I have a problem sometimes with being overly open about my personal feelings, and I am not afraid to be honest about things that probably should be kept private. In blogging about my trip, initially I thought I would omit many of my personal experiences and focus only on my race report, keeping the writing light and funny. It may be the wrong decision, but initially this blog was created as a personal journal that I opened up for the world to see. In keeping with that, I have decided to acknowledge some of the more personal moments of this trip in order for me to one day reflect on my journey. Having said that, if you prefer light and funny, you may want to skip ahead to the next posting!
Friday morning we awoke to another breakfast feast, this time consisting of green eggs and ham, and of course more bacon. We all took our time getting up, but once awake we organized ourselves for our pre-race ride. I scrambled to find water bottles and re-attach the bags that belonged on my bike that had been removed for travel. Once everyone's bikes were ready, we headed out to Deerhurst Resort for a short 12 mile ride.
I'll admit it. I was a bit anxious. I hadn't been on my bike in weeks, and the last time I rode it my ride was cut short from a planned 56 miles to about 30 miles...and that was the longest I had ridden since Gulf Coast Triathlon back in May. My neck issues had never resolved and I just didn't have the drive to push hard through the pain anymore. I had plenty of new excuses too ~ I was adjusting to a new diagnosis of insulin resistance and the combination of drastic dietary changes and medication just made me want to sleep all the time. And let's be real - needless to say - I was badly out of shape.
Even with the obstacle of a tough bike leg looming ahead in Sunday's race, I felt optimistic. I had decided to give it a go and was convinced that I had enough inner toughness to push through. I was better in tune with my body, and realized that it was my mind that limited me most of the time, not my body. In addition, I had recently received some external motivation in the form of a betting pool that challenged me to beat the odds. I always respond better to external motivation than internal, and when people bet money it motivates me to try just a little harder.
We aired up our tires and headed out to ride the first six miles of the course and back. As soon as I exited the parking lot I experienced my first hill. I immediately searched for my inhaler. Shortly after that hill the rest of the group passed me. It was nothing I hadn't expected, so I tried to hunker down and just get a feel for the course. The hills were tough. Really tough. I might have made it three miles before I saw Coach riding back on the other side of the road saying "turn around when you are ready!". The rest of the group was still off riding somewhere way ahead of me, but that was all the permission I needed to turn back. I slugged back the way I came and crawled into the parking lot to find Coach waiting patiently for the rest of the group to turn around.
I'll admit it. I was a bit defeated. My race plan was for me to try and finish the race. At this point I didn't think I would be able to finish the bike, much less make it to the halfway point. I had barely made the first five miles and I was whipped. I was afraid I would go out on the course and not be able to make it back in. Or would have to ask for help at an aide station or wait on the SAG vehicle. I was trying to decide if it was worth it. I seriously was considering just pulling out completely and cheering the others on. I expressed some of what I was feeling to Coach and was reminded that the objective was to do the best I could do and to get as far as I could in the time allotted. It didn't matter how far that was as long as it was my best.
I got back on my bike and went out for another short ride to get my head straight. When I returned I had managed to remind myself that I was here to do just that - to have a good time and to see what I could do. No pressure, no expectations. I immediately felt better.
We returned to the house for a sandwich lunch and to just relax for a few hours. Crowe and I each took a kayak out onto the lake for a short excursion while some of the others rested on the dock. Later that afternoon we went back to the resort to check-in and attend the expo, which was small and unimpressive. I shopped a bit, picking up a bike jersey and some nutrition, and then headed back to the cottage with the others. It was starting to rain and the temperature was dropping. By late afternoon the sound of motorcycles could be heard pulling up. Big John and Tommy made it in but had ridden in the rain for hours and were cold and wet. We warmed them up with Crown and some homemade beef stew that Jay had whipped up for dinner.
In the early evening came the best massage therapist I have ever had. Coach had managed to get a therapist to come to the house, table in hand, and set up downstairs to give anyone who requested it a massage. I was feeling the combination of sky-diving and the short bike ride in my already messed up neck and the massage was the best remedy for it. It was pure heaven. There is nothing like having a deep tissue massage, while in your pajamas, after having a glass of wine, then going straight to bed afterwards.
Saturday morning brought a dark cloud with it, but only over me. I had been trying hard to not spend too much time reflecting on the meaning of the next few days, but I was struggling keeping it out of my head today. This time last year I was at my father's bedside watching him die. I felt helpless, heartbroken, alone, and in shock. I'd spent the past year trying to forget the look in his eyes those last few days of his life. The distant stare and his ashen sunken skin. His confusion, dementia, and pain. I wanted it out of my head and I didn't want to remember him that way but it kept creeping back in. I couldn't help but re-play the last conversation we had, and re-live giving him his last doses of morphine.
I got up and ate breakfast and then went and laid back down, spent from my memories, and trying not to drag anyone down by letting on that I was struggling with them. I have never felt so fragile. I just wanted to cry but I felt trapped by my surroundings. I needed to escape but had nowhere to go. I finally decided that if I didn't find somewhere to go that I would soon make a fool of myself, so I quickly got up and headed out to the lake, barely keeping it together as I walked towards the water. I grabbed the nearest kayak, shoved it off of the sand, sat in a puddle of cold water, and started paddling away. The farther I got from shore the safer I felt to become emotional and the tears streamed down my face and the sobbing began. God how I miss my Dad. We had a special relationship from the time I was a child till the day he passed. I was Daddy's Bebe. His little girl. And no matter how old I was, he always treated me that way. Losing him has been the hardest thing in my life.
The more I paddled the more I began to relax. The emotions came in waves, subsiding for periods of time and then rolling in again. When it was quiet I started to reflect on how much the pond reminded me of Rocky Pond in New England that we would go to in the summers as a child. I had great memories of swimming with my dad there. He'd tell us about how he was a life guard when he was a young man. We would spend the day there just laughing and enjoying life.
I caught myself looking around and taking in all the beauty around me. I paddled across the lake and along the shore to examine the trees and boulders that had caught my eye. It was completely quiet that morning. The only sound was that of the water lapping up onto the banks, lulling my emotions and quieting my heart. I heard an occasional bird and wondered if it might be a loon or a goose. I took in the smell of fir trees and let my eyes soak in the beauty of the moss ladden rocks and the maple leaves that were just starting to change from green to pinks and muted grape. The tears came less often as I calmed myself with my surroundings. My Dad would have loved this place.
I must have spent at least an hour or more out on that lake alone, and by the time I paddled back in I felt better. Everyone was busy cleaning their bikes to take to transition so I busied myself doing the same. It was starting to rain so we hurried to get everything ready to go. When we arrived to set up it was pouring. I wheeled my bike over to my age group's rack and found a spot that seemed as good as any other, and set up my bike. It didn't take long as it was pointless to try and cover it to keep it dry. The wind was blowing and everything was soaked.
I was feeling better about the race, but honestly I wasn't too concerned one way or another. My mind was still on my personal reflections and the race didn't seem high priority at the moment. It was what it was. When we returned to the house I tried to lay down but started feeling emotional again so I decided keeping busy was better. I worked on packing my transition bag, washing clothes, and finally on eating my favorite meatballs and spaghetti that Coach had made for us for dinner. We all settled down to go to bed early, and after a final pep talk from Coach I crawled into bed, ready for the day to come to an end.
To Be Continued...