Friday, October 26, 2012

Ironman 70.3 Augusta Race Report

I know, I know, I know....my race report is waaaaaaaaaay overdue.  But in all honesty I have been processing the experience.  It still seems surreal to me.  So I am sorry this post is so late, but thanks for reading and being on this ride with me.


He gives strength to the weary and power to the weak.
Isaiah 40:29

Sunday morning I woke up at 4:30 am, but didn't get up until 5.  I had butterflies in my stomach, but I was not nervous.  I was just ready to test myself and my training.  My hubby and I were out the door by 5:30 and headed to McDonald's.  My pre-race breakfast of choice was a banana and a Sausage Egg McMuffin with Cheese.  With my belly full I was ready to go to the transition area and finish setting up. 

The transition area looked very different from the day before.  On Saturday I had to bring my bike to transition.  This was the first time I had to do this, but I liked it because it gave me time to get familiar with the transition area.  Well that was the case once I returned from the hotel with my race number for my bike.  At Ironman events you cannot enter transition with your bike without your athlete wristband and your race number on your bike.  Nothing like getting to transition and being told you cannot enter.  Oh well, lesson learned.  I checked the swim start/exit, the bike in/out, and the run out.  The bike racks were numbered by rack and race number.  My rack was located by a set of flags, and my bike was at the end of a section of the rack.  I knew it would not be hard for me to find my bike after the swim.

Sunday morning transition was buzzing!  I couldn't believe all the athletes that were there.  The bike racks that had only been partially full the day before were overflowing.  I have never seen so many bikes in my life!  I get to my bike and I notice that the person beside me did not show up.  I felt bad for that person because who knows why they weren't there, but I was happy that I had extra room to spread out.  I had been monitoring the weather and I knew it was calling for rain later on in the day.  I placed my running shoes and socks in an extra large ziplock bag.  I didn't want to start my run with wet socks and shoes.  I quadruple-checked my area, took one last look around, and headed out to meet my husband. 

My husband and I walked to the swim start which was about a mile and a half away.  There were 24 waves and I was in wave 21.  I didn't mind being in one of the later waves because it gave me an opportunity to take in the sights and and watch the pros.  We triathletes have no shame!  I saw people digging into their shorts to apply lubricant and pulling in their crotches to ensure that their wetsuits fitted properly.  And guess what?  I was one of those people!

The time finally came for my wave to head down to the water.  We walked down to a floating pier.  As we walked across the pier, someone stated that there was a dead turtle on the back side of the pier.  I refused to look at it.  Even though I was still calm, I had heard about and seen the pictures of alligators that were known to reside in the Savannah River.  The river was also known to have really bad weeds.  A couple of days before the race the river had been partially drained to treat the weeds.  Once treated the water was let back in.  The Savannah River is not one of the cleanest rivers.  You can see trash floating in it and it is not that clear, and here I was getting ready to swim in it for 1.2 miles.

I slid into the water.  It is chilly, but not too cold.  I dunked my head underwater and began sculling.  I stayed in the back of the pack and waited for the horn to sound.  The horn blew, and we were off!  Then my nemesis reared its ugly head.  I had a panic attack.  My heart began beating fast and my breathing was fast and shallow.  The pack was leaving me behind and there was nothing I could do until I calmed myself down.  Since I had been managing my anxiety attacks for the past few months, I knew what techniques I needed to use to get through the swim. 

The swim had numerous people supporting it in kayaks and canoes and on paddle boards.  I knew I had to move forward so I choose a canoe and swam to it.  Once I reached it I held onto to is slightly and did my best to control my breathing.  After a few moments I spotted a kayaker several meters down the river.  As I started to swim toward the kayaker my anxiety begin to rise again.  It got to the point that I became light-headed and had to flip on my back.  I slowed my breathing back down, turned back over, and finished swimming to the kayaker.  I took a few moments to regroup and I started to swim again.  This time I didn't have a specific support person in mind, I just wanted to see how far I could go without stopping.

As I swam down the river I stayed near the shore.  I knew I should have swam more towards the center to take advantage of the current, but anytime I would go towards the center, I would panic.  As I continued down the river I ran into a very bad patch of weeds.  I had weeds around my face, throat and hands.  It was nerve racking to say the least.  I took the weeds off me and kept going.  After swimming for a few minutes my anxiety begin to creep up again, and it was more intense than before.  Once again I turned on my back.  As I did the elementary backstroke, I sung This Little Light of Mine.  I realized I was scared of DNF'ing as I did at Monticelloman.  I prayed to God and asked him to calm me down just enough to finish the swim before the caught off.

I came across a lifeguard and stopped to speak to him for a little while.  He gave me a buoy to hold on to.  There was another lifeguard with him and she offered to swim with me for a little while.  She and I swam together for about 100 meters.  By now I was 3/4 down the river and I had gotten myself calm enough to do more freestyle swimming and less of the elementary backstroke.  When I saw the swim exit I felt such great joy and relief.  I remembered being told that it is good to sprint near the end of the swim to get my legs ready for the bike, and that's what I did.  I sprinted as if my life depended on it.

The run from the swim exit to the transition area seemed to take forever.  Since I was in one of the last waves and I had to deal with my anxiety, the transition area was pretty much empty.  I wasn't upset because I was so glad that I had made it through the swim, and more importantly, it made it super easy to find my bike.  My transition was not fast, but I didn't care.  I had made it through the swim.  It was all about the swim. 

The bike portion was pretty uneventful.  I will say I am so glad that I did all of my 4 hours rides alone because for most of the bike I was riding by myself.  As I rode I focused on my nutrition, my cycling position, and my plan for the run.  I wish I could have ridden with a backpack to pick up all of the nice water bottles and sunglasses that were on the ground.  The low point for me was riding through a very impoverished area.  I saw a trailer that looked like it should have been condemned.  There was a toddler standing on a decrepit porch unattended.  There was also a young girl, about 5, playing in the filthy yard.  It saddened me so much that I picked up my speed just to get away from the poverty.
As I stated before, the ride for me was non-eventful.  I didn't have any mechanical issues and my nutrition was spot on.

As I approached the dismount line I heard a cowbell ringing and the familiar voice of my darling husband, my biggest supporter.  Somehow he found where I would be biking in, and he was determined to be there to cheer me on.  Seeing him gave me an emotional, energizing boost.  Even though I had been the one training for so many months, he had sacrificed so much for me.  I could never thank him enough for all of his support, understanding, and patience.

As I racked my bike the drizzling rain was beginning to pick up.  I wasn't concerned about running in the rain, especially since it was a comfortable 69 degrees.  I ran out of transition and there was my husband again ringing the cowbell for dear life and cheering me on.  I was ready for the run!  Several months ago I had begun doing the Jeff Galloway method of running.  My ratio was 4 minutes of running and 1 minute of walking.  I felt surprisingly well as I began the run portion.  The run is 2 loops through Downtown Augusta.  The run is as flat as a pancake, but the downsize is that you pass the finish line 3 times before you actually finish.  My run was going well until I hit mile 3.  My lower back started to seize up.  I was in pain, but I had dealt with this issue before, so I pushed through.  By now the rain was coming down hard, visibility was low, and I was soaked to the bone. 

Slowly, but surely I knocked off each mile.  The volunteers, the triathletes that had already finished, and the people of Augusta were awesome about cheering those of us that were still on the course.  I thought I would only have my lower back to be concerned with, but then my left glute began to seize up on me around mile 9.  My 4:1 became a 4:2.  When I walked I was actually limping.  My body was revolting against me.  I was tired and felt beat down by the rain.  I didn't know if my body was going to hold up.

As I was going through an intersection there was a black, female officer that I had not seen before.  When she saw me she did not smile or say a word, she just looked at me and clapped.  What was not said from her mouth was spoken from her eyes.  She was pushing me on, willing me to keep going.  I will never forget that moment.  When I saw the sign for 11 miles, I stopped and kissed it.  The pain I was feeling was excruciating.  I honestly did not know how I was going to make it through those last two miles.  My limped had gotten worse and my run was at a snail's pace.  I had nothing left.  That's when I prayed and asked God to let my body hold on a little longer; that I needed Him to get me through the last two miles because I knew it would not be my own doing. 

There were two turns to go before the finish.  As I made the first turn I started to hear a cowbell. I looked down at the corner of the second turn, and there was my husband.  Even as I type this I am getting teary-eyed.  I was so glad to see him!  As I headed towards the corner I tossed him my fuel belt.  My husband just kept telling me, "You're almost there Brina, you're almost there!"  As I came around the corner my husband started running with me on the opposite side of the barrier that was separating us.  I am known for sprinting at the end of every race I do, and this race was not going to be any different, no matter how much pain I was in.  At about 50 meters I took off!  The announcers and those still at the finish area began to cheer and clap for me.  When I crossed the finish line I did a cheerleading kick.  I had done it!  I had completed my first half Ironman!

Getting a medal was great, but the best reward was having my husband tell me over and over again how proud he was of me.  He was in awe of me!  And I was just so appreciative of him.  I could not have asked for a better husband.  But besides my husband, I have to give special thanks to my coach, Karen Holloway, my doctor, Dr. Rob Green, and my massage therapist Tricia Powell.  Karen pushed me to better a better athlete, taught me how to swim, and greatly helped me manage my anxiety attacks.  Dr. Green was essential in keeping me healthy and was always willing to give me a tidbit of training/racing advice.  Tricia was more than my massage therapist, she was also my counselor.  She helped me keep my mind in the game.  Furthermore, there were so many other people that helped me achieve this goal such as my teammates, former teammates and coaches, friends, family, and the generous people in the tri community. 

I am so thankful that I started this journey, and I look forward to where it's going to take me.

       




      

Friday, September 21, 2012

Speak It to Believe It

Words kill, words give life: they’re either poison or fruit – you choose.
Proverbs 18:21 (The Message)


Throughout this journey I have battled the negative chatter that periodically pops into my head and occasionally comes out of my mouth.  During one of my workouts it dawned on me that my negative thoughts, especially when they were verbalized, were hindering my training.  I hate to admit this, but at times I would not push myself as hard as I could because I believed I was inadequate and I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable.  I figured since I was slow, why push myself out of my comfort zone?  It’s not as if I would place overall or even in my age group at Augusta – it’s just about finishing before the cutoff.

I was cheating myself.  I was not allowing myself to reach my full training potential or learn how to adequately deal with my mind feeling uncomfortable with my body being pushed to its limits.    But to ensure that the “best me” would show up at Augusta, I knew I had to change my thinking and the way I approached my training.  No longer could I allow myself to wimp out during a difficult workout and settle on being mediocre.  It was time to put my big girl panties on.

During challenging times in my life I have relied on reading scriptures, repeating a mantra in my head, or listening to encouraging and empowering music, but I needed something more.  I had to find a way to turn my mind off so my body could go beyond its comfort zone.  For me it has meant speaking out loud to myself.  Something about hearing my own voice encourage and push me has been a game changer.      

Before my workouts I say out loud, “It’s gonna hurt.”  That does not necessarily mean I will have to endure physical pain, but it lets my mind know it’s time to shut down.  I will admit sometimes, like during a track workout, I have to repeat my mantra several times before my mind turns off.  The track workouts that my coach comes up with are downright brutal at times!  I have been amazed by how much my training has improved in all 3 disciplines just by learning how to turn off that switch.  No longer do I back off when I start to feel uncomfortable during a workout.  I embrace it and just push through it to the best of my ability.    

I am definitely a firm believer that mental training is just as important as physical training.  By speaking words of encouragement over myself, I have built my confidence and belief in myself.  I openly celebrate my training and racing accomplishments, and when I am asked if I am ready for Augusta, I can now confidently say, “Yes I am!”  There is no doubt in my mind that I can complete Augusta.  As long as I keep speaking and believing, I will be able to do just about anything.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Liberated

It is freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  Galatians 5:1


For the longest time I was a slave to my hair.  Before I became actively involved in endurance sports, I would avoid almost any type of activity that would cause me to sweat heavily.  I did not want to “sweat out” my relaxer.  Like so many women, I invested a lot of money and time in keeping my hair beautiful.  I went to the hair salon every two weeks and only used salon quality products.  At its longest my hair was halfway down my back.  I loved my long hair and the attention that it brought me.  Many times I was asked if my hair was a weave, and if so, where did I purchase it.  My hair was part of my identity.

As stated in an earlier blog I began running so I could control my blood pressure without using medication.  I fell in love with running, but I did not love what it would do to my hair.  My relaxers that would normally last up to 8 weeks were barely lasting 5 weeks.  My excessive sweating caused my hair to dry out and become brittle.  I was putting too much stress on my hair because I had to blow dry and hot curl it more often.  I was at my wits end!  I wanted to have beautiful hair, but I didn’t want to give up running.

I finally decided to give up on having great looking hair except for special occasions.  I didn’t want to be one of those women who chose my hair over my health.  According to a government study that was cited in a NY Times article, “nearly 50 percent of black women over the age of 20 are overweight or obese, compared with 33 percent of white women and 43 percent of Hispanic women.”  And unfortunately one of the main reasons that women did not exercise, in particularly black women, was because of their hair.  The black hair industry is a $9 billion dollar industry.  Many black women spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a year to maintain their hairstyles.  In 2011, Surgeon General Dr. Regina M. Benjamin began a crusade of encouraging women to choose their health over their hair.  For me it was no brainer.  I would rather be healthy with ok looking hair, than in a casket with awesome looking hair.

My hairstyle of choice became the pulled back bun.  It was nothing beautiful, but it was easy to do and work appropriate.  Even on days that I didn’t train I would pull it back because I just didn’t want to be bothered with my hair.  Around the time I decided to do a half Ironman, I made the decision to grow out my relaxer and go natural.

For many black women going natural is a HUGE decision, and it was for me.  I had been getting my hair relaxed since I was 10 years old.  I didn’t even know what my natural hair texture was like.  Furthermore, I was unsure of how and if my natural hairstyle would be accepted in the workplace, and how my friends and family would react.  Since I was not 100% sure about my decision I decided to transition than do the big chop.  Transitioning is allowing the hair to grow but periodically trimming the relaxed ends until all the relaxed hair is gone.  The big chop involves allowing your natural hair to grow out a little and cutting off all relaxed hair at once.  The big chop was too extreme for me.  I needed to ease into this transformation.
The transitioning process was not as difficult as I thought it would be.  I still primarily kept my hair in a bun, but when necessary I could style it, even though I was dealing with two types of hair.  The more my hair grew out, the more anxious I became about how it would look.  I just wanted the process to be over with.  On Saturday, August 4th, at 4:00 pm I asked my stylist to cut off the last remnants of my relaxed hair.  I had an event to go to that evening, so I asked her to flat-iron for me.  I would see my hair in its true state the next day.

Late Sunday morning I went for a swim followed by my usual shower and the shampooing and conditioning of my hair.  I used a towel to squeeze the excess water from my hair and gently wrapped it.  As I got dressed my heart began to race.  I was not too sure what was going to be under that towel.  The towel came off and all I saw were curls, curls, and more curls.  I added a little product to style it, and that was it.  I loved what I saw, but most importantly I felt this weight lifted off of me.  I was finally free of my hair!

The freedom that I feel I cannot fully explain.  I feel as if I am beginning a new chapter of my life.  I feel bolder (if that is possible) and more in tuned with myself.  The initial worries I had about how other people would react have disappeared.  My friends and family have been very accepting of my new do.  No more hair worries as I train.  And best of all I can have great looking hair AND my health.  Here I come Augusta….fly and healthy!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Ten Things I have Learned on this Journey so Far

Here are some random thoughts that have crossed my mind as I continue my journey to Ironman 70.3 Augusta.

  1. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to develop a triathlete.  There is so much to learn about triathlons, and I am very fortunate that I have such a great village of people who are so willing to help and encourage me along the way. 
  2. It is important to enjoy this journey since no two journeys are the same.  I am having such great experiences and I am learning a lot about myself as a person and as an athlete.  Augusta will be here in due time. 
  3. When it comes to training, I have to be flexible.  Life happens and at times it will conflict with my training schedule.  I have learned to prioritize and modify my workouts when needed.
  4. Recovery is a key part of training that so many athletes choose not to do.  I diligently try to be in the bed between 8:30 pm and 9:00 pm so I can get at least 8 hours of sleep.  I wear recovery sleeves/socks after a hard running workout.  Furthermore, I am a firm believer in listening to my body.  If something feels off, I am backing off for the day.
  5. Every workout will not result in a breakthrough, but there is always something to learn. 
  6. No matter how detailed of an explanation that I give, some people will never understand why I do triathlons or why I am training for a half Ironman.  And that’s ok.  As long as I understand and I have my husband’s support, that’s all that matters.
  7. I can’t do it all.  At the beginning of this journey I was managing things fairly well, but then the duration of my workouts began to increase and more of my time was focused on training.  I had to make the hard decision and step back from activities that I truly enjoyed, but no longer had time for. 
  8. I have to trust my training and myself.  When I did the Tavern I was so nervous about the open water swim.  So nervous that I decided to have a Swim Angel to help me.  Even though my Swim Angel helped me to be comfortable in the water, I had to trust that I had put in enough time in the water to get the swim done. 
  9. I can’t compare myself to other triathletes.  Some people are more athletically gifted than others and we all have our strengths and weaknesses. 
  10. My faith is more important to me than ever.  On those days when I feel discouraged, I turn to scriptures and inspirational/gospel music to lift my spirit.  Some of my closest moments with God have been while I have been training, especially running.  I know for me to conquer Augusta it’s going to take more than just my training and athletic ability; it’s going to take He who is within me.               


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Getting Back on the Horse

I was recently reminded by my friend and TRIgirl teammate, Ashby, that I had not written a blog post in a while.  I knew I was past due on posting, but I had been unsure on how to properly articulate the rollercoaster of emotions that I have dealt with after my DNF at Monticelloman.  So let me apologize now if this post is not too cohesive.  And Ashby, I promise to be more consistent with my blog posts!

The first couple of days after Monticelloman were really tough for me.  Self-doubt engulfed me.  Even though I was being flooded with positive messages through Facebook and email, I was still allowing myself to be in a funk.  All I wanted to do was have my pity party.  I resorted back to eating junk food as a coping mechanism.  I remember being full and still stuffing my face.  I didn’t want to think about what I saw as a huge failure.  My self-doubt made me question if I should continue doing triathlons.  I even found myself mad at the race director for making the time cut-off 50 minutes instead of the usual 1 hour.  My mind was just all over the place.  The reality was that I had to accept that my best that day was not good enough, and that was a hard pill to swallow.         

I finally decided that my pity party had to end and it was time to get back to work.  I was not the first person to DNF and I would not be the last.  Furthermore, what I initially saw as a failure was actually an accomplishment.  My swim coach had started me from scratch back at the end of February.  During the first five weeks of working with her I suffered from panic attacks.  Once I was able to get them under control with the assistance of my doctor, my swimming begin to improve immensely.  So in 10 weeks I went from barely being able to swim 50 meters to attempting a 1500 meter swim in which I missed the cut-off by only100 yards.  And honestly, I knew before the race I would be cutting it close.  I had just been hoping that I could have made the cut-off.  Oh well…..life goes on.

My next race was the Ground Force IT Sprint.  Fortunately this was a pool swim and was recommended as a good beginner’s race.  I didn’t want to place too much pressure on myself, but I wanted to do well so I could begin the rebuilding of my self-confidence.  Overall the race went well, but I did become a little overwhelmed during the swim portion.  Pool swims during a triathlon can be very chaotic.  There are legs and arms everywhere!  I was so glad to get out the pool that I couldn’t but help but smile as I headed toward transition.  I finished the race strong and was able to take 8 minutes off my sprint tri time.  I was on my way back!

I have been preparing for the Tavern Tri which is this weekend.  This is an open water swim in the “lovely” James River.  I would be lying if I said I didn’t have any concerns about the swim.  The James River can be unpredictable and the swim course for the race has not been determined.  I am glad the distance for the swim is only 650 meters and I will have my own Swim Angel to escort me.  I timed myself and was able to swim 650 meters in under 30 minutes, which is the swim cut-off.  Even though I have been recovering from a bout of tendonitis caused by running a very hilly 10K course in Madison, WI, I have been consistent with my training.  I am hitting the pool 4 days a week, which includes swimming once a week in the 50 meter GRAP pool, increasing the intensity on my bike rides, and incorporating the Jeff Galloway run/walk system. 

I feel pretty good about the race, but there is some self-doubt lingering in the back of my mind.  I don’t want to DNF again.  I want to get into the James River, handle my business, and come out of the river with a smile on my face.  I can only do my best; I just hope on Sunday my best is good enough. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

So Close, Yet So Far

The day I have anxiously been waiting for has finally arrived, the Monticello Olympic tri.  It’s time to put myself and my training to the test.  My morning is going fairly well as I make last minute race preparations.  Even though I am hungry, it is hard for me to eat.  My pre-race meal includes baked chicken, a baked sweet potato, and collard greens.  I know that may seem heavy and/or weird, but I know that combination will give me the energy that I need.  Once I finish my breakfast and gather my things, it’s time for the hubby and me to head to the race site.

During the drive I keep walking through my swim strategy that my swim coach gave me the day before on the phone.  We had discussed it before, but she knew how nervous I was and it would be a good idea to remind me.  The closer we get to the race site, the more apprehensive I feel.  I know I can do this swim, but I also know it is going to be close…..real close to the 50 minute cut-off time.  I don’t even think about the bike and run portions of the race.  My mind is only on the swim.

We finally make it to the race site and it is abuzz with activity.  As I approach the transition area I see Lake Monticello.  It’s big and looks menacing, especially since it is a cloudy, dreary day.  I tell myself I will deal with her in due time, but right now I need to get my transition area set up.  Fortunately for me the Olympic transition is not as crowded as the half transition area.  Except for one minor hiccup, I successfully organize my transition area.  After making a final run to the porta-potty I grab my wetsuit from my hubby and head to shore.

Right before I get to the lake I run into one of my teammates who is there for moral support.  She helps me get my wet suit on and we walk together to the beach.  As I stand on the beach and chit-chat, I can feel my stomach tightening.  I am becoming more and more nervous and begin to question myself.  Fortunately one of my tri coaches walks up to me and gives me some advice on how to handle the swim.  There is a designated area for athletes to do their warm-ups and I know I need to jump in for a little while.  My swim coach had advised me to do so, especially since the water was going to be a little chilly.  I put my face in the water and do a few strokes.  I feel ok and decide this may not be as bad as I think. 

I am thankful I am in the last wave.  I don’t have to worry about anyone swimming over me since I have decided to jump in a few seconds after everyone else begins.  As the countdown for my wave begins, I feel like I am going to vomit.  If I vomit in the water, so be it, I am going to swim through it.  The horn sounds, and we’re off.  Once I am in the water I take a few strokes, but then something goes wrong.  I begin to panic.  I can’t catch my breath.  I float on my back a little and flip back over.  I take a few more strokes, but every time I place my face in the water, my body freaks out.  She doesn’t like the fact that I cannot see the bottom.  This is going to be an interesting swim.

As I attempt to regroup, I notice the other swimmers are getting further and further away from me.  I don’t dwell on it because for me it’s not about being one of the first ones out of the water, it’s just trying to beat the time cut-off.  I see one of my teammates get pulled from the water.  She is having difficulty breathing and has had enough.  Once she is in the boat, this sense of loneliness engulfs me.  She and I were both concerned about the swim and had been encouraging each other prior to the race.  I was hoping she and I could push each.  I am going to have to push myself.  I continue to struggle to get to the first buoy, which is 300 meters away.  I even take a break on one of the kayaks.  After who knows how long I make it to the first buoy.  I ask for the time and realize I really need to get moving. 

At the second buoy I regroup again and come up with a plan.  I decide I will take 10 – 12 strokes and either flip over on my back or aqua jog.  Thanks to the wetsuit, I am super buoyant and aqua jogging is a breeze.  I begin to make some progress, but the boat that has my teammate on it is coming my way.  I can smell the gaseous fumes coming from it and it makes me feel nauseous.  The boat seems to follow me.  I want to scream so bad and say, “Leave me the hell alone!  I am not getting out of this damn water!”  That would take too much precious energy, so I keep pushing on, and fortunately the boat goes away.  I soon discover that anytime I flip on my back, I get off course, so now it’s swimming and aqua jogging.          

As I make my way to the second buoy, I realize I have my own personal kayak escort.  Periodically I ask him for time and periodically he encourages me.  I really don’t see any other swimmers in the water.  I am scared and feel alone.  I begin praying, reciting scriptures, and talking out loud to myself for encouragement.  I know my kayak escort thinks I am crazy!  Finally I make it to the second buoy!  900 meters down and only 600 meters to go.  I tell myself that I need to pick up the pace a bit, regardless how much my body may freak out.  I can now see the shore and my kayaker tells me I am about a 100 yards away, a football field.  I pick up my pace a little more, and then it happens….time is called on me.

Soon as I hear it that awful word, my meltdown begins.  If I had not had on a wetsuit, I would have gone underwater.  I stop all movement and just cry, and not the quiet cry, but the ugly, bawling type of cry.  A boat comes and I am pulled out of the water.  As I sit in the boat I just keep repeating I am a failure.  The volunteers try to console me, but I am inconsolable.  I literally ache.  I have never felt so embarrassed, humiliated, or defeated in my life.  I do not want to go to shore and face my husband and friends.  I feel I have let so many people down, especially my husband and my swim coach.  I just want to go home and dwell in my misery.

As soon as the boat reaches the dock, my husband is right there to try and comfort me.   I am not hearing it.  I don’t want to be touched; I don’t want to hear that I should be proud of myself.  I just want to be left alone.  As I storm up to the transition area, I rip off my goggles and throw them as hard and far as I can.  I am mad at myself for not making the cut-off.  I ask God why didn’t he help me finish, which is completely foolish on my part.  If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have gotten as far as I did.  During my meltdown the tears will not stop falling and snot is flying everywhere.  I don’t care.  I am hurting and I am not concerned about who sees me.  I knew I wanted to finish the swim, but I didn’t realize how badly I had wanted it until time had been called on me. 

Once in transition I slowly begin to gather my things.  There are other people around me, some I don’t even know, and they all are doing their best to console me.  I try to be polite, but I am still not trying to hear it.  I just want to go home.  My husband and I gather my things and we head to my vehicle.  On the way I run into some of my friends who offer me hugs, words of encouragement, and wisdom.  The tears are still dropping, but I am finally gaining control of my emotions.  Complete strangers walk up and tell me how proud they are of me and even hug me.  I am amazed by the outpour of care that I am receiving.  The tri community is so awesome!

I could go on about the aftermath, but this post is long enough, and I am still processing some things.  So I will save that for my next post.  Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 30, 2012

All I Can Do is Tri

“The only failure is not to try, because putting forth the effort is success in itself.”  The Iron Nun, Sister Madonna Buder

My big race, the Monticelloman Olympic Triathlon (1500 meter swim, 24 mile bike, 10k (6.2 mile run)) is less than a week away.  I am a bundle of nerves and energy.  This is supposed to be my taper week, but I know it’s going to be hard to keep still.  My plan is to work on cleaning out my closet, switching out my clothes, and begin reading the ’50 Shades of Gray’ series to keep myself preoccupied.  We’ll see how that goes.

I want to say I am 100% confident about this race, but I’m not.  I am still a little concerned about the swim.  I just relearned how to swim freestyle in 10 weeks.  Things are just starting to click for me in the water.  I wish I had more time, but I don’t, my crazy train is almost at its destination.  I told my swim coach that I would do my best not to embarrass her at the race.  She told me that there was no way she could be embarrassed because I have come so far in such little time.  She went on to say that she was already proud of me.  Her comments gave me a much needed confidence boost. 

I’m fortunate that over the past few weeks I have had the opportunity to swim in the open water three times prior to the event.  Each time I grew more comfortable in the open water.  Furthermore, my swim coach recently put me in situations that I may encounter during the swim.  She had the advanced swimmers grab at my feet, bump me, swim over me, and even pull me under the water.  All very scary stuff of course, but I am glad I now know what to expect.

Even though I am not completely confident about this race, I am going to give it my all.  What I may lack in physical ability, I will make up for it by my sheer will to succeed.  Part of my race strategy is to live in the moment and only focus on each part of the race as it occurs.  To ensure that I stay focused, I have a bible scripture for each portion.  They are as follows:

Swim – Isaiah 43:2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you….

Bike – 2 Timothy 1:7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.  (I chose this scripture because sometimes I get scared on the bike when I am going downhill really fast.  My teammates know that during those scary times I will say, “Jesus, take the wheel!”  Furthermore, cycling is a lot about power and having control/self-discipline on the bike.)

Run – Isaiah 40:31 ...but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Throughout this week I will focus on these verses and visualize having a successful race.  If I can conceive it, I can achieve it.  I have to trust my training, myself, and He who is within me.  I CAN DO THIS!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Reality Check

Over the past few weeks I have had to evaluate where I am as an athlete, my race schedule, and my goals for this year.  The catalyst for this evaluation began on February 25th when I ran my first 8 mile run in over two years for my ½ marathon training.  The run was hard.  My body ached because it was not used to that type of mileage.  Mentally I was drained, but I forced myself to get through the run.  I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I did it, but boy did I pay for it the next day!

Sunday morning I woke up with what I like to call “crunchy knees."  Every few steps my knees would ache, the type of ache that makes you wonder if you have just shortened your race season or not.  I decided I would take it easy for the next few days and see if that would ease my crunchy knees.  Unfortunately the crunchy knees did not go away, but lucky for me I had an appointment coming up that Monday with my first-line-of-treatment doctor, Dr. Green.  Dr. Green is my chiropractor, who is also an accomplished triathlete.  He is a genius at doing alignments and performing active release therapy.  If Dr. Green can’t treat me, then I know it’s time for me to see my sports medicine doctor. 

As the week wore on, I begin questioning my spring race schedule.  I had 3 races planned – Monument 10K, the Dismal Swamp Stomp ½ Marathon, and the Monticelloman Olympic triathlon.  I had once again made my training mistake – trying to do too much too soon.  What was I thinking about to sign-up for a ½ marathon?  Yes my training had been going well, but my body was not ready to train for a ½ marathon and an Olympic triathlon.  One of my tri coaches had previously told me that I should have an “A” race for the spring and focus on that.  I had my “A” race, but I also wanted a “B” and “C” race too.  Silly me.

I contacted my tri coach to get her thoughts about me scratching my ½ marathon.  She was in complete agreement.  I also spoke to Dr. Green during my appointment and he also agreed that scratching my ½ was the best thing for me to do.  My quads, which were causing my crunchy knees, were not ready for the mileage of a ½ marathon.  Even though I knew I had made the right decision, I felt defeated.  I had my pity party and cried.  I wanted to be like all of my other friends and teammates that were doing a spring ½ marathon.  I had gotten caught up in the excitement.  It was time to get my head out of the clouds and really consider what I was able to accomplish this year.

I drastically changed my race calendar.  I will not pursue a ½ Ironman this fall.  Instead, I will do another Olympic.  In between my two Olympics I plan to do two sprints.  I also dropped several road races from my schedule.  I have to be realistic about where I am as an athlete, especially as a triathlete. 

I am a beginner triathlete.  The Monticelloman Olympic will only be my second tri.  I am still learning.  I have to stop placing unnecessary pressure on myself and just have fun.  Unfortunately as I type this, I can’t help but keep wondering if I will make out of the water in time for the Monticelloman.  Swimming .9 of a mile in 50 minutes is a real challenge when you are relearning how to swim 2 months prior to the race.  I don’t want to be the black chick that didn’t finish.  That would be a hard pill for me to swallow.  But as my swim coach told me, all I can do is the best to my ability.

I just wish I wasn’t so competitive!  My competiveness is what motivates me to get up and train.  But my competitiveness has consumed me to the point that I am no longer having fun.  I have to get my fun back.  Recently I purchased a beach towel from Pottery Barn Kids that has seahorses with my name embroidered on it.  I also ordered a couple of silly looking swim caps.  I know those purchases may seem irrelevant, but they do help ease some of my tension when it comes to swimming.  I am still working on ways to make my workouts fun like they used to be, but I think that has more to do with my mindset and my goals for this year.

This tri/run season will be about growing as an athlete and enjoying the journey.  I have come a long way since the beginning of preseason, and I need to celebrate my accomplishments, instead of stressing out and having all of these pity parties.  Even though I had to scratch my ½ marathon, my training overall is still going pretty well.  I need to live more in the moment and keep things in perspective.  Easier said than done of course, but I definitely plan to work on it.     

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Riding on the Crazy Train

It’s official, I am riding on the crazy train!  Ozzy Osbourne is the conductor and I am holding on for dear life to the caboose.  The Monticelloman Olympic Triathlon is a little over two months away and I am starting from SCRATCH with my swimming.  Yes, you read that correctly, I am starting from scratch. 

The first time I met with my swim coach she asked me to swim down the lane.  After she saw my interpretation of swimming, she decided that I should start with the basics.  After doing a few laps of drills, I decided I needed to tell her that I had signed up for the Monticelloman Olympic.  So I took a break and told her.  She looked at me, started laughing, and said, “We have a lot of work to do.”  Surprisingly I felt relieved.  I just knew she was going to tell me I wouldn’t be able to do the race.  So here I am behind the 8 ball.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about not finishing the swim portion of the Monticelloman.  There is a 50 minute time limit for the 0.9 mile swim.  Swimming is my weakest discipline.  My breathing can be sporadic, I kick frantically, and I have the occasional panic attack.  I have been “swimming” 3 days per week since November, and here I am starting over, having to unlearn bad habits and quickly learn new ones.  I am always up for a challenge, but this one has me shaking in my boots, or in this case, shaking in my fins. 

Even though the odds are stacked against me, I am determined to be a viable competitor at the Monticelloman.  What I may lack in natural ability I make up in heart, determination, and hard work.  I have the support of my husband, family, friends and TRIgirl/TRIquest coaches and teammates.  My swim coach is one of the best and is willing to give me her best as a coach.  Lastly, I know I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. 

So I am riding the crazy train all the way to the Monticelloman, and I am not to letting go until I make it to the finish line.  Choo-choo……..

Friday, February 10, 2012

Coming to Terms with the Scale

Ever since I started monitoring my weight I have had a love/hate relationship with the scale.  When she showed me a number that I wanted to see, she was my best friend.  I would be on a euphoric high for the rest of the day.  I could conquer anything because of that number on the scale.  But when she showed me a number that I didn’t like, even though it was the truth, I would curse her and threaten to throw her out with the trash.  My mood would become dark and I would feel defeated.  I would ask myself what went wrong, even though I knew the answer.  Once again my emotional eating had gotten the best of me.

Emotional eating….that thing that would have me eating when I was happy, sad, bored, and indifferent.  On a bad day I could go through a box of Captain Crunch Oops All Berries or Lucky Charms in less than a day.  Even worse I would exercise like a mad person only to eat all of my hard work away.  The scale was showing me my ugly truth, but I knew before I could come to terms with the scale, I had to deal with my emotional eating.  

My emotional eating started when I was in elementary school.  I was dealing with some issues and realized I found comfort in food.  As I became older food was a constant friend, my saving grace was that I was involved in athletics and had a great metabolism.  Right after college I put on some weight, but soon took it off once I noticed my clothes were no longer fitting.  Fast forward to age 30.  My metabolism sloooooooooowed down.  I was no longer working out and the pounds started to pack on.  I was concerned, but not overly concerned.  That was until I went for my annual physical at the age of 33.  My doctor told me I was overweight, 168 pounds, and I had high blood pressure.  The first thought through my mind was, “What the hell?!”  But I knew I had put myself in this situation.  It was time for action!

I signed up for the Monument 10K Training Team and began running.  The pounds begin to come off, but then the weight loss stalled.  In my mind since I was running I could eat what I wanted, as long it wasn’t high in salt.  Oh what twisted thinking I had!  When the weight stopped coming off, I started buying diet books.  You name it, I probably read it.  I had my own diet book library.  So I had all of this information, but I was only semi applying it.  Furthermore, I still was not dealing with my emotional eating. 

I thought the answer was a nutritionist.  Wrong!  To make a long story short I went through four of them!  I felt like I was dating.  Things would be fine for a while, but I would find a characteristic I didn’t like, and use that as a reason to end the relationship.  That became old and expensive very quickly.  Finally it dawned on me that I had the answers.  I knew what I needed to do, but I had to face my emotionally eating head on.  I had to come up with a plan.

My plan is quite simple.  I mindfully eat.  I make sure I am aware of how I am feeling, what I am eating, and how much I am eating.  If I am upset and I see myself reaching for food, I stop and deal with what is upsetting me.  I ask myself if what I am eating is going to fuel my workouts or slow me down. (I do throw in treats here and there.  I LOVE the Smart Ones Chocolate Cookie Dough Sundaes.)  I can be a little heavy handed with my portions.  So either I measure or do my usual serving and split it in half.  Don’t get me wrong, I do slip-up sometimes.  To counter my slip-ups I try to keep a lot of healthy food in the house.  If I am going to emotionally eat, it will be a piece of fruit or some other healthy snack.

Now back to my relationship with the scale…….During my rollercoaster relationship with the scale, she has only been doing what she was supposed to do.  She is keeping me accountable.  I cannot fault her when she tells me the truth.  At the same time I cannot allow the truth make or break my day.  Every weekly weigh-in is not going to show a deficit, and that’s ok.  The important thing is that I am getting my emotional eating under control.  And you know what?  I am starting to lose weight again! 

My body is changing!  I am noticing less chub rub between my thighs and more definition where there was none.  Through my coaches I have learned about body composition, the ratio of lean body mass to fat.  So even though the scale may say I weigh 154.2 pounds, it is only telling me part of the truth.  During my last body composition measurement and weigh-in, I was told I had only lost one pound.  At first I was a little down until my coach told me I had lost 1.5 pounds of fat and had gained ½ pound of muscle!  That put things in a completely different perspective. 

So the scale and I are now cool.  She is not the enemy.  She is just another tool that I use to help me get across the finish line.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Negative Chatter, the Self-Esteem Killer

Lately there has been a lot of negative chatter in my head.  At first I really didn’t pay it any attention; I just pushed the chatter into the back of my head.  But the chatter became louder and louder and harder and harder to push back.  Then the unthinkable happened…I begin to listen to it and unfortunately I started to believe it.

Throughout my life I have gone through cycles of low self-esteem.  The cycle would usually be triggered by an event such as being rejected by a boy when I was a teenager or not getting a job I applied for as an adult.  The cycle could last a couple of weeks or go on for a few months.  During these cycles I question everything from my looks, intelligence, and abilities.  And regardless if people tell me otherwise, I only see the worst in myself.  I am going through one of those cycles now.

The negative chatter started when I begin my pre-season triathlon training in November.  I had taken too much time off from my sprint triathlon and had lost a significant amount of my fitness.  The first time on the trainer I was out of breath and my legs were on fire, even though the resistance was set very low.  The chatter became louder as I began running with my teammates during Thursday morning training sessions.  I would be in the back of the pack, huffing and puffing, just trying to keep them in my eyesight.  Now the chatter is really loud because even though I have found my inner fish, she is skittish.  Lately I have been having panic attacks whenever I swim.  The attacks do not stop me from doing my workouts, but it takes a long time to do them because I keep stopping to catch my breath and compose myself.

So once again I have fallen into the trap of listening to that negative chatter.  I am questioning my ability to even attempt the Monticelloman Olympic Tri in May.  My panic attacks have me frustrated and wondering if I should just stick to running and cycling….hello duathlons.  During some team workouts I feel inferior to my other teammates to the point that I just want to stop and go home. 

At times I have repeated the negative chatter I hear to others.  I don’t realize it at first until someone, such as my husband, or one of my coaches, calls me out on it.  I don’t like where I am mentally right now in regards to my training.  Training for any type of endurance sport is just not physical, but mental too.  I have to be focused and mentally tough if I am going to complete this 70.3 journey I am on and achieve the goals that I have set for myself.

Well today I served the negative chatter an eviction notice.  Enough is enough!  I have come too far as a triathlete to allow my training to be detoured by my own doing.  As some of older relatives would say, “it’s time to get my head right.”  I know the negative chatter is not going leave willingly or easily.  I allowed it to make itself at home.  As with training, I have a plan to   
follow to rid myself of my nemesis.

First, I will reflect on the progress that I have made in my training.  I know I am stronger and faster than I was prior to my training.  Even though I am dealing with panic attacks while I swim, I AM becoming a better swimmer.  Furthermore, sooner or later these panic attacks will subside.  Secondly, when the negative chatter tries to invade, I will fight it with a song, bible verse, or mantra that brings me inner strength.  Lastly, I will ask for encouragement from my husband, friends, family, and teammates and I will BELIEVE them when they encourage me.  

So my battle with the negative chatter is on.  I am fighting it with everything I got and I do not expect to fail.  I have too much to accomplish in 2012.