Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Ironman Maryland... well, sort of



An Ironman triathlon is a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile swim. The night before, we knew that the bike ride would be shortened due to flooding on the bike course. The swim ended up being canceled and the bike ride was shortened more than we were told. I will sign up for another Ironman triathlon, so I can complete the entire distance. Well, truth be told, I would have likely signed up for another Ironman anyway. While I did not complete the entire ironman distance at Ironman Maryland, it was so mentally exhausting with the swim delay then cancellation, the 2 hour wait to start the bike, running through water and mud multiple times, I believe that if we had swam the 2.4 miles and cycled the entire 112 miles, it would have been far easier than what we went through. However, since it was such a tough day and because I accomplished my goal of crossing an Ironman finish line and heard the words, "REBECCA WILLIAMS, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN", I still consider myself to be an Ironman Finisher.  I raced the race that was laid out for me, although it is bittersweet and feels like an incomplete goal.

Pre Race - Thursday:

The person that was supposed to travel to Cambridge to help and support me, disappointed me and went AWOL, so I arrived in Cambridge all alone. I knew that some BTA members would be there, Tania and Lisa were volunteering and that I would make friends. After seeing so many trump signs on my drive there and not seeing anyone of color when I arrived at the athlete reception, I was having BTA withdrawal in the worst way. I put out a BTA bat signal on Facebook and BTA started to come out of the woodworks. I saw Erica and soon met Alex Torres. I ended up having dinner with Alex and that ended up being one of the blessings of my weekend. Alex shared the poem "Thinking" by Walter Wintle and other tips to help me get through the mental aspect of the run.

Pre Race - Friday:

I headed out to rack my bike and for a practice swim and met the women of the All Women Tri Team (AWTT). They welcomed me in quickly and I instantly felt as though I had support. Note to self: Only race with friends, as the pre race stuff is much more fun and a lot less lonely. I felt the anxiety creep in while looking at the rough water that we were swimming in the next day. Erica and the ladies of the AWTT were done with the swim by the time I was ready to hop in, so I decided to just find a place to relax. I pulled into the Hyatt, booked a couple of treatments at the spa, had lunch overlooking the water and before long, I was nice and zen. I had dinner with AWTT, found my missing wallet (I left it at the Hyatt) and before long, I was laid up and resting for the big day.

Race day!

I did my usual pre-race meal and met the AWTT ladies in the lobby at 4:30 am. When we arrived at transition, it was flooded. That should have been a sign of the day to come. I didn't feel nervous or scared. I was just ready to get the day started and make my way to the finish line. It was really odd to not have my crew with me pre race, but I was just trying to focus on the day ahead and stay calm. They announced a 30 minute swim delay. I met Kimberlie and Tom Sheer shared some tips with us newbies. I noticed that the time had passed for the 30 minute delay, but they didn't make another announcement. I happened to look to my right and saw Tania! I screamed and hugged her so TIGHT and started to cry. The tears were of happiness that she was there. Tania is ALWAYS there for every important moment in my life since we've met, especially for triathlon stuff. I really needed to see a familiar face at that time. My BTA peeps are cool and all, but seeing a familiar face is what I needed. I fought hard to not think about all of the support that I had last year and compare it to this year. I was fighting all morning to be positive and focused, but when I saw Tania, I completely LOST it. As I hugged her and cried, they announced that the swim was canceled and I started to cry harder. Those tears were of disappointment, as I felt like my day was being chipped away and that I wouldn't have the full ironman experience. I saw Lenora, Tania left to do her volunteer duties and I was off to prep for and wait for the bike ride to start.


Bike:

They were starting at bib numbers 1-100 and sending athletes off every 3 seconds. My race number was 2,610, which meant that I would be waiting around for at least another TWO HOURS to start the bike. I spoke to everyone that was up to chat, met other BTA members, huddled in the tent to stay warm, drank a bottle of my bike hydration, because at this point, it had been hours since my 3:30am breakfast. After many hours of waiting, at 9:35am, I was finally able to start the bike. It was windy as expected. I was advised to go fast when I could, because the wind would surely slow me down at several points. I promised myself that I would never allow my speed to drop below 16mph. Whenever it did, I gave myself permission to take a little break, reposition, drink, eat and get focused again. I had to keep stopping to blow my nose, as I haven't mastered the snot rocket thing yet. I stayed on top of my hydration/nutrition, enjoyed the rain showers and stood up on every turn to stretch my legs a bit. I didn't spend too much time at special needs this time. I just changed my socks, reapplied chamois cream, changed out my bottles, blew my nose again and I was off. Before long, I was at mile 90. I got a hug from Lisa, drank a strangers coca cola, blew my nose again and I was off.  I don't know what was up with my dang nose!!! Lisa told me that I had fewer miles to go than they previously told us. When I made it to transition, I was impressed that I had rode the 100 miles in a little over 6 hours, so my goal of averaging 16+mph was accomplished! My quads were burning, so I knew that I probably went a little too hard.  I was completely shocked by the amount of water that I had to walk through to get into transition and even more shocked to see people on the run course walking/running through the water. I knew that I had 8 hours to run the marathon and was not excited about getting started and having to run through that water. I lubed up extra good, because I knew it was supposed to rain again and I headed out.

About to lube it up


Run: 
This was a part of the run course


I promised myself that I would only walk the aid stations. I ended up walking through water and mud about 6 times each loop (it was 2.5 loops). At the end of loop one, I saw Tania, Lisa and AWTT. My spirits were shot, because at that point, I had been through the water and mud a couple of times and I was NOT happy about it. Tania waded through the water with me on loop 1 and Lisa waded through the waters with me on the second loop. It was just a casual walk though calf deep water as they tried to talk to me to keep my mind off of the shitty run conditions. The water receded on the 3rd loop, but the mud got deeper and slicker. As it got dark and late, it started to rain, my darn feet were hurting, the course had thinned out, and my thoughts started to go dark. It started to rain harder around mile 21. I just stopped on the side of the road and started to analyze the decisions of my life. A little lady in yellow came up and told me, "Oh no, no NO! YOU KEEP MOVING!!". I noticed that the age on her calf was 72. 72!! So, I dried my tears and started moving again. At mile 22 this girl gave me some Aleeve that made my throat burn like they had been soaking in hot sauce. I took the soup. I saw Erica and tried to chat her up and she was rude AF. I let her be and took off. I recalled the words to the poem that Alex told me to commit to memory, and made a cadence of it: "Success begins with a fellow's will, it's all in the state of mind"I repeated that for the next few miles and before long I was back to where Tania was, she pumped me up and then ran off to the finish line to meet me. I passed the spot where Lisa had been sitting as I made my way to the finish line. I remembered Lisa telling me last year that my Ironman dream was delayed but not denied. I heard the cheers at the finish line and I thought and said out loud, I will NOT be denied! I WILL NOT be denied! I WILL NOT BE DENIED.... The song by Meghan Trainor, "No", started blaring out of the speakers. I heard someone say BTA!!, My hand went up, I heard my name called and then called again and the words, "REBECCA WILLIAMS OF WASHINGTON, DC.... YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!". Tania was right there in the finish chute with my medal. She put it around my neck and then we hugged and jumped around like 10 year olds! No tears. No pain. Just happiness. I DID IT!!




THANK YOU:

Thanks to my Coach for helping me to get more comfortable on my bike again and for getting me to the start line healthy and positive.

Thanks to Tania for always being there for me. Always. Seeing you at the swim, on the bike course, walking through the water with me and being at the finish line with my medal. You are ALWAYS there. THANK YOU!



Thanks to Lisa for the back cracking hug at mile 90 on the bike, for wading through the waters with me, for always supporting and believing in me, and for telling me that my goals were delayed but not denied. Words matter and you always know the right thing to say. THANK YOU!

Thank you to everyone who texted, sent FB messages, positive thoughts and vibes. Your energy carried me through those dark moments on the run. Thanks to Alex Torres for sharing tips with me over dinner. Thanks to everyone that came out to ride with me during training. That meant more to me than you would ever know. My anxiety on the bike was bad and you riding with me helped to increase my confidence. THANK YOU all.

Those AWTT women are the TRUTH. Since I didn't have anyone with me to help, they got my bike and bags after the race and put them in their hotel room. Not only did they bring me to the race site, they gave me a ride back to the hotel, invited me to their room for a post race massage with an amazing masseuse, invited me to get into their hot tub post race, invited me to pre race dinner and post race lunch. I was just a part of their crew. The TRUTH, I tell you. These women embody true sisterhood. THANK YOU ALL!

AWTT support crew!





I am not quite ready to change my name from Tri Becca to IRON BECCA just yet. I have to complete the full distance of an Ironman triathlon before I do that and get the tattoo. But, I did finish an Ironman competition, so I am proudly a FINISHER!!





Tri Becca

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Getting back to being brave





Before my bike crash a couple of years ago, I would hop on my bike solo, go ride down to the river or to a trail, pack my bike up and go on a group ride knowing that I would see someone I knew or meet some new cycling friends. I didn't need to have someone to ride with me, I didn't need to know the pace of the group in advance in fear of getting dropped. I was perfectly okay riding and just getting it IN. Until that fateful day, when I went out on a solo ride in the 'hood and ended up in the back of an ambulance with my head split open. I've never been able to get my mojo back. The anxiety has been far greater than I have admitted to anyone. Anxiety about falling, anxiety about getting left alone, anxiety about riding solo, anxiety because of... the anxiety. But today, I made a huge step toward getting my mojo back. Today I ended up being the brave Tri Becca I used to be.

I signed up for the Patuxent River Rural Legacy ride. I invited folks to join me, but got no bites. My coach had it on my plan and I was committed to getting it done, even if it meant going alone. I had a sick tummy this morning, I got a late start, I considered not going, I got there and considered riding the 22 mile route instead of the 44 mile route as planned. I was ALL OVER THE PLACE! I pulled up and saw Tedd and Lynette. I started out riding with them, but ended up leaving them on the first climb. I met up with 2 other girls, who I ended up leaving on the next hill. I kept finding people and then leaving them when I realized that I had more in me to give on the bike. I rode with these 2 women for awhile that challenged me to keep up. They decided to go to the rest stop, but I had hydration and my legs were feeling fresh, so I didn't stop at the rest stop. I caught up with another group and hung with them for awhile before I realized that I could push my pace more. As I took off, this tall piece of man candy with  Getting It IN cycling took off with me. We pushed each other and chased each other up and down hills. My bladder started to hate me, so he held my bike while I hit the bushes. We made a quick stop for hydration at the next aid station and pushed off again. I past SO many people today! I've never said "ON YOUR LEFT"... and gave so many words of encouragement as much as I did today. I thank John at 90+ cycling for the help with hill climbing. His classes kick my ass every time and I am always one of the last to finish a climb, but I can see that it's helping me to get stronger.

I did the damn thang today! I went out there, not knowing if I would see a familiar face or if I would be riding solo because I got a late start, but I decided to be brave and get it done. I did it! I completed the 44 mile route and discovered a new cycling group to ride with. I was BRAVE today and for that I am extremely proud of myself! Last year, I was too afraid to get outside to ride.  I spent countless hours on my trainer due to fear. This year I hope to get back to the brave Tri Becca that I once was and become a stronger and faster cyclist/triathlete. This year I will get outside more and just do the damn thing! This year I will train for an Ironman again and hope to change my name to "Iron Becca". Nice ring to it, huh?




Love,
the very BRAVE  and PROUD Tri Becca

Monday, May 16, 2016

Toeing the Triathon line again

Its hard to believe that I haven't blogged in 7 months. A lot has happened in that time. The thing that has remained constant is my desire to be a better me.

Immediately after failing to complete Ironman Louisville, I decided to race the next Ironman race that was still open, Ironman Cozumel. My immediate thought after that guy took my timing chip was, "Well, I just have to try again". I didn't want all of the training that I had done and my fitness to go to waste without trying again. Many of my friends told me to hang up my triathlon shoes and try again next year. I was advised to finish the year out with the NYC Marathon and be proud. I felt fine and decided to sign up for Cozumel. My Coach thought that I had enough time to ramp up again and that I would be fine, if I wanted to do it. I did. It was terribly hard getting back into the high level of training again, but I did my best. I ran the NYC marathon on November 4th, which was a COMPLETE BLAST.... minus the last 6 miles. After the NYC marathon, I was DONE for the year. I did not want to train anymore. I no longer wanted to race Cozumel. I did not want to have to follow a training plan anymore, so I applied for a refund from Cozumel, Tri Bike Transport and Endurance Sport Travel. I was fine with my decision. Here's the thing: I always know exactly what I want to do. Sometimes I question my reasons, but I know what I want to do.... however, I reserve the right to change my mind and I am okay with that too. I am sure that my friends and coach thought I was a little insane or that I made the decision to race Cozumel too soon. But no one knows me like I do. I knew that I wanted to do, until I didn't want to do it anymore. Makes perfect sense to me. No one has to agree or support my decisions.
 
For the next 5 months, I struggled to get in some exercise. I tried Solid Core, Fly Wheel, Soul Cycle, running speed work with Derrek, indoor cycling classes with DC Tri, etc. I was never consistent with anything. I tried out a Paleo diet and went back to my regular diet to see if I felt differently. I watched my belly grow and my arms and legs get flabby. I contemplated hanging up the triathlon boots and becoming a Pilates instructor. At the end of it all, I just wanted to Tri again, so I signed up for Ironman Louisville. I just HAVE to try again. I signed up for some running, cycling and swimming events and the Columbia triathlon to help me to build up my base fitness. However, I wasn't ready for the first few events on the calendar. I decided that what I needed was a training plan again, so I hired a coach. I started full on training again at the beginning of April. It was incredibly hard getting back into a routine again, but the clock was ticking and the Columbia Triathlon was creeping up on me.

May 15, 2016: Columbia Triathlon - Olympic distance

What went right:
  • Unlike last year, I did not cry multiple times before the swim, nor did I have the multiple 'nervous pee in my wetsuit' thing going on (DON"T JUDGE ME!!!)
  • Unlike last year, I did not have a FREAK OUT session as soon as I got into the water. Last year, I immediately swam to the wall and told the cop and volunteer that I didn't want to do this today. I was extremely nervous about the bike ride after the swim. The volunteer asked if I was trained to do the distance. When I told her yes, the cop told me, " WELL, GET YOUR HEAD IN THE GAME AND GET TO SWIMMING!". Such tough love, but it got me going...
  • Unlike last year, I did not find myself waiting in transition, crying by Lisa's bike and texting my friends that I could not go on the bike course. Nor did I have the subsequent cussing out by Lisa to "GET YOUR SHIT AND LET'S GO OUT ON THE BIKE, NOOOW!!!" (I have such lovely friends)
  • Unlike last year, I did not find myself crouched behind Lisa on the bike for the first 5 miles, because I was afraid of the slick roads and I wasn't comfortable on my bike
  • Unlike last year, I did not make adjustments on the run to finish
  • I FINISHED and to me, FINISHING IS WINNING!!
What sucked: 
  • The water temperature: The water was FREEZING (reportedly 62 degrees). I had on a neoprene cap, ear plugs, a wet suit, neoprene sleeves, neoprene booties and I was STILL freezing. I needed neoprene gloves. I had to bald my fist up and scrunch my toes a few times while swimming to get the circulation going.  I was at the 300 meter buoy before I got into a groove. I couldn't see the buoys because of their position in line with the sun. This was a slow and FRIGID swim for me, but I got it done. My hands felt frozen so my T1 was extremely long. Ever tried to take off booties or put on socks with frozen/numb hands?
  • The wind: At certain points on the bike course, I felt like I was going to literally get blown off my bike. Being wet and cold made the winds feel even worse. I literally could not feel my toes and my hands felt numb
  • Not seeing a familiar face as I crossed the finish line. I knew my girls were close by, but seeing a familiar face in the finish chute is priceless
All in all, it was a sucky day for a triathlon, but it was just a training day and I got it done! I have come a long way since last year this time, and for that, I am extremely PROUD.




What I need to do:
  • Increase my confidence on the bike. I am still nervous to go aero
  • Get stronger and faster on hills. 90+ will help me with this (when I can make it there. Traffic and work doesn't always let me be great)
  • Get faster on the run. I basically need to run more and run intervals and hills. I have a sneaky suspicion that my coach has something up her sleeves to help with this
The most awesome parts of the day: 
  • Hearing my name called as I exited the water, finished up the bike and approached the finish line. I think it was the awesome Live Now Tri Now folks that had me feeling like a ROCK STAR out there!! I know how hard it is to be a spectator and with such undesirable weather conditions, I appreciate each and every one of you even more! THANK YOU!!!
  • Seeing my girls as I approached the finish line. I cussed 2 of them out, but they just laughed it off and told me to hurry my ass up and finish (where do I find such lovely friends???Lol!)
  • Learning that my coach WON THE TRIATHLON! She was the first female finisher! How awesome is THAT? This chic knows what it takes to be successful in these Triathlon streets, so I will be obedient.... well, I will try :)

I am extremely proud of myself for crossing yet another triathlon finish line. I think this was Triathlon #15. I do this because I can. I do this to become a better me. My goal for 2016 is to become an  Ironman triathlete. I have been chasing this dream since 2014. I have had the goal since 2012. Let's make it happen! Who's with me? If you don't Tri, I can always use a yoga buddy. It takes a village....



Love,
Tri Becca

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Ironman Louisville 2015

History:

I learned to swim in preparation of my first triathlon in 2010. Since then, I have completed 14 triathlons to include Sprint, Olympic and Ironman 70.3 distance races. After my second Ironman 70.3 race in Cozumel, I felt and thought that I could double the distance. I never thought about completing a full Ironman until then. I had to delay my decision to race a full Ironman a year due to financial situations, but in 2013 I signed up for the inaugural Ironman Chattanooga. The timing wasn't ideal, but I was trying to push forward despite all that I was dealing with. Unfortunately, I ended up having a bicycle accident that caused me to have to pull out of the race 10 weeks prior. As soon as I was released by my doctors, I signed up for Ironman Louisville. Tania and Von both signed up to race with me and Lloyd agreed to coach me. I was all set... except I didn't have a bike that was in condition to ride. I spent time on my damaged bike on the trainer and eventually got a bike in mid May. If I am completely honest, I had anxiety every single week while training for this race. I had anxiety about riding alone and about riding with others that were faster than me. I tried hard to get over my fear of falling again and tried to get comfortable with going into the aero position. I did my best with training and tried to have balance. When the day came to travel to Louisville, I felt prepared.

Pre Race:

I arrived on Thursday and headed straight to Von's condo. We went over to the Ironman Village to get checked in with Leslie and Maggs. When the Volunteer pulled out my swim cap and race bracelet, the tears started to flow. I was overcome with the emotions of finally making it to this point after fighting so hard to get back to the triathlon starting line. Dawn came in on Friday morning after my short run  and massage. We had an afternoon of pampering with the girls, lunch outside, attended the BTA Meet and Greet and then had dinner with Tania and Heather. Kevin came in on Saturday morning and we all went to get my bike checked in after I took it for a 20 minute spin and then we had a nice dinner. I got everything laid out while they went to get Bertha from the airport before it was time for bed. Kevin, Bertha and dawn all did a phenomenal job at keeping me calm and making sure that I had everything that I needed on race morning. I was so happy to have the support of friends there on my big day. Of course Tania was right by my side, as usual, before it was time to jump in.

Swim:

I have been mentally preparing to just JUMP and not hesitate, as I always do. I consistently reminded myself that the fear I felt was irrational, as once I'm in the water and I can see out my goggles, I'm fine. I hesitated for a second, told myself to just jump... and so I did. Unfortunately, I didn't give Priscilla a chance to swim out the way and I jumped right on top of her. When I popped up, I apologized to her and took off. My chin was hurting and I prayed that she was okay. It was hard to get in my groove in first few hundred yards. The water was nice and cool, but the current felt like it was pushing me sideways. Before long, I got into my groove, but noticed people were walking! It was spooky as there was fog over the water as the sun was rising and I saw all of these bodies in black wet suits walking in the river. I called a kayak over so I could hold on to access the situation. I was determined to not stand and walk, as I didn't want the mushy river to squish between my toes. Before long, we swam around the island and it was time to swim to the exit. I peeked at my average pace a few times and knew that I was right on target to complete the 2.4 mile swim in 1 hour 40 minutes, as planned. Mission accomplished.

T1:

I was so grateful to have assistance with removing the wetsuit and changing into the bike gear. It felt like the time went quickly, so I was surprised to see that I spent over 14 minutes there. Must improve!

Bike:

I started the 112 mile bike ride with fresh feeling legs. The swim hadn't tired me out at all.  I knew that the first 10 miles were flat, so I planned to get fueled up before the hills started. I had 2 small zip lock bags of cut up potatoes with sea salt to eat once per hour along with my Infinit liquid nutrition. I accidentally dropped one of my bags of potatoes in the first mile. I noticed that the potatoes in the 2nd bag had a funny color to them. I tried to take out a small piece and dropped that bag too. I was determined to not allow that to rattle me. I had a back up Cliff bar in my back pocket and recalled that there would be Cliff bars on the course. I trained with those too, so I knew that my stomach could handle it. I noticed that my speed was 17-18mph and I remembered that Lloyd and Robert told me to keep a speed that I could maintain for the entire day. I was warned about going out too fast and burning out later in the day. I tried to dial it back a tiny bit and then we hit the first hill. My legs felt fresh, but I was determined to not "burn any matches" early on. I felt great and held a nice pace. we turned onto the out and back portion of the course and before long,  I heard the first crash. This section was entirely too congested with cyclist riding 2-3 across in each directions at some points. There were some fast declines and long climbs and folks were riding very recklessly. At around the 21 mile marker, I saw a woman lying on the ground across the street and Tania called out to me from a chair saying that her day was done. I was going up a little incline, tried to stop to check on her, pressed too hard on my breaks, maybe forgot to clip out (I can't remember) and I fell. It was such a silly fall, but my knee was hurting. Someone brought me some ice, I checked over my bike, made sure that I could move my knee, checked on Tania, called to notify her wife of her accident, and I was on my way. The first timing mat and turn around was just ahead. I needed to gather myself, so I stopped, went to the porta potty, refilled a bottle and tried to get my head back in the game. I felt rattled. My knee only hurt for a little while after that. I'm not sure if I blocked out the pain or if it was better. I do know that I was extremely cautious for the rest of the race. I'd never seen so many crashes on a course before. I noticed that my speed wasn't increasing. I tried to go aero continuously, but every time I did, there was someone or a car that was too close for comfort or a downhill that made me uncomfortable riding aero. I noticed that the course had thinned out and that many people were starting their second loop as I was starting my first. I kept pushing forward. I stayed on my nutrition plan to drink every 15-20 minutes and eat a tiny bite of something solid every hour. No hill felt insurmountable after I reminded myself that Lloyd took me on a ride up a freaking mountain! There were plenty of spectators in La Grange! I hit the mid way cut off point. I kept pushing forward but realized that time was getting away from me. My speed never really increased unless I was going down a long hill and there weren't that many of those. I started to calculate the time and thought that I would be okay. I didn't want to burn out and not have anything left for the run. I knew that if I could make the bike cut off, I would get to the finish line of the run at all costs before the clock stuck 12am. I never quit. I pushed forward and keep pushing and pushed until I got to the end of my 112 mile ride. Unfortunately, I was a few seconds too late. I dismounted in time, but had to run around the corner to the timing mat. The cutoff was 6:30pm, but I had to be done at 6:29:59. When I finished the clock said 6:30. I told the guy that it wasn't 6:31, so I should be fine. He said, "No, you have to be finished before the clock reads 6:30. You are too late. I'm sorry but we can't allow you to continue. I have to take your timing chip." He was a little hesitant to take the timing chip off my ankle, like he thought I would kick him in the head. My day was done. I walked my bike in with my head held high as spectators and volunteers clapped. Some told me that they were sorry. A BTA Sherpa was right there and said that I missed it by 14 seconds. She assisted me with changing into some other shoes and a hat and with getting my bags. I was able to hold my head high, because I felt that I did my best and I never quit. The sadness didn't immediately kick in. I borrowed a telephone to call Kevin and took a walk back to the hotel.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I never got up to my planned speed after the crash. My knee only hurt a little bit and I didn't think that it impacted my ride at all. Did it? Was I rattled from the accident and never recovered due to fear/anxiety? Was it because I didn't stay in aero enough? Was it because I was being too conservative riding in fear of burning out too soon? Truth be told, I've not gotten totally comfortable in the aero position during training and I rode aero even less on  race day. Yes, I could have saved some minutes in T1 and at Special Needs. I only went to the porta potty once and only stopped for a minute or two at aid stations. I'm sure I lost some time when I fell and I was making sure that Tania was okay after her accident. But still. Even with all of that, I should never have come that close to cut off. It's puzzling to me. But I do know one thing: I NEVER QUIT. I fought to the end and tried to beat the clock. The two heartbreaking facts are that I missed the cut of by SECONDS and that I felt absolutely fine and knew that I could make the midnight cutoff in 5.5 hours if I gave it my best. I had mentally prepared myself to be ready to fight and to become an Ironman before midnight. I wasn't permitted to continue, so I just have to try again. The rules are the rules and I simply did not meet the cutoff, but it's a hard pill to swallow. I am working on logistics to try again really soon.

The nature of my spirit is not one of a quitter. The two most immediate things I did post DNF were to check if another race was still open and called my coach. The most important thing that I did was make a list of what went right and what I could have improved upon. Here is that list:

Things done RIGHT:
  • Got over my fear of jumping in to start the swim
  • Conquered the swim in my expected time
  • Nailed my nutrition on the bike
  • Kept a positive attitude 
Things to IMPROVE:
  • Shorter transition time (swim to bike)
  • Be careful when stopping to avoid silly crashes
  • Shorter time at special needs
  • Get stronger and faster on hills
The most important thing that I need to improve is my confidence on the bike.

While I am terribly saddened by not accomplishing my goal, I am still proud of myself. I am proud that I fought my way back from the bike crash last year. I am proud that despite my anxiety of riding, I keep pushing forward and challenging myself to overcome my fears. I am proud that even when time is against me, I will still push and try to beat the clock until the very last second. I think that speaks to my character. I am determined to get comfortable again riding my bike, especially in the aero position. I started competing in triathlons because of my my desire to be better, to do more and to challenge myself. I have done that and I will continue to do that. I decided to do an Ironman triathlon, because I believed that I could. I still believe that I can, no mater how this turned out. I realize that it's a blessing to be able to physically do this. Everyone is not so lucky. Just one short year ago I wasn't physically able to do what I did on Sunday. I do this because I can, because I get to do this, because I am blessed.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Facing my fears and getting back out there





Fear.  What an extremely powerful emotion. It can be mentally crippling and can overcome you, if you allow it. It’s so very easy to suggest that a person “get over it and do it anyway”, but that is much easier said than done.  Some people deny that fear is real. I can attest that it is. It’s REALLY real. I have allowed fear to totally sidetrack me and consume me. I have allowed fear to prevent me from doing the things that I absolutely love to do. While I did need to take time to recover after my bicycle crash and I had some family issues that were demanding of my time, I have allowed fear to keep me on the sidelines for far too long. But, not anymore! I felt the fear, I fought it and I won.

Columbia Triathlon (0.93 mile swim, 25 mile bike, 6.2 mile run): I must have cried 5 times before I got in the water. I’m not 100% certain why. I was just extremely emotional about getting back out there to do a triathlon again. I knew that I could handle the distances.  I never doubted my ability. I believe it was the thought of getting on the bike that had me in tears. I was afraid to get on the bike, as I had only purchased it a week prior and I wasn’t that familiar with it. It’s super light weight compared to my last bike and I wasn’t comfortable in the aero bars. I wasn’t comfortable with how light it was going down hills. I wasn’t comfortable with the electronic shifters. Most notably, I wasn’t comfortable with the thought of riding it in the rain, as the roads would be slippery, making it more likely for a fall again. I was a COMPLETE rack of nerves.  I was afraid I was going to fall. As soon as I started the swim, I swam to the wall and told the cop that I didn’t want to do the race today. He told me to get my mind in the game and to get to swimming. Maybe I just needed some tough love? As I swam, I felt the raindrops and worked myself up into a complete frenzy. I prayed that Lisa had a bad swim (sorry Lisa!) and that her bronchitis was too bad for her to continue the race. I had decided that if this were the case, I would end my race and not go out on the bike.  I started the swim a while before Lisa did, so I knew I would have to wait. I noticed numbers on top of the buoys and assumed there would be 15 of them. After the 10th one, it was time to exit the swim, however I was mentally prepared to swim further. I must have been in the transition area for 20 minutes crying and texting my cycling coach, Tania and boyfriend about how I couldn’t go out on the bike. They all encouraged me to just go and reminded me that it was just a practice day. When Lisa came into transition, she saw me waiting for her by her bike. The look on her face was of pure disgust from her swim. She looked at me and asked what the hell I was doing standing by her bike. I burst into tears. She said, “Oh no! Get your shit together, grab your bike and let’s go! We’ll do this together”. Tough love again. No one would let me give in to the fear. I got it together and headed out to ride. I hung behind Lisa for a long time, as I was afraid to go down hills, afraid let go of the handle bars to get water or to take in nutrition, afraid that I would mess my gears up going up hills, afraid of the slick roads. I was just completely overcome with fear. I tried to strike up a conversation with Lisa. She just ignored me or grunted at me. Finally, I got the courage to just GO.  I made it up all the hills and just took my time practicing on my new bike. Before long, I made it to the finish line and was able to smile back at Leslie’s cheering face. I think I mean mugged her as I was heading out. The run was uneventful. I knew that I had to make some changes in order to make it to the finish line before the race cutoff. I finished the race with Lisa by my side with her amazing family support and Kevin at the finish line. I did it! Tri Becca: 1 Fear: 0

Washington’s Crossing (1.2 mile swim across the Potomac River):  I thought it would be a good idea to practice jumping off a boat before the Escape the Cape Triathlon. Plus, I thought it would be completely BADASS to swim 1.3 miles across the Potomac River from Virginia to Maryland. Tania and Von were both racing, so I signed up. Now, I did not stop to think about how nervous I am to jump into the water at the weekday swims or at other triathlons. Yeah, that never crossed my mind. As we were lining up to get on the boat, I got really quiet. Tania kept asking if I was okay. I wasn’t tearful, but I had the nervous pee thing going on. Oh BOY! When it was time to jump, Tania and Von jumped in with no issue and I just stood there. I screamed to Dennis (who was running the event) if I could sit down then jump in. He screamed back, “REBECCA, JUMP OR JUST STAY ON THE BOAT!!. I screamed FUGGGGGGG!..... and jumped in. My goggles immediately fogged up. Thank goodness, Tania was there. I started to panic saying “my goggle are foggy, my goggles are foggy, I CANT SEE! I CAN’T SEE!!” She let me hold on to her while I cleared and adjusted my goggles.  She’s such a good friend! I started to swim when the horn blew and kept reminding myself that my heat rate would soon slow down, that my body was just trying to acclimate. Before long, I got into a groove until something changed. It seemed like I was swimming sideways and not getting any closer to the ferris wheel at the National Harbor that we were swimming back to. The current had changed, as a tide came through. It was pushing us under the bridge to the left when we were supposed to go straight. Tarus was working safety and in a kayak. I asked if I was swimming in the right direction and he affirmed. That ferris wheel looked like I was swimming while standing still. It was NOT getting any closer! At one point, I took a breaststroke to look where I was going and my feet touched the muddy bottom of the yucky Potomac River! I SCREAMED! Tarus asked if I was okay and then laughed when I told him that I got Potomac mud between my toes. At last the ferris wheel and buoys finally came into closer view and it was time to exit. Whew! I swam more than the 1.2 miles and it took me FOREVER, but I did it. I must have looked a mess, as Von kept asking if I was okay. Tania took me home, as I needed to eat and take a rest before my run. That night my throat started to hurt, Tania couldn’t stop sneezing and Von had a scratchy throat. That Potomac River water gave us the coodies, but we are CERTIFIED BADASSES for swimming from state to state across a river! At least in my mind, we are! Even though I freaked out in the beginning, I still did it and to me, that's winning. Tri Becca: 1 Fear: 0


Escape the Cape Triathlon (1 mile swim, 25 mile bike, 5 mile run) Cape May, NJ: When I saw the advertisement for this race, I just HAD to sign up! I wanted to be on that boat! Lisa signed up for it too, so I was IN.  When she shared with me that it was a 15-foot drop when we jumped off the boat, I almost messed my pants. Uh OH! I vowed to practice diving at the pool. Yeah, that never happened. Whenever I went to the pool, I could never work up the nerve to dive in. I am such a punk! It started to STORM on race morning. Lightening, thunder, you name it. I prayed that the swim would get canceled. My prayers were not answered. Before long, we were being herded onto the boat and were stuck there until it was time to jump off. I felt nervous, but kept telling myself that it was just excitement that I felt. The energy was on TEN, the music was loud and the race director was pumping up the crowd. The Olympic triathletes all donned their yellow caps and before you knew it, it was time to jump in and swim the 1 mile back to shore. Lisa and I decided to jump together. When it was our turn, Lisa jumped and I looked at the guy standing there. He directed me to move to the side to speak with the Sports Psychologists. They shared with me that it was just adrenaline that had my heart racing, that it only took 4 seconds to hit the water,  to not look down and just step out, instructed me to take some belly breaths, etc. I just couldn’t do it. I turned away from the water and the lady told me to not give up. I looked at her and said, “oh NO, I am NOT a QUITTER!”. She played on that and affirmed. I said that over and over, “I AM NOT A QUITTER! I AM NOT A QUITTER!...”. I asked if I could sit down and jump in. They gave me permission to do so, I then asked them to push me in and I was off… The swim was my fastest swim yet, due to the current. The bike ride was uneventful minus the newbies that were riding on the left, guys speeding by on the right, many fellow triathletes on the side of the road with flats and a couple of falls after  people took the curves too fast. I tried getting into the aero bars a few times, but I couldn’t get over the fear of swerving and crashing or hitting a pot hole (I realized that I didn’t have any CO2 cartridges to fix a flat). I felt strong on the bike but was likely not fast enough yet. The run was HOT and running on sand sucks. Since I was one of the last Olympic triathletes to jump off the boat, I was one of the last few athletes on the course. Nevertheless, I crossed the finish line and earned my medal and T-shirt. Lesson learned: Jumping off boats is NOT my thing! Although I was overcome with fear, I still got off the boat and swam back to shore. So to me, that’s a WIN. Tri Becca: 1 Fear: 0

Fear. It’s a powerful emotion, but  one that you can fight off and win. I feel like I can call myself a triathlete again. My fitness level, speed and endurance are not where I’d like them to be, but I am determined to remain consistent, give every workout my very best and make sure that my nutrition plan is OnPoint.

Ironman Louisville training starts on Sunday. The next 16 weeks will be interesting. At least I don’t have to battle with fear any longer.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The journey continues....


As I sit here on Thanksgiving-eve and reflect upon everything that has happened in the last year, I truly have a lot to be thankful for. Most of all, I am thankful for my health.

About 6 weeks after my last post, I was involved in a bicycle accident while training for Ironman Chattanooga. I ended up with 12 staples in my scalp, a sprained shoulder, a hip contusion (bad bruise), some abrasions, but worst of all a traumatic brain injury (concussion). I was misdiagnosed and did some things in the next few days that actually made my concussion worse. Surprisingly, there isn't a lot of information out there on concussion diagnosis and treatment. For the next 10 weeks, I was under the care of a neurologist and physical therapist for concussion therapy. As soon as I was cleared, I signed up for another Ironman triathlon, Ironman Louisville, which will be on October 11, 2015. The greatest difference between where I am mentally about this race versus the one I originally signed up for in Chattanooga, is that I no longer wonder if it's possible to become an Ironman. I know that it's possible. I am more committed and want to accomplish this goal more than ever before. God willing, I will.

I have made the decision to raise funds for brain trauma research on my journey to Ironman. This will give me even more of a cause to train and race. I hope you'll support me. I'm excited! My possibilities are endless!! Thank God for my health! What are you thankful for?






Monday, June 9, 2014

Check in: IM Chattanooga training

This week starts the 3rd week of training for Ironman Chattanooga. Life has been too busy to document everything thus far. I have been slowly building my base over the last few months and the IM training plan started over Memorial Day weekend.

I want to share the highs and lows of training. I don't want folks to see that I crossed the finish line and not know the challenging moments that I had in preparation for this event. Below is an email interchange that I had with my Coach on Saturday. Since this post, I ran 9.75 (I got lost due to being a wanderer, ran out of time and made my way back 5.25 miles short) and I have cycled nearly 3 hours. I'm committed to doing my best to get the trainings in. Stay tuned....


Hey Coach,
 
Congrats on finishing Comrades last weekend!! I hope that you're able to run the Ethiopia marathon this weekend.
 
My first two weeks of Ironman training have been tough. With the move of my Mom and Sister to the area and getting them settled in, work obligations, personal stuff and being completely exhausted, it's been really tough to get my training in. I had a little breakdown yesterday morning, because I overslept but I wanted to get a bike ride in. I just started to wonder:  Can I even do this? Did I bite off more than I can chew? Do I have enough time to properly prepare??  Do I have a solid enough base? .... I have a little note on my mirror that reads "How bad do you want it?" I asked and  answered that question with: "I want it. I want it bad". This is something that I want to do for ME . I don't want to continue giving all of my time and energy to my job and to my family and have nothing left for me. This IM is for me.
 
So, I brushed away tears, looked at the calendar and I counted the weeks. I have 16 weeks to get ready for Ironman Chattanooga. I'm going to jump in where I need to be. Today I'm going to run the 15 miles. I know that I can do that. I'm headed to California now. I rented a bike and I will ride my two hours tomorrow. I also packed my swim gear. I plan to run twice, swim twice & cycle twice while here. I just plan on getting on board.
 
I just wanted to share with you the mental challenges that I've faced this week. I know it won't be the last time that I have some sort of breakdown while training for this Ironman. I'm in. I'm committed. I will do this. I know you help me. I can do this.
 


Rebecca


Rebecca,

I'm glad you shared. You'll have a few more moments like this and the answer will  always be, "YES,  I want this!"  In the end, Tri training should be a stress reliever, not a stress inducer. The workouts are an opportunity for you to dump all of the frustrations of the day.
 
Just keep doing what you can on the schedule. I've yet to get everything done on my training schedule and I've completed 12 Ironman competitions. Just keep moving towards the mark. We will always keep an eye on the big picture to make sure we are within reach of the final goal.
 
Family and work are important. But like you said, you've got to take care of yourself first. This race is all about you. Don't let anyone distract you, including yourself.
 
Get some rest and hit it again tomorrow.
 
Coach