Monday, April 28, 2008

A St. Anthony's Triathlon Goal...


I had a goal for St. Anthony's Triathlon...to do my best time ever as this was my 4th time running the event. For those of you who know,  I am an OK swimmer (I do better with a tank on my back), a solid cyclist( the new bike is helping ALOT) and a pretty slow runner ...so my goal was simple: to get under 4 hours at St. Anthony's.  For professionals, elite athletes and those with speed in any discipline, this is a laughable goal but for me, this was something that was very important.

 I got up Sunday morning and my husband was not happy.  He had not slept well and the hotel where we were staying would not allow us to have late check out so it meant we had to check out as we headed to the race. Bummer!! I am never staying at Tradewinds again (it was the only hotel I could find with a month to go before the race...bad planning on my part) so we packed it all up at 445am and were out the door by 515am.   You gotta love Coach Beth.  She spends seasons helping  hundreds of Team in Training participants prepare for marathons.  On this race morning, she helped several TNT triathletes make it to the race site since their ride never showed up.  Once a coach, always a coach.

I start ever race morning the same. Oatmeal and a small cup of coffee.  After a quick run to 7 - 11 we were on our way to the race site.  I was amazed at how easy Steve and the crew found parking and I made it into transition with plenty of time to set my race gear.  I was nervous.  Im not really sure why.  As one official told me "Girl...this ain't your first rodeo..." Ive done this race several times and quite a few Olympic distances in the past, but I was nervous.  I had this goal in mind.

Meanwhile, my support crew of Beth, Debbie, Kim Hitsell and my beloved husband had found the Starbucks and were feeling better about the early hour.  The bad thing about St. Anthony's is that transition closes at 645am...my wave didn't start until 825.  Thats alot of standing around and waiting..and thinking...and getting nervous.  

My wave consisted of Athena women (women over 150lbs...) and women over age 60 (definitely not me...but perhaps how Ill feel when Im done with the race).  This put Sister Madonna in our wave.  For those of you who don't follow Ironman, Sister Madonna is a 76 year old nun that has done over 20 Ironman races.  She is an inspiration both spiritually and physically.  Thanks to Beth, I was able to get a picture with her the day before(see picture below) but got a chance to chat before the gun went off.  A very lovely lady!

"5 minute ladies"..the starter screamed.  5 minute felt like 5 hours.  I was ready to do this! Lets get it going!!!  Finally...the horn...and I was on a run into the water.  My first official race was on its way.

I felt better in the water and my time showed a little bit of improvement.  My best time on this swim course was 43:13.  Today's race time : 42:28.  That best time was 2004 so I am back to the form I was when first racing this distance.  I came out of the water excited.  Hey, I might make this goal today.

I could hear my husband , Beth, Debbie and Kim screaming as I exited.  You know, you don't have much time to acknowledge the people that are there supporting you but their encouragement does stick with you as you go through each stage of the race.  I held up 3 fingers...according to what I remembered at time time, I thought I was 3 minutes faster than my best time...and they cheered!!!  An average transition which included ripping off a speed suit (I didn't wear that in the past) and I was on my way with the bike.

I felt ok on the bike and I now know that the work Hector and I have put forth to make me faster is working.  My bike time dropped almost 8 minutes from my fastest year (2004) and almost 20 minutes from 2005.  It took 3 fittings to get this bike where it works for me....now I love it.  I came in faster than expected and my husband almost missed me on the course.  All of a sudden I heard him yell "Cutie!!  You're back" I had to giggle..."Didn't you expect me back?" I laughed as I dismounted and ran to transition.

The error of my day was probably not ingesting enough salt as my run, although better than last year, did suffer.  I went out on the run and there was Hector waiting for me.  He was supportive as always...and gave me some good tips but as I would find out after a few miles, my body needed more fuel and hydration.  A few hundred yards down the road were Mike and Vi with their dog Scooter cheering me on all the way.  They have been to almost ever race I have ever run...and seeing them made me smile.  Mike's deep voice is distinctive and I could hear him screaming to hold my head up as he always does.

 My feet cramped at mile 3 and I was miserable.  I had the energy and the endurance to go much farther, but my feet really hurt.  I made the turn with less than a mile to go...and there was Steve to take the last mile home with me.  It made me remember what it was like in the early days of running sprints at Clermont how he would run along the water with me when I just didn't think I could continue one more step.  I knew I would finish...and checking my watch, I was amazed.  I was ahead of schedule, even with feet that weren't functioning well.


I rounded the corner and there I was ... a full 10 minutes and 3 seconds faster than my best effort in 2004.  I could hardly believe my eyes!!  As I came into the finishing mats, Beth, Debbie and Kim were cheering like crazy on the bleachers.  A push to the finish...and I made it : 3:56:12.  For your average triathlete, a very bad day.  For me...an amazing day that brought tears to my eyes.

And at the end of the finishing area was Hector.  I asked him : "Did you ever think you would have an athlete excited about breaking 4 hours!"  But then again...do trainers really have alot of athletes that use to weigh 200lbs heavier?  He was excited and thrilled for me but he had a whole team of triathletes to care for..so he was off to celebrate with them.

Next was Rick with a hug and a grin.  For my Ironman friend, this was just another day in the park!  It was his first race since Ironman Florida and he has not trained one day since so he went out and just enjoyed the distances and finished with a smile!!

My husband was there.  Its so nice to have him at a race and so hard to schedule that time.  We got lucky this time around that he was able to join the crew!!  He is the reason I can do this.  He is always there whether it be by phone or in person to cheer me on.

All my friends were amazing and to them I must say thank you.  You guys are awesome!!  Being a spectator I think is harder work than running the race and each of you did it with style!!

My friend, Karen, finished her first Olympic in 3 hours and 6 minutes with a blistering fast swim and a solid performance overall.  Congrats Karen!! I aspire to match your speed!!!

Whats next??  Well...the hard part is next.  In two weeks I have to decided if I am running the Gulf Coast Half Ironman or doing Ironman Florida 70.3 at Disney.  Ill keep you posted.  But for today, Im going to enjoy the fact that I set a goal and completed it.  I feel like I stood at home plate and pointed at the left field wall .... took the pitch...and drove it over that wall!!  Now, lets move on to the real challenge....Ironman is on its way!!

1 comment:

Ilona said...

"Did you ever think you would have an athlete excited about breaking 4 hours!"

First off, CONGRATS!

But yes, I can relate. When my quartet came in 2nd last weekend, we were jumping up and down because we had never even hoped to come in second! 4th or 5th would have been great :) So somebody else said that, too: I bet the judges never saw somebody so happy to get 2nd place!