Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Who knew?

This past weekend a group of us went to do the Moss Park Olympic Triathlon. This was my first tri of the season and actually my first since Timberman half ironman last year (August). Needless to say, I was a bit nervous about the race and especially since my training schedule did not allow for a taper. I ran 12 miles the day before the race. And that is where the story gets interesting. Saturday morning, after running with my Fit2Endure training group, I went out to check on my bees. Yes, I have bees and yes they make honey (they are bees afterall) and yes they are so cool and yes I am a dork--- that should answer most of the basic questions. Oh, and no I have not been stung before..... until Saturday. Therefore, I did not know that it hurt so darn bad or that I would indeed have a "gross local reaction." The stupid little booger got me right where the ankle and foot meet and my whole foot became red, painful and incredibly swollen. I got some professional advice and downed a bunch of benadryl, which I also did not know would absolutely knock me on my rear, and went to bed that night praying the swelling would reside and my foot would fit into my shoe for the race. Race morning: Did you know that if you do not take medicine and then takes lots of it, you will have a hangover the next day? I did not. Now, there was a time when I was perfectly capable of functioning through a hangover or an all-nighter or any number of similar scenarios. Now, I am old and, that is not the case. It was horrible! My foot was still swollen HUGE and my head was killing me and I could have lay down on the side of the road and just fallen asleep. Not the ideal way to feel on race morning. I wasn’t going to go through with it but I packed my stuff, just in case, and drove there with everyone and stood doubled over by the truck trying to control the vomitous sensations pulsing through my body. What to do? What to do? One of the girls suggested I set up transition and then decide when the gun goes off or just drop out if I felt bad. Hmmmmm…. Not a bad idea. I go to set up transition and what do ya know, my shoelace breaks. At this point, I know it must be God telling me to just stop while I am ahead and forget the stupid race. But my Mr. Fix-it husband rigged my shoe and pulled me down to the water just as they were lining up the guys. I still had no desire to get going and I was pondering what the people swimming behind me might think of me as they swam through my puke when I hear, “Ladies, 10-9-8-7…..Go!” Please know that at this point, I truly had no intention of starting the race. I was not in a good place mentally or physically and I knew disaster was foreboding. BUT I had exactly 10 seconds to react and adrenaline, or God, or practice, or whatever took over and I snapped my goggles in place and ran right into the water with the other girls before I even knew what I had done. STUPID! STUPID! STUPID!! You absolutely cannot turn around and go back to the start against a mass of kicking and punching women in the water. I was stuck and my heart was racing and I couldn’t breathe, but if I was going to even get back to the shore, I had to calm down and breathe. So, I slowed long enough to catch my breath, swallowed a mouthful of vomit, put my head down and just focused on finishing that first swim lap. And wouldn’t ya know… by the time I rounded the first lap, I decided to try the second one.
I came out of the water 17 minutes ahead of last year’s time and that was just the boost I needed to keep going. All the way to a 2:28:xx finish-- A huge PR and a really respectable time. I was stoked!!
Here’s the thing, though: I was so close to not even starting. I was so incredibly close to not racing and missing the opportunity to know I could overcome challenges and still put up a great race. I almost missed the opportunity to gain even more insight to myself, the opportunity to challenge myself and push just a little harder than I thought I could. I almost let myself quit. Whatever it was that made me throw on my goggles and race out into the water with a bunch of flailing women, I’m really glad because I learned a lot that day about myself. I also remembered why racing has so much application to life. I didn’t walk away with a trophy on Saturday (4th place, oh well) but I walked away with these lessons heavy on my heart….

· Go ahead and proceed like it’s going to happen, you can always stop and re-evaluate along the way.

· Don’t take too much time to think about it. 10 seconds is just enough time to take the plunge and deal with the punches as they come.

· There is always another gear. You just have to decide to pedal that hard.

· Keep your friends close. Who cares about your enemies? Only your friends can lift you over the big humps.

· When you think you can’t take another step, you always can. You have to dig into your own soul and coax that athlete out, but you really can do it.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Who is a runner?

Last Saturday, July 4th, when the rest of the world was sleeping in, sunning at the beach, drinking ice cold beer and strawberry daquiris, or simply enjoying ginormous hamburgers, ice cream, apple pie and all the other tasty summer treats, I was pounding the pavement. I wasn't alone, though. Nope. Nine other silly triathletes decided to join me as I endeavored on an unsupported Olympic distance triathlon right here in sunny Lakeland, FL. We jumped right off the dock into a lake and swam 1 mile (gators be damned!), then hopped on the bikes and rode through the streets of Lakeland, and ended with a sweaty 6 mile run in the heat of the day. It was great and honestly, I really don't think I would have preferred to do anything else that day. But, thinking back over it makes me consider the running and triathlon community a bit. Maybe it's just Lakeland or maybe it's running communities in general.... I suppose it could also be the way I speak so convincingly of the fun of torturous endeavors or stupid human feats and thus recruit poor souls to do things with me. Whatever it is, I love being part of a community of people who are so in tune with the ideas of challenge, perseverance, personal sacrifice, and of course reward for a job well done (that would be the beer garden after a race)!

It's interesting to me that after high school suddenly the lines between the cool people and the dorks get a little murky and people redistribute themselves into new groups and even multiple groups based on anything from religion to sport to a love of some weird computer game. Running is one of those groups that seems boundless in regards to age, gender, nationality, ability....really, any limit at all. In one week, I may share the road with someone more than twice my age or someone who worships differently than me. I could race next to a landscaper, a doctor, or even a stay at home mom. And here's the best part! At the end, when we all stand around drinking water or Gatorade (or BEER!!!), we can talk endlessly about a common ground that unites us in some weird brotherhood. I know that every person standing there was once a beginner. I know they have all tried and failed. I know they all have accomplished something that satisfies them on a personal level like nothing else. We may never talk about it, but you can see it in the twinkle of an eye. It is apparent in the finishing moment when you see the pain on their faces contort to a smile so full of life and accomplishment. And you understand. You've been there.

I love running. I love everything about it. But I really love runners.