Thursday, August 18, 2005

Swim, Bike, Run and then Cry tears of joy

There is no better feeling on the planet than forcing yourself to do something you hate, realizing you don't hate it and that you can in fact suck it up and do it. Let me also mention how great it feels to do something you never dreamed possible. This experience was harder than child birth with the same result at the end. Not exactly the same, but the end result being a type of happiness you cant describe but must experience to understand. I say that child birth was easier because of a couple of things: I was heavily medicated and I had no choice but to give birth. It's not like I could say after 12 hours of labor, that I had had enough and was going home! Oh no. My body was going to have a baby no matter what my brain wanted to do. This triathlon was harder because I had to make myself keep going. If my brain told me to stop, I could . That's the hard part.

This past Sunday I completed the Acworth Women's Triathlon in 1 hour 46 minutes. I have never ever enjoyed running, but I did this time. It was actually the easiest part of the whole experience. The swimming part was complete insanity. Let me start from the beginning, at 4:30 AM

4:30 AM - I awake from my sleep at the lovely Econo Lodge to the sound of an engine that wont turn over outside. Someone swears and slams a rusty door. I sit up, my heart pounding with excitement and grab my blackberry. It reads "4:27 AM" much to my relief. My adrenaline is surging through my body, my hands ache from the nervousness that is building inside of me. Today is the day!

5:00AM - I am now in my $85 dollar Nike bathing suit, applying "Bull Frog" sunblock to my shoulders while eating a power bar. I am now shiny. This sunblock is like a silicone spray, damnit - I look like a pro wrestler now.

5:30AM - my bag is packed, I have ingested some gatorade and STILL cant decide what to wear for the race. Just a bathing suit for the swim and then yank on my padded bike shorts for the bike while - WET? OR wear it all in the water and hop on the bike in no time flat? Hmm. I opt for the complete package so I can increase my speed. (who am I fooling here? I am not here to win, or compete but to simply finish!)

6:00AM - My fabulous friend, Yellow Lightnin', is being wheeled out of my hotel room to be strapped onto the roof rack of the waiting car. I love this bike. I "adopted" it from Decatur Yellow Bike, and then re-built most of it. Yes, I took every piece apart on this, including the tires, brakes, gears, pedals and seat. Now it is a speed machine with a sticker on it that reads "Adopted". awww.

Ok, so I will hurry this up a bit more. It was dark as we pulled into the park and down to the fog coated lake for the start of the race. Women were everywhere, all different shapes and sizes which I found liberating and exciting! There were the 2% body fat types, there were big girls and there were people 35 years older than I - all here to bring it. sweet.

I walked up to the bike area where they were blasting Earth, Wind & Fire reminding me to enjoy this experience. A woman takes out a permanent marker and draws 449 on both of my shoulders, both thighs and then writes my age on my calf. This was actually a godsend later as I struggled to find the motivation to keep running until I noticed the 57 on the women's calf in front of me. What was my excuse? If she can run so can I, get going!

I stood on the beach in my bathing suit, bike shorts, fluorescent green swim cap and goggles ringing my hands with anticipation. There were over 500 women participating and my group was the last to go. We cheered all the other waves on as they started their swim too. Would men do that?? NO freaken way!

I stood at the back of the pack, hoping I would be somewhat free from the craziness of 100 women diving in at the same time. WRONG. "go!" bellowed from the megahorn and we all dashed into the water. Some started swimming right away, in knee deep water mind you, others piled on top of one another, I found a spot to doggie paddle and tried to calm my own ass down. Water was splashing everywhere, bodies were on top of me, next to me - I couldn't find enough space to put my face in the water and start swimming. Finally enough space opened up and I could lay in the water and stretch out my 5'9 body and go. That is until some loser in front of me flipped over on her back and started doing the backstroke. This particular stroke requires lots of leg propulsion, causing a small rooster tail of water - thus drowning those who are trying to swim directly behind them. Unreal. So I doggie paddled my way to the first buoy. I was so exhausted by the first buoy I seriously doubted why the hell I was doing this race to begin with.
I swam mainly the breast stroke and fought my way through my own lack of oxygen to get to the other side. Everyone cheering makes such a difference! I ran out of the water, stripping my swim cap an goggles off, waved to the camera and bee-lined it to my yellow chariot.

They time you on everything. How fast you swim, how fast you change from swimming to biking, how fast you bike, how fast you change from biking to running and lastly how fast you run. If you aren't constantly thinking "go, go go go!" in your head you are not focused. :) ha ha.

I tossed on my bike helmet, latched it under my chin, drank some gatorade and put my sneakers on. You have to run next to your bike until you cross the bright red spray painted line where you can mount your bike and haul ass. I did just that. My bike was awesome. I peddled up the hill, past all the folks who swam much faster than I and breezed out onto the main road. I wasn't quite sure what had just transpired. All I knew was I was wet, wearing a bathing suit and peddling my butt off! I did this very well for 6 miles, passing more and more people. The entire ride was 13. That feels GREAT. I am sorry but it does!

About the time I finished the bike, my body was in shock. Not for what I had just done but for what I still had to do. A 3.1 mile run. Oy vey. I did it though. I ran the whole way (except for the hill right at the beginning). I charged down toward the finish line, all kinds of people cheering me on into a shower. The showers were brought to us by Hansgrogh (sp?) and what an epiphanic experience! I had finished in under two hours. A medal was draped over my head making me feel like a little girl at her first horse show, and I struggled not to cry in front of my good friend as he handed me a bottle of water.

I am still in shock that I even did this. The past two years have been hell, full of self-doubt, severe illness, homesickness, sleep deprivation, abuse, anger, etc. I haven't done anything for myself like this, ever. I have never consistently put myself and my own needs ahead of anyone else. There's no way to train for a triathlon if you don't. I have pulled myself out of a violent, controlling marriage and proven how strong I am by finishing this. I have triumphed. I am more important to myself as a result. It's ok now, I have myself to rely on and my yellow bike.


Mouthy Mom said...

I did a tri a few years ago. No one was waiting for me at the finish line. I can in second from last. But I finished!

christina said...

You completely rock!! I am SO EXCITED I found your blog... You're such an inspiration. I've been wanting to do a triathalon for a while, but have been too chicken. I've just started seriously running and biking recently again, after my baby was born... We totally need to talk.. more to come via email. But, seriously girl, you totally kick ass!

JoJo said...

Oh, Deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee..... ;-)

Way to go! Congrats on your accomplishment. Next time you come home, scorpion bowls at the Hong Kong are on me! :-)