Friday, June 29, 2007

I did it!

I now have an answer when my 3-year old asks me what I want to be when I grow up: a triathlete. My experience at the Wildflower Triathlons was glorious, exciting, unforgettable, and inspiring.

On the first weekend in May, I squeezed into the campground at Lake San Antonio with my parents, youngest son, Central California Team in Training teammates, and 10,000 of our closest friends. As you might imagine with a crowd that size, earplugs, toilet paper, and good walking shoes were a must. The camaraderie, atmosphere, and scenery were a plus. I spent Friday scouring the expo for last-minute necessities (Bento box? HEED? 1 for 2 at the expo - thank goodness for teammates) and picking up my race packet. Saturday we cheered on our teammates doing the long course triathlon. Chop on the water, a warm, windy day, and bad luck in the air made it a very challenging day for Central California TNT participants. Those of us racing on Sunday rested, prepped our gear, heeded the hard lessons learned by Saturday's racers, and hoped for better conditions.

Sunday morning: Race-day prep started early with a tried and true breakfast routine and last minute check of gear. My team rode bikes from the campground down infamous Lynch hill to the transition area at the lake. We found our rack positions in the sea of bikes and triathletes, set up our gear, had our race number and age marked on arms, hands, and legs, and noted the landmarks to find our spot again. Then we waited. We watched collegiate athletes and the men's age group waves start the race, waited in interminable restroom lines, stretched, hydrated, and finally put on our wetsuits. The TNT waves were preceded by a group rendition of "I Will Survive," led by an extraordinary 7-year old cancer patient named Lauren and her mother. With that, the horn sounded, the group made for the water, and we were off swimming. The course was marked with huge orange buoys, and before I reached the second one, I knew I was hooked on triathlons. I would have been grinning except my face was in the water (hallelujah! I did it!). The swim was comfortable and I settled into a good groove, despite being run over by the simmers in the wave that started 5 minutes after I, and the one after that, and most likely the one after that, too. I'm slow, but I made it back to the shore under my estimate of one hour (53:43 to be exact) and feeling great.

As usual, one leg got stuck in my wetsuit at transition, but I struggled out, reapplied sunscreen, put on my singlet, helmet, shoes, and sunglasses, and jogged out of transition. The ride starts with a couple hundred yards of mostly flat road, then goes up the 1-mile Lynch hill. Thank goodness for living and training in the hills. Our team's training weekend at Lake San Antonio 3 weeks prior to the race allowed us to ride and run the course, so I pedaled easily knowing there were many hills to come. Over the length of the out-and-back 24.8-mile course, I perfected my signature move of passing cyclists on the uphill and being passed on the downhill. If only I could shore up my courage for higher speeds! I drank, "ate" gels while on the bike, and returned to transition right at my projected time of two hours (1:58:44).

I saw a teammate in transition packing up after his race, chatted briefly, then started my run - the run that shortly turned into a walk. I left transition easily with no problems going from legs spinning to legs propelling, navigated the hated steps without incident or cramp, and waved to my family as I jogged by. It didn't take long, though, to realize I was tired. I opted to substitute speed walking for jogging then wondered if I could actually maintain the speed of that. I alternated walking and jogging, happily accepted drinks and dousing with hoses at the aid stations, fueled my body (more gel), tried to get the pebbles out of my shoes (turns out they were in my socks - phooey), and kept up the internal pep talk: it's 6 miles, you can do it, just keep walking and you'll get there. I was afraid it was going to be a very long 6 miles. And then I got my second wind. I wish I knew how it happened, but suddenly I felt energized again. I began to jog steadily, passed a couple teammates, and received hugs and encouragement from my coach on the long uphill. When I began the last mile of the race (Lynch hill again - this time down!), my TNT coaches, staff, and friends gave a great cheer, I caught up with a teammate, and the final push began. My teammate and I kept pushing the pace a little faster all the way down the hill, through the long finish chute and to the finish line. It was marvelous!

I completed the run in 1:08:11 and clocked an overall time of 4:09:25.

I knew I would do more triathlons after the first 10 minutes in the water. I knew I would remain with TNT when tears poured down my cheeks as 7-year old Lauren described the "beads of courage" that cascade from her neck in three big loops and represent the treatments she has endured. Her fight is not done and neither is ours. With the incredible generosity of family and friends, I raised $4,589 to benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. We can continue to do more. I am back with TNT this season training for the Pacific Grove triathlon in September. I have my sights on a century ride with TNT in November. I will raise money again so that Lauren's mother can tell her with confidence, yes, you WILL survive.

Thank you for your support and encouragement.

Monday, March 26, 2007

When it rains, it pours

How to sum up two months of training and adventures? I ran while it rained, swam when it snowed (thank goodness for heated indoor pools), hid from the hail, and marveled when the temperature hit 92 degrees (92!). I have logged more miles and yards and watched with great satisfaction as friends and family responded with tremendous generosity to my fundraising request. Our combined efforts are making a world of difference to people battling cancer right now. Every time I'm tired, busy, or unmotivated, I think of Shawn, one of our team honorees, who met us before a training ride one week after he left the hospital following a transplant. His gratitude and encouragement reminded me of the true significance of this season. For me, finishing the triathlon in May is the focus. For Shawn, the goals more likely include a future in which his disease retreats and life regains a semblance of normalcy. It puts it all in perspective.

On a personal note, yesterday I completed my first-ever duathlon. Fresno's Spring Fling Duathlon brought together a group of hardy souls (or so I flatter myself) to run 4 miles, bike 16 miles, and run 2 miles more. Perhaps it was hopping out of bed at 4 a.m., perhaps it was having all my boys cheering me on - I felt great! For the first time in my life, I ran 4 miles without stopping. It wasn't but a few months ago that I ran my first mile since high school, so this was huge. I felt good on the bike, too. That is, until my rear tire went flat. I had many choice words for the brake cable that was so tight I didn't know if I could release it, my fumbling fingers, the absurdly long time it took me to complete the task. Words of encouragement from fellow competitors and teammates helped. Tire back on, I finished the last two laps and returned to transition just as everyone else was packing up (or so it seemed). Two more miles at a slow jog, and Carson ran me across the finish line. I had FUN and learned a lot. I learned I am capable of more on event day than during any training. I learned that enthusiastic support feels great. I learned that I'm ok with being last, as long as I give my best and finish. I learned to always carry two spare tubes.

I'm looking forward to the next 6 weeks!

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

On my way

Seven months ago I was searching for a hobby - something to give me a focus beyond mothering my two boys. Who knew that a sport in which I had no history or aptitude would capture my imagination? Today, I am one bike, a pair of running shoes, a swimsuit and goggles, and one very special team closer to my goal of completing a triathlon.

I joined The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training for the coaching and pool access. I am inspired by the mission to support patients with blood cancer and to fund research. I love the camaraderie and dedication of my teammates. I am excited to be on the road (literally and figuratively) to a triathlon.

I will raise $3,700 to support The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's mission. I will swim 0.9 miles, bike 24.8 miles, and run 6.2 miles on May 5 at the Wildflower Triathlon. Won't you join me?