Sunday, August 30, 2009

632 (Or what being dead last means to me)

Of 640 people who jumped in Lk Sammamish with the intent of doing a triathlon on Saturday, I crossed the finish line 632nd.

How that makes me dead last? 633-640 were DNF. The worst possible result in a triathlon. Did Not Finish.

There were reasons for this. Not excuses, but reasons. (For the difference, see my feelings on guilt vs regret)

First and foremost, I had not trained significantly in 3 weeks. And by that I mean, since my Aug 1 tri, I did one open water swim, one pool swim, and like wan like 3 times. That includes twice with my 5 k group. And didn't get on my bike at all.

The reasons for the lack of training are good ones. Father in law in a coma for a week. Father in law passes away and I have to help only child hubby deal with (or avoid dealing with) the fall out. The cold from hell. Which did it's usual path for me and spent a few days in my head before settling in my chest & making me sound like Lauren Bacall.

The last one was the one the did the most damage this weekend. I started out, pre-race, feeling pretty good. My hubby asked me the night before if I really wanted to do it, since I still sounded like I was hacking up pieces of lung, but I felt like that would be wimping out. I took my inhaler, and cold meds, and there was a slight drizzle, but hey, who cares about rain when you're swimming, right?

I was a little nervous when I got in the water, but felt that way the 1st time, so didn't think anything of it. Things went significantly down hill from there. I had several friends doing this event, so I had people to talk to as we waited. We were waiting for the pre-race meeting that we never heard happen. (This would be important later)

Things were running late, but no big deal. We waded out into the water at 7:28a and got the start. About 75 meters in to the 1/4 mile swim, I tried to hydrate myself by inhaling a large amount of water. I coughed for a min, and never was able to catch my breath again. At this point, the spirit was willing, but my lungs were not. I treaded water, backstroked and doggie paddled for 1/4 of a mile. The kayak support offered to help, but I didn't take it. I was going to swim under my own power, but every time I tried to take a full crawl stroke, I had a coughing fit. So after what felt like an hour (but was actually around 18 min) I got out and walked up the beach. Only to find that you had to jump up like a foot, with no stairs. WTF?

Transition went OK. It was really raining by then, but as I was all wet, didn't really worry about it. Wetsuit off, racebelt skirt on, wet socks, wet shoes, pink sleeves, 15 year old gloves, helmet. Just over 4 min.

I was just getting out onto the course when the very first men started to come back from the bike. I heard some rubbing on my front tire, but wasn't able to figure out what it was before the race, so didn't get off to mess with it. As we were leaving, my husband told me that it was my brake rubbing. THE WHOLE 13+ MILES. This course was harder, the roads were open, and it was a slight uphill the whole way out- with a pretty big hill just before the turn around.

The bike was hard. I hadn't ridden a bike outside in the rain since college. Why would I? At one point, it rained hard enough that I was soaked all over. I was coughing up lots of phlegm, and decided that I was over being ladylike. Lots of spitting. It was icky.

It likely didn't help that my elderly mountain bike was working against me with the maladjusted brake. Then again, I have to take the tire off to get it in my car- so that was my fault. This was almost an hour and 20 min. My husband thinks that 10-15 min of that was caused by the brake drag.

The second transition was where I lost it. At every point until this, my spirit has been stronger than my body. My determination was more than my lungs. But as I rode in, people were leaving. If you're a decent triathlete, 1:45 is an easy time to hit. As I walked my bike to my spot, I had to dodge around families and eating people. I knew I wasn't last in on the bike since I didn't have a motorcycle escort, but still, it was discouraging. I was frustrated, but I kissed my kid, and looked around for the run out.

I went back over where the bike out was, where the people were coming in, and couldn't find it. I asked someone, and the pointed all the way back by the lake, the other side of transition. With all of the people "helping" saying, "you go!" none of them could say- "you go- THAT WAY"???

I was tired, wet, dirty, and completely lost it. Panic Attack. Gasping for breath. And fighting tears. I was SO frustrated, so angry, and above all else, mad at myself, because I wanted to do better this time.

There were a couple of areas that were poorly marked. At one point I took a wrong turn. But the one thing I never did is stop. I got passed. I got mad. I ran (a tiny bit). I walked. I told the photographer to leave me alone as I left transition crying. I got ahead of my son as he walked alongside me, and I had the chorus of Madonna's "Can't Stop" running over and over in my head. I didn't stop.

One reason I decided to do triathlons is because I didn't want to do just one sport and be really slow. Somehow, I felt like it was more OK to be slow at three sports. Yes, I realize that if you've never done one, it doesn't make a lot of sense, but if you've been there, you know what I mean. I don't have to win. I just have to finish.

I also was hoping to be an example for my son. He doesn't just see me as pudgy Mommy reading all of the time, but as active Mommy, wunning, riding my bike. But Saturday, I think I showed him a bigger lesson. One I learned about myself some time Saturday afternoon.

There was no way I was going to come in first in the race. Hell, for me, it's not much of a race. It's an event. Most of my life, if I couldn't win, I wouldn't compete. But this is my new thing. It's all about the effort. And never ever giving up.

So on Saturday morning, that's what I taught my son. The time is not important. The destination is only important in that it's the end. I can hate every step of the way, it's not even about the journey. It's all about my willingness to take the journey. It's all about doing MY best. And trying to get better.

Hell, there was only one person who was first. And one who was last. And I'm ok with that.


  1. Ange,
    I am SO SO SO very proud of you. You are an absolute inspiration, and, hell, you're the reason I even thought I could sign up for the Trek!! You are a fighter and a survivor, and I will think of this post and the convos we've had over the past few months as I log my first sprint triathalon in 19 DAYS. :) Keep up the good work, and keep kicking ass!! And know that you're making a difference for yourself, your son, and your friends. XXOXOX

  2. I'm duly impressed you stuck it out! I'm sure you thought of giving up many times - but you did not! Congrats on a great Saturday and teaching a wonderful lesson to your son about perseverance! :)