First, a little explanation of how I came be be completing this race in the first place. If you know me, you know that I went to SMU, I was in the Mustang Band, and some 15 years after graduating, I'm still a total Band Geek and a die-hard Mustang.
The last weekend before classes start it's not unusual for the Diamond M Club (Mustang Band Alumni Association) to have some kind of event for the current band members. They usually watch a rehearsal then have an informal gathering with hot dogs or something and get to meet the current Band members. We talk about the old days and marvel at how much younger the college kids seem to get every year.
Kev was scheduled to head to his brother's for the weekend to do his Fantasy Football Draft (a weekend of talking football, eating, drinking, smoking cigars, etc.). Since I wasn't planning on partaking in the eating, drinking and smoking and I was still just on the waiting list to be in the League, I decided to pass on Draft Weekend. I sent a message to a few of my Diamond M Club friends and asked them if the Club was going to do anything for the Band. I thought I could head up to Big D for the weekend, hang out with friends, do general Band Geek stuff, let my kids run around campus. Good times.
Well, I'm still not sure what's up with this, but the Diamond M Club didn't have anything planned. However, my friend Jennifer responded to my message that while she didn't know of any Band activities over the weekend, she and her husband were participating in a triathlon in Rockwall and I was invited to join them.
Hmmmmmmm. A triathlon. In Rockwall. In late August. For which I was completely unprepared.
I thought about it for all of 30 seconds, then thought, "Sure, why not?" Before I had much time to think about it, I had renewed my USAT membership, scheduled a tune-up for my bike, ordered a new tri suit, and signed up for the race.
Now, I've been working out consistently since February. I've sort of been training for a triathlon. I've had the Trek Women's Series Triathlon in Austin on October 3 on the schedule for MONTHS. I've done triathlons before. It wasn't my first one. But, the Trek was supposed to be my big comeback, and I wasn't really physically or mentally ready to do a triathlon just yet.
Regardless, I was signed up, and I'm not one to sign up and not follow through without a REALLY good reason, so I decided to go ahead with it.
I got new pedals and shoes, got my bike tuned up, got my USAT membership, got my new tri suit, got all my gear ready to go and worked out child care with my Mom and Dad so I could go north by myself and not have to worry about the kids before, during or after the race. I headed out to Big D Saturday morning.
I had to go straight to Rockwall for packet pickup. I was AMAZED by the Rockwall High School Aquatics Center. It was really nice - 8-lane Olympic-sized pool, diving pool, nice stands, nice locker rooms - just amazing, especially for a High School.
I had been warned that the Tri-Rock race director was a little hard core about the whole triathlon thing. I walked into the natatorium with my photo ID and my USAT membership card to pick up my packet. I handed my ID and membership card to the lady at the registration table. She had a master list that indicated my name, bib number and division. I registered as an "Athena." For those of you that don't know, "Athena" is triathlon-speak for "fat girl." But, in the world of triathlon, Athenas weigh 150 pounds or more. Now, I would be over the moon if I weighed 150 pounds. As it is, I still weigh over 200 pounds!
The lady looked at my name, told me my bib number was 290, then moved her finger along the line until she saw that I was registered as an Athena. She then matter-of-factly said, "Please step on the scale," and pointed to a $19.99 bathroom scale on the floor next to her. WTF?!?!?! A scale? Are you freakin' kidding me? The Athena limit is 150. My boobs probably weigh 150 pounds! I kind of giggled nervously and complied. I was so dumbfounded by the whole thing that I put up no fight and didn't even make a witty comment. I just stepped on the scale and told myself not to be embarrassed because A) I didn't know that lady, and she didn't know me, and I didn't care if she judged me based on the number on that scale; B) It's doubtful that she gave a rats ass about the number on the scale; C) That number was significantly lower than it would have been 6 months ago; and D) I was going to complete a triathlon the next day, so screw the dumb scale.
After proving to the packet pickup nazi that I was, in fact, fat enough to be an Athena, I was guided down the line to pick up my bib, t-shirt, etc. Packet pickup done.
My friend Jennifer who got me into this mess in the first place was kind enough to let me stay at her place the night before the race. I went to her house. The day and night Saturday before the race were lovely. I visited my Aunt and Uncle in Richardson, visited with Jennifer and Kyle (and their adorable daughter Evelyn), my lovely hosts for the weekend, and had a FABULOUS pre-race dinner at Ali Baba in Dallas. It was HEAVENLY. I can't wait to go back and eat there again.
Jennifer, Kyle and I got all our race gear together, set our alarms and eventually made our way to our respective beds to try to get some sleep before having to get up about and hour before the ass crack of dawn to get to the race. I didn't sleep all that well. I don't know why I get pre-race jitters, but I do. It's not like I'm really "racing." It's more like an organized workout. I'm slow. I'm fat. I'm hardly a professional. I don't compete for prizes or against anyone. I participate to finish, to get the t-shirt, to have a goal so my workouts are about something other than just losing weight, and most importantly, because it's fun.
So, I woke up several times during the night, had goofy dreams about various triathlon disasters, and actually didn't have much trouble when 4:45 came and it really was time to get up and get ready for the race.
We all ate breakfast, got all our gear, and headed out to Rockwall. It was a pretty easy drive since it was crazy early - the only cars on the road had bikes on the back of them - headed to the same place we were going. Everyone else had the good sense to still be in bed.
The race nazism continued as everyone had to have their number written on their bodies by race officials at the entrance to transition. There were race officials at transition checking bib number, checking for stickers on bikes and helmets indicating that they had passed safety inspection and then writing our numbers on us. That made for quite the bottleneck into the transition area.
It was to be a pool swim, so our bib numbers were in the order we would start - based on our estimated 300m swim time when we registered. My friends and I were both in the high 200's out of almost 400 participants, so we were pretty much at the end of the pack. We found our bike rack and got our stuff ready. Then we checked in with the USAT official to make sure our bikes were racked in the right direction so we wouldn't have our bib numbers called out at the race meeting that our bikes were turned wrong - like I said, race nazis.
We got our timing chips got all set and got ready for the start. I was nervous. Again, there's no real need for this. I just can't help it. I was totally prepared to be last overall, but I was still nervous about getting through the race, the heat, not really being ready to do a triathlon just yet, etc. We finally had the race meeting and got way more instructions than we could possibly remember. Then we filed into the natatorium to start the 300m pool swim.
Since I was number 290, it was a while before I got in the water. When it was my turn, I hit "go" on my HRM watch, jumped in and started swimming. I hate the pool swim. It's hard to pass. It's depressing to get passed. Just about the time you get into a groove with your stroke, it's time to turn around. I never thought I'd get to this place, but I definitely prefer open water to the pool swim.
During the very first 50m length, the guy who started behind me passed me. I tried not to let myself get too discouraged by that. "Just keep swimming," I told myself. "You aren't racing. This is for fun." I just kept swimming. I tried to focus on staying calm, breathing, looking straight down, having good form with my stroke, being efficient in the water. I was feeling pretty good. As I headed for home on the last 50m length, the guy who had passed me was fading, and I passed him and got out of the pool before he did. Though I was doing a good job of staying positive and focusing on finishing and having fun rather than racing, I still felt pretty good about catching up and eventually passing him.
I had also been worried about getting out of the pool as we were supposed to hoist ourselves out of the water - no ladder. There were volunteers there to help, but I WEIGH OVER 200 POUNDS! It's not like those volunteers have any chance in the world of heaving my fat ass out of the pool. To my surprise, I made it out of the pool without looking too much like a beached whale - at least I don't think I did. If I'm wrong, I don't want to know. Ignorance is bliss.
Then to transition. I'm not racing. I'm not racing. I'm not in a big hurry. Just get on the bike and get moving, no need to go nuts. My friend Jennifer was #297 so she got in the water slightly after I did. She got to transition while I was getting my bike gear going. I'm not racing. I'm not racing. I'm so damn competitive. I couldn't help but try to hurry to stay ahead of her. Remember, I'm not racing. I got myself all transitioned and headed out. It was a long walk from the bike rack to the transition exit. It sucked to walk so far in my bike shoes. I always feel like such a goober walking in my bike shoes.
Then I tried to get on the bike and really looked like a goober. I couldn't get clipped into my pedals. I finally got going then almost fell flat on my ass trying to get clipped in and going. I said a foul word - probably beginning with an "F" when I realized that I was right next to a family with young kids. Nice. I didn't look up, and kept going. I finally got in my damn pedals and took off.
This is my favorite part. I love the bike. Even on my hybrid, I'm pretty good on the bike - especially for a fat girl. Really, I'm slow, but I feel fast. Like I said, ignorance is bliss.
The bike had some really moderate hills - really just slight inclines - but with my hybrid bike and my fat ass, any incline is pretty tough. It was an out and back course, and I was pleased that I mostly kept the speedometer over the 15 mph mark up to the turnaround. I was feeling really good about myself.
At some point on the bike - I think before the turnaround, Jennifer passed me. I'm not racing. I'm not racing. Yeah, right. I kicked it up a notch to pass her. I really don't want to be competing with anyone other than myself, but I can't just turn off that competitive instinct.
Then I turned around. Whoa, the back part of the out and back seemed much harder. Again, the "hills" weren't all that much, but I could feel it, and that smug feeling about my 15mph mark quickly faded. I tried to stay positive and just keep pedalling. I also tried to avoid the voice in my head that kept reminding me that finishing this 20K bike route only meant that the last, most dreaded part of the triathlon remained - THE RUN - just a 5K, but sister, I SUCK at running.
I came to the end of the bike, dismounted and walked like a goober in my bike shoes to the bike rack. I was careful to rack my bike correctly so as not to get penalized by the race nazis. Again, as I was making the bike to run transition, Jennifer came in from the bike. Remember - NOT racing!!! I took off my helmet, slipped on my visor, put on my running shoes, and headed out to "run." UGH!
Did I mention that I SUCK at running? I'm fat. I'm slow. And, to top it all off, I have a total mental block with running. As soon as I take the first "running" step, my lungs start to burn, my legs feel like lead, my heart races, and I start thinking about how long I have to run before I can stop and walk. I'm not big on all that "positive affirmation" BS, but lately I've been trying to constantly tell myself "I love to run. I'm light on my feet" while "running." Please note I use the term "running" VERY loosely. My running is not significantly faster than the walking speed of most people, but it sort of qualifies as running and I'm working really hard to get faster, build up endurance, and get over the mental block about the whole exercise.
I started running straight away out of transition - immediately contemplating how long I had to go before I wouldn't seem like a total loser for starting to walk. I wish I'd planned the run better. I should have had some sort of race plan - Run 4 minutes, Walk 1 minute. Something. I had nothing. I was just winging it. I was resigned to walk the whole thing if I had to - at least that's what I told myself. But, the reality was that I didn't want to walk the whole thing, and I was way more motivated by Jennifer being right behind me than I ever wanted to admit. HELLO!!! I'M NOT RACING!
So, I settled into just winging the walk/run alternating. I would run to that light post then walk to that mailbox and so on. I walked more than I would have liked, but I kept plugging along. I even passed a few people. I was also amused by all the people who passed me and offered me encouragement. It was nice - most triathletes are really good about encouraging fellow participants. But, I just kept thinking about how fat I was and that I was the token fat girl completing a triathlon that everyone felt obligated to encourage. I could imagine them thinking, "Bless her heart." After they passed me, smiled, and cheered me on. Now, I'm not remotely self conscious about this. I'm fat. I'm completing a triathlon. They mean well. I'm not self conscious or embarrassed. I was just amused by it. It was helpful to be cheered on by all the various strangers passing me.
Like the bike, it was an out and back, but there was a little extra out and back. You had to go down a street and around a cul-de-sac on both the out and the back. That part I didn't love. When I got to the first turn off to go around the cul-de-sac the first time, I met someone who was heading back for the last time - she was almost done. I was trying not to think about how far I'd gone - or worse, how far I still had to go. The lean, fit runner who didn't seem remotely spent and clearly didn't have lungs that were on fire like mine were smiled and clearly felt obligated to come up with some encouraging words for the token fat girl on the course. "First mile done. Great job." CRAP! Only 1 mile! Dammit. I don't want to know that. Thanks a lot.
There was a water stop in the cul-de-sac. I grabbed a cup and kept going. I took a drink, then poured the rest on my head. That was dumb. The water was really cold, and I kind of gasped when the cold water hit my head. This caused me to aspirate the water I was still swallowing. Great. Now I'm hot and tired and trying to make it through the worst part of a triathlon while gasping for air and coughing.
I kept on. The out and back + the cul-de-sac thing gave me the opportunity to be continually reminded me that Jennifer was still on my heels. She was running the whole thing - no walk breaks for her. While my "running" pace is slightly faster than hers, her endurance and ability to go the whole 5K without walking certainly gave her an edge.
I love to run. I'm light on my feet. This isn't working. I'm hot. I'm tired. I suck at running. UGH!
I finally made it to almost the finish line and forced myself to run farther than I wanted to - not wanting to seem like a big loser walking at the end.
Then, I crossed the finish line. I did it. I'm a triathlete again. After doing 4 races in 2008, getting pregnant, gaining back 130 pounds of the 140 pounds I lost, having a baby, breastfeeding, eating way too much, not working out, getting totally out of shape, having wicked postpartum depression, then spending 7 months dieting and training and losing 95 of those pounds again, I completed another triathlon. I'm back!
I stopped the stop watch on my HRM and noted that I had finished in about 1 hour, 50 minutes. YEA!!! I was really hoping to make it under 2 hours, and I did it! 300m swim. 20K bike. 5K run. 1 hour, 50 minutes. Not bad for a fat girl on a hybrid who wasn't really physically or emotionally prepared for a triathlon and only signed up a week before the race.
I got some water, wandered around a little, then went to transition to find my iPhone and post on FB that I was again officially a TRIATHLETE. I was hot and exhausted and a little emotional. I didn't cry. I didn't totally lose it like I did when I finished my very first race, but I did think about how hard it was to make this comeback. YEA ME!
I was also VERY hot. I don't know how hot it was, but in the 90s (at only 10:30am). There was no shade. The heat really started to get to me. I found some food and some water and just plopped down on the ground under a tent.
Jennifer crossed the finish line shortly after me. As it turned out, there were only 6 Athenas registered for this race. Jennifer finished FIRST among them, and I was SECOND. Although I crossed the finish line before she did, her delayed start on the swim meant that her overall time was 30 seconds faster than mine. I would loved to have won. I really wasn't racing, but I am competitive, and having her on my heels for the entire race did keep me going. Still, I'm not sad at all that we left with her getting a kick ass First Place trophy and my getting a cool Second Place one myself. If someone had to beat me, I'm truly glad it was Jennifer - who has lost some 85 pounds herself and is also making a triathlon comeback. I'm thrilled with my Second Place finish. There might have only been 6 Athenas, but 4 of them were slower than I was, for sure one of them was younger than I am, and probably none of them have lost, gained and lost again over 100 pounds, had a baby, and battled back from postpartum depression in the last 2 years.
Overall, the race was great. I'm so glad I did it. I made fun of the "race nazis," but Ironhead Productions put on a great race, and the Rockwall Kiwanis volunteers were AMAZING. The race support was great. The post-race food was plentiful and excellent. The course was well-marked. Even the t-shirt was cool. It was a terrific day.
|First and Second Place Athenas showing off our hardware!|
We collected our hardware and headed back to Jennifer and Kyle's. Oh, I should mention that Kyle finished and did really well too. Yea Kyle! We got home, showered and headed out to the best part - the post-race victory meal. We ate at Angelo's. It was a really good Italian buffet. I somehow managed not to eat a mountain of food.
After a nice meal and visit with Jennifer, Kyle, and their sweet daughter Evelyn, I loaded up my van and headed south. It was a terrific weekend.
I AM A TRIATHLETE!