Archive for August, 2011

Did that really just happen? Did I really complete a triathlon?

Posted on August 26, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

On Sunday, August 21, 2011, I did something that was a long time coming, but I never thought possible.  I completed a triathlon.  My previous race experience includes two 5K’s that I walked.  The first was the Stagecoach Days 5K in Marshall, Texas back in 2009.  I walked it with my son.  The other race was the Father’s Day 5K (June 2011) that I walked because of soreness from canoeing the previous week.

I originally signed up for the 2010 Strathmore Women’s Triathlon, but I had an ACL injury in a skiing accident and Deanne thankfully let me roll over my entry.  I’ve been looking forward to this race for 21 months.  My training had been more focused on the running part to improve my endurance and my distance – I got the wild idea of signing up for a half marathon in September.  My goal for my first triathlon was just to finish and have fun.  However, as the day quickly approached, I begin to worry that I wasn’t ready.

The morning of the 21st came early.  My family managed to get out the door by 6am.  We arrived in Strathmore just after 7am and I set up my transition.  I guess it was obviousthat I was a newbie (my nervousness was showing) and was swarmed with other ladies offering advice or just checking on me.  I was so thankful for any and all encouragement I received.  After getting my body markings and timing chip I tried to relax.  My nerves had calmed and I enjoyed the atmosphere of the race.  It was bright, sunny, and the warmest day we’ve had all summer!

My swim heat was called.  I got my swim cap and stood on deck waiting my turn to enter the pool.  My mind was going a mile a minute.  Then it hit me – I haven’t been in a pool in a year.  I used to swim 2000m every day and it took me about an hour.  When I had to give a swim time I put down 500m in 15 minutes.  Questions raced through my head – “It’s been a year, what if I’m a lot slower now?” “Swimming was by far my strongest sport, what if I lost it all?”  “Will I finish the race or die during the swim?”  I walked to my designated lane and eased into the water, took a deep breath, and pushed off.  My first reaction was “Oh, this feels so good.  I’ve really missed swimming!”  I swam my laps, trying not to go too fast since I had a bike ride and a run left to do.  It didn’t take very long before the volunteer was telling me that I had 50m left.  Next thing I know I was out of the pool and headed to transition.

The first person I saw as I walked through the door was my husband, steadily taking pictures of me.  I was so thankful he was there (but did wonder who was watching the boys).  I got to transition and started putting on my bike gear.  I could hear the boys hollering at me and my heart swelled with pride.  My eyes might have teared up as well, but we’ll just say it was water from the pool.

I was on the bike, shoes were clipped in, and I was ready to go.  To be honest, I hadn’t been on a bike as much as I should have.  There was a fear associatedwith the fact that I would be attached to my bike and the idea of having to stop for lights or if a car pulled out in front of me kept me from training very much.  The course was amazing – it had been hand swept the day before.  As I rode, there were cheers of encouragement all around.  The volunteers that helped with traffic clapped and cheered as I went by, other race participants cheered me on as they made their way back to the transition area, and one lady rode her motorcycle up and down the bike course honking at everyone she passed.  I soon realized that one of the many voices I heard was mine as I yelled out encouragement to others.  At kilometer 9 my rear end was beginning to wonder when we were going to be done.  I reached the turn around point and started back.  Now Deanne had said that it would be a “gentle incline” on the way back.  I’ve decided that her idea of “gentle” and mine were different.  As I worked through my gears I realized that the kilometer signs weren’t coming as quickly as they had before.  At kilometer 13, my rear started screaming at me that we were done.  I kept pedaling.  Shouts of encouragement were still coming my way.  I didn’t realize how important it would be for someone to tell me what a great job I was doing, or to keep it up.  I heard a new voice around kilometer 14.  A hawk was screeching.  Yeah, he was encouraging me, too.  I tried to enjoy the scenery – the ducks in the water, the fields, even the cow lot, but the “gentle incline” was demanding my attention.  I found myself repeating a series of sentences.

“Don’t stop pedaling – if you do, you’ll fall over.”

“Don’t stop – if you do, you’ll never get started again on this hill.”

“Don’t get off the bike – if you do, you’ll never get back on.”

“You. Got. This.”

Finally I saw the big fire truck and knew I was close.  I rode back to transition and was once again greeted by my husband and kids cheering me on.  I was greeted by a lot of husbands and kids cheering for me.

I dismounted and thought I was going to have to do the 5K course bow-legged.  I got my bike shoes off and put my runners on.  I walked out of transition to the start of therun course hoping that my rear would realize we were off the bike and stop hollering at me.

I started jogging and quickly realized that I wasn’t going to be able to do my normal run: walk ratio.  I tried to run for 30 seconds and walk for 30 seconds.  Sometimes I ran more anda lot of times I walked more.  Once again the volunteers clapped and cheered all of us on.  One guy said that the water station was “just around the corner and down the street”.  Yeah, right.  He forgot to mention that you had to make a few more turns and go down a few more streets.  At kilometer 1, the muscle on the inside of my right knee cramped up on me.  What was this all about?  I thought maybe it was associated someway with the knee injury I had.  I kept going.  I finally reached the water station.  The water and Ultima were absolutely delicious.  I continued and at kilometer 2 the muscle on the inside of my left knee cramped up on me.  I finally realized that it was from the bike ride – I know that hard-core bikers have a “second knee”.  My second knees were not happy with me.  I kept going.  One of the residents had set up their sprinkler for us to run through.  God bless her.  Shortly before the turnaround point another resident had her hose out and was misting everyone as they passed.  I thanked her, and I hope she knows how much it was appreciated.  I made my way back and could see the finish line.  I had about 30m to go and my oldest (12 years) fell in step with me.  I called to his little brother (2 years) to come on and run with mommy.  He started and fell.  I had to stop and go help him up.  The three of us crossed the finish line together.  The first person I saw on the other side was my husband still taking pictures.

The next few minutes were a blur.  A young girl handed me a medal, someone was trying to hold onto my ankle to get the timing chip off, and my family was hugging me.  My body was exhausted, but my mind was racing.  I did it!  I completed my first triathlon!  I, Dawn Jackson Byars, was a triathlete.  What brought me back to planet earth was my two year old.  He was showing everyone my medal and saying “Mommy won!  My Mommy won!”  I guess he didn’t see that everyone else had a medal, too.

Wegot my gear loaded up and went to eat yummy salad and lasagna.  There were awards, raffle prizes and draw prizes.  To celebrate this being my first triathlon, I was given a lei.  I was also lucky enough to win a stability ball and Ridley’s bike repair kit.  I went to the results board curious for my times, but not wanting to make too big of a deal out of them (my goal was just to finish).

Swim: 500m – 14:53 (why was I so worried?)

Bike: 20km – 1:08:09 (this included T1 and T2)

Run: 5km – 44:54 (actually a little faster than I expected)

Total: 2:07:55.5

I still cannot get over how supportive and encouraging the volunteers and other participants were.  I tried to say “Thank you” to everyone and show as much support for other racers as they showed me.  I’m sure that I missed some people, but I hope they know that their words and encouraging smiles helped to give me the boost I needed to finish.

As we were walking out to the car my family gave me lots of hugs and told me how proud they were of me.  Once again my heart swelled with pride and my eyes teared – can’t really call it pool water now.  My little one looked up at me and once again said “Mommy, you won!”  Yes, my darling, I did.  Mommy won.  And she’s already got her sights set on next year.

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The Jacksons invade Canada

Posted on August 20, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

Tired of the relentless heat and humidity that seemed to be never ending, Mark and Sylvia Jackson set their sights on Canada.  On July 12, 2011 they boarded a small plane in Shreveport.  After a 2 hour lay over in Houston, a 4 hour plane ride, and waiting forever in customs, they could finally say that they made it.  I was at the airport with the boys eagerly waiting.  There was even a live band there to welcome them as they entered the “meeting area”.  I was so excited that they were finally there.  It’s hard to believe that it had been a year since I had seen them.

When we stepped through the airport door, they couldn’t believe it – the dreaded wall of heat didn’t smack them in the face.  It wasn’t there at all.

After a day of rest (and a lot of grocery shopping) we headed to the train station.  I was taking Mom and Dad to Kensington for lunch at Sam’s and then we were going to walk around downtown.  I know that was just what my dad traveled 2400 miles to do, but it was Stampede time and the western decor was around every corner – like they don’t get enough of that back in Texas.

We did make it out to the mountains and hit some of the more popular spots.  Dad’s excitement as we started getting into the majestic peaks was infectious. Even Zachary was hollering out “Ook, ook at that mountain!!”  Banff was our first stop where we strolled the streets and went out to see the Banff Springs Hotel.  I think Mom could have spent the entire day in Banff looking at all that was offered.  Lake Moraine was the next stop.  It was as beautiful as I remembered, but the water was higher.  There would be no walking along the shore.  Jackson and Zachary led us up the trail to the top to get a view of the lake from a higher perspective.  Mom and Dad didn’t quite make it all the way up to the top – they pooped out with about 40 ft to go.  The view they had was still amazing.  Lake Moraine is a gorgeous  shade of blue that embodies peace and serenity.  Not too far away is Lake Louise, which exhibits more of a green color.  The reason for the different colors?  Different glaciers feed the lakes and it’s the glacier sediment that gives the water its color.  Lake Louise is beautiful regardless the season, but my favorite time is on a calm, sunny day.  The mountains that surround the lake are reflected in water.  The image is nothing short of magical.

Mom and Dad also got introduced to the sport of Rugby.  They were able to watch Jackson’s last game of the season along with the semi-finals and championship game.  Having Sarah and Andy stop by helped with explaining some of what was going on.  As I learned last year, you can’t compare it to American football.  The Saracens played hard and came out on top.  Jackson was so excited to have MawMaw and ManMan there to watch his team win.

Mom and I took a beginner’s sewing class and made reversible tote bags.  We had so much fun creating something new and just hanging out together.  It has been a long time since I’ve been able to just be with my mom.  I wasn’t sure if she would enjoy it – she has sewed before, but she got to visiting with the ladies there and whipped out her cute tote bag in no time.

Brandon was kind enough to stay and watch Zachary so the rest of us could go up the Icefield’s Parkway to the Columbia Icefields.  It was quite a trek and I was thankful that Zachary wasn’t there.  He would have loved the glacier, but the 4 hour drive up there would have been torturous on all of us.  Once you get off of the Trans-Canada Highway, the big fences to keep wildlife off the road are gone.  The Icefield’s Parkway is a two lane road that twists and turns its way through the national park.  The first sign of wildlife we saw was a black bear along the side of the road searching for dandelions.  As we made the drive farther north there was more and more breathtaking scenery around every turn.  We pulled off the road to stand in awe of the view.  Dad saw a group of three mountain sheep.  There were two adults and a baby.  They had traffic backed up in both directions.  We watched them for awhile and was amazed when the baby took off up the mountain with the ease of someone crossing their backyard.

We stopped off at Mistaya Canyon.  It was a 10 minute jaunt down on old logging road that “even a grandma could make”.  There were no railings or fences – just a lot of signs warning “Fall Hazard – Please stay back from edge”.  Watching the water cut through the rock was amazing.  It was so beautiful, but if you did fall in, you’d be gone, and gone in a hurry.

We arrived at Athabasca Glacier.  You could see how much it has melted over the years.  It was hard to wrap your mind just how much ice was there (and how much more had been there in the past).  The glacier comprised 2% of the whole Columbia Icefield, which was also hard to imagine.  I guess a helicopter tour would be needed to get a full appreciation of what was there.  We loaded up on a bus and went over to the glacier to get on our tundra bus.  Zachary definitely would have loved the tires on these buses.  Our driver, Sami, was awesome.  He was a retired accountant from Japan that comes over for a few months every year to drive the buses.  It was insane, but Mom and Dad had to wear their jackets – in JULY!!  We all drank glacial water while on the glacier – it had to be the absolute best water I’ve ever had.  Our driver pointed out one mountain peak.  This was the tallest point in North America and had a triple continental divide.  Waters from this peak flowed to the Atlantic Ocean, Arctic Ocean, or the Pacific Ocean. Dad was so impressed with the glacier that he bought a hat at the gift shop – if you know my dad, you know that says quite a bit.  On the way back to Calgary we got to see a second black bear.

The next few days we spent hanging out close to home.  The trip to the icefields was amazing, but a very long day.  We took the boys to Arbour Lake (the lake by our house) so they could play on the beach and in the water.  Jackson took his MawMaw out in the paddle boat.  They puttered around the lake and even under the fountain.  Mom was in for a surprise!  The water in Canada is not the temperature of warm bathwater like it is in Texas.  We also went to Bowness Park that lies along the Bow river.  It was so peaceful to hang out by the river and lagoon – the fact that the river was a color other than brown was an added bonus.

There was one more trip to the  mountains, this time with Brandon and Zachary accompanying us.  We went to Johnston Canyon to go hiking. It was crowded, but still beautiful.  At Johnston Canyon you can hike 0.5 miles to the lower falls, 1 mile to the upper falls, or go even further to the inkpots.  The inkpots are pools of water coming from underground springs.  The algae in the pools help to give them amazing colors.  We only made it to the lower falls, but it was well worth the trip.  We were able to add elk and big horn sheep to our list of spotted wildlife.

One of my dad’s favorite places was out on our deck.  You can see Canadian Olympic Park, downtown, and the mountains from our deck.  Dad spent so much time relaxing in the deck chair and soaking up the sunshine and cooler weather.  Mom would join him and marvel at the thought that she needed a blanket in the mornings to sit out there and drink her coffee.

I believe that my parents had a great trip and enjoyed seeing some of what Canada has to offer.  I know that we loved having them here.  The grandkids were spoiled (of course).  Jackson scored an Xbox 360 and Zachary found a train table in the living room.  It was so nice to be able to get morning hugs from my daddy if only for a couple of weeks.

We love and miss you MawMaw and ManMan!  Keep going to the gym so you can do even more hiking when you come back!

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