Hustle for Health Reprise

Just over a week ago, I ran the United Way Hustle for Health 10k, and two of my kids did the 5k. This was my first standalone 10k since this race last year, but the outcome was much different this time around. I do this race every year, because it was my first 5k (2010) and that was the first time they held the race. I love that it’s local, and have fun racing with others from my running group and community. I did the 5k for a few years, then moved up to the 10k.

On race morning, we headed downtown and got ready to run. I have been running separately with my oldest daughter and my youngest son to prepare them for the race. They each had their own race goal. My daughter had been preparing for the physical fitness part of the Navy ROTC program, and my son wanted to run a faster 5k. I had to let him know the heat would slow him down some and not to get discouraged.

Photo Credit: Hustle for Health & Campaing Kickoff United Way of Grayson County (Facebook page)

Photo Credit: Hustle for Health & Campaign Kickoff United Way of Grayson County (Facebook page)

We started the race and went our separate ways.

What’s interesting about the 10k, is that it is basically two separate parts. A hilly, challenging first half, and the second half follows the 5k course which is flat. You can’t run it like a typical 10k, because you may blow all your energy in the hills on the first half and have nothing left to finish with. That was my mistake last year since I had not done much speed work with distance. This year I was prepared. I even ran some of the hills a few times in the weeks before to make sure I could handle the pace (which was easy because it’s in my neighborhood).

My friend and I were running together for most of the first half. I looked at the first two splits and tried not to get concerned (8:28, 8:16) but I had been running around 9 minute miles for training, and I felt good. There was cloud cover, it was humid, and low 80s, but no sun baking us. Coming into the 5k course (which is out and back), I started looking for my kids. I spotted my daughter first at a water stop where she doused me with the contents of her cup. I was starting to heat up, and that felt great. Not long after that, I saw my son. My husband was out on his bike, riding along the course encouraging him. He was smiling and I got a high five. Miles 4 and 5 were my slowest, but I picked up the pace to finish. The final mile was my second fastest.

I finished with an official time of 53:07, and though it wasn’t my fastest, I feel like I’m in a good place going into marathon training. I was surprised to see that I was the second female finisher and the master’s winner. Small race perks. My friend won the female grandmaster’s.

I posted this picture to our running group page, with tips about finding a good running partner.

1. Find someone who pushes and challenges you to be a better runner.

2. Make sure they’re in another age group.

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The kids did well too. I had to talk to my son about how his place in the age group does not matter. He was two minutes off of what he ran in March. In his age group, there are 14 yr old cross country runners. I put the focus on him working to improve his race times, and not on what others are doing. My goal is to instill in him a joy of running and pushing himself to improve. One of my favorite things about running is that the responsibility is on the runner.

My daughter came away from the race better prepared for the Navy fitness requirements. She may have not liked running with me much, but I hope she’ll find an appreciation of me pushing her in training. I am proud of both of them.

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The little one wanted a week off from running after the race, which worked out well because we moved his sister into the dorm last week.

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Now our house is emptier, so I’m going to pour myself into my training to keep from emotional eating.

School started Monday as did my marathon training. My son and I went out for a mile run on Tuesday evening. He was energized and ready to run. The new running clothes helped too. It’s a reminder of how little breaks and rewards can recharge us when we need it.

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Wrapping up Tri Season

Finishing up where it all began…

Sunday, I did my sixth triathlon since I embarked on this crazy journey last summer. I decided this would be my last triathlon of the year so I can focus on marathon training. I talked my running friend into doing the same race we did last year as our first tri: Tri-Rock in Rockwall.

I haven’t spent a lot of time on the bike since Buffalo Springs, but at least once a week I rode either on the road or my trainer. I kept up with the swimming twice a week. Even though I’m not fast, I feel much better about my core after I swim. I’ve focused on more strength training following my swim workouts than I have in the past, and I’ve noticed a difference in my everyday life from it.

I was tired the day before the race: a five mile run with the group, one mile with my daughter, then a bunch of back to school shopping. Combining tax-free weekend with some birthday rewards from Kohl’s, JCP, and other stores paid off for us. By the end of the day, my legs were aching like I ran 15 miles. I wasn’t sure what to expect for the race, but the number one goal was to have fun, and I had my sights set on a PR.

My feelings on race morning were so different from last year. It was just the usual butterflies right before the start that quickly disappeared when it was my turn to jump in the pool.

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My biggest change from last year – being able to swim all the way to the wall without stopping. I only had one person swim by me in the pool. What a great feeling! Last year it took me 10:27 to “swim” 300 meters. This year it was 8:02. There’s still plenty of room for improvement, but…progress.

On to the bike, I was ready to give it all I had. Apparently I forgot about the hills from last year. I was pushing hard though, and my legs were burning. In the last mile, I hear “Hi friend” and look over to see my friend ride past me. She had not ridden her bike once since our last tri in October, and had just pulled it out the day before. That was humbling. But in all fairness, she has more cycling experience than I do. Anyway, I still had my fastest bike split yet. Last year was 14.8 mph. This year was 15.9. So…progress.

We ran out of transition together, and my legs were feeling pretty good considering how hard I pushed on the bike. I didn’t worry about my pace too much, but tried to run steady. It was a two loop course (a little different from last year), and I worked on running each mile faster. I ended up with a 26:08 5k, and I was really excited about that. I can’t really compare the run to last year, because I’m pretty sure the course was short last year. This time I had my Garmin on, so I know the distance was right. But overall, I still set a PR in this race, and wasn’t at the bottom of the age group this time. Again…progress.

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We both had a lot of fun. My friend placed in her age group, and got a pretty neat rock for her award. I wish I could find a way to work on my triathlon and running goals at the same time, but I’m going to call this race the end of my triathlon season.

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My focus now shifts to marathon training which starts on the 22nd. I know that in order to have a strong marathon, I need the mileage. I will continue to cross-train at least once a week either biking or swimming, so I won’t completely lose my progress.  Then after the first of the year, I’ll decide what I want to work on next. I haven’t quite figured out a way to mesh up my big running goals and triathlon goals. Running holds my heart.

Not too shabby for a year's work

Not too shabby for a year’s work.

 

Pretraining

I talked a little about how I’m enjoying a break from endurance and spending time doing other things I enjoy for/with my family in my last post. I have to be honest though. My motives haven’t been entirely selfless. In fact, I believe that what I’m working on now will help me immensely when I start marathon training for Dallas next month. So I’m referring to my plan before the plan to as “pretraining.” I think it will pay good dividends this fall.

My big goal – for the third year in a row – is to break four hours in the marathon. I came closest in Houston in 2014 running a 4:02:03. Since that year, I haven’t closed in on a PR in any distance. I also gained 10 pounds since that race. When I began training for the half Ironman in March, I was able to lose a few pounds. The week after the race in Buffalo Springs, I was down six pounds from March. For the first time since I began running, I lost weight while training for a major race. I’ll blame the swimming.🙂

I pulled this book out after I finished the Cowtown in March and reread it. During my half IM training, I focused on the Nutrient Timing chapter. Now with a few more weeks before I start marathon training, I’m working the Quick Start to drop the last few pounds. There is a lot of protein paired with strength training lately.

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Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald

In the past four weeks I saw the scale hit below a number I haven’t been able to break under since the summer of 2014. That’s the beauty of using the same app to track food and weight for the past five years. Graphs can be useful. Now if I was only focused on the number, the scale might be a problem. But since I’m focused on being able to run faster – for longer – I see the scale as just one of the tools to measure progress.

Yesterday, I did my four week body fat check, and it has dropped a percentage point. That’s another measurement of my progress. My clothes fit comfortably again.

My long runs (even though they’re not that long right now) are averaging just over 9:00 pace. In the summertime that feels good.

I feel stronger from the strength training. There is muscle definition in my upper body that has never been there. As I head into another birthday next month, I can say I have never felt fitter than I do right now. I’ve said this before. It still blows my mind how I am able to improve fitness year after year.

July 24, 2010 I started training for a 5k on July 24, 2010 with the goal of completing a marathon one day. That step changed my life. As I continue my pretraining to get my body ready to handle the rigors of marathon training, I will keep the progress I’ve made in the past six years in the forefront of my mind.

 

 

 

 

Downtime, Goals, and Kids

I promised myself (and my family) that once I finished Buffalo Springs, I would take a break from training and be present. I would take time with them and time for myself. In the past three weeks, I enjoyed several games of Peanut (think Solitaire with teams) at 9:30 at night with my kids, I went to the library and checked out books that I am actually reading, and have been focusing more on my kids. Also, I went back to my Saturday morning running group. That was one of the things I really missed while half Ironman training. I enjoy the camaraderie of the group, and even though I don’t get the chance to run with them all (some of them are really fast), it has been nice to catch up and meet some new members.

“Are you the one who did the triathlon?”

“Yes, that’s me.”

One of the main things I’m working on now is helping my kids. My oldest daughter is going to UT on a Navy ROTC scholarship in August. I’m running with her in the mornings to help her get the endurance she needs to have when she checks in. My 10 year old wants to run another 5k. So I have been going out with him in the evenings to get him running consistently. He’s done a few 5ks in the past two years, but this is the first time he has shown sustained interest and reminds me what days and how far we need to run.

Last week, I took the three kids to the track so we could all stay together. Even the 13 year old who likes the idea of running until she actually does it, came along. It wasn’t the storybook ending I would have liked to have that night, but at least I have some memories in pictures for when they’re all grown up.

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I made a deal with myself that I would keep my activity level to under an hour after the half Ironman. I wanted to give my body the rest it deserved before marathon training starts in August. I also wanted to finish taking off the weight I had put on the last two years. Up until last weekend, I stayed true to my promise of staying under an hour.

On Saturday, I ran just over an hour with the group, and then headed out with my daughter for 30 minutes to run/walk. The next morning, I went on a bike ride with my friend and her husband. She keeps asking me to go with her with the cycling group on Saturdays, and I keep telling her I don’t want to be on my bike that long. Plus, it conflicts with the run group. But this time when she asked me to go ride, I relented because it was on Sunday morning and under two hours.

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I didn’t hate it.

But I’m going to try to keep the endurance bug in check for a few more weeks.

Last night when my son and I ran together, he told me he was moving slower so he could work on his stamina. We are up to a mile and a half. For a child who would rather play video games all summer, I think we’re making great progress.

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Now that I’ve talked a little about how I’m enjoying my downtime, tell me what’s something you do?

Buffalo Springs 70.3 (Part 2 Bike and Run)

If you missed my last post about the start of my Half Ironman at Buffalo Springs, you can catch up on it here. The next part of the race was the longest and required some mental effort. I apologize in advance for being long-winded. I love to write and I love to give details. Double whammy here.

To sum up where I left off, I had completed the swim not knowing how long it took me, and made it to the bike with people still behind me. I was feeling pretty good.

THE BIKE:

I had a nice mental boost from seeing my husband and brother right off the bat, then I passed where we parked and the downhill was followed immediately by another climb. This one got to me. I was breathing heavy, focusing on my turnover when a guy passed me and said “Easier gear.” The guy right behind him said “You have two more.” I acknowledged with “Thanks” and shifted – twice. I was calm and ready to tackle the ride. Once I completed that hill, I knew I had a while before the next one.

The weather was cooperating so far with a cloudy sky and low winds. It was a nice day for a bike ride.

As I moved forward into the second major climb, I saw the athletes coming down and it didn’t seem as scary as it had in the car. This was the one that curved around with a guardrail that bordered a cliff. The downhill that kept me awake half the night. The one I was most worried about. But focusing on my climb, I noticed some riders walking their bikes up the hill. I focused my legs on a steady cadence and stayed in my seat all the way up. I honestly could’ve run a flat road faster than my speed climbing, but I got it done. My motto all throughout the ride became “the tortoise always wins.” I repeated it out loud as needed. I focused on my race, my speed, and my skills. After the turnaround when I began descending, I kept my confidence in place and braked all the way down. “That wasn’t so bad.” I knew that if I made it through that one, I’d be okay for the others. The next big climb had a sign “Spiral Staircase.” This one was steeper but there were no big drop-offs. I saw people walking their bikes up again. It definitely hurt going up, but again I focused on a steady climb. A straightway for several miles, and then a turn around right into the wind. Coming back down the Spiral Staircase was a little faster than the other hill, and scary in a roller coaster thrill way. Oh thank goodness it was a low wind day, because the rest of the ride I fought the wind one direction or another. I couldn’t get my average pace above 14.0. Even with the downhills.

By mile 50, the wind had taken its toll on my legs. They were done and I wanted to be off the bike. The sun had come out about 2 hours into the ride, and I was on my last bottle of Nuun. I was getting thirsty so I tried to ration the rest of my drink. I didn’t want to stop before I finished the bike. My bike was moving slower than I estimated, and since I didn’t know my swim time, I hated to push the time limits. Looking back, I should have had more chews on the bike instead of the extra Clif bar I never ate. At mile 55, I audibly groaned “Oh no!” as I began to climb the final hill in the park before the downhill to transition. It was a straight up hill.

I crested the top, rode past our car and began the descent. Then I saw my oldest daughter right as she turned around and saw me. She began to cheer, and I saw all the other kids, my brother, and my husband. They all began cheering so loud, people were turning to see who was coming. I felt like a superstar! I made the final turn and when I hit the dismount line, the volunteer said “Coming in smiling. That’s a good sign.”

“Yes, because I’m done,” I said.

The tortoise always wins.

Here’s some of the data from my Garmin. Ignore the elevation gain, because it’s not correct. It’s actually just over 1000′ of gain, but I wanted to show the hills on the graph!

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Side note: I can’t say enough about how wonderful it was having my family cheer coming in off of the bike. I needed that lift going into the next part of the race.

THE RUN:

Coming off the bike, I was surprised my legs didn’t feel more wobbly. My first mile I stayed busy trying to make sure I was headed in the right direction, and I didn’t pay attention to my pacing. I knew the run was two loops so when I saw the first mile marker I relaxed a bit. Not paying attention to my pace was a mistake. The first mile averaged 9:30. In the second mile, I slowed to grab a cold towel at the aid station. My second mile pace was in the 10:30s. Then I guess you could say my wheels fell off. (Good thing this wasn’t on the bike. Ha!) The third mile started the walk breaks and I had an 11:30 average pace for that mile. Oops!

My legs were fine. It was my breathing I was struggling with. I was getting hot, and somewhat nauseated at the thought of taking in my chews. I tried a couple of them after the third mile, and kind of gagged a little while chewing. I took in some more around mile 5 and had the same problem. This is the same stuff I trained with, but my body wasn’t handling it at this point. Ever since before the swim, I had felt like my food was sitting at the back of my throat. I handled it ok on the bike, but the jostling from the run made it worse.

With this kind of trouble on the run with the heat, I quickly shifted my plan to run/walk/smile. I walked through almost every aid station. Wet cold towels, ice in my visor, and taking in Gatorade to get the carbs. My stomach did okay with that and I still had my Nuun in my bottle along with some Nuun Plus. As I came across the bridge to finish my first loop, I saw my husband. I called out, “You know that 2 1/2 hour half marathon I planned? Not gonna happen.” But I was okay with it. I was the tortoise. As he ran alongside me for a minute, I told him about being too hot, and my nutrition problems. My legs were still okay, but my effort felt hard even staying around a 12 minute pace.

The second lap was even tougher. The crowd had thinned out as most people were done by now, and I still had well over an hour to go. I talked to other runners, and fell into a run/walk pattern with another athlete for a while. We chatted about goals. Mine was to finish. She added, “finish with a smile.” I thanked all the volunteers. They were so uplifting at that point in the race. The ice was wonderful and I would grab handfuls at the aid stations and put it in my hat and down the front of my tri top to stay cool. I walked up the monster hill along with everyone else and noticed one of the hand cyclists rolling up the hill backward to get up. That was a game changer for me. There I was, walking to get through the tough parts of the course with all my limbs functioning, while those guys didn’t have that option. They did the swim, the bike, and the run all with their arms and upper body. It was so inspiring to see him working up that hill, and I know he was tired but he kept going!

I began to feel a little energized in the last mile. Two of my kids ran alongside me for a couple of minutes. They told me they had been swimming in the lake. Then I saw my other daughter, then my husband, then my brother, then his wife and kids were near the finish line. I felt like I was flying at that point. According to my Garmin, it was my third fastest mile. I made the final turn and saw the finish line, crying and smiling at the same time. I heard the announcer call out my name, and just like that I had a medal on my neck and a finisher shirt in my hand.

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The finisher shirt was an XL, and I tried to exchange it for a smaller size. Then I found out when you’re near the back of the pack, you don’t have much to choose from. I could have XL or XXL.

My husband has a new shirt to wear.

That evening, I finally saw what my swim time was and it completely surprised me. Overall, I expected I would finish in about 7.5 hours, and I wasn’t too far off the mark. I was surprised at how the run knocked me out, but my goals were to finish. I was the tortoise, and that was quite all right with me.

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Buffalo Springs 70.3 (Part One)

I didn’t think it was possible to sum up my weekend and half Ironman race in one blog post, and once I started typing it out I decided to split it up into two posts. I’ll post the rest of it later this week, since I now have some free time on my hands. There was a lot to it, and I want to do my race justice with my recap! I’ll start by saying the race itself surprised me with the parts I expected to struggle with were actually the smoothest part of the day.

We headed out on Friday the 24th. Two adults, three kids, two bikes, all in a loaded down VW.

My husband just loves the camera!

All smiles! Well, mostly.

It was a family trip to go see family, with a nice bonus of me putting in 70.3 miles on Sunday. With a little over a six hour drive to get to my brother’s house, the scenery headed west just couldn’t be matched. (Ha!)

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Hey, kids, look! Another windmill.

When we got to my brother’s house we talked about the race, and what our plans were for the next day. My sister-in-law had done a little bit of research and my brother had actually been out to the lake several times to fish the past year, and even ran a couple of road races in the area.

Side note: I’m a football coach’s daughter, and my brother is a football coach. Sports were, and still are, a big part of our family. As kids, my brother and I were always brought to each other’s events because my parents wanted us to support each other in everything we did. To show up at my brother’s house for a triathlon, and to see their excitement about the race meant so much to me.

Saturday morning we loaded up two vehicles and drove in to Lubbock. My brother, his wife, their three kids, and the five in my family all descended on the expo for packet pickup. I was excited to find my name on a shirt.

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…but not my size…

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After we ate lunch,  my sister-in-law took all the kids to a movie, while my husband, brother, and I headed back to the expo for a Q&A I wanted to go to. My nerves were pretty much building throughout the day. After listening to some of the questions and discussion about the hills (where the word “treacherous” was mentioned about one of the descents), I was basically a knot of nerves. We headed out to drive the bike course so I could see what was up. Or down.

I knew going into this race that there would be “five challenging hills.” But all throughout my training, I imagined climbing – not descending. I also spent so much time worrying about getting my swim pace down, that I didn’t consider much with the bike. Until we drove the bike course, and all swim worry got tossed out the window.

No, I’m not kidding.

I am still a beginner when it comes to cycling. I’m a chicken on the downhills. I slow considerably to make a turn. I’m not very fast. But I feel like I have one strength on the bike, and that’s climbing. I like to think my running background helped with that, because of all the hills I run. But these hills were nothing like I’ve tackled in my training. Not even close. And it wasn’t the climbing that worried me while driving the course; it was two of the descents that scared me. I was thankful that we drove the course though, because I knew what I’d be facing and tried to mentally prepare. My husband reminded me to go slow, use more pressure with my rear brake, and I would be fine.

The rest of the evening, my nerves were on full blast. I had trouble sleeping, imagining coming down the hills. As silly and irrational as it seems now, I couldn’t shake it. It kept me awake until after 11 pm. Then I woke up at 1:30 – a full hour before my alarm was set – and couldn’t sleep any more.

Race morning was a different story. I had a lot of people praying for and thinking about me. I felt calm and purposeful. I had all my gear together, and my husband and I loaded up early to get to the park before transition opened at 5:00. My brother was going to come when the race started at 6:30 and my sister-in-law was bringing all the kids later.

Even though we left so early, we were not the first ones there by any means. I thought we had the early arrival down, but this was no running race. Triathletes take it up a notch on early mornings. We parked and loaded up all the gear to trek down the steep hill (climb number one on the bike).  I got my area set up in transition. I noticed someone tied a green shoelace on the end of the rack, and I made a mental note to look for it coming in to get my bike.

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The swim was “barely wetsuit legal” (75 degrees) and I knew I’d probably get hot, but I needed all the help I could get with buoyancy. So my husband helped me into it, and I headed down the steps to the lake for a little warm up.

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It seems like the time before the race flew by. I couldn’t believe it was already time to start! I was in the third swim wave, and the first two went quickly. The time cutoff for the swim was 70 minutes from the last wave (which gave me an additional 15-20 minutes). Surely I could make that! The weirdest part was not being able to see the layout of the swim because of the way the lake was, but the instructions were to turn left at the yellow buoys.

THE SWIM:

Once in the water, I settled into a rhythm. The water was calm, and I focused on really stretching out my arms. When I get in open water, I tend to forget about my stroke because there are so many other things to think about. My goggles started to leak a little, so I flipped over on my back to fix them. I had trouble with them fogging up during the whole swim, even when I tried to fix them again. Whenever I got frustrated, I would somehow spot a buoy and knew I was still on track. The only other hiccup for me was the guy who slowly passed me who made such a big splash every time his arm entered the water. I couldn’t get around him so I slowed until he finally pulled ahead enough not to give me a face full of water. I glanced at my Garmin once and couldn’t see the time, so I knew I messed it up somehow. I shrugged it off and just kept swimming until I saw the last turn and people getting out on the dock. One of the main positives was that this was the first race for me that the buoys were on the left. I’m a left side breather and it made sighting much easier. Since my Garmin was messed up, I didn’t know how long it took me to swim, but I knew there were people still coming in behind me and no official stopped me with “I’m sorry, but you didn’t make it in time.”🙂

I was grateful for the volunteer who helped me get out of my wetsuit. There is no gracious way to do it, but she was awesome! Then I ran to find my bike. It’s a good thing the racks were numbered, because I forgot about the green shoelace. Unlike Texasman, there were still quite a few bikes in transition. I ate half a Clif bar, reset my Garmin to start biking, and then headed out to face the hills.

Out of transition, beginning the first climb on the bike, I heard my name and saw my husband and brother cheering for me. I smiled and called out, “I made it!”

My first hurdle – the swim – was done.

 

Time 2 Tri & Tri It for Casa

It’s race week! I can’t believe it’s here already, and I feel so totally unprepared (even though I’ve been training my tail off for the past 15 weeks). I’m just anxious and nervous about it all, and I feel like my training has been scattered since the week after Texasman. My poor husband has had to put up with my obsessive worry, and I feel really bad for him. So in order to not think about it right now and get myself worked up anymore, I’m going to take a look back.

June 12th, the day after the Collin Classic, I completed a sprint triathlon. This race was the culmination of training with a group called Time 2 Tri. This group had a weekend event back in April at Playtri, as an effort to get more women involved in triathlon. I came across their booth at the Dallas Rock ‘n Roll expo in March. I decided to go to the event, even though I wasn’t brand new to triathlon, because I want to keep learning and meeting people.

This weekend event at Playtri kicked off eight weeks of training set up by a coach: strength training, group rides, swim sessions, and track workouts. With my distance from the workout locations, I was only able to participate in some of the swim sessions. I feel like I gained a huge benefit from it. For some of these women this was their first venture into triathlon, and it was great to see their excitement about completing their first race.

The Tolltag Triathlon (Tri It for Casa) was a 500m open water swim in a small man-made lake. The main thing I was nervous about was the fact that my hands were still kind of numb from the biking. The water was too warm for a wetsuit, so I hoped my legs wouldn’t drag me down too much. I was in the last swim wave (again) but this race was much smaller and I wasn’t nearly as anxious. I felt calm in the water, and didn’t worry about my speed. The hardest part of the swim was hoisting myself up on the floating dock. Thankfully someone was there with a hand out to help me up. It was slippery! I made it out of the water in just over 15 minutes. Not fast by any means, but I felt good.

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In transition, I heard a woman come in saying “I did it! I really did it!” She was just talking to herself, but you could see the sense of accomplishment on her face. She was excited!

Then I headed off on the bike for a flat, fast (for me) 11 miles. The woman from transition passed me and asked, “Hey do you know how I make this thing easier to go up hill?” I quickly told her how my bike worked, and she was off. This was a great ride for beginners. Long stretches of straight road. Cracks and gravel were marked with paint. No crazy hills. Riding in my aerobars. I loved it. 15.3mph was a good pace for me.

Then back in to transition for the run, and I was much faster on this race by carrying my hat and number belt out with me to put on while running. The sun was starting to come out and it was getting warm, but it was a 5k. Three miles to run just sounded awesome in my head. I’m almost done! I ran steady but not all out, and I was able to negative split my run with a time of 27:10. A good brick workout for me.

It was great seeing other Time 2 Tri members out on the course. Someone had brought pink ribbons for all of us to tie on our shoulder. It was a good way for us to identify and encourage each other. The coach was at the finish line cheering everyone in, along with a couple of others who came out to watch and will be doing their first triathlon in a week with a pool swim. I had a lot of fun, and it was wonderful to be a part of a group that was so supportive and encouraging.

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So instead of continuing to be anxious about Sunday’s race, I’m going to try to focus on how far I’ve come. It was just about a year ago that I started training for my first triathlon, and a 300m pool swim scared me. I couldn’t even make it to the wall without going stopping. Now I’ve done four triathlons, two with open water swims (and one that was very tough). I may not be fast, but I’m making progress. It’s me against me. That’s all that really matters.