Friday, August 28, 2015

The Triathlon Diaries: Timberman 70.3

Four months ago is when I realized all my triathlon friends were signed up to compete in Gilford, NH at Timberman 70.3. Of course I didn't want to be left out of the New England fun, so I put in a request to take off that weekend from work--I got denied. I got denied not because I don't have the hours, I got denied because another co-worker was going to be on vacation.

One month goes by, we are actively involved in the summer season and my friend reminds me of Timberman. He let me know they were offering a sprint triathlon the day before and for the first time ever, an aquabike. I had to compete. Before, I wanted to cheer, dance and motivate my friends and family, but the aquabike provided an excellent opportunity for injured me to race. So, I put in request #2 at work. Denied.

Two weeks later, request #3, denied.

Three weeks later, request #4. My boss could tell I was disappointed, she apologized before she denied it.

A few weeks go by and I talk to the big boss about it, and she gives me a few tips of what I can say to potentially get the weekend off. I e-mail my boss four paragraphs of pleading and bargaining. A week later when she came back from vacation, I was approved.

I was going to New Hampshire. I told Dan and he told me I had to ask my coach before I signed up. I think he thought it was a bad idea. I e-mailed my coach and received exactly what I needed to hear to motivate me in competing in a half ironman aquabike. I signed up for the race about 12 days out. Last minute planning, eh? That's how I roll in the triathlon world. I spoke with a friend from my past about staying with him on my drive up, I didn't want to drive all 10-15 hours by myself. He was cool with it.

All my friends left for NH on Thursday, while I stayed behind and finished work and coaching. I got a text from my lodging, saying he didn't want me to stay anymore-I went into a panic attack at work because I didn't know how I would survive driving for that long by myself...and in the dark.

Friends are what got me though the drive. I couldn't have survived without them. Thank you to Rachel, Claire, Elizabeth, my mom, Julie, Beth, Aaron and Dan for keeping me company through the east coast traffic, accidents and many many states. I'd never been to Delaware (spent a total of 13 minutes in it), Connecticut or New Hampshire.

Packet Pick Up
I was stoked to be able to get a little Ironman 70.3 black backpack that I saw so many of when helping Dan move (he's a real Ironman). If I'm gonna pay that much money, I better be getting a sweet backpack and t-shirt. So I take my bib number to the backpack station and a volunteer begins filling it with goodies. Until, volunteer #2 looks closer and says, and I quote, "Oh, she's not an athlete, she doesn't get one of those." And hands me a green grocery bag tote bag, with a white DriFit Aquabike t-shirt. Excuse me, what did you just say? I was pissed. Apparently those who swim 1.2 miles and ride 56 miles aren't considered an athlete. Well 17 year old volunteer #2, I'd like to see you beat me, and we could see who isn't the athlete. Just because I can't run, doesn't mean I'm not an athlete. It's not that I don't want to, I do, I just physically can't. Don't ever tell me I'm not an athlete, and give me the damn black backpack. Thanks Dan (or Aaron) for giving me your backpack to make me feel like an athlete.

The Race
Yes, I did skip all of yesterday, but I bet most of you don't care about my day before the race--just getting ready, loving the NormaTec Recovery Boots, salt loading, practicing open water swimming with my wetsuit...for the first time. I'm skipping it.

We got to transition at 5am (so we could get parking) and set up transition area, talked with other athletes, stood in the never ending porta potty lines and took a nap in the car. At 6:40a I said bye and good luck to the boys and went on my way to the beach. It is a battle just getting the wetsuit up, so I needed a good amount of time to put it on and get a warm-up swim in.

Competitors, families and sherpas were flocking the beach--it was a lot of people! Typically that would make me nervous, but I felt good. I felt like I was ready to go out and win this thing. My wave was lining up and I fought my way to the front...being a swimmer, I knew I had to get away from people. Triathletes don't mind (I think) when people touch their feet when swimming. Being a swimmer...I hate it. That just motivates me more to swim faster and get whomever is on my feet, off my feet.

I've never had anyone to draft off of. Does this hurt me in the long run, absolutely, but I'm not going to slow down just so I can grab someone's feet and ride them. I'm going to swim my own race. I'm used to seeing the colors of the rainbow in caps in front of me when swimming, none the same as the one I wear...however there was one person with a bright green cap swimming right next to me. I tried drafting, they weren't having it. They tried drafting, I wasn't having it. So, we swam side by side, swimming over the colors of the rainbow in front of us. I was convinced they were a man. Typical man stroke and usually I'm the first woman by at least 15 seconds out of the water. Imagine my surprise when I got out of the water to see that it was a woman (we talked afterwards and she thought I was a man, too). I got out of the water at 27:40.The swim hurt. I tweaked my shoulder putting my wetsuit on and that pain continued with me for the extent of the swim, but I pushed through and did what I could. I can definitely see room for improvement in that category.

Shout out to the wetsuit strippers...y'all are amazing!

Run to transition was a little slower than I'd like. I was running behind a really slow lady and she wouldn't let me pass, so I slowly ran to Zeke. Clipped on helmet and put on sunglasses and off I went. The first ten miles on the bike went real quick, I was movin', until that mountain we had to climb at mile ten. I felt better seeing everyone else struggling to get up it, but just being in my easiest gear possible was not fun. People were cheering from their house about 3/4 of the way up, screaming "you're almost at the top..." I was not amused. That may be true, but I still have 1/4 of this mountain still to climb. All I was thinking was that there better be an epic downhill at the bottom of this...I was only slightly disappointed. For the next 22 miles or so, I played tag with another Endorphin Athlete. We would chat and cheer every time we passed each other. He took the down hills, I conquered the uphills. Although unsure of who he was, he kept me going and motivated me to dominate those hills.

It was the turn around where I started feeling it. I had nutrition and water with me, but I was in desperate need of salt, so I started licking my lips hoping that the salt in my sweat would provide. Either that did, or God did, but I felt a little better. Because of the nature of the out and back, I began seeing hundreds of racers going the opposite direction from me. I was definitely enjoying the time of not being around people, but that also became very hard mentally. I saw lots of people, but no one was around me. Was I going faster than everyone or was everyone in front of me just killing it? My speed proceeded to go down, but I kept hammering my legs and passed a handful more people. I was hurting a lot around mile 40, so I prayed. When I don't have anyone to talk to, I either talk to myself or I talk to God, and in that situation, He provided. The first time was when I looked up from aero and saw Danny Royce on his hot pink bike. The familiarity of that racer gave me a little kick in the butt and I was able to climb more easily up a hill. A few miles later the hurt set in more and I prayed. I looked up and gave a little smirk and wave to Dan when I saw him pass me going the other direction on GrAce 2.0 and he shouted my name and something else, but I heard my name so it lit a fire under my ass and off I went.

I trained well for this, but I needed to train more in hill work. I was proud of bike but definitely see room for improvement. Working on the hills and being more comfortable in aero going down hills opposed to holding onto my brakes in fear of falling off and dying (legitimate fear). 

I got first overall woman in aquabike and third overall athlete in aquabike...who's not the athlete now?

The Aftermath
When all was said and done and I was back in Richmond, I got sick and my legs bad. Even with the pain, my eyes are set on next season when I hope that I am healthy enough to run....It's a great sport.

Defining You

As my blog has eluded, I have made mistakes in my past. I have been challenged, tested and have been treated awfully by people whom I thought cared for me. This is a deep look into how I am challenged with the labels that have been brought up in my life, how people and situations have altered the way I view myself. I'm being honest and truthful with all my readers in hope that someone out there feels the same way, because that's why I write the things I do.

On my way up to New Hampshire, I spoke with one of my best friends, whom I hadn't spoken to in months. She knows me. She knows me well--well enough to see that I am lying to myself about something and that I have built up walls around certain aspects of my life, and that I have chosen to live my life a certain way based on those walls. What a wise woman she is. Not only was I blown away that she was able to grasp that from our two hour long conversation, but being able to grasp that after not speaking to each other in months. A wise, wise woman you are Mrs. Kraft. She told me that I had to be honest with myself, so I am.

She told me I must look at how I define myself because she feels I'm still including my past in my definitions of who I am as a person. I am more of a woman than the shell I used to be. I am more than just a woman who has been used and abused by a man. I learned what a nasty man does to get his way and how he can make even the strongest of women feel degraded and worthless. I learned what fear for your life felt like and the uncertainty of feeling safe even when surrounded by people who genuinely care about you and your well being.

So is this the key element from my past that now shapes who I am as a woman? Unfortunately, yes. It has been almost two years and I still can't move past the label of a victim. It's not even that label--it's the thought that I am no longer good enough for anyone. No longer good enough to love. No longer good enough to be loved. No longer pure enough to be pure. Until I met someone, but like everything else--that didn't last. He gave me hope that I can be enough to someone (even though my heart aches everyday for him).

So I go through stages where I am not enough and my heart yearns for someone amazing. It's a lonely world when you think of yourself that way, however, I'm working hard on not letting it define me. What I've been through in life has taught me very valuable things and I am able to learn and grow because of it. In the meantime, though, I keep myself busy.

I put my stresses and uncertainties into training and I train hard to erase them. I train hard because I am an athlete. I am also a daughter, a sister and a woman in Christ.

How do you then define yourself aside from the things in your past? Let it go (yes, Frozen). But how do you let it go when it's such a big part of what makes you, you? You grow and use those learning experiences to shape you as a better person. You use those experiences to redefine yourself as someone better. Yes, things may have happened to me, but I am becoming a stronger woman with firm beliefs because of it.