Several hours after I got home from my disastrous 5K, where I literally hobbled through the last mile, I felt a bit better. I still couldn’t put a lot of weight on the leg, but with rest it wasn’t painful. It was the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, which for our family has always meant our little small town’s Memorial Day Parade. Our daughter is in the band, and she marches in it every year.
I thought about staying home and resting. I thought about maybe going to the local urgent care around the corner. I debated with myself over and over. And in the end, indecision won out. I would go to the parade on my daughter’s crutches to keep weight off my leg. I would rest on the sofa. I would have Monday to rest on the sofa. And by Monday night, I should be much better.
I told myself everything would be fine. If I willed it to be, it would be. I had a big week ahead of me: our town’s 5K was the following weekend and the last week before the race is always insanely busy. We take delivery on donated items, we assemble the race bags (1000 of them!) , we have to prepare everything on the site the day before. It is a huge undertaking. I had no time to be off my feet and resting with that coming up. I was sure I would be fine if I just took it easy for a few days.
By Monday night, I actually was feeling some better. I stopped using the crutches and adopted a modified gait (read: limp) that allowed me to walk mostly normally (or so I told myself). I steeled myself for work Tuesday, popped an ibuprofen and my most comfortable shoes, and went on to work.
I work as a substitute teacher at our local high school. This day I was in several different classrooms, walking all around our one story building. I knew, perhaps, that this wasn’t ideal for me trying to move forward from this injury. My iPhone told me I walked nearly two miles just in the course of the day. By 1pm, I was sore and visited the nurse’s office for some ibuprofen. They were busy enough to not really notice the strange walk I’d adopted. I was relieved.
Tuesday afternoon I knew somehow in my head that my leg was probably going to need attention. I enlisted my kids’ help in getting my race stuff for Sunday organized and out into the garage so that I wouldn’t have to haul it all up the stairs. But I still resisted going to the doctor; I just couldn’t spare the time. I was sure after another night off my feet and another stiff dose of ibuprofen that I would gradually feel less pain over time, and I would be fine.
When I woke up for work Wednesday morning, I was disappointed that I didn’t feel better. I had been so sure that after eight hours off of my feet and some sleep that I would see an improvement. My leg didn’t feel worse, but it didn’t feel better either. I popped my ibuprofen and massaged in a soothing cream that a friend had given me. I wondered how I would get through not only a day of school, but our race bag stuffing party that night. I packed a bottle of ibuprofen in my school bag and the soothing cream. Maybe I would have to double up doses today.
I could tell I was worse by 8:15 am. I had been in a computer lab with students when I rose to stand from a sitting position and felt significant pain just to stand. I tried to walk but my leg felt like it wasn’t in place. I had to sort of hitch it a time or two to get it to work properly. Once I had it in place I felt fine but the getting it there was filled with white hot pain.
Still, I had to get through the day. I had three different teachers to cover, including one of my “regulars”, and I didn’t want to let anyone down. I could not have been more relieved when I saw my last four classes were watching a movie. I wouldn’t have to move around a lot, and it would give me the opportunity to rest.
In retrospect, I should have noticed things going slowly downhill. When I went to heat up my lunch in the library, people asked what was wrong with me. My limp, which I thought was just noticeable to me, was being commented upon right and left. Each time I got up from a sitting position hurt worse and worse. And the hitching I was having to do to get my right leg walking felt more and more like a “putting it in place”…in the back of my head I knew that couldn’t be good. At the end of the day, I was relieved to close my classroom door and be done. I was going to go to the doctor. Enough was enough. I would have to delegate some of my responsibilities and get my leg looked at.
I walked to my car and went to move it to the other side of the building. My younger son was in the other wing of the school that housed middle school kids, and I normally picked him up there at the end of his day, about half an hour after mine ended. I went to walk to the door of the school when suddenly I realized that I couldn’t really walk. I was pulling my right leg with all of my might and it was incredibly painful.
The principal noticed and told me to wait in my car. She would send my son out when the day was done. I sent my older daughter in to fetch him and needed to walk about six steps back to my car. I stood there, paralyzed. I couldn’t move now. Not without incredible pain. I willed myself to get back to my car and shouted expletives as I hauled myself into the driver’s seat.
I realized, then, that everything was falling apart. This was not something I could will away. This was not something I could just go to my primary care doctor for. I was going to have to stop everything and get to the ER. This was serious.
I sat there, with tears streaming down my face, wondering what was happening to me.
So obviously this post is a bit late in coming. Two months to the day, actually. I can’t believe it has been only two months since everything in my world shifted so dramatically. I have wanted to write this post for so long, and it is certainly not for a lack of time. I’ve had nothing but time for the last two months.
This was me the morning of May 29. A sunny, hot morning. I had been doing my best to train for this race, the Barnum Festival 5K, for the previous eight weeks. After running several dismal 5K times, in early April I fired up my Couch to 5K apps and started again from scratch.
Everything was harder this time. I’d gained weight again. I was working so there was less time to run. The weather had grown warm, so running in the afternoons meant running in 75-85 degree heat. But I still doggedly logged in the miles, doing some interval training, doing treadmill runs, adding in yoga and some strength training to help gain back some of the fitness I’ve lost over the last twelve months.
The day before the race, I did a practice run on our shaded trail while my daughter was at dance class. In retrospect it probably wasn’t the best idea. Normally I try to have a rest day before a race, so that I am fresh. But this was just a 5K, and since I hadn’t gotten all of my training runs in on my plan, I really wanted to get in every mile I could before running what I hoped to be my come back race. Last year, I set my PR on this course, so I hoped it meant I could at least better my race times thus far this year by at least a little.
As I drove to the site that morning, I tried to do my ABC goal setting. I read this on a blog somewhere once. Goal A is your most realistic goal. Goal B is a reach but still potentially doable. Goal C would be pie in the sky not likely but technically possible. Race day had dawned hot, so I knew that this would slow me down. I finally settled on Goal A being 40 minutes, Goal B being 38 minutes and Goal C being anything below 38. These felt like crazy slow times, but after the year I had, plus the weight, plus the heat, I figured that was where I was at. I was looking forward to the flat pretty course, seeing a few friends, and finishing on the bases at our local minor league ball park.
I felt a little tightness in my right leg as I walked around the race site waiting for the race to start. I thought about getting in line for the massage guy, but the line was too long. I figured it might be some muscle cramping due to the warmth, so I drank more water than I normally do before a race (who wants to use a porta potty more than necessary?). I stretched here and there and walked around a bit. I wasn’t sure what the tightness was, but I figured it would go away as I warmed up out on the course.
We lined up under the I 95 overpass, near the big American Flag being displayed from the fire truck. I went to the back of the pack, readied my RunKeeper app, and headed out.
The first mile felt good. I was firmly in the back, but feeling strong. I was ahead of my pace necessary to hit Goal A and B so I was excited. It was all coming together. The rough year, the hard training, the loss of fitness…I was finally on the come back trail. Mile 1: 12:28 pace.
The second mile was where things started to go off the rails. We were just entering Seaside Park which borders Long Island sound when the tightness in my leg started to become a bigger issue. It wasn’t going away. In fact, it was actually becoming more painful. I took a walk break to see if it would help ease the soreness. I stopped at the water stop hoping hydration would help. I started back up again, hoping to salvage my time, but the pain continued. I started to alternate running and walking, and for a bit, that seemed to help. It wasn’t getting any better, though. I could see my time goals start to slip through my fingers. I pushed myself to continue with more running than walking. Mile 2: 13:03 pace.
The third mile was when I realized something was very wrong. This wasn’t just a sore muscle or a tightness. What had started out as just a bit of a tweak had turned into out and out pain with every step. As I rounded the final bend in the park, I realized that I just couldn’t run any more. Every time I tried to pick up the pace I was having truly excruciating pain in my right leg. I finally gave up my goals and slowed to a walk, angrily watching all of the people who I’d been keeping pace with (or had passed) amble past me.
But even with walking, the pain got worse. There was a moment when I realized I was in serious trouble. I was having trouble just walking at this point. If anyone had been watching me, they would have seen me grimace and grit my teeth as I struggled just to put one foot in front of the other. I thought about finding someone to tell, talk to, get help from, but everyone was in their own heads trying to get to the finish line. I pushed on, leaving the park and telling myself I was in the homestretch. Mile 3: 17:18 pace.
I finally hit the three mile mark, just outside of the ballpark. There was a race volunteer there. I should have probably asked her to help me but I was so close. I was determined to finish. I had never not finished a race, and I certainly wasn’t going to do it on a flat 5K. I tried to run but couldn’t. I finally pushed into the ballpark. I made myself trot the last fifty feet or so through the finish line at home plate. Last .1 mile: 16:53 pace.
Final time: 45:28. My slowest 5K ever, and I was just grateful to have made it through the finish line.
I walked through the chute and made my way to get water. Hydration had to help. I got the water and then (because I am probably the stupidest person in the world) headed to the beer tent. I earned that damn thing! I got a raspberry pale ale from a local brewery and stood there to savor it. Now that I wasn’t moving, I would be fine, right?
After the beer was done and I went to walk out of the beer tent, I realized I was having trouble walking. I could barely put any weight on my right leg. I chatted up the few friends I knew at the race, trying all the while to hide my limp, and finally excused myself to go home.
As I walked gingerly to my car, I passed the ambulance crew. I thought briefly about flagging them down to ask them to take a look at me, but then decided against it. I would just go home, put my leg up and ice it. I would be fine. I was sure of it.
By the time I got home, I could barely put any weight on the leg. I got out my iPad and started to frantically Google my symptoms. Obvious deformity? No. Blunt trauma? No. Redness or swelling? No. I told myself that the injury couldn’t possibly be that bad because it met none of those criteria. The most obvious one, not being able to put weight on the limb, I was sure would improve over time.
Stay tuned for Part Two. Spoiler alert: it didn’t improve over time.
I literally feel like I am crawling back up the mountain that was my attained fitness and weight loss. I am so wanting to get back to where I was, and so discouraged by how far I have slipped off the cliff.
I used to run right onto my blog and post race recaps after running my races. I have actually done four races so far this year, and I haven’t posted about a single one yet. Why? I’m embarassed and horrified as to how far I have let everything slide.
Plus I hate reading those blogs, you know? The ones where the person writing makes the same mistakes over and over and over, disappears for a while, and then magically thinks they have it figured out This. Time. You just kind of want to smack them and tell them, duh, stop eating so much crap and maybe move around a little more.
Yeah. Except I keep telling that shit to myself these days and somehow, some way, I’ve managed to gain 5 MORE pounds since Christmas, to bring my tally up to about 17 pounds gained in the last year. On my five foot tall frame, that’s a boat load of weight (or a wide load, as the case may be…). It’s two clothing sizes. It’s certainly some bra sizes but I haven’t honestly checked (I had some old “fat” bras I never got rid of in the bottom of the drawer).
I am so far gone I don’t even really care that much any more about the whole thing. Sure, I know I’m fat. Sure, I hate how I look in the mirror. I really hate that even my underwear doesn’t fit these days. But I honestly don’t seem to hate it enough to really do what it takes.
The running thing. The running thing, which I honestly really do love, is really pissing me off these days.
I have always been a slow runner. Even when I was at my fittest I never cracked a sub 35 minute 5K. I never dipped below a 11:00 min/mile for more than a minute or two, tops.
But these days? Those 36 minute 5Ks that used to frustrate me so much seem like the holy grail. Kind of like when you were a teenager and you thought you were fat, but you really weren’t, and then you look back and you’re like….damn…..I had no idea how awesome I was back then? Yeah, kind of like that.
I ran my first 5K of the year on March 13. It took me over 41 minutes to complete. Granted, it was a hilly, not fun course, but still. 41 minutes.
I ran my second 5K six days later. That one I did with a friend, and we agreed to go together. We walked a lot. It was a time of 43 and change (on a flat course!). Ugh.
The third one I ran on April 2. It was a big race, and the start was slow. It was also cold and rainy. I had hoped for below 40 minutes, but that shit doesn’t happen by magic. I hadn’t been running and it showed. I clocked in again over 41 minutes.
That day I set up my RunKeeper Beginning 5K program, ready to start all over again. I know that when I have a plan running, it kind of pushes me to get those runs in. So I am on week three of that now, obviously not done with the plan by any stretch.
Today’s 5K was a bit better. I don’t have an official time, and my app didn’t start right at the gun, but I am reasonably sure I ran somewhere around 39 and changed based on the timing clock as I crossed. Definitely an improvement, and a lesson too: you have to do the training if you want to run the race.
So here I am, trying to claw my way back. I don’t have any races coming up as of yet, although I would like to get back to my “one race a month” during running season. My girlfriend is trying to get me to commit to another triathlon this summer, and I would love to do it. I just don’t know if I can get from here to there by then. I think I can. Maybe I can.
For now, I’m literally putting one foot in front of the other, and hoping to turn this big assed ship around.
What a contradiction 2015 was for me. In many ways, it was a huge year for me and my journey through health and fitness. In other ways, it was a year that saw terrible habits reemerge and a loss of so much that I had worked for.
NYC Half Marathon….this was a huge accomplishment for me. Not only was it my second half marathon ever, but hello, NYC! It was a tough race to train for, in the dead of a winter that saw snow and cold so often that I ran 11 miles once on my treadmill. The race is huge and winds through Central Park, Times Square and down to World Trade/Battery Park. I felt on top of the world finishing that race in March.
First Triathlon…I trained for and competed in my first (and second, a few weeks later) sprint triathlon this year. It was an amazing and terrifying thing to do. I learned to love biking and swimming in addition to the running I was doing. I gained new and wonderful friends as a result of the training. It was another thing that I never would have thought I could do just a few years ago, but I did it.
5K PR...I gained a shiny new 5K PR this year at the Bridgeport Harbor Yard 5K in May. Granted it was only one second but hey, it was still a new PR. I was so proud!
My posts have fallen off the last three months because I have totally fallen out of my good habits. I had started to put on a few pounds during triathlon training this summer, eating like food was my job to fuel my body. I never did figure out how to adjust back down after training was over, and the pounds have slowly been creeping on.
Add to that a new job. I started full time substitute teaching this year, which meant the end of my bootcamp classes (they only run during the days and a few rare evenings when I always seemed to have something going on). I had a hard time finding time to get runs in, although I was getting them in here and there until October.
In October our family suffered a major personal crisis. One that was so all consuming and all encompassing that my training completely stopped to manage the schedule and care of it. In addition to the lack of training, I coped with the difficulty by….you guessed it, eating and drinking. Since October I have gained seven pounds, on top of the six I had gained from June to then.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, I fell after donating blood last month and cracked my tailbone. I was flat on my back for several days and could barely walk for two weeks. It is just in the last week that I have been able to walk or attempt any sort of running and even then, I can only run pace for a minute or two at the most.
So I find myself now at the end of what should have been the best year of my fitness journey about thirteen pounds heavier and out of shape. I am angry and disappointed with myself on this day of resolutions. It feels like everything I have done, everything I have accomplished has disappeared into the wind. I just let it slip through my fingers in a matter of just a few short months….four years of hard, hard work.
Today, I will start again. What is that slogan for quitting smoking? Never quit quitting. But I’m in the reverse. Never stop starting. So I am starting again, this morning with my beloved yoga teacher. I will track my food in My Fitness Pal. And I will make steps in the right direction. It’s not like I don’t know how to do this. It’s all in the choosing to do it, or not.
And right now, I’m choosing me. My health, my wellness, my sanity. I choose me in 2016.
Yeah….I have been kind of absent around these here parts lately. Chalk it up to starting a new job (my last post is dated just five days after my start date) and having some challenging personal issues going on.
I haven’t done much in the way of running/training since that last triathlon. True, there was a sort of 4K race at our local park that hardly felt like anything. Then there was a Zombie Fun Run last weekend which was awesome (and I really should write about it) but untimed. I’ve struggled with keeping up with exercise and training now that I am working as a substitute teacher full time.
So it was with zero expectations that I entered into this weekend, something I’d set up months ago: back to back 5Ks on both days. I’ve only ever done races back to back one other time. I wasn’t worried.
This is the third year for the Vicki Soto 5K, the race that honors one of the teachers who were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary. I’ve run it every year. Last year the weather was horrendous, but this year the day dawned warm (for CT in the fall, 50 or so degrees) and cloudy. Perfect running weather.
My girlfriend and I agreed to walk it together. She has been out of training as much as I have, and so we offered to push her husband’s cousin’s stroller so he could really blow it out.
This race is a huge celebration, so much so that sometimes you forget that we are there because someone died in a terrible way. The family is deeply involved in the planning of the event, and it is well organized and put together. This year there were nearly 3,000 participants. The field was immense.
I haven’t ever walked a 5K before. It was a strange experience. Because I wasn’t listening to music, I really did take in more of the event. The organizers had done a wonderful job with signage on the course, with decorations (flamingoes, Vicki’s favorite animal, were everywhere). There were bands and cheerleaders at many of the corners, and you really felt a part of this amazing, huge celebration.
But I also was itching to go faster as we wound our way through It seemed to take so much longer (and it did!). And while it was a very relaxing experience, it seems odd to me to walk a 5K. I guess you do it if you’re in support of the cause. But for me races have always been about not just the cause, but bettering myself, my last time, feeling like I really did something out there. So while I loved walking with my friend and being a part of the Vicki Soto 5K this year, it didn’t really feel like a race. I finished in 52:40, which is slow even for a walk. To be fair, the little girl we were pushing kept wanting to get in and out of her stroller, and that slowed us down. But hey, there are a lot of people who can’t walk a 5K at all, so I’m not complaining.
The only downside to the Vicki Soto race was afterwards. Because we had walked, probably a good 2,000 people had finished ahead of us. And the lines for absolutely everything were insanely long. They had amazing food and all sorts of free stuff for everyone, but by the time I got there, the lines were just too long for me to want to bother with. It didn’t seem worth it to wait in a ten minute long line for a single cupcake. Which is a shame because they had these really awesome vendors giving away great stuff, but the logistics really need to improve if they want to accommodate that many people.
It motivated me to really try to enjoy the Colony Hot Oil 5K today.
So the Colony race is held by a pizza place in Fairfield, CT. It is a 1600 person race and sells out in a matter of days. The “Hot Oil” comes from a type of pizza they sell; thin crust pizza with a spicy jalapeno oil drizzled all over it. Apparently it is a huge thing around here. I’ve lived here ten years and never knew that.
Anyway, today dawned cooler but one of those gorgeous sunny fall days that make you glad to live in New England. I got to the race site early and listened to music in my car. Lo and behold, a friend I had no idea was doing this race walked right by. Fun! This race is so popular I ran into at least five people I didn’t realize would be there.
We lined up under I 95 and set out. I literally haven’t run more than probably ten minutes straight since my triathlon last September, so I told myself I would just do what felt good. Fortunately for me the course was mostly flat except for a few hills in the middle and the dreaded I 95 overpass. But even that wasn’t that bad. I surprised myself by not needing a walk break at all until just before the water stop, when I encountered the first hill. I walked that, and then again when I hit the water stop a short bit later, and kept going.
The course was through a beautiful area near downtown Fairfield, and the foliage is just slightly past peak, so everything was beautiful. The sun had risen and was reflecting off of everything. I marveled at how good I was feeling, and it totally reminded me why I became a runner. I love that feeling of being outdoors and just focusing on your breathing and your legs and not having to worry about anything else right in that moment. After the last few weeks I felt just so grateful to be there, enjoying the beautiful day and the energy that comes from being in a race.
I finished feeling better than I imagined I would have with pretty much hardly any training over the last few weeks. The net time was 37:47 which honestly isn’t terrible for me.
But the best part of the race isn’t the course, even though that’s pretty awesome. It is the after party.
They have a live band, as much beer as you can stand and pizza. And water. That’s it. No granola, no apples, no healthy things anywhere. It was so awesome. The music cranked and I just soaked it all in. I was grateful to be there, and I will definitely be back next year.
So after my last tri, which I did not finish with a smile and pretty much hated once I sat on my very wrong bike, I was determined to find redemption. It came in the form of another sprint triathlon that another girlfriend was doing just two weeks later (yesterday).
The distances were much shorter, and a girlfriend offered me the loan of her much better bike, and I just knew I had to do it. The only downside was the swim: it was the same distance in the much more worrisome Long Island Sound. Which has waves. And salt.
I asked my girlfriends if anyone wanted to join me, and wouldn’t you know, the woman who inspired us all to do the first triathlon, offered to do it. My friend Rebecca, whose fierce will to overcome the death of her son at Sandy Hook by creating healthy living programs for kids, was in. Mostly. Actually she mostly agreed that she was just trying to help me out, but I know somewhere in there she wanted to do a second tri as well. I reasoned that since we were already trained from our tri two weeks ago we really didn’t need to do much to prepare for this one.
Except maybe try to swim in the Sound. We went out last Saturday and were shocked at how much harder it was than the lakes we were used to. The waves and current made it much more challenging. I asked her if she wanted to back out. She doesn’t do that. She said we had to do it.
So we showed up at Compo Beach in Westport, CT yesterday morning at 6am. We pulled up and were greeted by crazy wind that had kicked up from overnight showers and storms. The weather forecast was for the rain to stop, and it wasn’t currently raining, but the skies were ominous. We started worrying about the waves that were higher than anything we’d even imagined. My girlfriend who clued me into the race started nervously texting me: this was her first race and she was ready to get back in her car and go back home. Together Rebecca and I convinced her to at least set up her stuff in transition (it closed at 7) so that she could make that decision herself rather than have it made for her.
We purposely put our stuff close to the bike out of transition. These racks weren’t numbered like our last tri, so I tied one of the purple ribbons I brought to the end of our rack. I brought a garbage bag in case it rained, but it didn’t look like it was going to, so I put it under my towel to keep it clean and dry. Tracy finally agreed to do the race, a few more people we knew surprised us and showed up, and finally it was time to go down to the beach.
The waves were incredible. We walked slowly down to the one end of the beach to the race start. We were in the second wave (only three waves at this tri) so we watched the first wave wander into the water, out to where it was deep enough to swim (but also not too deep so they could stand if they got in trouble) and the race began.
We were into the water next and followed the same procedure. We heard them call us to swim and off we went.
The waves were insane. Buffeting and pushing and crashing around us. I veered out a little more so they wouldn’t crash on me but soon found the energy to keep up and move forward draining. I backstroked like it was my job and looked behind me: men were actually walking through the water. Big men! I wasn’t going to whiff my tri like that, but I did go to where it felt like I could touch in case I needed to. A big wave crashed over me while I was backstroking and after that I did walk the water a bit. Breast stroke, my rest stroke, was totally impossible in the waves. I just did what I could to keep moving forward, and finally we reached the final buoy. I went around it and headed for the shore.
1/2 mile swim: 18:29
To be honest, I can’t quite believe that’s a full half mile. I did the last half mile swim a full ten minutes longer. Everyone’s times are significantly less than I would expect. But no matter.
Into transition. I spotted Rebecca and Tracy both in there, so I wasn’t too far behind, which made me happy. I rinsed my feet, mopped off as much as I could, pulled on my socks and shoes, then my shirt and race belt. I paused to take a big swig of water and get some gum for the salty taste in my mouth. Finally put on the helmet and got the bike down (so much lighter than my bike) and it was go time.
The bike was a dream. The bike was so much easier to move than my other one. I took the opportunity to catch my breath and just enjoyed the ride. There were hills but they weren’t the challenge at all that they had been in my last tri. I happily passed people on lesser bikes. It was the best feeling. We entered the golf course where I knew was the end of the course and before I knew it we were back at the beach.
5.5 mile bike: 20:47
Back into transition, I again had trouble figuring out how to get the bike back on the rack between the ones already there, but I figured it out. I was out of breath from pushing it on the bike. I took off the helmet and grabbed my water bottle. I didn’t feel like I did much else, so most of my transition time was walking my bike in, I guess.
Onto the run. I slowly headed out for the run, and I knew it wasn’t going to be a fast one. I was passed by my friend Tracy and marveled at how fast she was. She finishes a 5K ten minutes before me so I knew that was where she’d smoke me.
No matter. I wasn’t wrecked, and this was a flatter, shorter course. I alternated running and walking and did what Rebecca calls “smile pace”. It totally worked. I was loving the run. OK maybe not loving, but not hating either. We rounded back towards the beach faster than I expected and I was grateful. But then the guy shouted out to me: 3/4 of a mile left! What? We were already back there!
Yeah, it was a major tease. We ran next to the finish, down the parking lot, and then rather than turn there toward the finish, you made a right and did another whole leg down the parking lot before turning around. Cruel! Still I saw most of my crew here, high fived them and found the juice to make the final dash in the sand toward the finish.
2.2 mile run: 25:20
We did it. And I was so much happier than the first time!
Finish time: 1:10:01
We were all kind of delirious with the endorphins at the end. I got a little teary eyed, actually. I never in my life would have thought I could do something like a triathlon. And because I am doing this, I have crossed paths with some amazing people that are bringing so much energy and light into my life. These woman are kind, inspiring and beautiful inside and out. They push you but also pump you up. I’ve always had girlfriends but this somehow feels different. The level of affirmation and enthusiasm everyone has and shares with everyone is really astounding.
So my second triathlon is done. A few of the girls are ALREADY looking at a third, although it is a much bigger one than this. I’m not sure I’m up for it (it is next weekend and I’m already signed up for a 5K the day before) but I love the spirit. Who knows. That’s the beauty of it. I really don’t know what I’m capable of. And I’m loving that.
Well, I did it. I completed my first sprint distance triathlon. Hear that deadpan? Yeah, I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much I thought I would. What? I thought I would enjoy beating myself to a pulp swimming biking and running for over two hours? Yeah, silly me.
We arrived in town the afternoon prior to go to packet pickup and the “first timers” clinic. Not before my girlfriend and I hoped that we’d loaded the bikes on her husband’s bike rack properly (they didn’t fall off on the highway) and not before we realized we hadn’t thought about bike locks (we miraculously “found” one next to the bike in the garage that I didn’t even know was there).
I’m glad we went to the first timers clinic. Even though I read the twelve page rather intimidating information packet before the race, all of the “rules” about biking really were not very clear. The woman who ran the clinic made everything very clear. Was I nervous? No. Probably should have been, but no.
My girlfriend and I checked into the hotel and went to dinner nearby, taking the opportunity to carb load (wine is a carb, right?) by eating way too much. Back to the hotel afterwards for an early bedtime.
We had agreed to wake by 4:45am and leave by 5:15, with the goal of being early enough to find parking easily and navigate our first timer selves through all of the unknowns that lay ahead. We made it to the race site and found it buzzing already even though it was still dark. It was go time.
We unloaded the bikes. First up: to label the bikes with “bike tents” with our race numbers on them. These are big sticky two sided numbers that go on the bike so if someone can’t see your race number while you’re all hunched over riding, they still can figure out who you are. After a few tries, we got it well enough and went to get body marked.
At our tri they marked both arms and our right hands with the last three numbers of our race number and then our left calves with our age. This became really useful later on when I was seeing people pass me…were they older or younger? Shit, that one is over 50. Ha.
Once we had our bodies marked it was time to get into the transition area and set up our bikes. We had to load in certain racks by our race numbers, so my girlfriend and I were no where near each other. I went about my business and so did she. Before long our little areas were all done, and it was still dark out.
Slowly our other friends started to show up and before long it was time to head down to the beach. I was in the fourth wave of swimmers, so we watched how each group would line up, get corralled and then walk over the timing mat and into the water.
The horn blew and it was go time. As with running, I positioned myself in the back and started out slow. It was harder than my training swims; I had to drop into breast stroke more than I had planned. But I plodded on and just got it done. About two thirds of the way through I saw some new colored caps coming up from behind; the next wave. Oh well. No one said I was here to set any records.
Half mile swim: 28:32.
I left the water feeling pretty good. It was a long slog but I felt I’d done what I could do. It was a fair distance from the beach to the entrance to transition; at first I was trying to walk it to save energy but it was taking forever so I started to jog.
I got into transition and felt calm. I grabbed my towel and mopped off and put on my shirt with my race bib on it. It took a little tangling being wet but I managed. Next up shorts over the suit. Then I quickly rinsed my feet and grabbed a swig of water before drying my feet and putting on the socks and shoes. I put on my helmet and walked my bike out of transition in what I felt was a decent amount of time.
Onto the bike and ready to go. Within a minute I felt something pulling hard on my left shoe; I realized my shoelace was wound around my pedal. Shit! I pulled off to the side and tried to unwind it. I could just feel the precious seconds ticking by as it wasn’t unwinding. Finally I had to pull off the entire shoe and slowly unwind it. I managed that, and then retied both shoes in double knots. I was frustrated at the time I lost, but no matter. I had to get moving.
Once out on the course I felt good. I knew all along I didn’t have a racing bike; it is an old bike that I now know is a hybrid road/mountain bike. It is built for tough trails and can take anything. What it doesn’t do well is hills. And when the first one hit, I could feel my energy sap. Oh well, I told myself, the course was supposedly pretty flat so I should be fine.
Yeah, no. There were several pretty decent hills within the first few miles and I was breathing hard through them. It was a struggle even in my lowest gear and I could feel my energy and enthusiasm drain out of me with every person that passed me. While I knew I wasn’t going to be speedy, I had trained enough for this to want a respectable time and I could feel it slipping away with every rise in the road.
But I pushed on and tried to talk myself into a better head space. I was working as hard as I could to move the bike and the course was beautiful. Quintessential New England; historic homes, beautiful landscapes, farms. Finally, finally, I entered back into the park and smiled for the camera as they snapped my picture.
11.5 mile bike: 58:51
I ran into transition and went to rack my bike. As I had feared, the rack was completely full because I’d been so slow. I found a spot a foot or so down from my stuff and went to lift the bike. Damn, this sucker is heavy! I couldn’t get it up facing one way so I had to stop, turn it around and try again. Success! Then I just rummaged through my bag for my hat (easy to find) and my handheld water bottle (not easy). After getting both, I tried to jog out of transition dreading what I knew lay ahead on the hilly 5K course.
Immediately I knew I was in trouble. All the effort keeping my heavy bike moving had turned my legs to jello. I couldn’t believe how hard even shuffling into the slowest jog felt. I sipped on my handheld bottle and tried to just keep moving forward. As we left transition, I saw the first hill loom in front of me.
I slowed to a walk. I had just no juice left in me at all. I felt completely spent and ready to burst into tears. I told myself that I would just keep moving forward. I would walk until I had enough breath to run, and I would run until I couldn’t any more.
The 5K was on a trail course. It was very hilly, sandy and rooty. It would have been a challenging 5K without having done swimming and biking before it. I absolutely hated every second of it. I had so wanted to enjoy this race but by this time it was everything I had to just keep moving forward and not collapse onto the ground in tears.
It seemed to take forever but finally we left the trails and fortunately for me, the finish line was only about a quarter mile or so beyond. I started jogging and ran as fast as I could towards the time clock, noting gratefully that it said 2:29:30. I had hoped to finish under 2:30 and since my wave started 12 minutes after the first in the water, I knew I’d beaten that by a fair amount.
3.1 mile run: 44:22
I’ve beaten myself up in the time since about finishing last of all of the women in our group doing this triathlon. I couldn’t believe I’d trained so hard, put so much time in and I posted such a poor time. My friends were all lovely even though I was stealing everyone’s joy out of finishing our first triathlon. “Comparison is the thief of joy” and I totally let it suck the amazing accomplishment out of the moment for me. I did the best that I could, I tried to tell myself. But my inner mean girl felt like a fat loser who just couldn’t push herself hard enough.
I now know, after having talked to my local bike shop owner, that my bike was my handicap. He said that the bike is so heavy it is not supposed to be used for racing, and that it simply is harder to move. He congratulated me for completing the course as well as I did considering how much that bike must have taken out of me. He told me I should shave at least ten minutes off of my time to get a truer sense of how hard I’d worked to complete the race.
Now I feel proud of what I did, but also guilty for taking away everyone’s high with my own insecurities and frustrations when I finished the race. I will make it up to them when we repeat this experience again. Because there is no way I will let that experience be my only experience doing a triathlon. I put a deposit down on a new bike today, and I’m already trying to decide when the next one will be.