Livestrong at the YMCA Green Lakes Triathlon 2011

Quite a mouthful, isn’t it?  But what a wonderful cause – the end to Cancer.  I’ve lost a Step-parent to cancer and have had my Father beat cancer.  This race wasn’t just about my overcoming fears of deep water swimming, it was so much more than that.

I felt really good in the weeks leading up to the Green Lakes, despite some issues with asthma this spring, as the weather turned warmer (it truly seemed a tough spring, for those of us with asthma).  I was able to get in several outdoor rides with my friends Sarah, Michelle, Debbie, Maria, Shioban and Caroline.  See,  I am a newbie to riding clipped in, so I needed all the guidance I could get.  Of course, I had the requisite spill or two (or more) and some glorious bruises/scrapes to show for it.  Note – wear bike gloves.  Best tip I’ve ever received regarding riding  clipped in.

I was also able to get in Green Lakes and swim a few times before the triathlon.  Swimmers were restricted to the lap lane, but it was better than nothing.  I went more than once, to swim laps with my friends (you know who you are!).   The thing that freaked me out initially, was seeing the sudden transition from being able to stand, to having the water be several feet over my head.  The deepest part of the lake is almost 200 feet down.  I am not a fan of heights and have inner ear issues – so for me, the sensation was similar to standing on the edge of a very tall building.  Vertigo.

As for  my runs – I still am not speedy, but I was getting my miles in (a few  good post Mountain Goat runs) and I felt very good about clocking a respectable time.  Maybe not a PR, but a definite improvement over my first triathlon 5k.  My knee was feeling good and my legs were feeling strong from all the training I had done for the Mountain Goat back in May.

The day before the triathlon, the weather report was feeling a bit bi-polar.  All I all could do was cross my fingers and hope it would turn in our favor.  Or be a total wash out LOL (yes, I was feeling a bit panicky the day before).  I made sure I had all my gear out and ready to pack up the day before and was actually asleep by 11pm (early for me).

Since I knew what to expect this time around (for the most part), I actually was able to get a decent nights sleep.  I woke up once around 1:30 to go to the bathroom and had no trouble falling right back to sleep.  I woke again about half an hour before my alarm went off.  I decided a relaxing  pre-race bath in the dark would be just the thing I needed to help me stay relaxed.

I managed to eat a decent breakfast (unlike before Iron Girl, where I was so nauseous from nerves, I could barely choke down a piece of toast).  I was actually able to drink a cup of coffee and my pre-race energy beverage – an egg white on toast).  I double checked my set up, packed it in the car and headed toward Green Lakes in a light drizzle.

No sooner than I get to the park, than the rain started coming down harder.  I was one of the first ones there (typical of me, I’m chronically early and thus have more time to stew and get nervous).  So I played on my phone, listened to some mood pumping music and texted my husband (who was away at drill).

Finally more people started showing up, including several friends I have made during my time with the YMCA.  We went up to get our chip timers and numbers sharpied on.  We all had pre-race jitters, but we were also all smiling.

All of us, let our a collective “THANK YOU!”  when the rain started to let up as we headed toward our various bike spots to set up our transition areas.  This year, unlike last (from what I am told), we all had assigned transition spots.  Some people liked this, some didn’t.  Me, the simpler the better. I made a mental note of where we came in to and where we headed out of  (I still had to ask later LOL).

My friends and I  met up again in groups here and there.  Helping each other into our wetsuits and then walking over to the start point on the beach.  I got in with a couple of friends and warmed up a bit (and yes, answered nature’s call).  I was so focused on this (warming up, not peeing), that I missed the pre-race prayer I had meant to do with another group of friends.  Thankfully, they included me in the prayer and I can honestly say I felt it, especially toward the end of the triathlon when I needed it most.

The swim wave was split into four starts, the last being the senior division.  I was in the third.  The first gun went off and it was amazing to see how fast some of those first set of people could swim!  The second gun  – off they go! Then ours – off we go! I waded out as far as my hips, dived forward and began swimming.  Immediately I felt that initial sense of panic – but literally had it knocked out of me by a guy to my right.

Still, I could feel my asthma starting to ramp up, try as I might, I could not relax enough to do my normal breathing and resorted to breathing every time I brought my right arm out of the water.  I focused on that first boat and swam to that.  A few other swimmers were there.  I hung on long enough to gauge how my asthma was, coughed a few times and began to swim again.  Realizing my breathing wasn’t getting any better, I went to my back up plan of swimming from boat to boat.  Yes, it made my swim a bit longer – but it gave me the chance to keep my asthma under control until I could get out of the water and get to my inhaler (which I completely forgot to grab till well into my run).

Never has 800 meters seemed so long.  While I didn’t pass more than a quick word or two, I was near a familiar face from the Y.  I also was swimming alongside a gentleman who did the majority of  it on his back – but he finished, so good for him!!!  That said, I am so thankful for my tri-training swim workouts.  Despite my asthma, I had the endurance.  I was smiling from ear to ear as I got out of the water.  I ran into transition with the end of the pack swimmers and had a much better T1 time than at Iron Girl.  I was so focused on getting on the bike and making up some time, that I forgot to use my inhaler. Once again, that came back to bite me a bit later.

I headed out on the bike, found a steady pace and my focus.  About halfway through the bike, I was pleased to realize that I should finish in under or just at an hour.  Not a speed demon, but I was picking off some other riders – I really think this is where I could truly shine athletically.  As I approached the turn to that last, beast of a hill I started to shift up into my easier gears.  The last hill arrives and I made the mistake of trying to shift into my easiest gear when  my momentum was too slow – my gears jam and over I go, flying onto my back, facing downhill and still clipped in.

I shout a string of  extremely colorful expletives at the sky – I could make a sailor blush.  Riders pass me and ask if I’m ok – I reply to the affirmative as I struggle to un-clip and right myself and my bike.  One kind soul even stopped to help me try to get my chain back on my bike.  I told her I was fine and that I’d finish the bike one way or another.  Fruiteless  minutes of struggling, I realize my chain will not stay on and allow me to get on my bike while I’m still on the crest of the hill.  So I have to walk up that last part of the hill, get to the top and I just let myself fly down as fast as I dare into transition.  My hopes of an hour or less are gone, my hip is killing me from the fall and I’m covered in grease.

That was probably the only time during the triathlon I lost my positive mood.  I was not a happy camper as I ran out of transition and onto the 5k course. Stress was ramping up my breathing difficulties and I spent the better part of the run working on controlling my asthma – as genius that I am, I failed to bring my inhaler with me from transition.  I ran and walked the 5k, passed a few people and hung with a very nice woman in Vibrams for a good portion of it.

The end was literally in sight as we came out of the woods and onto the paved part of the park.  From across the water toward the finish, I could hear my friends shout my name and begin running toward me.  At this point, I was truly struggling with my breathing (and to not burst into tears, the support overwhelmed me).  I told one of my friends I really needed my inhaler (you know who you are, and thank you so very much!).  She dashed off toward my gear to get it and my other friends ran me with me toward the finish.

I was trying not to panic and cry.  Then I got mad and decided I wasn’t going to finish in tears, staggering across the finish.  I found something inside myself and took off for the finish line.  I ran so fast, my friends couldn’t keep up.  I crossed that finish line, used my inhaler and found myself being hugged from all sides.

The EMTs were already walking toward me, having been flagged down.  My friends stayed by me as they sat me down, put all their leads and such on me, waited a moment and said “Hmmm, I really don’t like your pulse-ox, why don’t you take some oxygen?”  Being the stubborn dork that I am, I politely declined, asking that they give my inhaler a minute or two to work.   When they checked my stats a few minutes later, they were much happier.  A waiver signed (for refusing oxygen), a bottle of water in my hand I was free to go.

At that point, I was all about finding my other friends, including Coach Kelly (http://www.trimommylife.com/)  and snarfing down some post race food (I’m all about the food – ask anyone).  One of the best things, was finding out my friend Erin (http://erindonovanchoices.blogspot.com/) had won an age group award!

Since my oldest was home babysitting, I didn’t stay long after finishing.  I texted my husband and best friend Steph, a quick recap of the race (he was at his weekend National Guard drill).  I loaded my gear into my Rav4 and headed home.  Later that day, I headed to Steph’s to toss my kids in her pool, while her and I celebrated my race over Cosmo’s and my traditional post race rib-eyes.

I felt really good, despite the bike incident, at how triathlon went.  Based on my times for Green Lakes, I expect to see a significant improvement over last year’s Iron Girl times.  My fitness level since starting my running/triathlon journey has been steadily upward.  I may never be fast – but I’m still faster than those, who are still sitting on their couches at home…afraid to try.

My splits – swim 23:32, T1 3:05 (I think I was enjoying being back on terra firma too much); bike 1:03:23 (grrrrr) T2 2:02, Run 38:34! Total time 2:10:37

Sprinting to the finish

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