Saturday, September 24, 2011

Race Review: Valley Girl Triathlon 2011

I jumped into this sport without testing the water first. No training plans, no nutrition guidelines, not even a pair of triathlon shorts to my name. I have a road bike, some clip-on aerobars, and a helmet. Essentially, a high powered engine with no break-in period. Imagine my uncertainty when, for some unknown reason, I thought competing in the elite division of Valley Girl Triathlon sounded like a good idea. I carefully racked my dinky Cannondale alongside all the expensive Orbeas, Cervelos, and QRoos more representative of the triathlon world. It wasn’t until Loran Rogers Kerrigan sauntered up with her cup of coffee in hand, sporting her aviator sunglasses, that my nerves started to calm—slightly. In fact, my introductions to my competitive elite field are what ultimately motivated me to cool it, settle in, and use what training I had to gain back my confidence. 

Still, looking out over the water of Liberty Lake, the same wave of anxiety and anticipation I used to feel in my piano competitions took over my senses. I went back to the days of waiting for my turn to perform outside the closed door, my gloved hands clasped across my chest, rehearsing my music in my head as the music notes raced across my closed eyelids. I was surprised to again see my hands clasped across my chest. This time, I shivered with cold as I waded out into the freaking cold water!

The first wave to go, we six elite ladies stood out in the water, listening to music with a good beat and catchy rhythm. You know, the kind you seek to get pumped up or when you’re feeling especially good. Finally, Phaedra Cote couldn’t stand it.

“Let’s dance!” she suggested.

Dance? Are you kidding me?!? How am I supposed to get in “the zone?”

Dancing was the last thing I thought I’d be doing. I’m not even that much of a dancer. Looking down at the water, I realized I was concealed up to my waist, and all I had to really move were my arms. So, I wiggled a little and called it good.

Off went the gun, and suddenly my racing adrenaline was unleashed.

For me, a swim is a swim is a swim. Until I can refine my stroke and technique—my assignment for this winter and spring—I’ll settle for making it out with two arms and legs intact. If I’m still breathing—a bonus.

Out of the water and onto the bike. All but one bike was gone, so I guess I wasn’t the slowest. Still, I had some competitors to eat up on the pavement. One…two…then three. Only two ladies remained ahead of me as I transitioned from bike to run.

I laugh now thinking about what I must have looked like running my bike back to the rack. Running on tired legs plus shifting sand didn’t make for a smooth jaunt off the bike. While I didn’t watch those of you who finished the Dirty Dash, I probably looked the way you did sloshing through the mud. (Only I came out cleaner.) Thankfully, no videos or pictures have surfaced on YouTube or Facebook to captivate a hungry audience on my experience. And don’t get any ideas for future races…

The run. By far my strongest leg, I overtook one of my two last competitors with the fastest split time I’ve ever run for a mile. Really? After a swim and a bike? And no knee pain. I was really beginning to like this sport, the triathlon! Around the golf course and onward to finish in Pavilion Park. Ahead, all I ever saw of Adrianne Campbell was her backside. My legs churned, my arms pumped to carry me to a second overall finish. I knew Adrianne was there to win, so I felt honored to finish right behind a woman who gave everything she had for first. Next time, though…Next time.

My competitive nature aside, the experience at Valley Girl stands out as one I hope to never forget. The friendships I made and camaraderie I enjoyed with some of the area’s leading lady competitors made me realize I have a lot to gain from competition (I mean participation) in this sport. Racing as an underdog has its perks, but next year I’ll need to demonstrate a little more improvement on the course.

Until then, my Cannondale and I will speed onward and finish the races I set out to race. I’m told it isn’t the bike, but the engine on it, that makes the wheels turn faster. This engine held up well through the seven triathlons that followed to finish out my season. (The finances ran out first.) The year of 2012 awaits, and this engine is primed, oiled, and broken in. Having said that, this engine has ears, too. Any advice, suggestions, or hand-me-downs you can grace me with won’t go unappreciated.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I'm back...A different me

I found my old blog I started back in December of '09, the one I thought would be fun to keep as I transitioned out of undergraduate school and into the working world. Judging by the number of posts I've documented since then, my life has been anything but exciting.

Since then, however, I've transformed into a completely different person, one bent on staying healthy and fit while attempting to complete a doctorate of physical therapy program through EWU. I made it through the first year and anticipate I'll finish out my last two just like I did the first. It won't be easy, but graduate school isn't supposed to be, either.

To balance the stress I impose on myself through school, I've adopted another form of entertainment some (my family, mostly) would like to suggest is just as stressful, if not crazy. The world of triathlons has kept me incredibly motivated to stay in shape and eager to learn everything there is about true fitness and challenge. I couldn't possibly ignore the benefits I've reaped as a result of training and racing this past season. I've met some funny, motivated, and downright crazy athletes over the past year, and I've enjoyed spending time with every one of them. That, and I lost the nearly 20 pounds I gained my first few months of PT school by training and racing this past year.

Eight triathlons and countless road running races later, I sit here in the middle of September 2011 ready to improve for the 2012 season. I made it through this year, but next year I hope to come out stronger. This training season poses a few challenges I intend to conquer: transform my sloppy swim stroke to an efficient one, learn better training strategies that don't involve killing myself in an attempt to improve, and learning the art of rest. Seriously, these past 6 months I've seen little of it.

Until then, I hope you'll enjoy whatever I deem interesting enough to post. If not, you have my permission to move onto your next blog :)