Monday, August 28, 2006

IronGirl Race Report Aug. 27, 2006

It was a great race. (That is me on the left, Kate and Randi.)
What I learned is that it's not just the work of the race that the race is about. That is not why I love triathlons. It is the overall experience as a whole that makes up the race. Being in one place with 1,850 other women who have the same goal as you do is the set-up for a great adventure.
Whether it is watching an extremely obese woman have the courage to attemp a race like this and struggling to sit down on the dock so she can scoot herself into the water, or whether it is someone (who could be me) changing a flat 50 feet into the bike, this is why I tri. It reminds me of life -- the joys and the frustrations. The life you lead by the example you set. It is like a condensed version of it. Only for me, the race helps me gain perspective on life. It doesn' last forever, how do you really want to spend it? Or as an Ironman athlete once told me "there is no finish line," which is so true.
Where to start? I guess the race adventure for me really starts Saturday morning. Saying goodbye to my kids. It was so damn hard to leave them, that I almost forgot to kiss Mr. Preschool goodbye. But I did it. Mr. Preschool says he's not sure if he is more proud of me for leaving the kids to do something for myself or doing the race itself.
Two hours later I was standing in the Children's Place Kids Outlet at Potomac Mills during what should have been naptime (and breastfeeding time) and my breasts started getting hard and feeling engorged. I had another good 20 hours before my race and all I could think was, how and I gonna' run like this?
I met two of my teamates from back home. We picked up our packets at the hotel then, we drove over to Centenial park to pump our tires and rack our bikes, walking through fields (I kid you not) of freshly mowed poison ivy on the way. An entire field of grass with all these sticklike vines poking up, upon closer inspection we determined mowed poison ivy...did they think they were doing us a favor by mowing? we parked our cars at the race and left them there. Great move, we had prime parking spots. We drove the bike course that we'd heard so much about. It looked scary but not as bad as I'd been imagining in my dreams each and every night.
We headed over to PF Chang's where I had made a reservation for diner. We washed our feet in the bathroom as best we could trying to get the poison ivy oil off of our skin. Then we ate dinner. ...surrounded by kids. And never did I think I'd wish to be home with my babies or God forbid wishing they were their at the restaurant with me screaming for attention.
Then we were off to the hotel for a tormented night of sleep. Let me just say, I hate hotels. Didn't get much sleep AT ALL. I missed the kids and Mr. Preschool so much, was nervous about the race and kept waking up in a panic.
In the morning, we left our room at 4:55 a.m. and headed over to the racesite. It was too dark to see anything and I couldn't figure out how we were supposed to set up transition in the dark. Some people had flashlights, but somehow that seemed silly. The transition area was slightly lit. So, we set up transition. Luckily 3 girls in a row next to me didn't show up so I had enough room to spread out. I met some new friends. One of whom had done Ironman Wisconsin. I have to say it frightened me even more when she said the hills on the IronGirl course were very difficult. I know IW has some of the toughest hills in the nation, so when she said that I just sort of lost it, just a little.
Teamate Randi used her expertise as a yoga instructor to walk us through some relaxation techniques, but I couldn't really focus. I was all nerves. I just wanted to get into my own space.
Vigo, the race director, didn't close the transition area, like I'm used to. This was great for me because when I leave transition I leave my glasses in my helmet and I don't see them again until after the swim. My prescription goggles help a bit, but they get so foggy, and I feel like such a dork walking around with dry hair and goggles on my face.
I have to say someone gave me some advise to just smile and enjoy the whole race....and smile all the time even for the whole swim. I kept thinking about smiling the whole way, and it definately made for an interesting swim, because I couldn't stop smiling. And trying not to swollow water while you are smiling underwater, only makes you want to laugh.
Actually, for me, the swim rocked. I took my time, did some side stroke, tried to encourage those caps who were misplaced and leftover from 1 and 2 heats before....and still came in 11th out of 40 Athena. Actually, I had trouble believing the swim was over, it seemed too short.
I walked for a few steps then ran to T1. Although we had been told there would be a hose or water dip for our feet, there was none. In my haste, I put my socks over muddy grassy feat which caused blisters later on.
Glasses on, whew, what a relief. And then running in bike shoes with my bike up the steepest hill to mount my bike. Four peddle strokes out I see the girl frantically changing a flat. It went through my mind that she was doing it wrong and then I let that though fade because I needed to focus on my race. My mind was playing tricks on me, I think in fear I was looking for a reason to stop. Out on the main road I was passing cyclist, bam, bam, bam. There were so many of us they couldn't possibly be enforcing the drafting rule. I must have passed 30 women when I noticed her. She was drafting on me turn after turn. I pulled to the right for her to pass and she pulled in behind me -- she sat on my tail. I could bite my tounge no longer. "How's the draft back there?" I tossed the words over my shoulder. She mumbled something about it not helping anyway and I never saw here again.
Now a big concern for me was making sure I made it up each and everyone of those huge hills on the bike without stopping. I suceeded -- sort of.
At the top of one of the largest hills was a crazy black border colly-like mutt who lived right there, his territor right on the path to IronGirl. He was barking like mad. Confused as to why 1,850 women invaders had come to disrupt his lazy morning. But to me, who had no family cheering for me, he was my cheerleader, and he was strategically placed just near the crest of the hill.
On the third of four large hills (the Glenelg Hill) I was downshifting and "pop," my chain came off. Now I've seen quite a few chains do this in my riding, but it had never happend to me. As soon as I stopped (luckly finding that in the excitement my left cleat had already unclipped itself) two girls ran up to me. "Chain problems?" they said, like they were mechanics waiting in the pit stop. "Yes!" I said. I had already tried stroking the pedal one time, with no luck, the chain was mangled and twisted. I was greatly relieved to have help, but these girls looked 10 years old! I'm so ashamed, I asked there mom if she knew anything about bikes, right in front of them. "We'll they're pretty much the experts" she said. And so, with a sigh, I let go and let them have a jab at it. And a minute later, it was fixed. "Can you write down your name and address, so I can write you a thank you note?" I said, not sure where these absurd words were coming from. Tear were almost in my eyes, I was just so moved by the experience. No need for a thank you note they said, but there names were Emma and Greer. "Are you triathletes?" I said. "No, but our teacher is" said Emma, and at that point I couldn't help but stop and think of Iron Wil, representing all of the Ironman Teachers in the world.
I walked up the hill a bit so I could mount my bike without falling because of the steepness of the incline. The whold ordeal set me back about 7-10 minutes, I figure. And grateful, I continued on my journey.
I continued passing folks, but not as often after that. My gears just weren't right exactly. I was just hoping to coast home. My gears just kept slipping.
I watched the woman about 20 yards in front of me crash. I was so happy to have experience to know exactly what to do, "Do you need help?" I yelled from my bike as I slowed down, for her to think. "No," she said, still stuck under her bike. Twenty feet down the road from her was a man, just sitting bored-looking. I asked him to help her.
And then I was back at T2, running my bike down the steep, grassy but muddy hill. Puting on my race belt for the run. Here I should mention that the main reason I did this race as opposed to Naylors is that it had a 5K tacked on the end rather than a 10K. But let me just say, I am not the only one who was wishing they signed up for the flat Naylor's run rather than this one! It was brutal. All up hill if that is possible. And Vigo, the race director, who said it was a 5K, finally acknowledged it was a 3.3 mile run and then changed that to a 3.4 mile run. Regardless, it was way too long and way too hilly.
And then it happend. I was trotting along at my usually slow pace when I saw this woman, pass me on the right, How strange, usually you pass on the left. She was running in the grass along the path carying ......flip flops?
"Oh My God!" I said, not even able to sensor my reaction. She was running bearfoot.
"Yeah, I forgot my shoes" she yelled back. And for the next 5 minutes she was in earshot, I was shouting like crazy, "You are a gazzelle!" You are one of those African runners who doesn't like shoes! and "Shoes would just slow you down anyway!" Man, what an inspiration.
Speaking of which, I have to say, I expected that this race would have alot more encouragement between athletes. I mean we are all women right? I so thought it would be a much more supportive environment than the local co-ed races I've been in. And then I realized why there weren't too many folks out there encouraging me. Actually, I think only 2 other athletes shouted encouragement the whole day. It was because I have gone from being the encouraged to being the encourager. I am now the more experienced athlete who understands the importance of encouraging others. And with ove 50 percent first time triathletes racing, they just needed encouragement and couldn't give any.
Although there were 1,850 athletes racing, It turns out that 500 some didn't finish. I hope it wasn't because they didn't get enough encouragement from there fellow athletes. But, I have to say I feel really bad for them. If they were first time triathletes, they might not attempt another. This was by far my most challenging race, I hope they know there are easier ones. Anyone who races puts so much of themselves into the race that a Did Not Finish has got to hurt.
My goal for this race was to be steady and strong and have fun. Not to go crazy trying to make a time, but to enjoy the race, and finish strong. I walked almost every hill on the run, and I was feeling kinda sad about that, but as I came down the home strech I saw an A (for Athena, my racing catagory, 150 lbs +) on the back of a woman's leg. I sprinted past her to the finish and beat her by several seconds. Definately a strong finish. They put a medal around my neck, and I walked up one more hill for a massage. Next time I'll bring the kids and Mr. Preschool, even if it adds more stress and work, I think the work will be worth it.


John said...

You completely rock! What an awesome story about your experience -- I loved it. Especially the two kids helping with your chain and the image in my head of you yelling at a barefoot runner that she's a gazelle!

Congratulations on your success! And thanks for sharing it.

kozzy said...

Congratulations on your race! Finishing is a victory. Great report, you're right about the DNF, I hope that it doesn't discourage first timers. It sounds like it was a really tough course. Nice Job.

Fe-lady said...

Great race story! Lot's of things to think about...yea, it's why I have done tris for 26 years. There is always a few great stories to tell at the end! Good job!

21st Century Mom said...

Excellent race report!

j m holland said...

Thanks for telling your story. I love reading your words. I get to see the whole picture instead of bits and pieces between screams for cereal!! and Juice!!!.
You inspire me every day.
You are a dolphin!

I will love you till the end of time.

Thank you for taking the time to do this for yourself. It makes our whole family stronger. Go Mama GO!