Race Report: Tri For Children Sprint, 2017

This was my FIFTH sprint!!  I decided last week to sign up.  I was getting antsy waiting for the Sugar River tri at the end of August, and looking at the training plan of brick workouts….booooring.  The weather looked promising, and some of my friends are susceptible to peer pressure, so Stefany and I signed up for an early morning 70 minute drive to beautiful, tiny Ottawa Lake yesterday.  **Note–There are no coffee shops, nearby.  *sad face* **

Had to leave at 4:30 am, so planning and organization were dialed in.  Remembered breakfast and actually ate it.

Wave #11 for the swim, and I was pukey-nervous that I didn’t have my wetsuit.  95% of my wave is suited up, and I deliberately left mine at home and have been training for this…but my inner dialog of “what even the hell were you thinking, Tiefenthaler?” is getting louder. Go for a warm-up run. Get in the water. Line up.  I make some joke about no fish around to eat whatever I’m about to vomit in the start corral, and we’re off!

And it’s fine, great even.  We’re swimming close together, the water is dark with tannins, but no weeds.  Fifty meters in, and I’m so glad I don’t have my wetsuit on—-I’m warm but not steaming up my goggles and overheating like in the past.  It’s lovely.  I’m swimming, actually swimming, and sighting and I realize I could pick up the pace, but actually settle for low and slow.  It’s amazing.

Some of the previous wave are ahead, in the swim lane or clutching to the buoy and looking exhausted.  There are no support kayaks around, so, I’m not the only one asking people as we swim past if they’re okay.  They are.

I’ve been following Stef, and actually push her toward the inner lane now.  I don’t know why.  The only hiccup is the field of water lilies we crawl through on the last stretch and I cannot stop myself from screaming like a little kid a few times.  Oh god, the swamp thing is touching meeee!  Make it through!

A minute slower than what I’ve done with a wet suit, but I know I don’t need it as a crutch any longer.  Yes!

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Onto the bike, and I’m so pumped about the swim I war-whoop as I leave.  This was an interesting bike, and the first time I’ve been disappointed in fellow athletes.  I don’t know the route, despite what I  learned at the last race, but I hear it is “flat and fast with gentle sloping.”  It is. Some new pavement, some very old, some shade, lots of farmland. It is also ridiculously crowded with both sprint and Olympic athletes doing the same course (two loops for the Olympic).  It makes me nervous—narrow country roads, tons and tons of newbie athletes including a whole wave of cancer survivors doing their very best on hybrid bikes, and a couple hundred hot-shot jerks who somehow can’t remember what it’s like to be a beginner.  It’s not a closed course–we’re on the road with vans and pickups and even semis.  TWO bikers of the hundred who pass me call out ahead of time.  Just two.  They’re flying by, no warning, a handful even cross double yellow ON HILLS, and I’m worried we’re about to see a semi cab-bike duel.  You know who’d win that.   **Elite athletes:  Clean up your act.  You were unsafe, unwelcoming, and unkind yesterday and hugely disappointing.  Pick a different race or tone it way the hell down.**

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An unnerving bike.  Told to stay left first and last miles, with a crowd who are new to the rules and a crowd of rule-breakers.  Hard to pass or be passed safely.

I stay in my drop handles the whole time, and just keep eyes are ears out for speed demons on the left and these amazing cancer warriors on the right.  Both are apt to swerve without announcement and it takes a lot of concentration.  It’s the fastest I’ve ever biked, and a relief to be done.

I messed up T2 a bit, forgetting my bib number and rack placement, not taking in any salt, hunting for a bathroom, but the win here is that I’ve gotten so used to numb hands and feet I’m calm and capable and can still tie my shoes.

The run is a struggle, as my calves are so tight I’m afraid they’re tearing in half.  Soon it’s hamstrings, too. I’m wearing my ice vest, but it thaws so quickly and starts to feel heavy and hot. My hands are on fire, but it’s a familiar feeling, and hell, it hasn’t killed me yet. It’s two out-and-back tangents and a tiny piece on a single-track grass trail.  A little shade.  Lots of water stations, thankfully.  See some familiar faces and am so grateful to be out here.  Stefany blows past me with encouragement, and I try to stick with her, but I hit the wall with a quarter mile to go.

Now, in college, my brother ran cross country, and he joked about running (it might have been a long run after a long night)…it was something like “I’m just going to lay down and die.  In a ditch.  That ditch right there.  I’m just going to lay down in that ditch and die.”

And that is all I can think at the end of this race, laying down in a ditch and dying. I know I backed off the swim a little, and twice, I relaxed on purpose on the bike, but at this point, I’ve given everything.  I’m crabby and exhausted and rip off my sun sleeves, hat and ice vest and throw them in the grass as I power by .  I don’t care if I’m DQ’d right now.

The Team Phoenix cancer survivor fans are in full force and they cheer me past the finish line.  What a privilege to race with them and their supporters.  It’s the first race I’ve ever heard my name (and Stefany cheering!) at the finish.  I did it.

I have to sit down before I fall down, have volunteers open bottles and pour water on me, and Stef gets me ice which I shove indelicately down my shorts and bra. Drink the best Coke I’ve ever had.  As rough as I was at the finish, I bounce back really fast. I am more than a little surprised by this.

We go collect all the filthy heat gear I dropped, which some kind person has gathered into one disgusting pile for me. ❤ We gather our post-race snacks from the Controlling Lunch Matron, trade in t-shirts and drift around until my mind starts working again and transition opens back up.

If you can’t tell, I’m totally hooked on this sport.  I loved being out there with all the Team Phoenix warriors and cheering them on.  I love being up early, watching the fog on the lake, getting barfy and nervous, joking, on a new beach with strangers.  I love knowing all the ways my body is alive and capable, and finding new ways to challenge myself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Race Report: Door County Triathlon

I’m sure I haven’t mentioned that I did a triathlon this summer, or again this Labor Day weekend.  I kept it pretty quiet.  You know me, so quiet.  So humble.  I was uncharacteristically out of words afterwards…but I’ve finally found them.  Here’s my first race report:

Door County Sprint Tri, July 16th or therabouts, 2016

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First, the swim. I was ready far too early. I paced and did some swim sprints to get my heart rate up. I peed in my wet suit a dozen times (while in the water, of course) before my wave went off, third to last. I wade out with the pack when the buzzer goes.  I dove in and start free-style.  I was a pro.  I put my face in the water.  I had conquered the totally rational, everyone-has-it-even-if-they-lie-fear of sea monsters.  I was sailing along. Five strokes, ten.  But there were all these other people in the water.  Polite ones, sure (thanks, ladies!!), but also people in kayaks telling you stuff and a boat and someone with a megaphone, I think, and it was too much.  It was all pulling at my attention and I just couldn’t stop looking around. None of these conditions are trustworthy! All these moving pieces! So I did the side-stroke for a quarter mile to keep my head up and in the game.  No biggie.  I can do a front crawl at the same pace I can side-stroke.  (I’m doing a Masters class now—and it turns out side-stroke is not an actual thing.  When she says 100 yds, free choice, she doesn’t mean side-stroke.  Wut?)

I fall a bit behind my wave and it gets nicer out in the water.  I am a seal.  I am a sylph of the water.  I am a selkie.  God, this is such a long quarter mile.

I schlepp onto shore and someone calls my name and I flash a million-watt smile. I have been advised to find the camera, let it be my friend. Lo! The very woman who suggested this tri thing seven months ago is the wet-suit peeler right in front of me!  She yells “Oh!  I get this one!!” and she and her dad unzip me and rip that suit off and get me back on my feet in nanoseconds and I’m rubber-legging it up the ramp to my bike.

I don’t remember transition.  I’m already out on my bike, and it is quiet out here on the road.  And the bay is to my right and there’s hardly anyone else on the road and it is amazing.  I laugh out loud and startle myself.  What a charmed life, to have this body, this time, this ability to move, this gorgeous earth to speed across.  Then my left arm goes densely, leadenly, numb.  And my toes start to go pins-and-needles and I start to wonder what I’m going to do next.  It has only been five miles.  I put my head down. I pick up the pace.  I fly into the water station at the turn-around at mile nine and ask everyone for ice. Ice.  Ice! They are confused.  I wheel my way into their supply line and grab ice out of the buckets, cooling bottles of Gatorade, and shove it down my shorts and into my left arm sleeve. The volunteers just goggle at me.  I want to tell them to volunteer at an Ironman after 9 pm and they’ll see it all, then.

Coming back in, I am now completely alone.  There are no more waves coming out and me and my trusty 1995 hybrid are streaming through the countryside.  Med-tent stop.  Beg for more ice.  More stunned and confused volunteers.  Someone gives me a glove with ice tied inside, which I shove, again into my shorts.  Someone else picks up on the urgency and helps me stuff ice into the elbows of my cooling sleeves.

Mile 15.  Three to go.  There is no one to yell “Hybrids for the WIN!!” or, “Go get ’em tiger!” at.  There is no one panting “Good job.  You got this,” as they pass me either.  Just me and the road.  And despair. We soldier through, together.

18 miles, done.  Transition is going fine.  I have this small chest of ice holding my ice vest in it.  I have nailed down the motions of one, two, three, dumping the ice water over my head, zipping up my vest, putting on my shoes…and I can’t tie my shoes.  My fingers will not work.  I look for anyone to help and then can’t remember if officials can help or just other participants or anyone or WTF will I do if I can’t tie my shoes??  And I grab two fistfuls of ice from the pavement and hold them for a minute, and I can finally feel my fingers and tie up clumsily and boom, I’m ready to run.

Good lord.  My body doesn’t work.  I did my due diligence, people.  I did brick workouts.  I know this sensation in my legs is temporary.  But this is ridiculous.  My toes have cramped into tight, little snails.  My left leg is going numb.  My hands are on fire.  I am tired and so freaking pumped.  This jolt hits me–this dichotomy of “Oh boy” and “Yass!” is why there are addicts in this sport.  You are doing this to yourself…and it’s miserable and exhilarating all at once.  I stumble past the big crowds.  I don’t see my family, but I do see a sign for me.  For me??  On this road?  And it’s an inside joke from sixth grade.  SIXTH GRADE!?!  Did you ever once think when you were in sixth grade that 26 years later you would do a triathlon with someone in your classroom??  I didn’t.  I loved it.  I cried and kept running.

The road gets so, so hot.  I finally see people ahead.  I have found my way back to the race.  People are walking, drooping, shuffling.  I shuffle right along with them.  I walk some. I pass a woman with a “Baby On Board” t-shirt and tell her “Hell.  I couldn’t even walk to my mailbox when I was pregnant.” (Partial lie.  I could have.  I just would have vomited if I did.) I thought I would run the whole thing, but nah, son.  Not today.  I can’t uncurl my toes.  I run until I’m just about to vomit, then I walk a minute and try again.  I get the shakes.  I’m so, so hot.  My ice vest has thawed.  I’m dumping water on my feet and head and in my bra at every station.  No weird looks here.  Everyone is wilting.  I’ve set my eye on Sparkle Skirt, who is part of a Team Triumph, a superhero up ahead.  If Sparkle Skirt can push a whole ‘nother person through this, I can push my own damn self.  I yell thanks to those Angels for pushing and for pulling me along, too.  It’s a 5K.  And it feels endless.

I finish.  I don’t see my family.  I fumble and panic with getting my ice vest off, then fall into the ice pool with my finisher medal.

I did it.  It was hard.  My first thought was “Aaaand, never doing that again.”  Only to immediately remember I was already signed up for one in six weeks.

I’m a triathlete.

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Doing a Triathlon is Dumb

It’s become almost normal for me to get up before the kids and go off to exercise.  I do it once a week, now.  I plan for more, but can carry through about once.   I can’t decide if it’s the new wave or if it is purely unsustainable.  If I keep this up, I will soon have to go to sleep before my son.  I will lose an hour a day with my husband….And yet, I keep doing it.

A year ago I couldn’t fathom that.  Last summer, in fact, I was intending to go to 6:15 am boot camp classes rather than take two miserable kids to the gym with me later in the day.  Instead, I let my membership lapse and never went at all.  Problem solved!

What has changed?  1. (And this is huge.) The children are sleeping.  Mostly.  In better ways and places and for longer stretches than ever before.  It took seven years for us to get here.    I know some people sing a song called  “Find time for you, take care of yourself first! You could get up before the kids and get your workout in!”….but these people have never had beautiful barnacles for children.  Children who need you every hour of the day and night.  Children for whom waking up and having their mom gone, finding out she left while they were sleeping, would be terrifying.  Or maybe they do and have better problem-solving skills than I.  Who knows, and now that mine sleep better and are fine if they wake and I’m not there, who cares.  2. I guess, the MS thing.  Not that it actually changed anything. Except that the specter of disability and/or vision loss looms. And I fight disability with ability? Ah, yes, I suppose.  Enter the triathlon thing.

So…I worried my way through a spin class this morning. It didn’t help that I know and admire the woman teaching and the woman sweating next to me.  It’s energetic and exciting, but it is also new and dark and overwhelming.  Usually, when I worry (panic) in a class, it hits like lightning and I either step outside to cry or catch it just in time to quit.  It hasn’t happened in months, though.  This spin class, worries just sort of rolled in and out, and since I was sort of stuck in that room (because the door is behind the instructor)….I just kept it, and wore the worry home and it didn’t come off in the shower.

I worried about putting pedal straps on my bike and doing that instead of getting clip-in shoes and pedals.  I don’t plan on getting a new bike for the race.  I’ll just use my hybrid sorta road/sorta mountain bike, but I worried about the way my gears jump from 4th to 5th unexpectedly even after a tune-up this morning.  And about getting a flat tire or dropping the chain and if I need different handlebars, even though I like the ones I have and I’m not doing this for time.  I started to worry about whether or not to get a wet suit for the swim. My plan was not to wear one.  No claustrophobia to worry about, no hassle getting it on or off, plus cooling me down.  I know, hashtag a firstworldproblem, I know.

I’m not sure how this is going to work.  At about two miles of running, my feet start to sting.  I can just barely make it to three before sparks start flying, it hurts so much. And that’s on a slow treadmill without an 18 mile bike first.  If the water is cold (and it probably will be 60F), a wet suit could be necessary and I started thinking about how ridiculous it is to spend the first half a race trying to stay warm and the last half not trying not to overheat because your body will stop working either way.  In other words, what the hell?  Why would I voluntarily do this to my body when I spend the rest of my time trying not to get into either too hot or too cold conditions.

This is dumb.  Doing a triathlon is dumb.

Also, training is hella hard and I haven’t figured out how to do it without crashing and burning.  Because I was worried and tired all day.  Because I ate a giant anxiety muffin this afternoon (it’s the flavor you get when you are anxious but you can’t go for a run or do some yoga or meditate or do anything other than the grocery shopping you need to do because you already biked too far today AND, uh, you’re a responsible adult.)  Because I bent down to look at something in the grocery store and stayed there for a while because my legs were too tired to stand back up.

But.

In the middle of my anxiety muffin, I remembered why I signed up in the first place:  Because someone cool suggested it and I said “sure!” without thinking it through….To give me options while being healthy.  To do something good and active every day, but with a rotation of things so I didn’t get injured.  To get and stay strong(er).  To have a handful of different ways to keep moving if (when) I did get injured.  To have something better to think about.  To have stress-relief built in.  To make sure that stupid printout after every visit from the neurologist doesn’t have shameful BMI numbers.  Because once, I enjoyed running.  Because once, I loved biking the back roads around my home.  Because I’ve always wanted to be a mermaid, or, er..comfortable in the water, I mean.

AND. My husband supports me.  Even if I quit.  Even if I let myself go like we joked about after we got married.  Even if I do the race.  Sassy California friend is doing a 5k and is training and posting gorgeous, smug selfies and it makes me so proud.  We’ll run 5ks “together” next weekend 2,000 miles apart.  Madison friends have stepped up and offered to run the 5k with me.  As slow as I need.  Other bootcampers I know have created a very helpful online group where some of us talk about our open water fears (me, and in order it is: lake monsters, dead bodies, weeds touching me, being cold, being wet, drowning, and lastly being really slow) and some of us post links to coaches and have helpful advice and calming words (everyone else).

So.

Some days I worry.  And some days I think about braver days and the good people in my life.  And then I go to bed early and save the declarations for tomorrow because nothing good happens after nine at night if you get up at five in the morning.

Good night.

 

Off to the race!

A few days ago I read about a man, Klaus Obermeyer, who is 95 and still skiing and generally being awesome.  He swims about a mile every day and says it helps him stretch out and stay young.  And I thought “Yeah!  Swimming!   could do that!”

Then, yesterday, someone great said in a chipper voice, ‘Hey, I’m doing a half IRON race in July.  You could do a sprint triathlon the day before!’ and I thought “Okay!”

Never mind that each of the three times I’ve tried to swim, you know, like a real swimmer where my face actually gets wet, I’ve hyperventilated within half a lap.  And those squeezy rubber caps make my head hurt.  And goggles do too.  And I panic if I think water will get in my ears.  And I never, never swim in lakes because things might touch my legs.  Things.   I haven’t run consistently with the exception of six weeks of training for a Color Run a couple years ago in 20 years.  More than half my life.  And there is a biking component too.  18 miles.  I could bike that, right?  With my 20-year-old bike with 20-year-old mountain bike tires?

Anyway, I signed up.  For a triathlon in July.

It is a 1/4 mile swim, an 18 mile bike and a 3.1 mile run.  They call this set the “sprint” of triathlons.  Oho! So sassy!

I started training today.  By which I mean that I bought a biking jersey, some running shorts, two t-shirts and a swim cover-up on clearance.  Ooh, and I signed up for a free intro spin class on Sunday morning.

Then I thought about my first goal for the year, how my family needs and deserves the full weight of my attention right now.

I asked my husband if he was worried about the “diminishing slice of pie” now that I signed up for a triathlon.

“Pie?  What pie?”

“The pie of my attention.”

“Um. No.  I wasn’t.”

You know what?  I have worried about that (needlessly, apparently) for years.  Maybe I should just say stuff out loud more often.

First doubt, hurdled.

Then, my mind turned to MS, as it does often these days.  I’m asymptomatic right now.  Well, sort of.  I get tired sometimes and sometimes my body hurts and only now do I realize that that fatigue might not just be me or the result of “unsleeping” for seven years. Also, I can last only about 30 minutes of boot camp right now before my hands start shooting off sparks.  It used to just irritate me that my grip would go, but lately my fingertips feel like I’ve run an iron over them when I get too hot.  The burning sensation goes away after a while.  It’s never permanent.  But, but…how do I run or bike or swim?  If it makes me tired? If it makes my hands hurt?  Blah, blah.

So my second doubts about this, are easily dealt with too:  I do what I can.  Right now.

Time to live it up and take these (beginner) workouts outside in the cool Wisconsin air.  Well, not the swimming.  Not yet anyway.

                                                   Oh, National Geo.  You bring good things to light.