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“My kids missed my finish because they were at the Emergency Room.”

Or – “My Renaissance Man Olympic Distance Triathlon Race Report”

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To say I was nervous about my first Olympic Distance Triathlon would be an understatement of epic proportions. I had signed up to do the race about 8 months ago because I knew it was 2 days before my 40th birthday, it was in the town I went to college, and it was an Olympic Distance (0.9 mile swim, 25 mile bike, 6.2 mile run) which was my next big goal. Then, one of the former Fleet Feet coaches who taught me how to ride a bike 2 summers ago started his own training program for that specific race. I signed up for that class in late winter/early Spring.

But then two things kinda changed our schedules a bit. 1) Our house was later getting on the market than we thought due to contractor issues and 2) I changed jobs to one requiring I work in an office on the other side of town, adding a commute to my days. These two things meant that I would need to be spending more time cleaning but I would have less time to do it since I would be home less. So my already tight schedule become even tighter right about the time training started.

Luckily I was dedicated and I really stuck to a lot of the training plan, I just did almost all of the bike rides on the trainer in my house and almost all of the swims in the YMCA pool as I could make group rides or Open Water Swim sessions. So, I knew that I was fit enough to do the race, but I was worried about not having enough road or OWS experience.

I woke up at 4am to do some work I have to do for a website every Sunday morning. It only takes about 10 minutes but it has to be done. I was sitting in the hall of our hotel room trying not to wake everyone. Donnie woke up for the day and came up to me and whispered, “Good morning!” and I looked up at him, started crying and said, “I AM SO SCARED.”

So. That tells you where I was that morning before the race.

The thing about triathlons is there’s just so much you have to worry about. Stickers on helmets and bikes and swim caps, body marking, chips, transition set up, you have to get out on your bike once before the race to make sure everything is working properly, you need to do a warm-up swim. With a foot race you just show up and run, but not with a triathlon. And for someone with high anxiety, this DOES NOT HELP WITH PRE-RACE STRESS.

I also had a series of unfortunate events the 24-hours prior. I found out my A Goal of 4 hours was the cutoff time, my bike computer died (it keeps me from going too slow), I forgot my tri shorts at home so we had to turn back after being on the road 45 minutes. I was just SUPER STRESSED.

But the amazing thing about training with groups and being active in your community is that you show up to a “local” race (this one was close enough to be considered local) and you see familiar faces at every turn and they all know you’re terrified (many of them are terrified too) and it becomes a giant group therapy session which is like taking a Xanax for your nerves. Everywhere I turned friends offered smiles or words of encouragement, some expressed their own nervousness which made me feel SO MUCH BETTER because there’s something about being reassured that you’re not the ONLY one panicking that can calm you. I got hugs and advice and all of those faces and smiles and pats on the back were – HONEST TO GOD – what got me in the water that day. I live a very blessed life, much more of one than I feel like I could ever deserve, and the majority of those blessings are demonstrated in all of those beautiful faces who talked to me before that race yesterday. I wish I could knock on all of their doors today and thank them personally because I would have never toed the line yesterday without each of them.

And my husband – captain of Team Zoot – helped me so much. He coached me through my warm-up swim when I decided I couldn’t calm down enough to start with a freestyle. “I think I’ll do a sidestroke until that first buoy so I can get my breathing steady.” “Great idea!” he confirmed, knowing that my calm breathing would be a major requirement for me to survive that swim.

I started out with the sidestroke and…well…long story short? I basically swam the entire almost-mile with the sidestroke. I just could not get my breathing calm enough to do a freestyle. With the sidestroke, I could sight on the buoys to make sure I was going in the right direction (I’m not the best at sighting with the freestyle) and I could watch for other swimmers (I still get freaked by bodies near me) and I could make sure I was making forward progress (I fear not being strong enough to swim faster than a current) so I just settled into the sidestroke. We made a turn down a channel, probably about 400m into our 1600m swim and I could feel myself slow down so then I kinda started to really panic more than before. I looked around for a kayak to hold on to. You can take a break with a kayak, you just can’t make forward progress. There were none around that I could see. Then I started to panic more because stopping to look had me drifting backwards and I thought, “If I find a kayak, I’m quitting, I’m not strong enough to beat this current.” (FYI – most people said there was NO current. I’m just a weak swimmer.)

But there were no kayaks that I could see (I was swimming into the sun) so I just kept going and watching my slow progress along the shoreline. I started singing the ABCs with my strokes, trying to guess how many ABCs would get me to the turn bouoy which signified halfway. I could tell I was passing some swimmers, not because I was faster, but because I was swimming a very straight line since I was doing the sidestroke and could see where I was going better. That was reassuring to me a little bit, that even though I was doing the unprofessional sidestroke, I was gaining ground on some so I wouldn’t be last out of the water. Since I’m slow on the bike, I didn’t want to be last out of the water.

I finally made it around the turn bouoy and life was so much better. I was swimming with the “current” then, and I did not have the sun in my eyes, and I had looked at my watch and I made it to the halfway point about 8 minutes or so faster than I expected! This was GREAT news! (Not so great that my sidestroke was faster than my freestyle, but still!) So the swim back was much better. I still stuck to the sidestroke, doing a little bit of freestyle here and there, but since I’m crappy at sighting, I found myself going off course so I just stuck with what was working, the sidestroke. When I got to the shore I screamed at Donnie, “TELL FACEBOOK I DIDN’T DROWN!”

 

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I was smiling a million dollar smile the whole way into transition – I was so proud. I just kept telling everyone, “I DID IT! I DID IT!” Even though I don’t love the bike at all, I was just happy to be done with the swim. I was even dancing in transition, I was just having fun! I got started on the bike and was just smiling the whole way.

The bike was uneventful. Because I don’t do much riding on the road my gearing on hills isn’t great and I had some issues with needing to pass someone who slowed down more than I did on a hill, but over all it was fine. I managed to drink a full bottle of water AND take a Cliff Gel all while riding. DID YOU HEAR THAT? I TOOK A GEL! I had never done that before. I had given myself permission to stop and get off the bike when I had single-digit miles to go so I could get some water if I hadn’t gotten enough and get my gel in, BUT I DIDN’T NEED TO! I did start to worry about getting a flat the last 5 miles as I passed two guys changing flats on the side of the road. After mile 20 I convinced myself I could walk my bike if I needed to and still at least finish under 5 hours.

Once I was done with the bike I was smiling bigger than when I was done with the swim! But something weird happened. I got to transition and my family was no where to be seen. I looked at my watch and I was 10 minutes faster than I told them I’d be so maybe they missed me? I got all of my running stuff on and sent Donnie a text, “Starting my run, don’t want you to worry about me!” Just in case he just missed me since I was faster than I expected.

I started the run and it was VERY hot and there was NO shade. I walked a bit getting my phone tracker started, texting Donnie, and getting my camelback on and my second Gel taken. Right as the uphill started I started jogging and MAN my legs were tired. I felt like I was moving SO SLOW. My phone told me my first mile was at 12:xx though and that’s not bad considering how slow I felt like I was going and how I walked a good portion of that first mile getting stuff situated. So, I pushed forward. Once we made it closer to UNA campus I started being really happy because that was my home for SO LONG. So many streets hold memories for me there. The park that used to have the Ren Faire every year, the building I met my husband, my old professor’s house etc. I basically spent the whole 6 hot miles smiling. I even stopped at two places and made volunteers take my picture along the course. I AM A PROFESSIONAL.

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I made it to the finish line and was so VERY PROUD of myself. My time was 3:33 which was almost 20 minutes faster than I expected! I made my A-Goal! I got my medal thanked people cheering me on, looked around and said, “Where is my family?”

My friend said, “Oh, so you don’t know?”

“Know what?”
“Everyone is fine, but they’re at the emergency room. There was an incident on the slide.”

OF COURSE THERE WAS.

Turns out Donnie had updated some friends so they would tell me, and he had updated Facebook, but I had no idea that my kids were at the hospital (which I ran by, funnily enough) getting checked out after some head injuries. I called Donnie to get the update and I said, “Actually, I don’t even know who is hurt. Who is hurt?”

“Both of them.”

OF COURSE IT IS BOTH OF THEM.

Turns out someone put water on the large inflatable slide which made the kids go SO MUCH FASTER. And then some bigger kids thought it would be fun to push smaller kids down and it was chaos and Nikki went FLYING and out of control and crashed her head at the bottom. She was crying when someone pushed Wesley down and HE went flying and crashed his face into the other side of her head and then they were BOTH screaming. Donnie took them to the on-sight EMT (a handy thing at a race) and they looked at both of them and said, “You really should take them to the ER. We can drive them in the ambulance if you’d like.”

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Donnie drove them to the ER where he watched my run from his tracking app from his phone. Since the kids had been on the wet slide they were frozen and cold BUT – since we had TWO AT ONCE – we got a discount on our bill because they used the same room. GO US!

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Nikki ended up with a mild concussion so we had instructions to treat her with care etc and Wes might have had a small orbital fracture and Donnie was sent with care and instructions for both and what to look for the rest of the day and when to bring them back. Nikki was really nauseated at first but that faded and they both started acting normal after a good lunch and some time out of the sun.

Donnie felt REALLY bad but it all was fine, of course. I was glad that they kids were fine and was happy that he had been there to take care of them. A lot of us families leave our kids in the watch of other spectators, we have a nice community like that, but I’m glad the day there was an incident it was one of us in charge of our own kids. I’m very lucky to have such an amazing and supportive husband and I felt his love and pride in me even if he wasn’t there in body.

Photo taken by my friend David who also was the one who reassured me, "The kids are fine..." BEFORE telling me they were at the ER which is the BEST WAY to deliver information to a parent about their hurt kids. SO GRATEFUL for him AND this photo.

Photo taken by my friend David who also was the one who reassured me, “The kids are fine…” BEFORE telling me they were at the ER which is the BEST WAY to deliver information to a parent about their hurt kids. SO GRATEFUL for him AND this photo.

An amazing day where I was held up by my triathlon community. I would have never in a million years thought I would do an Olympic Distance Triathlon 3 years ago – and I couldn’t have done it without so many friends who encouraged me along the way. I could win the lottery tomorrow or inherit Google or become the elected Queen of the Universe and I would still say that my biggest unexpected blessing in life would be the community I fell into as a runner and triathlete in Huntsville, Alabama. There are no better people in the world, I guarantee it.

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I need to be a triathlon training couch potato…can you help?

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 4.56.56 AMSo! I’m training for an Olympic Distance Triathlon which has a 26-mile long bike. Since Donnie gets dibs on times mornings for his daily workouts, I do 99% of my bike rides on the trainer. (A base that turns your bike into a spin bike, basically.) I finished the first season of The 100 for the first stretch of the season, but at 5’ish hours a week, that was over quick. I tried to watch Salem because I heard about it through Nerdist, but it’s REALLY gory for a Puritan-era drama. Witches back then needed lots of blood and nudity for their spells, evidently, and that’s not idea on the trainer.

I need something that I have at least a full season of. Remember – I’m not a fan of grown-up shows. I fast forward through a lot of stuff which I can’t do on a trainer. It needs to be mild enough that I can just leave it going, but it also needs to be entertaining enough to keep me distracted.

I would love to watch the second season of The 100 but since it’s still so new, it’s almost $4 an episode and I can’t hang with paying that much. If you recommend a TV show enough, I don’t mind paying $25 for a season of it or so, but I don’t want to pay much more than that.

OR! even good movies that are out right now on Amazon Prime? They need to be the “free” ones because I don’t want to spend $5 entertaining myself for a 2-hour bike ride.

SO! What are your recommendations? I watch on my laptop while I ride…so really Netflix, Hulu, HBO NOW, and Amazon Prime are all options!

Posted this pic to the interwebs after a tough workout on Saturday.

Making That First Step Mandatory

One of the truths about running I’ve proselytized the most is this one: “The hardest step is the first one out the door.” And I stand by this 100%, but I’ve decided that maybe the attack method for making that hardest step, the one out the door, should be more than just…well…taking the step out the door. And of course I’m using “step” to mean spin or lap in the pool too since it’s tri season so I’m doing lots of types of “first step out that door.”

I AM REALLY HOPING THIS WILL MAKE SENSE EVENTUALLY.

What I mean is that, there are things I’ve been doing lately to hold myself accountable for my workouts so that – when it comes time to take that step out the door – I actually have no choice in the matter. Therefore, the step out the door is not difficult at all! We’ve removed the “hardest step” from the equation!

See, in the past, when it comes time to take that first step (often the problems start with waking up for that step, but same issue) – I just keep telling myself: You have to just do it. Once you get your workout gear on and take that first step, or spin on the bike, or lap in the pool…THEN…if you want to quit you can. Just do the first one. And while some days I might cut a workout short, I never stop after that first step or first spin or first lap. Once you get that first “step” done, you usually keep going for a bit.

I conquered the metaphorical step when it got time for that step.

But you know? It didn’t always work. I skipped many workouts over the last year because I just couldn’t/wouldn’t make that first step.

SO! This last few weeks I’ve been trying to remove any options to skip that step. I’m trying to basically make that first step as mandatory as showing up for work. FOR EXAMPLE.

  • I talk up an upcoming workout as much as possible so that I know someone knows I’m supposed to workout. Maybe I mention to my boss, “I may be a few minutes late tomorrow because I have to do a 5-mile run before work.” Or maybe I post something to Instagram like my workout gear laid out for the next morning. Sometimes it’s just telling the kids, “We’ll watch a movie after my swim.” I reference that workout as much as possible so that part of me KNOWS that other people KNOW that I’m supposed to get that workout in.
  • Make a physical calendar. This one is hard for me because my schedule is so dependent on Donnie’s. If he has a run or a bike on the road (he’s nursing a shoulder injury so not swimming right now) I’m stuck on the bike trainer in the morning or I have to do an evening workout. (Which I hate.) BUT! I do my best to actually write down the upcoming workouts so that there is a piece of paper (sometimes one that I post to Instagram applying the previous bullet point simultaneously) that binds me to a workout.
  • Log a workout. I’m not a data junkie. I don’t have a GPS watch or a heartrate monitor and I just finally bought a bike computer mainly because I’m on the bike trainer so much I need a way to monitor my efforts for a workout. So I don’t have an actual log anywhere of my workout. BUT! I write them in my bullet journal. Sometimes I try to see how long of a stretch I can make with consecutive workouts. Sometimes I’m just seeing how many miles I can run in a month. Sometimes I just like the way it looks. Either way, I know if I’m going to write it down afterwards, then it HAS TO HAPPEN.
  • Make other people’s schedules work around your workout. This sounds selfish, but what I mean is that – if you have to plan something with someone and you’re picking a time, try to make it so that you are doing it “after” your workout so that part of you feels like the schedule was made to suit you so you should do what you said you were going to. For example, I met someone for a movie one weekend and I said, “Well, let’s go after lunch because I have a long run.” This meant that part of me felt obligated to do the workout since we had shifted from a 10:30am movie just for my run. This really works for Donnie and I because so many days we’re tag teaming workouts. Like, Sunday he had a 90 minute ride. So, I planned to be off the bike trainer to start my run as soon as he was done. If he had gone through the effort to get up really early so that I could avoid running in the heat, then I was – most definitely – going to make it to my workout. When you know someone else worked their schedule around your workout? You’ll stick to it.
  • Brag. I posted this pic to the interwebs after a tough workout on Saturday. Sometimes letting myself brag about a workout is the only thing that gets me to do it in the first place. Posted this pic to the interwebs after a tough workout on Saturday.
  • The easiest: Group workouts. Make plans to workout/run WITH someone else. This is the easiest way to avoid the First Step Dilemma. If someone is waiting on you? You have no choice but to make that step.

I’ve not been really disciplined the last year, life just seemed to take a turn for the KRAZEE PANTS with new jobs and selling house etc. And I haven’t adapted well. So! Trying to find ways to hold myself accountable in an effort to make that first step almost feel mandatory? That’s become essential if I’m going to succeed in any of my goals.

Do you have ways you make that first step mandatory? Do you have groups waiting on you? Or do you post all of your workouts to Facebook like I do?

Photo by Gregg Gelmis

An Ode To Friends Who Don’t Mind Getting Muddy

My running buddy, Chelsea, posted this John Muir quote on Facebook and it is basically the motto of our Sunday morning No Runner Left Behind trail group. (Minus the glaciers. We don’t get many of those around here.)

As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.
— Quoted from Muir Journals (undated fragment, c. 1871) by Linnie Marsh Wolfe, Son of the Wilderness: The Life of John Muir (1945) page 144.

It’s funny. The two of us started that group last Spring with another friend because it occurred to us that maybe there were other runners like us out there – wanting to run trails but not trying to beat any sort of time or clock. There are some pretty fast/elite trail running groups but if you don’t know the trails, and if you’re slow, you could easily get left behind and not know where you are. So, we posted in a local facebook group that we were training for McKay 25K and offered to provide a sweeper if anyone wanted to join us.

And it took off!

The funny thing is, we get quite a variety of participants. We get some newbies that have never touched a trail before and who never come back again. We get some newbies who love it so much they sign up for races the next week. We get some elites who like the casualness and goofiness of our runs, and often do their “hard” run on Saturday so Sunday gives them some fun time. Sometimes we have 30 people and we get stressed out because we get SO SPREAD OUT, and other times there’s only 6 or 7 of us and we ended up taking 40 million photos along the way.

We don’t do the group during the warm weather for several reason, but the group shrinks so much after our last big trail race in March it always feels like a good time to take our break and this past Sunday was our last group.

Photo by Gregg Gelmis

Photo by Gregg Gelmis

The storms the night before made waterfalls in places labeled “dry falls” on maps. And because it was warm, something we never get to enjoy on these Sunday runs, we took the opportunity to play in the falls. Or local photographer phenom – Gregg Gelmis – brought his waterproof camera out, hoping for some fun shots. Dry creek beds were like small rivers as we held on to rocks trying not to get swept away. Puddles were calf deep and trails were flooded. It was SO MUCH FUN. A great way to end the season for our fantastic group.

10439399_990553760956711_7876042342987877320_nAnd holy crap, it was good for my soul. Did I wake up every day since and have perfect days with no anxiety or stress? No. But did I wake up remembering that behind all of that sucky stuff there’s a layer of awesome in my life I need to never forget? YES. I HAVE FRIENDS WHO WILL PLAY IN THE MUD WITH ME. This is something every adult (who likes to play in the mud, I guess) needs in their life. Go. Find friends who will stand under waterfalls with you.

Our group ranges in ages from 20’ish to 60’ish on an average weekend. We have guys and girls. Fast and Slow. Newbies and Veterans. Conservatives and Liberals. Parents, Grandparents, and the Childfree. We live in all parts of the area, some of us (me) driving 25+ minutes to get to our precious mountain every Sunday. We are a wonderful mix of people who might not come together in any other circumstance, but we celebrate our camaraderie on Sundays in the woods and go home happy and covered in Mud.

I’m going to miss these guys. I’ll be counting down the Sundays until October.

Photo by Gregg Gelmis

Photo by Gregg Gelmis

As always - thanks to Gregg Gelmis of We Run Huntsville for the photos. (This one doesn't have the logo because I purchased it! I love it so much!)

Fourth Go At The Race That Started It All

In March of 2012, after training with my first running group for months, I had a go at my first trail race. It was the McKay Hollow Madness 25K and we all found out that maybe that wasn’t the best race to be our first, each time we told someone it was going to be.

“You know it has the word ‘madness’ in the title, right?”

Training with my small group for that race is still something I hold dear to my heart. Those friends helped build my confidence over those few months, making me feel like I could take on bigger things eventually. I highly recommend trail running groups if you’re a newbie. Every time you fall you can feel your confidence wash away and you need people around you to remind you that A) they fall too and B) you miss out on some amazing adventures if you don’t get up and keep running.

I was going over my old race report and it had me thinking about two things.

  1. Kim of 2012 talked a lot about the mud during the part of Natural Well that takes you to the finish line. Kim of 2012 would shit a brick if she sow how muddy I’ve seen the other 13 miles the last few weeks. Kim of 2015 wishes that would be the only muddy part this year.
  2. I don’t remember writing this part: “I teared up because I was so proud but trail runners are NOT the crying type so I sucked it in and pushed towards the finish.” But it cracked me up because I obviously didn’t care at the finish line at Mountain Mist this year.

However, when I read the race report from 2013, I do remember how I wanted to back out. I distinctly remember looking around and seeing my friends who were there for their first attempt and thinking I’ve done this already, I have nothing to prove. I can go home. I think about that often when I’m miserable before a race – or even during a race. That, in the end, it can still be a great day. The “pre-race” hour or so can be so miserable if the weather is bad. It’s hard to convince yourself you’ll warm up. Especially if it’s raining. But I think about that day often and remind myself that weather can be dealt with. Lost experiences can not.

Then, of course, there was last year, the year I finally beat the 4-hour goal I had been trying to beat for years. That was a good day. It got hot and I probably pushed myself at the wrong times, but it was a good day. And I made that goal with the added few challenges they put in that year to make up for the removal of another challenge.

And tomorrow is Go #4. As with everything since Mountain Mist, I don’t feel very trained as my body basically fell apart the second the Grand Slam was over, but this race is like my childhood friends. Sometimes we’ve not talked a lot and I worry it will be awkward but then we’re together five minutes and I feel my spirit recharged because we know each other so well.

This was something I wrote at the end of my first McKay race report:

Many trail runners say that it’s addicting. If you’ve made it to run an actual trail race, then you’re probably hooked for life. And I can totally see that. It’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s messy, and it makes you overlook the fact that you might be having a stroke.

I don’t trail run in the summer due to Donnie’s summer schedule and my allergies to poison ivy and my fear of snakes – but for six months out of a year it is what keeps me going every week. I’ve had a rough couple of months and many weekends have come and I’ve thought If it weren’t for these trail runs, I’d be spending money on therapy and medications right now. They are the only thing that have kept me close to sane as I’ve had some weird cycles of grief and stress waving in.

So, I’ll go again tomorrow. Because this was the race that started it all and I can’t miss it, not for anything.

Photo from McKay 2014 by Gregg Gelmis

Photo from McKay 2014 by Gregg Gelmis