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.


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

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!!


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?

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
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....

Tri Becca