Atlantic City 70.3

 

This race is so big that I don’t know where to begin, so I guess I’ll start at the beginning, sort of. I woke up at 3:50am to allow myself time to eat and have a cup of coffee. I sat at the tiny table in our hotel with the coffee machine as my companion.  The bathroom light was on and the door ajar, providing a crack of light. I hunched over my hard boiled eggs, plain bagel, and fruit, forcing myself to eat something at this hour in between sips of coffee. My tri kit and bag were ready to go, but I wasn’t.

Phil woke up at 4:30 to take me to the race while Sophia slept soundly at the hotel. There was no need for anyone to be awake except for me, but I wanted Phil to have the car in case he needed it later on, so he dropped me off at Bader Field by 5:15am due to race day traffic. Being this early, meant I had plenty of time before transition closed at 6:30am because it doesn’t take me an hour to set up.

My bike was already racked, so I carefully laid out my gear, checking and double checking that everything was there and in good working order. I ate a granola bar, used the port-o-potty and waited until the last possible moment to put on my wetsuit. The water temp in the back bay of Atlantic City was a chilly 73 degrees F. I thought about not wearing the wetsuit–I picked it up, and then put it down a few times. Everyone else wore a wetsuit, and I wanted to be faster too. I can fly through the water in my wetsuit. I slid my wetsuit on half way up and exited transition. If you ever want to feel like your clothes don’t fit, try putting a wetsuit on. Uggh.

The swim start had informal corrals based on swim times for the 1.2 mile swim. I lined up behind the sign for 36-45 minutes with my swim time being right at 40 minutes or less. Perfect. Soon, I was in a tight crowd of athletes in caps, goggles, and wetsuits. I couldn’t move for about forty minutes while waiting for the swim start. Another athlete was ushered out by medical, which made me panic a bit. I focused on my breathing, closed my eyes, and held the top of my wetsuit away from my neck to prolong the choking feeling I get while wearing it. Just breath. My feet ached from the hard pavement, but we soon moved to the dock to enter the water.

As soon as I lined up with five other swimmers, the buzzer went off–we all took a step to jump, but the volunteer held out her arm–a lifeguard boat with another athlete whizzed by; she was removed from the swim course for medical reasons. I placed my hands on my goggles, happy that I didn’t jump or get hit by the lifeboat. And, then we were off! The shock of cold water always takes my breath away, but I quickly swam past the swimmers who jumped in with me. I got a good pace going until I felt someone’s hand hook around my ankle. What the heck? I’ve heard of this happening in races, but couldn’t imagine anyone trying to grab me to pull me back in order to get ahead. Then, I felt the hand again. I turned on my strong kick and got away from that crazy athlete. When I did, the water opened up, thankfully. As I started to get closer to some of the buoys, my hands felt like they were pushing down rubber balls in the water. I had my eyes open, but saw nothing. Jellyfish? Regular fish saying hi? A shark snout? Who knows? I lied to myself and told my brain that they were other swimmers’ feet in my way even though no one was that close to me. It’s amazing how you can lie to yourself in a race.

Out of breath, I exited the water, shocked to have avoided drowning. Volunteers pulled off my wetsuit from my feet like they were shaking out a t-shirt to fold with one flick of their wrists. I stepped under the cold shower to rinse off some of the salt water and ran to my bike. Shoes, sunglasses, helmet–go! Now for 56 miles on the bike. Thank goodness I could sit down and just churn my legs while I eat and drink, eat and drink, eat and drink for over 3 1/2 hours. Some cyclists passed me too close and scared the crap out of me, I saw a few flat tires, and a massive bike crash involving at least five bikes. Yikes! One guy passed me and said, “Is that a bagel? What a fantastic idea!” I told him I had another half if he wanted it, but he just told me to have a good ride. And I did. I enjoyed the bike, practiced grabbing a water bottle held out by a volunteer through the water stops without getting off, and stretched my hands to keep them from going numb. I watched the white cranes in the marsh. And I ate as much as I could.

Off the bike, my heels and the sides of my feet stung with pain. I winced. I couldn’t walk, but somehow managed to rack my bike and take a seat to tie my running shoes. Another athlete needed help with her tri kit, so I zipped her up and handed her some TriSlide for chaffing. When I stood up, I almost fell over because the pain in my feet was so bad. I grabbed my water bottle and had a conversation inside my head about whether my foot pain was an injury or just cramping. I wanted to cry, but my tears were all dried up from sweating so much. I wanted to throw my visor to the ground. I wanted to give up and be pissed off with myself forever. I didn’t. I made a plan that if my feet weren’t better by the time I left Bader Field, I was going to call it quits–DNF because of cramping. Loser. By 1 1/2 miles, I stopped, used the port-o-potty, got some Gatorade, water, and a banana and kept on running. Another athlete and I helped another runner up who fell in front of me and did a somersault. By mile 3, I picked up some salt and greedily downed some of it. The pain was still there, but manageable. I could run, albeit slowly.

I passed people on the boardwalk, chatted with an athletes walk/running, walked through each and every water station, and even sprinted at the end where Phil and Sophia waited for me. I made it to the finish line I’d never thought I’d see. I can do anything. I am an endurance athlete.

 

A big thank you to my coach, Mary Kelley, because even coaches need coaches. Her guidance, nutrition advice, and training plan helped me finish in under my goal time. Check out her website and contact her for coaching too!

Mary Kelley Coaching

Thank you to Phil for putting up with my crazy training schedule, coaching other athletes, and my new triathlon class at the Y.  You made dinner, cleaned up, and did loads of laundry, and watched Sophia. Thank you, Sophia, for riding your bike with me for some of my long runs, you are an amazing kid who will talk to me for over 2 1/2 hours on the bike and keep me sane. Thank you, Mom, for showing me that anything is possible if you don’t give up. Thank you to my friends, Angela and Jeff, who watched Sophia for some of my long runs and rides when Phil wasn’t there. And thank you to all of the Ironmen and endurance athletes and running buddies I know: Cathy, Mary, Sue, Mary, Catrina, Dylan, Steve, Bill, Becky, Donna, Kelly, Karissa, Laura, Mira, Chris, Thomas, Belinda, Kelly, Brittany, Irene, Brittany, Rhonda, Jen, Lucy, Kerry, Gene, Hua, Jennifer, Megan, Ann, Deb, and all of the other amazing athletes I know. You inspire me every day, and I’m lucky to know so many awesome people. No one does anything alone; and with others, the impossible is possible.

Ironman in My Pocket

Bia

I have Ironmen in my pocket:

they are all women–

Mary, Sue, Cathy, Kelly, Catrina, Mary–

I say their names in my head

pedaling to a smooth cadence,

turning my legs over on the run,

or cutting through brackish water,

daring a shark to catch me.

 

I have Ironmen in my pocket;

they are my secret weapon,

small and fierce.

They race like princess warriors

cast from a different mold

than most–too strong to be contained.

 

They all earned the title of “Ironman”,

and they whisper “Ironman” on the wind

because one day, I’ll be one too.

Taper Week Cravings

I chug some milk chocolate chips from a small bowl. Most of them make it into my mouth, and the one that falls to the floor? I eat that one too before my fat cat, Neko, sniffs it. Five second rule. I’m waiting for water to boil for my hot chocolate, but my chocolate chips won’t last that long. I get some more and hide them back in the pantry. Who am I kidding? Everyone in the house knows where I keep the chocolate chips.

I need a safe place like my dad has for his stash of chocolate. He keeps his secret dark chocolate snow caps in an air tight Tupperware container on top of the refrigerator. My sister and I were too short to reach it, and it one of us tried to move a chair, my dad would know. Chocolate is sacred. And goes best with orange juice (don’t judge).

I don’t buy expensive chocolate from Malley’s in Cleveland like he does, but heaven forbid if there is no chocolate in my house–especially during taper week. I don’t know what it is about taper week that causes me to crave all of that milk chocolate goodness. After my ride on the trail today, I actually talked myself out of going to Starbucks for lunch and a mocha. I must have looked at Bia (my bike) hanging on the back of the car, and I didn’t want to leave her alone on the rack while I went inside.

What was I thinking? I no sooner got home and grabbed my chocolate chips and boiled water for hot cocoa. That’s not enough for lunch, but I didn’t want a salad with some random protein and nuts. I didn’t want fruit on the side. Hummus and carrots were out of the question. I wanted a burger and fries or pizza before downing all of that chocolate. I compromised and made a black bean and cheese quesadilla to go with the homemade guacamole.

No. I didn’t take a picture of my food. I’m not ashamed of consuming so much chocolate. In fact, for my next mini bowl of chips, I’ll eat them one by one. No chocolate chugging.

My Mom Who Rides

My mom who cycles though the park

day after day, racing against the cars,

bikes circles around the runners and walkers

in her path along the greenway through the city.

Day after day, racing against the dark,

leaves fall in red orange yellow under her tires–

gripping the asphalt and spraying road grit,

splashing upward like a unclean fountain,

fanning mud across her back in the shape of a tree

that grows with each pedal stroke churning

with the strength of her legs.

She rides in circles, racing against time

and faster than those half her age

along the greenway through the city,

passing old neighborhoods and schools

she no longer needs for her children.

Yellow orange red keep falling

and she keeps pedaling through time,

ignoring the grit and breathing in crisp air.

My mom’s bike roars like the lion she is,

and you better keep up.

 

Steelman Sprint Triathlon

This past weekend Phil completed his first triathlon, making us a triathlon family! He did the Steelman Sprint Triathlon at Nockamixon State Park in PA. Wind kept the swim calm, hills challenged him on the bike, and the run was easy for this athlete.

Congratulations to Phil! We enjoyed watching you compete and can’t wait to see you do many more!

Jaws Can Bite Me

This starts with a weird dream and a confession. The night after I swam in Marsh Creek Lake for a training swim I had dream about a mechanical shark in a large tank the size of a baseball stadium. The water filled all of the space from the ground, where I stood and watched, to the top of the bleachers. A diver swam in the tank with the shark, attempting to feed it a mechanical dolphin because robot sharks gotta eat. When the shark missed the dolphin, it broke the glass. Water flooded the observation room, but I wasn’t scared because I could swim. That’s just what I did at the training swim and at Tri AC last weekend: I owned the swim. The robotic shark of my nightmares from the movie, Jaws, no longer held me in its, well, jaws.

At the beginning of Tri AC, rain pelted the bikes in transition, dousing the dry towels and running shoes. Triathletes topped with cap and goggles shivered while waiting for the swim start, delayed fifteen minutes due to the storm overhead. I looked down at my watch and ran it through a practice triathlon by hitting the interval button. Cathy looked at me and asked if I was nervous. Nope. Not this time.

When it was my turn, I jumped off the dock like a lifeguard going to rescue a drowning swimmer, keeping my head above water to prevent my cap and goggles from flying off at the swim start. As my feet left the platform, I heard Cathy say, “I have to turn on my watch!”

I looked back at the dock and said, “I gotta go! Mine is on.” And then I swam. I swam so fast that I passed four or five groups of swimmers rounding the buoys during the .9 miles. I flew through that swim, relaxed and confident for the first time ever. Salt water waves had no affect on me; I coughed out any water that I accidentally swallowed and pressed on. I got this.

I hit my watch in transition and hopped on my bike. Last year’s pace was too easy, so I went two miles an hour faster on average just to see how I felt. That felt good, so then I bumped it up another mile per hour and held it. I actually passed some people on the bike, and I could have gone faster–this was all new territory for me.

During the run, I ran a bit quicker than I usually do in training, but I wanted to enjoy the run and the Atlantic City Boardwalk, which is exactly what I did. Could I have pushed it harder? Sure. But, I didn’t. I now know that I can do the Atlantic City Half Ironman in September after this race.

And best of all? I left my fears of Jaws in my wake.

 

First Tri

This little gymnast completed her first triathlon with her best friends. She was placed in the oldest age group with twelve year olds twice her size, but her competitive spirit kept her going. Basically, I’ve discovered that this gymnast can do just about any kind of endurance sport well. Run a 5K? Sure mom. Go on an eighteen mile or more bike ride? Easy. Pace you for a long run even though you run slow, mom? I guess. Do a triathlon? Why not!

For the 10-12 age group, the kids’ triathlon consisted of a 150 meter swim, two mile bike, and a one mile run. She was in the second to last swim heat to go so her friends could watch her race too. The kid was a bit nervous before the swim because she had never really swam six lengths of the pool without stopping; however, she alternated between freestyle and backstroke and made it all look easy.

She ran through the transition zone like a pro and flew on the bike. After the bike, she deftly unclipped her helmet and ran fast. Near the end of the run, all three of the girls ran together. And then they all ate doughnuts.

Now, the kiddo wants a road bike so she can go even faster. I think she’s hooked.