Monday, October 3, 2011
I'm not sure what my 'focus' will be as I try and pick back up my blogging. I do know that I missed the therapeutic benefit I got from doing it. I wanted to go back and blog about Santa Rosa training camp in August, my sprint races from the summer, and my experiences this summer with multi-sport, but I think it is going to be more realistic to just start fresh from where I am now and see where it leads to. So I will start with my race report from my end of the season triathlon, Santa Rosa:
Santa Rosa Triathlon, October 1, 2011
I registered for this race early in the season, as it is the season FitBird finale and the entire weekend was an unprecedented blast last year. But as life often does, corkscrew after corkscrew seemed to make its way into my world, and as race day approached I had pretty much decided not to race and just go to cheer on my friends. In the six weeks prior I lost my father to a sudden diagnosis of cancer, completely lost the energy to train, and struggled with a multitude of personal issues. By the time race week approached I was exhausted emotionally and just ready to leave town. I didn't take the time to organize my gear but instead packed on the fly and headed out of town, ready for some alone time on the beach.
After a day of solitude, burgers and beer, and a solo jet ski ride I started to feel better and decided I might as well give the race a go. I had no goals or expectations and figured I would try and just enjoy the experience and do what I could in the race. As my FitBirds started trickling in, my spirits lifted and I began to enjoy the pre-race festivities as we are never short on laughter... or food.
I shared a room with Poly Wog and eventually she stopped talking long enough for me to fall asleep. She threatened to smother me if we woke before five am and I acquiesced since I knew I wasn't really 'racing' this event. I came close to backing out when she opened the hotel door and peeked out into the dark morning to announce that it was "very cold and windy" outside. I managed to throw down a poptart, an excedrin, and a sip of water and we rode our bikes a short distance to transition.
After setting up my gear and doing my pre-race ritual, we visited for a while with those that were racing and then headed to the beach to check out the water. The sand was cold on my feet and the air was windy and crisp. I walked into the water about waist deep and was pleased to find it warmer than the air. I saw a crab scurry along the sea bottom but there were no signs of the army of jellyfish that had interfered with my practice swims the day before. Maybe the cold had scared them away.
It wasn't until after the race that I reflected on the fact that this was the first race in which I didn't even acknowledge that there were any support kayaks alongside the swim course. In two years I have gone from being terrified of the water to being confident in it. I could have told you how many kayaks were on a course and where they were set up before a race. Now I didn't even bother to pay attention because I wasn't going to need them. And the really ironic part to this race is that I was looking forward to the swim more than any other part because I felt it was my strongest discipline. Wow how things have changed.
I lined up left of center on the second row of swimmers. I am aggressive now when I go out. I may not be the fastest, but I'm no longer afraid of getting kicked or swum over. I just stick my line and wait for the others to clear out. I ran in until I could dolphin dive and then began to swim hard, never letting panic or anxiety take over. My breathing stayed regular even though I was pushing hard through the course. Once I rounded the first buoy I found I had to correct my position to adjust to the current. When I breathed I could see swimmers popping up around me and call out to the support kayaks. Around that time is when I felt the first jellyfish swipe my face and arm. I felt like I was swimming through a school of them but stopping would only increase my chances of getting stung more so I just kept moving. Once around the last buoy I turned on the speed and swam for shore. I was pleased with my effort as I made my way up the beach towards transition.
I still struggle with keeping my heart rate under control when I am really exerting myself. I am a puker and I hate that it comes on so fast sometimes I can't do anything to manage it. I ran through the sand until I realized I wouldn't make it to transition without vomiting so I stopped to walk, trying hard to keep it down. It was a close call but seeing Coach Canada's family yelling for me made me fight to keep from giving them a real show. I took my time in transition to get the sand off my feet so I wouldn't have a repeat from last year with blisters. I grabbed my bike and saw Poly Wog exit transition right before me. I was thrilled to see that she made it out of the swim in a good time as this was her biggest concern of the day.
Once on the main road I felt the wind but pushed hard as I had learned from my last 70.3 that it could be worse on the way back. My speed wasn't great, but I passed quite a number of cyclists and eventually caught some of my own flock. When I got to the turn around I was pleased that there was a tail wind and my speed went up quite a bit. I felt stronger than I expected I would considering my training, and felt the presence of my dad with me on the ride. It helped to motivate me to push even harder knowing that any increase in speed would help to counter the last segment of the race which I knew would be my biggest challenge. Before reaching transition I said a prayer to my dad asking for any assist he could give my legs on the run as I was not expecting to make it very far without having to walk.
I never used my inhaler. I only stopped to walk through the aid stations, and twice for a few seconds on the last mile. I wasn't fast but I was steady and encouraged that my legs felt strong. I felt my dad with me and for a moment I could feel my emotions wanting to bubble up but I pushed them back so I could finish. As during my New Orleans race, I spotted a FitBird in the finish chute and managed to catch up with her to run it in.
I forgot how happy I am when I race, and when the race is over. It is healing and focuses my mind on things that are healthier than what my mind wants to think about the rest of the day. I don't care that my time was slower than last year. It always comes back to the journey that gets me to where I end that is the gratifying part.
I am working out my plan for 2012. I have put a full IM on hold for now as I know I am not mentally or physically ready for that challenge... yet. For now I am going to play and enjoy the sport. I hope to attack Gulf Coast 70.3 again next year and race like I know I can, now that the monkey is off my back and I have officially completed the distance.
The other thing that has been reinforced to me these past few weeks is just how special my FitBirds are. Whether they are there with an encouraging word, offers of assistance, a hug, or a laugh... they are there for each other when one is in need. For this I thank them all.
I hope that this is the beginning of the next chapter in my life and that my blog will continue to inspire others no matter which direction it ends up going...