline and splashing water, we are off!  I start immediately with my breast stroke as I planned.  I am suprised how comfortable I am with it.  It is another story for Sarah.  The panic I felt last year, I remember it so well, got the best of her.  It can be clausterphobic.  She tells me she can't do it.  I see fear in her eyes.  I suggest she roll over and float so she can catch her breath, she is still struggling though.  Panic has set in, and I'm not sure if she will be able to calm herself.  I ask her if she wants me to call for help.  She says yes.  I lift my hand out of the water and wave to course support about 30 yards away on a jet ski.  He sees me, and I point over to Sarah and wave for him to come here.  He starts moving towards us.  I tell Sarah he's coming, and that she will be just fine.  I feel guilty for moving on, but I can't stay here and tread water forever.  Our wave has gained considerable ground on me, not that I'm racing them.  I begin moving forward again.

I am going slow and steady and before I know it I reach the turn around buoy.  I'm not wiped out physically or mentally like I was this time last year.  I even caught up and passed a couple people from my wave.  It's a little boost of confidence that needed.  The wave that started three minutes behind me, Shane's wave, is also catching up to me.  This is okay though, they caught up with me last year before I even reached the halfway mark.  Slow and steady.  Slow and steady.  This year, I don't see Shane when he passes me, but I'm pretty sure he did.

I am about 3/4ths the way done, and I hear someone on a surf board ask if I'm okay.  I'm moving along steadily, so I'm wondering if she's asking someone behind me.  I keep swimming.  She asks again.  I look around really quick and ask, "Who?  Me?"  And she says yes.  I tell her I am fine, and keep swimming.  It makes me wonder if I look like I'm struggling since I'm doing a breast stroke.  Who knows? 

I've got the dock in my sights.  I have no problems with veering off course this year since I can see where I'm going with each breath I take.  I stay to the outside of the course though to let the faster swimmers get by me.  I don't want to mess anyone else up.  I get to the dock and climb out of the water.

Swim results:  18:02.5 - Not fast AT ALL, but I took nearly three minutes off my last year's time.  I'm also not completely wiped out going into the rest of the race!

Wow!  What a difference!  Last year at this time, I couldn't breathe and felt like death warmed over!  This year, I am feeling pretty decent as I run to the transition area.  It seems like there's more bikes left than there was last year when I came out of the water.  Generally, I'm feeling good!

I wore the shorts over my swimsuit during the swim, so it's one less thing I have to worry about this year.  I put on my shirt, socks and shoes.  I grab my bike and go!

Transition 1:  02:03.0.  I take 43 seconds off my last year's time. I'm guessing that's how long it would take me to put on shorts while I'm wet.

I head off on my bike.  I feel much better about biking this year.  It helps that I'm familiar with the bike instead of riding it for the first time.  Instead of forgetting to start my GPS for the first mile like last year, this year, I just forget to turn it on altogether!  So the first mile is a lot of the GPS trying to find satellites.  Grrrr!  Eventually it kicks on as I get on East Lake Drive.  I look at my average speed, and it's consistently over 17 mph, which is very good for me.  I even have miles at 18 and 19 mph.  I'm thrilled!  Maybe I'm finally getting this biking thing.

We hit the hill on New City Road, and I'm still doing okay.  I pass some slower bikers and occasionally get passed by someone faster.  I'm still feeling quite a bit better than last year.  I see Shane heading back the other way.  I'm not as far behind him as I was last year. 

I make the turn around at mile 6, and head back down the hill.  I turn back onto Pawnee Road and it hits me like a ton of bricks....the headwind.  Uphill and into a headwind.  No wonder I was flying through the first half!  Here I was thinking how amazing I was doing, not realizing the wind was pushing me along.  It's crazy how much it can affect you.  I'm pushing hard and barely keeping it over 15 mph now. 

For the last mile, I remember Shane saying to shift into a lower gear and spin faster to get your legs ready to transition to the faster turnover during the run.  I do it, hoping it will work.  Push, push, push....all the way back to transition. 

Bike results:  45:04.4.  I took just over three minutes off my last year's time.  Yay!

I head into transition feeling a little wobbly, but good.  I get to the bike rack and it's kind of collapsed.  Definitely leaning.  My bike won't fit under the rack.  I don't know what to do.  I start stuggling to get it to stand up anyway possible.  One of the volunteers comes over and tells me to go ahead, and they'll take care of it.  I take off my helmet and start running.

Transition 2:  01:05.6.  This was 15 seconds more than last year due to bike struggle!

I take off and I'm anticipating the concrete stumps for legs, but surprisingly, I feel decent.  That's weird.  While I am certainly not speeding down this road, I feel much better than last year, keeping a consistent pace just over nine minute miles.  How I feel at this moment, I don't think I'll need to walk this year.  Last year, my legs were begging me to walk from the first second. 

I'm not sure how far into the run I am when I see Shane heading back the other direction. He looks like he's doing okay, but he just might be in a bit of pain from the tendonitis he's been battling lately.  I keep heading toward the halfway turn-around point.  I have passed a couple of runners, and some of the Iron Abe runners have flown by me. 

Since we all have our ages written on the back of our calves, it's kind of funny how that changes your thought processes when you get passed by someone.  When you get passed by someone 10 to 20 years older than you, it can be a little humbling.  I stick right behind a 40-something woman running around my pace. 

The day is getting hot, and I'm really starting to run out of steam.  Good thing I've got just over a mile left.  I grab some water on the way back.  I quickly walk through and drink some while my 40-something pacer is getting ahead of me.  I throw the cup down and slowly catch back up with her.  I turn the corner to head back towards the lake bridge.  The final stretch.  Somehow I feel like I can go a little faster and give just a bit more.  I pass my 40-something pacer. 

I cross the bridge, and I'm almost to the finish.  My GPS rings out that three miles are done.  My third mile is 10 seconds faster than my previous two.  I really stretch out my stride on the final tenth of a mile and I'm pacing around 7:30 for the final hurrah.  Somehow I can always pull something out when I see that finish line!

5K results:  28:52.7.  I took a full three minutes off my last year's running time as well.

I am so thrilled with how I feel at this moment, I can't even explain.  Not only do I feel so much better than last year, I know I enjoyed it so much more. 

Overall Results:  01:35:08.2. 

That's more than NINE minutes off my last year's time!  Is that an amazing overall finish time?  No.  Do I care?  No!  This triathlon thing is so different than running for me.  It is a much harder test of mental and physical endurance.  I don't want to underplay how tough running is, but it comes so much easier to me than swimming or biking.  I'm sure I'll continue to do sprint triathlons.  I have absolutely no desire to do a longer version.  As long as I'm training right and pushing myself to be stronger, every finish will be one that I can be proud of.  I'm happy with this.  Glowing, really.

As a side note, Sarah didn't finish the swim, but she finished the rest of the triathlon.  She could have taken the easy way out and just called it a total loss, but instead, she got on that bike and went 12 miles and then ran the the 5K.  That's what it's all about!  Do as much as you can do, but don't ever give up! 

I will probably see you again this same time next year.  Who knows?  Maybe I'll take another nine minutes off my time.  =)

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