Sunday, September 20, 2009

cloud nine. Tugaloo race report

Cloud nine is how I would describe this – a feeling of euphoria that began the second I got to the race site (well truthfully, the day I decided to commit to the triathlon training with TNT). The euphoria continied to build through the race, and proceeded to get even stronger when I took the last turn to see where I was positioned on the run course in view of the finish. A propeller seemed to appear on my back that moved me so fast I could not contain myself which caused for a sprint to the finish. I would imagine that is called adreneline, a feeling of tingles all over your body and a cold rush in your veins. The road turned, and with about a ½ a mile to go – the propeller began. I have not quite come down since, and have began planning my race goals for next season.

The race week began rough with broncitis, and a lot of inhalers. I was questioning whether the race could happen for me, when I could barely make it up my stairs at home, or ¼ mile of a run. Some triathlete! What is funny, too, is that getting sick, or taking any drugs is not something that happens often – hardly at all. So the fact that it was happening after all the training and hard work was frustrating to say the least. So the meds began working, phew – but as with medication or change to your system, you cure one thing and gain another; and for me that was hives. Hives + spandex = misery. So one of the medications that was making me better was causing hives, we just needed to find out which one. So great – now I need to start to stop the meds, and race day was 3 days away. Anyway, long story short – process of elimination happened, and it was all better. Anxiety aside. Now the only focus is the race – finally!

So we arrive on Friday to the race site, my husband and I, after dropping off our pooch to stay away for the weekend L. I ran into Dave and Chris prepaying for the car tag for race day. Then went down to the location of the race. How quickly a usual parking lot can transform into the scene of energy, excitement, nervousness – but in a way that your eyes widen, and smiles just gleam across faces. I remember thinking – “next time I will be standing here will be for the race”, and then took a look at the water and saw the boats placing the buoys. First I saw the orange ones…then the yellow triangles. Are you kidding me! There is no way that is only a mile. Well - I suppose that is the distance we have done many times over, except this time it is not in the form of multiple ovals.

Alright – off to pick up my official race number back at the entry point of the park, and then back to scope out my place to rack my bike. Number 208; my new lucky number. I got a corner spot in transition just aside the wind barrier wrap, so I did not have anyone on one side of me.

Arrived at the beautiful Chateau Elan, up the green winding wine vineyard paths and up to the Chateau. The room was spectacular, a bed that I needed to use a step ladder for. We arrived just in time to get our stuff situated, bike set up along the window –and down to the inspirational dinner.

The dinner was fantastic, full of butterflies for the next morning and inspiration and warm hearts after learning that we as a team raised over $200,000.

4:30 a.m. came pretty fast, especially because sleep did not come easy that night – as warned. My sleep was more of an anxious relaxation. I was sleeping, but also very aware of what was going on. My mind was very much available. I must have slept at some point, because I woke up after a strange dream that I had completed the race, but could not remember my run for the life of me. I was with the team, and continued to ask if I finished my race…I was terribly confused in how I finished without remembering my run. With that, I awoken, and was reading for my race day.

Nothing new on race day, so I had pre – prepared my daily bowl of oatmeal and brought it to the hotel, not knowing that there would not be any microwave in the room. It is amazing how there can be two completely different experiences in a food just from a temperature change. Let’s just say, I ate it – but it took my from 4:30-5:30 a.m. to complete it. Nothing new on race day, right J

Race site arrival, pitch dark, and a line of cars assumingly with the same amount of excitement in each one. We were parked between two trees overlooking the very lake that I will be swimming in in the next 2 hours. Stuff together, check - and off to transition to get my body marked. No lines, it was very easy. Transition set up was just as we had been educated by the coaches, and actually – I had a lot of people asking me questions on how to set up , rules, etc., so it was very clear that we were more than prepared by our coaches for anything that could happen. I reset my transition about 5 times, and every time I went to leave the area, I went back for just another look.

Down to the water we went, boy those buoys looked even farther away than they looked the day before. The day was foggy, a nice cool temperature. It did not look like we were going to have the concern I had heard so much about on the last turn of the buoy and the brightly beating sun. I went in to test the water, and it was lovely. Just the perfect temperature.

So off we go – lining up. I was so excited and peaceful at the same time. I was ready, and I could not wait a moment longer. I only waited about 10 minutes until I was off. Into the water. I started off very fast, swallowing water….i just wanted to get past the first two turns and on the straight shot to the next yellow buoy. I was definitely at least at the race pace I had practiced, but still as I continued, the lungs that have been healing began tightening causing me to have to breathe more often than usual, and cramps in my ribs began. But I was racing – so let’s race. Cramps aside. I was desperately trying to find someone to draft off of, but continued to be unsuccessful. Turned the last yellow buoy and proceeded to go about 50 meters off course – after redlining to catch back up, I finally found someone to draft just as we finished. Oh my gosh – I am out of the water and running to the transition. Lungs burning! I am 1/3 to the finish!

Heart beating in my throat, and transitioning. Glasses, check; helmet, check; heartrate monitor, check; gels, check; salt sticks, check; INHALER, check. And can this sand get any more sticky on my feet?

On the bike – and ready for the next 26.2 miles of climbing. I also had my goal in mind for the time I wanted to take to do it – 1:30. The race director said to me the day before, they describe this race as “the one with few flats” and smiled. Nice. The first 6 miles for me were the most challenging. My heartrate had not recooperated from the red-lined swim finish, and the run to transition; it was beating at 189. My legs had a tough time spinning with my heartrate so high, and this is when the mental begins to take a strong roll. Fortunately I had trained on many hills, and many times I wanted to just get off the bike but this was different. This was harder. But I had gotten through it before, and will again. I had done this ride a few weeks back, and I knew if I could just get through the first 6 miles, I would be fine; and I was. A woman passed me slowly on the last climb, and looked at me and began saying “ I think I can, I think I can…” and I say “Choo Choo”. As silly as that seems, it served as a great reminder that we are all working hard on these climbs, and if they can do it, so can I.

The rolling hills were spectacular, and I was loving life, most of the time. At about mile fifteen, I had a brief moment of anger, my test saddle was killing my sit bones, and I was just feeling the need to scream. I could not believe I was doing this, or why anyone would. It hurt, burned, and I was tired. I truly said, “ I am never doing this again”. Clearly this only lasted seconds, because the happiness and empowerment began to ensue that i WAS doing this. Adreneline kicked in, and it was strong to the finish for the run, that seemed to come very quickly after that. I continue to watch my watch, and realized what mile I was on. I can really complete this in 1:30 or so. I was exhilarated. No only had I finished my bike in 1:32, I had the highest average speed I have had in all my climbs before. Mental continues to ensue.

Onto T2, and so exited. I cannot believe I am 2/3 of my way through this race. I am really doing this! In all the brick training we did, I never had an easier brick than this. And actually, it never really felt like a brick. I kept telling myself to just think of this as the run you always do. Forget you did anything before. That is what I did, and that is what I felt. Power of mind. What was different, though, was the mild cramp that began at the top of me knee (bottom of my quad). I felt some shaking and movement like a gremlin beneath my skin, and that was my clue to ensure I sip on water at every water stop, and gel sips every fifteen minutes or so. It was successful, and worked through itself in 2 miles. Another new sensation was my feet going numb. Apparently, even though I had ran with my Yanks before, they did not make my feet numb; but this time it did. Strange to have numb feet while you are running. My right foot worked itself out, but the left stayed numb. My pace was a steady 8 minute mile for the first 3, and then I had the next 3 which slowed down a bit due to my numb feet. By mile 4 - I thought it was a homerun. I thought I had a good feel for where I was on the course, an then where I thought we were to turn left to go back, we continued straight, and there were runners coming back (up the hill I was running down) on the same road. Apparenty there was a turn around somewhere, but I could not see it, and it was playing slightly with my mental sanity. Finally I saw it, but knew I had an uphill climb to the finish ahead. Turned around, an on the uphill climb. I was feeling good again, but tired. I had a brief moment of weakness, and mental unclarity – but then I saw this woman that introduced herself to me on the beach. She was a TNT alumni, and she looked tired, and she was on the downhill. She had completely stopped running. I said, come on team - you can do this. She began running again, and said thank you so much, she needed that with a big smile. Just that gave me the power to conquer the rest of the climb strong. I was in my strides up the hill, then I heard someone say “go 208”, it was a stranger with a smile, but it definitely put more wind in my sails. Triathletes rock!

I got to the turn I thought we were supposed to take earlier, and one of the volunteers said, “it’s downhill to the finish”, and I remember thinking in don’t believe her, and that is a dirty joke. But I looked up, and suddenly realized where I was. Suddenly, it was like a propeller was attached to my back, and I tirelessly ran so fast I could not contain myself. Then all of the sudden I saw the turn in the road, and then the TNT tent, the transition area, …I was there! I can’t believe I did not do cart wheels. I felt like leaping into a split in the air. The finish was approaching, and there it was done. I heard my name, pronounced correctly! And a cold water was handed to me. That was the best! And my husband standing there saying he recorded the finish!

I did it, we all did it!

There is a lot to be said for training with a team, and not just any team, but one with a common goal, enthusiasm, a positive attitude, and motivation (and even better hearts). There is nothing better than working towards a goal, but with others it is even better. From day one, clearly training was tough – but as I looked around as the coaches would describe the workout of the day, I saw no wincing, no angst – just the attitude of “let’s do this”.

I have to say a huge thank you to my team, and to my coaches; the glue that empowered us to stay steadfast, and powered us with the confidence that this can be done, and filled us with the education we needed to do it strong, and well. I cannot begin to show my gratitude enough. You all rock!

Down in the history books as one of THE BEST days of my life.

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