Monday, June 13, 2005
One Day Post Triathlon!
I did it! I did it! Actually, it's more Dora The Explorer-ish than that. I honestly don't know if I could've kept going without my FANTASTIC cheer squad popping up everywhere to yell encouragement. Add to that the ones who kept me motivated during the training and you end up with a wonderful group effort. So..."We did it! We did it!" With all of you at my side/on the sidelines/in my thoughts/at home thinking of me I managed to get through the more than 15 combined miles of the .75K swim, 20K bike and 5K run (hmmm let's be honest, it was mostly walking).
The day started off with a huge line of traffice waiting to get into the Expo parking area. After an eternity in the car, which did nothing to calm the butterflies in my tummy, we were parked and heading toward the shuttles. Halfway there I stopped to go back to the car and retrieve my (mandatory) bike helmet. Oops! Luckily athletes have first priority on the shuttles. I was quickly whisked to the race site where I laid out my transition area by my bike. I stripped down to my bathing suit and went off to be bodymarked with my number (on both thighs, both arms) and my age (on the back of my right calf). I asked the volunteer to put a "Y" on my right arm so I could glance down at it when needed and remind myself that I Will Tell Them Yes by finishing this race.
The wave groups were lined up and the first group off and swimming and I still had a bad case of the nerves. I managed to calm down as we advanced toward the start. It was wonderful to spot my cheer group in the crowd! When I saw Frederick holding a "Kay Marley is my hero!" sign I got a little teary eyed. I quickly spotted Monica, Leslie, Heather, Frank, my Mom, Corrie, Kela, Salena and Michelle and blew kisses to my cheerteam. I was already in the water waiting to go when Frank yelled at me to turn around. One of the volunteers at the water's edge was trying to get my attention...it was Michelle from PureAustin (another crazy Michelle!) who gave me a quick pep talk. The start went off and we began swimming. The best thing I can say about the swim portion is that there are Swim Angels, Kayakers and one participant that will receive many prayers for a long, long time.
I had a tough time. No, I had a nightmarish time in the water. It was a struggle the entire way. I fought to stay calm. I tried to find my "zone". I had a minor right calf cramp almost right away. I took a rest several times before reaching the halfway point. It was incredibly difficult to swim around the blue buoy marking the 1/4 mile point. In my disoriented state I entertained the thought that it was chasing me further out. Little did I know that the buoy had come loose from it's moorings and was drifting. Many of us swam 100 meters more than necessary because of that. When I was more than halfway through, I was hit with a severe left calf cramp that left me dead in the water. I waved frantically for an Angel or kayak but no one was near enough to see me. I went under, swallowed water, got swum over by another racer and finally yelled "Help! Help!" all to no avail. I was in serious trouble. A swimmer behind me yelled out in a strong voice "This woman needs help!" and then slid her arms under mine and said "Don't fight me. Just relax. I'm going to tow you." She towed me to the kayak, who had begun to make it's way to us and left to finish her race. Whomever you are, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
After a brief rest holding on the kayak and stopping the tears that kept filling up my goggles, a swim angel stayed with me. She had me breathing deeper to move oxygen to my legs and coaxed me through the panic. After resting on the noodle and working out the cramp in my calf, I did swim in on my own...with my Angel either at my side or behind me for the entire last 1/8th of a mile. Every few minutes my Angel would yell out encouragement to me. I was incredibly tired but when she offered for me to swim in with the noodle, I declined. "My friends can see me" I said. She smiled in a way that told me she believed I'd make it in through sheer stubborness. I finally touched bottom and stood, with my Angel yelling "You did it! You did it!" behind me. It was a very good feeling to come out of that lake.
Michelle met me in the transition area and pumped my bike tires to the proper PSI while I ate a Gu and drank some water. (If I'd gotten in early enough I could've done that before the start). She made sure my transition was as easy as it could possibly be at that point. I was so tired from the swim that I completely forgot to pull my padded bike chone on over my bathing suit bottom. I meant to wear them under my running shorts. Luckily, I didn't notice I'd forgotten them until Mile 4 of the ride. I slid back on the saddle a bit and told myself that nothing hurts more than the bike seats at spin class. I didn't give my lack of padding any thought after that. The first half of the ride went by very quickly. Once I had caught my breath from the swim I enjoyed myself, with funny bits of songs running through my head. At the halfway point, the hills became mountains. I walked up four and wasn't the only one doing so. At the peak of the last hill is the turn for the finish...volunteers are shouting "You made it up the last hill, now go to the finish!" They lie. Unashamedly. Because the road to the finish is an upward incline. In my book, that is called a hill.
Back in the transition area, Michelle appears again to help me out and give me a status report on her relay team's progress. I ate another Gu and slam water. A lot of water. I take off running and realize quickly that the liquid in my tummy is sloshing. Yikes. Time to power walk. At the end of the first mile Michelle catches up with me. I send her on her merry way and ask that she pass on that I am still upright & mobile. I am not doing well, having cold chills and feeling like any moment I'll christen the trail. Ugh. At the beginning of the last mile, my power walk has slowed to a regular walk. I see the mile marker and written underneath is "I Tri because no one (including myself) believes I can". I feel tears start to well up and remind myself I cannot cry. I can barely keep moving and crying would mean less energy to keep walking. I am so very, very tired and the sun is beating down mercilessly. Every inch of my body is sweaty and red and hot. I'm miserable.
Frank appears at a spectator point and yells at me to "Run, girl!". I pick up the pace and bob along until I round a bend and he's out of site. Then I go back to contemplating christening the trail and walking. The nausea passes and the last hill is ahead. I am trudging at this point, one foot in front of the other, telling myself that when I finish I can get out of the sun. Realistically, I know I am going to finish, it's just a little more to the end. But I don't quite believe it. I keep going because there is nothing else to do but keep moving. I somehow make it up the hill and have an asthma attack. At least I'm beyond the urge to vomit. Frank appears again, this time in a section of trail that isn't cordoned off. Julie & Sonja are at the last water stop, cheering me on. I manage to run a bit with Frank running next to me, giving me encouragement the whole way. I tank, and tell him I have to walk again. The end is in sight. I get closer and Frank urges me to run it in. I do, running as fast as I am able to at that moment of my life. It was an exhausted, reach to the bottom of my soul and dig out the last chunk of energy, painfully slow run into the chute...the crowds are cheering and I hear "Now welcoming Kay Marley" over the loudspeaker and I raise my arms in victory and cross the finish line.
I can't say that I was happy, more so that I was relieved to be done. "Now I can stop moving," I thought. I was tired down to the marrow of my bones. I had nothing left in me; I used every ounce of strength left in my body to finish the last of the 5K.
The volunteers took my chip timer off my ankle strap and placed my medal around my neck. Now I am a triathlete, I thought. I crossed into the open area and hugged Michelle, who would've finished her 5K in less than 30 minutes had she not stopped to encourage me. I fell into Frank's arms and sobbed out my exhaustion and the emotions of finishing. After that it was a blur of hugs, excitement and pictures as my family and friends gathered around me.
I did it. Five weeks before my 38th birthday I became a Triathlete. I was slower than I'd hoped, with a final time of 3:15:13 but I know I did my absolute best. Heather asked first...will I do it again? I thought about it for a bit before I said yes. It was a brutal experience. But I'm already thinking about next year, about dropping my time to under 3 hours, about swim lessons and open water training....