Rock Hall Sprint Triathlon
The week after I was able to participate in the December 5K Doughnut Run, I floated the idea of training for a sprint triathlon but not just any one, the one that takes place in my hometown. It be a major recovery milestone and it would be in the water I grew up splashing in and on the streets I knew better than any others.
Since January, I have been preparing to swim 750 yards, bike 15 miles and run a 5K.
The Rock Hall Triathlon Festival includes an Olympic distance race on Saturday and the Sprint on Sunday. When I got into town, I stopped for gas alongside a car full of triathletes who just completed the Olympic race. They told me wetsuits were not permitted. I pretended not to care, filled my tank with gas and spent the rest of the car ride freaking out. The wetsuit was my security blanket. It would help me float if everything else failed.
Alden, Brad, Yana, Barb & Lizzy all tried their best to help me keep my cool, reminding me that I’ve swim 100% more without a wetsuit than with one.
After I unpacked, I ran through all three activities to make sure I didn’t forget any critical pieces of equipment. I swam in the bay for 10 minutes. I had the familiar anxiety of swimming in open water take grip of my heart strings and cause it to beat out of control. I was able to calm down enough to actually swim and I felt a little better about what race day would bring.
More than 10 years ago, my mother became estranged from me or me from her, however that goes. The last time we spoke Josie wasn’t quite one year old. She never met Keegan or Malachi, never knew Montclair Bread Company existed and she didn’t know her daughter, who always got picked last in gym class, is now an athlete.
While I was still in the hospital, my mother reached out for the first time since June 2009. I have proceeded, with trepidation, to build a relationship with her. In December, she met the boys for the first time and was reintroduced to Josie. The kids are happy to have a(nother) grandmother.
The last she knew, I was living in Pennsylvania, pregnant with Keegan and struggling to make ends meet. My husband was unemployed and my salary from the small retail bakery where I worked was not enough to cover all the bills. I was receiving supplemental income from the government for food, healthcare and to offset household expenses. Now that I know the end of the story, I can say I was about 3 months away from rock bottom.
I guess being in the hospital recovering from a nearly fatal accident, unable to walk, could be considered rock bottom too but it didn’t feel quite as tragic. As least there was a light at the end of this tunnel.
My mother has quickly been brought up to speed on the advancements I’ve made in life. She had the opportunity to visit the bakery for the first time and see what I’ve built and I filled her in on the importance of running and my running community.
On the complete opposite end of the universe, my step-mom, Barb (aka Nana, aka Mom) has played a huge role in my life and that of the kids. She and my Aunt Cathy have raced more than one 5K Doughnut Run and we all ran the Bay Bridge 10K together, when halfway through the race I strained a tendon that would take 12 weeks to heal but I still managed to come in minutes ahead of my little brothers. In an effort to beat me, my brother Kyle pushed himself so hard that he was hanging over the bridge puking just like my baby brother Travis told him he would be if he tried to catch me.
After I racked my bike in the transition area and set up my gear, I was met by not one but two moms on the sidelines. Along with Brad, they both came out to my race. It was the first time anyone in my family would see me run. Having all three of them there made this day truly special for so many reasons. It felt like everything was finally right in the world.
Back to the freaking out part…wetsuits were ‘optional’ but optional really means ‘not allowed.’ If you opt to wear a wetsuit, you’re taken out of competition and you have to get in the water after everyone else. At the time, I thought I had a chance to place in my age group. I came here to race. This is a race.
The swim was an in-water start. I had to jump off a dock, swim out to the start and tread water until the gun went off. The course looked SOOOO long even though it was only the equivalent of 15 laps in the pool, it could have been the length of the English Channel from where I was bobbing.
I swam to the first buoy and then a feeling of sheer terror swept over me. I could not put my face back in the water no matter how hard I tried. My heart felt like it was going to explode. There were still 7 more buoys to clear. All I had to do was get out of the water and get on the bike….out of the water and on the bike…get me out of this water so I can get on my bike…I said it to myself over and over and over for the next 28 minutes that I backstroked my way to the dock. It was not pretty. I was number 229 out of 237 swimmers to get out of the water.
My bike was one of the last ones in the transition area. I was in and out in one minute. I got on my bike, put my head down and passed as many people as I could on the course. They might be able to get out of the water faster than me but I’m back in control now. I had no idea how fast (or slow) I was going because my watch was still on my wrist (I normally strap it to my handlebar) and I wasn’t going to look. I sped up my cadence to get my legs turning over faster heading back in to the transition area. As I dismounted I was sobbing and smiling at the same time. By all medical accounts, I should NOT be able to do this but I can and I did and I am filled with joy and gratitude. Imagine what it would feel like to have someone take away one of the things you hold most dear and then give it back to you 9 months later in perfect condition, when you never thought you’d see it again. I got to ride my bike on the road in a race. I was 166 out of 237 cyclists.
Another minute to get in and out of transition. It was 10:30am, 80F and the entirety of the run was in direct sunlight. I focused on putting one foot in front of the other and moving my legs forward. One after another, I passed people. I remember seeing her go by me on her fancy triathlon bike. Isn’t that the chick who was in and out of the water in minutes? How much time could I make up? How many more people could I pass? My legs were so heavy and the heat was oppressive. I struggled to stay under an 8:00 pace. I was almost at the finish line. I could see my moms and Brad waiting for me to come in. I did it. After two years of training, I finally finished my triathlon. I was 73 out of 237 runners.
My lack of ability to keep my cool in the bay kept me well out of the running for a place in this race but the bike and the run showed me that I am capable of more. Is valium considered a performance enhancing drug???
Weekly Training Log
SWIM: 2200 yds
BIKE 30:00, RUN 2mi @ Race Pace
I surprised myself on the run when I was able to keep both miles in the low 7’s.
SWIM 2100 yds
RUN 20:00 plus strides
SWIM 10, BIKE 10, RUN 10 - gear check.