Monday, September 12, 2016

Reflect and recap

I sit here and think back to before fitness was such a huge part of my life...and I can't think what I was focused on...I can't think of what my passion was...I can't think what drove me to push myself.  Like most things in life the decision to get involved in running and triathlon started with a discussion among friends.  My first mother's day present was a Schwinn bike from Target with a trailer to carry my soon to be baby boy behind me.  I never hooked that trailer to my bike but hubby did...and we started riding together.  After that I started running...nothing far, nothing fast...but I started.

I worked full time in Reston, roughly 18 miles from my house.  Once a week I met friends along the trail to bike into work on my Schwinn.  They were riding awesome looking road bikes and looking back now, probably cursing me for coming along as my mountain bike was SOOOO slow.  I thank them for being patient..for letting me tag along...for never saying no.  

First Training Plan
Next was training for my first race, the Army ten miler.  The first scheduled run on this plan was 2 miles.  I thought I was going to die, it felt impossible, it felt pointless, it was a slow jog, ten miles mentally felt like it would just never happen. During the work week I ran with my running partner...he had run before many races and again took me under his wing and let me go slow, complain, breath loudly, and encouraged me all the while.

For a girl that grew up on the Jersey shore in the summer and not in a pool, I did not know how to swim.  I held my nose when I went under waves, swam all day but never did a stroke.  My first sprint triathlon I swam it backstroke.  In the final lap I ended up in a cutout stairwell of the pool.  I was embarrassed and just doing whatever it took to get it done.

So here we were Saturday morning September 10, 2016, about 8 years after my first triathlon.  I have a new to me tri bike instead of a Schwinn, I have run thousands of miles since my first race, and have swam in open water on many occasions and made it out of the water to tell the story.  I have met so many people over this journey with stories of them just starting, of this being just another race in their long list, and stories of days were race day did not go as planned.  They all have amazing support systems to see them make it to the finish line.  A new bike, sneaks and fancy goggles do not make the race starts with a small belief in something scary within you that sparks and grows into an amazing feeling of anything is possible and love and support coming from your people and strangers you have just met.

bike rack for #409
We showed up on Friday afternoon, walked down to the swim entry and saw the buoys...they were far away and the water was warm...more than likely wetsuits were going to be a no.  This made me anxious as a little extra buoyancy can go a long way for 1500m swim.  We walked back up the quarter mile transition and got our packets and settled in for the event briefing.  Nothing too crazy was reported for tomorrow, other than we knew it would be hot and to stay hydrated, have fun and be safe.  Our group headed out to find some food, prep our gear and try to get a good night's sleep.  Stickers were applied, noodles and chicken were eaten and I headed to bed by 10pm.  Wake up was 4:15am with a out of condo time of 5am.  Transition area was closing at 6:45 and Half race start time was 7:00 and Olympic was 7:30.  There were about 200 people doing the Olympic distance and almost 250 doing the half.  It was a quiet morning despite the music being played to get everyone pumped...everyone was in their own head thinking through the steps and making sure their checklist was complete.
walking to the swim

We headed to the water, Ben was dealing with the fact that he had people with him at the start of the race, probably messing with his mind as he hasn't had a support crew for any of his recent races.  Mike was ready to get this thing started, and I just wanted the swim over.  As one of the announcers said yesterday...I do the swim so I can get on the bike...and that is all.  It was a beautiful morning, the heat did not feel horrible and once we stood in the water I was actually cold.  Ben was the first one of us to head out, followed by Mike, then me.  Laura was an amazing sherpa there in her orange visor and orange Stride t-shirt...makes for easy spotting!  She documented the whole day and cheered from start to finish...all while she was mentally preparing for her own race on Sunday.  

swim is done
The swim started for me and I walked a bit out to the first buoy. I  am not a fast swimmer so there was no need to try to get ahead.  I didn't want to get kicked or pushed so I just took my time and then finally said to's time to start...get your face in the water.  I kept the sighting buoys on my right not to get pushed to close to the shore, made the turn at the big yellow cylinder.  Thankfully there was a boat out there with blue flashing lights so that helped a lot with the sighting.  I made my way to the next turn buoy and then was in the home stretch.  I never looked at my watch to see my time.  I am not a swimmer so I just was going to go as strong and steady as I could.  Time was not a driver here...just completion.  I saw Mike on the swim during that final stretch...made me happy to know that he was doing well and cruising along as well.  The final yellow buoy appeared and I made the final left...the shore was in sight and I was done...there was nothing scary...just tired and wanted it over.   Laura was there....cheering for me and I was getting my legs back under me as I headed up the quarter mile jog to the transition area.
finished on the bike

I never thought biking would be my thing but I guess strong big thighs can pay off.  I managed to bike just over 20 miles per hour for the 40k bike ride.  I felt strong and not labored.  I pushed when I could, I slowed down when there was traffic of either bikes or cars, and loved the fast down hill coming off the bridge.  It was a safe course and police and volunteer presence were very visible.  I didn't drink enough water, I am a bit of a scaredy cat with reaching for my water bottle.  I drank some in my transition before getting on the bike...and never felt thirsty on the ride...I took a gu at mile 10 and made myself drink some water afterwards.    I took that final turn into the cattle gate entrance...slowed down...was happy with my pace and my tush was happy to get off the bike.

Transition to run was fine.  I had seen Mike on the bike and figured Ben was still out there biking away.  I went to get my run stuff together...grab my orange visor and head out.  It was really humid and my legs were not feeling that fresh.  Mile one went by very quickly and a bit too fast...I ran 8:20 and was excited but then I started to be tired.  I had another gu with me and now think I probably should of had it...but that day I didn't...I kept on trucking along, taking water at every aid pace was slowing but I felt like I was going as fast as my legs on this day were going to let me.  The course was interesting...Ben had told me it was wooded but I didn't take that as trail...trail is not my thing but I kept on was very pretty and still very hot.  The sun had yet to break through the clouds and I just kept on plugging away.  On the final two water stops I grabbed ice and tucked them in my sports felt great and now my feet were sloshing in my shoes...water was just dripping all the way down to my toes and I was wanting this to be over.  The final turn out of the woods had me back on the path that headed towards the finish line.  I saw Mike with his orange visor on and he said I would see Ben in just three minutes.  I was happy to see Mike running as it was so humid and a long day I wasn't sure if his legs were going to be there for him.  I was mad at myself for the slow pace but at the same time was just hoping everyone else was having a tough time with the heat and humidity.  

Sure enough 3 minutes later I saw a guy running at a fast clip coming towards me in an orange visor.  He screamed, "Go Orange Visor!" and we said our I love yous and high fived.  I had under a mile to go.  I knew it was not going to be my fastest run but it was almost done.  I was excited to finish!!  I passed a 72 year old man that I spoke with at packet pick up.  He was from Reston, and has been doing tris his whole life.  I told him great job...he said he had wanted to stop many times but had yet to do it.  I said slow is always better than stopped.  72 years old...just awesome!  
final push
The final turn was in sight and I saw Laura in her orange attire.  I pushed as hard as I could and my legs felt like bricks.  It didn't matter what the pace was, I gave my all and that day, that was all I had.  I managed just under 9 minute miles, not my best run but still very happy with the day.  

all done!!

I finished my second olympic triathlon in 2 hours 54 minutes and 49 seconds.  I improved on my first olympic time by 12 minutes.  Granted my first was very hilly bike, all my time was improved on the bike here at Patriots.  I ran and swam slower on Saturday then in my last race but my legs were ready to ride that day.  The girl that started on a Schwinn dropped 12 minutes...I can't even wrap my head around that.  I loved it...I loved every minute...even the ones I hated.  That day made me want to do it again and again and again.  This sport is not about speed or where you finish at the end of the day, it's about you putting your mind to something and seeing it through.  It's about early morning commitments and crazy training plans.  It's about time management and ensuring you are ready to tackle something that at first feels bigger than you.

podium time
I headed over to Laura to watch for Mike to come in.  He trucked on in and was happy to find that finish line as well. The heat of the day was truly upon us and we just wanted to be done.  We were waiting now for Ben and I was doing fuzzy math on trying to figure out how long he would take.  The results were being shown upon a big screen but my age group still was not complete...they had only listed first and second.  I walked with Mike and Laura getting food and drinks and we came back upon the awards ceremony.  Sure enough they were about to do my age group...Women's 35-39 and my gosh they said my name for third place.  I couldn't believe it!  I hopped up onto the podium and just smiled...I didn't think it would happen but sure enough there I was.  The girl who never thought a triathlon would be a part of her life...was standing in third place for the ladies 35-39.

So how do I feel today...I feel like I wish I committed a little more of me to this the moment I was happy with all that I did but now that the results are in and the competitive Julie takes charge...I wish I was just a little bit stronger.  I am so excited to sit down and plan out my race calendar for this spring and next fall.  I am excited for the two events I am racing this weekend and next. I am over the moon to go to Kona to see the best of the best compete in the biggest race of their lives.  I am excited to see my husband's hard work make his dream a reality.  I know today that I am capable of hard things.  I am stronger than I thought I would ever want to be.  I have days that are not good, I have days that I am great and super focused, and in the end they all balance out.  I will never stop trying or running.  Running is what started this whole thing and I will be sure to never let it end.

Embrace the Suck...Choose You...Never stop trying!

Swim 41:01
T1 3:17
Bike 1:13:10
T2 2:12
Run 55:11

Total time Patriots Olympic Triathlon 2016
3rd in Age Group 35-39
21st Female
75th overall

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