Past, Present and Future

Reflections on my first tri and wondering what the future holds.  Here we go:

Crossing the Chicago Sprint Triathlon finish line was both exciting and a let down.  Let me explain.

Exciting because I did it.

Let down because a LOT of people do sprint tris – even kids.

I wanted to shout my accomplishment from the rooftops, yet I know the physical act of completing a sprint tri isn’t shout-worthy.  Granted overcoming my fear of swimming and learning how to swim a 1/2 mile is, but that’s too long to shout from the rooftops! 🙂

I have one friend, that whenever he sees me asks me how I’m doing swimming and when I give him an update he’s always very supportive.  He makes a special point to ask, “do you stop and appreciate what you are doing?”  And most often than not, the answer is no.  And for that reason, I’m left in a weird spot emotionally.  I am excited for what I’ve done, yet I can’t always appreciate the magnitude of it.  Instead I focus on the fact that even kids can swim.  So while I did something pretty cool – it’s not like it’s some great feat.  Actually it’s something I should have been able to do decades ago.  So unlike running marathons or even running 50 miles – those are feats that not a lot of people can do – it’s weird to get excited about doing something most people can do – swimming.

I know I’m overly critical and hard on myself and I need to appreciate how hard I worked – because I really did work hard.  But I want to do more – bigger, badder and better.  I want to challenge myself again – because apparently I need a good challenge to distract myself from this crazy thing called life.  And that’s why I have already signed up for the 2018 Chicago Tri – and here’s the kicker – I signed up for the Olympic Distance.  Woot!  I figure if I can go from not being able to put my head under water and crying at the sight of the harbor, to swimming a 1/2 mile; the jump from swimming a 1/2 mile to 1 mile won’t be as hard.  At least I hope not.  So next year I will be doing a 1 mile swim, a 25 mile bike and a 10k.  I think that should be a pretty good challenge for year two!

Here are other random thoughts on my training, my first tri and what lies ahead.

  • I enjoyed the variety tri training provided.  Now I know why Brian always liked it so much – keeps the boredom at bay (somewhat).
  • I realized that I equate the difficulty of my training by how much I sweat.  I would do 30 minutes in the pool and feel like I didn’t work out, so then I’d do another 30 minutes of cardio and sometimes strength training too.  When I would bike, I too felt like I wasn’t getting a good workout in because I didn’t sweat.  The built-in breeze provided by the wind during biking kept me relatively dry, even on hot summer days.  But when I got off the bike and did a short 1-mile run, I would be a sweaty mess and I felt that 10 minute run was a better workout than 60 minutes on the bike.  Ridiculous I know.  But apparently in my mind, sweat = a good workout.
  • I hate to admit it, and I NEVER thought I’d EVER say it – but I kind of miss swimming.  Yikes!!  Did I really just say that?  I got back in the pool Tuesday night and it felt good and it felt more normal than not.
  • I need to learn how to bi-lateral breathe and as I swam the other night and thought about trying to breathe the opposite of what I’ve been doing, it gave me major anxiety.  I know I have to learn sooner, rather than later so it doesn’t get even more awkward and uncomfortable.  But honestly, I don’t even know where to start.  It seems so unnatural as if I were writing with my opposite hand and writing from right to left!
  • I also have to work on my biking.  It amazes me how hard it is to get up even baby hills.  I just have to find a way to put these big ol’ thighs of mine to good use and get up those damn hills!  Anyone have better tips or pointers than Brian’s advice… “I don’t know, just do it”.  I’m looking for advice on what gear to be, how often to shift or do I need to not shift at all?  Should I be in a higher gear and power through or lower gear and spin?  Anything helpful would be appreciated.
  • When swimming – especially during the tri itself – it’s almost impossible to take in your surroundings.  You can’t focus on other athletes, you can’t soak in the scenery, the atmosphere and “buzz” of the event are non-existent in the water.  It’s very dull and mundane.  It’s hard to appreciate the experience of it all from the perspective of the swim.  Jolene had asked me about the race and when I was talking about it, I was talking more about the bike than the swim – even though the swim was the bigger hurdle for me.  But the reason I couldn’t talk much about the swim is because it’s such a confined part of the total experience.  It’s hard to elaborate on things when all you do is see dark water, then you see the horizon, then dark water, then the horizon.  Maybe the occasional seaweed or other swimmers, but that’s about the extent of the experience.  And for someone like me that thrives on the full experience, – swimming is hard both mentally and physically.
  • If you want some indication as to how bad my emotional state was race morning, both Brian and Jolene (I found out later) thought I might not get in the water.  Brian’s literally seen me at my worst when it comes to events – he’s seen me hyperventilate and cry on the side of a road during a hot 6-hour run, he’s been with me when I hit the wall at mile 6 of a marathon and I wanted to fake faint to get out of running and he’s seen me before the Fall 50 when I was just numb at the thought of having to run 50 miles and I told him “I don’t want to do this”.  Same with Jolene, she’s been at most of my marathons and saw me sweat it out before the start of the Fall 50.  They know I’m too stubborn to quit – and yet they thought it was a possibility that I do just that.  I had no idea I was that bad!
  • And here’s the funny part about them thinking I may not make it into the water – it never occurred to me to NOT do it.  Never.  I didn’t want it to suck and I was scared.  But I was going to do it.  Even at the Fall 50, when I said I didn’t want to do it… I didn’t say that about the tri.
  • I’m glad my first tri was Chicago – it’s the countries largest tri, so if I can manage the logistics of it out of the gate – the smaller, local ones I want to do next year should hopefully be a piece of cake.
  • But because Chicago was my first and all that come after will always be compared to my first – I hope the local ones don’t disappoint.  I mean there aren’t many in Wisconsin that can compete with the scenery of the Lake Michigan harbor, the Chicago Skyline and city landmarks.
  • A co-worker asked me if I am in love with tris.  I said no.  It’s too early to be in love with them.  I can’t say I love something that freaked me out to the point where I cried uncontrollably in front of friends, family and strangers.  But will I come to love it?  Maybe.  But maybe not.  I don’t think I have to love it to do it.  I have to love the challenge – not necessarily the sport.
  • And since we’re on the topic of challenges – I can’t tell you how many people have predicted I’ll do an Ironman and/or asked me when I’m signing up.  I’d be lying if I said the challenge wasn’t intriguing.  But I’d also be lying if I said I’m up for it.  I’m not at least not now, and I’m smart enough to admit it.  Probably not for a long, long time.  Let’s not forget that up until 3 months ago, I couldn’t swim longer than 1 lap in the pool.  As of now, I wouldn’t even make it out of the water before the Ironman cutoff – I’m too slow.  And I’d be damned if I would go through training and not even make it onto the bike.  And then there’s the bike… I could NEVER get up the hills of an Ironman course. NEVER.   And it would also be pretty difficult to gut through a marathon after a 112 mile bike ride when I have no desire to run longer than 3 miles right now.  I’d have to get my running mojo back before being able to tack on a marathon at the end of 2 other sports.

BUT as we all know – never say never.  So who knows what the future holds.  I’m not getting any younger and the body doesn’t bounce back from overuse and sports injuries as easily as it did years ago (wait, did I ever bounce back easily?).  So deciding to go for it – may not be a choice in the future.  But if my body holds up and if my mental game can rise to the challenge, who knows.  You all know I thrive on challenges.  I eventually cry, make myself sick, have an emotional breakdown and feel like jumping off a ledge from them too… but I thrive off of them before and after all the other bad stuff.  So god willing, if I stay healthy, if my job and other lifestyle choices I’ve made stay status quo – who knows.  I can’t say never.  Because we all know that saying never will eventually come back to bite you in the ass.  So while I’m not saying never, I’m not saying yes either.  I’m saying…. I have a lot of work to do before next year’s Olympic tri and for now, that’s what I’ll be concentrating on.

Until next time,

Gotta run (or swim and bike)

 

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1 done, 2 sports to go

Part Two of My Triathlon Debut:

As I got out of the water I was a mix of emotions.  Part of me said it’s no big deal… I’ve actually swam 1/2 mile before so it’s not like swimming the distance was a big deal.  But what was a big deal was going from crying uncontrollably earlier in the morning to getting out of the water, unscathed.  I did it and I did it without drama.  And by that I mean, no gasping for breath, no getting knocked around by other swimmers, no hanging on to lifeguard boats.

swim

What’s weird about tris – but it’s the nature of the sport – is that you can’t celebrate mini accomplishments along the way.  I would have loved to have been able to chill and relish the fact that I didn’t die in Lake Michigan, but I couldn’t.  I had to get to transition to get on my bike.  I actually found this “must-keep-going-must-do-the-next-sport” feeling really odd.  I hadn’t thought much about it – I had thought about transition and the logistics of making it all work – but I never thought about how I’d feel.  I was a bit let down by the fact that to me – the hardest part was over with, yet I didn’t get to truly enjoy it because I had to keep going.  On the other hand, I also remember being aware of the fact that “this is what tris are all about” – I had to suck it up buttercup and get going.

I ran the 1/4 mile to transition and once inside the barricades, I stepped off to the side on a patch of grass to take off my wet-suit.  I got it off relatively easy and then I picked up my stuff and ran to my rack and bike.  Thankfully I had no problems getting to my rack or my bike, I had a pretty good visual cue – a pine tree – to help with my sighting.

I tossed my wet-suit over the rack, put on my socks and shoes, grabbed my race belt and threw that on too.  Brian had told me not to put my belt on until the run, but I chose to put it on during the bike because I was worried I’d forget it otherwise.  I don’t clip into my pedals so I don’t have to change shoes, which is where a lot of people keep their race belt so they remember to put it on before the run.  But all I had to do was take off my helmet and throw on my hat, so I didn’t trust myself to remember it, being a newbie and all.  So I put my race belt on, buckled my helmet and threw my glasses on top of my helmet and I was off.  I thought I did okay in transition for being a rookie.  I didn’t break any speed barriers, but I didn’t dilly dally either.

As I mounted my bike I heard people shouting something.  I wasn’t sure what they were shouting or to whom.  Eventually I figured out they were shouting at me telling me my glasses were on my helmet – which I knew and is where I wanted them.  The sun wasn’t too bad at this time so I didn’t want them on, but I wanted to have them with me in case I needed them.  But as they were all so persistent in their shouting, I figured it must have been against regulations to have anything “loose” that could fly off while on the bike.  So I grabbed my glasses and put them on.  I later asked Brian about this and he said there is no such rule.  He thinks the people were just trying to be helpful by telling me my glasses were on my helmet – in case I had forgotten them there.  While I appreciate the sentiment behind their shouting, it all kind of freaked me out.  When participating in a tri for the first time, getting shouted at by strangers is not very comfortable.

But you know what was comfortable?  Climbing the first hill – right after mounting my bike.  The course takes riders up the on-ramp and it’s basically right after we mount our bikes, so no time to get warmed up or to get in a low gear.  BUT thanks to all the times I accompanied Brian to his mandatory course talks in the past, I remembered the tip that they gave to make sure your bike is in a low gear in order to make that first climb.  The course lecture we attended this year, didn’t mention that little tip and I think the folks around me paid for it.  I passed probably 4-5 people in the first 50 yards and it was awesome.  And it was just the start of the fun that was about to happen for the next 15 miles.

I had never biked with a group before.  And I’ve only actually biked with one other person a handful of times and it was usually Brian and he’d ride behind me as not to freak me out by being alongside of me.  I was more than a bit anxious to ride with hundreds, maybe even thousands of other riders.  I was scared to get too close to anyone and I was definitely worried about the drafting rules in triathlons.  I figured it would be just my luck to get a penalty or get DQ’d for something as stupid as drafting, especially since I don’t really even get what it entails. And yes, I know what drafting is in theory – but do I know what it looks like in practice and could I guarantee I wouldn’t do it – nope!?  So if I drafted it would have been by accident.

So the only sure-fire way to not get penalized for drafting was to just pass everyone.  Simple enough.

I was peddling along and anytime I got even remotely close to someone I figured I needed to hurry up and pass so I didn’t have to worry about drafting.

aero

It didn’t take long to realize that passing people was fun!  I spent the first few miles zooming by people and I was loving it.  But I figured it wouldn’t last long.  In my mind I figured I was passing all of the slow folks and eventually I’d catch up to the people way faster than me and then the fun would be done.  But that wasn’t the case.  A few more miles and many more people passed.  And in full transparency, I was passing a lot of people on mountain bikes.  But still… I was passing and that’s all that counts.  Plus I was passing a lot of relay people or people way younger than me – so mountain bike or not – they had the upper hand.

I was wearing my Garmin, so I was able to glance at my mile splits and when I saw how fast I was biking, I was pretty excited.  It was about a minute per mile faster than any of my training rides.  But I didn’t get too excited because the bike course is an out-and-back and the wind was at my bike on the way out.  I figured once I hit the turn around my times would skyrocket.  But they stayed pretty low.  I did increase my times, but I was still doing much better than I had on my training rides.

bike

But it’s not like I didn’t get past.  It was around mile 10ish when I really noticed I started getting passed by some people kicking ass.  I wasn’t passed by my fellow back of the packers, instead it was by the triathletes that did the “triple”.  Doing a “triple” is when a person competes in the super sprint on Saturday, then they did the Olympic distance event first thing Sunday morning and when they were done with that, they got back in the water and did it all over again in the Sprint distance.  And contrary to what people may think, this didn’t make them super tired.  No, they were super competitive.  Anyone good enough to do a triple is good enough to catch me and pass me even though they were 5 waves behind me.  I knew they were triples because they were the ones riding $7,000 bikes and were zooming past me as if I was standing still.  I actually heard most of them coming before I even saw them.  Most of them had disk tires and they make a distinct sound in the wind.

And even though I was now getting past by people who started 5 waves later than me, I wasn’t upset.  It was actually fun to watch them bike past.  They bike so effortlessly, unlike my biking, you have to give them all the respect and props they deserve.  Also at this point, I was just enjoying myself too much to care.

And yes, I was actually enjoying myself.  I was biking better than I could have imagined, I was passing people, I wasn’t losing control of my bike while in aero position and I was able to enjoy my surroundings. I made a conscious effort to soak it all in and enjoy the experience.  I saw the ferris wheel on Navy Pier, I saw the skyline, I saw both the Hancock and the Sears Tower (no I will not call it the Willis) in the distance.  It was a beautiful day for a bike ride and I was enjoying it.  And then it started raining.  Not heavy, but enough to notice.  And much to my surprise, I didn’t freak out, I actually thought about how lucky I was that it was going to be raining for my run.  I LOVE running in the rain and I thought the triathlon gods had finally thrown me a bone and given me some favorable conditions.  Unfortunately the rain didn’t stick around for my run, but it was fun while it did last.

After completing my 15 miles on the bike, I got back to transition, did my dismount – and yes the mounting and dismounting were a concern of mine – and I think I did okay.  I didn’t fall or get in anyone else’s way, so I consider that a victory.

Back in transition I racked my bike, took off my helmet, threw my hair into a running hat, sucked down an energy gel and I was off to the run course.

Holy balls, two out of the three are done.  Just one short 5k and I’d be crossing the finish line.  I can do 3.1 miles in my sleep.  This will be a cake walk.

Or so I thought.

When you don’t actually do any runs longer than 1 mile leading up to the tri and when you push your legs too hard on the bike because you’re passing people and it’s fun… you have no juice left in your legs for the run.

Running, the one sport I could do, was going to be a struggle. That just figures!

Run, run, run.

Man my legs feel like concrete.

This sucks.

Oh yes it did.  I had a bit of the typical “lead” feeling that all triathletes have after getting off of the bike.  But that wasn’t my main concern, it was the fact that my legs were just so damn tired from biking.

Ugh.

But just keep putting one foot in front of the other. It’s only 3.1 miles for gods sake – even in pain, I can do that.

So on I went.

I thought it was a simple out and back run course so I thought we’d be turning around at the 1.5 mile mark.  This was not the case.  Instead we turned around closer to the 2 mile mark.  And we all know how well I do when I don’t know where I am?!?!  Anxiety about not turning around started to set in and even though I tried to tell myself that it was no big deal and that the longer I run “out” the shorter the run back “in” would be.  But I still wasn’t a happy camper.  I was completely thrilled when I hit the turn around mark.

I didn’t think about much while on the run.  Other than how crappy my legs felt of course!  Like on the bike, I tried to take it all in.  I tried to appreciate the scenery and all the people.  I also tried to appreciate the fact that it was only a 5K and nothing more!

run

As I made the last turn and was about to enter the finisher’s shoot, I could see the finish line in the distance.  I was just moments away from crossing the finish line and from crossing off a MAJOR item off of my bucket list?

 

finish

What would I feel as I crossed the finish line?  What do I feel now after having over a week to reflect on my accomplishment?  And what’s next?  Well, you’ll have to stay tuned to find out.

Until next time,

Gotta run (or bike and swim)

 

 

I can sum up my feelings prior to the start of my first-ever tri in two words: irrational fear.

Are the three sports in a triathlon -1.  getting sick, 2. crying and 3. running away?  Because that’s what it felt like leading up to my first triathlon.

Let me fill you in.  But where do I begin?

As most of you know I was SO freaking nervous leading up to race weekend.  And man, let’s just say my nerves did not subside once I got to Chicago.  Actually they escalated and were at an all time high.  They were so bad that I was physically making myself sick.  My anxiety was compounded every time I saw the water.

Let me walk you through the nerves and the tears.  Yes, there were tears.  Many, many tears.

We got to downtown Chicago late Saturday morning.  We checked into our hotel, had a quick-lunch and then headed to the expo and the mandatory course talk.  It’s at the course talk the first tears emerged.  Just seeing photos of the water and thinking ahead to the race were troublesome for me.  I few tears escaped.  I tried to be cool and brush away the stray tears before anyone noticed, but I’m guessing Jolene and Brian noticed.

After we left the expo Brian and I went to rack our bikes in transition and walking along the water to and from transition sent me over the edge for the first time that weekend.  The water was so choppy – I was not expecting it to be so rough.  Brian had been assuring me for months that because we were swimming in a harbor that the water would be calm.  The water was not calm and neither was I.

OMG!  What was I going to do?  I couldn’t swim in that water!  This seemed like just as good of a time as any to cry once again!

The afternoon slowly slid into the evening and my nerves slid into an uncomfortable bout of nausea.  Yep, I was making myself ill.  Literally.

By the end of the night I was truly sick to my stomach.  I just wanted to lie in the fetal position until the waters of Lake Michigan turned into the calm waters of the YMCA pool.  But knowing that was extremely unlikely, I decided to take some Pepto and go to bed.

And then the next thing you know it’s Race Day!

Oh lord I was sick to my stomach.

I was trying to compare my feelings on this particular day to the morning of my ultra and while I was nervous and anxious for both, the feelings and worries were completely different.  Before my ultra I was overwhelmed at the magnitude of having to run 50 miles.  I had never run that far and I didn’t know if I could complete the task.  I was worried about the physical aspect of the adventure – how I’d feel, if there would  be pain, etc.  But before the tri, I didn’t have those type of worries and concerns.  It was not a concern for the physical act of swimming, it was fear.  Athentic and irrational fear.  Keyword is irrational.  I knew it wasn’t rational, yet I couldn’t do anything about it.  I just had to go with it.

As I stared out my hotel window and looked at Buckingham Fountain, Grant Park and Lake Michigan I willed both my nerves and the waters to be calm.

2017-08-27 05.35.07

Race Morning. Willing myself and the waters of Lake Michigan to be calm.

We left the hotel to start our day.  As we were walking I was doing “okay”, and “okay” can be left up to interpretation at this point.  We headed to transition to finish getting ready before it closed.  It wasn’t until we left transition – when I saw the sailboats in the marina rocking back and forth – that I panicked.  And no, Brian saying it wasn’t too bad and that the wind will be at my back did nothing to ease my mind.  I was now officially “in my head” and I wasn’t leaving anytime soon.  And prior to a race, being in my head is NEVER a good place to be.

As we left transition, we walked along the water to meet up with my sister Jolene.  We were going to meet up and then we’d find a place to chill and wait for our waves.  At this point I had over an hour and a half before my start time and Brian had about an hour.  As we walked along the water, I got more and more sick.  And the tears came.  At first there were two or three stray tears that rolled down my cheek.  And then those two or three turned to twenty or thirty.  I was trying to keep it together, but it wasn’t working.  As I walked, I brushed more and more tears aside.

And then I saw Jolene and my friend Jody – who I wasn’t expecting to see – and who was in costume and really rockin’ “Race Day”.  Literally.  They were literally rocking out – they were channeling their inner Run DMC – with Jody in costume and all, they had a blow up boom box, gold chains and were playing “It’s Tricky” for me (It’s Tricky was my 2017 inaugural triathlon theme).

When I saw them, I could no longer hold it together.  I lost it.  I cried uncontrollably and I couldn’t stop.  I wanted to.  But I couldn’t.

I was crying for so many reasons I understood and for many that I didn’t.  I was completely taken off guard by my crying and more shockingly, by my lack of ability to stop crying!  Eventually I brought my cry down to a more manageable slow stream of tears.  Once my crying slowed to a trickle, I was finally able to say hi to Jody and appreciate her and Jolene’s efforts to rock Race Day for me! It was impressive.

But as impressive as it was, I still couldn’t find “happy”.  I was stuck smack dab in the middle of fear and happy was nowhere to be found.

tricky

Notice the uncomfortable and forced smile? I had just stopped crying and was not very happy.

We found a place to pop a squat and we watched more waves go off.  And as we watched, much to my horror, I saw many people get pulled out of the water.  Out of all the years I’ve been heading to Chicago for this event to watch Brian, NEVER ONCE have we seen anyone get pulled out of the water.  This day we saw the jet ski zoom in to help many swimmers, we saw lifeguards jump in from the break wall to help swimmers and we saw others swimmers flagging down help for their fellow participants.

What.  The.  Fuck.

Seriously, what the fuck?  Really, of all the days to have this happen, it was happening right before I had to get in the water???!! That’s not good timing!

As I watched other people swim I was filled with so much dread and fear.  I was also pissed.  I was pissed that I had worked so hard to learn how to swim a 1/2 mile and I was going to have to get into crappy, swell-filled water and I was going to have a horrible swim.  I didn’t want to panic, stop, gasp for breath but I knew it was going to be inevitable.  And that pissed me off.

 

It came time for Brian to head into his corral.  Once Brian left I decided to start putting my wet-suit on and get ready.  I had plenty of time, but I also had plenty of nervous energy and just sitting and waiting wasn’t cutting it any longer, I needed to do something – so putting on my wet-suit was a good distraction.

2017-08-27 09.32.05

Once I got my wet-suit on, I was able to see Brian for a few seconds as he swam past.  It wasn’t long after he was out of sight, that I decided to go and get into my corral.  Again, I had nothing else to do but be nervous, so I figured the act of getting ready and getting in the corral was another good distraction.

walk

As I was standing in my corral I was still watching the other swimmers go off in their waves and I was watching more swimmers struggle.  While I could have looked elsewhere, I found myself drawn to the water.  I felt a strong attraction – I had to watch.  I was a bit transfixed by it.  I felt as if looking away would cause me to be less prepared for what was about to happen.

While I was in the corral and moving closer and closer to my start time, I wasn’t as sick as I had been earlier in the day and I was no longer crying.  I wasn’t calm and I wasn’t freaked.  I was numb.  There was no turning back and backing out, so the only way to get through this was to get in the water and swim.  So that was what I was prepared to do.

It was just about go time.

Move forward.

Wave 48 is next up.

Now it’s our time.

Wave 48 enters the water.

I was among the last in the water.

Treading water.

Looking at the swim out – 1/2 mile ahead of me.

Treading water.

Numb.

It’s about to happen.

Treading water.

Numb.

Horn blows.

Everyone starts to swim.

Everyone except for me.

I didn’t freeze or panic, it was a strategic decision to hold back and let everyone get ahead of me.  My coach told me to count to 10 and then start swimming.

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

Go!

I didn’t make it to 10, I was too anxious and had to start swimming.

As I started swimming, I was just thinking about moving.  Moving forward.  Just do what I’ve trained for… stroke, kick and breathe.

Move forward.

Oh oh.

My heart rate was starting to accelerate.

My breathing was labored.

Oh shit, panic… here we come.

At this point I started having a hard and forceful conversation… with myself!  I kid you not, I had a major internal dialogue – actually it was more like an internal fight -happening.

“Don’t fucking panic.  Just calm down”.  ~Me

“Fuck you, you know telling me to calm down doesn’t work, it actually has the exact opposite effect, so thank you for fucking with me and making things worse.” ~Also Me

“Well, you better get control or do something because you’ve gone about 10 yards and it’s going to be a really long and difficult fucking swim if you can’t settle your ass down.” ~Me

“Seriously, shut the fuck up, I’m trying.” ~Also me

“You’re doing fine, so just fucking settle down.  Just swim.  Don’t think.  Just swim.” ~Me

“Good lord, shut the fuck up, I beg of you.” ~Also Me

“Not until you calm down.” ~Me

“Fine, I’m calm.  I’m swimming.  Are you happy?” ~Also Me

“Well, well, well…. look who’s stopped panicking.  You’re welcome!” ~Me

“Holy crap, I am swimming.  Oh.  My.  God.  I’m swimming.” ~Also Me

“I think I deserve a thank you for calming you down.” ~Me

“Fuck off and go away, I’ve got me some swimming to do!” ~Also Me

So much to my surprise, I had managed to calm down and swim.  I wouldn’t say it was easy, but I was doing it.  Stroke, stroke, breathe.  Repeat.

Autopilot.

Numb.

Just swim.

I sighted about every 8 strokes.  How do I know it was every 8 strokes?  Because I counted.  I needed the distraction.  And I also started running through my rather large and extended family and started naming my aunts and cousins.  I needed to think of something to keep my mind occupied.  I tried to do this between counting my strokes.  I couldn’t give up on counting because I desperately needed to stop and sight more often than not, as I typically swim off course.  And this race was no exception.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 Sight

Alice, Bernice, Corrine, Donnie Sight

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 Sight

Linda, Barb, Jeff, Kathy Sight

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 Sight

At some point, I think it was after the half way mark, and may even have been closer to the 2/3 mark when I realized I was doing it and I was surviving.  I was swimming.  Holy shit I was swimming.

Whenever I stopped to sight (and yes, I know I’m not actually supposed to stop and sight, but I haven’t mastered moving and sighting at the same time!) and brought my head out of the water I could hear Jolene and Jody as they were following along on shore. It was just after I realized, “holy shit – I’m swimming”, that I heard them so I knew they were near.  This is when I lifted my head out of the water, I looked to shore and I yelled… “I’M SWIMMING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

I hadn’t planned on shouting the obvious for all to hear.  It was spontaneous and authentic.  At that moment my fear had turned to glee and I wanted to scream it from the rooftops.  Or at least shout it from sea level!

 

Jolene told me later that at that moment, a weight was lifted from her shoulders.  She knew I’d be fine and I’d get out of the water and finish my swim.

And finish I did.

I got out of the water with a sense of relief.  I was so happy, yet I felt like I couldn’t truly enjoy my accomplishment because I had 2 more sports to do before I could really enjoy my achievement.

out2017-08-27 10.12.38out2

Crap…. no time to celebrate – time to get to transition and figure out how the hell to ride on Lake Shore Drive with thousands of other bikers.

Until next time,

Gotta Run (and swim and bike)

**Stay Tuned for Part 2 of my Chicago Triathlon Recap

 

 

 

 

 

 

I didn’t die

I know some of you are anxiously awaiting my Chicago Triathlon recap, but it will most likely take a few days to write it – so stay tuned.

But for those of you that are curious – just know that I finished and I did well! I’ll just say it was a HUGE rollercoaster of emotions.  I was fighting against my internal demons and had to deal with a handful of physical ailments I manifested because of my emotions.  It was a long and crazy couple of days.

Here are a few photos to leave you with until I have time to recap all the craziness – and by craziness I mean my bouts of crying or near vomiting!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Until next time,

Gotta run (or swim and bike – just because I can)

I’ll forego the story, give me boring

Panic.

Full panic.

Near hyperventilation panic.

What am I talking about?  I’m talking about my open water swim on Saturday. Let’s just say, it did not go well.

We went to a new body of water because I wanted to try new water so I don’t get too comfortable with the conditions I had been swimming in at the quarry.  I also wanted to try working on my transitions and doing a bike ride and run after the swim and that required us to go to Bayshore for the swim because it’s easiest to bike and run from there.

The water was not calm.  Well, let me rephrase that, it looked perfectly calm to the naked eye but once you were in the water, you realized it wasn’t calm.  Well at least not calm to me.

I was freaking out in such a tiny bit of movement that it was ridiculous.  The winds caused a bit of a current and some tiny swells but to me I swear on my life – it felt like the swells of a tsunami.  I had never swam with currents or ripples.  And I did not handle it well. Not only was I getting seasick from the motion, but I couldn’t get in a rhythm, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t do anything right.

Many, many things did not go right with my swim.  I probably stopped and panicked every 10-15 feet.  Needless to say stopping every 10-15 feet is not a very efficient and quick way to complete a 1/2 mile swim.

The worst part was that once I panicked I couldn’t calm myself down.  My heart rate was so elevated and my breathing was accelerated.  I tried so hard to slow my breathing because it’s impossible to swim in that condition.  Also, I have a history of hyperventilating when struggling (I’ve hyperventilated on more long runs than I’d like to admit) during events and I knew I was close to that happening.  So trying to not hyperventilate while trying to calm down, all while treading water does not make for a very fun swim.

At one point I said to Brian, “I need to get out”.  And he said okay, let’s get out.  He said we can just go to the shore and stop swimming compared to going back to where we started.  But as soon as I said, “I need to get out” and Brian said “okay”, that I realized I couldn’t stop.  I knew if I didn’t finish my last open water swim, the mental effects of it would really be devastating to my confidence.  Besides I’m #toostubburntoquit!

So I kept swimming.  I kept stopping and panicking.  I kept swallowing water.  I kept trying.

Eventually I finished.  I hated every fricken second of it and it was way worse than when Brian and Nicole ganged up on my to give me the “group swim” experience.

I guess I’m glad I experienced it, because I sure wouldn’t have wanted to experience that for the first time on race day.  I am just bummed my last open water swim was so bad.  I wanted to go into the event feeling confident and instead all I can think about is “how bad it can be”.

I just hope for PERFECT weather and conditions next Sunday.  I’ve worked so hard to learn to swim and swim 1/2 mile.  I just want to be able to swim and not have to worry about other people banging into me or fighting against current or ripples.  All of those things will make me stop and I may or may not panic.  Lord knows I’m slow enough in the water, I don’t need to waste any more time stopping.  And I really don’t want to have to hang on to the lifeguards.  I know I can swim the whole thing without stopping or hanging on to the lifeguards so I just hope conditions are right so I prove that I can do it.

I want my first tri to be uneventful and calm. I don’t want some crazy story to tell after – I know shocking – because I’m always up for a good story!  But not this time.  Give me an uneventful, no drama filled day that is almost boring. Is that too much to ask?

Until next time,

Gotta run (and swim and bike)

 

My husband and friend tried to kill me

The Chicago Tri is 13 days away and I had my first group, open water swim this past Saturday.  And by group I mean I swam with Brian and my friend Nicole.  Nicole competed in Ironman last year and is an EXTREMELY strong swimmer.  So it was nice to get in the water with her to get some tips and pointers.  I had wanted to get in the water with more people than just Brian for some time, but it’s so hard to coordinate schedules.  But I had wanted to do it because I wanted to get a more realistic feel for swimming in a group – and while two people doesn’t necessarily constitute a group, trust me, I got the full “group swim” experience thanks to those two.

Let’s just say my first group swim was terrifying. I hated every single minute of it, but it’s what I needed to prepare for the triathlon.  Nicole, unlike Brian, who’s my husband and who can’t tell me what to do unless he wants “the look” that all wives are capable of when their husbands piss them off, kicked my butt.  Nicole, being the friend she is – the one who calls me on my shit – was the perfect one to do a group swim with because she wouldn’t let me off the hook.

First, she said I had to take the lead swimming and that I was going to be responsible for sighting, which typically doesn’t happen when I swim with Brian.  And when I say it doesn’t typically happen with Brian, I mean it’s NEVER happened with Brian.  I let him take the lead and sight.  I figure I have enough to worry about just trying to swim, I don’t need the extra pressure of trying to sight too.  I always make Brian swim to my right so I can see him and then when I can no longer see him, I stop – pop out of the water – realize I swam off course and then readjust.  So this time Nicole was making me take the lead.  Let’s just say we did not hit the mark I was given.  But I did practice sighting.  But I really shouldn’t call it sighting as much as I should call it, stopping all momentum as I pick my whole body out of the water to look around and then completely readjust where I am swimming.  As I explained to Brian and Nicole at one point when they were asking me, what landmark I was going to use to keep me on course and I said, “the dock”… but I told them part of my problem with sighting is…. I can “see” the dock from here and from over there and from way over there – so while I’m seeing it and sighting it, I’m still swimming off course, because I can still “see it”.  I just take a really curvy way to get there.  But I was not too concerned about not being able to sight well  because I soon realized sighting was the least of my concerns.

Besides having to do my own sighting, I was also supposed to do my best to treat the swim as the real thing, that included reacting or not reacting to “other swimmers”.

The first time Nicole came up from behind me and bumped into me while swimming, I stopped, panicked and looked at her like “what the fuck!?” (I may actually have said it too – I can’t truly remember).  She said, that I need to get used to it because that’s going to happen.  And then I panicked some more.  She asked me what I’m going to do if that happens on race day and I said, I’ll stop and let everyone go around me or get away from me!  Well, apparently that’s not a real plan.  I thought so, but Brian and Nicole did not.  So when Nicole told me I had to deal with it because it was going to happen on race day, I truly wanted to quit.  And while I fought back the vomit, a tear or two may have escaped.  I was truly panicking on the inside and wasn’t doing too good of a job hiding it on the outside either.  Let’s not forget that I’ve only been swimming for two months!  Having people bump into me while swimming is such a fear inducing act, it’s almost indescribable.

But if that’s going to happen, it’s going to happen so I had to keep swimming.

Long story short, I spent the entire 1/2 mile swim having Nicole and Brian throw everything at me.  They swam right next to me so I couldn’t complete my stroke, they bumped me, they cut in front of me, they swam right behind me so I’d kick them, they kicked water at me, they swam in front and then promptly stopped in front of me so I’d have to swim around them, etc.  I’m not going to lie, it was HORRIBLE.  And besides feeling panicked, I was also just so pissed.  I wanted to just be able to swim and not have to deal with all of this.  Swimming (and now sighting) is hard enough for me, why couldn’t they just let me be and let me swim????

But I know why, because on race day, the other swimmers aren’t going to just “let me be”!

And this is what I have an issue with.  As I was talking to them about it later, I don’t understand why swimming into other people is acceptable.  I mean, I don’t run into other people.  When running, even in the most crowded spaces, runners do everything they can to NOT run into another person.  And we certainly don’t bang into each other, rub tires or throw another biker off course.  Why isn’t it the same with swimming?  Brian and Nicole said it’s because you can’t see while swimming.  But I can see!!!  I saw them in front of me, I saw them alongside of me.  I could see!!!

So, while I hated every single, fricken stroke of the swim – I’m so unbelievably happy that I experienced it.  I’m going swimming with Nicole again later this week, and while the thought of having her run me over while swimming makes me a bit sick to my stomach, I know in the long run – I’ll be better off because of it.  It’s just definitely not something I could ever look forward to.  But it is good practice.  Which makes me think, that all coaches and blogs talk about making sure that triathletes get out of the pool and do enough open water swims to prepare for race day.  And while that’s true I think the biggest miscue by the experts is not making people do group swims.  And I don’t mean group swims where everyone spreads out nicely and goes about their business, I mean group swims where your husband and friend deliberately try to scare and drown you!  Okay, maybe they weren’t trying to drown me, but it felt like it at the time.

So to any newbies out there that may be reading this blog, make sure you have a spouse and friend that love you enough to try to drown you!  You’ll thank them for it!

Until next time,

Gotta run (and swim and bike)

 

 

 

 

 

Be careful what you wish for

I vividly remember standing in the starting corral of the Chicago Marathon alone, even though it was my 8th marathon, it was the first one I was running solo – without Brian.  I remember standing there a bit anxious because I was running solo and because even though it was my 8th marathon, it’s still 26.2 miles and that’s nothing to take casually.  I was standing there listening to all the newbies around  me.  Oh my gosh, the range of emotions they had; excited, nervous, anxious, giddy, scared, worried.  Most of them couldn’t contain themselves and while they were nervous, they were also so freaking excited.  The first time starting a marathon – and more importantly – the first time finishing a marathon is one of the best feelings a person can have.  As I was eavesdropping on the conversations around me, I realized I didn’t have the same level of excitement and I missed it.  I wanted to feel those “first time” butterflies again.  While I was happy it was my 8th marathon and that I was somewhat seasoned and I knew I could handle whatever the day threw at me, I was more than a bit envious of those around me.  I wanted to be excited again.

I share this flashback because my first sprint triathlon is in 16 days.  I not only have the nervous energy and butterflies of a newbie, I also have the terror!  What the hell was I thinking when I said I wanted to be a newbie again?  Being new is terrifying!  And in a sport where there’s a real chance of dying (because let’s not forget I just learned how to swim in June!), it’s not making me feel excited about the fact that I don’t know what I’m doing – it’s convincing me that something horrible will go wrong.

And the difference between being new at running vs. triathlons is the fact that I have to “pack” for race day.  And no, I’m not talking about packing and laying out my stuff the night before a marathon, I’m talking about packing for the actual event.  I have to bring stuff with me.  You don’t have to do this for a marathon!  The most you have to do is maybe bring along a throw away shirt and some energy gels.  Other than that, you’re good to go.  And if anyone has ever traveled with me, or even just went someplace overnight with me, I  OVER PACK!  Hell, my gym bag right now has no less than 4 different shirts in it because I’m just never sure which one I’ll want to wear.  I cannot believe I picked a sport to participate in that requires me to not only pack – but pack lightly.  That to me is an oxymoron.  And it wouldn’t be such a horrible thing to pack, if I felt as if I could bring a few “extras” with me, but there isn’t room for anything extra, the space in transition is extremely tight.

And that brings me to another concern I have – I have personal space issues and the thought of being crammed into transition in such close proximity to strangers just leaves me very anxious.

And speaking of transition, there are about 9,000 triathletes that compete in the Chicago Tri – so that’s A LOT of bikes and people and very little space.  And besides being right on top of one another, there’s the issue with actually being able to spot and find your bike in transition.  And while I know people say to pay attention to what row you are in and find a landmark, etc. – that truly means nothing to me because it won’t help.  I lose my car in the parking lot of stores or other venues ALL THE TIME.  I kid you not.  I actually worry about myself sometimes because I’m amazed at how quickly I can forget where I parked.  My husband is used to it – but yet it still amazes him.  He constantly asks, “how can you not remember, it’s been 10 minutes?!”  I have to park in the same row at the Y or else I can’t find my car.  If there are open spots, close to the building but in a different row, I’ll forego those spots to park in the back of the row that I “must” park in.  I wish I was kidding.  So I’ve basically come to the realization that I will absolutely not be able to find my row and my bike.  It will be the Seinfeld episode where the gang couldn’t find their car in a parking ramp.  That will be me trying to find my bike in transition.

Let’s get back to the packing part of my anxiety.  Let’s talk about the things I need to think about and/or pack that just pertain to my head/hair!  Most people have to think about bringing a helmet and maybe a hat/visor for the run. They don’t have to worry about a swim cap because the Tri will provide that.  Well, people don’t have to worry about it, unless you are me.  As I was practicing with some of Brian’s old Chicago Tri swim caps I quickly and painfully realized I have too much hair to use the triathlon supplied cap.  It pulls my hair out and it hurts like hell getting it on and hurts just as badly pulling it off.  And it doesn’t stretch the way I need it to and it’s just bad.  Bad. Bad. Bad. I purchased and have been using silicone caps (compared to latex caps most use) specifically designed for long hair.  So what I’ve been doing lately during my open water swims is using two caps – I use my long hair-silicone cap and then put the cheap latex cap over it.  I  do this just to get used to wearing two caps, because it does take some getting used to – it’s really tight.  I thought I was squeezing out my brains the first time I did it.

And beyond just having to worry about my extra swim cap, I have to worry about hair ties.  And not only do I need to make sure I have a hair tie during the swim, I will need extra because I’m not sure how I’ll wear my hair during the bike and run.  So I typically have extra ties on my wrist, but during my open water swim practice, I realized that they fly off when I’m trying to pull off my wetsuit, never to be seen again. UGH!  So I will have to stash some extras on my bike or with my running watch.  But again, something Brian doesn’t have to think about.

I will throw my hair into a bun on the top of my head for the swim.  But as I mentioned I don’t know how I’m wearing my hair during the bike and run.   I have some ideas but I haven’t settled on which one will be the easiest to do in a tight transition area.  I was going to throw a bondi band on and have “loose” hair while biking.  I wanted to have a band on to keep the sweat out of my eyes, but if I do that, I don’t know what to do for the run.  I can easily take the band off and throw on a running cap for the run, expect as you are already aware – I have a lot of hair and when it’s really hot, I like to run in a visor instead of a hat to keep from overheating.  But I can’t put my hair in a high pony for a visor while in transition.  It takes up too much time.  So that leads me back to thinking I’ll just throw on a running cap for the run and deal with the heat because it’s only 3 miles.  Then I was thinking if I do that, should I just put the cap on right out of the water and wear it under my helmet?  It looks a bit funny but it may work.  But it will be hot to have both a cap and helmet on. Ugh, decisions, decisions.

And there are way too many reasons why I can’t keep the band on while running.  There’s also way – way – way too many reason why I must have my hair in a bun on the top of my head for the swim.  I’ve tried a few other ways to wear my hair, and nothing else worked.  So I’m going with what I know and that’s a “shark fin” bun.  But because of my hair issues, I have to pack extra swim caps, multiple hair ties, bands, visors and running caps.  Oh yeah, and my helmet.  Definitely more than what Brian has to think about.

I’m going to spare you the boring details on what I’m wearing on the bike and the run.  I had NO – NO – NO desire to wear spandex in front of people.  But lord help me, I may end up wearing an actual tri outfit, spandex shorts and all.  It makes me kind of sick to think about my chubby thighs, saddle bags and love handles being on display for all to see in their jiggly glory, but I just don’t think I can throw an extra pair of shorts on over the top of the spandex like I had wanted to do originally. I haven’t ruled it out – but we’ll see.

Needless to say, I have so much to yet think about and/or pack for race day that Brian can’t fully understand (i.e. I got my race day top in the mail and then I asked Brian, “what the hell do I do about a bra?  I need to wear a sports bra (and all of my favorites have some padding in them) and it’s going to be wet coming out of the water – how long is it going to take to dry and will I chafe?”  To which Brian replied… you have padding in your sports bra!?!”) and isn’t really very helpful!  I’ve reached out to two of my female friends who not only have done tris in the past, but are training for Ironman this year – I figured they could lend me a few tips/pointers.  And while I’ve been getting tips from friends, reading blogs, and articles – I still feel that no matter what I do – I won’t be prepared and I will forget something.  But as my friend Jamie, soon to be Ironman Jamie, said “try not to let anything get to you…. biggest thing to try and do… stay CALM.”

So, that’s what I’m going to try to do.  Stay calm and not let anything bother me.  I have to remember back to 2014 when I was standing in the corral at the Chicago Marathon and how I wanted to be a “newbie” again and I how I wanted to have butterflies and excitement again.  As they say… be careful what you wish for!

Until next time,

Gotta run (and swim and bike)