Even though I spent six months training with Austin Fit for the marathon, I didn't feel like an athlete. I had a little nagging voice in the back of my head that said "you had to do the 13.1, you couldn't do the full race". I ran a 10K in April and felt good but still kept imagining that at any moment someone would point to me and say "why is she here?". I felt like I was pretending to be fit and healthy and athletic. Crossing the finish line at the Danskin Triathlon will firmly cement into my psyche the knowledge that I am an athlete. It's not just about the physical challenge of swimming a half mile, biking twelve miles and running a 5K. It's about leaving the person that I used to be behind and emerging from my chrysalis.
So one chilly March Saturday found me standing at Barton Springs looking at the water with dread. One of the U.K. women in our group summed it up by asking "Are we all mad?" I learned that morning that the popular "jump in and get it over with" method of adapting to Barton Springs' cold temps is not one that works well for me. I hit the water, went under and back up and my brain was screaming "Too cold! Too cold!" while I frantically tried to inflate my lungs. It seems my muscles shut down when shocked with a sudden temperature change from chilly to oh, you know, frigid water. After what seemed like an eternity, I had swum a few yards and managed to take in a breath of air. Once I was acclimated, I had to face another sad truth: I don't swim as well as I thought I did.
Looking back over the times I'd been swimming as an adult, I realized that most of the time I didn't actually swim. Going to the lake on a friend's boat usually meant we'd anchor in a cove and jump in, but most of the time we had floaties or noodles or some other item designed to allow you to relax in the water. And 'relaxing in the water' just isn't conducive to completing the swim part of a triathlon.
Over the following months, I devoted my time to swimming and biking. It was obvious to me that I needed to be committed to my time in the water or else face the possiblity that I could become the first drowning victim in the Austin Danskin's history. Add to this the fact that I hadn't been on a bicycle in decades and you can see my work was cut out for me. I borrowed a bike from the lovely Ms. Tanya and began a bike-to-work venture with Frederick, who has biked to work off and on for a year. I can attest to the fact that our ride in to downtown Austin is a fairly easy, mostly down hill ride. The flip side is that the ride home is mostly up hill. Suffice it to say I love the rides in to work.
Halfway through the training season, I conquered my fear of bike wrecks by conveniently falling off my bicycle. I had a thrilling fast ride down Congress Avenue from the Capitol, no buses or 'Dillos in front of me, green lights all the way...until 7th Street. I stopped fast at the light, yanked my right shoe out of the cage and then leaned...left. It was a classic slow motion fall. The homeless man on the corner was very concerned and asked if I needed help (no) and "do you do this often?" (umm, yeah, falling down is one of my unfortunate habits). I hopped up, mounted my bike and once I was at work, attempted to stop the bleeding on my badly scraped left knee. At least I know that the asphalt is indeed just as hard as it looks.
A few weeks ago, Frank talked me into going to spin class with him at PureAustin. He gave me a couple of free passes so that I couldn't say no. :-) For those of you who haven't done a spin class before, let me describe one for you. Spin class is where you get on special stationary bikes that are outfitted with shoe clip type pedals or you can snap on shoe cages and then you get on, warm up by simulating your normal easy bike riding speed and resistance while an instructor who is quite possibly the Son of Satan (or daughter) comes in, smiles a lot, lets you get a great look at his rockin' body while he plugs in his special laptop that contains music suitable to match the course he's decided on (which his computer program tracks so he knows when we are on flats or hills), smiles a lot, gets on his bike and then proceeds to have you pedal like the devil is chasing you and turn the resistance up and down while sometimes staying in the saddle and sometimes popping up and riding while standing, all the time smiling a lot, and when you just can't take it anymore he'll say something encouraging like "one more minute" and fool you into thinking class is almost over when in reality it's just the time left in the song that's playing and you spin, spin, spin and feel very happy that the hottie instructor is sweating like a pig along with you even though he's smiling a lot and still speaking without struggling for oxygen and finally you are slowing down, thighs burning and calves screaming not to mention the red ache in the pubic bone area and Lucifer is still smiling but now he's shouting out how great you all are, how he knew you were up for the challenge and when you make it off the bike for the slow stretch out while the instructor delivers his signature line of "always looking forward, never looking back" you start thinking that maybe, possibly, you might just do this again....that is spin class.
After driving the bike route for the Danskin I sent a silent prayer up for the few classes I've done. I know that the bike portion will take a lot out of me. There's at least one hill that I have a hard time imagining going up without having to dismount and walk my bike.
So here I am, six days before my first Tri and I'm excited, nervous, anxious and thrilled. I am concentrating on positive thinking and holding onto a 'you can do it!' attitude. I'm pushing my 3-4 liters of water a day. I've planned out my meals for the rest of the week to ensure I eat plenty of veggies and carb load appropriately. And I'm dead set on 8 hours of sleep each night.
Those who know me well are used to my addiction to literary quotes. I've found other peoples' words, thoughts and experiences to be very uplifting, especially when you're at a low point in training or in life in general. My motivational quote for the week is the text from a Nike ad:
"All your life you are told the things you cannot do. All your life they will say you're not good enough or strong enough or talented enough; they will say you're the wrong height or the wrong weight or the wrong type to play this or be this or achieve this. THEY WILL TELL YOU NO, a thousand times no, until all the no's become meaningless. All your life they will tell you no, quite firmly and very quickly. AND YOU WILL TELL THEM YES."
I'm thinking YES. I'm eating, breathing, dreaming YES. I'm setting realistic goals for this event. They are simply to have a good experience in the water and to finish. I know it will be tough. I know there will be a time or even many times when I'll want to quit. But the no's are meaningless to me. And when I cross that finish line you will see me shouting "YES!!"