Yesterday was a huge day in tri-training land for me. It was a workout I’d been anticipating with a fair amount of fear, especially considering my meltdown last week. I was very low on the confidence scale and just not sure of my ability to do this.

Set the alarm for 5:30 because we were traveling way up to Napa wine country for our bike/run. Picked up Lily (who had just returned from Mexico hours before, yayyy!) and we headed up.

First we had a little talk from our coach. See how serious everyone is?

I was feeling kind of wimpy when I read this.

So our bike plan was to go about 15-30 miles depending on experience. I was feeling kind of anxious-but-determined about the shoe clip thing. We headed out the parking lot and we were maybe half a block away, at the first stop sign, when coach Mark called out my name and remarked on my less-than-graceful stopping and dismounting style. Uh-oh. Busted.

He then proceeded to give me a private tutorial on balance, stopping and starting right there in the road (actually, the bike line) while the rest of the group rode off into the horizon. Without us. 😦

I had somewhat mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I felt very grateful for the private attention and help. On the other hand, I was so aware of being left behind (and last) and also of being in bicycle remedial school. It was kind of embarrassing. And as we did these drills I felt like I  was almost getting worse instead of better. It was the opposite of my session with Mary, when I was OK with the stops but awkward with the starts. Yesterday, I was starting out fine but then I was regressing back into my “slam on the brakes then leap off the bike like it’s on fire” method. No matter what Mark said, it was not sinking into my reptilian brain and I just kept reflexively doing the “jump off while bike is still rolling” thing. It wasn’t pretty.

Finally he realized I wasn’t going to improve all that much and we took off onto the Silverado Trail, which is this long mini-highway that goes through dozens of vineyards in the Napa valley. I kept praying I would not get hit by a giant limo filled with drunk people at 9 in the morning.

Once my feet were clipped in, it felt pretty good. There was a nice wide bike line, the road was pretty much flat, and it just went on in a straightforward way. But I was very aware of coach Mark behind me and even though I was pedaling as fast as my legs would rotate, I wasn’t sure if I was doing the bike equivalent of walking.

There are a few things I need to figure out still. No, a lot of things. But one of them is where to put my butt. If I just sit down “naturally” without thinking about it, I know I am way far forward and it’s all very painful and squishy. But if I really sit BACK on the cushy big part of the seat, it feels weird and strange for my back and arms. Actually, none of it feels super comfortable. So I played around with that for most of the ride.

I was starting to get kind of tired and I could feel my legs aching when YAY we got to the water and fuel stop. YAY!

This is when I made one of the best choices of my workout life. There was a fair spread of snack and beverage choices and I took a big cup of Gatorade (good choice #1 – yay electrolytes) AND a big handful of salty salty pretzels. (BRILLIANT CHOICE) I was in deadly fear of dehydration which has taken me down so many times in the past. I remembered something right then. I remembered that when I have suffered from dehydration (and Junior too) the BIG THING to bring us back from death’s door was — chicken soup. Salty salty chicken soup. And I remembered the cyclists at the Century ride snarfing down the boiled potatoes sprinkled with salt.

I think this made the hugest difference EVER.

Got off on the second half of the ride. Made it back to parking lot. Had to run into the giant food store to go to the bathroom and then changed my shoes.

We were to run a mile out and a mile back on this trail right off the parking lot. I had already psyched myself into accepting that I was going to do run-walk intervals. I was OK with it. I told myself there was no shame in walking, and I just needed to get through the two miles.

I started running. The trail was really beautiful, along a little creek (or was it a river?) and it was nice and woodsy and there were all kinds of people walking and running, including another TNT team who was doing SIX miles before their final tri next weekend. (gulp, one day that will be us!) The run went just fine. I noticed that I was not having any need to walk. I just kept going, and I was so happy to be passing (going the other way) other members of my team. We all slapped hands and gave each other encouragement. I felt so glad to be part of it.

Finally I realized I was only about 1/4 mile out. And I hadn’t walked yet. My Runkeeper told me that my average pace was a 11:40 mile. I was astounded because remember at our first mile, I pushed to a 11:33 mile and thought I was going to DIE? For this one I felt like I was just sort of ambling along at a pretty easy pace. When all of this came together in my head – the fact that I hadn’t walked, that I had done this AFTER a 15 mile ride, and that I had done it at this pace – I got totally overwhelmed. I hit the parking lot and just burst into sobs. I couldn’t stop crying for about five minutes. It was happy tears though.

After everyone got back, a bunch of us went out for breakfast. Normally at this point in a workout I’d be almost catatonic. I’d be shaky and woozy and ready to keel over. Not yesterday. I was soooooo full of energy and just feeling good.

yay team! That's Rachel!

For EVERY SINGLE team workout this season, I’ve had to come home and take a big nap – because of the early wakeup AND because the workouts just knocked me out. But yesterday I came home and did a little Rocky dance and then went out to take care of other stuff. NO NAP. No meltdown or wipeout.

It was the salty pretzels!!

I really feel like this was a HUGE breakthrough, physically and psychologically and even intellectually. I finally understood something about what my body needed. Electrolytes and salt! and it made such a difference in my workout (and POST workout) I can hardly believe it. Whew.

I still have a LOT of practicing to do on the bike with the clips and the on/off. But I feel so much more confident than I did just a week ago. It’s beginning to feel possible.

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