Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mary's Race Report

Mary’s SheRox Charlotte Race Report

We had originally picked the SheRox Charlotte Triathlon due to scheduling and the fact that Barbara and I are both from North Carolina. The travel time to Charlotte is around 7hrs from DC so we decided to make the trip in two days and stop by my parent’s house around 2 hours from Charlotte. This turned out to be a great decision. My parents asked Barb and I tons of questions about what we were about to get into. My mom and Barb had a nice laugh over my excellently prepared packing list. This list, in my opinion, was precise and very helpful while they considered it slightly neurotic. Everyone was really excited and proud of us and that in turn turned my slight nervousness into excitement as well.

Saturday morning my mom made us a gigantic breakfast of which country ham was included (I figured that all that salt could be good thing or a very bad thing but I sure wasn’t going to pass it up!) and sent us on our way to pick up our packets. I couldn’t believe my good luck when we got our packets and our race caps were hot pink. Score! Even better news (we thought at the time) was that the organizers had planned a big southern BBQ for the party after the race. That’s when I, for about an hour, didn’t even care about the tri but could only focus on the post race food.

We met Suzanne and Nicole eventually headed over to Latta Plantation to check out the course. They were busy setting up and I think that’s when it I forgot all about the BBQ and was back on track for the race. It was nice to ease some anxiety by seeing the layout and driving the bike course so we knew what to expect the next morning. Later that night a few of us went to a Japanese Steakhouse for dinner. Okay-in hindsight maybe that wasn’t the best choice. At the time we thought we could fill up on a load of carbs and get to see some cool knife tossing at the same time. After dinner and some last minute shopping we, for the probably 5th time, double checked our buckets and hit the sack. Yep, buckets-we shoved all of our stuff for transition in bright orange Home Depot buckets (thanks to Barb!). That’s how we roll!

The wake-up call from the front desk, my alarm and Barb’s alarm finally woke us up at the slightly crazy time of 4:15. Trying to eat that early in the morning was a real battle-one of my pop tarts was spared its life. We got to the park and then had to walk our stuff ¾ of a mile, in the complete darkness to the site. Thank goodness my dad and brother had loaned us their headlamps! In the distance you could hear music playing and see the lights that were set up—all under a full moon that was still pretty high in the sky.

We got to the transition area and there were tons of people waiting to write our numbers on us. As soon as a woman had written my number on my arms in, Sharpie marker, Barb and I realized that I had been carrying her bike. Since they got the numbers from the tags already stuck to our bike I had the wrong number on me. So she had to scribble over the number and below it wrote the correct one. I was secretly hoping this was not a sign of how the day was going to be.

We all parted ways to rack our bikes and to arrange our transition areas. I was happy about getting there early enough to be able to put my bike on the end of a rack—easier to find later. After checking my layout over and over I was pretty satisfied and we went to grab our timing chips. We actually had a lot of time to spare so Barb and I walked around and just checked everything out. It was still pretty dark out and participants were busy rushing around while family and friends were setting up chairs and finding good spots to watch.

We walked down to the lake and found a spot to watch the first waves leave at 7am. We were the final wave and didn’t head out until 7:30. I was extremely excited looking at the crowd. This event was relatively small with only around 400 participants but there were tons of supporters there. I turned around and I got the biggest surprise ever when I literally bumped into my mom, dad and sister. They were not going to be able to make it when we last saw them but things had changed and they totally surprised us. It was even better than I could have expected having them there. We took some quick photos together and tried to laugh off some nervous energy. I was still I a little bit of shock at how far the swim looked. Having only ever trained in a pool I mentally new I could swim that distance but seeing it laid out like that for the first time made room for a little doubt to creep into my mind.

It was finally our turn to go and we had found Nicole and Suzanne so we all slowly walked down to the edge of the water. I think I was a bit goofy from excitement so again I had my dad take more pictures of us-of course flexing our muscle in our pink swim caps. I again had a great surprise when saw my friend Dan and his daughter Lizzie as I was about to enter the water.

The voice of Lloyd stuck with me throughout the race. We all reminded ourselves to not let the adrenaline get the best of us but to start at the back of the pack and to relax when we first started swimming. It was really nice to start beside of friendly faces who you’d trained with. Of course when we were told to start I think my heart almost jumped out of my chest but I tried to relax. I quickly lost sight of everyone but I’m sure I swam almost up on top of Barb several times at the beginning. As expected on the swim out breathing wasn’t that easy but once we looped around the end buoy and started to make our way back in it became much nicer. Sometimes it was almost too relaxing. I caught myself a few time just treading water and looking around. It really was almost an overwhelming feeling to be in the middle of a gigantic lake that felt like bathwater with the sun just coming up doing something that you had trained constantly for almost 15 wks for. Swimming in the open water was a much more pleasant experience for me for one due to the lack of chlorine in the water and just the really unimpeded feeling I had (besides the bodies jostling all around me at times).

I eventually decided that I needed to try to focus a bit more and really try to swim like I knew I could. I evidently became so focused that I didn’t realize the last buoy was right in front of me until I swam into it. It didn’t hurt-physically that is but I did stop for a bit wondering if anyone saw that. I’m sure a few of the kayakers who were keeping watch over us got a bit of a chuckle once they realized that I was okay. As I came out of the water a bit tired I was instantly energized by seeing everyone I knew cheering me on.

The transition out of the swim was very long, uphill and dirty! I tried to take it slow and at one point posed for a picture-which probably didn’t help my time too much. Transition went smooth and I was glad I took the time to really clean off my feet before I shoved them into my socks. Looking back I do think it is a bit humorous that I was about to leave with my bike and then I saw that the seat was wet. So I went back and wiped it off. As I was leaving I then sat my still rather soggy butt on my dry seat. Strange the things you’ll do when you’re just a little tired.

We knew from riding the course the day before that the bike would be a little hilly. Nothing like the hell that I still consider the Columbia course to be! But yes-a few “rolling hills”. I just started riding with not much of a game plan other than just to go. I forced myself to eat a pack of sports beans which I normally love but could barely make myself eat on that day. As I was riding out I saw the leaders coming back in. It was actually not discouraging to see them but was strangely reassuring to me that yes-I might come back from the bike as well. For some reason I got bored really quickly on the bike so I started playing a game of giving myself a point for everyone I passed while deducting one when I was passed. Needless to say there was both a lot of adding and subtracting going on until I realized it was hurting my head to do all of that math.

I did find it to be really nice at how supportive everyone was. There was lots of chatter of “looking good”, “keep doing it”, etc. I tried to say something nice or funny every time I past someone. And I secretly took a lot of pleasure of passing someone on a road bike considering that Barb and I both were clunking it up with our big ol’ mountain bikes. I think the pleasure was due in part to a bit of jealousy! My legs did get a bit tired and I began to wonder if I was pushing too hard but I figured if there was a time it was now. There were times that I spaced out a bit and was brought back by someone saying something to me. I passed a lady who was a bit older than I at one point and a bit later I heard her yelling to me “I know I can’t pass you but you’re riding too slow-pick it up a bit!” That made me laugh so hard. I gave her a big thank you and took her advice and picked it up. I thought it was really great to have our ages on our calves. It was inspirational to see some of the older ages (61 was the oldest I saw) and exciting to see ages as young as 12.

I could hear my mom’s gigantic cowbell from a mile away as I came in from the bike and it brought a big smile on my face and I tried to look all refreshed even though I was far from it. After replenishing my chapstick supply and hitting the porta johns (surprise!) out to the dreaded run I went but knowing that I would soon be accomplishing this goal very soon. The trail started out on a paved and shaded road-just my style but soon turned a little treacherous. We were told that it would be “packed dirt” and there was dirt but I wouldn’t consider it packed. There were tons of big loose rocks, exposed roots and eroded banks. I actually spent a lot of the time looking at the ground to make sure I wouldn’t fall. Many people still spoke words of support but in general it was much more quite than the ride. I ran at a pace that I thought I could maintain throughout but I did start too slow down at one point. Then to my delight I saw Barbara and we were able to run together for about 5 minutes. That was really a nice boost at that point. We got to check in with each other, know that we were both going to make it and personally it revitalized me a lot. I also got to say a quick hi to Nicole and to Suzanne, which was nice. After the last water station I “dropped the hammer”. I decided to pick up my pace but quickly realized I might have done that a bit too soon. Just as I thought I would take a quick walk break I could hear that cowbell and see all of our supporters waiting in the distance…just what I needed. So I took off and started passing anyone near me (the words of wisdom from Lloyd in the back of my mind tell me to “eat her up!”). Being pushed on by the cheers and bells I leaned to pass one more person at the finish line which at the time seemed like the thing to do. I had finally made it and felt…well, like a needed to find a place to hurl! Fortunately that passed and I got to join my supporters and cheer on my teammates with that big ol’ cowbell!

Back to the beginning of this novel when I mentioned the southern BBQ—well after it was said and done there was no way I could stomach that so we all grabbed a spot in the shade and relaxed with each other. (We later hit up a good ol’ Cracker Barrel and dug into an amazing cinnamon cake that Dan made for us and brought to the tri-knife included) I think for a bit I was on a sort of on a high from realizing that I had really done this. It was actually a little shocking even knowing that we had trained hard for this. There were so many times that I had an internal battle of really wanting to have a short little rest on the curve but I didn’t give in . I thought back to all of the preparation, knowledge and training that we had all gained from Lloyd and the fact that I wanted to join you guys as a triathlete. I also didn’t want to disappoint myself or that amazing cheering section that was waiting for me.

Thank you guys so much for all of your support. I did really enjoy the triathlon but I do have to be honest that for me the process of making it up to that point was the meat of it all. Having a great coach and group to rely on was the important stuff!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Amy's Recap

Amy's race report, Iron Girl 2008:

Is it the journey or is it the destination?

Last year, I figured that since I could swim, bike and run, to some extent, doing a tri would not be insurmountable. And it wasn't, as I did finish, and I was alive at the end (by some accounts). It wasn't pretty, though, and I learned where much improvement was needed.

That was 2007, and in my excitement of having finished, I did what I could to encourage my sister-in-law Deena to give it a go with me for 2008. We both signed up soon after registration opened, and being smarter than I am, Deena actually found a way to ensure that we would both improve on our fitness and readiness- she found Lloyd and On-Point Fitness. The chances of my having stumbled upon this group were small since I live out east by Annapolis, but it sounded like such a good idea. And practice swims were to be held 2 blocks from where I work in Silver Spring. Karma!

After 12 weeks of training, the big day was finally here. I first saw Cherry, and we were checking out the lay of the land. There was much excitement as everyone was setting themselves up in the transition area. Eventually we found Sally, Deena and Keanne- and, to my great surprise and joy, there was a whole team of On-Pointers there to join in the early morning fun! The camaraderie helped calm me down as we headed back to prepare for the swim.

Ah yes, the swim. At least this year, our caps were purple. Last year mine was yellow, and it just was so not-me. I started at the back of the group, which is pretty much where I ended. Or was it the back of the next group? I kept up a steady TI stroke the entire time, calmly, without breaking, except when getting kicked in the face. Before I knew it, I was at the finish. I was feeling fresh and it was marvelous!

Then, the bike. Deena was in my age wave but had finished first (yay, Deena!) so I rushed to start when she did. She was one of the only two people I ended up passing- pretty much, people were whizzing by me most of the time. The hills were quite doable- I kept a strong and steady pace throughout the challenging course. Heard family and friends yelling for me as I was biking into the park- that was a thrill!

Finally, the run. I still felt strong (maybe it was the 4 Gus), and I was amused and energized by the chalk note to me, care of Lloyd, cheering me along as I tromped around the path. Started to tire at the big last hill, but I saved a last spurt of energy to finish strong- and as soon as I heard the cowbell and saw my team, I was flying! What a way to finish!

As I look back on this summer, certainly training with the group and with Lloyd can be credited with my 15% improvement over my last years' time. But it was more than that. Each and every person in our group brought their own energy to our merry band- we were a true team, working individually toward the same goal. We sweated, pushed, ached, and inspired each other to do our best, and to achieve. I couldn't have asked for a more supportive coach and team.

Looking forward to Iron Girl 2009!