Several years ago, I was riding STP (the Seattle to Portland 2-day, double century bike ride) and on the first day, I got cat-called to from 2 guys in a white van. Not a nice cat-call, mind you… it was something like: “Hey, fat-ass, get out of the road.” (I was not, obviously, in biker friendly territory.) Of course it hurt my feelings, because yes, my backside was more generous than I’d like. But as I pedaled my bike I thought…. “Seriously? Screw you. This fat-ass can pedal her bike 200 miles… all YOU can do is yell at a woman out the window of a VAN.” It was a defining moment for me.
Why do I start my recap about the Texas 70.3 race this way? Because it is something I thought about while I was on the 56 mile bike. As my legs pumped as I fought the wind that day, I thought – don’t underestimate me. If anything, I have an Iron-Will and I’m going to do this. I’m not breaking any records… but small improvements mean a lot. Slow and steady. And I’m having FUN doing it. You’ve got to rock what you’ve got.
Training 4 months in Seattle for a Triathlon in Texas was tricky. I didn’t know what to expect. But as my brother says, “Plan your race and race your plan.” TRAINING. You have to trust what you’ve been doing is right and let your body go.
The morning was great. I was nervous about leaving in the last swim wave of the day. All the cut off times would be based on my wave’s departure time. The pro’s left at 7:00 am. My wave didn’t leave until 8:40 am. There was a bit of waiting around, trying to relax and not get too excited. I had my sister to keep me company. I forgot my Gu. She had an extra. Her wave left 25 minutes before mine so we had some time to hang out on shore and watch the other waves leave and chat about our strategies (i.e., don’t drown in the Bayou… keep moving forward… one thing at a time).
Once we parted and I got in with all the other “yellow” caps (40-44 age group) is where I met a gal named Tamara. She was from New Orleans. It was her first 70.3 race. Tamara asked me to help her hold some of her stuff. She said (timidly) she was worried about breaking a hole in her swim cap when she was trying to put it on. Tamara only had one full arm. The other stopped just below her elbow. Then, I heard a loud yell, “Hey Kris!” It was my Melanie (my sister’s sister-in-law). She had volunteered to pick up shoes and clothes left by the athletes so she could come out on the dock and say good luck. I gave her a hug and she said good luck. I was ready to go. So great to have a cheerleader on the dock! I lost Tamara in the mix, but hoped I would see her again on the course.
Before we knew it… it was “go time”. It was a floating start so we jumped off the dock one by one and by the time I did… the start horn went off. I started swimming. First trying to check out what I could see (or not see) under the water. Then tasting the salt water in my mouth. I honestly couldn’t really see the first red turn buoy. It seemed to be hiding behind the other yellow buoys leading out to it. When you look at 1.2 miles in open water, it seems much, much longer than that distance in the pool. Obviously, there are no walls to stop at, push off, or get a clean breath. There’s wind and waves and sighting thrown in the mix. Even though the swim distance doesn’t bother me and I can usually do that distance of swim in the pool in 40 minutes, it took me 57 minutes in open water. It was windy and the water was a little choppy. I saw a girl have a panic attack right in front of me and the lifeguard guys on surfboards had to grab her out of the water. It happens. At the first turn buoy I look down and my watch and saw all zeros. My watch wasn’t running. &^%$! I swear I hit “start” on my watch… but I guess I didn’t press hard enough. My wave went 1.5 hours after the pro wave left. So according to the master timing clock, I was trying to guess how good or bad I did in the water when I got out. Frustrating! PERSEVERANCE. My only option was to go fast and forget about it.
The race did provide wet suit strippers… but I ran right past. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine sitting down and getting back on my feet at that point. I saw my family on the chute between the water and transition. Yelling, screaming, smiling and cheering! You know you probably look like you’re dying when you get out of the water… and they are just trying to pump you up. It works! I ran to transition. Wet suit off. Socks on. Bike shoes on. Helmet. Sunglasses. Bike and out. My brother yelling behind me “How do you feel? You’re doing great!… Go go go!” They all ran around to the bike mount area while I was in transition… so I saw this cheering bunch again as I was clipping in the bike. By then, I felt much better… on the bike and ready to rock it!
I was on a borrowed steed. Rather than ship my bike, I was riding my sisters Trek Madone. “Pinkalicioius” she calls it because it is grey with pink accents and she’s got 2 pink water bottle cages on it. It didn’t bother me to not be on my own bike. It made traveling and expenses easier not to have to ship a bike. Plus, my sister and I are nearly the same height anyway. I even left all the measurements alone. No adjustments at all. I specifically picked this race because it was going to be a FLAT course overall. Leading out to the Seawall though, there was a rise which they named “Big Nasty”. Coming from Seattle… this made me laugh because most of our driveways are sloped more than this “hill”!
I got on the bike and it was warm and windy. A steady breeze was coming in off the Gulf of Mexico. I knew I was fighting the wind on my way “out”. I tried to keep my MPH over 14 because I knew that is where I needed to be to make my time. (I used to work in Galveston more than 20 years ago… so I was taking in the scenery and trying to see if I really recognized anything anymore.) We rode all the way down the coast to San Luis Pass before the turn-around. The San Luis Pass Bridge connects the island to the mainland. It’s a toll bridge. Being the joker than I am, I yelled to one of the volunteers “I don’t have $2.00 for the toll!” HUMOR. He laughed. I wonder how many times he heard that that day… or if I was the only joker. I kept looking for the turn around. However, I learned on the Lake Steven’s tri… don’t let up. You think: “Oh, it is only right up here…” but it’s always a farther than you think and if you let of the gas… you loose TIME. And time is everything. On the way back… I was happy that the wind at my back let me pedal 2+ MPH. I passed quite a few people. I always tried to be encouraging every time I would pass someone. “You’re doing great, one pedal at a time!” You have to be encouraging because some of those people are in pain. Some of those people are not going to make the time cut-off. And some of those people are saying in their heads, “What the hell am I doing here?.” I’ve been there. I also “chicked” about 4-5 guys. (Super happy about that!).
I rocked the bike. 56 miles in 3 hours and 32 minutes.
Coming into transition… again… SCREAMING FAMILY. My brother, Jim, sister-in-law, Paula, niece, Michelle, nephew, Matthew, my sister’s husband, TJ and my sister’s-sister-in-law, Melanie. They put a real smile on my face!
It was a 4 loop course all contained in Moody Gardens. By then it was about 79 or 80 degrees. I could feel the heat coming off the pavement. I ran as much as I could and gave myself walking breaks through the rest stops. I saw my sister twice on the course. She was in the wave 25 minutes ahead of me so when I was on lap 3 she was on lap 4. We ran together for about a mile or so… then she went in to the finish and I had 1 lap to go. On that 3rd lap, I saw Tamara again. She was done… finishers medal around her neck. Our eyes met and we said “HEY!” and gave each other high-five. HUMILITY. Tamara was an inspiration that day. Be humble, because people like Tamara can kick your butt on the course.
I wish I could have ran more. That is something that I will really practice on for next time. I hate to make excuses that it was hot. I was really trying to run as much as I could… but the legs would just not go. I got a cramp in my left calf I was trying to ignore. I think I also tend to OVER drink on the run. My belly was a sloshing mess.
The volunteers were incredible, as they had been all race. My family was incredible. My brother, Jim, would catch me on every run loop and ask me how I was feeling. He was awesome. I saw some people on the run that had a sign that said: “Congratulations, you’re really good at exercising!” That humor comes in handy when you’re just trying to put one foot in front of the other.
After I crossed the finish line, the announcer was completely perplexed by my name, but he got the “Brown” right. I got my Texas-shaped medal and huge hugs from my family. My brother walked with me to get my time printouts and I finished in 7 hours and 40 minutes. My goal was 7:45. So when I saw that, I cried a few tears. You have it in your head that you did so bad (because it was so hard…) and then it turns out that you did well!
TRAINING PAYS OFF. PERSEVERANCE PAYS OFF. HUMOR PAYS OFF. HUMILITY PAYS OFF.
I drank my finisher’s beer with pride.
This link is a video recap about the pros’ race… you can see the kind of course we were on. http://bcove.me/8chnhkzd
Onto the next race…. Keep moving forward and ALWAYS rock what you’ve got.