St. Anthony's and the Voices

I am liberated! I got my hair chopped off! Squeee! What do you think??
Yes, it was time. I couldn't wait to get rid of it already. Plus, it was my reward for crossing the finish line at St. Anthony's. My first olympic distance tri! (.9 mile swim, 40k bike, 10k run).

I'm going to start this race report with the fact that I finished! Which really was the goal after all, I mean, who are we kidding. I went a little crazy with my Sharpie, writing "Finish" on one side of my wrist, and "Dammit" on the other to remind myself throughout the race that that was the goal. Just finish, dammit.  I pretty much love writing messages all over myself in Sharpie. It seriously helps! No, I didn't sleep hardly a wink the night before, just swam the swim at least 1,000 times in my head and waited patiently for my alarm to sound at 3:30. I pumped myself up with music and a 5 hour energy. I loaded up my gear with my husband, and arrived to this. 
A crowded transition area. Man, it was just an honor just to have been there. I have never felt so a part of something so big, 4,000 athletes, some of them among the world's elite. There were so many people that you could go the entire day and not find people you know. It was a sea of people everywhere. I found out later some of my friends came down and looked for me, but I didn't see a one of them.

The only word I have for the day is "proud." I'm proud because I literally gave it everything I had. There was not a drop I could have given and didn't, I poured my entire self into this day.

I can say that because in any given moment during the race, I had all sorts of voices talking to me and they were all kicking my own ass and making my body do things and yell things and say things that I normally wouldn't.

So ok, enough yammering, here we go, I will start with the swim.

Somewhere in that sea of pink swimcaps, I am there, sort of on the left (in the picture) and sort of to the back, because I have learned that the hardcore people start up front and to the right (in the picture) and it's just a lot of thrashing about up there. I'm happy I started where I started, because there was very little kicking where I was and it was smooth on the way out.

But oh darned you, swim.

That swim.

OK, so did I mention my swimcap was pink?? My favorite! Hurrah! (Get to the point, right? I'm procrastinating, cantcha tell?)

Well, alright, the swim was rough. But I'm happy to say it wasn't because I was wondering what the hell I was doing out there or skeeved out or anything like in past races. It wasn't rough because of any fear issues or nasty inner voices. It was Mother Nature-rough, and at the end of the day, that's the kind of rough I can live with.
(I'm pretty sure I'm one of those people in the pink swim cap. This was the calm part, by the way. I don't have pictures of the roughness.)

I actually did quite well on the way out. The panic voice briefly started to come out, but I became one with her, stopped briefly to gather my composure and catch my breath, then just went. The swim was .9 miles, and the roughest part I had always heard, was the part out to the first buoy, which was parallel to the pier. In the left, you'll see some tiny orange cone looking things, those were buoys, and the turn point was a yellow one past those orange ones. All those kayaks were there for support.

Well that first leg turned out to be the easiest! Because once I rounded the buoy and went left with the current, the waves were picking up and it took me a few minutes to figure out that I had to ride the waves to the next buoy. So I swam and rode the waves in between. I was going pretty slow at this point in between the waves, but riding the waves helped push me through a little quicker. I wasn't scared, I wasn't talking myself out of anything, I was just sort of going. And it was pretty slow but that was just fine with me. It felt like I was in the middle of the ocean, in water so very deep, and the fact that I was just able to turn my mind off to that was really something of a big deal for me. I was able to blank out my mind and just keep moving.

So I finally reached the buoy where you turn to the final straightaway to shore, and that's where I spent all my time. This last leg is supposed to be the easiest, but in short, it kicked my ass. There's no nice way to put it, the waves were now up over my head and smacking me in the face, one right after the other. I think I drank half the ocean while the waves beat the crap out of me. There were two more buoys to pass, and I was swimming and swimming and swimming and they weren't getting any closer.

But I kept swimming anyway.

I had to stop a few times to catch my breath, my arms were getting tired, and instead of thinking things like, "Hey, I might drown here!" I was thinking things like, "Stop being wimpy and just get there already!" Time just ticked away from me and eventually I made it, but it was a 45 minute swim. Painful. And I had to wrap my mind around the fact that I just drank the entire ocean, completely wore myself out and still had a 25 mile bike and a 6 mile run to go. I don't understand how there was anything left, honestly. I just don't. But there was. Even now, looking back, I really still don't even see how.

In fact, I can't even believe how little time it took me in the transition to bike! I ran in, stripped off my wetsuit and hopped on the bike in just a couple of minutes, I must have been on autopilot because it felt like forever but it wasn't and it turned out to be one of my fastest transition times ever. Go figure!

The good news is, the swim didn't just stink for me. Apparently the water got so bad that a lot of people dropped out of the swim, the water was apparently swirling in that area (my body actually still feels like it's in the waves) and race officials ended up having to actually shorten the swim for the people who went after me. Oh well. I didn't find out until I crossed the finish that other people had trouble with the swim, and I was so relieved and happy at that point to hear that it wasn't just me.

I'm also proud to say that even though I took forever and plenty of people got through that in less time than I did, quitting was not an option for me, even when I was swimming for what seemed like forever and going nowhere. Never entered my mind to give up. In thinking back, taking my time on the way out and being slow and calm about it probably made it more difficult for me because the weather had changed in just the short time it took me to get over there, which is known to happen in this area of the bay. Everything can change in just 15 minutes, and for me, it did.

So that was the swim part.

Ahh. I should stop there and give you the bike part tomorrow because that was enough reading for a day, wasn't it?

The bike.


So there I am on the bike. And look at me! I have the big straw! Can you see it up there? It saved my life.

Quick backstory: when I first began triathlons last year, I was envious of the bikes that had water bottles on their handlebars with really super long straws on them. I mean, a super long straw!! The straws were awesome! (Yes I am a total dork, things like pink swim caps and straws for water bottles are important to me!) And I am a sucker for straws, I don't know what it is about straws, I just love them; regular, crazy shapes, ones shaped into silly glasses, whatever! I love straws! And so all I wanted to aspire to was having a bike with the really long straw on it. Because you're riding along and all you have to do is sip the straw! How convenient is that!

Thankfully, Santa heard me and so I finally put it on my bike this week and I don't think I would have actually been alive at the end without it. Because bending down and slowing down to grab your water bottle, hydrate and put it back is a big pain in the butt. I have lost a water bottle on the ride before and have also been attacked by flying water bottles while following behind someone who fumbled while putting their water bottle back in the cage, which did happen during the race by the way, I had to skid out of the way. And because it's a pain, I just don't end up bothering to hydrate on the bike at all because I don't want to slow down. But I knew that if I didn't hydrate on the bike, I'd be in trouble, because remember, I drank half the ocean in the swim. So yay for the bottle with the long straw!!!!!!



Well, the bike went awesome. I caught my breath from the swim about a mile into the bike, and what do you know, my inner voice lady turned into a British gentleman. I was riding along and all of a sudden, the British voice came into my head and said, in these words exactly, "Come on, now, Madame, this is a race now! Do pick it up now, won't you???" Incredibly nice and polite fellow, but quite pushy! And I did remember that it's a race and that there are plenty of times to have a leisurely bike ride but this was not one of them, so I began to race. Hard.
I remember thinking to myself that I don't want there to be any moments during this race where I could have pushed harder and didn't. When I looked back on the race, I wanted to know I gave it everything. And so I did. I started to pass people in my age group and I would think, "Booyah!"

And then Linkin Park came on in my mind and now I'm pedaling my ass off singing, "I bleed it out diggin deeper just to throw it away just to throw it away I bleed it outtttt!!!!!!!!!" And by this time my adrenaline is taking over and I'm now passing men and I want to yell, "Move it, man, don't let a mother of two pass you, you got more than this!" but I just passed and kept going and pounding away.

As I pedaled, I asked myself how much I had left for the run, I mean, did I have it in me to run 6 miles after this? Am I spending it all on this ride? And then I yelled back at myself (scuse the french, I do tend to curse in my head a lot but in the interest of full disclosure...) "HELL YEAH, I HAVE A SHIT-TON LEFT!" I don't know where the word "Shit-ton" came from, either, because honestly, that word's not in my vocabulary, but when you're out there for a while stuck in your own head, it's pretty funny to see what comes out or what happens in there or what transpires.

I finished the 25 mile bike in an hour and 23 minutes. I'm damn proud of that time.

The run.

Getting off the bike, running with it through the grass and dirt in the transition area in my metal clippy shoes to go put my sneakers on and run (while having to pee really badly) is not my favorite part. It felt like it took forever, but it was a fairly quick transition, I grabbed some of my Power Bar chews, started chomping away and took off. The bike legs gave way to real legs within the first half mile and after the first mile, I got into a rhythm. I hit the first mile right at the 10 minute mark and just kept watching the clock through the run to make sure I hit the mile-markers at around the 10 minute marks from there on out. Except for when an age-grouper started to pass me and then I'd pick it up and make sure I left some distance in between us.

I looked at the run in a part one and a part two. The first half and the second half. I just tried to keep the 10 minute pace, which was actually really hard. I was tired. I kept singing Paramore in my head. I passed water stations and took two cups, one for me to sip, one for me to pour on my head and/or body you know, in case of an "accident", because remember, I have "baby bladder" and I tend to have accidents even 3 years later whilst running.

Dude. That last 1/2 mile was one of the most painful 5 minutes of my life except for childbirth. All I kept thinking was, "You can do anything for 5 minutes."

I was trying to sprint, I had two age-groupers on my heels and I was refusing to let them pass and I was supressing throw-up. My legs were telling me to shut up but I just gave it what I had.


It wasn't pretty.

But it was everything. The run: 1:03.

And in the end, I must've looked pretty bad because there was a medic tent right at the finish and I was swarmed with icy cold towels and ushered in to sit down, where I promptly covered my face with the cold wet towel and cried the ugly cry. Big fat wet sloppy ugly cry.


For a while.

My body was just so overwhelmed with every physical and emotional emotion and feeling and I sat there, for a while, just crying. And trying not to throw up.

So that was that. It took about a half hour or so for me to not want to die or pass out or throw up. I had to do some sitting and I shoveled orange wedges into my piehole and they were the best oranges I had ever tasted in my whole entire life. I think I scarfed two pieces of pizza and a few waters too, it's all a blur.

So, sure, like in every race so far, I wish the swim went differently. But now I know there's been a mental turning point and me swimming against Mother Nature is now in the bank. I can  move on now. I know for a fact that I gave it everything I had. And I'm proud of that.
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