An Iron Girl!
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. 🙂