Monthly Archives: July 2013
Do you remember what it was like going to an amusement park as a kid (Or maybe recently if you’re a wimpy adult such as I am)? There was always that one roller coaster, or ride that flipped you upside down and sideways that was the sole reason people went there. Looking at it gave you an instant pit in your stomach, but something about the lines of people and sound of screaming made you curious. You waited in a line that snaked around the amusement thinking “Should I? Shouldn’t I?“. As you made your way to the gates you could see people exiting, laughing and cheering as they made their way back to the concourse. “So if no one’s dead and everyone looks happy… this must be worth, right?”
Finally it was your turn. You’d nervously push your way through the turnstile, and climb into a cart next to a comforting friend or parent. An employee would check to make sure you were safely fastened in and then… you were off. During that slow climb up the first hill you were pretty sure you were going to vomit from nerves but then- it was the time of your life. You’d scream and laugh your way through the ride – only to jump off and immediately hop back in line.
That is really the best way that I can describe what finishing your first triathlon is like. Do you get where I’m going with this?
I hopped right back in line 🙂
Before my number tattoo had a chance to fade (Let’s be honest I tried to preserve that bad boy as long as possible) I was feverishly typing in my credit card information for another triathlon. And before I could stop myself from hitting submit- I had another countdown started. I know you’re all saying to yourself “Gee for the girl who bitched and moaned and complained and cried…” So before we go any further let me just say this:
For everyone who said “You won’t drown”… you were right and I was wrong.
For everyone who said “You’ll do it… and then want to do it faster”... you were right and I was wrong.
For everyone who said You’re going to love it”... you were right and I was wrong.
For everyone who said “You’ll do one and be hooked“… you were right and I was wrong.
The race isn’t until the end of the summer, so I have about a month to get myself ready before I “tri” (sorry- triathlete joke) again. And while this means I’m heading back to the pool and back out on my bike– training for it won’t be anything like training for Iron Girl. Oh and the most EXCITING news is that the swim portion is just a quarter mile (Iron Girl was a half mile) which means half the swimming… I’m loving the sound of this already!
It’s amazing how different it feels training for a second triathlon versus your first. Gone are those intense fears (I mean, minus the whole drowning thing- there’s always a possibility) of attempting something foreign and new. This time around I have an idea of what to expect, what to pack, how to set up, what the lake will be like. I’m excited to do it all over again – but better and faster.
I’m digging this ride- and totally content hanging out here for a while 🙂
For a girl who usually can’t stop babbling, and who loves to write, I find myself sitting here staring at the computer screen with no idea on where to begin. This is the blog post that I have been dreaming of writing and suddenly I’m speechless. Part of me feels like this week’s post would be better if I left out any words at all- and just filled it with images like this:
There’s not much that I would go back and change except for how nervous I was in the days, hours and minutes leading up to the start. We’re talking convincing myself out of throwing up in the hotel bathroom at 4am Sunday morning. Crying because I couldn’t carry a plastic bin of water bottles AND walk my bike at the same time. I was a full bottle of whine and tears. I can’t remember ever being as terrified about something as much as I was about this. The night before I tossed and turned in bed. As I listened to the sounds of everyone around me sleeping, I tried to give myself a refresher on open water swimming, I went over and over again how to use my gears on the hills, how to dress myself in transition. After a few restless hours I was woken up and laid in bed hoping that if I kept my eyes closed, I wouldn’t have to get up and actually do this.
I set up my transition area with shaky hands, forced half a granola bar down my throat, and checked my watch every 2 minutes. “I’m not ready, I’m not ready” I told myself over and over again.
After our gear was all set up there was nothing left to do but head down to the water and wait for the start. With each wave that was called our group diminished, and we sent them off with hugs & good lucks. Finally it was our turn. As we headed into the chute I clutched my trainer’s hand and tried to calm my breathing. No turning back now.
And as the announcer counted down and our wave began to take off, the most amazing thing happened: all of that crazy, nervous chatter in my brain melted away and my body started to do exactly what it had been trained to do. I took careful strokes, trying to avoid getting smacked in the face by the people around me. Before I knew it I had already rounded the first buoy. I remember thinking “I DON’T EVEN NEED TO REST YET!” I continued on the longest leg of the swim with a pattern of several good strokes combined with a few doggie paddles to catch my breath. As much as I had planned on staying at the back of the pack I began getting annoyed at the people who were flipping and flopping in front of me so I decided to just take the risk and head right into the middle.
Faster than I ever expected I rounded the last buoy and suddenly began to see the bottom of the lake. My heart skipped a beat. “Keep going girl, keep going!” I chanted to myself in my head. And just like that… I was done with the swim! I rather ungracefully hopped out of the water and made my way up to transition.
After throwing on bike shorts, shoes and helmets we ran our bikes to the start line and began the second part of the race. I was still breathless with excitement that the swim was over and had to remind myself to be cautious and save my legs for the dreaded hills. I was so grateful that I had ridden the course the week before so I knew exactly where they were. As I watched girls get off their bikes and walked them up, I proudly used my gears and in true The Little Engine That Could fashion, victoriously made it over. The downhill was a long breezy road and I giggled with excitement as I cruised down. My two biggest fears of this race were officially over. I WAS REALLY DOING THIS!
Before I knew it, we were pulling back into the beach and the race volunteers were telling me to dismount. I saw everyone else running alongside their bike back into the transition area but there was no way I could do both at the same time and not trip over myself. (Note for future triathletes: in your brick workouts practice running WITH your bike, not just after you put it down). After re-racking my bike and chugging some water we headed out for the last leg… the run. This was where I was supposed to shine- for running is what we do best, and after all… it was ONLY a 5K. So would you believe that this ended up being the HARDEST part for me? Between the rising temperature, the fact that I had just swam AND biked, and that I had barely eaten anything in the morning, I definitely struggled. Thank goodness my two buddies kept me laughing and smiling. With every forward motion I reminded myself that I was one step closer to being a triathlete. My pace may have been pretty close to a shuffle, but I never once stopped running.
As we turned onto the road for the beach I could hear the music, the voice of the announcer, and the cheering. Ahead I saw the purple and pink banners. THIS WAS IT! Linking hands with the two who had gotten me there, we bounced across the finish line and at 9:20am, an hour and 55 minutes after I got in the water… I became a triathlete. I heard the announcer call my name and I swear, I’ve never felt as limitless as I did in that moment.
We had just barely crossed the finish line before my trainer and I pretty much wrapped ourselves in each other. From my first days at the studio- overweight, self conscious, and begging for help, she has been there. For every pound lost, every tear shed, every new goal accomplished she is by my side with words of advice, of praise, but often without having to even say anything at all. Always pushing me, encouraging me, teaching me. For months she had trained and coached me for this- this was our moment. I told her day after day that I couldn’t do this, and she knew all along I could. These pictures make my heart so happy for they show in ways I can’t describe just how lucky I am.
Finishing my first triathlon has changed me the same way that running changed me, the way losing weight has changed me. In shedding those layers you discover parts of you that are bigger than your body ever was. You learn how to be brave. You learn how to take on new things, even if they are hard at first and suck. You learn to trust your body, trust your training, trust those who love you the most. You learn that you don’t have to start out with the body of a triathlete, you just have to have the heart of one. You learn that as hard as it is to sometimes get there- the view from the top is freaking amazing.
I am so incredibly grateful for everyone who has been a part of this journey: for my biggest supporter & fiancee, my family and friends who have pretty much vicariously lived through my training. For my workout buddies who are always cheering me on, and those who read my blog and have supported a girl they’ve never even met. For everyone who gave me tips, tricks and words of encouragement. Thank you for making me an Iron Girl. 🙂
Well… this is it. I am literally down to the last few days and hours before T-Day. All that’s standing between me and the “triathlete” title is a easy 2 mile run, a boot camp, packing, and a sleepless night in a hotel. “Trust in your training” is what my schedule says for Saturday… easier said than done. There’s so much I have to trust in. Trust in my swimming, trust in my lungs, trust in my legs and my bike and my running shoes. Trust that I won’t panic in the water… trust that I’ll actually GET into the water. So much to trust.
Last Saturday I woke up at dawn and headed out to central Massachusetts for an open water swim clinic. The further out I drove the more the temperature dropped and the more raindrops fell on my windshield. There has barely been a day under 85 degrees the majority of the summer, so obviously the weather was going to bottom out at 61 and rainy the day I have to face my fears of the lake. Thanks a lot, karma. I pulled into a lot full of SUVs with race decals and fancy bike racks and suddenly my little “mountain turned hybrid” bike and I felt very out of place… and very nervous. What was I doing here again?
As introductions happened I was happy to learn that several of the women there were participating in Iron Girl, and there were even a few other newbies. We learned some different start techniques, panic tips and then.. it was swim time. The first practice lap was TERRIBLE. I wasn’t ready for the lake to be so dark and I had a hard time navigating where I was going. It seemed like everyone else was so far ahead of me and I started to worry that I was incredibly slow. This resulted in some panicked strokes and having to stop every few feet. I remember one of the instructors asking me if I was okay as I panted and tried to tread water, barely able to squeak out a “I’m just really nervous”. He assured me that I wasn’t slow, and that I had lots of support overseeing me. The next few practice runs were a little smoother. I was pleasantly surprised at how un-dirty (clean?) the lake was, and I only got grossed out when I could finally see the bottom again (Which was also exciting because that meant I was done!). I stayed to the side and the back of the group which lessened the amount of limbs in my way, and I tried to focus on consistent strokes… no matter how slow they were. I kept telling myself “smart swimming! smart swimming!” … guess I did learn something in that swim class so many months ago.
As the clinic wrapped up one of the women I met mentioned that she lived right by the race site and offered for me to follow her back to her house so we could ride the bike route together. An hour later I had gotten a good feel for the course, had some landmarks to look for (like an Alpaca farm?), checked out the lake, and left with the phone number of a new friend. See all of the things you miss out on when you’re too busy watching TV on the couch?
I headed home with my shoulders feeling a little lighter and dare I say… a few butterflies in my stomach? Finally, after 9 months of planning & stressing, 7 months of swimming and 2 months of true training… I started to actually get a little excited. This is really happening, I am really going to do this… I (fingers & toes crossed) am going to be a triathlete, kids!
There’s still a pretty big cloud of anxiousness over me this week- I’ve been lying wide awake at 5am every single morning, I’ve had to force myself to eat real meals, and I have this on and off again pit in my stomach. When I’m too nervous to sleep- I’ve be trying to outweigh the nerves with a positive triathlon thought. I think about how the weather forecast is looking spectacular (knock on wood), how badass my sharpie number tattoo is going to look, the unconditional love and support I’ve had in training, what crossing the finish line is going to feel like.
And stemming from those thoughts, a flutter of excitement kicks every now and then. This is the day I have been waiting for for so long. The day I have trained for, cried about, read books and articles about. It’s the one thing my poor family and friends have had to listen to me talk about day after day. To not enjoy it would be a waste of what has pretty much consumed my life for the majority of the year. I’m trying to remind myself that at the end of the day it doesn’t matter where I place, or how fast I am (Just please don’t let me be last!)- this is about me- this is my race. Crossing that finish line is going to mean so much more to me than just a time on a clock.
If you’re an early bird and find yourself awake at 7:25AM on Sunday… do me a favor and think of me? I’ll be out in the middle of nowhere, in my orange swim cap, trying to hold it together, jump in the water… and do what I’ve been trained to do. 🙂
The last few weeks have been pretty crazy. Aside from my now routine training schedule and coaching the running group I went on a bit of a bender with 3 races over the course of 8 days. There were some pretty hot and sticky conditions and laundry day had to be coordinated around my running clothes (Oh and I also learned a valuable lesson of what happens when you DON’T fuel properly for a race and will NOT be trying that again) but overall it was a pretty fun and crazy experience. Not too shabby for the girl who at this time last year was struggling through two boot camps a week and barely running a full mile at one time.
After the 4th of July race I glanced at my calendar to see what was next and realized… it’s T-Day. Deep breaths, deeeeeep breaths. It’s probably a good thing that I don’t have any other races until then, because I seriously need to get myself together and find my way out of my own head. It’s a well known fact that I’ve been nervous about the triathlon ever since I signed up (actually before if that’s even possible?) but with now less than 2 weeks to go I feel incredibly… panicked. Suddenly I feel so unprepared. Suddenly I want more time. I want more laps to swim and brick workouts. I want to go backwards and redo some of my workouts in case they weren’t good enough the first time around. I want more days on my training calendar to cross off. Is this normal? Do people who have spent months and months training for marathons and Iron Man’s suddenly feel like they haven’t done enough? Someone please tell me I’m not as crazy as I feel.
I’ve followed my training schedule religiously. I’ve read the books and articles, I’ve tucked all the tips I’ve gotten from people into my brain. I’ve done the bricks and learned how to use my gears for hills. I’m signed up for an open water swim clinic this weekend. If this Triathlon was a class in school I’d be the nerdy overachiever that sits in front and takes pages of notes. And then sits alone at the lunch table. Nose deep in her triathlon book.
11 more days, I have 11 more days. I’ve spent months and months physically preparing myself- and now I’ve got 11 days to get it together mentally. Come on, Kathleen.
A few nights ago I sat on my bedroom floor trying to create some kind of order out of my t-shirt drawer, which lately has been overflowing with new additions to my race shirt collection. I pulled this large, wrinkled shirt out from the bottom of the pile and smiled.
The story behind the shirt is that a few years ago I signed my boyfriend and I up for the Boston Diamond Dash, a scavenger hunt that had couples running up and down the streets of the city for a $20,000 diamond ring. I remember putting on my best “workout pants” (AKA what I threw on every day when I got home from work and parked it on the couch) and digging a pair of sneakers out of my closet. I had NO idea what was in store for me. I wish someone had recorded it, because I can only imagine what a pathetic participant I was- huffing and puffing as I jogged/walked up and down the cobblestone streets for clues. I vividly remember is as one of the times where I literally felt weighed down in my body.
It’s no surprise that we didn’t win first place, and I consoled myself with a beer and appetizers at the after party followed by a trip to McDonald’s on the way home (Clearly I deserved it after all that EXERCISE!). And while we may not have won the grand prize, I woke up a few months later to an email in my inbox that I had won a diamond necklace from a raffle we had thrown our names into that day. Lucky me!
The diamond necklace eventually became a diamond ring, and on a frigid night late in February my boyfriend slipped it over my chubby little finger. And what was a feeling of absolute happiness also became a moment of panic- for I immediately had visions of a gorgeous wedding dress that I didn’t fit into. The panic lead my chubby little fingers to a Google search for weight loss in my area and well, we all know where the story goes from there. A match made in heaven. I found my happily ever after- and then some.
As much as I should probably just throw the shirt out or turn it into a cleaning rag, a part of me can’t let go. That shirt has so much history to it. That shirt is the reason I am participating in my first triathlon in 3 weeks. It stands for everything I have overcome. In place of this one large t-shirt I now own tons of (much smaller) running shirts.I kind of owe that big old t-shirt a big old thank you.
In the end I didn’t get a free engagement ring- but what I won was a heck of a lot better. I won my health. I won not just fitness- but a love for it. I won confidence. I won a place that has become a part of me. I won running shoes, brick workouts, and swim caps. I won a strength I never knew existed inside of me. I won incredible friendships. I won a wall full of race bibs and more safety pins than I’ll ever find a use for. I won the discovery of an unconditional support system in my fiancee. I won badass-ness. I won a body that I appreciate (most days). I won a spot in a world I never dreamed I’d be a part of. I would take these things over a free ring any day, over and over and over again.
Oh and image if I participated in a Diamond Dash these days? I’d fly past most of those girls 🙂