This blog recounts my fitness journey into the sport of triathlon and the gifts God has blessed me with while on it! May the movements of my life boldly proclaim that the sparks we encounter in scripture will kindle hope in our lives!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

It's Here!! It's Finally Here!!!

JULY 2009

Well, race day zoomed up on us! We had finished our tri-prep class. I was soooo glad I took it. The class had covered all the basic parts of the race and a lot more. I felt prepared. I was about to learn if I was!
Charis and I enjoyed our 6 hour drive to Pleasant Prairie, WI.

We're ready!

From my journal:

The expo the day before the race was so fun. Charis and I have to wait for our shirts because they didn’t have any left in our sizes. They marked both of our arms with our numbers and we got our timing chips. We looked at fun sports products and grabbed lots of free goodies. We listened to an inspirational speaker and course overview. We examined the beach where we’d be starting and put our feet in the water. We went out for a pasta dinner and drove the bike course. We were ready.

We knew the weather the next day was going to be great. It was hard to get to sleep the night before, that’s for sure! My phone alarm sounded way too soon-3:45am. The transition area would be opening at 4:30 and our plan was to be there at 5:30. All of my gear was laid out the night before so all I had to do was go through the pile of stuff to get ready and make the breakfast. Heart rate monitor, contacts-that’s right, I was going to put an extra set of contacts in my transition bag! I loved putting on that tri suit-it made everything very real.

Well, I had to figure out what to do with my hair too. Why did I grow it long again? No matter how I did it, it was sure to be a mess when I was done. I just wanted to keep it out of my face. I figured out something that I hoped would work and still fit under the bike helmet.

Breakfast. Double protein smoothie and oatmeal. Fill my water bottle to rinse my feet after the swim. Fill my water bottle for my bike with Gatorade. Fill my other water bottle. Pray they have enough port-a-potties at the race! I grabbed all my stuff and we were pretty much on schedule. Charis gathered the food we were planning to eat between the closing of the transition area at 6:30 and our swim wave which would be no sooner than 8:20!

Even with all of the detours for construction and closed roads for the race we made good time to the off-site parking. We just needed to pull our bikes off the van and pump up the tires and we’d be good to go-plenty of time. Except Charis had some trouble with the bike pump! We got enough air in her tires to make it the 2 miles we needed to go-we hoped-and off we went.

We made it to the race site at about 6:05. Instead of the hour we had planned, we had 25 minutes to set up and get out! Charis headed straight to the bike mechanic and I went to rack my bike. There was no room. The bikes were packed in with about 2-3 inches between each one. Wow. With 3200 women registered for the event, we saw this could be a problem the day before as we looked over the sea of already racked bikes, and asked about our options. I grabbed the next rack closest to the one I was assigned and racked my bike.

About 15 minutes later, as I was setting up my gear, I saw Charis one rack over. The bike mechanic pumped up her tires and assured her that the tube would be fine. We were both relieved! Then she walked over with this mournful look on her face. “Jesaca, I’m so sorry. I forgot the food.” Gulp. I couldn’t believe what came out of my mouth! I’m typically NOT a calm-under-pressure-girl…“You know what? It’s o.k. We’ll be o.k. We’ve been preparing for this for a long time. We’re ready. We’ve hydrated well all week. We’ve been eating well for weeks. We’ve trained well. Our bodies will do whatever we ask them to do today!” We scrounged what we could and prepared to leave the transition area with everyone else. We headed to the pottys right near the transition area and got in line. The line wasn’t too bad. We knew we had plenty of time.

As we headed toward the beach we decided to watch the elite wave of 11 women take off at 7:00. We had a super view off the side of the lake. It was a straight across swim. The first woman came out of the water after her half-mile swim in under 9 minutes! Wow!

 I love those pink goggles!!

Charis was watching for her sister, Bethany, to maybe show up and take some pictures of us. We figured after we saw the line for the port-a-pottys that we should get in it! It took 50 minutes to make it through the line. We worked on stretching while we were in it! Then we hit the water to warm up a bit. We cheered on the gals from previous waves who were headed to the finish line on their runs! Then we started to join all of the yellow caps that were headed into the corral on the beach. It was almost time!

As we were standing there, Bethany found us and began snapping pictures. Then we were crossing the timing mat. We were cheering and dancing to the loud music and then we were counting down. I gave Charis a big hug and punched my watch stem and off we went!

I remembered to stay calm. I just kept swimming and sighting and bumping into other gals who would stop and say they were sorry. It didn’t seem like many of them were really swimming, they mostly had their heads above the water and I totally get that! I only learned how to swim in October and it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But after a while, as I would turn my head to breathe, I noticed an odd look on the faces of the gals I could see. When it dawned on me that it was a look of admiration I wanted to cry! “Yes,” I thought, “I’m really swimming! I can swim and you can learn how too and you should!” I really hit a groove and was so comfortable so I started pushing for a little more speed, trying to pace myself and remember to rest my legs-they had a long ways to go yet. When I realized I was more than half way I got so excited. I thought, “I’m going to do this, I’m really going to do this! I don’t think it’s taking me the 30 minutes that I thought it would! I have prepared for this!” Then I could see the lake bottom getting closer to me and I wanted to scream. I came out of that water as fast as I could.

 Thanks, Bethany, for all of the wonderful pics!!

I started running and yanking on the zipper of my wetsuit. (Yes, I really wore a wetsuit!) I saw the timing mat under my feet and I yanked my wetsuit down to my waist. As I began the long run through the transition area I grabbed my goggles and swim cap off my head. I ran straight to my bike, thank goodness, and looked at my watch. What?!? 22 minutes!!! I began pulling off my wetsuit and looked over. There was Charis! We waved excitedly at each other and she was off!

The transition was a little scrambly for me. I was worried I’d forget something! I was pumped to get on the bike, I knew I was already ahead of time!

3,000 bikes!

As I headed off with my bike, I was a little confused, no one else seemed in much of a hurry. I scooted over another timing mat and tried to move through the group of women that were starting out on their bikes. It was so disorienting. No one seemed to be in a hurry! I was thinking, “Is it supposed to be like this?” Women were taking up the entire lane 3 and 4 wide and moseying along at a leisurely pace. A woman in front of me ran over a cone and almost wiped out while she was waving to her family! At that point I started hollering… “Coming through! On your left! On your left! On your left!” I was as polite as I could be as I started trying to ramp up my speed until I finally left the driveway of the recplex and moved onto the road that was closed to traffic for us. I began screaming by everyone on my bike. Even up the first several hills! Charis and I had started off in the buddy wave. I wonder if that’s why so many gals were 2 and 3 wide on the roadway chatting like they had all the time in the world. Good for them. I’m glad they got together to do this fun triathlon thing. It’s good exercise. There were lots of people at the expo yesterday. Were you gals not there? You’re supposed to stay to the right. “On your leeeeffft!!!!” Could you just maybe stay out of my way? Thanks!

I was really pleased with how well I maneuvered on the hills. Once again I thought about how much I had prepared for this and I was so glad I had. I wished I knew my average speed. I knew I was in the 16 range a lot and I didn’t seem to drop below 11 on the hills. I knew I hit 26 at one point, but it was hard to tell overall! When I got the official results I was really shocked! My average on my hybrid was 17 mph, which my trainer, Mark, assures me is kickin’ for my bike! My time for the bike leg was 8 minutes less than I guessed it would be!

I came in off of the bike trying to be careful of the moseyers! I downed a gel pack and some water and headed out on the run. Now would come the challenge.

 Lookin' a little fierce, that's me!!!

Five weeks ago I was doing 5k in just under 30 minutes. Not really fast, but incredible for me! But for the last 5 weeks, I hadn’t been able to run much more than 2 minutes at a time because I was having trouble with my lower left leg after ramping up my intensity without wearing my orthotics for 2 ½ months. I had resigned myself to the idea that I might need to walk the run leg of the race. Just 4 days before the race I was finally able to run for more than 20 minutes and I cried with relief. I wanted to do this pretty badly!

I felt pretty good heading out. I knew my leg was warmed up well too, though they both felt wooden for about the first mile. I clipped along checking my heart rate every so often. It was hard to know just how much to push my leg. I know I can run comfortably with my heart rate, in race conditions, at 168-171. I kept it at 165-166 to keep from pushing on my leg! My time for the run ended up being a little over 32 minutes. While I was disappointed, I know I can’t complain. Especially after Charis reminded me that I hadn’t really run for 5 weeks! I didn’t have an ipod either because they’re not allowed. (Though I saw numerous women wearing them anyway!) I walked 3 or 4 steps for water at the first water stop and then ran through a sprinkler. At the half way point they had a fire hose, which I ran through! I walked for some water again and couldn’t believe how great I felt, so I took it up a notch. I started to feel my leg, but it wasn’t too bad and I was almost to the finish! The closer I got to the finish line, the harder I pushed and it was difficult to move through the many people that were strolling to the finish! People were cheering and clapping and before I knew it I was crossing the timing mat!

Thank you, God! Thank you for seeing me through so much! Race day was mostly about celebrating the journey, for me. I did it! I really did it! That had to be one of the best feelings of my life. Charis was there and we grabbed each other and just cried. We’re such girls!! She had held her finishers medal to put around my neck and I did the same for her. What an incredible moment!!! What an awesome day. An ordained journey. According to Sally Edwards, I can now say, “I am an invincible triathlete!”

I think this one says it all.

Incredibly, I had completed my goal to do a triathlon! It had been less than one year since I had partnered with the Lord to pursue it. The journey had been about so much more than that one race! God used it to cultivate strength in my body, mind and spirit. I discovered so much about who I am, who He is and how He loves me and what He wants for my life. I'm sure I sound silly when I describe triathlon as a spiritual experience. I know it's not the triathlon that is. It's my life. Triathlon is a gift that allowed me to more fully embrace my life and the wholeness of who God created me to be. And I'm deeply grateful for His mercy and grace!