Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Race Day: The Run

I knew coming into this adventure that running would be my Achilles heel. Not only have I never been a strong runner, but I've never enjoyed running. This was an area I really surprised myself in the process of training. Did I fall in love with running? No. But I realized I could do it. Back in February when our coaches said we'd start with 4 miles, I though I was going to die. Then only 3 months later I was running 7.5 mi with the girls no problem.

Also, transitioning between swim and bike was simple. Transitioning between bike and run on the other hand... your body goes through the awkward phase where you don't feel quite in control of you appendages.

When I pulled into the transition area on my bike, it was pretty easy to switch shoes, throw on my bib and just take off again. And as I mentioned in my last post, my endorphins were flowing which helped push through that initial "dear God, who took my legs and replaced them with gummy worms" feeling.
No matter the training, the first half mile of the run will always take some getting used to. The key for me was to just not think about it. As the saying goes, "just put one foot in front of the other" and everything will slowly work itself out. Once you begin to feel normal again you can focus more on picking up your speed, but being cautious that not only do you need to pace for 6.2 miles, but 6.2 miles after completing two thirds of a tri.
At this point I was still on my high and feeling good. My body felt good, my mind felt amazing, and I was surrounded by my Y-Tri team and our family and friends who cheered us all on. It wasn't until just after the 3 mi mark that I started to feel it. It was high 90's that day with a heat advisory and we were running on major city roads with no shade and an awful lot of concrete. Suddenly each step took effort, each water station was that much further away and at that point I was running in a section of closed off freeway so there were no supporters along the roadside to help boost our energy.

In the last transition I had half heartily stuffed a Cliff Shot (Gel) in my back pocket, mainly because everyone kept saying it was necessary. Up until now I had yet to use anything like that and really didn't think I would need to. But there at mile four, when my once feather light legs felt like anvils, I figured it couldn't hurt to try. So as I was coming up to the water station, I gulped it down. I didn't really know what to expect... Was this the equivalent to Popeye and a can of spinach? I trudged along with only the cheers of my teammates as fuel and then I slowly felt the my energy renewing. Did I feel like I could sprint the next mile? No. But I felt like I could keep going, which at that point was as close to a miracle as I was going to get. This pick me up only lasted about another mile but it dropped me off right where my family was waiting for me and seeing them and how excited and proud of me they were was exactly what I needed.
Then came mile 6... my nemesis in this event. The gel energy was gone, the cheering subsided, and in front of me was Capital Hill. Dear God who's idea was that? I looked at it and for the first time in the entire race, considered the possibility I might not finish. "Screw it!" I thought... "I'm walking this hill..." and just as that thought was going through my mind I heard her. Screaming like a banshee half way up the hill at the water station was Trish... my "Yoda" running coach. From the very beginning of training, Trish had singled out my hatred for hills. So every time we did hill repeats or hill strength training, she would find me and push me through while telling me why hills are so great and that I should approach them with love not hate. How appropriate, here was the ONE person I couldn't bare see me walk up this hill. So I continued on. Even in the midst of this exhaustion, you could not help but perk up and smile at Trish's ridiculous enthusiasm. She made it sound as if I were in first place crossing the finish line.

Once past the station I had the top third, most steep and unshaded section of the hill to complete. The soles of me feet felt like they were boiling and bubbling from the intense heat. For the first time in the entire run, I allowed myself to walk. Taylor, one of our swimming coaches, appeared on the side lines and she started to walk with me as she asked how I was. I just looked at her and could tell from her expression that my face must be conveying EXACTLY how I felt.

Once at the top, I began to run again. Pulling up next to me was one of my teammates who I used to pace with during many of our morning runs. We fell into stride. Every couple minutes one of us would find the energy to say something motivating while the other grunted in agreement. The finish line was finally in front of us, and my friend looked at me and said "Let's sprint this out!" and we did.
I finished my first triathlon in 3 hours and 14 minutes!

*The pictures in this post are of my actual race and me (#2589)

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