Because the important moments in life just don’t fit in a status update! I started this blog when I was training for my first ½ Ironman, (70.3 miles) to record what I hoped would be growth and progress but ended up being a huge learning experience. Although fitness is one of the key ingredients to a happy life, it certainly isn't the only ingredient. My blog has evolved to document growth, progress and setbacks in other areas too. From my surprise proposal in Rome and wedding in the fall of 2013, to Mom's devastating stage IV cancer diagnosis and death 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Who knows what shape it will take, but thanks for being along for the ride.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Results - My First 1/2 Ironman!

When I saw that the total number of participants in the Napa Valley Half-Iron Distance Triathlon was only 500, I jokingly told people I might be last. But, I was kidding. I never really thought that I would really be one of the last participants to finish. 

On the drive up to Napa I started getting anxious about the swim portion of the race. Like, really anxious. I still get nervous before marathons, but this took my anxiety to a whole new level! While I had done the distance in a pool, I was used to the safety blanket of the wall and  knew that I had not put in enough time in the open water. Or rather: any time in the open water, other than a few hundred yards two days prior when I gave my wetsuit a test drive. And, I was really worried about the cut-off time of 70 minutes. I called and texted a few people who reassured me that I could do it. Kieth, who was my master's swim coach, said I should be able to do it in 55 minutes. But still, I was really worried. At this point, I was under the impression that if I dropped out of the swim, I would not be allowed to do the bike and run. What if my 5 months of training, this 1,000 mile round-trip drive, and this weekend was all for naught?

The thoughts were consuming me, and robbing me of enjoying the time with my Mom, Dad and brother. So I called Shari Todd, one of the most positive people I've ever met (check out her blog here). She told me about a quote, which really helped me:
"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, ...who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat." ~ Theodore Roosevelt
I told myself that I was going to do my best, and tried to let it go. We checked in to our 'cabin' which ended up being about the size of a hotel room, and went for dinner in Winters.
Mom and Dad, in Winters
Which is bigger?



I knew I would have trouble sleeping, but it was worse than I thought. I took 2 sleeping pills and set my alarm for 5:20AM. Your alarm is set for 7 hours and 45 minutes from now my phone informed me. Lying there, trying to sleep, I kept thinking that is about how long I'm going to be out there swimming, biking and swimming. For almost 8 hours. Around midnight I took a third (!!!) sleeping pill and finally dozed off.

Right outside our cabin.
















When I woke up, my first thought was that I didn't want to do it. But on the 20 minute drive to the race I started to get a little excited. We parked and took all of my gear and bike to the transition area to set up and, seeing the other participants, I was even more excited.

Lake Berryessa, looking beautiful & harmless on the morning of the race.


At the check-in booth I asked the coordinator how I would know that I made the cut-off time. She said 'if you're not brought in by boat.' This was reassuring. I also found out that I would be allowed to complete the other portions if I didn't finish the swim. This was a HUGE relief.
As we were getting ready to start, I looked at the two buoys which marked where we needed to swim. One was out and over to the left, but the second one was way the hell out there, almost hard to see, forming a huge triangle. I also noticed whitecaps. Who knew a lake could have those? We started in waves, and knowing I would be one of the slowest, I started in the last wave. I waded into the water and started swimming. It was worse than I expected. The conditions were horrible...very windy which = choppy water. As expected, I was breathless at first. I tried doing the back stroke and water was washing over my face. I tried swimming and breathing every 3rd stroke. I floated for awhile in my wetsuit to catch my breath, and continued on. But guess who I was surrounded by? All of the other slow-pokes like me. All of the people who were also wishing this was a dualthlon. Two of us flagged down a kayak. The woman let us hang on for a bit, and told us "I've only ever seen the lake this this twice." After our break I told the woman "We can do this, let's stick together" and we continued on. After about 100 yards I looked around and was headed in a different direction than her. There was actually a current. She wasn't doing well either, and we flagged down a boat. There were already three other swimmers on there, and they brought us in. I felt disappointed, thinking of my parents and brother there waiting for me on the shore. They were of course surprised to see me, because I beat even the fastest swimmers! If they were disappointed, they didn't show it. Dad was very encouraging, as always. Figuring I had lots of time, I stayed and watched the first pack of swimmers come in.
More swimmers being brought in by boat.
Then, I took my time in transition, changing out of my wetsuit, into my biking gear, and chatting with my brother and parents. I talked to the guy next to me who expected to finish the swim in 45min. It took him an hour and he said this was worse than the Escape from Alcatraz swim, which he had previously completed. This made me feel better about 'giving up.' I talked to Mom, Dad and Glen, and by the time I was ready to go, almost everyone was out on their bikes! Whoops!
A sure sign you've spent too long in transition: you're standing there posing for a picture,
and everyone else is gone! No bikes!

Now, when I saw that the total number of participants was only 500, I jokingly said that I might be last. But, I was kidding. I never really thought I would be last. But the bike course was brutal: tons of hills, and it was really hot. I did fine on the uphill, but people were passing me on every downhill because I would break when I was going faster than 25mph. And, since the course was out and back I could see who was behind me: almost no one...only about 3 people. It was really hard to continue, knowing that I hadn't finished the swim and even though I might still be given a medal, I wasn't really earning it. Out there, alone for hours, I had a lot of time to think and my thoughts turned negative. And, unfortunately, not all of those negative thoughts were race-related. It sounds a little harsh, but I quite honestly felt like a failure and doubted myself in some major ways. At some points on the ride, there was no one around me for miles. Not one car, not one spectator, not one other person on a bike and I felt really, really alone.
Fake smile. And, am I really that white???
It took me 4 1/2 hours on the bike (4:35:29). Sure, they let me start the bike after not completing the swim...but, there was the cut-off time and now I was left wondering if they would I even be allowed to attempt the run? Or, even if they let me, did I want to start the run?

As I rolled into transition, completely exhausted, and asked one of the race volunteers "Can I start the run?" Their reply was "If you want to." I put my shoes on and started jogging. Before the race I had nicely laid out my running gear. But after being on the bike that long I did not feel l changing. I ran in my cycling shorts and jersey.

Running is obviously my strongest area of the three. And while I only had 3 people come in after me on the bike, I was able to pass a few runners during the half-marathon. One of the most difficult mental parts of the run was the fact that it was out and back and then out and back again! So, after just over an hour of running, I was at the finish line, but had to head back out and do it all over again. Again, I found myself thinking that I should cut it short, just finish since my medal would not be 'real' anyway. But I tried to turn that thinking around. Feeling a little less alone, feeling a little more confident, I thought of my parents and brother who were there supporting me and how I didn't want to have to tell them that I didn't make that portion either...and finished the run in 2hours, 17min.

Overcoming that self doubt, and pushing forward myself in spite the major swim setback was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. I think the race was harder because I didn't finish the swim. Sometimes, we do everything right and there are still conditions we can't control. Not just in a race, but in life. Things happen to us that we don't deserve and life is not always fair. Over that, we have no control. What we can control is how we respond when things don't go our way; it is what we do with disappointment that makes up our character and determines who we really are. Do we let it hold us back? Or, do we use it as an impetus to push us forward and become stronger? The day started out as a huge disappointment turned into what I now view as a major triumph. And what about all those negative non-race related thoughts that I had out there on the bike, alone for hours? They were smaller. Not gone, but much smaller. Finishing this triathlon helped me believe that anything is possible. For me, and for my future. What I really want out of life really is attainable if I just keep moving toward it.
With my brother, at the finish.
When I got home, I registered for the OC Triathlon which is this coming Sunday. It's an Olympic distance triathlon, so while the bike is only 23 miles and the run is only 6.2, the swim is .93 which is very close to the 1.2 mile distance I didn't finish. And this time, I will finish the swim.

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