Sunday, June 14, 2015

Who you callin' rational?

No rational person would stand in the rain (and not some namby-pamby sweet little trickle of rain either, mind you, this was more along the lines of a gentle monsoon) for more than 90 minutes waiting for a race of any kind.

In related news, I spent my morning in the company of completely irrational women.

Today was the Esprit de She women's sprint triathlon. It was a little bittersweet for our tribe, because team-mate Linda is out for the season with an injury. After training together in one capacity or other over the years, having one of our number on the sidelines just makes everything feel a bit off. But it also motivates us forward, to do our best for those who - for the moment - cannot.

Before we even got our transition areas set up, the skies opened. We shed our outer layers and just wandered around in our tri suits ... which would end up wet, anyway, but we got soaked far earlier than we wanted to.

We were pruney before we even approached the start line.

As we stood, huddling under an umbrella, we remarked to one another how days like this is when the cream rises to the top.
Pam, Di and I, crammed under my little green umbrella.

Most people, faced with the challenges of this morning, would roll over and go back to bed. Not us; no, we headed out, ever mindful of the forecast, and approached the start line.

On days like this, only the strong even bother to start. You have to be some sort of crazy, tenacious lunatic with a heart full of hope to stand, rain-soaked, waiting for anything ... but especially to waiting for somewhere in the neighborhood of two hours of sweat-swear-word-producing activity. And yet, here we were. 

Race time rolled around, and we divided into our respective waves. Our tribe has a sort of unwritten rule; even if you start together, generally speaking, your race is your race. So we were all off on our own journeys, starting with a half mile in the water. 

While the rain continued to fall, in case you'd forgotten

After the swim (which was pretty awesome; I was faster this year than ever before), it was time to hop on the bike. Somewhere in about the last quarter of my 13-mile bike ride, I thought to myself, "experiences like this are where goals are reached or abandoned." And I think I was right about that. I was a little pokey here, but on the wet pavement and with a front brake that wasn't quite functioning optimally, I was happy to finish only a few minutes behind last year's time.

Finally, it was time for the run. Finally. By now, it was good and steamy outside, and the rain was done. My legs had just about nothing left in them, but ever forward I pressed on. So. Tired. I had to walk more than I would've liked, but in truth, today was all about conquering the elements. Everything else? That's gravy. 

Mmmm ... gravy ...

Eventually, we all made it to the finish line. Pam earned herself a new PR. Diane finished her very first triathlon. Megan crushed her PR by 23 minutes. And me? Well, I shaved time off my swim and took a little more time with everything else. But I sure do look cute.

Four ridiculous, irrational women, whom I love beyond measure.
Pam, me, Diane and Megan ... my gorgeous triathlete tribe.

Friday, June 12, 2015

I'm an athlete

For years now, I've split us up into two groups. Real runners, then people like me. Real cyclists, then people like me. Real swimmers, then people like me. Real triathletes, then people like me.

This, I've learned, is a massive load of crap.

It may take me more time to complete athletic endeavors, but right now, in this moment, I am an athlete. I step up to the start line. I cross it. And the finish line? Yeah, I cross that sucker, too. Time and time again. Because I'm an athlete.

Last Saturday, I was down in Hudson, IL to participate in the Tri-Shark Classic sprint tri. One of my great, athletic friends (I'll call him Biff, because I do) was the co-race director, and that was reason enough for me to show up. (Reason No. 2? He wears a kilt.) Anyhoo, it was me, and about 599 "real" athletes.

Any rational person would be intimidated, but I'm not all that rational.

Just before getting into the water, Biff came up to me and said, "I see you got her game face on." And yeah, I suppose I have one of those; I get really serious before a race starts. There are a few vital things going through my mind.

At the starting line, I become a little overwhelmed by what we have in common - we, the athletes. We stand there together with identical potential. We've not yet begun to race, and we all know that in truth, we are only racing against ourselves. Our beautiful sameness in those pre-race moments can be pretty overwhelming for me emotionally, but that's mostly because most athletes treat others like ... well ... athletes. They don't know that I'm gonna fight for my near-last-place finish, and if they did know, they wouldn't care. Because athletes - true athletes - celebrate achievement, no matter what it looks like.

Saturday's race was so good for my soul. It was the first time I've ever done a tri without a member of my tribe out on the course with me, but Biff and Amanda just filled my soul with love and encouragement. Biff was waiting on the dock as I came out of the water, and I cannot find the words to say how incredibly cool it was to have someone supporting me like that. Through the bike and the run, I knew I had support, and it inspired me to move forward.

Was I as fast as I wanted to be? Nah. But I made my way to the start line, I got my body through each of the disciplines, and I crossed the finish line.

I trained for it. I worked hard for it.

I am an athlete.