Thursday, June 26, 2014

Reflections of a Runner Turned Triathlete.. Or Something Like That.

This year has been frustrating and disappointing for me to say the least. Following my amazing PR results with the 2013 Big Cottonwood Marathon, I was excited to spend the winter working on my speed and decreasing my pace so that I had a shot at qualifying for Boston with the 2014 Big Cottonwood Marathon. Unfortunately, my body has had other plans and I've been forced to scale back my mileage trying to rehab bursitis in one of my hips and knee pain (in what was previously my good knee. Eff.). This means instead of focusing on fun things like intervals and fartleks, I have been subjected to less fun things like cortisone injections, foam rolling and icing. I have very nearly approached my Sports Med doc about just amputating the damned leg and turning me into the Bionic Woman. That seemed like a much more expedient result to me.

Which brings me to my point.. it's easy when you have a goal in mind to get frustrated and give up. It's harder to step back, assess the situation and reevaluate goals for the current situation. So Boston Qualifying for me this year is pretty unlikely - it'd take a miracle for me to shave 25+ minutes off my time. Rather than throw in the towel, I decided that maybe I should expand my horizons by exploring the world of triathlons. Keep in mind I've never been a cyclist and just went on my first road ride ever a few short weeks ago... a 50 miler with some friends because God forbid I start with something more reasonable - sorry I'm not sorry. Swimming is a skill I have always known how to do due to a brief stint on a youth swim team which I bailed on because, let's be honest, what 11 year old fat kid wants to spend the summer in the pool doing laps rather than eating Hostess in front of the TV? Not this one I tell ya. But I digress.

Enter Jen. A good friend of mine from my college days at the University of Utah, she has plenty of experience with triathlons, is a personal trainer and an all around bad-ass friend to have. She's always up for an adventure and when I approached her about doing a Tri with me, she jumped on board immediately. We made a plan to do the Rock Cliff Tri at Jordanelle Reservoir near Park City, Utah. If you have to pick a first triathlon to do, you don't get much more beautiful than this place. To prepare, I had been swimming laps at a community pool once a week on my lunch hour and worked my way up in the course of a month to doing a mile non-stop. Pretty good if you ask me! My running training must have helped with that because swimming continuously is a lot harder than it looks.
Jordanelle: Cold as hell but nice to look at.

This is apparently my terrified, "WTF have I gotten myself into" face.

Please tell me that everyone looks/feels as awkward as I do in a wetsuit.
I had no doubt that I could easily complete each individual portion of the race, it was just a Sprint after all. But the thought of swimming in open water in a restrictive wetsuit (which I hadn't tried out before - stupid mistake #1) and transitioning between the events were daunting tasks in my mind. With no experience in this triathlon thing, I had no idea what to expect for any of this. I'm so grateful for Jen and her experience and confidence to help me in preparing and completing my first Tri. We had discussed our strategy beforehand and although we easily could have split up (and possibly placed in our individual age groups - it was a small field), she agreed to stick with me for at least the swim portion in case I freaked out. Which I did. I was so concerned with getting the swim done quickly and not disappointing Jen (who is a freaking rock-star in the water) that I panicked the first third of the swim. She reassured me that I was ok to take my time and gave me some pointers to get me through it. I've never been more happy to have someone I trust with me than in that moment!

Once we finished the swim and peeled the wetsuits off - which I'm pretty took as long to do as the entire stupid swim did  - I was elated to be getting on the bikes. We headed out and found ourselves riding into a wind tunnel of extraordinary force. I'm pretty sure I didn't drink even a quarter of one of my water bottles because I didn't dare take one hand off of the handlebars for fear of crashing. It got so bad at one point when we'd turned that the wind blew my bike from the shoulder of the road into the center of the two lane road. Which is unnerving when you're riding in open roads with traffic! Still, I was on dry ground and just happy to be cruising along.

My favorite part of the entire experience, however, was the run. This is my arena. I swapped shoes, grabbed my water bottle and we were off for our quick 5k run. It was an amazingly beautiful course that varied between bits of trail, boardwalk and road. My legs felt fantastic and I was grinning the entire 3 miles. We came in to the finish line and I had forgotten all about my frustration with myself on the swim and immediately blurted out "That was AWESOME! I want to do it again!!"

Going into this experience I wasn't really sure if I would like the whole triathlon thing. I have been running races from 5ks to marathons for four years now and have gotten comfortable with what to expect from them. They feel "safe" to me. I'm so happy that I decided to step outside my comfort zone and try something new and different. I loved it so much that Jen and I are planning on tackling a Half Ironman next fall together. It will be a new experience for both of us and while I still plan on doing not one but two marathons this fall, I am looking forward to the tri-training immensely. Because for me, the race is just the icing on the cake. It's the hours, miles and conversation that add up to make the journey worthwhile for me. This is my life, and I love every minute of it.

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