Sunday, April 24, 2011

Trying Tri's been over a week now since Frank Maples!  Time flies, huh?

I already told you how nervous I was about this race.  Somehow I managed to get a decent night's sleep and woke up ready to go.  I took a lesson from friend Katie and took a shower that morning.  (Not that she told me I need to shower, but she showers before races....just thought I should clarify that...) I've never done this before because my thinking is I'm going to go out and get nasty anyway-why waste the water and soap.  But, I have to say I can see now why she does it.  I felt awake and clean and overall refreshed.  I might add this to my pre-race routine.

I debated on exactly what to eat.  What I eat before I workout depends on the nature and length of the training.  Before I swim, I eat half a banana.  Before a shorter run I eat a cup of cereal and almond milk or a little oatmeal.  Before a longer run or a bike ride I eat a larger portion of oatmeal.  Because I had never combined all three sports at one time, and because I still had not completely decided exactly how I was going to fuel during the race, I decided to go with the larger portion of oatmeal.  (Mistake 1 of the day---it was too heavy on my stomach and felt like a brick when the race started.)

I had already loaded up everything I needed so all I had to do after the shower and breakfast was dress and jump in the car.  I walked outside and it was FREEZING out there.  (Well, not freezing, but it was cold--and WINDY.)  Immediately I began second guessing my clothing choice (a tank tri shirt and tri shorts), so I grabbed a short sleeve shirt and a jacket to throw in my bag....and (after taking a pre-race picture) we were off to Scottsboro!  ...For those who "know" me, you know I take a goofy pre-race "running-girl" picture.  I've done it before every race so it's a tradition.  Since this was going to be my first tri, I wanted a new pose to mark the new adventure.  I thought about "swimming girl" or "biking girl", but didn't know how to pull them off.  After careful and thoughtful consideration, I went with "strong girl" because that's exactly how I was feeling.....

I decided to crop out the bike shorts....
When we got to the race (in much faster time that I expected), I picked up my packet, got my leg marked, and started setting up my transition "station".  I was very pleased to see so many people I knew because talking gave me something to do to calm me down a bit until it was time to get warmed up.

The wind was RIDICULOUS and it had rained so it was cool and damp on top of windy.  I knew it was going to warm the same time if the wind kept blowing the whole time, a jacket was going to feel okay.   I went back and forth until it was just about time to start the race.  There were a variety of clothing options displayed all around me, some with heavy jackets, some with arm sleeves (something I don't have yet), some wearing long sleeves.....  I decided to keep the jacket on-it was two miles and would prevent me from having to put it one before the bike (and I knew I would need it then).

Just before we started lining up, my FCA group huddled up.  Let me say-I LOVE this group.  I'll have to write up a whole separate post about them and what being a part of the group means to me....but it became crystal clear to me at that moment in time when we linked hands and prayed.  I was reminded of something a new friend said to me recently..."When I train or race, it's an act of worship to me."

(Very thorough) Pre-race announcements were made ...and about 5 seconds before the start I realized I had made mistake 2 by keeping my jacket on, but it was really too late at that point.  As we started running a buddy asked how fast we were going.  Mistake 3-I looked at my watch to see the pace said 6:30.  WHAT??  REALLY??  That's WAY TOO FAST.  It didn't feel that fast at all.  Maybe it was wrong, but instead of just calming down and backing off the pace to something more reasonable, I decided I would just keep running hard.  That is the flip side of mistake 3....not pacing myself.  I don't know which is worse, looking at my watch to see a number that completely freaks me out, or not using the watch but not being able to evenly pace myself at a level I am comfortable with.

Because the run was only two miles, I had decided beforehand to run hard the whole time.  The only real problem with that is I've NEVER run HARD for two full miles.  (Note to self--this is why I should do speed work and tempo runs.)  I'm pretty sure I slowed down the whole time.  But, on the plus side, I didn't ever stop running and I didn't allow my mind to take over.  It was a gladiator-level battle, but my mind didn't win out.  I did have several people pass me on the run, but I kept running as hard as I believed I could at that point in time.  It didn't feel like a huge victory, but looking back I can say that was probably the best part of the run (winning the mental battle)---well that and the fact I finished it right around 16 minutes!!  (Fastest time ever for that distance!)

When I got close to the transition, I started mentally running through exactly what I had to do.  Since  had taken my jacket off, I put it back on while I was running (I should have zipped it up because I fumbled with that before getting on the bike).  Since I practiced this and had placed everything just as I would need it, the transition from run to bike was very smooth.  I leaned over, took off my running hat and replaced it with my helmet...while still down, I slipped off my shoes (speed laces ROCK!) and my bike shoes on.  As I was coming back up, I zipped my jacket (should have already been done), and grabbed my bike off the rack-ready to go!!

Here is what I will call lesson 1 instead of mistake 4 because I don't view it as something I should have known to do was just something I didn't really know before that I want to keep in mind for the future.  I "should have" taken a drink of water then.  I thought I'd get some on the bike-but I've never gotten comfortable doing that, so consequently, Mistake 4 was not hydrating (or fueling) enough (well, really I should say "at all" during the race.  There's no way to really know if this had any affect on my performance, but I'm still going to call it a mistake.

When I got on the bike the first thing I noticed was the wind.  I have never ridden in wind like that before.  I had to pedal the whole time, even going down hill!  The first few miles were particularly hard.  Struggling with trying to make some time on the bike reminded me of the verse for the day I had read that morning... 1 Corinthians 16:13  "Be on guard.  Stand firm in the faith.  Be courageous.  Be strong."  After several people passed me (including two women I've been training with) I started chanting "Be courageous.  Be strong." over and over in my head.  I was able to pass a couple of people (way fewer than the number who passed me), but most importantly, I was able to increase my speed significantly.  (Well beyond my usual average speed!)

As we neared the transition area I attempted to think through what needed to happen...but my brain wasn't functioning as well as I would have liked.  I was able to get off the bike without falling (yea!), and get over to the rack without slipping.  I racked my bike, took off my helmet and slipped my shoes off...but forgot about my socks.  I tried to take my jacket off over my head, but it wasn't unzipped enough so it got stuck!  I pulled my Garmin and my socks off.  I turned to run toward the pool when, thankfully, a couple of guys from my FCA group asked if I had my goggles-which I did not, so I grabbed them and took off.

Here's where the race got funny for me.  As I was running toward the pool I was thinking about having to jump in feet first and going over the mechanics of swimming in my head.  "Reach, pull all the way through....RELAX your breathing, make sure you breathe all the way out.  Don't get in a hurry, just swim the way you know how to swim.  This is it.  You are going to pass can do this.  200 meters is less than a warm up."

When I got to the edge of the pool I had not caught my breath yet so I stopped for minute to just breathe in and out a few times in an attempt to recover just a bit so I could enter the water a little calmer than I felt.  I glanced behind me and saw someone coming so I jumped in.  I quickly realized I wasn't going to be able to freestyle right away because I was still gasping for air.  So, I did the breast stroke about 15 yards and then put my head in the water to start swimming.

I took maybe 2 strokes, and rolled over on my back.  In my mind I was thinking it was just so I could catch my breath.  Little did I know that wouldn't happen until well after I exited the pool!  As I neared the edge I turned back over in order to go under the rope and push off from the side.  I saw the person who makes sure you touch the edge like you are supposed to and thought, "Okay, she is surely a lifeguard.  I'm not going to drown.  Now SWIM." ...and I promptly rolled back over to my back again.  I backstroked (well...kicked on my back) pretty much the whole 200 yards.  I saw my husband making a video and was trying to send him mental messages to please turn off the camera.  I didn't want to have a recording of me drowning and being rescued by the lifeguard.

The one thing that kept going through my mind doesn't matter how you get there--just KEEP MOVING forward toward the finish.  Side stroke, breast stroke, back stroke, kicking-whatever is going to work-just keep making progress.  I got down to the end of lap 6 and my husband said, "just one more down and back and you're done."  I can honestly say I was giving it all I had.  The thing that has stayed with me, though, is how "all I had" was coming from my legs.  I was kicking, but I could hardly move my arms.  I don't believe I should have had anything left in my legs at that point in time.  If I had truly giving it all I had in the run and on the bike I would have thought my arms would have had more  left in them than my legs.  Miraculously, mercifully, I made it to the stairs (touching the stairs stopped the time).  I came in 78th place (not sure how many total finishers there were).

When I got out of the pool, I had to bend over and just breathe.  I believe I really did leave all I had in the pool.  But...I realized that Mistake 5 was an issue with form on the bike.  I noticed when I was riding the next day I was pulling on my hooks (the part of the handle bar you are supposed to rest your hands-the shifters and brakes) ((EDIT...uhm..I think the part is actually called the hood, but I probably should have just said I was pulling on my shifters/brakes?)).  Because I was pulling (instead of engaging my core, and using my legs and glutes), my arms were worn out by the time I got to the swim and yet I still had "plenty" of leg left.  I believe if I had used my legs more and my arms less on the bike I would have had more to give to the swim portion of the race.'s the thing.  I came in third place in my age group.  I can't complain about how I did on my first tri ever.  And, make no mistake, I'm actually very happy with how I did (now that I've had a week to process and think about it).  In fact, I'm thrilled.  I was able to overcome some negative thoughts that were swirling around in my noggin.  That alone made the race a success!!  Winning an age group award was a bonus!!

I have to say thank you to my coach...she knows who she is.  Without all the valuable information and training I would never have done as well as I did.  Not to mention all the peeps I trained with.  They pushed me and kept me going.  The two ladies who passed me on the bike had put a target on my head, and they both were able to easily smoke me.  But...let me tell you...I'm gunning for them in May and June!!  Iron Girl Atlanta and then (if I register) Monster Tri in's ON baby!!  I'm bringing it!!  After that I'm moving on up to an Olympic distance with Rocket Man here in Huntsville in August.

Thanks for stopping in, come again soon!


Don't hold back, tell it like it is....