“If you don’t learn how to be scared, you’ll never really learn how to be brave…How are you ever gonna know if you never even TRI”
Leon’s Olympic Triathlon was on Sunday AM and I was scared…terrified…BUT even though in the end I was far from placing and the swim I can truthfully say I only survived…I walked away completing what I started with a big smile every single mile, conquering a new distance, and when I got into my car after the race and the tears started freely flowing I knew they were not tears of fear…but tears of humility that I had just overcome, become that much more brave, gained confidence deep in my soul, and am one step closer to my ultimate goal…Racine 70.3 Half Ironman in 7 weeks.
The day before the race I went to pick up my packet and get in an open water quick swim. I met up with my dear friend Nicole and we got in the water. It’s funny…I never in a million years thought I would be racing triathlons with Nicole. She was my crazy runner friend before I started running…and then my really insanely crazy triathlete friend before I joined her just two short weeks ago. While I was looking at the distance I was going to swim the next day, it kind of freaked me out a lot. I literally had to end up just walking away and didn’t return to the shoreline until my wave was forced to jump off the pier. I saw some other friends and The Endure It Team, chatted for a while, and headed out. I spent the night prepping my gear, nutrition, and going over my lists like ten times! A triathlon is SO much more needy than a running race! Sheesh! Then I was off to bed by 8pm! On a Saturday…the life of a triathlete is pretty wild and crazy! Haha! The alarm went off at 3:50 and I was out the door at 4:30! I ended up driving way too fast (nerves) and was the second car there! Haha! I guess better early than late right?! I got transitions set up, my bike ready, and was trying not to freak out about the swim. Then my angel showed up…Jenn! Jenn and I met on Instagram about 14 months ago and have been following each other’s journeys. We trained and ran the Chicago Marathon together and then ran our first Ultramarathon 50k together. I wanted to cry in her arms about how scared I was and how happy I was that she was there all at once. I teared up but held in my emotions. She just hugged me and kept telling me how amazing I was going to do and how the energy was just incredible and how she couldn’t wait to watch me and see me finish. She was soothing and what I needed in that moment. How much I truly needed her I didn’t realize until I was in her arms! I am SO thankful for you Jenn!!! You made such a difference to me. That day. That moment. I’ll never forget it. Sometimes I try to act confident but I just look silly instead! Haha! Trying to make the best out of the pre-swim nerves!So it was my wave to go…everyone 34 and younger. Men and Women. Sheeeeeesh there were a ton of us so after jumping off the pier into the water, I promptly took my place in the very back. The gun went off and everyone hauled out of there leaving me with the “slow pack” I quickly settled into my breathing. I have no fear of the water, no panic, no trouble if I get touched, kicked, the cold water doesn’t bother me one bit, my ears are fine, if I swallow water it doesn’t freak me out….so what is the main problem….sighting! I’ve been swimming the “total immersion” way and that requires head down looking at the fishes. Well, I quickly realized that doesn’t work for sighting and in a triathlon. Or at least not for me. I end up stopping and starting and bobbing around like a drowning cat 85% of the time. Then when I get swimming again, I go in a decent straight line but then the chaos starts over. Needless to say, I quickly realized that I wasn’t winning any awards that day and would likely be in the last few people exiting the water so I settled in with my back of the pack and just persevered. It was hard. Really freaking hard. I have a LOT of work to do with open water swimming. I feel strong in the pool and I think if I can change up the way I swim a bit it will help me a TON! Needless to say, when I came out of the water I was cheering louder for myself then any of the spectators! I think it got them all hyped up because I kept saying I felt like I had won the whole race! Haha! Jenn caught my happiness to have the swim over! T1 was fast and besides having a second that I couldn’t clip in I was flying off on the bike! I freaking LOVE the bike! I think it will eventually be my strong point if it isn’t already. I have fun. I love to go fast. I love the challenge and technicality of it all. It was a massively bumpy course and I couldn’t help but notice how many people got flats. It was confirmed after that this was a huge problem. There were a few bumps I was sure would cause one but this race I got lucky and was able to just fly! There were some super windy stretches that almost blew me over a few times. My wheels are pretty deep and I love the speed and can’t wait for more practice on them! I made up a lot of time on the bike, felt strong, and just flew! Hands down my FAVORITE!By the time I got to T2 it was HOT! So I started the run a slower pace then I have been training at. I was sucking down all the water I could on the course. Then it hit…Mile 2…the LOW of the race. There are always highs and lows at a race. The highs tend to be high and lows tend to be low. I wanted to cry. It was hot and I was tired and my shoes were soaking wet because I threw water on myself. And I was relatively alone. It was a long stretch of only a few other runners. I decided in that moment I would embrace the low. I let myself FEEL that low and realized what it was, named it my lowest low, and then decided that I had been through way harder stuff in my life then finishing this race, and that I needed to just make it to mile three and the next water station. Baby goals. And I did. One step at a time, one foot in front of the other. That is what running teaches right? During our lows, keep moving…don’t stop. Embrace the freaking suck, name it, and decided in that moment that you are FAR more powerful then it. And at Mile Three I found my saving grace…a bunch of kids at the station. I just LOVE kids. I was sweltering in the heat so I told them to just throw water on me….as much as they could as I ran by. Their eyes lit up and they went to town. We had a good laugh and I was cooled down. A win for us all. Spirits high I set in again to get to mile five…the next water station. I found a friend along the way and stopped to run/walk with her. She had 2 flats and even though she had to be drove back to T2, she decided to finish the race and what she had started. So inspiring to me. That is a true winner and champion. We chatted about our “why’s”…why do we race. We swapped some stories and both got goosebumps. Triathletes and Marathoners and Ultra Marathoners just inspire the hell out of me. The mental toughness. It’s unparalleled. At about mile 4.5 I headed out and just wanted to be DONE! When I hit the final water station I told the kids to go to town on me again and these ones especially had a blast! Everyone was laughing, the volunteers, myself, and the other triathletes. A good time and lift my spirits to sprint to the end the best I could. As I was running the one random spectator called to me and another girl “You only have a mile so like 7 minutes left!” We looked at each other and busted up laughing…we seriously both said…”What planet is she living on, HAHAHA”!!!! Another final push to the end. I knew Jenn would be there. I kept chanting my children’s names. I tried to encourage everyone I saw on the course. And as I got to the final tunnel I sprint down through the Finish Line arms raised high and SO proud of myself! I REALLY FREAKING DID IT! I found Jenn and melted into her arms. I was soaking wet but she didn’t even care. True friendship right there. And then she told me her parents came to watch and I wanted to cry. It was like I had a whole family there supporting me! I embraced them and my other friend and then started sucking down the liquids! Haha! What a moment. I finished. It was an amazing experience and I am so thankful I chose to do this race. I learned more about my strengths and weaknesses and where to focus in the next 7 weeks. An honor to race with my friends and humbling to know I had my dear friend Jenn at the finish. What a day. What an event. Amazing. Just an incredible energy and feeling. So humbling. I chatted with all my friends including my amazing friend Darcy, who took first in her age group!!!! So proud of her! I got my friend Ethiene to take my classic yoga shots before we packed up and headed out. What a race day!!!!!! Leon’s puts on an incredible race and I hope to be back next year! After stripping off most of my wet clothes the first stop was of course a donut and MASSIVE fountain soda! Swim-Bike-Run-Eat Donuts…Isn’t that how it is supposed to go! Haha!