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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Sandy: Triathlete!

The Iron Girl Triathlon, Webster Massachusetts
The pre-race Selfie! 

This is not my first rodeo, nor will it be my last, however this was probably the most difficult triathlon that I have ever accomplished.   It seemed like everything was against me.
This was the first year that I have suffered from Plantar Fasciitis, which made training runs rather unbearable. 

My mother would tell you that I was a stubborn ox for even participating in the event, but there were a few driving forces that lead me to the starting line this past weekend.  First, I won the entry to this event and became a part of the “Got Chocolate Milk” team, and if there is one thing I never want to do, it is to let my teammates down.  Secondly, I have my pride, and that stubborn unwillingness to admit defeat.  Yes, there were times when I really just wanted to throw the towel in, but I didn’t, and for that I am proud.

I can say that I have always gone into these events wishing that I had trained more, and even though I didn’t train as well or as much as I could have, I can honestly say that my muscles are not the least bit sore in the aftermath (except for the searing pain in my heel of course).  Also my end results weren’t half bad for being “injured”, if you can consider Plantar Fasciitis an injury.

This was also the first race that I didn’t get seriously nervous about the night before, so I was rather calm when I went to bed, allowing me to actually get a little sleep.

If you’re not familiar with a sprint triathlon, the race begins with a quarter mile swim, from which the racer will run to a transition area to quickly get dressed for a bike ride, (for this race the bike ride was 12 miles) then back to transition area to drop off their bicycle and change shoes if needed to start the run, which is typically a 5K, or 3.1 miles. 

I entered the water, which was around 78 degrees, and warmer than the cool air.  When the horn sounded to start my wave, I think I got about 12 freestyle strokes in before I started to panic.  Swimming in lakes is tough, though swimming in lakes surrounded by 100 or so other swimmers with kicking feet and swinging arms all around you is REALLY TOUGH.  So I proceeded to side stroke and breast stroke my way around the course. 

My mantra was “BREATHE” and “RELAX”.  

Occasionally I would get a mouthful of water or my shoulders would cramp and I would re-start my mantra.  Funny thing is, when I really focused on keeping my side strokes long, and steady, I was actually coasting through the water faster than some of my fellow freestyle swimmers.   I finished the swim in 13:44 minutes, which might be the fastest swim I’ve ever done on this course (I’ve done this race 4 times in the past, so I know the course well).

I got out of the water and was thankful to be out of the lake and not at the bottom of it.  I had put aside my crocs so I didn’t have to jog up the rocky hill and onto hard pavement with bare feet.
My first transition was a little longer than it should have been, but I didn’t care.  I applied liberal amounts of baby powder on my feet to shake off the sand and to get my socks and shoes on. Small puffs of white powder came wafting out of my shoes every time I pulled the lace strings to tighten them.

The bike ride.  THIS is my territory.  Biking is my thing, I love it!  I don’t have one of those super fast speed bikes, and when I go uphill I’m fighting against the burden of my 200+ pound body, but I’m strong and I was able to pass a good amount of people, as my competitive side really came out during this leg of the race.  My favorite part was that whenever I passed someone, OR when someone passed me it was my chance to spur them on, and tell them what a great job they were doing.  I pride myself on being a generous athlete; everyone is a part of my team, even those people who turned up in the crowd to cheer us on.  I said thank you to the spectators whenever I passed a particularly enthusiastic bunch (if my breathing would allow me to get the words out.)  Inspiring fellow racers and showing gratitude to the crowds just feels good.

I finished the bike ride with a fairly decent time of 49:38, though probably not the best time I’ve ever had, but not the worst either.

Back at the transition area none of my teammates were to be found, so I got my sneakers on and started to hobble my way toward the starting line.  It was really tough to find my rhythm because every time my injured foot touched down it sent a dull jolt of pain up my leg.  The first half a mile was spent with me running on the ball of my right foot, favoring my heel.  Eventually I forced myself to roll through my foot because I didn’t want to injure my knee or whatever else my get hurt because of my compensation.

My mantra for the run was “Overcoming Obstacles” or “It’s all a mind game.” 

It truly was a mind game.  I knew that if I allowed myself to stop, even once to rest my foot, that I would be done, both mentally and physically.  So I pushed through it one step at a time. 
Every time I passed one of my teammates (the running course over-laps on itself), we high fived or cheered each other on, giving one another enthusiastic shout outs, which kept me going, renewing my energy and purpose.  The supportive crowd watching the race was great, children and adults reaching out to give high fives,  people ringing cowbells and clapping all lent to the excitement of this race. 
When I got to the final length, probably within the last 200 yards or so, I saw the finish line.  A crowd of my teammates stood at the side lines, yelling my name, and that was when my mind locked into to the finish line and I sprinted.  Foot pain be damned!  I sprinted as fast as I could, straight through the finish, the crowd roaring in my ears.  It felt great, and then immediately not great as my heel shouted its revolt.  I finished the run in 31:38, which is not bad, considering.

I limped my way into the supporting arms of my new friends and teammates, an incredible and inspiring bunch of ladies.  I was humbled and honored to be a part of this wonderful “Got Chocolate Milk” team.  A team that gave me purpose, motivation, support and hope. 

I refuse to feel down about my ailments, or to feel like a helpless victim, but instead I feel privileged to be accepted as a team member, a friend and an athlete.  I am inspired to work harder to heal my foot because my active lifestyle will not allow for it and I absolutely REFUSE to give up.  I have another triathlon planned for the fall, just 8 short weeks away.  My goal is to better all of my times.  The race is the Pumpkin Man Triathlon, which will be significantly larger than the one I just completed. 
I can’t wait to crush my times and to see how much my body can change between now and then. 

Thanks again for reading.

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