Monday, June 10, 2013

Tri, tri again

Looking back at my life prior to my rediscovering fitness, last weekend seems almost impossible. And yet, it happened: I have finished my second sprint triathlon (and my fourth overall) (counting two indoor ones, which may or may not actually count). It was Esprit de She Weekend!

Saturday morning was gym time with my friends, so we swam at 6:30 a.m. (yawn) and then did Strictly Strength class, where Pam (per usual) kicked our asses. Then it was off to Naperville for packet pickup and the race expo.

The expo took place at Naper Settlement (in, of all places, Naperville). It was a perfect day for an outdoor shindig like this. We wasted no time mugging for the camera.
Me, Megan and Pam
We picked up our race shirts (super-cute t-back tanks that run small, ergo I will wear mine next year!), got body marked (that's when race personnel write your number on you with permanent ink; the only time in the history of ever that I tolerate writing on skin!) and wandered around a wee bit. All too soon, it was time to head home. Morning comes early for a triathlete!

I set my alarm to go off at 4:02. Unfortunately, it was set for p.m. instead of a.m., so I overslept. But I woke up in time to leap into my gear (which I had laid out the night before) and headed out the door. I arrived at Centennial Beach in plenty of time.

I found my wave area and racked my bike, looking for Pam, Meg and Linda. Pam was in the wave before me - wave 8 - while Linda was in 5. Meg brought up the rear in 15, but our transition areas were pretty close together. It gets kinda crazy on race day, so Pam took the time to mark our spaces with chalk. This makes it easy to find your stuff when you go from swim to bike, or bike to run.
Hey, that's me!
At this point, there wasn't much to do except prepare, and wait. We got all our stuff laid out and walked around, occasionally running into friends.
That's me with Coach Lynn from LTF Schaumburg. She's awesome!
I can't imagine going into an event like this without the support of my friends. I am so lucky to have an amazing support system! They are undeniably the greatest people in the world.
Linda, Pam, Meg and Me
There's a real sense of camaraderie among athletes at events like this. Except for the occasional weirdo (like the lady who photo-bombed us) or a competitor who takes the event way too seriously, this event is pretty much jam-packed with people who really just want to see each other do their very best, and offer support and encouragement. It's groovy like that.

Once we were settled in, it was time to take a walk down by the water and see what it felt like. In a word, it felt cold. Exactly 70 degrees, in fact! Brr! It was inspiring to look out at the swim course and know that in an hour or so, this entire place would be filled with women waiting to begin their day with a half-mile swim.
Centennial Beach in Naperville, site of the swim for the Esprit de She Triathlon.
I didn't know Meg was snapping when she took this photo. I really like it!
That's the whole crew - Meg, Me, Pam and Linda
Sooner than I was quite ready, it was time to put on the swim cap, grab my goggles and head to the water. The race was about to begin!

My wave took off at 7:32 a.m. My wave was filled with women ages 46 and 47, and I stood next to a few who were just as nervous as I was. The truth is, I think I am the worst at everything. I am the slowest runner in my group, and my skills on the bike aren't that great (although cycle is my best event) (which is sad), and as a swimmer I make a great sunbather. I usually think when people tell me how un-good they are, they're being kind or they just don't realize how much some of us suck. Once we got into the water and started swimming, I noticed one of my "new friends" was truly struggling. So I put my focus on helping Ellen, rather than my own pending panic, and it changed the entire first leg of the race for me. Sure, it might slow me down a little bit, but I've learned that's what true athletes do: they help each other succeed.

I put on this face of confidence in the water, and it totally became who I was. While I still swam like me - slow and purposefully - I was able to guide and help Ellen finish the half mile like a champ. It was actually fun this year, because I wasn't scared and I wasn't holding on to the ropes for dear life. I was swimming! It's funny how getting out of my own head helped so much.

Soon, our feet were able to touch the bottom and we ran (stumbled, walked, shuffled) to shore. Time to dry off and hit the bike! I rinsed my feet (sand!), dried them off and put on my socks and shoes, squoze (shut up, it's a word) as much water out of my shorts and tank as I could, and put my tech tee and kilt (yes) on over it. Headband? Check. Bike helmet? Check. And ... we're off!

The bike course is relatively flat with just a few gentle inclines. I took off like a champ, thinking it felt really easy; the feeling didn't last. I mean, come on ... 15 miles is a long time. But I kept at it. When I saw the three mile sign, I started doing math; I was 1/5 of the way there. I stopped doing math.

You cycle the same loop twice before you re-rack your bike and begin the run course. By the time I was done on the bike, my lady bits were really unhappy with me. But I had done it! It was all over now except for a 5K run. I grabbed water and headed out.

By now, the sun was out in full. It was starting to get humid. So, naturally, I was running. Great. I felt like I was going really slowly, and I took walk breaks when I needed them. I knew I would finish, and I knew I might be a little slower overall because I waited a bit in the water. At this point, it didn't matter; I was in it for the experience, for the fun and for the accomplishment.

Soon, we were running along the riverwalk, which meant we were nearing the finish line. I allowed myself to break into a run and really go for it, which explains why my official finish line photos look damn near like I'm having a stroke. (Which also explains why they are not posted here.)

To make a short story longer, it was a great race; truly a life-affirming morning. I felt happy and accomplished, and I will never forget that feeling. I was a little nervous heading in to get my results, because I wasn't sure how I did. But because all races are really nothing more than a competition against myself and my past, it was time to face the music. Here's the straight poop:
  • Swim (half mile) took me 23:12.
  • Transition 1 (exiting the pool, gearing up and getting onto the bike) took me 7:55.
  • Bike (14.2 miles) took 1:01:12.
  • Transition 2 (re-racking the bike, taking off helmet, hydrating and getting onto the run course) took me 3:43.
  • Run (5K or 3.1 miles) took me 42:26.
  • Overall time: 2:18:27.

Not too shabby. (Unless you take into account that the first-place finisher was done in 1:06:14. Whatever; freak.) But then, consider my results from 2012:
  • Swim: 23:27.
  • Transition 1: 10:53.
  • Bike: 1:12:00.
  • Transition 2: 5:26.
  • Run: 46:16.
  • Overall: 2:38:00.

So, I took almost a full 20 minutes off my overall time, and I improved in literally every discipline - even the swim, which I admittedly took a bit slower than my abilities. When I realized just how much progress I'd made in a year - even if a lot of it was just getting through the transitions faster - I am gratified and truly happy. It's been a lot of work, and a lot of times it should have taken more work but I didn't always execute the plan perfectly. But I got results; I did the work, I worked the plan, and I made progress. 

And I really can't wait until next year. 
Pam, Me and Linda, after our big finish.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The work is play

Sunday is my fourth triathlon. My second outdoor, for-real triathlon. (Two have been indoor events, which - while great - are not quite as intense as the experience of swimming, biking and running outdoors.) As usual, my training has not been spot on. Life being what it is, I kinda have to go with the flow. What's more, I'm also technically training for a half marathon in July, so with the swimming and biking, I have some rather substantial runs on the plan.

Which means two things have fallen by the wayside: weight training, and yoga.

No more, ladies and gentlemen. Last night, I did a little weight training courtesy of the Nike Training Club app for iPhone. That little sucker kicks ass.

I am feeling my muscles today! There's something about working - really working - that gives you a delicious and hard-earned ache the next day. And it just served as a great reminder that I can make time. I can fit it in.

It was only a little demoralizing, this realization that I have let myself become so sedentary, I can't really jump, or do high-knee runs. Seriously! Practice is what made us good at this stuff when we were kids.

I stopped practicing, and I became overweight, out of shape and - gasp - a grown-up.

Well, no more, people. There is going to be a lot more play in my summer, and beyond. I need to practice jumping, skipping, working with the body I brought and building the body I deserve.

I'm not down on myself - not really. I mean, I'm in great shape compared to where I came from. But there is so much more work to be done. I have allowed myself to go stagnant and stop progressing, and it's time to get back to work. And I'm going to play through as much of that work as possible.