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Running with the Monsters at the Monsters Kids’ Tri!

Posted on November 13, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , |

On October 18, 2014, my 5 year old donned his jammers and goggles and splashed into the world of triathlon again.  He was phenomenal at his first tri and I couldn’t wait to watch him in action.  My mom even came to visit so she could squeeze in a tri, baseball game, and some early Halloween fun.  It was to be a long and busy day.

Our day started early – not Disney race early, but 5am is still pretty early for a 5 year old.  We were headed back to Keller, Texas so he could complete the Monster Kids’ Triathlon.  He was in the Leap Frog category again with a 25m swim, 1 mile swim, and a 1/3 mile run.  The weather was just beginning to turn cool – and you could even go as far to say “chilly” in the predawn hours – but the wind was calm and there was no wet stuff coming down.

After waiting in line to get body marked, we were allowed into transition.  He picked out a transition spot and we set out his gear.  Poor guy was so tired he tried to catch a few more Z’s on his transition-Bat-towel.  We were not quite as early to this race so there wasn’t much time to kill before the swim.

Mom went to the upper deck to watch the swim while I hung out just beyond the doors to the pool deck (the race allowed one parent to be on deck while the child was in the water).  When I saw my triathlete line up for the next heat I made my way through the maze of parents to the deck.  Speaking of the parents, allow me to go off on a slight tangent…  I absolutely LOVED seeing all the shirts/jackets that the parents were wearing from various races.  Several were wearing jackets from the previous year’s Monster Triathlon (the grown up race was following day), but there were numerous 70.3 and 140.6 races represented as well.  Being around all that triathlon mojo made me realize that it’s time to get back into the swim/bike/run swing of things.

Back to the race at hand.  The boy’s on the far side of the pool waiting to get the “Go!” signal.  He jumps in with a splash and he’s off!  Leap Frog’s only go one length of the pool and there is one child/lane.  Each lane also has a volunteer that swims with a noodle alongside the child just in case they are needed.  Imagine the vigilant teenage helper drifting next to my 5 year old as he boogies down the lane.  Now see if you can picture the shock that crosses the ever vigilant teenage helper’s face when suddenly the 5 year old disappears under water.  For some reason that was completely rational in a 5 year old’s universe, my triathlete began to swim underwater rather than on the surface.  However, thanks to the lack of lung capacity, he doesn’t get very far before a breath has to be taken.  His head pops up, the ever vigilant teen helper (that is still in shock and not sure what to do) practically melts with relief, and the necessary breath is taken.  The swimmer then ducks back under water and the cycle repeats.  Want to know an interesting fact about 5 year old swimmers – at least my 5 year old swimmer?  When going under water, there was no diving under at an angle (in order to continually move forward).  Instead my little swimmer did surface dives and went down vertically before swimming on the horizontal plane.  When a breath was needed, the ascent was just as perpendicular to the floor of the pool as the decent.  He was still fairly quick in the pool compared to the others in his heat, and every time his head breeched the surface – his smile got bigger.  On the way to transition I asked him why he wanted to swim underwater.  His response?  Because under the water “I can go super shark speed without that drag that’s on the top”.

    

After a quick transition, he was at the mount line for the bike.  He still needs help getting started on the bike so I held him upright long enough for him to get both feet on the pedals and he was off!  During his first tri my husband tried to keep up with him throughout the bike and the run in case he got into a spot of trouble.  This time around the kiddo was going to be on his own.  The previous weekend my guy did the Kids’ Dash and I did the half marathon at the Showdown.  I was dealing with some ankle/tendon issues and knew I wouldn’t be able to go along with him.  Not that I would have been able to keep up with Speed Racer even if I was at 100%.

     

I watched him pedal off into the distance.  Mom and I anxiously waited to see him coming around the bend.  And we waited a little longer.  And a little longer.  I began to have a nagging thought that something was wrong – he went off course and was on his own, he had crashed, or something simple as stopping while on the bike and not being able to get started again.  I started walking, certain that I would see him any second.  When I still couldn’t see him in the distance, I started running hobbling as fast as I could.  When I saw him, I had to smile…  there he was, cruising along, chatting with a fellow competitor. He gave me a big smile and wave as he passed and I had to book it back to transition.

My ankle was screaming at me by this point and of course he beat me back.  The kiddo got ready to run and was soon out of transition and down the path.  Mom waited at the finish line and I made my way a short distance down the run path to cheer him on.  Soon enough, there he was.  He had slowed down some, but he was still running.  He crossed the finish line, received his medal, and started searching for the post race breakfast.  He was a little disappointed that there were no donuts this time, but that didn’t stop him from scarfing down the pancakes.

I hope that this interest in triathlon continues and develops into a passion that will continue to enrich his life.  One of my favorite parts any race he does is when it’s all over.  Not because I’m itching to get gone, but because he feels like he won.  It doesn’t matter if there are 50 kids that crossed the line a split second before he did – he ALWAYS feels like he won first place.  To me that is amazing – to see finishing as an achievement and that your only true competitor is yourself.

First Race Photo!

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Pounding the pavement at The Showdown Half Marathon

Posted on October 20, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , |

After a long hiatus, it was time.  Time to lace up my running shoes and pound that pavement once again.  The race I chose?  The Showdown Half Marathon in Fairview, Texas (October 11, 2014).  It is put on by the same race director from the New Year’s Double I did last year, so I knew it was going to be awesome!  Libby had so many perks for this race including free child care for runners and a free race photo!  The idea behind the Showdown Half is the annual football game between the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma, also known as the Red River Showdown.  Racers are given a bib, race t shirt, and a medal in the colors of the team they choose to support.  This is fantastic!  I only had one problem – Texas A&M wasn’t a choice.  So what do you do when the team you support isn’t playing in the Red River Showdown?  You can go with the “neutral” option and get your race goodies in a color that is not associated with either school.  This year, the neutral color was plum purple.  I decided to go neutral and I would sport some Aggie gear so that they, too would have a presence at the race.  I even personalized my bib with “Gig ’em Aggies!”

My training leading up to this race was splotchy and sporadic to say the least.  The hardware still needs to be removed from my ankle which means I do the complete opposite of “pushing myself”.  I do not train as often (or as hard) as I should.  Basically my goal is to get through the race without my ankle hollering at me.

When I volunteered to help set up tables and unbox boxes for packet pick up, I met Libby, the race director.  I’ve heard so many people say that she is as awesome as the races she puts on.  They are right.  I thoroughly enjoyed meeting her and seeing a little of the “behind the scenes” of a race.

As race day approached, the temperature and humidity were high.  I was more than slightly nervous.  There is a reason that I did not venture down the running road until we had moved to Calgary.  I learned at the Stampede race in Calgary that the humidity has more of an effect on me than temperature, but when they are both high, it takes a miracle (and a lot of water over the head) to finish.  The racing gods took pity on me (or Libby has super powers and can control the weather).  Either way, a storm came through the region Friday night.  That left Saturday morning cool and breezy.  The humidity was higher than I would have liked, but we aren’t in Calgary anymore…

My five year old was signed up for the Kids’ Dash and thankfully it was before the half.  I LOVE this small detail.  As a runner that likes to get her registration money’s worth (read between the lines:  I’m slow), I often do not get to watch my little one run.  We showed up with chilly temps and enough mist to almost be called light rain.  Start time for the kids’ race was 7am.  “The sun’s not up yet.  I get to run IN THE DARK?!”  He was a little more than excited at the prospect of running a predawn race.  The race official said “GO!” and off they went!  I watched my guy as he crossed the finish line and received his dog tags with a huge smile on his face.  He broke out in his “happy dance” because he won.  I don’t know where he got this idea that he ALWAYS wins first place.  It might be the fact that he gets a finisher medal or trophy when he crosses the line.  It might be that I look at every finish as a win – let’s face it, I will not be stepping on the podium anytime soon.  It might be a combination of the two or something else completely different.  Whatever it is, I love it.  I love how he looks at every finish as a win and not a “I didn’t come in first. *pouty face*”  My hope is that he holds onto that feeling.  That it is a win to cross the line regardless how many people cross before you.  That the only competitor you have to worry about beating is yourself.

With the kids’ race finished, it was time for me to switch from a spectator to a runner.  I met up with a few of the Half Fanatics and chatted with them before it was time to line up.  I had a “civilized” conversation with one about the color choice she made.

No worries – no Texas fan was harmed in the making of this picture.

Photo Credit: Showdown Half Marathon

The mist had lightened up as we lined up to start.  I had time to look around twice and then it was go time.  Libby wasn’t kidding when she told me the races start on time.  You can imagine my surprise when I saw Thor and Captain America racing.  I knew a certain little super hero that was going to be jealous when he found out that mommy got to run with them!  When I realized that I was AHEAD of them (at least for a little while), I was on Cloud 9.   I soon settled in a nice 30:30 and did my thing.  I was surprised that I kept pace with the 3 hour pace group for so long (they were doing 4:1).  I took it easy, walked through aid stations, walked when I had my gels, and took an extra break when needed.  The course took us through the rolling hills of Fairview.  The hills here are not like what you would see in the Texas Hill Country or in the foothills of the Rockies, but there were inclines and I’m not too proud to say that a few of them hurt.

I did really well for the most part until mile 9.  The 30:30 ratio was working well and I felt good.  The only consistent problem I had was with the humidity.  The temperature felt great and as long as the breeze was blowing, I was fine.  There were a few instances when the air was still, that I got lightheaded.  It happens in high humidity, but I’ve learned not to panic.  I just slow down and focus on breathing.  When I feel better, I pick it back Showdown Halfup.  The mile 6 aid station was packing up as I arrived and for a brief moment I thought that the course had closed.  Good news was that the course was open – bad news was they were out of water.  At mile 9, my ankle started talking to me.  I knew my pace was slowing down, but I kept going.  I hadn’t even thought about the possibility of a PR, but began doing the math in my head.  Maybe – just maybe – I could pull it off and get one.  Maybe… if my ankle holds and there are no more hil – oh look, a hill.  A long hill that is just steep enough to be steep to me.  I put the notion of a PR out of my mind.  I kept moving and around mile 12, my right calf threatened to seize up when I ran.  I ran when I could and walked when I needed to.

When I could see the finish, I ran it in.  My ankle was expressing unhappiness, but I was determined to cross the line running.  I prayed that my calf would hold out and not seize up.  If it did, the photographer would get some great pictures of me crawling across the line.  I was able to finish upright (always a good thing) and looking at the race clock I realized that I just PR’d.  I couldn’t believe it… after all the time spent chasing a PR, I finally got one!  My excitement took a momentary back seat when I realized that my leg muscles decided at that point in time to go on strike.  I begin to think that I was going to be the last person there, glued to that spot unable to move.  At the finish volunteers passed out medals, mini bundt cakes, water, and the Active Joe series medals (if you ran more than one of Libby’s races this year).  I slowly and painfully made my way through all the goodies to the line for complimentary stretching.  A very much appreciated perk without which I don’t know I could have made it to the truck.  I will definitely be doing this one again – someone’s gotta sport the maroon, right?

The aftermath of any race is physically painful.  I’m still dealing with some lingering tendonitis issues from the race so once again training has been put on hold.  Even though my relationship with ice and Aleve has gotten deeper since raceday, I’m still basking in the glow of a PR.  I managed to cut over 2.5 minutes off my time.  For a lot of people 2.5 minutes isn’t much in the grand scheme of life – just a blink of an eye.  To me, it’s something more.  It is an accomplishment that I had pretty much written off.  I choose to look at those 2.5 minutes and see more than just the number of seconds.  I choose to see the strength it took to overcome pain and other health issues, the determination to finish, the courage to tell the nagging inner voice to hush, and the proof that I am getting better.  I usually feel like I’m pushing a boulder up a muddy hill given all the “pains” I’ve had.  Now I know that I am improving and can continue to improve… just as soon as I can get out there and pound the pavement.

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He’s finally something his big brother is not – a triathlete!

Posted on October 4, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: |

2011

2012

My younger son first crossed a finish line with me in 2011 when he was 2.5 years old.  I was competing in the Strathmore Women’s Sprint Triathlon and kids were allowed to run the last few yards with their moms and celebrate crossing that finish line with them.  This was my first triathlon and both my boys were there to celebrate and cross the line with me.  It was a very joyous occasion full of smiles and tears of happiness.  I did the same race the following year and once again my little one crossed the line with me.  He was ahead of me and totally thought he won and wanted to know why he didn’t get the medal. The racing bug had taken hold and wasn’t going to let go.  He competed in a few kids’ foot races over the next few years and all that did was whet his appetite.  At the age of four, he asked me if I would teach him “how to do one of those races where you swim, ride your bike, and then run really fast”.  I was so excited that he was wanting to jump into this world with me.

Rock the park triThe search for a kids’ triathlon got put on the back burner because we were facing an international move.  Once we got settled in our new place, I started my search again for kids’ tris that went as young as 5.  Found one!  I signed him up for the Rock the Park Kids’ Tri in Keller, Texas (September 27, 2014). For his age group it would be a 25m swim, 1 mile bike, and a 1/3 mile run.  I told him about it expecting a lot of excited shouting and dancing around.  What I got was more along the lines of “Oh, why did you do that?  Cancel my registration and get your money back.  I don’t want to do it.”  I tried not to let my disappointment show as I calmly said that I couldn’t cancel his registration and he needed to at least try.

To help him get ready for the tri and learn what all happens during transition, we staged a mini-tri at the house.  I don’t even know what the distances were.  He swam two lengths of the pool and then we went around to the front to his transition area. We went over the rules and went through the motions.  He was soon on his bike and gone.  After a few laps around the cul-de-sac, he was back at transition getting ready for the run.  Off he went at “maximum cheetah speed!”  When he got done, he was all smiles and laughs saying that he wanted to do it again (except not the swim because that was cold).  So he did multiple bike/run bricks and loved every second of it.

Batman’s T1

In the days approaching his first tri, the excitement level depended on what minute of the day it was.   He would be so excited, and then not want to go.  His dad and I stayed positive and didn’t make a huge deal out of the race.  On race morning we got up at 5-something in the morning and hit the road to Keller.  We got there with no problems and had plenty of spots to choose from in transition.  I was amazed at the size of transition.  He basically had a parking spot to himself.  After getting his body marked, we traced the steps that he would take – from the pool to his transition spot to the mount line and then which direction to go for the run.

He was in the younger group so they got to go before the bigger kids.  As he waited for his heat to start the swim, my husband expressed concern about the lack of a life jacket.  He only had to go 25m in the water, but that pool was quite a bit bigger than the one at our house.  I had brought his life jacket incase he would be more comfortable with it on, but he was adamant about not wearing it.  So my husband and I waited, not knowing what to expect.  For the younger kids, there is only one child/lane and there is a volunteer that swims with them should something go awry.  His heat is called.  He gets ready. He goes!  His swim stroke is the ever efficient doggy paddle, but he was across the pool in no time and second out of the water.  My husband was waiting for him on deck and off they went to transition.

One parent is allowed in transition to help and this time it was my husband.  I was on photography duty.  T1 went smooth and he quickly walked his bike to the mount line. I witnessed several kids that wiped out or would stop and needed help getting started again. The only help my kiddo required was to hold him steady while he started on the bike. His dad had planned on running along the bike course so that he could help if needed.  I don’t think he expected to get left in the dust.  The kid was gone.  Next thing I know he’s coming back and is stopped at the dismount line.  Back into transition to leave the helmet and the bike and he’s off on the run.

Once again, my husband intended to run this part of the race with my son.  Once again, my husband got left in the dust.  I watched my little one fly past people as he raced down the path.  He was around the bend and out of sight long before his dad arrived.  When I finally saw him again, I couldn’t believe it. He was still running!  I fully expected him to have pooped out by now.  He kept going until he crossed the finish line and got his finisher’s trophy.  Not quite understanding the concept of a “finisher award”, he excitedly told me he won first place and proudly showed me his trophy.

I asked him what he thought and he responded with a huge grin, big thumbs up, and an “I loved it!”.  I am over the moon and on Cloud 9!  I knew he would enjoy it once he got going.  My husband and I are both amazed at how well he did.  He was fast on the swim, super fast on the bike, and “maximum cheetah speed” fast on the run.  It was like he was able to just spread his wings and fly at this race.  While walking to the car, I told him that he is finally something his teenage brother is not.  “What’s that?”  “A triathlete, kiddo.  You are now a triathlete, and your brother cannot say the same.”  His eyes got wide as this information was processed in his brain.  At last, here was an occasion where he beat his brother.  When he showed his brother the body markings and trophy while telling his race story, there was a definite hint of smugness.

His second tri is coming up and we are back to the minute-by-minute fickleness.  I know that once he gets there he’s gonna love it.  Once again he’ll go “maximum cheetah speed” fast.  And once again, he will finish the race with a smile splashed across his face as his love for the sport grows a little more.  Oh, and the teenage brother still will not be able to call himself a “triathlete”.

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Running out the old and running in the new – New Years Double

Posted on January 13, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: |

If you read some of my previous posts, you’ll recall that I was so excited to have been accepted to the Half Fanatic Asylum that I signed up for three more races.  The first was Space Coast, and the other two made up the New Years Double.  The Double took place in Allen, Texas – which happened to be the town that we were moving to!  I took it as a sign that I had to register.

I didn’t think much about the race in the months leading up to it.  I did Dumbo (10K and Half) and Space Coast, but majority of time was spent getting my kids (and me) settled in a new town and with a new routine.  The New Year’s Eve race kind of snuck up on me.  I had not done any running since Space Coast and a couple of weeks before the back-to-back races, I was pretty ill.  I had even debated doing the races at all.  I tend to get nervous before every race and will try to talk myself out of it.  However, I felt physically ok and the race was sold out.  I would have felt bad just not going when others that really wanted to weren’t able to get in.  The start line was less than a mile from my house – did I mention that I was destined to do this race?

As I gathered my gear the night before I realized that I could sleep until 7am.  That’s seven o’clock in the a.m.!  Do you realize how rare this is?  Sure isn’t anything like the 2am wake up calls at Disney.  I had originally intended to walk to Celebration Park, but it was pretty chilly outside.  Frost on the ground crunched under my feet as I walked out to the truck.  It was in the low 20’s.  I went back inside and grabbed a jacket.

HF pictureI arrived at the park and the 5K was underway.  I stood around with other runners trying to keep warm.  Guess it doesn’t take that long to get acclimated to Texas weather.  It was -6C and when I was training for Goofy at WDW that was warm to me.  Now here I am in running pants and a jacket, wishing I had put on my ear warmers.  At 8:20, a group of fanatics snapped a couple of pictures and soon it was time to go.

NYEWhile waiting for my corral to be called I cheered on the speedy people that were starting.  It was here that I met Lauren.  I told her I was planning to do a 15:45 ratio and she said she’d give it try.  We waited patiently for them to call our corral.  Standing there, still waiting… The emcee was talking about how “all runners should be running now”.  Ummmm Excuse me?  You never called our corral.  Were we the only two people in corral J?  The emcee told us to get going.  I think they did the first few corrals, and then kind of mushed the last few together.  Along the course we saw many other “J’s”, obviously Lauren and I were the only two that are deaf or can’t listen to and comprehend directions.

woodsThis race was a 6.55-mile loop – two loops for the half, four for the full.  The way they had us run through the park, it was the longest part of the journey.  Sometimes I didn’t think I would ever finish that part.  Once out of the park, the course went through a tunnel (under the road) and then down a nice wide path.  We got to go pass a pond and a chicken farm, over a creek and through the woods (but not to Grandmother’s house), to a very large loop and then back the way we came.  As the miles passed, I warmed up and was cursing myself for wearing pants and a jacket.  This always happens to me.  I’d rather freeze at first than get hot later in the run.

neverending parkWe were over halfway done and Lauren was itching to cut loose and go.  I told her to go ahead and run her race, I’d catch up to her at the finish line.  Things were going well and I was still feeling strong with my ratio.  I had less than a 5K to go when a runner (doing the full) was coming towards me and just crumbled.  It was almost like magic.  One second he’s standing tall and looking strong and the next – “POOF!” – he’s in a ball on the ground.  It was just a muscle cramp, but even a muscle cramp can be debilitating.  After checking on him, I kept going.  I’m about 2.5 miles from the finish and I can start to feel my calf muscles – both of my calf muscles.  I kept pushing and soon realized that if I didn’t do something soon, I was going to be crawling to the finish.  I slowed my run part and my muscles still felt like they were going to seize up.  I cut out running and just walked.  That seemed to help.  Periodically I would try to run when my timer beeped and I got a couple of steps and then had to stop.  It’s a very surreal feeling – having both of my lower legs threatening to just simultaneously stop working.  I come out of the tunnel and all that’s left is the park.  This freaking park that went on forever.

Park againAt mile 13, there was a photographer.  Like all runners, when I see a photographer, I run, smile, and wave.  I ran two steps and sure enough my calves seized up.  Here I was running for the camera, smile on my face, and having fun.  Then the smile turned into a grimace of pain, the waving arms began to flail, and I almost face planted on the concrete.  I’m sure the photographer got some pretty amusing shots.  I managed to keep my feet under me (not sure how) and walked towards the finish.  I rounded the next corner and saw my husband and kiddos there cheering me on.  Quick stop for a hug and the four year old joined me on the course.  Rounding the last turn before the finish, I shooed him off the course (he was NOT happy with me about that) and ended up on the side to keep going for another loop.  I was trying to walk across to the finish line and a runner was coming through (on his way out to do another loop).  I tried to run out of his way and once again felt the muscle failure in my legs.  I managed to not have a collision with the runner AND not to fall – double victory for me!  I crossed the finish line and got my medal.

And I have to do this again tomorrow?  What was I thinking?  Why do I have such a hard time training consistently?

New Year’s Day.  Once again, I’m so grateful for the 7am wake up call.  I had decided that today I was going to go in shorts and without my jacket.  I had looked at the weather and the temperatures were going to be a little higher than the day before.  Just stepping out my front door convinced me otherwise.  Yes the temperature was higher than the day before, but the wind had also increased.  It felt even colder than yesterday.  I had already made up my mind about just walking the course today, so I grabbed my pants and jacket (still forgot my ear warmers) and left.

I met up with Lauren again and she was also planning to walk it out today.  We made sure to pay close attention to the emcee and go when we were supposed to.  There were a lot of people walking today.  I wore my HF shirt today and loved receiving the cheers and high-fives.  Half fanatics are awesome!

Go runnersNYD Day1Ours was a slower pace today.  About halfway I started to feel a pinpoint of pain on the bottom of my foot.  All I could do was keep moving.  And I did.  I found out after I got to the house that it was a blister that formed.  It hurt to touch it to anything for a couple of days (made walking interesting).  But let me get back to my tale.  Let’s talk about wind.  The only good think about wind and a loop course is that at some point, you get a tail wind, right?  I thought so.  It was the only redeeming quality about the cold wind that cut through me.  The wind seemed to be particularly strong (and cold) when it was blowing in my face.  I pushed through it and kept imagining how great it will be to have the wind pushing me along the course rather than backwards.  I reached the portion of the course where this tail wind should kick in.  Wait a second… where’s the wind?  Where’s my glorious tail wind?  It had died.  Okay.  I can deal with that.  I don’t get help from the wind, but at least I won’t have to fight it anymore.  I get down to the turn around loop and head back to Celebration Park.  Oh, come on… Seriously?  The wind is back in full strength – blowing straight into my face.

NYD Day5I did manage to run it in to the finish.  I really appreciate the fact that there is a short “finish chute”.  You turn the last corner and the finish line is right there.  Some races seem to have an extremely long finish chute, or make you run all the way around a track.  I crossed the line and got my second medal and…. A space blanket!  I was so excited about getting the blanket for two reasons:  1).  It was still chilly with the wind blowing 2).  They generally always run out of the space blankets by the time I cross the finish line.

Because I did a double, I got to pick up my challenge plate.  I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I’ve seen medals before that fit together and a lot of the time it doesn’t fit properly or you have to mount them on a plaque.  The plate was fantastic!  There were magnets that held the two medals in place.  The ribbons were disconnected from the medals and attached to the plate.  So it ended up being a HUGE medal with two ribbons.  Love it!

Injured husbandMy four year old ran up to me while I was getting my plate.  I was so happy to see him – I wasn’t expecting my family to show up today.  My little boy gave me a huge hug and asked me if I won.  Of course Mommy won!  Every time I cross a finish line – I win.  My husband slowly made his way over to me.  He wasn’t putting any weight on his left foot.  Turns out they were playing tag while waiting on me to finish.  My husband was “it” and running down some stairs at the playground.  He rolled his ankle and fell.  I got all my gear gathered up and we started out to the parking lot.  Here I am – decked out in running gear with bling around my neck, pretty obvious that I just finished a race – on one side of my husband and my four year old on the other side.  My husband was able to get a sense of how big that park really is.  The cars seemed to be on the horizon that kept receding as we worked our way across the field.  We must have been a funny sight.  The bike medic even stopped and came over to check on us.

Bikini boyPoster ladyI really enjoyed this race (even with the chill in the air) and can’t wait to do it again next year.  It’s a fabulous course for spectators to come and cheer you on, too!  The family can enjoy the park and playground while you run around.  The way the course was laid out, you passed people several times during the race.  It gave me several chances to see people.  There was one lady that cheered everyone on.  She had so many signs with her and every time I passed her she was holding a different one.  She was there both days and I never saw a sign twice.  Many people were in costumes.  Batgirl was there, along with Mary Poppins and one of the penguins.  One guy had a grass skirt and coconut bra, but as the race progressed, he seemed to lose some of his clothes.  I also had a chance to run with the mighty Thor, and yes, he was carrying Mjölnir.

There is one thing that I hope to change before next year – me training consistently. Well, the weather, too.  But no one can control the weather and it could have been so much worse – remember MetroPCS Dallas?  So I’m thankful for what we got.

NYD

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Finally feel like I belong… Space Coast 2013

Posted on December 10, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |


After my great race went bad in July, I had decided that I was burned out on running.  I had already signed up for the Dumbo Double Dare (10K and Half) so I was committed to that – but no more!  I would drop running completely and focus on swimming.  Yes, I realize I was also saying goodbye to triathlons as well, and while that made me sad, I was ok with it.  That’s how done I was.  That race in July was my qualifier for Half Fanatics.  Once I was accepted to Half Fanatics, everything changed.  I quickly signed up for three more races and Space Coast was one of them.

I hee-hawed back and forth about doing the full or “just the half”.  I didn’t like the idea of traveling that far for 13.1 miles, but I needed to find the joy in running again.  Space Coast was going to by my “fun race”.  I had seven hours to complete a half and figured I could take my time, enjoy the scenery, and crawl if needed to the finish line.  As the race got closer, my excitement built.  I was so looking forward to this race.  I wasn’t sure what to expect this weekend.  My only other destination races were to Disney so at least there were the parks to go visit.  My thought was that I could crawl out of my comfort zone and maybe, just maybe, meet new people.

I landed in Florida the Friday before the race and got on the shuttle to my resort.  I chose to stay at the Radisson.  It appeared to be the main host hotel (it’s where the pre-race dinner would be).  When making the reservation, I thought this meant that I would be able to walk to the expo or at least have transportation there.  I would be wrong.  Thankfully a friend was driving over to the race and agreed to let me tag along with her family to the expo.

I didn’t do much on Friday, just tried to relax.  I did notice ants in my hotel room, but they were of the sugar variety so I wasn’t too concerned.  Because of the timing of the flight, I ate a late lunch (or early dinner) at the hotel restaurant.  With the exception of one other lady and her guide dog, I had the place to myself.  As I sat and enjoyed my meal, my ears picked up “Dumbo Double Dare”.  I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop on her phone conversation, but once your interest has been piqued, it’s hard to turn it off.  I finished my meal, paid my bill, and headed out of the restaurant.  On my way out, I stopped and talked to this complete stranger.  “Excuse me, I didn’t mean to overhear, but you should do Dumbo.”  Next thing I know I’m sitting down and we are chatting like old friends.  This was to be Candice’s first half marathon.  Her guide dog would be the first one to complete the Space Coast race.  She was nervous and excited and scared at the thought of doing it.  She admitted that she had started training, but once it got cold she stopped.  She was afraid her body wouldn’t be able to do it.  I told her that this would be a great first race – pretty much flat, and a 7-hour time limit.  While chatting, I admitted that I’ve not run at all since Dumbo.  Three months with no training…  I was confident that I would finish, but not sure of the shape my body would be in afterwards.  I spent the evening in my room relaxing and watching “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”.

Saturday I woke up and noticed the ants had made themselves more comfortable.  After I called the front desk and requested new bedding, I waited out front for my ride to the expo (aka Christine and family).  I was so glad I was able to see her again.  Come to think of it, I’ve seen her three times in one year.  That was more than I saw my mom when we were living in Calgary!  It thrilled me to see the little gators out and about on the way to the expo.  I can count on two fingers how many gators I saw in Canada.  We arrived at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex and made our way through the expo rather quickly even with the crowd.  There’s really not much to tell about the expo.  Packet pickup was a little chaotic.  The lines weren’t as long as they were in Disneyland, but it was such a small space that it seemed unorganized. The expo in general was smaller than I expected.  When we got our packets, it didn’t take long to look at the other vendors.  Once we got out of the expo we made our way to the Rocket Garden and enjoyed the other outdoor exhibits.

Back at the hotel, my bedding still hadn’t been changed so I went to the front desk.  Sandra was very nice and called to have someone spray my room and she gave me a $50 credit on my bill for the trouble.  The Three Little Pigs Bacon Challenge meet up was in the lobby and I was able to grab my swine swag.  Lequita was in the lobby as well.  It was so great to meet her in person after our chats on Facebook.  She was waiting around for the Run Space Coast meet up.  What is this?  How did I not know about this group?  I was quickly accepted into the group and purchased my official wristband from Jason and his daughter, Alexis.  After visiting with several people in the group, we snapped a picture.  Dinner was with Lequita, Edna, and Rob at Florida’s Fresh Grill.  All I can say is – Awesome!  I had a fantastic clam chowder and scallops with jalapeno-bacon cream sauce.  I was in heaven!

Later in my room, I was on Cloud 9.  I couldn’t believe it; I was actually meeting people.  Runners are generally nice people and regardless how fast your pace is or how serious you train, there is always some common ground.  How amazing is it that they included me in their ranks!  As usual, I didn’t sleep much that night – only got about two hours.  But I was pumped and ready to go.  To be honest there was an internal struggle going on. On one hand, I wanted to push it and go for a PR.  It would be a perfect course for it!  On the other hand…  I had to keep reminding myself that I’ve not done a lick of running in three months.  This is my “Running is fun!” race and I need to focus on just enjoying it.  This battle continued until I stepped outside.  It wasn’t so hot – but it was more humid than I would have liked.  I guess Calgary spoiled me in the humidity (or lack there of) department.  I met Lequita in the lobby and we loaded up on the 4:15am shuttle.

The humidity had me nervous about how warm it was going to be.  Fortunately, it stayed overcast so while the air was thick and muggy it wasn’t hot and the sun didn’t beat down on me.  Given my track record with destination races this year (WDW in January and DL in August), this weather was glorious!  Upon arrival at the Riverfront Park, the festive atmosphere kicked in.  I met up with other half fanatics and there was a huge group picture that represented a few associations.

As I wondered around the pre race area, I felt like I belonged.  There were actually people there that I knew.  People I called friends.  Have I mentioned how cool this is?  I tried to find Candice so I could tell her good luck, but had to settle for calling her instead.  Christine spotted me and I was able to wish her and her friends a speedy marathon.  Joe is another person that I met online.  I had missed him at Dumbo and wanted to at least be able to say “Hi!”  He told me that I wouldn’t be able to miss him in his lime green shirt.  Well… it was quite dark and there were a lot of lime green shirts.  We played a combination of hide and seek and a scavenger hunt by sending clues for our ever-changing locations over Facebook.  Soon it was time to head to the corrals, which were extremely crowded.  There weren’t any set corrals, it was basically one huge mass start and people were to seed themselves.  Lequita and I didn’t even bother trying to get in line.  We just waited on one of the side streets with about 1000 other people and then jumped in.

Having a shuttle launch as our go signal was amazing!  At the start line was a large screen that showed a launch.  As we listened to the countdown, the excitement in the air increased – partly due to the race starting and in part to the feeling of seeing the rockets flash and hearing the thunder of the launch.  I can’t imagine seeing one in real life.

Lequita and I had our plan – we were going to walk for a warm up and then go with a 20:40 ratio.  It was darker than I expected on the course the first couple of miles, so I didn’t realize where we were running.  Once it started to get light, I could see that we had gorgeous houses on one side and the water on the other.  It was perfect!  There was one house that stayed in my mind for a while.  It was the spooky house.  We couldn’t figure out what exactly it was that was staring down at us from the attic.  One theory was that it was a creepy Halloween decoration that they kept up to play the role of Jesus at Christmas time.  The humidity did get to me a couple of times (or maybe it was the heebie jeebies from the spooky house) and I got a little light headed, so I slowed down a bit and kept moving.

The aid stations were themed – one was Star Wars, one was Star Trek, etc.  I was as giddy as a schoolgirl to have C3PO give me water!  Along with the race aid stations, several of the locals had aid stations out front.  One group had Blue Moon shots and cups with pretzels/goldfish.  Another yard reminded me of a Stampede breakfast back in Calgary.  Choices included pancakes, sausage… and vodka?  They were mixing up Bloody Mary’s for people.  There was one lady cheering us on with blue/white pompoms.  My first thought when I saw her was “Man, are her arms going to be sore!”  You can imagine my surprise when I saw her again.  I knew the humidity was messing with me, but I didn’t think it was that bad.  This must be what a time loop feels like.  When I saw her for the third time, I figured out that she must be magic and teleporting to various parts of the course.  I think I saw her six times throughout the race cheering us on.

My newfound running partner and I were taking things nice and slow.  I had to slow down even more because of my ankle.  The tendon that runs along the top of the ankle had slipped over the metal I have in my leg and was rubbing against it with every step.  The pain was pretty bad, but I had to keep going.  We ran with Mel for a little while.  I didn’t realize how much of a HF celebrity he is.  Runners on their way back to the finish line were constantly calling out his name as they passed.  When we spied the Galloway 3:30 pace group, we jumped in.  I’ve always enjoyed running with a pace group so even though my pain escalated, so did my mood.

We had gotten to the turn around and the top of my foot was beginning to hurt.  It was the same foot as the ankle issue so I wasn’t sure if I was compensating or not.  Lequita and I had to stop at the ESC tent for the bacon challenge.  We quickly got a picture snapped with the pig, grabbed our bacon, and hurried on our way.  The farther we traveled, the more pain I was in.  I started scanning the yards of the houses looking for something that would help me.  Then I found it.  I gave Lequita my camera and told her to grab a picture.  I ran up to the Stampede breakfast table and people jumped up and asked me if I wanted a sausage or pancake.  I shook my head no and reached for the very large vodka bottle.  Surely this would numb the pain!  I tilted the bottle back and chugged…  Just kidding!  The cap stayed on, but it made such a great picture that everyone whipped out his or her phone to snap one.

My pain was temporarily forgotten when I saw Candice coming up the course.  I hollered at the top of my lungs for her.  She was looking good and in the zone.  The pup was doing amazing as well.  I couldn’t wait to see them at the finish line.  Because her guide dog was the first to do this race, the race directors ordered her a medal, too.  I was so excited for both of them!

It was around mile 12 when Lequita took off.  I told her that I’d see her at the finish.  As my pace group made it’s way back to the park for the finish, I was focusing on putting one foot in front of the other.  I will never understand why races have long chutes to the finish.  It was almost like the finish line kept backing away from me just like my dad used to do when he taught me to swim.  I finally crossed the line and that familiar feeling came over me.  That excitement of crossing a finish line.  The pride that comes in realizing what I just achieved.  I was given my medal and an awesome beach towel.  I was almost more excited about the beach towel than anything else!  Generally being at the back of the pack means missing out on a lot – food at aid stations, cold sponges, space blankets at finish, and even water.  Thankfully I’ve always received a medal.  I know some people that have crossed the line after a long hard race and there were no medals and no one there to cheer them across the finish.

I found Lequita and we grabbed some pizza and lemonade and then enjoyed the after party atmosphere.  I got a message from Joe asking if I had finished yet.  Let the games begin again!  I managed to find him close to the finish line.  He was waiting on a friend to come in.  It was so great finally catching up with him and being able to chat for a little bit.  While talking to Joe, I saw R2D2.  I said my goodbyes and made my way to R2.  I bent down next to him for a picture and realized getting up was going to be harder than I anticipated.  It was ok, though…  R2 whistled Christmas tunes for me.  Even the storm trooper was in the Christmas spirit with his black Santa hat.

I really wanted to wait around for Candice, but my ankle had other plans.  I decided I really needed to get back to the hotel and get my foot up.  I knew that shuttle service could possibly be suspended while the big motorcycle ride, “Toys for Tots”, was going on.  Lequita and I made our way to the shuttles.  When we got back to the hotel, I said my goodbyes to my new running buddy.  We will definitely have to plan to meet up at another race sometime soon.

I headed to my room wanting to take an ice bath – but my room only had a shower.  A cold shower just isn’t the same.  I didn’t want to lie around and stiffen up so I took a walk down to the Manatee Sanctuary Park.  It was a nice area with some pretty views, but no manatees to be seen.  I went back to my room with the hopes of crashing early.  To my dismay, the ants that occupied my room invited their friends.  I called back down to the front desk and they upgraded me to a suite.  The guy came with my new key and helped me take my luggage to the the new room.  We walked in and someone’s luggage was in there.  Oops!  We went up to the front desk to clear up the situation and Sandra was there.  She gave me another $50 credit for my trouble.  I finally got settled in my new room.  Had a whole suite to myself – no ant roommates.  The suite was nice, but not necessary.  It was just me, and I can only be in one room at a time.  The upside was that the new room came with a Jacuzzi tub next to the bed so I got my ice bath (it was a little late, but my legs still appreciated it).  I went to the bar for a celebratory drink and visited with other runners.  We discussed the highs and lows of the race.  I learned that I was not the only one suffering.  A lot of people had issues with cramps (thankfully I wasn’t in that group).

I flew out the next morning.  Often times I spend the time traveling thinking about the weekend and what I enjoyed, what I could have done different, etc.  I definitely wished I had been more consistent with training.  Issues in the ankle/foot were problematic, but I survived.  The humidity was a little rough, but not too bad.  Other than that, I was really happy with how things went.  The course was gorgeous!  I need to start saving my pennies for all the houses I fell in love with.  I met with friends I had made online and made brand new ones.  Regardless of how the race went, I was super proud of my accomplishment.  Yes, I was proud of crossing the finish line – I always am, but that’s not the achievement that pleased me the most.  I crawled out of my shell and not only visited with other people, but also felt like I deserved to be there – that I belonged there.  And that is why I want to run.

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The Chaos that was Disneyland’s Dumbo Double Dare (Part 2)

Posted on October 23, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

If you are just tuning in to the story, you can check out the expo and 10K here.  Now where did I leave off…

Believe it not, I actually slept well the night before the half (which is an anomaly).  I got up, got dressed, and made my way back to the start area.  Ugh!  It’s still too hot and humid.  This time I got to meet up with 17,500 of my closest friends.  This was my first half as a Half Fanatic so I sported the HF shirt to commemorate the occasion.  While chatting with fellow runners, I got the feeling that something was “off”.  I didn’t feel balanced or whole…  I felt naked… I realized that I left my Garmin in the hotel room.  Seriously!?  What kind of runner am I?  There wasn’t enough time to go back and get it so I was stuck.  Deep breaths…  It’s not the end of the world.  I knew the distance I was going and I did have my interval timer (not having that WOULD have been the end of the world).  They herded us to the corrals and thankfully, it went much smoother than the day before.  While waiting for the race to start, I was able to visit with a fellow HF’er.  We could see the lights flashing before the ambulance reached us.  Someone had fallen while in the corrals.  There was no way to get the ambulance to them.  The bike medics and EMT’s had to get to him.  People were jammed into corrals like sardines and there was just nowhere to go to get out of the way.  Having to stand for so long in the heat and packed in so close, it’s not hard to imagine people collapsing.  This is one reason I always try to stay at the front of my corral, so at least I have air to breathe.  My corral is finally good to go and we are off.

I settle into my 20:40 ratio and just do my race.  It can be daunting when so many people pass you at the beginning, but I knew that I had to go slow if I was going to survive.  I met so many HF’s along the way.  I felt like a celebrity as I made my way along the course.  People were hollering “Hey!  Half Fanatic!”  We would then high five, chat for a few minutes, or snap a picture.  A few times the other HF was a spectator and had me stop so they could get a picture.

The first 4 miles was inside the parks.  I rarely stop of character pictures, but there were two that I really wanted to get.  One was with Lightning McQueen and the other was Star Wars.  I did manage to stop in Cars Land, but the line for Darth was crazy long.  I got a picture of Darth and his stormtroopers without any other runners with them, so I was happy.

I met Tammy on the course, and I have to say that she helped me tremendously.  She liked the ideas of the ratios and decided to tag along and pace with me.  Because she was a faster walker than I, she kept my pace up during the walking portion and she said that I helped her with the running.  Maybe there’s something about running with someone that brings out just enough competitiveness to keep the pace up.  Whatever it was, I appreciated it so much.

A large section of the course was on the streets of Anaheim.  It’s not the most exciting stretch of a race course.  I’m so thankful that the car clubs came out.  I don’t know how many cars were there, but they lined both sides of course for quite a while.  I loved looking at the different cars and high-fiving the proud owners.  I will admit, I was slightly jealous of the kiddos that were stretched out in the cars taking a nap, or sitting in the shade with a drink and a snack.

Unfortunately we had to slow down during what I like to call The Death March.  At mile 9, the course led us on the Santa Ana trail that ran along the Santa Ana River.  It was a narrow trail when you take into consideration how many people were trying to go simultaneously.  I had to make sure and stay away from the edge at the riverbank – there was nothing to stop you from falling off the cliff.  So here we are, slowed to a crawl, walking down the dirt trail with the sun relentlessly beating down, and to complete the picture – the river bed is bone dry, which made it seem that much hotter.  Our slow pace continued through mile 10, when we went through Angel Stadium.

Once again there were fabulous spectator signs everywhere!  I’m always amazed at how clever some folks are.  I’m not sure what point this one was posted (I guess I could do the math, but I’m not going to), but it’s one of my all time favorites!  At first I thought the “STOP” was part of the sign and I was so thrilled at the idea that I could stop.  But, it didn’t work out that way and I kept on going.

Mile 12 and we are headed back onto Disney property.  This is the magical mile where it is rumoured that you are now safe and will not be swept.  I don’t know if this is true or not, but you could hear the collective sigh of relief as we crossed the imaginary line.  I passed a woman that was sitting on the curb and her husband was pleading with her to get up and keep moving.  She was in tears trying to explain to her husband that she just wanted to rest a little longer.  He was telling her that if she didn’t get up, she wasn’t going to, that she’s come so far and is so close…  Tammy and I were steadily getting closer to the finish line.  We
came upon a lady that was severely leaning to the left.  Her back was hurting her so bad; she couldn’t even stand up straight.  She was determined to make it so we were determined to help.  The three of us crossed the finish together.  Like the 10K, it wasn’t a pretty race.  Out of the 17,500 starters only 15,871 runners finished. The heat and humidity made it tough for this girl who recently migrated from Canada.  My shoes were pretty much shot and I ended up with blisters on both feet and I could feel every step on the pavement. Guess it’s time for my 4th pair of Mizunos to retire.  I did get a PR – it was the slowest half I’ve ever done!  I definitely earned my medals this weekend!

I knew if I went back to the hotel and rested, I would get too stiff.  I had to keep moving even though my body didn’t want to.  I met up with Christine again and we hit the parks.  There were a couple of rides that I really wanted to do.  I did Star Tours first, that was awesome!  Then we were off to conquer the Matterhorn!

I had a fantastic time wandering around the parks visiting with my friend.  My feet started hollering at me after awhile and I was back at the hotel by 5pm.  I took it easy that evening and after three mornings in a row getting up around 3am, I was so excited to be able to set my alarm for 8am.  For some reason, my body didn’t get the 8 o’clock wake up memo.  I still woke up at 3.  As always, I’m glad I went.  I had a great time, even with the heat, humidity, and worn out shoes.  However, it was nice to get back to Texas and get some semblance of a routine for my family.

The miracle isn’t that I finished.

The miracle is that I had the courage to start.

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The chaos that was Disneyland’s Dumbo Double Dare (part 1)

Posted on October 16, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

The months leading up to the Inaugural Dumbo Double Dare were chaotic, to say the least.  We were in the midst of packing up our house for a move – not an across town type of move, but one of those international moves where the list of paperwork needed was almost as long as the 2000 mile distance of our trip. We finally arrived at our new house three weeks before heading to California.  My training had gone from sporadic to nonexistent.  Before the move, it was packing, packing, packing, and fighting an illness.  After the move, it was fighting an illness, unpacking, and trying not to die every time I walked out my front door.  I had grown accustomed to the dry cool climate of Calgary, Alberta.  To be thrown into the Texas heat and humidity was a shock to the system.

The closer it got to Labor Day weekend, the more agitated I got.  All things considered, it wasn’t the best time to leave my family.  My boys were going to have to travel 3 hours to stay with my parents for the weekend while I was at Disneyland.  My husband was jet setting off to China the same weekend to speak at a conference.  Needless to say – our family was scattered which just added to the hectic atmosphere.  I didn’t want to go anymore.  I didn’t want to pack.  I didn’t want to get on another plane.  I wasn’t too concerned about finishing (this was shorter than the Goofy), but I knew my lack of training was going to haunt me.  All I wanted to do was stay at the house and unpack more boxes.

Friday morning came early.  I planned my flight so that I could get into the hotel and to the expo shortly after it opened.  After the huge disappointment at the WDW expo where I didn’t get to buy much because all the merchandise was up on eBay by the time I went shopping, I didn’t want to risk that again.  I got to the airport and on the plane.  Once we got in the air, I had my first feelings of excitement.  It helped that the last time I was on a plane I had to deal with two kids and two cats.  Being able to listen to my music and read a book that I wanted to was a pleasant change of pace.  I arrived at my hotel and unpacked.  This was my second destination race (the first was Goofy at WDW) and I had been a little nervous about doing this on my own.  I was in a hotel room by myself and hadn’t made any plans to hang with other people.  My plan was to hit the expo, go to my two scheduled meet ups, and then relax at the hotel.  I was going to go to the parks on Saturday and Sunday after the races.  However, as I walked over to the expo, my excitement increased with every step.  It was a beautiful day and I was going to race and enjoy my kid free weekend.

My excitement began to wane as I approached the expo.  It opened at 10am and I arrived around 10:30 to a line – a long line.  It was pretty crazy; no one seemed to know where he or she should be.  As I stood in line (which was growing exponentially behind me) it began to warm up.  It was getting quite warm and the humidity was high.  Even though I had been in Texas for a few weeks, I had not acclimated to the high temperatures and humidity.  I had my first twinges of doubt that I would finish the race.  The line twisted around and went to the packet pick up downstairs.  As I grabbed my packet, the volunteer handed me a “Little Mermaid” magnet and told me to keep it away from my bib so that my timing chip doesn’t get demagnetized.  I was one of the fortunate ones – some people didn’t get told this little tidbit of information and their chips didn’t work come race time.  Not quite sure why runDisney would throw a magnet in the swag bag when the effects could be so disastrous on race day.  I made sure to stick my magnet in a side pocket of my backpack and grabbed my park tickets.  Guess what came next?  You got it – another line (this will be a common theme at the expo).  This new line was to get into the actual expo and pick up race shirts.  At least I’m getting to stand inside right now (didn’t last long).  I honestly have to idea how long I was in line.  The people behind me said that it was two hours.  It seemed much longer.  I picked up my shirts and headed over to the runDisney area to grab some Dumbo merchandise before it was all gone.

I practically ran into the person in front of me.  I noticed there was a line (again).  The guy in front of me said that this line was to get INTO the runDisney area.  Seriously?  This is insane!  I get in and the entire area is in chaos.   Nothing was where it was supposed to be and the workers were trying their hardest to restock and reorganize.  I dove in and quickly made my way around the racks.  If a shirt was in my size, I grabbed it.  I didn’t look at it first.  This is not how I wanted to shop, but if you took time to look at the shirt, someone would snatch it before you could decide if you wanted it or not.  I’ve found that the running community is like a family – extremely supportive when you need it, a camaraderie that runs deep, and cut-throat when it comes to the last drumstick at Thanksgiving (or in this case – the runDisney merchandise).  I took my pile of goodies to a corner to go through what I had.  Once I decided on what to get, there was yet another line.  This one wound around the inside of the expo and then out into the hall, just to go back into the expo and zigzag to the cashiers.  I was in this line for around two hours, but it seemed like four.  By the time I got through, I just wanted to go back to my hotel.  I was hot, tired, and my feet were already sore.  My “quick trip” to the expo has now been over four hours.

I meandered around the expo after spending half my life in the runDisney section and saw my coach, Jeff Galloway.  We chatted for a bit about my move and the new climate I have to acclimate to and which running camp I should attend.  I noticed a guy waiting patiently for me to finish up so I told Jeff I’d let him get back to his public.  As I turned away the guy waiting in the wings held his hand up and said “#3529!”  It only took me a second to respond “4608!”  We slapped palms and got a good laugh at the looks people were giving us.  They must have thought we were speaking some crazy geek language!  Come to think of it, I guess we were.  I had completely forgotten that I was wearing my new Half Fanatics hat.

I finally was ready to get out of the expo – and never return!  I had a couple of meet-ups to attend before I could go back to the hotel so I headed to my first one.  Run Kat had a medal designed for those who did both the Goofy and the Dumbo.  She claimed that we must be “Mad as a Hatter”.  Proceeds went to her Team in Training group and let’s face it… sometimes I can be down right certifiable.  It was so great to finally meet her in person!  I then had to hoof it to the Endurance Sports Connection meet-up for the Bacon Challenge swag.  It wasn’t that it was a long walk (about a mile) but the sun was beating down and the temps (and humidity) were up.  I could just imagine how bad it’s going to be when I have to go 13.1 miles.  I get to meet fantastic people, hilarious chicken, and a radiant pig.

By five I’m back at the hotel, kicked back and watching a movie.  I spend the evening relaxing and getting my gear together for the 10k on Saturday.  Rarely does sleep come to me the night before a race, but it seemed so much worse that night.  I would sleep for an hour or so and then wake up in a panic that I slept through my alarm and missed the start.  This wasn’t that “groggy opening of the eyes and looking at the clock to make sure I wasn’t late” type of wake up.  It was more of the “OMG I’m gonna be late!! – jumping out of bed and throwing on clothes before realizing that only an hour had passed and it was in fact just 11:45pm” type of wake up.  Unfortunately, this happened several times throughout the night.  When I finally did get up with my alarm, I had a period of panic – I had no idea what time it was.  My phone showed 3:30am, but my Garmin showed 4:30am (it’s still on Calgary time).  As I perused through Facebook, some guy posted about taking his traditional 5am pre race walk.  A friend of mine in Texas posted that she didn’t know why she was up at 4:30.  I don’t know if you followed all the time zone shifts, I didn’t either, which is why panic set in.  I even started to think that maybe my phone didn’t automatically change time zones and whoever was in the room before me set the clock back just to be mean.  At this point I just got dressed and left.

First thing I noticed as I stepped out of my hotel room was that the humidity was still high.  UGH – this could get nasty.  I arrived with 7,999 of my new found closest friends to chill out while waiting on the 5K’ers to finish up. One thing about Disney races – you meet some pretty awesome people.  I noticed a girl walking with a cane and asked if it was from a recent injury.  She explained that she was born with a dislocated hip and it’s always plagued her.  The past few years, deterioration accelerated rapidly and she will have a full hip replacement in October 2013.  I was so proud of her for attempting this.  Regardless how far she makes it, she is a rock star in my book. When it was time to head to our corrals things kind of unraveled.  I think there was an A corral, and maybe a B, but everyone else was just jumbled together.  This didn’t give me the time buffer I was hoping for.  It was a very messy start and I was praying that the half would be more organized.  Because they had to wait for the 5K to finish before starting the 10K, we started late.  The downside to a later start became evident as the temperature started to rise.

I found Sandra!I took it slow and did a lot of walking.  I still had a half to do the next day and even though I relocated to Texas from Calgary, I had not yet acclimated to the heat and humidity.  There was also the fact that I had been getting really lightheaded while running over the past month.  While on the course I saw Sandra – a Facebook friend from Canada that was coming down to do Dumbo.  I was so happy to see her on the course.  I was able to snag a picture and then kept moving.  It wasn’t pretty, but I was one of the 7,839 people to finish.  I was getting really nervous about the half.  The 10K about did me in with the “unseasonably warm temperatures and high humidity”; I couldn’t imagine having to go twice the distance.  I was fortunate enough to see the last person cross the finish line.  It was the girl I had met beforehand that had the hip replacement in her future.  Tears welled up in my eyes as she made her way across.  She had set out to accomplish something – and she did.  Her friend was there waiting to give her a big hug and I wanted nothing more than to go give her one, too.  I didn’t know all of her struggles, but I knew part of her story and she is truly an inspiration to me.

After the race, I didn’t want to rest at the hotel or I would get super stiff and sore.  I met Christine at her hotel and we were off to the parks.  I had never been to Disneyland before, so there were a few rides I had to do.  California Screamin’ was a fantastic coaster, however my favorite section was Cars Land (my 4 year old would be so proud).  It was like stepping out of my life and into Radiator Springs.  Lightning McQueen and Mater were driving around and hanging out at the Cozy Cone.  We had both heard that Radiator Springs Racers was a must do and I must say it lived up to the hype.  It was by far my favorite ride (and it wasn’t even a coaster!).  After getting in a few more rides I had to call it a day.  My feet were starting to hurt and I needed to get off of them.

I love this thought!

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When a great race goes bad – Stampede Road Race (2013)

Posted on July 14, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , |

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Starting July 1, I kept an eye on the weather forecast.  Last year the temperatures were high and the sun was bright.  It was hot.  Last year I was shy of PR by 30 seconds.  This year it was going to be glorious.  This year I was going to PR and it would be my qualifying race for Half Fanatics.

ImageAs usual, the night before the race I had issues sleeping.  I don’t recall what time it was I went to bed, but when the alarm went off the next morning I was good to go.  After getting dressed and making sure (again) that I had everything I needed, I woke up my husband.  My four year old was doing the kids’ race again and my husband was kind enough to keep him entertained while I did my race thing.

We arrived right on time at 6:30am (for a 7am start).  I was excited and happy.  This day was going to go down in Dawn’s History as a great race.  I hugged my family and hung out at the start line.  I’ve touched on the kinship that exists in the running community before (here) so I won’t get into it again.  Suffice it to say, RunDisney connects a lot of people.  I met one girl that is doing her first Disney event in January at WDW.  A couple mentioned that they go to EVERY Disney race (I don’t know where they have the time or the funds for that).  Another group was at WDW this past January with me… and the list goes on.

After a slight delay – a delivery truck wanted to get by and the timing mats had to be picked up and laid back down – we got the “GO!”  I started out doing 30:30 and felt great.  There weren’t many clouds in the sky, but the course went around the Glenmore Reservoir so there was quite a bit of shade.  I was on Cloud 9.  Did I mention that I was going to PR and this was going to be a glorious day?

Everyone loved my skirt.  Everyone always does.  The past two races I wore my blue sparkle skirt – it matched the color of the race perfectly.  This time I wore my Minnie skirt.  Running skirts just aren’t big up here in Calgary, so when people see one, they go crazy.  I had so many people tell me that my skirt made them happy.  So bonus – the weather is great, there’s shade, I’m going to PR, and I make people happy.  It was a glorious day.

I’m rocking along and hit kilometer six.  My great race takes a turn for the worse.  I started getting lightheaded.  I still do not know why.  I wasn’t wearing my compression sleeves (learned that lesson in WDW) and I’ve definitely raced in hotter weather.  Come to think of it, just about ALL my races have occurred in hotter weather with the sun beating down and no shade – except the Santa Shuffle… that one happened in a blizzard.  Anyway, back to the race at hand.  I slowed down to a walk and focused on breathing.  I was so lightheaded; I had to turn off my music.  I stayed in the shade and tried to stay calm.  I could feel the fear taking over my mind.  The last time I was like this in a race it was at the beginning of the marathon at WDW where I learned the lesson about compression sleeves.  I could not find a reason for this feeling and it scared me.  I ate something and it didn’t help.  I kept going – just went very slowly.

At kilometer seven, I heard a herd coming up behind me.  I had taken advantage of the early start so this was the speedy people on my tail.  I tried to be nice and move as far over to the right as I could to allow them to pass.  My right foot caught the edge of the path just right, or just wrong, and I rolled my ankle as I fell.  Yep – I fell.  People asked me if I was ok and I said yes, gave them two thumbs up, and sent them on their way.  While my body was hurt, at that point in time it was my pride that hurt more.  I managed to get up and check my hands and knees to make sure blood wasn’t gushing anywhere.  I kept going.

Kilometer eight came and went in slow motion.  I was still feeling lightheaded, although not as bad.  I think the pain from the fall helped distract me a little bit.  I went back to doing intervals, but I changed to a 15:45 ratio.  I could feel a pain on my toe and realized that a blister was forming.  I don’t get blisters from running – but I feel that this one will make up for that.  The lightheadedness came back with a vengeance at kilometer ten and I went back to slow walking.  My fear escalated (which I’m sure didn’t help).  My thoughts turned to quitting.  I hadn’t even reached the halfway point and I wanted to quit.  I’ve had races that I just wanted to be done and there was the Banff Subaru Triathlon that I didn’t even want to start, but this was the first race that I wanted to quit.  My body was hurting from the fall, my head was spinning, and I was scared something was wrong.

I kept moving forward.  It was the only thing I knew to do.  I thought about sitting and resting, but I would not have gotten up again.  Throughout the slow walk, I let my mind wander in hopes focusing on other things rather than the thought of passing out.  My glorious day…  what happened?  Where did it go?  My mind drifted to the Half Fanatics.  If I did not finish this race, I would not qualify.  That’s the thought that kept me going.  I held on tight to it.  I kept thinking about how I would be allowed into their world, into the AsLyum.

I lost all concept of time and distance at this point.  I could hear a group of people behind me and eventually they passed me.  I now had a bicycle medic escort – I was last.  He asked me if I was ok.  “Yes, I just fell awhile back and my knee is stiff.”  I didn’t mention the lightheadedness.  He asked me if I wanted a ride back.  “No.  I’m going to finish.”  So on we went.  I started my 15:45 ratios again and that brought me close to the group of ladies that had passed me.  We had to go around a track to get to the finish chute.  I actually caught up with the two ladies in front of me – and then they proceeded to run.  It was at the last turn on the track and I tried to push everything from my mind.  The only thought I had was that I DID NOT want to be last.  I sprinted to the finish – and I passed both of them on the way.  I crossed the line, got my bolo tie medal, a bottle of water, and set out to find the med tent.  I needed ice on my knee.

My family found me there.  I had missed my 4 year old’s race, but I was able to hear all about it.  A huge smile and big bright eyes greeted me as he began his story.  He and a little girl collided shortly after they started so he fell down, too – just like Mommy.  As he ran around the track he passed “so many people” – just like Mommy (even though Mommy only passed two).  My husband took a video of the 400m race as he ran behind the little guy.  It amazed me how much zigzagging occurred.  Speed is not something the kiddo got from me.  He’s pretty quick.  While trying to video the race, my husband spent a fair amount of time trying to find the little speed racer.

ImageI hobbled to truck and looked back on my race.  My glorious day didn’t turn out so glorious.  My body hurt from the fall and the lightheadedness still had me worried.  The blister was ginormous and very painful.  I made a decision – I was done.  I didn’t want to run anymore.  I’m already signed up for the Dumbo Double Dare at Disney Land and after that I was through.  We are moving back to the hot and humid south anyway and running will not be as fun.  It wasn’t so much a “pity party for one” as it was a fact.  I was through.  I was burned out.  I decided to just focus on swimming because I have a Half Ironman relay coming up.

Monday I submitted my criteria to Half Fanatics.  I did finish the race and I did qualify so I was going to join.  I received the confirmation email that evening.  I was in!  I am HF #4608!  It’s amazing how one seemingly small thing can change everything.  Being allowed into HF gave me an energy boost.  I wanted to keep running!  I immediately started searching for new races.  I had been sitting on the fence about Space Coast for quite some time.  My decision to stop running made my decision about the race easy.  I wasn’t going to do it.  I even closed out the Space Coast tab on my computer.  My newfound excitement not only had me open the tab back up – I registered without thinking.  I also registered for a back-to-back race without giving much thought to it.  I will have to take some time to get acclimated to the climate in the south, but I’m determined to continue.

What I learned is that whatever it is that motivates you, you have to find it and use it.  For me it was something as simple as being able to join HF.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve never been an athlete.  I still don’t consider myself one.  To be able to join a group that’s all about athletic type people excites me.  It’s quite possible that if I hadn’t qualified for HF, I would still get excited about running again, but I feel that it would have taken a long time to get to that place.  So to all the HF’s out there – Thank you!  Thank you for being what I needed to see more than what went wrong.  I should get me a HF top as a symbol of the strength I found – maybe it could be my version of a super hero cape!

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I wasn’t going to write about this race – so many things went wrong.  Why would anyone want to remember a bad race?  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it’s important to reflect on the bad races as well as the good.  It gives you a sense of how far you’ve come and the obstacles that you overcame to get to wherever you are now.  I’ve been able to look past all that went wrong at the Stampede race for laying underneath is all that went right.  I just had to dig a little to see it.  I was down.  Not only did my body want to quit, but so did my mind.  I didn’t though.  I continued to move forward.  I finished a race under circumstances far less than ideal.  I can carry that strength with me.  The next time my mind says I need to quit I can dig a little deeper and know that I can do it.

Side note – I typically put a lot more pictures in my blog posts, but I just wasn’t up to taking any on race day.

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Getting Goofy (and a little Dopey) at Walt Disney World

Posted on February 21, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , |

It was approximately a year ago when a friend had the brilliant idea of meeting at Walt Disney World for marathon weekend.  I had known AnnMarie online for 1.5 years at this point, but we had not met in person.  It didn’t take long to discover that we had a lot in common and she quickly became my fitness soul mate.  Naturally when she suggested doing the Goofy Challenge (both the Half Marathon and the Full Marathon), I threw in that we should do the 5K as well.  I mean, what’s an extra 5K?  So I signed up for my races and got to training.

I took Jeff Galloway as my online coach.  He uses the run-walk-run method and I quickly realized how beneficial it was (for me at least) as opposed to just straight running.  Some of what he told me to do sounded crazy.  He wanted me to use a 15:45 ratio for my second half marathon.  My hip had been bothering me on my long runs, so I did.  Fifteen seconds of running followed by 45 seconds of walking.  I couldn’t believe I finished 30 seconds off my PR and I had no issues with my hip or legs afterwards.  As training progressed and my long runs got longer, I had issues with my hands swelling.  He told me to raise my hands when I walked and twist them like I was screwing in a light bulb.  I understood the reasoning behind it, but I couldn’t seem to put it in practice.  So I dealt with a lot of swollen hands and fingers.

My husband, Brandon, was very supportive at the beginning.  I guess he started getting worried that I was trying to get my body to do something it wasn’t ready for.  He began to throw around the idea of not racing the half and just focusing on the full marathon.  I hadn’t done a full marathon yet so I knew it was going to be a challenge.  I took his comments as fuel for my desire to accomplish this.  If nothing else, I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of dropping a race or getting a DNF.

I arrived in Orlando on Tuesday, January 8.  I was exhausted from having to be at the airport so early.  I finally got to meet AnnMarie in person, which was the highlight of my day.  We went to the hotel to unpack and then we were off to dinner.  We had decided that the best strategy was to save our legs as much as possible so we didn’t do as much park hopping as originally planned.  On Wednesday we went to Hollywood Studios where I got to be a pirate princess and we both auditioned for American Idol.  AnnMarie kept insisting that we go to Fantasmic and I’m glad she did.  It was pretty amazing.

Thursday we went to the Expo at ESPN Wide World of Sports.  This was by far the largest event I’ve ever been to. Up to this point the largest race I participated in was the Subaru Triathlon in Banff.  I could not get over the number of people that were milling around.  Christine, one of AnnMarie’s friends and now one of mine, was holding a place for us in line to sign up for the Dumbo Double Dare at Disney Land.  The line was moving so slowly I actually went to the KT Tape booth, which also had a slow moving line, to get my leg taped.  I made it back to the runDisney line with about 10 seconds to spare.  I’m so thankful that we signed up at the expo.  They opened registration to the public on January 22 and the Dumbo sold out in the first hour.  We then got our race packages and then went to grab a bite to eat.

Friday morning came super early.  We were up and out the door by 5:00am.  The 5K race started at 6:30am.  Once again my mind could not believe the number of people that my eyes kept trying to tell me were there.  There were 9,999 people running this race with me.  It was crazy – there was a stage with an emcee, music, and of course Mickey and his crew.  People were so creative in their costumes.  I saw one lady in a full-blown Cinderella costume – not the running skirt and tank top, but complete gown.  I felt sorry for her… it was quite hot and humid already.  My corral finally starts and we run around Epcot.  Disney definitely provides a lot of entertainment along the courses.  We had a great fun run.  I could not get over how much I was sweating.  At this point I started to worry about the heat and humidity for the next two races.

After the race we ate breakfast with a few princesses and then headed back to the expo.  Time for some retail therapy!  I needed a new hydration belt and iFitness was onsite.  I was concerned about running the races in a new belt that I hadn’t trained with, but I’m so glad I got one.  The belt felt extremely comfortable and had enough room for everything.  Visiting the runDisney booth was a bit of a let down.  They were almost out of all the Goofy Challenge stuff.  They had one style of shirt and some coffee mugs left.  I grabbed a Goofy shirt and got Zachary a “My Mom ran the Walt Disney World Marathon” shirt.  I purchased a marathon shirt for myself as well – after all, I was looking at completing my first full marathon.  I was finally able to meet Jeff Galloway.  This was a definite highlight.  I expressed my concerns about finishing the Goofy.  My nervousness was steadily escalating and I wished with all my might that I could do the Dumbo before the Goofy.  I knew how much better I would feel knowing that I had one back-to-back race in my pocket.  Jeff put his arm on my shoulder and spoke in one of the most reassuring voices I’ve ever heard.  I instantly felt better.  If Jeff believed in me that much, it was hard not to believe in myself.  He invited us to stop by his corral before the races to visit and relax.

I was in for a system shock when it was time to get up Saturday morning.  My mind had been racing the night before and it was so hard to get to sleep.  The last time I looked at the clock it was 11:26pm.  The alarm went off at 2:55am.  I got up and just went through the motions of getting dressed.  Christine was at our door at 3:25am and we went to get on the bus.  The bus dropped us off, but there was still a way to go to get to the start.  We stopped at Jeff Galloway’s area and got a quick word with him before making our way to the corrals.  I’m not sure what had happened, but getting to the corrals took forever.  I understand why they use the term “corral”…  I felt like I was just one of the livestock being herded down the path.  When the group did move, it went so slow.  Everyone was supposed to be in his or her corral by 5am.  That did not happen for us, nor did it happen for the thousand or so people behind us.  The nice thing about the traffic jam was that it significantly shortened the wait time in our corral.  At 6:30am corral G got the signal to start.  It was hard to hold back at the start when everyone was speeding around you.  If you slowed down too much you were likely to get ran over.  Once we got out of the congestion we slowed down to a walk.  Our plan was to walk as much as we could during the half.

I will say that Disney does a fantastic job of distracting you from the pain and agony and insanity by providing a lot of on course entertainment.  There were characters along the way where you could stop and get pictures made, DJ booths playing music, huge kites, high school marching bands, and even Jack Sparrow’s ship!  I was following my fitness soul mate’s lead and soaking up the sights, but soon found that I couldn’t walk fast enough.  She has a longer stride than I do and I found myself over striding to keep up.  This resulted in a lovely shin splint that barked louder and louder as the race went on.  It wasn’t too far into the race I told her to go without me.  Once on my own, my mind was racing and the nervous feeling I had quickly escalated to fear.  I went and got myself a shin splint the day before I was to do my first full marathon.  Tears trailed down my cheeks as I thought about the very real possibility that I wasn’t going to be able to finish the Goofy.

It was around Mile 5 that the Galloway pace group caught up with me (after I had spent time in line for the bathroom).  I fell in with them and my spirits lifted quickly.  The pace leader, Jill, did a fantastic job as a motivator, medical aide, and tour guide.  She was doing a 20:40 ratio (20 seconds running: 40 seconds walking), which was the ratio I used most often in my training.  I felt so much more at home doing this ratio and the miles started to fly by a little faster.  I’ve never had the chance to run with a partner or a group.  Running groups in Calgary meet in the evenings when I am chauffeuring the boys to wherever they need to be.  I loved running with them.  I loved the connection that we gained as we pounded the pavement.  Around Mile 8 I mentioned to Jill that I have issues with my hands swelling.  What do you think she suggested?  You got it… Raise my hands and screw in light bulbs.  I finally followed this advice and what do you know – it worked.  I should have listened to Jeff sooner.  At Mile 11, Jill had issues with her calf muscle and Jessie and I took over as pace leaders.  We proudly brought our group in strong.  My shin was still hollering at me, but the sight of the giant golf ball in Epcot helped me push the pain from my mind.  My favorite part of the race was the gospel choir at Mile 12.  Hearing them sing brought tears to my eyes and it gave me the boost I needed to forget about my shin.  I finished the half marathon in 3:34:55.  I thought it was 3:30, but I realized that my Garmin timer stopped when I was waiting in the potty line – too bad the official WDW timer didn’t stop as well.  I’m totally ok with the time; this race was all about finishing and taking it slow rather than getting a PR.

After the half marathon I got cleaned up, jumped in an ice bath, put on compression sleeves, and headed to Animal Kingdom to eat lunch with AnnMarie and Christine.  Donald was so excited to see our medals.  I would have to say that’s one of the coolest things about a Disney race – sporting the medal at the parks.  I informed Mickey and Goofy that I would be acquiring their medals the next day.  We didn’t stay long and spent most of the evening at the hotel.  I was trying to prep my mind, body, and soul for what was going to happen the next day.

Once again the alarm clock buzzed at some ungodly hour.   It’s safe to say I was a walking advertisement for KT Tape.  I also had my compression sleeves on to help with the shin splint.  This made me a little nervous (I’ve never run in my sleeves before), but a gazillion people do it so surely it will be ok.  I got to meet with Jeff again in his corral.  I expressed my fears of not finishing yet again.  In my mind there was so much stacked against me – physical and mental fatigue, heat, humidity, and a distance that has never been completed.  He told me to take little sips of water and when the sun got up, start dumping water on my head.  I’ll admit, it was odd to hear him say, “small sips of water” when everyone else was screaming, “Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate!” because of the heat we will be facing.  After a reassuring hug, I left Jeff and headed to my corral.

The herd seemed to move a little easier and there wasn’t the stop/start/stop action of the day before.  I knew that I wasn’t going to stop and get my picture made with characters along the course, so I happily jumped in line to get my picture made with Fairy Godmother.  I asked her to grant me wings so that my feet could fly to finish line.  She laughed and said that she couldn’t do that, but she would grant me the strength to believe in myself and in my ability to finish.  I would have rather had the wings…

After waiting for an hour, corral G finally got the go ahead to start.  I had gone 1.5 miles and got lightheaded.  Panic was my first thought, but I decided that maybe I should eat something.  I had back-to-back training so everything had to be ok.  After downing some Honey Stingers, I felt better and kept plugging away.  At Mile 3, fear gripped me.  The light-headedness was back with a vengeance.  I’ve never passed out before so I wasn’t sure how much vertigo occurs before you hit the pavement.  So many thoughts ran through my mind: “What’s going on with me?” “It’s only mile 3, this isn’t right.” “Am I going to pass out if I keep going?” “Should I pull out of the race now?” “What will Brandon say if I drop out?” Taking deep breaths helped – with the nerves at least – and I decided to roll down my compression sleeves.  I felt a little better and decided to keep going.  The only thing I remember of Mile 4 was the broken record playing through my head. “I will not let Brandon have the satisfaction of knowing that I should have dropped a race.”  “I will finish this and prove to him that I can do this.”  “I refuse to let him ‘win’.”  Let me be clear.  I know that my husband loves me and did not want to see me fail.  I know that he was only concerned about my wellbeing. I know that dropping out of the race would not equal a “win” for him.  However, I also know that idea the broken record playing in my mind was conveying is what got me through that mile.  It wasn’t my confidence that I would do this.  It wasn’t the belief that I was ready.  It was my stubbornness.  I did not want Brandon to be able to say, “I told you so” when it was all over (not that he would).  I didn’t even want to give him the chance to think it.  At Mile 6 I felt great and felt like I was finally ready to do this.

The first 8 miles were the same as the half marathon, so I got to run by the same ship, enter the Magic Kingdom again, and run through the castle once again.  It was about this time the 7:00 pace group caught up with me and I fell in line with them.  I had already started doing the “light bulb dance” in an effort to keep my hands from swelling too much.  It was also around this time I started dumping water on my head.  Water got in my eyes and I was trying to continue running while wiping the water away.  My left contact shifted and I could feel it.  While keeping up with my pace group, I tried to maneuver it back into position.  No luck.  I should have just stopped to take it out, but I hoped that it would work itself back into place.  It wasn’t until after I got back to the hotel, I realized that the contact had gotten ripped.  Joy – I got to deal with conjunctivitis.  But I’m getting ahead of myself…

After leaving Magic Kingdom, the course went around the speedway.  I loved this part.  They had various cars out on the track (from NASCAR style stock cars to classic mustangs).  As I went around the track my thoughts turned to my mom, a huge NASCAR fan, and I smiled.  She would have loved it – ok, maybe not the running part.  Once off the speedway, I made the long trek to Animal Kingdom.  You could tell we arrived simply by the smell.  I had to laugh at my fellow runners that turned up their noses.  It was quite a sight to see people trying to show their disgust while forcing their body to keep going.  Disney had a few animals out to greet us as we entered the gate, which this biologist appreciated.

The heat and the humidity were pretty bad – but even worse was the smack down the sun gave me whenever the shade disappeared.  There were a few clouds here and there, but it was pretty much bright sunshine the whole way.  Every water stop meant more water dumped on my head in an effort to cool down.  Thankfully the shin splint that plagued me during the half has kept quiet.  I just had to contend with the screaming from my feet.  It’s around Mile 17 and all I can focus on is the pain with every step.  The course wound through ESPN Wide World of Sports for what seemed like forever.  At one point we ran around a track and the moans and sighs of relief could be heard for miles.  The course also took us around the infield of Champion Stadium ballpark, spring training home of the Atlanta Braves.

This was the 20th anniversary of the full marathon so there was a surprise planned at Mile 20.  Huge puppets lined both sides of the street and Mickey, Minnie, and Pluto were there having a party.  I kept on plugging away with the pace group.  I kept dumping water on my head.  I could feel some chafing on my sides from my wet bra strap, but the choice was to either die from the heat or get a little chafed.  Only two more parks left – Hollywood Studios and then Epcot.  The course went through the back lot at Hollywood Studios and we got to run through the costume design tunnel.  The tunnel caused a bottleneck for three reasons:  1.  It was slightly narrower, 2.  It was pitch black and if you tripped and fell you might not get up, and 3.  They had the fans blowing.  I think I could have stayed in the tunnel for the rest of the day, but there was a race I had to finish.  Finally after hours and hours of constantly pounding the pavement in the hot sun, I see it.  I see the giant golf ball.  Whoever designed the course played a little trick on us.  I could see the big golf ball, but for the longest time, it wasn’t getting any bigger.  The course went around the lagoon and through the world showcase first.

Mile 24 was my magical mile – the mile when it finally hit me that I was going to finish.  As this realization was sinking in, tears welled up in my eyes.  I can’t believe that someone like me, who has always been the polar opposite of an “athlete”, was going to finish a full marathon.  We won’t even mention that this is after a 5K and a half marathon…  I kept running my intervals with tears running down my face.  A couple of girls I was running with asked if I was ok – they knew of my shin splint.  I turned to them with the biggest smile on my face.  They smiled at me and in that moment there was a deep connection with them.  It’s hard to explain.  We had been running together for 16 miles and had shared idle chitchat.  But this was something else.  We were connected as runners.  We accomplished something we didn’t think was possible and to share that with others is an experience that cannot be explained by words.

The golf ball is getting bigger and bigger now.  I round the corner at Mile 26 and there’s the gospel choir again.  The finish line is up ahead!  I can see it.  It’s not a mirage or a figment of my imagination.  It’s there.  It’s real.  There were times throughout the day that I thought I wouldn’t reach this point.  As I crossed the line, I was overcome by so many thoughts and emotions.  I wondered how my friends fared.  I thought how proud my family would be of me.  I thought of how proud I was of myself.  I felt strong and empowered, yet weak and humbled at the same time.  I did it.  I completed 42.4 miles in three days.  I found myself in a daze as my thoughts ricocheted around my mind, and once again was herded along with the rest of the livestock.  I got my marathon medal, briefly visited with those that crossed the line with me, and grabbed my post race snack and drink.  I headed to the Goofy tent to get my Goofy medal and ordered my “I Did It!” shirts for the marathon and the Goofy.  I tried to keep moving and dreaded getting on the bus.

While sitting on the bus and waiting for all the weary souls to get on, I realized that I never hit “The Wall”.  Did I get tired?  Yes.  Did I get hot?  Yes.  Did I want to quit?  You betcha’.  But I never got to the point that I couldn’t go on.  I never felt like I had to push through something to keep going.  I know that the only reason for this was that I took things slow.  I got back to the hotel and immediately jumped in an ice bath.  I removed all the KT tape and got cleaned up.  Remember the chafing I mentioned?  Turned out to be much worse than I thought.  Wet clothes combined with seven hours of constant moving left a chafed ring around my body.  It hurt to sleep or have anything touch it for about a week after the race.  After getting dressed I noticed the freaky tan lines on my legs left by the KT tape – talk about sexy…  I gingerly sat down at the computer and logged onto Facebook.  Much to my surprise there the following status from my husband:  “So proud of my wife, who in the past 3 days has run a 5k, a half marathon, and a full marathon”.  He had signed up for email updates of my progress through the race and already knew I had finished.  I sat there at my computer and let the tears flow.  He’s not one to post a lot on Facebook, so to see this status took me by surprise.  To know that he was so proud of me meant so much.

After the previous mornings, Monday felt like a blissful lazy day.  AnnMarie and I spent the day at Magic Kingdom and Epcot.  I loved being able to walk around with my Goofy medal on.  Everywhere you looked, there were medals.  It made it easy to strike up a conversation while waiting in line.  You started by saying “Congratulations” and ended up discussing how the race went, how hot it was, your favorite Disney distraction, etc.…  As we made our way around the parks, it was obvious who had been in the race.  There was a distinctive “marathon waddle” that numerous people exhibited.  As the enormity of what I had accomplished sank in, it dawned on me that I was physically doing better than a lot of people.  My legs didn’t bother me too much.  I was a little stiff, but really the only thing that gave me trouble was the chafed skin.  The key was that I wasn’t dead like I had imagined myself to be.

Tuesday morning I left Florida to make my way back to Calgary.  Numerous people on my flight from Orlando to Houston had been in the marathon.  They still had the waddle going on and many of them wore the medal.  As I made my way back across the country, I had time to reflect on what I had accomplished and what I learned.

I really enjoyed the Disney races.  All the on course entertainment made the miles less torturous than they could have been.  I wish that I would have stopped for more character pictures, but I was too afraid of being swept.  I did stop once on the course and got my picture made with the Disney Villains.  Maybe at the Dumbo Double Dare I’ll be able to stop a few more times.  One of the things I learned was that I don’t push myself enough when I’m training on my own.  I had watched my pace gradually decrease until I joined the pace group.  Then my pace quickened.  This means that in future training, I need to be harder on myself.  I learned that I could be in the heat and not die; I just had to take it slow.  Training in subfreezing temperatures and low humidity didn’t really prepare me for the race environment.  I was told that the heat index was 102°F around 1:00pm – yes, I was still out there at this time.  There were approximately 4,500 people that DNF’d the race.  Some people had to leave because they decided to do this on a whim and didn’t put the time in to train.  Majority of the ones that had to leave the race, had to do so because of the heat/humidity.  I believe that following Jeff’s advice, as well my desire to prove my husband wrong helped me accomplish what I once thought impossible.  Note to self:  When in doubt, trust your training and trust your coach.

As I sat in the airplane seat trying to will my ankles to stop swelling, I thought about all the people that got up just as early as I did, but not to run the race.  They watched it and cheered everyone on.  Once again the power of an encouraging word overwhelmed me.  There were so many spectators along the course (both in and outside of the parks) with cowbells and signs and silly outfits.  Some had their chairs and picnic blankets laid out.  Others had their RV’s parked on the side of the road.  To come running up a hill from an underpass and hearing and seeing all of these people cheering…  It brings tears to my eyes just reliving those moments in my mind.  So many times complete strangers hollered and yelled my name:  “You can do it, Dawn!”  “You got this, Dawn!”  “Dawn, you are amazing!”  The first time someone used my name I almost stopped.  I was trying to figure out how I knew them.  They were yelling someone else’s name and it clicked – they read my name on my bib.

My favorite story from the marathon doesn’t even involve me.  I was on the bus after the race and three older ladies got on.  One sat next to me (in the first seat), one sat a few rows back, and the third sat in the jump seat next to the driver.  I asked the lady next to me if everything was ok.  This was her story.

“The three of us were walking the marathon.  Sarah started feeling ill and we stopped at a medical tent.  She kept telling us to go, but we wouldn’t leave her.  The medics decided that she had low blood sugar, so once she got something to eat and drink she was feeling much better.  Once again she told us to go.  Anne and I told her that we started this together and we would end it together.  The medic cleared her to leave the tent, but she was still weak.  They let us take a wheelchair.  Thank goodness Anne was with us – usually she’s much farther ahead because she’s pretty fast.  Anne was running and pushing the wheelchair and I was the one having the asthma attack – I’m a walker, not a runner.  We crossed the finish line together.”

Tears pooled in my eyes as I listened to her story – something about the marathon must have had my emotions in overdrive.  I was so happy for them and in awe of what they accomplished.

The three ladies I met on the bus were good friends and had known each other for years.  But there’s a camaraderie that exists among runners regardless if you are seeing each other for the first time in the start corral or grew up together.  There were 65,000 people there for the three races.  I met some, but 99.983% of them I would never be able to pick out of a crowd.  Yet I saw them around the parks wearing their medals or I’ve read posts online from people who were there.  I feel a kinship with these people I’ve never met.  It’s like the secret ingredient for an instant friendship… “Oh, you were at Walt Disney World for the race?  Me too!”

I’m incredibly proud of my accomplishment.  I finished the 5K, the half marathon, and my very first full marathon.  I have an automatic PR for the full and it was so slow, that surely I can only get better from here.  There have been a few occasions when I think about how fast other people were and how fast I wasn’t.  I’ll admit, that I would feel like my accomplishment was less than theirs simply because it took me so long.  But then I look at my medals.  I think about how much harder it is (for some people) to be out in the heat for seven hours as opposed to running it faster and getting off the course sooner.  I had made my own “Dopey” medal.  At this point in time, Disney does not recognize the Dopey people that run all three races.  Even though it’s not “official”, it still marks a huge accomplishment for this tortoise.  My husband travels to San Francisco for work every week.  He was telling me about a guy he works with that also did the Goofy (although I think he finished as the sun was rising) and I realized I earned the exact same medal he did.  This makes me smile.

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Lessons learned – Subaru Banff Sprint Triathlon (2012)

Posted on September 26, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized |

The weekend of September 7th was pretty much a blur, but I had fun and I learned a lot, like how wetsuits are not all they are cracked up to be – more on that later.  I had signed up for the Subaru Sprint Triathlon in Banff and the time had finally arrived.  I felt ok in the weeks leading up to the event.  I had done the Strathmore Women’s Tri in 2011 and 2012 and after the second one I felt really good.  I knew that it would be a different race, but I never realized how different.

First of all, the design of the race is quite different.  The SWT is a race designed for women seeking entry to the world of multi-sport racing.  The 500m swim is done in a pool (so every 25m you can hold onto the wall if needed), the 20K bike course is an out and back (downhill out and gentle incline coming back), the 5K run is flat, and T1 and T2 are at the same location. With the Banff Tri it was still a 500m swim, but this time in a glacial lake with a wetsuit, the 25K bike course went around Minnewanka loop and into the town of Banff, the 5K run went along the river and up and over bridges, T1 and T2 were in different places (which tacked on a whole other level of organization).  This triathlon is also a qualifier for the Sprint World Championships so the level of competition jumped a few hundred notches.

A couple of weeks prior to this race I tweaked my back – nothing major, but it was definitely talking to me.  I stopped training and just did some walking, hoping that a rest was all I needed to recoup.  I finally broke down and got an appointment with a chiropractor (first time ever) and come to find out, my back is pretty much out of whack.  Ask any of my doctors and they will tell you that I’m special… I don’t present anything close to textbook symptoms and it’s usually surprise that is expressed by the doctor telling me “You do have ____.  I would have never guessed that.”  So with my back, it’s curving in unusual ways and there’s a pesky extra vertebra in there causing all kinds of trouble.  With that in mind, I decided to race anyway.  It’s rather amusing that my chiropractor lumps me in his “more athletic patients” category.  I also learned that one of the US Olympic bobsled athletes also has an extra vertebra and my chiropractor is able to help him, so maybe there’s hope for me yet.

The first task that helped to solidify what was coming was picking up my wetsuit rental the Tuesday before the race.  I’ve never swam in a wetsuit and wasn’t sure what to expect.  In all the advice I received regarding the wetsuit, two were most popular:  1.  Practice getting the wetsuit on and off and 2.  Practice swimming in the suit.  I got the suit home on Tuesday and eagerly tried it on.  My plan was to get it on and then jump in the shower to get all wet before taking it off.  I was going to go the next day (and every day I could) to the YMCA and practice my swimming strokes. Here is where I hit my first snag – I could NOT get the suit on by myself.  My back prevented me from twisting around and pulling the suit up from the back.  Brandon was gone to Vancouver, so I didn’t have any help – looks like there will be no practice in the wetsuit for me.  That’s ok… surely it can’t be that different, right?

I had to be in Banff on Friday afternoon to check my bike in and attend an athlete meeting, so we loaded up everything and took off for the mountains just after noon.  We get to Central Park in Banff so I could register and pick up my race package.  By this time, it was close to 4pm so we checked into the hotel.  I left the boys there and took my bike over to Two Jack Lake.  They had told us that no parking was available at T1 so we should park at Lake Minnewanka and ride over to Two Jack.  I was amazed at the scenery on this short ride.  I’ve been in Calgary for 3 years now and this was the first time I’ve been to this area.  I hit my second snag at T1.  I didn’t have my race package with me and the number that is supposed to be on my bike was back at my hotel.  I took the shuttle back to my truck and headed back to town.  The boys met me outside the hotel with my race package and we all rode out to T1.  Spectators were encouraged to stay in town during the race because there would be so little parking at T1.  This gave them a chance to see where I was going to be swimming and biking.  As we rode around the loop I realized that the bike was going to be brutal and my fear of the bike escalated.  I got the number on my bike and my bike checked in.  We get back to town and find a place to eat a late dinner (9pm).  Back at the hotel I’m getting everything separated (T1 vs. T2) and into my wet and dry bags.  You aren’t allowed to bring any bags to T1 other than the wet and dry bag they provided with your race number on it.  Your dry bag will contain the clothes you wear before the race and anything else you will not be taking on the bike with you (that’s dry).  The wet bag, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, will contain your wetsuit, goggles, swim caps, etc.. that was used during the swim.  These bags are transported back to Central Park where they can be picked up after the race.

At 10:30pm I turned off the light and tried to go to sleep.  Zachary was sleeping next to me and I tried to focus on his soft breathing to calm me down and help me drift off.  No such luck.  I dozed off and on throughout the night, but I never really slept.  My mind wouldn’t turn off.  Unlike the night before the Strathmore tri, there was no excitement – just nervousness and fear.  I was scared of the swim – glacial lake, mass start, wetsuit worries – and the brutality of the bike course.  My bike training has been on stationary bikes, and you just don’t get the same experience as riding outdoors.  I’m still not comfortable being clipped into my pedals so rather than riding enough to get comfortable, I avoided it.  Around 3:30am my nerves were in high gear.  I felt like I was going to jump out of my skin and actually thought about trying to vomit to see if it would make me feel better.  I decided against that and just laid there while the clock marked the passing hours.

At 6am I finally got up and tried to get the wetsuit on by myself.  I fought with the suit for 30 minutes.  I was tired from the struggle, sweating profusely, and had killer blisters on the tips of my fingers.  Finally I gave up, sat down and cried.  I wanted to just go back to Calgary and forget this race.  My fear had escalated to heights I didn’t think possible.  I got Brandon up at 7 and he helped me get the suit on.  I didn’t know if there would be anyone to help me with it at T1.  I just hoped I didn’t have to go to the bathroom before the race!

I got down to T2 where I was to drop off my running gear and it dawned on me that I was the ONLY one in a wetsuit.  I caught more than my fair share of wondering looks from other athletes.  The shuttle came to pick us up and I quickly found a seat.  This is where I met Jenn.  She sat next to me and had done the super sprint race last year.  She asked me if this was my first tri and without any hesitation, I said yes.  I don’t know why I said that… maybe because if felt like my first.  I did explain to her that the wasn’t really my first tri, but I couldn’t get over how scared I was of this race.  I asked her so many questions about the swim and wetsuit.  Evidently everyone helps everyone with their suits so now I know I don’t have to squeeze into it three hours in advance.  We got out to T1 and I set up my transition.  Jenn introduced me to Val – who actually lives a couple of miles from me.  Volunteers keep saying to get the dry bags on the truck so I quickly threw what I wasn’t going to swim in or carry with me on the bike into the bag and took it to the truck.  It wasn’t until about 300 bags were on top of mine that I realized my sunglasses were accidentally thrown in the bag.  The weather was phenomenal and the sun was bright – I think I’m going to have to do a lot of squinting on the bike and run *sigh*.  I made my way down to the lake to find my new friends and to stick my toes in the frigid water.  It was definitely the coldest water I’ve ever been in.  I got my caps and goggles on and waited for the start.

Seems like I heard “You will panic because of the cold water.  Just keep calm, keep breathing, keep moving and you will be fine” from everyone.  I tried to prepare myself for the glacial water.  My thoughts turned to times I went swimming with my daddy in Barton Springs down in Austin.  That was some cold water and the best way we found to get in was just to jump.  For comparison purposes, Barton Springs is around 22C (71F) and Two Jack Lake was sitting at 15C (59F).  The athletes waded into the water to wait the start.  I splashed water on my face over and over again to try to acclimate.  The horn blew and we were off.  At least most of us were off.  I waited a couple of seconds to let the mass hysteria get ahead of me so I didn’t get kicked in the head.  I eased into the water and started moving.  I kept thinking that the “panic” was going to set in and just keep calm and breathe.  It was so cold!  I didn’t get that panic sensation so I started swimming.  I quickly realized that the wetsuit wasn’t allowing me the front crawl motion.  So that stroke was out.  Wetsuits work to keep your legs up in the water which almost forces your face in the water.  This would be great if I have used the front crawl.  I ended up doing the entire 500m with the most inefficient stroke known to man.  I had to force my legs down so I could keep my head up and was at a 45 degree angle.  I did a bicycle kick with my legs and used breast stroke arms.  My back and neck were quick to protest this position and as I moved through the water, the protests only increased.  I tried to stay calm.  The only panic I felt was because the wetsuit made me feel like I was being choked – I’ve never liked high collars.  I continually pulled at the neck of the suit to relieve the choking sensation and of course cold water rushed down the front.  I kept going but it was a slow process.  I never had to hold onto a kayak or a buoy so that was good.  I crawled out of the water thinking “That’s it – I’m done.  I don’t want to go on. I just want the dang suit off of me!”

I made it up the hill, got my bike gear on, and threw my wet stuff into the wet bag that would be taken back to town.  I mounted my bike (past the mount line) and took off.  The first portion of the course was downhill – like a fairly steep downhill grade.  I actually got a little nervous when the downhill slope combined with a curve and thought I might end up going off the road so I slowed down.  The other competitors zoomed by me and several times I thought we would crash.  I kept as far right as I could and the other bikers didn’t move over as far as I thought they would to pass.  There were even instances when we would bunch up in a pack.  Here we are flying down the hill, four wide, three deep, and I feel like I’m in the Tour de France.  My only thought is “Please nobody wreck.  Please!  My feet are attached to my bike and if I go down, I’m in trouble.”  At the T intersection the course splits – to the left the fairly flat road to town, to the right – Minnewanka Loop and it’s terrifying hills.  I wanted to turn to the left and just go back to town.  I wanted it to be over.  My back was hollering and I was tired.  So I did the only thing I could… I turned right.  I hit the hills and just pedaled.  I’m still getting passed like crazy and as the athletes speed by I find myself drooling over their bikes.  I studied the feet of the people that passed me and realized that my feet were going around at the exact same speed, but I wasn’t going anywhere!  I guess I really need to get on my bike more…  I kept thinking about how I was going to be last and that was ok.  But deep in my heart I knew I wouldn’t be last (but if I was, it was ok).  A similarity between this race and Strathmore Women’s Triathlon is the encouragement you give and receive:  “You’re doing great!”  “Keep spinning!” “Almost to the top!”  “One more hill to go!”  I will admit that the big brutal hill conquered me.  I had to get off my bike and walk.  It was either that or just fall over because I wasn’t going anywhere!  I used the time to eat and get some water.  Thankfully there was a lull at this moment and only one person saw me walking.  I mounted my bike at the top of the hill and carried on.  I rode past Lake Minnewanka and headed back to Two Jack Lake.  It’s all downhill now – except for one medium sized hill – and I’m once again where the course splits.  I have never been so happy to turn left!  I’m loving the flat ride back into town.  There were several instances on the bike course I lost my breath.  Not because I was huffing and puffing (which I was) but because I took a moment and looked around.  It was the beauty of my surroundings – mountains, lakes, and trees – that took my breath away.  When I turned my attention back to the road in front of me, I was almost off the course and into the trees.  There were a couple of “Sheep on road” signs, but they had already scampered away by the time I got there.  I notice more and more spectators as I get closer to town – cheers, cowbells, signs – all help get me to T2.  The boost that all that support provides will never cease to amaze me.

They were actually able to close off two blocks of Banff Avenue – which is a pretty big deal!  Spectators were everywhere hollering and clapping as I arrived at T2 (finally) and got my bike racked and my runners on.  Some of the closer spectators could probably hear me cursing yet again about the fact that I put my sunglasses in my dry bag.  I quickly fell into my comfortable 20:40 ratio.  My legs were actually able to recover during the run.  As I moved along the 5K course, many of the other athletes gave me a pat on the back, a smile, and some encouraging words.  The run was along the river and the scenery was amazing.  I reached the turn around and was headed back to the finish line.  I felt better – my back was still bothering me, but my run was going smoothly.  I saw some very creative signs along my journey: “Worst Parade Ever!”  and “WTF?? Where’s The Finish??”.  They helped put a smile on my tired face and I was able to pick up the pace a little bit.  I’m still thinking about coming in last, but those thoughts are overshadowed by the thought of my finisher’s medal.  I just kept thinking about how proud I was going to be of that medal!  I worked so hard for it!!  I rounded the last corner and headed to the finisher’s chute.  I hear the loudspeaker voice announce my arrival “And here comes our last sprint runner!  Number 61…”  I didn’t hear the rest.  It finally sunk in that I was in fact last in my race.  I almost stopped.  I couldn’t believe it.  I really was last and it’s not ok.  The cheer from the crowd increased as I came down the chute and crossed the finish line.  Later Brandon told me that I received the loudest cheers from the spectators.  Someone took off my timing chip and someone else handed me some water.  I saw Val and Jenn and went to say Hi.  Brandon and the boys found me and gave me a hug.  That’s when I realized that I didn’t get a medal.  I turned around to go get mine and Jenn told me that they didn’t have finisher medals.  Talk about a let down…

Afterward I went to the park to pick up my wet and dry bags and grab a burger.  I gave my gear to my husband and then went to T2 to grab my bike.  One of the athletes that spoke to me during the run saw me and asked me how did I do.  I laughed and told him I came in last.  His comment was that it was still an accomplishment just to finish regardless of when you cross the finish line.  He’s right.  I did something I never would have dreamed of 2 years ago – or even a year ago…  I raced alongside olympic athletes on one of the most scenic routes in the world in a triathlon that is a qualifier for the World Championships.  That’s insane!

I didn’t have the heart to look at my results for the longest time.  I knew I came in last so who cared, right?  I cared.  The timing was broken down into swim, T1, bike, T2, and run.  I wasn’t last in any one thing… just when you added up my times I came out last.  There were several people who DNF’d and one person was DQ’d so even my last place finish trumped that.  My run was actually  four seconds faster than the 5K I did at the 2012 Strathmore Triathlon so I was extremely happy with that.

Time                                                                              Rank

Total time – 2:41:25                                                         303/303

500m Swim – 19:58                                                          302

T1 – 12:00 (I walked up the hill to T1)                                  299

Bike – 1:22:39                                                                 302

T2 – 2:55                                                                        284

5K Run – 43:55                                                                301

I learned a lot this race about do’s and don’ts for race day (esp when the race is an open water swim with different locations for T1 and T2).  I also learned more about me as a person and an athlete (did I just call myself that?).  I learned which areas are my biggest weaknesses and which are my not so big weaknesses – I’m not quite ready to call them my “strengths” yet.  I’ll admit I was pretty discouraged about the last place finish, but rather than stay in that mindset and just quit, I decided to embrace my race for what it was and learn where to go from here.  Did I want to give up during the race?  Yep – I even wanted to give up before the race when I was sitting in the bathroom stressing about the wetsuit.  Am I glad I sucked it up and did the Subaru Banff Sprint Triathlon?  You betcha – even if they didn’t pass out finisher medals.  Will I do the race again?  Definitely… after I get some practice in a wetsuit and can actually ride up hills on the bike.

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