2011 is always going to be noteworthy as the year I got up off the proverbial couch, and became athletic. It's a different story about how I got to be on Team Z, but once I'd drunk the kool-aid, it didn't take much for my coach and a friend to talk me into doing a half ironman-distance (Rev3 in Anderson, SC) by the end of the year. The experience of taking on the challenge, training for it, and then actually doing it was the most crazy thing I have ever done in my life. Here's part of the race report I sent to friends and the team:
I don't think I have ever been as nervous for anything in my life, and I don't think I could have gotten here, or gotten through without the support of Eric, my friends, and Team Z.
We drove the bike course the Fri before, and I was so overwhelmed by the end that my brain shut down.... The hills don't stop. There was, like, one flat area.
The night before, and then standing at the lake, I kept thinking... One event at a time, and no matter how tough the bike is, you will get it done! And then you KNOW you can do the run.
The swim was great. The water was the perfect temperature, and tasted great! :-)
My sighting was mostly right on, and I didn't get tired or sore at all. I spent a lot of it thinking about an email Fredrik sent me once where he was exclaiming and put this "!!!!!1111eleven11!!!!!!" I thought that was so funny, the most intense expression of exclamation! and kept thinking that's how I felt about the bike course. It made me laugh right there in the lake.
As I got close to the last turn, I started feeling anxious and didn't want the swim to end... I thought... One event at a time, keep moving forward.
Seeing Eric at the exit, and then Coach Ryan made me smile, I stopped thinking about my anxiety, and started thinking about getting through T1 (and Ryan can keep his opinions about my portypotty stop to himself! I have no shame for my 9 min T1 time).
The bike... From our driving, I knew the major challenges at the front end of the course. The turn out of T1 - up a hill and a sharp right: done, easier than expected; the steady climb right after that: focused on keeping HR down, and changing gears; then got to the turn close to the Bad Hill, and there's Eric! Totally made me laugh, and I got a good speed going down and up the other side with gears to spare. I made it to mile 23, 10 mins ahead of my goal time. I was still feeling good, and beating that Bad Hill gave me the confidence to keep going.
The hills sucked, some roads were almost gravel, and we had horrific winds that seemed to keep shifting direction.
Somewhere after mile 30 one of the cops asked me if there was anyone behind me. I thought this was weird, because my goal time was well within the cutoff, I was ahead of my goal, and there were a lot of people who came out of the water after me... But it got in my head. Now I started noticing that the cops were all distracted at the interchanges, some not even getting out of their cars when I came along, and at some intersections, the was no presence.
I rationalized all these things, and kept going on. At around 42 we went through the cute town of Pendleton, I could think of one more challenging hill, and there was Eric again with cheers... Yay! Empowered to continue on.
Right out of Pendleton we had a right turn... No cops. Past the last aid station, and then down the hill to a sharp left we were warned about in the athlete's guide. It was a 4-way stop, there were no cops. I went through cautiously. This one I could not rationalize. The cops had left the course. Given that cars and traffic on the road with me on my bike is my biggest fear, this was very hard. At this time I caught Misha on this long 3mile climb and I was riding about a bike length behind him. I was so mad at the wind, the never ending hills and the lack of support. I was having a really hard time. I felt abandoned by the race, like they cared only for the pros, and that those of us at the back didn't matter. I wondered how they had handled the traffic while the field had gone by, because for us, it was like a regular training day. The last 6 miles were all in town, and there was only one light with a cop. Misha caught up to me because I stopped at the lights. He ran them. I just couldn't do it... Being tired, generally anxious with traffic, I just couldn't run these red lights on these two-lane divided highways.
I wondered if the course had been closed, if I'd miscalculated and missed the cutoff... I wondered if we'd be allowed to run, and if we did, if there would be cops controlling traffic (the run was setup in the center lane through town). We got to the race venue and had to slow down as all the finishers and spectators were walking to their cars and breaking down their transitions.
I saw Eric, and told him what was going on... I was so upset I couldn't breathe. I told him I was afraid to go on the run and he said he'd talk to the race director. He said "you made it, let it go, focus on your run."
The first couple miles were hard. My thoughts kept going to "they don't care about us", how hard I'd worked, and that if the race didn't think I'd make it maybe I couldn't. I'm a loser, I am embarrassed, And then I would start hyperventilating.... So I focused on deep breathes, not thinking, and moving forward.
There were a LOT of aid stations, and the volunteers were energetic, supportive, and giving. It made me realize it wasn't the race that was unsupportive, it was the cops only. After a spaghetti confusing run through the parks, we got out on the road... I started seeing Team Z green. What a sight!
Seeing Team Z's was so uplifting that the emotional crap subsided, and I started worrying that I'd screwed around walking up hills and feeling sorry for myself so long I'd miss the cutoff. My watch was telling me numbers I couldn't figure out! And I knew Eric would be at the Anderson turn around so I'd ask him then. The aid stations were great! The people had as much energy as if I was the first person running by! I saw Bob Young, Sarah, Holly, Melissa... So great!
I decided to think of the run as 3 5-mile runs, and I was at 2 of the second one. I was so focused on my 5 miler, that when I passed the 8, it occurred to me I only had 5 to go!
Then I saw Eric, he told me I had 1.5 before the cutoff. Piece of cake! He drove ahead and waited and encouraged me along all the way until I had 1.5mi to go. This had so totally picked up my spirit, that I had pretty much stopped walking.
At mi 12 I heard the call of the vuvuzela! I figured it was someone on the team at the tents. Next thing I see is Coach Ryan with a red wig coming my way. "stop walking! Do not walk up the hill! You have 1 mile, do not walk!"
Coming to the last hill, seeing Eric again, around the corner and I could see all the finished Z's cheering me on. I could feel the emotion building again and had to focus on making it stop. Jeff came and told me he was going to run the rest with me, and I told him I couldn't get emotional because then I couldn't breathe. He asked me how I could run at this pace the whole way, I looked at my watch 8:35. Geez... I couldn't believe how fast I was running and realized how much support does for you!
I ran up the chute and could feel the emotion building again! I gave Eric a big hug, and I couldn't believe I'd done it.
The clock time said 8:48, my goal was 8:00. I was consoling the disappointment with the fact that it was a hard challenging course, and I had done it!
When we got back to the hotel, Eric looked up my time 8:04... The clock was from the Pro start!! OMG, I was so happy!!!
I would have beat my 8:00 goal if there was traffic control! How cool is that?!
Overall it was a hard, lonely race. There were only 3 people cheering, and one was Eric.
Thank God for Eric! Seeing him all over was amazing! And having Ryan yell at me at the end was another big vote of confidence!
Finishing that race has given me a new perspective on myself. I have learned so much about my limits, how I deal with them, how I deal with adversity, and respect for my body when I give it the opportunity to do what it's designed to do.
I can't wait to give the next one a try... to take the lessons I learned from this one, and see what happens next!
July 2012 will be Musselman Half in Geneva, NY. Can't wait.