Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Turning Point

“In every life there is a turning point. A moment so tremendous, so sharp and clear that one feels as if one's been hit in the chest, all the breath knocked out, and one knows, absolutely knows without the merest hint of a shadow of a doubt that one's life will never be the same.”
Julia Quinn, When He Was Wicked

My race season has begun and as I anticipated I had my behind handed to me.  My first race was the Richmond Tri Club Sprint on April 26.  This is an amazing event that is put on by my tri club.  The swim portion of the race is held in an Olympic-size pool and it is treated as an open water swim.  Buoys are placed in the pool and participants must swim around the buoys and cannot push off of the walls.  The swim is down in waves of 10.  The swim goes by so fast!  It is my favorite pool swim triathlon.

Since I am still rehabbing my foot, I chose not do the run portion of the race.  The race did not offer an aquabike division, so I asked one of my teammates to do the run for me.  Our team name was Salt-n-Pepa.  We are both old school hip-hop heads.  

The swim went fairly well considering I had a panic attack for the entire swim.  I felt as if my heart was going to burst out of my chest.  I swam my fastest 400 meter to date during a race.  My time would have been faster if I had not gotten caught behind a couple of people and had to literally fight my way through a pack near the end.  When I came out of the pool I was a little light-headed, but I was able to make it to transition.  I made it through the bike, but my legs were toast when I was done.  Fortunately my teammate is super fast and ran the 5k in 20:21!  My teammate and I didn’t place, but we did not come in last.  I considered that a small victory since most of the other teams had 3 members.

On May 4 I participated in the Monticelloman Olympic Triathlon in beautiful Charlottesville, VA.  This race is very sentimental to me because it is the first open water swim race I ever attempted and it’s where I DNF’d in 2012.  As I set-up my transition area, my heart was heavy.  Last year my friend and I had chosen to do this race together to prepare for Ironman 70.3 Raleigh.  Furthermore, my husband was not in attendance.  He was doing mom duty for me so I could race.  Before my open water races, my husband calms me by saying a prayer over me and the other racers.  Even though many of teammates and friends were there, I felt a little lost.

Thank goodness for my friend Lenora!  She is a deaconess at her church and a mutual friend of my friend that passed away recently.  Lenora and I stood on the beach and prayed.  

She stood in the gap for me which helped me to settle down.  I surprised myself during the swim.  Usually I wait a little bit to jump in the water so that I can avoid all of the kicking and hitting, but this time I decided to get in the mix.  I didn’t get bumped too many times and found myself in the middle of the faster swimmers and the slower swimmers.  I was in a good place because I was able to find my groove and swim on my terms.  There was a lot of debris in the water since it has been raining so much in Virginia.  A few times I had sticks and stuff come across my face.  Fortunately I did not have a panic attack and was able to complete the swim under the 50 minute time cut-off.

When I came out of the water I had a very bad case of vertigo.  I was zig-zagging across the beach like I was drunk.  I do not know how I made it to the transition area.  I later learned that when extremely cold water gets into your inner ear (the water temperature was about 65 degrees) it can cause vertigo.  For now on I am going to wear earplugs.  I do not want to have to deal with that again.  I actually had to sit down for a few moments before I could put on my cycling gear.

The first half of the bike course is a beast!  It is very hilly.  The hills were bad enough, but the wind made it worse.  There were headwinds and crosswinds.  My legs were not ready and I struggled to finish.  In spite of my less than stellar performance, I learned a very important lesson about my race nutrition.  I do not need to eat a lot before my race.  My breakfast prior to the race consisted of a piece of banana bread and a half of a banana.  Fifteen minutes before my wave I ate a Hammer peanut butter gel.  On the course I had water and Heed by Hammer.  I was so concerned that I was going to bonk, but that wasn’t the case.  I decided to test out my nutrition on my first ever century ride, the Cap to Cap.

Prior to completing the Cap to Cap, my longest bike ride EVER was 60 miles.  My longest ride this year was 46 miles.  My coach wanted the Cap to Cap to be my first century since it is well supported and there were plenty of SAG stations.  My plan was to be conservative for the first half of the ride and stop at all the SAG stations.  I wasn’t too sure if I would be able to complete the ride, but I was willing to give it a try since my coach told me to do it.

For breakfast I had 2 appetizer chicken biscuits and 1 banana.  On my bike I had a bottle of Heed, a bottle of Sustained Energy, and Endurance Amino and Endurolyte tablets.   All of these items are Hammer products.   I also had a bottle of water that I refilled at each SAG station.  As I started my journey I came across a man named George.  George was from Maryland and he believed it was meant for him to ride with me to make sure I finish my first century ride.  George meant well, but at times I wanted to knock him out!  He kept trying to persuade me to deviate from my plan.

Once he determined I was going to stick to my plan, he left well enough alone and started to tell me about himself.  He’s married with 2 adult children.  His mother has Alzheimer’s, but unlike mine, she is in a facility and she no longer knows who he is.  As the miles passed by I thought about how fortunate I was that even on my mom’s worst day, she knows who I am.

At the SAG stations I alternated between eating a Hammer peanut butter gel and ¼ of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  At one SAG station I ate a few pickles to ensure my legs did not cramp.  I was not fast by any means, but I was feeling pretty good on my bike.  The only issues I had were some tightness in my shoulders and numbness in my hands.  My hands had become numb because the gel in my gloves had broken down. 

The last 15 miles really challenged me.  I knew I was pushing my body pass its limits.  I had to give myself a pep talk several times, at times out loud.  Around this time George had fallen off a bit.  He admitted to me that his longest ride was 62 miles and he was having a hard time hanging with me.  So with less than 5 miles ago he fell back.  I kept going.  I noticed I was being drafted by an older gentleman on a recumbent bike.  He boldly told me how much easier it was for him to ride since he was drafting off of me.  Fortunately he returned the favor.  Drafting off of him became a blessing in disguise when a storm hit.  There was lightening, high winds, and strong rain.  I could barely see anything.  My recumbent friend had a very bright, flashing light on the back of his bike.  That light was my beacon.  I know during those types of weather conditions you are supposed to seek shelter.  I was not trying to get under a tree nor did I want to stop at someone’s house.  People are not as friendly as they used to be, and I was not trying to end up on the back of a milk carton.  So I rode on.

When the rain finally subsided I could see the Richmond skyline.  I became very emotional.  I could not believe that I had biked a 100 miles!  I thanked God for his protection and for the guardian angels that he had sent to ride with me.  I was not the last person to finish and there was still food available when I arrived at the finish.  A few moments later George showed up.  He and I grabbed some food and discussed our overall thoughts about the ride.

Completing my first century ride has had a significant impact on my confidence and has completely changed my perspective about Ironman Mont Tremblant.  Ever since completing Cap to Cap, I feel so much stronger as an athlete.  And even though I am much heavier than I want to be, my body is performing way beyond my expectations.  I am finally enjoying this crazy Ironman journey.  It’s rewarding to see significant growth, but what is even more remarkable is how my goals for IMMT have dramatically changed.

Initially I had set several time-related goals for myself.  Goals that were starting to stress me out because my training was not where it needed to be.  I have enough stress on my plate in regards to my mom and just the everyday challenges of life, why place unnecessary stress on myself?  I have never done a race truly for fun.  I am very competitive.  Competing in races is very exhilarating to me.  I always have some sort of time goal(s), but IMMT is going to be different.  My only time-related goals are to make the cut-offs and finish under 17 hours.  My new goals are to do my best, have fun, and enjoy the experience.

This is such a major shift for me, but I feel as if a ton of bricks have been lifted off of my shoulders.  I am finally getting excited about IMMT.

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