Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Big Tri

Four years ago a friend of mine announced she was training to do a triathlon. Weeks later, she banned together with three other women and they started an all-female tri club that quickly grew from about 90 women to over 800.  This simple Tri Club turned into phenomenon... a new religion... a revolution clad in pink Underarmor. 
Four years ago that friend tried to gently recruit me to join the ever growing ranks of the tri club. But I was out of shape, exhausted, stressed and emotionally drained. 
My exact words, I believe, were "I will never do a triathlon." 
And to those words I stayed true, for several years.  Then I started running and joined the tri club for social reasons. I still stayed firm - "I will NEVER do a triathlon." I could see myself running and biking, but swimming? Never, ever EVER swimming.  No swimming. 

Obviously, I ate those words.  
Stranger things DID happened, pigs HAVE flown, and some little corner of Hell hath frozen over. Sure, it took years for me to change my mind but my mind did change and my body did train. I humbled myself, pushed myself outside of my comfort zone, faced a few deep-rooted fears, and I finally lived the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, the words I love so much but seldom follow: 
"You must do the things you think you cannot." 

If you are a newbie to the world of triathlon, this is the race you want to do - The Queen of the Hill.  All female, all support, all together.  It's a love fest, I tell you.  Very newbie friendly, very supportive, very fun.  A massage tent and a hair braiding station, "Swim Angels" along the swim course to help anyone who is panicking, a Queen's brunch with mimosas at the finish, luxury pink port-a-potties stocked with toilet paper, finisher medals and cool tech t-shirts for everyone and tiaras for the winners in all age groups. Speaking of age groups, the youngest competitor was 14 and the oldest was 75.  Most women were between the ages of 35 and 50.  These ladies rock. So inspiring!

So, the night before my race I think I slept a total of 3 broken hours.  I couldn't sleep from nerves, I suppose.  I arrived with a friend at the lake at 6:45 am. The final buoy on the turn-a-round looked so far away... further than in the practice swim.  
The swim still made me nervous - I'm not gonna lie.  I'm not a swimmer.  I just taught myself freestyle about 10 weeks ago and I was still very uncomfortable in open waters.  

But I filled my head with only good things and told myself I'd be okay.  

I was also a little stressed about being in the last "wave." You are assigned a colored swim cap based on your age group and go out in groups into the water.  My group, the white caps, were the 45-49 year olds and somehow we got to be the very last wave.  Now, from a "timing" perspective, none of that matters. You wear a devise around your ankle and it tracks your individual time so it doesn't matter when you start. But, from my perspective, I just didn't want to be going out last and then coming across the finish line so late in the race. Maybe everyone would have gone home by the time I finished!! 

But I had bigger fish to fry that morning.  The fear of the swim sat in my throat like a knot. But, when us white caps were called down to the shore and lined up single file to jump off the dock, I didn't have time to think or hesitate.  I walked to the end of the pier, and when it was my turn, I just jumped in and swam.  I kept my head focused on swimming and sighting the course and allowed myself to think of nothing else - not how cold I was, not how many people were in front of me or behind me, not how dark the water was, not how much my arms were starting to burn.  

Steady, slow, calm... steady, slow, calm.   
I'm "The Little Mommy Who Could."

Yup, there I am steady slow and calm.  Or, as my husband likes to joke - looking like a 90 year old woman.  I told him he's welcome to jump HIS ass in there and start swimming 1/4 mile with me and we'll see who comes out alive.  
That would be me, by the way.  He can't swim.

I freestyled it the whole way, which was my goal. I never panicked, never had to rest on my back, never let myself get mentally derailed. For those three things, I felt like I just became my own hero.

Getting out of that lake was the proudest moment for me.  I knew I'd be fine on the bike and I was actually looking forward to the run. The swim... oh, the swim... that was my Achilles heel.  

Wow, the problem with these photos is that unflattering white swim cap.  Good Lord!

The bike was cool.  Twelve miles, but it was pretty darn hilly. Plus, I was on a hybrid bike not a road bike so I knew my bike time would suck... and it did. It was actually my worse event of the three, but who cares?  Just tryin' to finish with a smile on my face.

By the time I got to the run I was all like "I GOT this!"  Going from a bike to running is a really difficult transition. Your legs feel like lead and it takes a little while to adjust.  Plus your muscles are all burnt out from everything and you're beginning to feel tired.  Despite all that, I ran my best 5K time ever which was surprising because I felt like I was going really slow.  

Remember my goal of just wanting to finish with a smile on my face?  

Yeah, I nailed that.

I was smiling the whole final quarter mile. The street was lined with people cheering and it brought tears of joy to my eyes. 

You know, doing a triathlon was never on my bucket list.  But, I'll jot it on there and put a big, fat check next to it.  I didn't want to do it because I didn't think I could.  The funny thing is that whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right.  

The after-party brunch was cool... awards, mimosas, food, music.  Photos taken on the pier.  
These are most of the newbies...

And these are most of the 302 competitors. 

And here is happy, proud, post-race ME.  

I had to boogie out of there to get to Tink and Rella's swim meet, most of which I missed. I smelled bad, I was clad in unflattering spandex and embarrassingly still "body marked" from the race with my age in black sharpee marker still boldly written on my calf.  But a shower would have made me miss their relay, so there you go. 

I spent the rest of the afternoon at a birthday party, had four beers, ate 20 pounds of food and fell asleep by 8:30 pm.  I was EXHAUSTED. 
Exhausted but prouder of myself than I've ever been.  
It was a good day.

Want to Tri something new?  Visit the Mullica Hill Women's Tri Club webpage or  Like them on Facebook. You can get info on training plans, link up with other female triathletes and get inspired.  It doesn't matter if you live local or not - We have members from all over!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Fourths and Tenths

This past weekend we celebrated July the Fourth and we celebrated a big birthday.

 The big One-Oh.  Double digits.  A full decade.
Pink's Tenth Birthday.

 Her due date was actually July fourth, but she obviously hung in there for a few extra days. She always gets to celebrate on the holiday weekend though.  What's better than fireworks and swimming, ice cream, sleeping in and no school on a birthday?  Not much I tell you, not much. 

The weather wasn't the best on Independence Day, but the rain held off and the celebration was "on" at our swim club.

Pink decided this was the day to finally - FINALLY- go off that diving board.  The diving board has been her nemesis for years now.  She wants to jump off of it so badly, but she has always been too scared. A few times she has ventured half-way out onto the board, but always turns back.   

I don't know what made her ready on this particular day, but when she found me and said "Mom, I think I'm going to go off the diving board," I grabbed my camera and ran over with her.

I'll be honest... I thought it would be yet another false alarm.  She has been teetering on this love-hate with the diving board for three years.  

This time, she walked straight out, didn't hesitate a second, and...

She jumped.  
Boom. Just. Like. That.

She must have promised herself she'd do this before turning 10 - and she did.  Then, she proceeded to go off that diving board about 10,000 times the rest of the weekend.  

Just one of the many ways this little girl is growing up. She'll probably always be my conscientious, responsible, 'playing it safe and by the rules' kind of girl, but it's nice to see her break out of her shell. It reminds me of another "not so little girl" who tackled some big fears just a few weeks ago.
That "big girl" would be me and that "big fear" would be the triathlon.  
Yup, I did it... and I will write another post about that very soon.  

But for now...

Happy Birthday to one of the greatest kids I know. 


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Last Week of School = Whooo Hoooo!

One is out, three to go!  

I have four kids in 3 different schools and of course this snowy winter has affected them all. They were supposed to be out on June 13th, but here we are on June 24th still rockin' the school days.  The three little ones get out tomorrow (Whooop Whooop!) but CB finished up yesterday.

Sitting outside at 6:30 am, waiting for the last bus of the 2013-2014 school year!

 CB will attend a 6 week "extended year" program throughout the summer, so she's back to school after the fourth of July... and I'm back to early morning alarm clocks and being home in the afternoon to meet the bus.  But, that's okay. She needs the continuity. In two years, she's out of school completely and forever and we're all on our own. 

Here is her first day of school photo.

And the happy last day of school photo when I picked her up a bit early.

It felt long. It felt short.  
Time is a flyin'.

By Wednesday, EVERYONE is officially ALL done and is "DONE done!"  But don't get me wrong... we still have morning swim practices Monday through Friday, Wednesday night and Saturday morning swim meets, Monday art class, Tuesday band practice and three days a week tennis lessons.  

Yeah, not quite the relaxing summers I'm used to.  But, I'm still excited!  We just need to get through the rest of this week (including my triathlon on Saturday) and we're gold!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Swimming In Open Waters With Bricks

My first triathlon is a week from tomorrow, so I've been trying to get myself both physically and mentally prepared to finish.  That is the only goal I have — to finish. It's not about my "time," or my "place." It's simply the ability to swim (without panicking or drowning), bike (without crashing or getting a flat which I don't know how to change), and run (the only thing I actually feel comfortable with). I can do all these things separately, but one week from tomorrow I must do them all in A ROW.

Why? You may ask?  I ask myself the same question quite frequently.  In fact, I was screaming it in my head the day of my first open water swim.

Two weeks ago, (after practicing in a crystal clear, chlorinated pool, alone in my lane with walls to touch at each end) I realized I needed to get into the open water.  My tri club started their open water swims at the EXACT same lake where I am doing my triathlon so that makes it even better.  Best part is that it's barely 2 miles from my house.  They host these group swims once a week for a nominal charge (covering the life guard fee at a private lake). During those 2 hours in the evening, close to 200 women are in and out of that cold, murky lake swimming their quarter mile loop.

So, I rolled up on my first day a little nervous.  Then, I parked and got out my car and got A LOT nervous.  My throat closed, my body felt numb, and some sort of inexplicable emotion gripped me.  I felt a wave of unstoppable tears swell up.  I was simply overwhelmed by what I was about to do and I couldn't get control of the tears.

So, there I was... crying, and not really able to fully stop.  I kept trying to get myself together but the longer I just stood there, the more I realized I had two choices — get in or go home.  A few friends who noticed my mini-break-down talked to me and gave me lots of calming advice. One friend who had finished her own swim offered to go out again with me, but I declined.  I had to do this on my own.

I lowered myself quickly down the little latter in order to swim out with the next group of about 10 women treading water by a floating dock. There, you waited for the signal to go. The water was colder than I could have ever imagined. It was like immersing yourself in a bath of pure ice water. I had been warned that the cold water would "take your breath away," but nothing can prepare you for this feeling.  My body started seizing up and involuntarily holding its breath. Sticking my face in the ice water and trying to blow out was harder than I dreamed.  The water was dark, though cleaner than I expected - some seaweed stuff floating around, but no fish or nasty algae and the likes.  Visibility under water was close to zero. It was as if you were swimming in coffee. So when you have no breath in you, the water is deep, ice cold, you can't see anything that isn't one inch from your face, and you doubt your ability to actually swim the full quarter mile?  It's terribly daunting.

I'll spare you the details of that swim and just jump to the ending.... I did it. Without panic. I kept my emotions and head under control. I forced myself to stay calm.  Whenever I started feeling like I was going to freak, I said to myself "Don't freak. You're fine. You got this.  Just breathe, swim, and get the *bleep* out of here."  When I rounded that last buoy and saw the ladies standing up by the dock waiting to climb out, I just swam and swam and swam with everything I had (which is still slower than a 90 year old lady).  When I made it there, I swear I wanted to raise my fists in the air, throw my head back and shout to the heavens. But, I played it cool.  Except for the goofy grin I couldn't get off my face.

It's amazing how you can start out feeling so meek and scared and incapable and like 20 minutes later feel such pride and happiness.  I guess that's why so many ladies DO this!

So, I did my first Open Water Swim which was probably the BIGGEST thing for me in this whole "triathlon training" thing. We missed the next one due to poor water quality closing the lake, so I was back just this past Tuesday.  I was less nervous and more prepared for the shocking cold. Still, as I rode my bike up to the lake and saw it, some butterflies started up.

I did it this time with no tears.  It wasn't pretty, it wasn't fast, and it was still very cold, but I did it. Afterward, my friend Lori and I went for a 12 mile bike ride. This back-to-back workout is called a "brick" - when you pair either the swim and the bike or you do a bike then the run. The idea is to prepare yourself for what it feels like to go from one event to the other.

Half-way through the bike ride, my cell phone started ringing.  I'm mid-hill and working my ass off trying to keep up with Lori who is a phenomenal athlete (and slowing it down tremendously for me and my slowness). I know who it is before I even fumble with my phone, one-handed.

"Hi, I'm in the middle of a 12 mile bike ride," I puffed, hoping that nothing catastrophic had occurred at home.

Dr. Fabulous proceeds to tell me CB has a stinky diaper to which I respond "There's nothing I can do about it right now...everyone is just gonna have to wait."  I had 6 miles to go, the sun was setting like a giant orange globe in the sky, and everyone would just have to survive without me. No one ever died of a dirty diaper.

I finished the ride guilt free, went home and changed CB. 'Coz that's how all of us TriathaMoms roll. Dr. Fabulous DID have the other girls all ready for bed, so that was a bonus.  Plus, as always, he was proud of me.

While I'm not 100% certain I'm prepared for this triathlon, I think I've had some good life training on basic survival skills. Triathlon?  Pffft.  My LIFE is a freakin' triathlon.  Bring it!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Weekend Wrap Up: Splashing, Dashing, and Father's Day

When Tink showed interest in competing in a triathlon hosted at our swim club, I went online to register her for the Kids Splash and Dash.  Then, I saw the date and called Dr. Fabulous first.  

"Honey, it's on Father's Day morning.  That means we're getting up at 6:30 am and spending our morning at this race..."  I trailed off because I felt bad.  It was Father's Day after all. I couldn't blame a dude for wanting to sleep in (not that he ever does), play golf and chill. 

"Sign her up," he said enthusiastically.  "I can't think of a better way to spend Father's Day."
For him, Father's Day is about being a Father and spending time with family. 
(This is quite the opposite of my take on Mother's Day which is about getting away from my family for a little "me" time. ) 

So, after two weeks of daily swim team practice and time trials at 7:30 am the morning before, this little peanut woke up early Sunday morning with her game face on. 

Actually, she had no game face. She was nervous.  
"I don't want to go... I'm so tired," she said meekly, laying under her covers.  
"You know what I think? I think you're nervous. And that's okay," I told her. "It's totally normal to be nervous and when you're nervous, you feel like you don't want to do it.  But I think you'll regret it if you don't go. If you let your fears stop you, you'll stop yourself from having so many great experiences in life.  I think this will be one of them."

I blathered more and more of a pep talk and it seemed to work. 
Or, she just wanted me to shut up. 

The night prior she had asked me "What if I come in first?"

I said "I'll be incredibly proud of you."

Her eyes got big and serious and she asked "But, what if I come in last?"

I said "I'll be incredibly proud of you."

Then, she went through a handful of places that she could come in... twelfth, fifty-third, second, and so on. My answer stayed the same.

"Just stepping up and doing it. Finishing what you started - that makes you a winner.  The only way you can lose is if you never try," I reminded her. 

She liked that answer.
"And just remember, no matter how slow you go? You're always lapping the person sitting on the couch." 

But, she didn't go slow.  She was steady and solid swimming the 5 laps...

... then she rocked a short transition time (drying off, putting on shorts and sneakers, hydrating) 

...and started on the one mile run. 

 She apparently had to stop twice to tie her shoe but kept a nice pace and kicked it down the home stretch to the cheers of her family and friends. 

There were almost 60 young competitors in this particular kids race, ranging in age from 6 to 14. The large majority were older than her. Yet, Tink held her own, especially with this being her first race and her being a new swimmer. The three impressive girls who won were between 11-13 years old (Yes, the first three overall were female, the first place boy came in fourth place overall!).  

We were super proud of her, but the most important thing was that she was proud of herself. She did it for her, not us. 

Here she is all like "I'm so tired... Oh, my gosh, I'm gonna die."

Here she is all like "I don't think that was very fun. I need to take a 2 year break before I do another one..."

But shortly after she's all like "Yeah, I'll do another one. That was cool."

The whole event was super fun. We saw tons of friends and community members doing either the triathlon, duathlon or splash and dash (adult and kid version). I knew all three lovely ladies who took first, second and third place female in the triathlon event. It was an awesome way to spend the morning.  

In the afternoon, we dialed it down and had a family cook-out at my in-laws. The cousins played and swam, and the grown-ups grilled and ate. 

We did a little birthday celebration for CB and Dr. Fabulous.

Years and years ago, before the other girls came along, it was just the three of us - me, CB and Dr. Fab.

Here's the thing about Dr. Fabulous. While we were engaged, he bought us a minivan. He knew it would be filled almost to capacity within a few short years... and it was.  

He's a family man. It all begins and ends with family. 

Man, I love these guys.   

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