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Marin County Triathlon 2011: The Race Recap November 8, 2011

So finally – here’s my race recap. It isn’t exactly a replica of my idyllic visualization that I wrote a few days ago. It also took a long time to gather up all the pictures (click on any of them to make them bigger). When you train with Team in Training, you pretty much have a papparazzi gang following you everywhere! It’s good that I had some reflection time, too. Two days after the fact I can say now that I feel good about it. Sunday night, not so much.

Here goes, in probably excruciating detail, but this is kind of how I process stuff (in case you haven’t noticed, LOL!).

Woke up at 4:10am. Actually woke up at 12:59am, 3-something-am AND 4:10am because Mr. McBody (Dr McBody to some) was on call, and get calls he did. (note to self: if spouse is on call night before a race, sleep in separate rooms)

I was WIDE awake though. This was helped by the switch back to Standard Time, which felt like a gift from the universe. So it only FELT like 5:10am, which I’ve done before! Got dressed and had mini-mini meltdowns due to 1) someone at the last whole wheat English muffin and left the EMPTY PACKAGE on top of the breadbox! So I was left without my Eng muffin and peanut butter breakfast which I have gotten very attached to. Instead I boiled a couple of eggs and ate some weird Chai-flavored instant oatmeal. They both felt unfamiliar and kind of wrong, but what choice did I have at 4:30am? Not much.

eating my egg in the car

Picked up Lily. Yay! Her sweetie and parents and dog were all waiting down on the street to load her bike in my car. We had an awesome drive over to the tri site. I am really going to miss driving to workouts with her in the wee hours of the morning. (snif)

We arrived at the park in plenty of time. It was actually really beautiful there in the predawn.

pulling the giant buoy markers out to place

I ate my hard boiled egg, we used the restrooms and picked out our transition spots. Since we were there so early, we had a good choice of spot and I got to use the fence as a coat rack.

Lily: "Move your bike closer to mine, I don't want anyone to get between us." Me: "That's never gonna happen!"

Coach Haakon taped up my foot. Which is supposedly not in the regulations, but I really appreciated it.

We went and got our bodies marked with our race numbers and our ages. 52, baby!!!! I always wonder why they do that – so that if we die on the course we have ID on our bodies?

Go, # 505!

52!! Yeah!!

Teammate Monica was celebrating her 50th by doing this tri. WAY TO GO GIRL!

Our mentor Annika gave us a visual preview of all the ins and outs and showed us where all the buoys were for the swim course. I’d say we’re looking fairly concerned. Teammate Vince calls it “game face.” LOL.

"Wow, those buoys are REALLY FAR out there!"

We started walking over to the swim entry area, led by an awesome bagpipe player (very dramatic!). My heart was pounding like a jackhammer. Then I stepped in this crazy HOLE in the parking lot (like six inches deep and the width of a coffee can) – my foot went RIGHT IN and I fell down. Bam! Not an auspicious beginning. I could feel something bad in my knee (which is still feeling pretty twisted, by the way). But we kept going. I was feeling pretty psyched, and pretty ready.

good to go!

We TNTers got to go in the first wave and that was a really good thing. We got in the water (brrrrrrrrr!) and got the water in our wetsuits and floated around while we waited for the starting horn.

Can you believe it's me out there in 40 degree weather and 60 degree water?

waving at J, who's trying to pick me out of all the other green capped creatures

We were being led out on paddleboard by Coach Neil, the guy who had led my semi-disastrous last open water swim a few weeks ago. I told him I was feeling good about the swim and he seemed pleased but also surprised because I think he really had me for a goner in the open water department.

And... we're off! That orange buoy on the horizon was our first marker!

So we swam. I know that I was swimming really, really slowly. But I was relaxed. I kept up my “gentle-kind” mantra pretty much the only time, except when I was daydreaming about pleasant things, which was a pretty nice way to pass the time. I noticed that each time I lifted my head to sight on the big orange buoy, it kept GETTING BIGGER! which I found very encouraging. I was making headway, even though virtually everyone was passing me and leaving a large gap between them and me. I was OK. I made a few little “bobbing” stops to get my bearings and take some extra oxygen in, but they weren’t like panic stops, more like, “let’s see what’s going on.”

I am pretty sure one of these is me.

I was somewhere between buoy 2 and 3 (out of 4?) and a couple kayakers were yelling and motioning at me to “pull it in toward the shore!” I think I got kind of drifty toward the right and ended up adding a couple hundred extra yards to my swim. I had a few moments of “Well, that’s a drag” but I didn’t freak out. Pretty soon a huge wave of red-capped swimmers took us over. They were churning up the water like a hundred sharks in a frenzy. A couple of them slapped at my feet and bumped into me. Thank goodness that is ONE thing that doesn’t freak me out. I just kind of got out of their way.

The swim felt long. By the clock I think it was around 40 minutes, which was shorter than I’d planned for but still I was near the end of our group. No matter. I was relaxed the whole time, and toward the end I was almost regretting it was going to be over. I was sort of enjoying thinking my nice thoughts and just stroke, stroke, stroke. The last bit between the final buoy and the red finish arc felt reallllllllly long. But I didn’t panic, didn’t float on my back, didn’t hang on any kayaks or people, and pretty much DID the damn thing! After all the struggle I had these past months? I was ecstatic.

I was pretty darn happy when I got out of the water.

final strokes toward shore

Yeah!! I made it to land!

YAYY! This was a happy moment

I headed to T1. (Transition 1) When I got there I was suddenly overcome by lightheadedness. I felt super dizzy and suddenly insanely COLD. So I was just focused on trying to get warm and put on some dry stuff. It seemed to take forever to put on my socks and gloves. My feet were this wacky white/red color. Finally I felt ready and I pulled my bike down and got out of there.

heading out of transition with teammate Katherine

freezing cold, sopping wet, but feeling good

Ha! Forgot this very Special Moment during the tri until teammate Katherine sent it to me. Right after this last picture above, it was time to “mount the bikes.” I got on and then… OOPS! Seems like Katherine wanted some team togetherness. :-) Neither of us actually fell over though, and it was all good!  This is now one of my favorite pics of the event.

"Now that's team togetherness!" LOL

Important note for subsequent events: I was really kind of a woozy space cadet during this transition. I wasn’t thinking clearly. ie., I looked at my huuuuuge bottle of Gatorade on the ground, and a littler bottle. But I didn’t drink any. Nor did I eat any of the salted pretzels I’d so carefully baggied up. I took a little swig of water and then put the water bottle in my bike’s holder. I ate a half of a Kind bar. (sweet flavor)

I go back and back to this moment. In the past months I learned that the combo of Gatorade and salty pretzels is like the PERFECT combo recovery/fuel for me. The electrolytes/carbs/salt combo. This combo has given me like superhuman energy and really surprised me. So WHY didn’t I eat/drink it during this transition? One, I was dying from salt overload from the swim and I couldn’t deal with the idea of pretzels. Which is why I chose the Kind bar. Two, I remember kind of glancing at the Gatorade and I may as well have been looking at a doorknob. Like, “Hmm, that looks familiar like something I’ve used in a past life.” It just didn’t click to me. I took that one little sip of water and then I was starting to get really concerned about sitting there having a picnic while everyone else was clearing out to bike, so I just wanted to hustle and get out of there. I MAY have thought, “I’ll drink when I’m on the bike” but I also thought there would be some water/Gatorade stops on the way.

I got going out of transition and up the hill. This is a really steep kind of hill of doom thing, but I set it in first gear and just got up it. It wasn’t so bad. I was feeling pretty good. My feet were absolutely NUMB and I had noticed when putting my socks on they were a freaky white/red frostbitey color. They never thawed out the whole time I was on the bike.

Then we turned out of the park and it was so exciting! People lining the streets!

photo by Annelies!

I saw Annelies and my coaches and a whole ton of people. It was so cool. Then we had ANOTHER long climb but I felt OK.

Love this: "Susan whizzing by," by Annelies

I got through the first loop, turned around at the campground and headed back to the park. Fewer people standing around this time because a lot of people had transitioned to run. I was still feeling OK I thought.

I started coming up the long climb for trip number two and right away, my chain slipped. Damn. And as soon as I got off the bike, my head started swirling and I just felt… NOT GOOD. This guy came over and helped me with the chain. I continued up the hill and then I just had to stop. By complete coincidence, I happened to stop in front of this orange-shirted volunteer guy who had this first aid kit. It was a medic! Wow! He asked me how I was doing. I said, “Um…. not so hot.” He told me to rest a few minutes and I did and then I decided to walk to the crest of the hill. But I was feeling really wobbly.

I got on the bike again at the flat and went a little ways longer and then damn, my chain slipped off AGAIN. This time my teammate Art came to my rescue. He fixed my chain and at that point I just started crying. And finding it hard to breathe. And shivering like nobody’s business. I was SO COLD all of a sudden. Then I felt nauseated.  I drank a little more water but at that point I felt like I was going to puke. Then the orange-shirt medic came trotting up and he told me to sit down and I told Art to keep going. And then I REALLY fell apart.

(edited to add: I was dehydrated. I was SO DEHYDRATED! Because I hadn’t really had enough to drink beforehand, and I FORGOT to drink during transition, and I thought there would be water stops on the bike route so I didn’t drink while I was riding either.)

When supervising the medical care of athletes, it is important to recognize the basic signs of dehydration. These include thirst, irritability and general discomfort followed by headache, weakness, dizziness, cramps, chills, heartburn, difficulty breathing, vomiting, nausea, head or neck heat sensations and decreased performance. 

I felt like I was dying. Like all of my internal systems were just going haywire: stomach, lungs, brain, circulation, the works. The medic took my blood pressure. It was high. He said my heart rate was “pretty fast.” I started crying even more, and gasping and death-rattling, not unlike what I’ve done in open water. Except here I was now by the side of the road.  Meanwhile I was getting colder and colder and all I wanted was my big fake-fur parka back at transition. I thought I was going to die if I didn’t get warm. The medic gave me his fleece jacket but it didn’t cover my whole body and my teeth were just chattering like a skeleton dance.  I knew that I had two choices at that moment: I’d have to throw in the towel, or I’d have to rally and keep going. I had been sitting on the ground there for probably more than twenty minutes (no, no exaggeration!). I was feeling in a desperate state. He said, “Maybe you will feel better with some wind in your face, or we can call the car to come get you.”

HELL NO. No car! No car! I felt like I would die a thousand deaths of shame if I got toted back in a car. (worse than a kayak?) So I walked the bike shakily over the next rise and then got on again. I was about 20% into the 2nd loop at that point. I started going verrrrry, very slowly and grimly. I felt like death. I was so cold it was almost unbearable, and I was still kind of hyperventilating. I pedalled. Finally I got out to the turnaround where my friend Mary was waiting with another support person. I was feeling pretty miserable right then. I made my way back to the park and my plan was to ask coach Haakon what he thought I should do.

But there was pretty much nobody there at the park entrance at that point. People were FINISHING the race (I could hear the loudspeakers) and the guy waved his orange flag and flagged me back toward the entrance. They were starting to take down the bike course. I knew that about 4 of my teammates were still out on the course, doing their 3rd loop, because we’d passed each other. But they were past the turnaround and I hadn’t even started. I thought about the big hill and the time. I felt like I had no energy to do another loop, and no time to do it in, and that it would pretty much finish me, physically and emotionally.

I turned into the parking lot and headed down to Transition again.

Here, dear readers, is what is LITERALLY a turning point in the story. Where I made that decision, for better or worse. On one hand it felt like the only tenable choice. On the other hand it felt TERRIBLE. I knew that if I started the run portion I would still be way behind 99% of all of the participants in the race.

So I went down to transition, put on my running shoes and hat, and headed out again. As I passed a lot of people yelling my name, all I could think of was, “If you only knew! I just did two loops!”  I also knew I had to keep going and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

starting the run portion -- 6 miles to go!

In spite of my wonky knee and foot, I managed to “run” (ie not walk) more than half – maybe even 75% of the six miles. I did a walk interval with Art, who had saved me with my slipped chain during the ride. It was great to have him for company during that final piece.

running with Art

He finished up his 2nd run loop (my first) and I ran the majority of the last one. Two of the highlights of the run portion were seeing my beautiful Juniorette appear. She ran up and gave me a kiss and I got all weepy. Then I got to pass my awesome trainer, Doug, who had set up camp with a cup of coffee and a folding chair. I could hear his huge booming voice, “Here comes SUSANITO!” from blocks away. It was amazing to see him out there. (I wish I had a picture of this!)

Meanwhile, the vast majority of participants and spectators were passing me on the road as they headed out of the park, beeping and cowbelling out their windows. I think a hundred cars must have passed by and while it was nice to be cheered I was also wondering if there was going to be ANYbody left in the park when I got down to finish.

As it turns out, my whole beautiful team was there. I got down to the finish chute and my beautiful mentor Annika and her husband ran in with me.

If it hadn't been for my Team, I would have been completely alone here.

The whole team was yelling my name. The announcer goes, “What an entourage! They’re all yelling for Cindy!” and everyone yells “SUSAN!”

Getting closer…

FINISH: I put my arms up, but I was actually on the verge of falling apart.

I passed over the finish and got all hugged by everyone and I was a sobbing, weepy MESS.

LILY put my medal around my neck! Sob!

Group hug!

My buddy to the end

Coach hug: "You did the damn thing!"

Hubby hug with Juniorette

The announcer boomed out, “Yes, sometimes there are a few tears.” Which made me cry more. I was just freaking SPENT at that point.

Then the last bunch of teammates came on in a while later and then everyone was done and I walked around feeling super fragile, and a combination of triumphant and completely fraudulent and awful. I told Mr. M what had gone on, and of course he was not the least bit disgusted or concerned. (he was, however, quite dismayed by my lack of hydration)

Came home. Took a hot bath (I was STILL cold!). Passed out into a fitful nap then had soup for dinner.

I read the gazillion Facebook accolades and “you are so awesome!” comments. I started writing this recap but at that point I was drowning in feelings of guilt (over not doing the 3rd bike loop) and feeling like I had somehow cheated. I didn’t want to think of myself as the kind of person who takes the bus to the finish line. I was really agonizing over it and felt like I needed to return all the congratulations that had come my way.

I sent a confessional sort of race cap email to my coaches. It was really eating me up. Their responses made me bawl even more, but helped me see that I really did have something to be proud of and not ashamed about.

Coach Stephanie said:

I knew that you hadn’t finished that last loop. You are still a triathlete. Nothing takes that away from what you accomplished this season. I don’t know too many people, myself included who could have the tenacity to get back on that bike after the very emotional moments and sheer physical discomfort that you experienced and decided to carry on. Well done to you!   Live to fight another day…Forgive yourself for any feelings of defeat. You are a warrior and a Triathlete!

WAHHHHHH!

Then Coach Haakon said (and he was who I was most worried about because he is such a BAD ASS!):

You do not have anything to be ashamed of. I hope with all my heart that what you take out of this experience is that you accomplished a hell of a lot more than I think even you thought you were capable of. Plenty of people start and don’t finish completely. You toed the line and you battled through more obstacles than just about anyone else out there. You have trained diligently and hard and have contributed in a big way to the personality of our team. You deserve that medal and many more. I am none the less proud of your accomplishment today than I was yesterday and I would be shocked if anyone else was either. Everyone has a story and everyone has their reasons for doing things. What I see here is someone who struggled enormously yet pushed through despite every part of her body telling her to stop. I can imagine that the decision to cut it short was not an easy one, but it also sounds like it was the right one. Be proud of what you accomplished and celebrate the small victories that you made along the way. Some times it is good to “fail”. It teaches us where our limiters are. Notice I did not say limits. Recognizing our limiters gives us the opportunity to focus our attention in areas that will in term make us better, faster and stronger.

Be proud of what you did, I know I am. Your story will be very inspirational to many and there is no need to paint it any other way. Hang your medal proudly on the glory wall and use it to stay motivated and continue to push outside your comfort zone. Thank you so much for your participation this season and for sharing your story. I would love to see you come back for another go at it some day.

DOUBLE WAHHHHHH! I hope they do not mind posting these emails, but receiving these made me really feel what it has meant to be part of Team in Training. Where they took me in and encouraged me and believed in me to the very end, and beyond the end. This has been one of the most transformative experiences of my LIFE.

Thank you team, thank you teammates and friends and donors and supporters who have followed this journey since July. I know I’ll never be the same.

buddy for life

favorite piece of jewelry other than my wedding ring

 

I’d Like to Schedule an Open Water Lobotomy, Please October 22, 2011

Today I did another mini triathlon although it wasn’t my original intent really. My intent had been to get another open water swim in, this one organized by a private group called TriMoreFitness. It was taking place at the actual Marin Triathlon swim course and after last week, I felt like I really need to get back in there and also have another go at open water.

I was feeling so prepared. I’d gone to see the sports psychologist and we’d had a fabulous and what felt like very helpful session. Last night I swam a mile in the pool and felt so incredibly relaxed and happy the whole time. I felt like I was doing everything possible to make this go right.

Sigh.

I admit, it went “righter” in many ways than last time. But still it was not what I had hoped.

This is the course. I know it’s sort of hard to visualize, but this is what we did.

So we started at the point marked “Olympic Swim Start.” First we got in and got our faces wet and practiced floating on our backs for a while. That was pretty relaxing. I checked in with myself. So far so good. The first kayak paddled out  about even with the end of the pier. Man, it looked tiny and far. (first flutter of anxiety as I noticed this) Then it was time to go. I tried to really focus on going SLOW (the coach instructed us to go what felt like “embarassingly slow” and I was glad to comply). I think I was about half way to the pier when my brain kicked in with, “I need a rest.” I flipped over on my back. Already? This was kind of annoying. But whatever. I breathed. When I turned over I noticed the huge and growing gap between me and the vast majority of swimmers. There was one guy behind me with the other kayak I think.

I kept going. It was sort of swim, rest, swim, rest until I got to the pier. I was happy to get there. But then I noticed this weird… “What the heck?” feeling. I was caught in a fishing line. For a second I felt like a fish. It was like walking into a spiderweb (ack! no! What is that??) but stronger. I was really hoping there was no fish on the other end of it.

So, that rattled me. The coach came by on his standup paddleboard and kind of guided me off and away from the pier. He was reassuring. I set my sights on the first buoy beyond the pier (there were 3 total, and after the third we were to sort of make a sharp U-turn to shore).  But by then my breathing was all messed up. I’d swim like two strokes then my body would almost involuntarily flip over, like, HELL NO this isn’t working.

My sighing was also messed up and I realized I was relying on the coach to kind of point the way. Which he did. But then he started talking to me and gesturing and I couldn’t really hear him because I had earplugs in. It seemed important (and potentially lifesaving). So I wrestled one earplug out and tossed it in the water. (sorry for the litter) He was saying something about swimming with one arm. At this point my brain was kind of scrambled. Like seriously scrambled. I had no idea what this meant even though he was gesturing. He could have been speaking Swahili. I tried the one-arm thing and then he said “Face down!” and I was like, “Ohhhhhhhh man I am just screwing up right and left!” I know he was really trying to help me get more relaxed and save energy and all that but I was seriously stressing at this point.

That’s when the wheezy, death-rattle breathing started up. Oh GREAT. I was talking myself the entire time, saying my “You’ve got this!” mantra. But at this point another voice came up, somewhere around my strangled lungs, and responded, “I don’t believe you!” So that’s what was going on. Some crazy Gollum/Smeagal death match in the Bay.

I didn’t know what to do other than just roll over and try and get my composure. But I remembered last week the instruction to “Just keep moving” so I was fluttering my feet and arms like snow/water angel formation. The coach was like, “STAY STILL!” because he wanted me to conserve oxygen and get a grip. But I was now confused as well as freaked out. I heard him say the work “kayak” and that was it.

Suddenly I wanted that kayak and I wanted it BAD. So the kayaker came over and she was very kind and patient and I grabbed the rope thing. I had really, really, reallllllllllllllllllllly wanted to complete this swim without kayak aid. But here we were. She began paddling toward shore and I kicked and she pulled me a long for a while (I have no idea. 50 yards? 100?) until I realized I could breathe. I made some conversation. I said, ‘Oh man, what if this happens to me during the event?” And she said, “No problem, you just go to shore and go do your bike and run.” And I was like, WHAT? Even if If don’t go all the way around the 3rd buoy? And she insisted no, “the swim can be whatever length you can do” and I was like, “Huh!” This was a glimmer of hope and possibility. I swam alongside the kayak and for a little while it felt almost as good as in the pool. I got back to shore.

I think I swam out to the 2nd buoy, which was about halfway between the pier and the turnaround buoy. Which was about 3/4 of the way, more or less. Maybe 2/3. Better than last weekend’s halfway.

So. The good thing about today’s swim is that I went farther. I only hung on the kayak once, as opposed to like half a dozen times.

The bad things were getting tangled in fishing line, getting freaked out by not hearing/understand the coach’s instructions, and the Bad Phase in which I had dueling voices in my head and could only swim two strokes at a time.

I was not the last person out of the water because most of the people did their complete swim, ie around the 3rd buoy. Which would naturally take longer.

After the swim, Lily and I had a rather leisurely transition onto our bikes (which had been locked in my car) and we did one loop of the bike course. My chain slipped off two times. (Lily helped the first time and the 2nd time I put it back on myself, yay for that) I was more tired on this bike ride than any of the other three times I’d done it. I realized I hadn’t really had anything to drink or eat after the swim, and I didn’t drink while on the bike either. (I better get used to that Camelbak) I was pooped. After I got back down we hustled into our running shoes and went up to the run course.

Both of us realized pretty soon that we really, really needed to pee. Which is a not-good feeling when trying to run. It’s almost like having an injury. At the very least it’s extremely distracting. So a lot more walking than usual went on.

That was our mini triathlon of this weekend. I keep telling myself the ways in which it’s going to be better on Race Day for a variety of reasons.

Right now I am really kind of looking forward to completing this season. I’m disappointed that my mental training did not yield a calmer swim than what I had. But I’m glad that I accomplished what I did today and I’m going to move forward. No crying today or tomorrow.

 

Back in the Saddle/Water September 19, 2011

I knew that if I didn’t do something FAST to counteract the terror of yesterday that I was going to be in deep trouble. So today I made a plan to swim at Lake Temescal with Lily and my bike friend Mary. It turned out to be a really hot day out so even though we brought our wetsuits we knew we would be broiling, no matter how cold the water.

You can click on the lake picture above to see how it’s set up. There’s the shallow part, which goes to the orange  floaters. Then it drops off and gets really deep (“really” = anything over my head). There’s a lane line where people can do laps way out yonder. That looked kind of nifty from the parking lot.

But my objective today was to get comfortable swimming again. It was to avoid having a panic attack at all costs. So basically what we ended up doing was lots of laps back and forth on the “deeper” side of the orange floaters. It was mostly over my head, but I knew that all I had to do was splash over that rope and I’d be standing up again. Which I really psychologically needed.

The first length was kind of a shocker, it was pretty cold and I could feel my heart racing. But it wasn’t HAMMERING. And I wasn’t having an all out panic. I was tired, and sort of out of breath when I got to the end, but I wasn’t like dying. I did a bunch of laps back and forth and each time it got a little better. The last few times, we did two lengths (back and forth) without stopping. That felt just fine.

I’m feel like I’m taking little baby steps (strokes?). I am back at square one. I’m going to have to build from here. But I  accomplished my goal for today, which was to find my way back to some sort of comfort zone. Next time, we push it just a few feet more. Then a little more. Baby steps.

it's good to have buddies.

 

Open Water September 18, 2011

I was actually really excited about the open water swim yesterday. The drive out to Del Valle Lake in Livermore was incredibly beautiful and I wasn’t feeling too nervous. We had had a good pool swim on Tuesday where I’d done about 2000 yards and felt relaxed – slow, but relaxed.

First we had a little clinic about open water swimming- how to “sight” (ie see where you’re going) without the comfort of lane lines in a pool. Then they passed out our wetsuits – very exciting! Wooo!

We got a demonstration on how to put on BodyGlide and how to turn it inside out and put it on “like pantyhose.” Then we were shown how to do the “wetsuit wedgie” – when someone else picks you up to jam the wetsuit completely into your crotch. Pretty funny.

AJ demos the pantyhose technique

Then it was our turn! Here’s Matt giving me my wedgie. Wheeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!

We felt pretty stoked with our new wetsuits.

Finally, we went down to the lake. The mud at the edge was SUPER DISGUSTING feeling but soon we waded in up to our waists and dived in and opened up our neck holes to get water into the suits (this is to form an insulating layer to keep us warm). I didn’t think that the water was too cold, actually.

Here they are instructing us to pee in our wetsuits to warm up. Nice!

Our first drill was to swim out about 25 yards (a pool length) to coach Stephanie in her kayak, then swim back to shore. I took off and the first several strokes felt just fine. I noticed right away that there was NOTHING TO SEE underwater – ie, it was just a bunch of murk. Just bubbles from exhaling. Okay. I think maybe I was about halfway to the kayak when I realized I was panting. Oh man, I have to rest already? I rolled onto my back and tried to breathe some. I made it around the kayak and got back, but I was SUPER out of breath and it didn’t feel good. I thought, “Man, what was that? Am I getting asthma or something?” The feeling in my chest was just tight.

I'm in the aqua cap

Second trip around the kayak went much better. I felt relaxed, but the memory of the first trip had kind of spooked me. They had asked us at first, “Who wants a buddy swimmer” and silly me didn’t raise my hand. But when we got set to do our first long swim (1/4 mile back and forth to a buoy) I was like… um, yes please! So my mentor Annika said she’d swim with me.

Things were going pretty well for about the first half. Then I heard Annika say, “Susan, turn to your left a little.” I popped my head up and saw that I was bearing really hard to the right, and I had drifted way away from everyone else (who was also way ahead of me, not to mention way to the left). I think that was it. My chest just seized up instantly. I couldn’t breathe. I turned on my back and tried to breathe but I was hyperventilating. Coach Haakon came over and he and Annika literally held me up, horizontally, like a little baby, while I struggled to regain my composure. It felt like forever. Finally they asked if I could manage to do sidestroke. I tried. I did sidestroke for a little while and then I felt like my lungs attacked me again. I sort of flipped out. “I…. can’t…. BREATHE!” I flailed around for a bit and then coach Stephanie showed up with the kayak and I pretty much lunged for it. I held on for dear life and panted and panted. I felt like there was a giant steel vice around my chest and it wasn’t letting me breathe. Stephanie asked if I wanted her to pull me in. I felt very, very defeated but I said, “Yes please.” I felt like there wasn’t any choice. I think we were very near the buoy at that point, but I’m not sure.

We got about halfway back and all of a sudden I realized I was breathing normally. I wanted to swim again. I said, “I think I can try again.” I got back to doing freestyle and it felt pretty good. I thought, at least I can redeem myself by swimming back half the way. It felt decent. Then I was almost, almost, almost there – I mean SO CLOSE and Bam! it hit me again. I was so close. I think what happened is I thought I could touch bottom and then when I tried and couldn’t, the Thing happened again. Shit! Another coach AJ asked, “Are you okay?” and I said, “No! NO!” and he grabbed my arm and dragged me like five feet to where I could stand. Annika asked if I needed to sit down but really I just needed to stand there and breathe. I was devastated. My breath sounded like a death rattle. My lungs were, I don’t know how to describe it. They felt like they were made of wood. It felt like an asthma attack. Was I having an asthma attack? I just couldn’t breathe. The coaches asked if I had an inhaler or I’d taken my medication. I haven’t actually HAD asthma in probably ten years so I don’t have an inhaler, no.

We got out of the water and out of our wetsuits and changed into running gear. That’s when I heard we were running 4-6 miles. I was like, oh BOY. Most of our post-bike or post-swim runs have been really short, like 20 minutes or 2 miles. This was a definite change.

We headed up to the trail for the run. Coach Joan told us it “wasn’t flat.” Um, true story. I decided I would do a 5/1 run/walk ratio. It was going okay at first. My feet were pretty achey but I know from experience that that goes away after the first mile or so; I was just going to have to run through it. I knew that I had about 3-4 people behind me and something about that made me feel like I had some company at my pace. The deal was we were supposed to run to the 2 mile marker, run back, then run to the 1 mile marker and back for a total of 6.

There was a killer hill in there right before the 2 mile mark that I just had to trudge up. Again I was feeling that panting feeling, like I couldn’t catch my breath. I didn’t like that very much. But I got to the 2 mile turnaround and realized the people behind me weren’t there anymore. They must have turned around earlier so that meant I was truly the last one out there. Coach Mark showed up to see if I was still alive (ha!) and jogged around with me a little bit. He nudged me up a couple of hills. Then my breathing started acting up again. I wanted to cry. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get my lungs to fully open up. I kept wanting him to go ahead of me and leave me in my misery so I could walk and cry.

Finally at the one mile marker he seemed satisfied I could make my way back so he took off. That’s when I pretty much hit my psychological wall. I was walking. I was walking really slow and the most incredible onslaught of thoughts just ran through my head. I knew there was no way I was going to go back out for the 6 miles. Four was going to have to be it. I thought about the swim and how terrifying and upsetting it had been. I thought about the really sucky bike ride I’d had on Friday and how I still couldn’t manage to deal with this little bridge on the trail near my house, and how I almost fell down twice. Almost.

By the time I made it back to the rest of the group, I was emotionally wrung out. It was HOT and I went over to sit under a tree a little ways away. I sat on a curb and cried for about twenty minutes. I knew that if anybody came and talked to me I was going to get truly hysterical so I kept my distance. Then I went and got my car. I have never felt so discouraged. I really felt like it was over.

Lily was a total rockstar yesterday. She did two entire loops around the buoy (1/2 mile!) and the whole 6 miles. I am so proud of her. We talked on the way home and she was her wonderful supportive self.

Look who got the Golden Hat of glory this week!

I’m not ready to give up. I’m going to give it another go, hopefully soon. But man, that was scary. I have to have some success and soon or else this little dream of mine is going to deflate fast. My friend Mary challenged me to a pretty daunting bike ride this afternoon but I know that’s not in the cards. I need to feel some success, some ease, some sense of possibility.

 

The Manatee Gets Swim Lessons September 13, 2011

So I just got my swimming analysis video from the Team in Training folks. WOW. Eight minutes of slow-mo, extreeeeeeeemely detailed analysis of my every move, from both above and below the water! My initial reactions are: wow, this is some excellent feedback. So much more than I was expecting. And two: holy moly, I look like a manatee underwater. :-(

But the real reason I posted this was just the amazing level of attention and support we are getting from our coaches. Isn’t this pretty phenomenal?? I also got to look at the videos of my teammates and really learned some great stuff from that – like what is it SUPPOSED to look like. Impressive!

 

Resistance September 8, 2011

Resist by Stefano Pizzetti
Resist, a photo by Stefano Pizzetti on Flickr.

This triathlon training is teaching me so much about myself. Recently I’ve been learning about resistance. Yesterday was supposed to be a swim day. I was sort of planning to sandwich the swim in between work and this dinner party I really wanted to go to. But I got out of work late. I was tired (what else is new?). It was Juniorette’s first day back at crew practice and I knew she would really appreciate a good hearty dinner when she came home. So after work I went grocery shopping, went home and made chili and cornbread (one of her favorites). By that time it was after 7pm. Lily had just texted me saying she was sick and couldn’t make the workout.

Part of me was so, so, so tempted to just say “Oh, nevermind!” and just skip the workout and go straight to the party. Wouldn’t that have been nice? No. I would have felt maybe like I’d gotten away with something. But I would have also felt bad about myself.

I decided to go to the pool and do my workout. Again, I thought that 1) since Lily wasn’t there to push me, and 2) nobody was looking and 3) I wanted to get that party, I would do the shorter Sprint/Developing workout instead of the longer more challenging Fitness level workout. I studied them both pretty hard. The S/D was 1200 yards total, and the Fitness was 2300.

I was in a cranky mood already because I’d of the aforementioned long day, the lack of swim partner, missing the party and LOSING the 4th set of goggles I’ve had since the season began. Jeebus. What is wrong with me? I lose goggles like I lose hairs out of my head. I went to the gym’s front desk and bought the best pair of goggles they have, which are sufficient for keeping out water but also keep me blind as a bat. I need the goggles with the lens correction in them, or I’m hopeless.

I did find a pair of silicon earplugs in my purse, and decided to try them for the first time. This turned out to be a good thing. I liked that kind of insulated feeling, AND of course they did the trick of keeping water out of my ears. Recently I’ve been getting a lot of water in my ears and it HURTS. And is irritating.

Anyway, I got going and after the 12 lengths of warmup I pretty much decided I was going to go for the Fitness workout. I talked to myself underwater. I mean, who was I cheating if I skipped a workout or did the easy short one? ME. And what is my goal here exactly? My goal is to enjoy this triathlon if possible (of whatever length), to not drown or suffer too much during the swim portion of it. (or any portion) So in order to meet that goal it behooves me to do the best I can. As I say to my PT clients every day, “Give it your Safe Maximal Effort.” (ie do the best you possibly can without hurting yourself)

I did the Fitness workout. It took a little over an hour. I took the 10 second rests where dictated. But toward the end there was a 500 yard set, ie 20 lengths without stopping. I didn’t churn it out, but I kept it steady. I wasn’t going at a snail pace. I remember doing a 400 a few weeks ago that almost made me pass out. I do think I am getting stronger. Later I discovered that a mile is 1750 yards. So I did MORE than a mile, albeit with some rests. It felt just fine.

I went home, made some nice Pillsbury chocolate chip cookies (throw in pan, dry hair while they bake, then GO) and went to the party. It was more of a meeting than a party, of very fine Solo Performance minds, and people were taking notes and talking a mile a minute about the recent NY Fringe Festival. It was very stimulating and I was glad I’d gone.

Fast forward to today. Another long day at work. Went out to do hill repeats after 8:45. I was in a terrible, horrible mood! Feeling resistant again! Realizing how very hard it is to do these workouts when I already feel spent from working all day. Especially the days that end at 8:00pm. But I went out there, and I pushed myself up the hill 7x (Developing level tonight!) and done.

All I can say is, if I did not have this training to be accountable to, there is NO WAY IN THE UNIVERSE I would be doing these workouts. No way. So I am so thankful to this training for getting me out there, even when I realllllllllllllly don’t feel like it.

 

OYO (On Your Own) Workout July 27, 2011

swim team by getthebubbles
swim team, a photo by getthebubbles on Flickr.

Today was the first day we were to start our OYO (on your own) workouts for Team in Training. I was lucky enough that one of my teammates lives really close to me and she wanted to come swimming at my gym.

I think I just don’t feel confident enough in myself to know that I would complete these solo workouts if I were truly solo. So I was so glad to have company and to have someone to swim with. I’m gonna be honest. Back in the day, when I was training with TNT to do my (walking) marathon in 2000, I had a schedule of solo workouts for midweek. I didn’t do a lot of them. I figured I could “catch up” on the weekends during the coached workouts. And that was fine. But this time around, I feel like I don’t dare miss a single thing because if I don’t keep up, I’m just… screwed. So I’m sticking to this schedule no matter what.

I think the motto of this triathlon training is going to be, “This is no joke.” The workout started out manageable enough, with a couple of lengths of warmup, then 4 lengths (100 yds), then 2 laps (100 yds). That all went fine.

Then we were to do a timed swim of 15 minutes and write down how many yards it was.

Fifteen minutes without stopping is a long time.

It’s like never having run before, and trying to run for fifteen minutes straight.

It was a verrryyyyyy long 15 minutes. I took a couple half-lengths to breast stroke or side stroke because I was getting pretty wobbly with the freestyle. But the phrase, “there’s no wall to touch in open water” kept going through my head and I just did my best to keep going.

I did the dumb thing of trying to count by 25s in my head and add as I swam. My brain was fairly addled so I think I got it wrong.

Lily said she counted 30 lengths. I was a few behind her so I’m gonna say I did 24. Which is 600 yards. Plus the 300 we did (including the 50 yard cooldown) — whoa.

We sat in the hot tub for a while afterward.

Again, no joke. I survived it. It wasn’t easy. I keep wondering, is this going to get easier? (because I get more conditioned) Or harder? (because they’re going to keep adding distance and speed) Or just be the same degree of difficulty the whole time?

I can’t think about it. I have to just take each workout, each day as it comes and just do the best I can.

It didn’t kill me. I wasn’t dying. But it wasn’t easy. And I’m gonna reiterate that if I didn’t have Lily in that lane next to me, I can’t guarantee I wouldn’t have quit halfway.

GO TEAM.

 

Night Owl at the Break of Dawn April 13, 2010


Sleepy Eastern Screech Owl

Originally uploaded by nickgatens

Oh boy. So I did it this morning, something I really swore I would never do: I got up at 5:30am so that I could go to the gym. Wow, it was an experience. Mister McBody has been doing this since forever, and I always thought he was just kind of fanatical. Well, I’ve crossed that line now, I guess. Or just: the idea of losing my fitness level after I’ve come this far is probably something I fear more than my fear of losing sleep.

So the alarm went off. First his alarm (5:05?). So I was actually treated to the “luxury” of “sleeping in” until 5:30 when mine went. The nice thing about having a partner who wakes up even earlier than you, is that there is always nice hot coffee ready!

I got up. I threw a bunch of clothes in a bag. I had my cup of coffee. (mmm hot) And drove off in the dark. That was an experience. I was amazed to see at least half-dozen people RUNNING in the dark with reflective clothing on. Wow, I said to myself. That’s pretty hardcore.

Got to gym. Shocked to see that the parking lot was PACKED. Even more shocked to see that the exercise-machine room also packed. Who are these people? I could not believe that probably 1/3 of them were in their 60′s and older (70s for sure) – I mean they looked like retired people. I did not think they needed to do this in order to zip off to a job. I’ve heard that as people age they lose the need to sleep so much. Did they have insomnia? This was interesting to me.

I did 30 minutes on the elliptical. Started out slow but by the end I felt very good and the sun was coming up and I could’ve kept going BUT I had this plan to jump in the pool to see how that felt. I’ve been making small noises about some triathlon in September and I figured I better start seeing how the other two legs of my stool are holding up.

It was COOOLD OUTSIDE. I noted that people smarter than me had brought nice slippers and big thick robes and towels from home. I had a skimpy little gym towel the size of a washcloth, and no shoes and certainly no robe. Note to self.

I jumped in the water. It was fine. (the air was freezing) I started swimming. Which sort of shocked me since the last time I swam laps I was pregnant with my almost-16 yr old kid. But it did sort of come back. I experimented with breathing every 1, 2 and 3 strokes. It was okay. Which actually means that it was FABULOUS since anything more than drowning after 3 strokes felt like a major victory.

I swam 4 lengths. Which I think = about 200 meters, or 220 yards. Which is about half the distance of the swim distance of the triathlon. I think i can do that. (by September)

It was shocking how tired I got though, and so fast. It made think, is there a couch-to-5k equivalent for swimming?? Swim half a length, float one minute?? Hmm.

After I felt like I couldn’t swim anymore, I got in the outdoor hot tub. For like two minutes. That felt really good. But then I had to bust out of there, shower and run home to pick up my kid for school.

Did that. I got to my work place about 45 minutes early. I had not really prepared my food for the day, and I didn’t want to go home again in between the school carpool and work. So I have to work on that piece of things. I went to a little cafe on the corner. They didn’t have any protein. I had some sourdough toast and a cappuccino. Not exactly breakfast of champions. I can work on that.

Work was more hands-on than yesterday. I could go more into detail about that and maybe I will at some point. But now I need a POWER NAP because I’m going to a concert tonight with Mr. McB.

I’m exhausted. Now of course I understand why HE naps every evening. I feel like my biorhythms have gone through a blender.

Anyway, what I learned today:
1. It’s pretty out at dawn.
2. It’s annoying that the gym is so crowded. I thought it would be kinda peaceful. But no.
3. I think I need to save swimming for the weekends when I am not so rushed.
4. The endorphins felt great but they had kinda dwindled down by 8:30am.
5. OH forgot to mention: got out and walked 20 minutes at lunch. That felt FANTASTIC – to be out in the sun, and to move around. That felt great. More of that.
6. I need to plan ahead more for food.

7. I’m really really sleepy. But I feel like this might be do-able.

8. I need a “performance” bathing suit, not a “lie around the beach in Costa Rica” bathing suit. LOL

 

 
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