Half Ironman swim

On June 4, 2017 I did something that was so hard for me. Very scary. Very challenging. Very empowering. It’s hard to put into words how big this felt for me, but I’ll try…

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Sunrise at Half Ironman start – June 4, 2017, Raleigh

For about a year now I’ve had this as a goal: to swim the 1.2 miles of the Half Ironman distance swim here in Raleigh, NC. When I first started this tri thing, I could barely swim a full lap without being completely exhausted. So my first tri events were usually 5 laps, which doesn’t sound too intimidating for someone who can swim comfortably, but 5 laps was almost impossible when I started. (Even two years ago it was totally impossible to think that in 2017 I’d be swimming long distances.) By the end of 2015 I was able to do the 5-lap-tri events doing only freestyle strokes, rather than including breast stroke or even walking in the shallow areas. And even then I would hold the wall for a second to catch my breath before starting the next length.

Somewhere in early 2016 I started thinking about what 2017 would bring and that’s when I started thinking seriously about setting a bigger and nearly impossible goal for myself. I love this quote below, about setting a goal so big you have to grow into it and become that person who can do it.

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Most of the events I’ve done until this year are small and nearby, so the logistics and travel and transition area (single, not 2 transition areas) have been easy to easy to navigate and think through the details. Most Ironman events are spread out geographically with two separate and far away transition areas, so it makes everything more complicated. And it also makes it feel bigger emotionally. You feel the size of it. You feel the complexity of it. And when overlooking the lake and seeing the massive size between the buoys and the distance you’re supposed to swim, it feels like a punch in the gut. It’s a really, really big area to swim in. This was for the Half IM distance; can’t even grasp the Full IM distance for the swim.

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The day before the event involves registration, reviewing the course, set up the bike in advance at transition by the water (husband was riding), last minute shopping needs, and  checking out the swim course. By now all the buoys and markers were out in the water so you could see each one, the general start area, and where to finish the swim and start the bike. These pics below show just how far those buoys are out in the water! You can barely see them. I stood there, looking at them, and started crying real tears, not just wet eyes. I felt like I had made a huge, massive, complicated mistake that I was going to regret in less than 20 hours. But I was doing this as a team – with Jason & Heather – so this wasn’t MY race to screw up. It was our race. If I bailed or screwed up, it would reflect on the 3 of us – it wasn’t my race to screw up, it was our race. I was feeling the pressure earlier in this process, but to see the distance and feel that tangible doubt and fear was almost unbearable. It’s one thing to disappoint yourself, it’s another to do it as a team. It was too late to back out. I had no choice but to figure out how to be ok with this whole thing, knowing I was probably out of my league compared to the other Iron athletes and had bitten off more than I could chew.

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There were almost 20 waves of athletes, totaling a couple thousand participants. My wave was literally the last one since it was a relay team. As we’re finally gathering into our group we go down the path into the water. At that point we have about a minute to get in the water to the start line. Music is playing but I can’t even hear it. They announce “20 seconds” or something similar. I look around at all the “real” athletes and hear this in my head: you are a F impostor in this group. What are you doing here!? I immediate had to turn that off and say, nope, just start moving when you hear the whistle. Get to the first marker.

I got to the first yellow one and it was ok. Then I just kept saying, get to the next yellow one. And the next one. And the next one. It was harder than I thought to get to the first turn. Seemed like more work than it should have been, but I knew I wasn’t even 1/3 of the way through at that point. Get to the next one. Next one.. Next one. Next one… Hey! There’s an orange one!! (In hindsight I now know that meant that I was half way there – not to the last buyoy which is what I thought had happened. Grrrrr.) I see another orange one. another orange one. another. THEY WOULD NOT END. Where the hell is the end? Is there NO end? Do they keep going forever? Next one. I’m in a good rhythm here, breathe left, sight front, breathe left, sight front breathe left, sight front. Next one. Next one. I start to visualize the finish line, me stepping out of the water knowing I did it! I can see it in my mind. I can see Jason getting the timing chip. I can see him hugging me and being excited for me. I can SEE and visualize the finish in my mind with every breath. OK, finally the last one and I turn towards the finish! I get a little closer and I can see it! I can see the IM flags, I can see the people. I’m starting to hear the people. Damn, it’s like I’m on a water treadmill and I can’t get closer. I’m swimming- but for the love of god it’s so slow. I can see it but I can’t get there. I have no idea about the time but I can see and hear the finish!

And then finally I’m at the last kayak of about 10 lined up at the finish before the boat dock. I know Jason is at the top waiting for me to pass off the timing chip to him. I can’t see him but I know he’s there. The second I was able to stand up I hit my watch to see the time which I haven’t looked at or even thought about. I had absolutely no idea how long it had been, but nobody pulled me out of the water so it HAD to be less than 1:10. IT WAS 57 MINUTES!! It was 13 minutes earlier than the cutoff limit! Thirteen minutes in the water can cover quite a good distance, so that’s a significant amount of time. I started screaming and cussing and yelling and could NOT believe that I had just done that swim.

Not only did I do better than I expected, I actually passed about 6-8 people out there! I never pass people. I was swimming with Ironman athletes and *passed* people. A few had to be pulled from the water due to having a hard time or not hitting the time limit. Some people used kayaks & resting boards to take a legal break, but I swam the entire time with NO breaks, 100% freestyle from the sound of the whistle. Just 57 minutes of intentional and strategic swimming with the sole purpose of finishing that race so my team could continue.

…but wait. The unicorn. My friend Melissa who recently did a 26mile hike for charity showed up at the swim finish as a surprise!! I’m loopy getting out of the water and it took me a minute to realize who was yelling at me. She’s there next to the corral for the relay teams – and she has a bright pink unicorn on a stick! We had called each other #unicornsisters – hence the unicorn. Turns out she barely made it in time to see me exit the water, after walking two miles due to a lack of parking, orange cones, race road blocks. She lives like 90 minutes away on top of that! I am not kidding when I say I thought I was hallucinating seeing/hearing her and this unicorn. Such a nice thing to do, and how easy it could have been for her to listen to others telling her it just wasn’t going to happen. Mmany detours, naysayers, and road blocks didn’t deter her! Of course, I learned all this after the fact. The unicorn, though!! I mean, look!

And then we got on a bus to shuttle back to the downtown transition area. And then Jason got on & off the bike. And then Heather started and finished the run.

And then after a long day of hoping for the best and our own individual version of success for the day, it was over. We had all finished in the times allowed with no major problems, crashes, issues, or getting pulled off the course. That’s a huge win all the way around. Really glad to represent Velocity Sportswear and the TriMafia team. And now I have a relay Ironman medal. And every time I look at it I’ll  see a symbol of progress and proof that their motto is true: Anything Is Possible. Can’t wait for the next race =) These things are quite addictive.

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South Beach Triathlon – race report!

I’ve never been so scared to do an event, and I’ve never been so overwhelmed at the finish. It felt like the depths of my soul was being challenged. The distaDSC_0244nce was longer but not impossible for me. I knew that going into it. But I didn’t count on some other thing that I hadn’t encountered at other events before. The scope of this event was huge in comparison to others I’ve done. Most of the early morning prep was literally in the dark and a little confusing to know where everything was. This pic to the right is of a cruise ship way off in the distance. It’s about 6:45am in this pic, sun’s just coming up, and it looks like a lake- thank god.

The day prior I had gone to the swim clinic and had a chance to swim in the water, mostly to see if I needed a wetsuit. The water was 78, which isn’t cold, but it is when you try to put your face in it. I had also driven the bike course in Miami traffic, which is enough to scare the shit out of anyone!

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Saturday swim clinic, for about 150 people

The size of this was HUGE. There were 2300 participants, the transition area was a full city block size, and there were more rules & regs than other smaller events I’ve been in. You were required to check in the day before and leave your bike in transition overnight. That felt weird, but that’s how the bigger ones do it. So, after the swim clinic & check in, it’s time to “relax”…yeah right.

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This picture makes me laugh! I’m standing there looking around thinking to myself, WHY DO I DO THIS? THIS WAS A BAD IDEA! Too late now. 3, 2, 1…go! And it officially starts. The swim was tough to get started, it’s always hard to find the right pace. But the water was clear and beautiful. Perfect temperature. No seaweed, no creatures, I could see everyone around me. It felt safe. The ocean floor was stunning and beautiful, almost distracting at times. Really beautiful. I remembered some advice to think about the swim as the warm up, don’t go all out then because you still have the rest. Really good advice. 21 minutes for half mile in the ocean, I’ll take it.

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Coming out of water

The bike had really gotten in my head. I was scared of the traffic, didn’t know how well it would be marked, big bridges… Luckily it was marked really well with tons of officers & volunteers. I had to talk to myself at one point though. It was quite intimidating being among the Miami traffic. And by the end of the ride the heat was on!!

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And the finish…the glorious finish! I knew I’d have some challenges to overcome when I signed up for this nearly 11 months ago. It was a BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goal for me. Your goals should scare you a little. This did, more than a little.  Thanks to everyone who has supported IMG_4198me in all the many ways in this little journey I’m on…especially the Hubs. Love representing Velocity Sportswear out there! Great company & great support. This event will make most of the others feel small!! Except for that little Half Ironman swim coming up next on June 4th… That’s the next dragon I’m gonna’ slay.

 

 

Why I Tri

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I’m literally one week out from my first tri of the season – South Beach Triathlon in Florida. At this time next week (writing this at 3:54pm on Sunday, 3/26/17) it will be over, I’ll be done, and I’ll probably still be high from the endorphins. Hoping I’ll have the medal around my neck. Eating an early dinner or late lunch. Or maybe I’ll be waking up from a well earned nap.

IMG_1845However…..let me just say that the doubt demons have been very busy in my psyche lately. Hip pain has affected my riding. The very real possibility of cold water and a wetsuit has really messed with my head. It’s not just the temp – an ocean swim is very aggressive in comparison to the pool for a lot of reasons…the waves, the salt, the tide, the instability of the water compared to a pool, jellyfish/fish/other things that I don’t need to mention by name… It’s a huge mental hurdle. Here is my first post about this wetsuit.

I signed up for this event about 11 months ago knowing that I’d have some big obstacles to overcome at the actual event and also a lot to overcome at the end of 2016 with some surgery that still affects my range of motion through my shoulder. It’s way better than it was a month ago but it’s still not 100% – so I’m doing this half mile ocean swim knowing that I’m not as physically capable as I could be.

So why DO I tri? I love this sport but it’s definitely a little bipolar. One day it’s a great swim at the pool, and then the next it’s horrible. Same with the bike, same with the run. It’s easy to get caught up in other people’s stories, goals, perspectives, speed, etc. For me there are so many great reasons to be involved in something that challenges you – it’s a great analogy for many things in life. Just a few bullets on #whyitri  –

  • Role model for my kids – do the stuff that scares you, even if it scars you a little. It’s better than having no scars.
  • Challenge myself – sure, I could challenge myself with a large puzzle too. But this has some amazing side effects like a stronger body, bragging rights, membership into a very unique club of weirdos
  • The high afterwards – OMG, does it get much better than the finish line? I mean, really… doing something that you thought was impossible is a damn fantastic feeling!
  • Learning – there’s always something to learn in this sport, and even after a few years or doing sprints there’s SO much to learn, and the growth curve never ends.
  • Eliminate limits – it’s easy to put limits on yourself. Tri has allowed me to not only challenge those limits, but say F-you to all the “cant’s” in my life.

img_3468I’m writing this #whyitri post to remind myself that I don’t *have* to do this, I *GET* to do this and I need to remember several things – embrace the suck, enjoy the journey, learn from this, and remember the badassery that is me. I’m hoping to represent Velocity Sportswear as a proud brand ambassador with a great season this year. #TriMafia forever! I bought this #fearless bracelet last year to remind myself to have faith in myself, resist the temptation to say “I can’t” and to encourage myself to focus on growth rather than looking at what I can’t do yet.

 

If you are part of the tri family, why do you do it?