Sunday, August 31, 2014

Irongirl Triathlon 2014

Irongirl Triathlon
by Marsha O'Mara

What happens when you don't listen to your coach?  You have a bad swim.  What happens when you do listen to your cycling coach?  You have a great bike ride.  So Lloyd has been telling me that when I go to the open water swims or even to the pool that I need to start swimming as soon as I get in the water and not sit around trying to get acclimated since I won't have the opportunity at the race.  But I remember from last year's Iron Girl Columbia that we had 6 minutes to sit around in the water before our wave started so I paid him absolutely no attention and didn't do what he said to do in practice.  Well, at least not for the open water swims.  To my credit, I did try to do it in the pool.  :-)

Well, to my shock, the week of the Iron Girl Columbia race, they announced that the swim would be a time trial swim which means that they call 2 people at a time every 5 seconds and you immediately get in the water and start swimming.  I still didn't think it would be an issue.  Well, I was so wrong!  As soon as I got in the water for the race, I began to panic.  I was able to swim to the first kayak and hung on to it for a bit.  When I got my breath a little bit (because I never fully caught my breath for the whole swim) I started swimming again, but I started to panic again so I stopped at the next kayak.  Another athlete came up to the kayak and was saying that she wanted to quit because she was panicking.  Another teammate of mine was also at the kayak and we were both telling her that she could do it.  Don't quit.  Even though I was having the same thoughts of quitting.  But I would never admit that to anyone else.  LOL!  So I was trying to motivate her and motivate myself as well.  I think she eventually swam off but I stayed there hanging on for dear life.  My teammate left as well to continue her swim and after a little bit, I decided to just do it.  So I started swimming and rolling on my back and swimming regularly again at intervals.

I think what also made this different than last year is that I was in the last wave last year and there was no one to come from behind and swim over me.  I pretty much was able to swim without interference last year.  But this year, since we had the time trial start and I wasn't in the last wave, there were people all over swimming on my right and left and coming from behind.  I never had that type of experience before.  So I got water splashed in my face and up my nose.  I swallowed a good bit of water too.  As I turned to go around the bend to make my way back to the finish, I decided to stop at another kayak to catch my breath again because there was no amount of deep breathing that was allowing me to control my breath.  So I stopped and asked him where we were on the course.  Someone said we were more than half way.  I looked at my watch and I was 24 minutes in.  Last year I had finished my swim in 40 minutes and in practice I was doing it in a little over 30 so I knew this was not looking good as far as time was concerned.  But I just really wanted to finish.

I finally made my way again and after a while I got caught up in the weeds or whatever was in the water and I remembered from last year that this was near the finish line so I knew I was almost done.  Finally, my swim stroke started to come together and I was swimming like I was taught to swim instead of in panic mode.  Never was I happier to make it to the finish line...of the swim.  I still had the bike and run to do.  But honestly at that point, I just wanted to be done.  My psyche was all messed up.

However, when I did get on the bike, I felt really good.  I had just gotten my tires pumped up that morning after not pumping them up in weeks.  I was told they were really flat.  Is that why I was riding so slow before?  Possibly.  My cycling coach did tell us to pump up our tires before each ride.  As you can tell, I don't know how to listen.  So I was riding nice and fast.  Even though this is a hilly course, I was passing everyone on the ride.  I don't think anyone passed me on the ride at all.  Why I say I did listen to my coach is he says to always pedal on the downhills because that's how you gain your momentum to get up the hills and it just gives you more speed.  So I did that for the whole ride.  While everyone else was coasting, I was pedaling.  And I was MOVING!  It felt so good to let the wind blow against my face.  This also was my first race using my new clipless pedals and I could definitely tell the difference with them.  I highly recommend those pedals for riding.

The run, although my favorite of the 3 sports, was uneventful.  It was hot and hilly...not a good combo.  But since it was the only thing that stood between me and the finish line, I got it done.  Of course, I broke out into a sprint going down the finish line shoot.  I was so happy to see my Team OnPoint Fitness members at the finish line waving me in and giving high fives.  Definitely a great cheering squad.

Overall, I'm just really glad I finished.  I'm glad I improved on the bike, but I really need to get stronger in the swim.  I need to be more comfortable in the open water for sure.  I will not let this race get the best of me.

Thanks to my coaches for knowing their stuff.  Hopefully next time, I'll pay attention.  :-)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My "First" Triathlon Report- Irongirl Columbia

By Gina S. Brown

I want to start this report off by saying that first of all I give all glory, honor and praise to the Trinity-Father, Son AND Holy Spirit for allowing me to be “alive” to write this report the day after my first “tri”. Secondly, it might make me cuss less while writing these thoughts. ….

Waiting for swim start
The thought of participating in my first “tri” was circumstantial. A year ago, I was swimming and running on the same day, then biking and running, etc. My BFF said to me, “Hey, you are doing tri training”…that thought had never occurred to me. I was just trying to “get it in….” exercise and stay in shape. Then a novel idea occurred…”hey, if I’m doing tri training, why not just participate in one”…. I should have prayed first to see “who” was giving me that idea. I can’t even blame that on The Lord…. because after yesterday, Jesus might have been saying…. ummm hummmm. “Yo black behind should have asked me first before trying to embark on such a feat”…. nevertheless it was again only “The Lord” that got me through.

Let me reflect and quickly share my journey. I took my first swimming classes as a teenager at the neighborhood pool. I can’t even tell you that they did any good, except that I wasn’t afraid of the water, I could go off of the high board, but I would HAVE to come up out of the water, and immediately flip on my back. I never learned how to properly breathe. Fast forward 20 years and 1 child later. While pregnant with my second child, I took swimming lessons yet again, learning how to stroke, but not breathe.  Fast-forward another 15 years later. While talking to India Medley who was preparing for her first tri, she suggested that I meet her coach. But I didn’t have the time or resources, so I pushed it off. Five years later while running with Karen Hayes (in 27 degree weather), she suggested that I meet her swimming coach-which was the same guy!!!

Swim Start
 So I met Lloyd Henry who is phenomenal (but has a very sharp tongue and smart mouth). Lloyd Henry is “no joke”. He pulls no punches and is the best freaking tri coach in the world! Lloyd is a Tri-Star who has done over 12 Iron Man tri’s all over the world. He knows what he is doing. I started taking swimming lessons with Lloyd, and lo and behold, I learned how to breathe!!!! I then took a sabbatical, worked on swimming and went back to Lloyd intermittently to work on strokes, distance, etc. When I finally told Lloyd that I wanted to do a tri he said “ok”. Now he KNEW what I could and could not do. I would have told me-“wait”, but he just said, “ok”. I then wanted to sign up for Iron Girl-2014. I don’t know what I was drinking or smoking that morning, but whatever it was, it must have been potent, because I had no fear whatsoever. I had my husband on one computer, Lloyd on another computer and I was on a computer, trying to get a slot. I finally got through! I should have known when I couldn’t get through the first time that Jesus might be trying to tell me something…. I even got my “run-wife” Sherrie Brown to sign up, but she had to bail later due to other obligations.
Swim Start

So Lloyd and I started training. What a feat! My travel schedule is always crazy because of work and other responsibilities, but Lloyd flipped times around, met me at unreal times (6am on his own personal swimming times), had me going to the pool at other times, gave me a training and workout plan, and texted me regularly to see what I was doing when I was on travel.  About 2 months out from the event, my travel schedule had been so heavy that I hadn’t had the time to appropriately train. I asked Lloyd to “reset” my training schedule. You would have thought that I said, “Mary wasn’t a virgin!”  Lloyd laid me out (via text) that he wasn’t resetting anything and that I needed to just “catch up”. At that point, I felt that I’d defer if I couldn’t catch up, but I wouldn’t tell Lloyd that I was going to defer until August 1. But I felt that I’d still do all the training if only to get in shape. Lloyd is the kind of coach that if you miss something, will track you down, so I knew if I didn’t want to answer 15,000 questions, I’d better show up.

Bike Start
So I worked hard. I swam even when I was on travel. I’d drive and find a pool…. But my hard work wasn’t hard enough. Lloyd was not worried about the running portions, but the biking and swimming needed work, and especially the swimming, as normally you don’t DIE when you bike, but you sure can when you swim. My regular sessions weren’t enough. I wasn’t getting it. Additionally Lloyd felt that while the distance was an issue, I still needed to learn to breathe on both sides. I’m thinking, “You are kidding me! I just learned how to breathe….” But I followed through.  At one point I was in the pool 4-5 times per week. Footnote…. I’m African American. My hair was NOT happy. It’s just starting to speak to me again…. but “it’s still angry and needs counseling….”

Anyway, that still wasn’t enough. Lloyd had me come in the morning at 6am and then some evenings as well. I was not feeling it…. but I did it. The biking he captured as well through the training plan and another coach. By the time August 1 came, I felt that if I deferred, he’d be so disappointed because he and so many others had invested so much time and energy in me. I didn’t have the nerve to quit at that point. So I lined up my insurance papers and decided to go for it. One additional thing that Lloyd did was to align me with a partner. Amy Bleich. Amy had done Iron Girl 7 times, and was use to swimming in the Chesapeake Bay. It was Amy who took me into open water, did biking bricks with me and just really emailed and encouraged me. Her help and support were invaluable.

Irongirl Finisher
Two days before the race, Lloyd called me to see how I was doing. At that point I had picked up my race packet and I was ready…or so I thought. The next night before the race, Lloyd called me again. I should have known something was wrong…”just checking on me”. Hindsight is 20/20. I’d have called me too knowing what I know now. I had racked my bike, and again, I was “ready”. HA!!!!  I had so many people praying for me…. to the point that the senior citizens from the prayer line were leaving me messages and one of them told me “I’m praying that you don’t embarrass me”…HA!

The morning of the race, Lloyd and Cherry were there as encourager’s. The rest of the “On Point Team “got there and got ready to roll. Amy had told me to get there super early, so I got there before 5am. Footnote: I’ m African American. 3:30am and Gina do not go together…” But I got there, set up my tri area as Lloyd had instructed and walked around with Amy. There were approximately 2000 of us there to participate. When it was time to go into the water, we placed our color-coded swim caps on and went out 2 by 2, like “The disciples”…. only we were to be eaten by wolves…

Amy & Gina
Amy stated that she’d go out with me, and we’d catch up later (footnote…we caught up at the “after party”)…The water temperature was 76.2 degrees. Lloyd said not to worry about that, because I’d be warm after the first 5 minutes. He also said that I’d panic the first 10 minutes but would calm down after that and find my rhythm. Well he was right about both; except I panicked probably the first 60 minutes of my 60-minute swim…no worries though.  He told me how to get on my back when I was panicked and then go back into the freestyle. I never got off of my back for any longer than 6 strokes. I did the entire race in an elementary backstroke! I could hear Lloyd screaming from the side with a freaking cowbell, but I couldn’t understand a word of it. The Lord sent me “Mike” who was a kayaker who stayed virtually beside me most of the entire race. When I was tired, I’d swim over to the Kayak, and if I could make it or talk (and yes I talked to Mike) then I d just keep moving.
Gina & Sherrie

Eventually I made it out of the water (THANK YOU JESUS!!!!) I had my husband, my “run wife” and the team cheering me on, as I transitioned to my bike. That was another experience, but I made it through those 16 miles as well. When I got back to do the run, I was just saying “Lord if you will just help me”…. eventually I saw Amy who was about 10 minutes in front of me on the run. That was great. Then I heard that wretched cow bell again, saw that florescent yellow “On Point” shirt and said, “oh no! Here he comes!” We were about a ¼ mile out…. and he’s running toward me, screaming, smiling and as I’m telling him what great coach he is, I’m also saying “I’m never doing this again”…. he said, run, smile for the photographer and beat the other teams’ girl who was running beside me”…. and that I did. My daughter, my girlfriend, and the others were there also to cheer me on. That was VERY helpful and really made the difference. None of my “On Point” team members left until I made it in. Belonging to a team really makes a difference.
OnPoint Fitness Team

While tri training can be expensive overall, it was worth every dime that I paid. The biggest question that everyone asks is, would I do it over again? Yep. I would. But I’ll be back in the saddle with Lloyd Henry working on those problem areas so that the next time, I’m an even better “Iron Girl”…

Gina Brown