Saturday, August 11, 2007

Thank you, Lbtepa!

I'd been dithering since my last (first) triathlon about when I'd ever do another - I have been so phobic about the swim. I've trained pretty steadily in the pool, taken a TI workshop and really practiced the technique. But I just never got around to getting back in a lake. Meanwhile my biking and running numbers have been declining, mostly due to crazy summer schedule. But LBtepa told me, just do it, don't wait, so I committed in my mind to the one I've been saying for months was my next one (but I hadn't believed it) the Nutmeg State Sprint at Lake Waramaug. It's a .5 swim (longer than Pawling), 9 mile bike, 3.1 run.

I confessed my anxiety to a friend a few days ago. She's a natural healer and accupuncturist, and she offered to teach me a technique to help overcome my fear called Emotional Freedom Technique (or EFT.) It entails coming up with a sentence that described your fear in stark terms, and your wish: i.e., "Even though I am afraid I will panic and drown, I choose to swim with ease and calm." You say this over and over while tapping certain meridians on your head, face and body. There's another part that involves eye-rolling, counting to 5 and humming a snippet of a song, I kid you not. And I kid you not, I did this over and over again for the last two days!

The race started at 7am, and was about a half-hour from home. I hadn't preregistered so wanted to arrive early, so set the alarm for 4:40. My husband was extremely skeptical, knowing how very not a morning person I am. But I was out the door at 5:05 and was the first one to pull into the parking lot. (Then it was a 20 minute walk over a very tall hill to the site.)

After yesterday's all-day torrential rains, today was very chilly but absolutely lovely. The steam was rising over the lake, everyone was super-friendly, and the field was a perfect size - just over 100 athletes, almost ALL of whom looked extremely buff and experienced. (Unlike Pawling where there were many more shapes and sizes.)

I continued to mutter my affirmations and surreptitiously tap a bit, and also to remind myself that it was OK if I got anxious, I knew I could do it and I'd get over it. But still, I was fearful. And cold. Luckily the water was much warmer than the air! I'd eaten carefully so I knew I wouldn't have stomach issues in the water, and by 7 (ish) I was as ready as I could possibly be. The men went off first, and 5 minutes later we were off too. I immediately let everyone get ahead, and let myself paddle and breast stroke to get comfortable - all part of the plan. There was one couple that was swimming together and who had clearly planned from the start to go VERY slow - he was doggy paddling and she was backstroking. I pulled ahead of them and headed out to those far, far buoys. But I got nervous, wobbly, kept stopping and looking around for the boats. I made it known to the nice ladies in the kayaks that I hoped they'd stay close, and they did. I left one behind, who stayed with the couple and when I reached the next one I completely froze - shouted out that I wanted to go in. She came and let me grab on, at which point I thought it was all over- the USAT regs said that you'd be disqualified for that. But she offered to let me continue, and another woman came and paddled alongside me, no more than 10 feet away. And we continued like that all the way around - I chatted withe her every time I needed a break, but never held on again - I DID IT! Swim time: 29:20, which is actually not bad considering the stopping and starting - once I was swimming for real I moved along at a decent clip (for me.)

It was a long slog to transition, and evidently I need to work on those skills as well, since I was 110th for T1! Getting clipless pedals would help - then I could just slip into my shoes. I'll have to think about what else I could do! As I was leaving for the bike, the first rider was just coming in on his fancy tri bike, shouting "GET OUT OF MY WAY!!!" when nobody was actually in his way. A rare moment of bad vibes in a really nice day.

The bike was so pretty - the first 6 miles were right at the shoreline of the lake. I was all alone, and having a lovely time. Suddenly at Mile 6 I hit the wall. Not bonking, an uphill climb I couldn't believe! I NEVER walk when I bike anymore - but this time there was no way I was riding up it. At that point the male half of the slow swim couple struggled by me (but his companion still hadn't passed me.) Another steep uphill at mile 8 also stopped me for a while. At one point I passed a woman who'd had a flat, but otherwise never saw another soul. For a while I was concerned that by the time I got back, they wouldn't let me go out on the run - they'd said they would close the course at 2 hours and there was no way I'd finish that fast.

But nobody said anything (most were probably already eating breakfast by then!) and I wobbled back out and up Strawberry Hill- an insanely steep, insanely long hill. I was walking up, wondering why on earth anyone would choose this path for the course, when a woman ran up alongside me. She was looking for her boyfriend and decided to run with me while she looked. She was on a relay team and had long since finished, and when the boyfriend didn't appear, she just ran with me the whole way. What a blessing - she kept me distracted, paced me, and encouraged me. She disappeared just as I headed into the home stretch - don't know if she found the boyfriend or was a figment of my imagination, but wherever she is, I thank her!

People were already leaving by the time I came in, but everyone gave me big smiles and encouragement. My friend in the kayak came up and said hi - she's been driving the "sad car" that was supposed to scoop up the last stragglers but she said she held them off and convinced them to let me and the remaining few finish. The woman who'd finished behind me in the swim caught me at the run's turnaround and finished almost 3 minutes ahead, and the woman with the flat tire almost caught me (she did a 28 minute run, compared to my 40+) but not quite, so I was second-to-last (with one other DNF, evidently whoever that was, it's a shame, because she'd had a really fast swim!)

I finished feeling strong and comfortable - not ready to cry or collapse like the first one. It helped that it was very cool, not blisteringly hot like Pawling.
I'm consistent: I was 116th (out of 118 competitors) in all three parts. (So why did I finish 105th out of 106 total finishers - I don't get it! Maybe that counts the relay people too who weren't counted in the 106.)

Will I do another? If I do I want to go faster - time to start thinking of ways to cut a few minutes off. I think it would be easiest to cut time off the bike: maybe some faster tires...or those clipless pedals. I'm not quite ready to ditch my mountain bike and lay down $800 or more for a road bike - just not in the budget. There are a few more events I am considering, including doing an Oly in Washington DC as a relay with my husband and sister-in-law, in late September (I'd do the bike, she'd swim, and my hubby would run.) We shall see but today I'm basking in my accomplishment!

Oh and is this wierd? My total time was 2:07:22 - about 30 seconds faster than my Pawling tri time. I guess my first goal should be to break 2 hours!

4 comments:

The Scott Family said...

Good on ya! :) An inspiring read :)

I'm going to use that mantra idea for my swim. I'm not scared of drowning, just scared of what might be out there :(

Good luck with breaking the 2hrs. I'm sure you will do it!

Mike

RUTH said...

Oh well done and so pleased that you found people to help spur you on along the way. I KNOW you can break the 2 hour brrier but give it time...don't push yourself too hard or it will be to much for you. Can't wait to tell the girls you did it...I do boast about you :o)
Rx

LBTEPA said...

CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! YOU LEGEND!!!

Lisa - Slow & Steady said...

YAY! Good job!!