Monday, October 6, 2014

Intro to Triathlons: Osprey Sprint (well MY intro into triathlons and we all know what kind of luck I have) (post 2)

The Silver Lining Sexy Bitches (mostly) of SOMD
Look at those waves....
Trying to tri is very new and different for me, unfortunately I'm still me so I have a certain set of expectations for myself.  When running a race you can control MOST of the race day factors, not so with triathlons.

When I am running a race my list of things I cannot control are:

  • Weather;
  • Other Runners;
  • Unexpected Illness, Fall or Injury; and
  • Misleading Race Descriptions/Course Malfunctions/parking and transportation/traffic (or a ½ Marathon that was 12.7 miles or so, whoops).
In Triathlons the list of things I have learned I cannot control based on my *VAST* experience of two tris include:

  • All of the above listed but replace Other Runners with Other Athletes;
  • Water conditions (too cold, hot, or choppy);
  • Jelly Fish
  • Forgetting equipment needed in the transition area;
  • All equipment functioning and in perfect working order;
  • All replacement parts for said equipment packed and on board AND in working order; 
  • Not drowning;
  • Wetsuit not coming unzipped;
  • Swim cap not falling off;
  • Tire not getting a flat;
  • Air compressor not getting stuck and over inflating/popping the spare inner tube; and
  • the list is freaking endless....
A sea of people.
Photo by Nicole McGee
The Osprey Sprint Triathlon was to take place in Snow Hill Maryland on October 4, 2014 and a group of us signed up and began our training in June.   I had had my eye on a triathlon for a long time but had never had the "perfect storm" of circumstances to get me motivated to try and tri.  Working with a group of women who were mostly new to the sport was a huge motivator, my running partner always wants me to train with her but she holds a very high USAT ranking and does full IronMans--training with her sounds super scary (although she has spent a lot of time convincing me to try to tri). 

October 4th is also the anniversary of my postpartum hemorrhage and hysterectomy or "PTSD Frenzy/Flashback Day" (think multiple blood transfusions and being awake in the ICU on a ventilator with a 3 day old baby) as I usually call it.  It's a very hard day to get through with any amount of sanity and I always try to have something fun to distract myself with or I literally fall apart, it's a day where everything has to go perfectly or I lose my shit.  So clearly signing up for a triathlon with the above list of non-controllable factors demonstrates my ability to make great decisions.

Fuck Logic!
Yes, I did. Don't Judge.
Luckily the group of women that I trained and travelled with are dynamic, kind, PATIENT, and incredibly supportive sexy bitches.  We all drove up the day before and had dinner together at a SUPER LOUD cabaret show/restaurant (which I chose (hanging head in shame) as I had been there for lunch and thought the food was yummy) but it was way too loud and long for folks who had to get up and race in the morning.

When we got back to the hotel my roommate and I prepared our race day gear and read through the race description one last time.  I actually slept incredibly well and after spending Sunday-Tuesday with a high fever I felt extra well rested and surprisingly healthy and ready for race day.  

No race is complete without a pre-race selfie.
We arrived at the race start with just enough time to get our transition areas set up, port-o-john visit, wet suit on and get to the open water swim start.  

The Swim:

The water was ROUGH, it was a ½ mile of giant waves tossing you around and each time you went to get a breath you got a mouthful of the Chincoteague Bay instead. Spoiler alert--it did NOT taste good.  My swim cap got kicked off my head about 3 minutes into the swim but I managed to hang on to it--why? I'll never know.  I magically finished the swim in 14:46 which is about 6 minutes faster than I had anticipated even BEFORE I saw how rough the water was.  I think I swam faster because I was desperate to get out of the water as I was terrified of drowning.  My transition time was a smooth and easy 1:43.
All of this, yes.  Tasty too.

The Bike:
The first two miles I felt like someone had put a jet pack on the back of my bike.  I was cruising at 20 mph and feeling amazing I was passing people younger than me and was in total shock at how strong I felt.  Then it happened.  FUCK.  Flat Tire.  

So, I've changed one inner tube in my life and that was only so that I would know how to do it in a pinch--NOT for time.  I pulled to the side of the road and got the tire off and was able to discern that the inner tube indeed had a puncture so it had to be replaced.  FUCK. Put the new tube in, attached the CO2 charger and filled it but the attachment WOULD NOT come off no matter how hard I pulled so it popped the tire with too much air.  FUCK.  It was at this moment that I lost my shit.  I had just wasted 10 minutes and did not have an extra inner tube--this is when I realized I was getting my first DNF on my PTSD day to boot, and the tears came, unexpected and unbidden.  Someone asked me if I needed help and I just said tell them to send someone to get me when you finish.  About 5 minutes later a van pulled up and I was getting ready to pack my bike in the back. But Buzz (who will forever be referred to as "Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue" in my mind) came flying out of his van with an inner tube and a pump.  He had my tire ready to roll in under 5 minutes, I introduced myself, got his name so I could remember my hero, and pedaled off as fast as I could.  

It's entirely possible I overreacted.
My Garmin shows a break of 21:23 on the side of the road but there is no way to calculate how that rest for my legs improved my time for the remainder of the cycle and then the run.  I finished the cycle portion in 1:12:30 with my 21 minute break included and averaged (per my Garmin) about an 18.5-20 mph pace.  Transition two was 1:17 but I was definitely starting to have a little pity party for myself.

An event like this might play to my strengths.
Plus, wouldn't this count as a brick workout???
The Run:
I just ran 3.1 miles on an out and back course.  My pace was just under a 9 minute mile but given how I had just over extended my legs to try and make up lost time on the cycle I'm totally OK with that pace.  I met a young athlete named Jason along the run who encouraged me to keep running and it helped, a lot, he was like a drill sergeant.   

Photo by Nicole McGee
My final time was 1:58:07.  I wish I could just subtract the 21 minutes and say OK, that's what my time COULD have been but I do not think it's that easy.  No matter how I try to reason it in my mind I know that the break my legs got gave me a lot more power in the cycle and run than I would have had otherwise.  More importantly the setbacks made me realize that even when things go wrong triathlons are incredibly fun, the extra challenges and unknowns make the sport that much more intriguing to me.  

On the drive home it also gave me something to focus on besides ventilators, blood transfusions, a missing uterus, and a gorgeous baby that came home from the hospital weeks before I was healthy enough to.  Triathlons as PTSD therapy--this could seriously be a thing.

As for the "Silver Lining Sexy Bitches" I hope we return each year and try to tri.  Maybe the same race, maybe new challenges, but definitely the same group of tri-warriors (different restaurant FOR SURE).

I had to show the pumpkins I bought on
the way home.  Tri-Season is over--let the
training for my spring races begin!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Intro to Triathlons (well MY intro into triathlons and we all know what kind of luck I have) (post 1)

I think I can get used to starting lines that look like this.
This summer has been all about training for a triathlon, I swam, biked, ran and bricked in every distance and variation that I could think of.  As with many marathoners/ultra-runners one day you start thinking to yourself that as much as I love running it's probably better for my body to mix it up a little.  My regular running partner does triathlons (um, Ironman Distance Triathlons) and while she has always been very encouraging and has tried to get me to train for one I have always been hesitant since she's so much more accomplished in the swim/cycle portion of the event.

Age on calf, genius.
Over the past year a friend of mine was diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer, given my history I spent a lot of time with her and helped where I could as she went through treatment.  In an effort to finish her journey with a silver lining she organized a group of her friends who are mostly new to triathlons to "try to tri" for the Osprey Sprint Triathlon in Snow Hill, MD.  Since most of us have never done a tri before this was far less intimidating for me and I was thrilled to jump on board and train with this amazing group of women (and they are completely awesome).

All of the essentials laid out 
in order of use.
As we trained I started thinking (I know--oh shit) that my body is geared more towards endurance, the distances of the Osprey sprint triathlon are: a ½ mile swim, 15 mile cycle and 3.1 mile run.  I was training with a 2 mile swim, 20 mile cycle and 15 mile run.  This does not seem right.  The obvious answer was to sign up for an olympic distance triathlon less than a week before the sprint, right????

I signed up for the Giant Acorn International Distance Triathlon in Lake Anna.  It was a 1 mile swim, 27 mile bike ride and 6.2 mile run.  PERFECT.  I got there early and got all marked up with my bib # on my arm and leg and my age and category on the back of my calf (I think all running races should do this--so if I am behind and see a woman with a 38 I know I don't have to give that extra push to pass her to win my age group and if you have not figured that I am competitive that way then I cannot help you).

Cycle and transition gear ready to go!
After this I immediately saw a friend of mine from the gym in the restroom and our bib/transition area assignments were even close since we were both novices.  This was the BEST way to start my first tri.  I knew I was suffering from a case of pre-race/new-experience jitters but I just let it go and set up my transition area for the tri.  Everything looked in order, so I got in the wetsuit and waited for my wave to start.

The water was perfect and calm in Lake Anna, I had people swimming over me and it was fine.  I kept swimming way out from the buoys, then back in, then back out,  but I was going for the experience so I was totally fine with it.  As I made the last turn for the final ⅓ mile or so I started to realize that I really was not feeling very well.  My head hurt and I felt a little weaker than I should, the water was way too warm and my level of exertion was way too high to have chills.  I of course, ignored this.
Yup, that smooth. NOT.
My very first transition ever was upon me and I was determined to rock it.  I transitioned in 3:08 which was far better than I expected.  On to the cycle.  Soooooo....I have never cycled more than 25 miles or so on anything but flat terrain.  I was not the tiniest bit physically or mentally prepped for the hilly 27 mile cycle, especially since it became increasingly clear to me that I was suffering from more than a simple case of pre-race jitters.  Mike was home with a cold and fever and I was beginning to guess that he had shared with his dear and loving wife.  More than once I thought--"DNF, why not?"  Since I've never DNF'd ANY kind of race, I was not prepared to let my first tri be the race to carry those letters.
This I think I can do.

On to T2.  1:43---YIPPEE.  In and out.  The 10K was VERY hilly but it finished with a wonderful downhill and I was able to maintain a sub 9:30 pace which I am actually proud of given that my temp was 102 when I got home.  The Giant Acorn International was an extremely friendly and perfectly organized race especially for someone who had no clue what in the heck they were doing.  Like, even a little clue.

Even though I had to spend the next two days in bed I am so glad that I went and tried to tri.

My final time was 3:22:35 which put me way at the end of the pack but I DID IT.  Hooray for low expectations and exceeding them!  The best part is that the two women I ran into from my area both won first in their category.  One of them kicked ass as the overall female novice winner and the other was #1 in the Athena category.  Way to go SOMD ATHLETES!

Why I normally stick to just running.  In this instance I ½ assed two things AND whole assed one thing.  I am leaning towards a tri-addiction.  I cannot lie when I tell you that my Iron Man running partner is more than a little excited.
Have you ever tried for a tri?  

What went right and what went wrong?  My transitions were good, everything else...meh?