Invictus

 


In the early years immediately following my divorce, I used to yearn for the time when my kids would turn 18. In my mind, the age of majority equalled freedom. I would no longer be legally bound to “coparent”, a complete misnomer when it comes to my situation, unfortunately. My kids would no longer be beholden to a court document dictating when they could see each parent, legally required to shuffle back and forth between two homes like the spoils of war, chattel of two warring factions. I could make a doctor’s appointment without dutifully sending a prior email of notification! I could make summer vacation plans before April 1st! My daydreams of liberation from the ever-present and looming threat of family court were intoxicating. It seemed like a far away oasis, a mirage, with my children only 10, 8 and 6. I couldn’t even imagine my babies as fledgling adults, but I could fantasize, in minute detail, of how peaceful and idyllic my life would be without the regular and necessary contact regarding child-rearing.

Out of the night that covers me, 
      Black as the pit from pole to pole, 
I thank whatever gods may be 
      For my unconquerable soul. 

I should have known better, but defense mechanisms can be powerful. I was 13 years into my career as an educator at the time of my divorce, many of them as a school counselor, and I had worked with many young adults as they transitioned from minors to (legal) adults, including those from divorced households.
I’ve worked with many more over the past 7 years.
I’ve watched as the anxiety rises for so many of these kids as the 18th birthday approaches, and one, or both, parents makes it clear to the child that now there is no need to go to that “other” house. The guilt trips. The financial battles.  I’ve watched kids (and in my opinion, 18-22 year olds are still very much “kids”, regardless of federal statutes) crumple under the pressure and stress of this “liberation”, when these decisions are now on them. I’ve had countless kids in my office over the past 20 years, weeks or days away from legal adulthood, helplessly shrugging their shoulders and asking me what they are supposed to do, how they can “win” the game that ultimately, only has losers.
I promised myself that I would never be that parent.

In the fell clutch of circumstance 
      I have not winced nor cried aloud. 
Under the bludgeonings of chance 
      My head is bloody, but unbowed. 

But here’s what else I’ve witnessed, more than once. There is only one parent committed to supporting their child(ren) in this delicate balancing act. One parent who says, breezily, “just let me know what the schedule is, whatever you decide is fine.” One parent who assists the child financially, without strings attached.  One parent who lets the child navigate their familial relationships without guilt or manipulation.
One parent who then bites his or her tongue until it bleeds as the child inevitably (and gratefully) acquiesces to the other parent’s demands.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears 
      Looms but the Horror of the shade, 
And yet the menace of the years 
      Finds and shall find me unafraid. 

As my oldest child’s 18th birthday, and high school graduation, looms in 2018, what once seemed like a cause for celebration now feels like one more test. I’ve been working with my therapist on ways to work through my anxiety about what this new landscape might look like. I know what I need to do for my eldest (and, eventually, for my younger two), but my fear is that, as has so often been the case, the difficulty is not in my ability to choose the hard right over the easy wrong, rather the consequences (for me) in doing so.
My natural proclivity trends towards pessimism, and if the past is any indication of the future, I have reason to feel cynical. And yet, if the past is any indication of the future, I also know that as long as I do the next right thing at at time, I will get through this. And so will my kids.

It matters not how strait the gate, 
      How charged with punishments the scroll, 
I am the master of my fate, 
      I am the captain of my soul. 

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The Stars at Night half marathon race recap

Last weekend I traveled to San Antonio to run the Stars at Night half marathon. I signed up because I wanted a race to get my weekly running miles back up after a long hiatus from distance running (this was my only half marathon in 2017!), and bonus! I figured it would be a fun weekend getaway for the first half of winter break when the kids are at their Dad’s (which is always depressing for me, even 7 years post-divorce).

It was a good idea in theory.

We arrived at the JW Marriott, site of the race, around 2:30pm, in plenty of time to check-in, get my packet, and head downstairs for the 5pm pre-race meeting (5:20pm start time).  It was my first time at the hotel, and while it was lovely (and large), it was also a holiday zoo, crowded with runners and families and Christmas festivities. The young woman checking me in asked if I was “here for the race” and I said yes. She asked me what I was running, and I said the half marathon. She looked at me blankly and asked “How many miles is that?”

It still startles me when people don’t know how long half marathon/marathons are. I consider it common knowledge.

I said “13.1 miles” and she blurted out “Oh my GOD, well, good luck with THAT!” as she turned around and looked outside.

Did I mention it was pouring out? It was pouring out. Did I also mention that most of this race was not on a road, but on trails through the golf course? Trails that, as I would soon find out, became absolutely submerged with water?

I was not looking forward to a wet, cold, dark 2.5 hours.

Initially, I was really intrigued and excited by the race. I’ve never run an evening race (my pre-race nutrition plan took some strategizing since usually I wake up, eat a bagel with peanut butter, and race 90 minutes later), and we were required to wear head-lamps since it would be so dark. It was *supposed* to be a fun, Christmas-y jaunt through Hill Country and holiday lights, a night adventure.

It was an adventure alright.

We started on time (ish), after huddling in mass in the pouring rain, grumbling, outside the hotel conference center for what seemed like an eternity but was probably only 4-5 minutes. The first 3 miles or so was through the neighborhood surrounding the hotel, which confused me a bit, since I thought the race was supposed to be through the golf course (we would turn off and enter the trail into the woods around the 3.5 mile mark).

As you might imagine, there were no spectators or people cheering … just a few hundred of us, running through the rain through a neighborhood, quiet. It was weird, to be honest … like a very large, dejected, cold, wet group run.

Once we turned on to the trail, I felt a momentary (and short-lived) excitement. THIS is what I came for – an evening trail run with lights and scenery and nature!

Y’all. It was so wet. And muddy. And cold. There were points where I had to high step through nearly knee high water, or “run” with my arms out at 90 degree angles, trying to steady myself, and not fall flat on my ass as my feet surfed through slick mud. I saw more than one person go down on the course, and a few who looked like they just gave up, as they abruptly turned and left the trail.

At some point, maybe mile 9, my arm got so numb that I could no longer feel the vibrations from my Garmin watch letting me know when I should do my run/walk intervals (I had it set to 3 minutes running/45 seconds walking).  I got creative and ran through a song, then when it ended I would walk for 30 right-foot steps, then run until the next song ended.

The race officials elected to move the finish line inside, which made for a weird end (although fitting with the entire weird experience, I guess), so we ran through the loading dock area into one of the conference rooms. My husband caught me coming in – notice me carefully run around the metal grate as I approached.

 

The video, and picture, does not at all capture just how frozen and soaked I was. What my husband should have captured on video was me attempting to talk for several minutes after I finished. I was so cold that I couldn’t speak properly – my words were coming out all slurred. He observed, with a nervous laugh, that I sounded like a stroke victim.

My official time was 2:26:55, which, although it seems really slow compared to my last half marathon a year ago (2:17:28) is actually my 3rd fastest half marathon of 7. So I guess all things considered it wasn’t a bad time, given the conditions.

Would I do another night-time half marathon? I actually liked the novelty of running at night, and it would have been fun if the weather wasn’t so horrible and the trails weren’t so hilly and treacherous. I prefer larger races with more energy and people (it was kind of … weird… running in the dark through the woods) but I’d love to do a (shorter) evening fun run in the future.

Thundercloud turkey trot race recap and other tidbits

On Thanksgiving, I ran the Austin Thundercloud 5 mile turkey trot.

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I run this race every other year (the years my kids visit their Dad on Thanksgiving), and it holds a special place in my heart. It was this race in 2013 when I first ran anything longer than a 5k, and it was this race that gave me the confidence to sign up for my first half marathon in 2014.

This race began my journey as a “runner”.

It has since become a tradition, every other year, for my husband and I to head to Austin from Dallas the day before Thanksgiving and stay overnight in a hotel so I can run the turkey trot before continuing to my sister’s in San Antonio for the Thanksgiving holiday.

The first year I ran the race it was cold, although sunny and gorgeous, and the second year it was warm and muggy. This year was perfection – brisk enough that I was very chilly at the start in my shorts and t-shirt, but not so cold that I didn’t warm up as I ran.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this race – on the one hand, I’ve been running a lot of miles preparing for my December half marathon so my endurance should be up, but on the other hand, I’ve been running a lot of miles (tired legs) and dealing with some pesky stomach issues that have interfered with some of my runs. Web MD (because I prefer to not confirm any potential bad news. #ignoranceisbliss) says I either have an ulcer or IBS, and both are entirely possible given my 2017.

Anyhoo, I wasn’t sure how the race would go is what I’m saying.

It was an interesting race in that I changed strategy a few times on the fly (ie while running) which is NOT my style, in athletics or life. Initially, before the gun went off, the plan was to run the 5 miles at my run/walk ratio (3:30 run/ :30 walk) and pace (10:15 min/mile) that I plan to use for the half marathon.

Then I started running, and felt pretty good, and it was super crowded and I didn’t want to mess up the runners around me by walking. So I decided that I would run everything but the hills, when I would walk (having run the race twice before, I know that it’s not exactly a “flat and fast” course).

But then I got to the hills, and still felt pretty good, so I decided to jog them.

As I hit roughly the 4.25 mile mark, I looked at my watch and realized that OH EM GEE I was going to be in the ballpark of 50 minutes. Listen, I know there are a lot of runners, even middle aged mom of 3 runners, who would laugh at the thought of being excited by maintaining a 10 min/mile pace for 5 miles, but that is HUGE FOR ME. Yes, I can run a sub-10min/mile pace for a 5k (barely) but for 5 miles? Breaking the 50 minute mark for this race, especially with the crowds and hills, would be a DREAM.

So I started running as fast as I could. I tried so hard. I CAME SO CLOSE. If I had just pushed harder, earlier, I know I would have made it.

  • 2013 5 mile time: 53:57
  • 2015 5 mile time: 52:37
  • 2017 5 mile time: 50:46 (splits: 10:18, 10:36, 10:04, 10:05, 9:35)

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still happy with my run. I took 2 minutes off – can’t complain.

In other news, it’s been awhile since I’ve blogged. Like so many, I’ve been feeling homicidal frustrated with the current state of affairs in this country. This isn’t a political blog, and there’s nothing I can write or say that would make a lick of difference, but I feel soul-weary at it all. Between the news on a grand scheme, and the day to day events in my own little universe, 2017 has been hard y’all.

So much left unsaid. About so many things.

But, as always, there is much to be grateful for, and I try to focus on that. Depending on the day, I achieve this with greater or less success, but I always try.

For example, you know what makes me happy? My mastiffs. I own 2 very large, very dumb and very sweet English mastiffs, more than 300lbs of dog.

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what you can’t tell from this picture is that Moses, the 168lb “war dog”, just peed all over the black tarp in shaking, cowering fear. 

What else makes me happy? Watching my middle child kicking ass in his first year in high school. He’s doubled up in honors’ math classes AND taking honors physics  AND performing in the drumline AND serving as the junior varsity soccer goalie, while making good choices and being a generally sweet and respectful kid.

Although, after roughly 10 years of the goalie mom role, you’d think I’d have a better handle on game stress. My boy the goalie? He’s cool as a cucumber with eye of the tiger in net. His mother? Not so much.

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my husband covertly caught me in prayer mode during a particularly stressful game with ALL THE SAVES. The struggle is real for goalie moms. 

My next race is in just under 2 weeks, and it’s my first half marathon since December 2016, which is both hard to believe, and a testament to just how much 2017 has kicked my ass.

Sam’s Squad 5k race recap

If you’ve been following this blog for a while (or know me in “real life”), you know that I am not what I’d consider a “natural” runner. What I mean by that is that the sport (hobby? past time?) does not come easily to me, and that I am fighting against genetics and proclivity on each and every run. I did not run as a child or teenager, with the exception of a brief stint as a defensive back on my high school field hockey team for one season, after which I “suggested” to my coach that perhaps I would be better suited to the goalie position, which just happened to involve much less running.

She agreed. I’m pretty sure it pained her to watch me attempt to run almost as much as it hurt me.

This is all to say that when I enthusiastically signed up for the Sam’s Squad 5k charity run, a leadership project organized by one of our seniors to support the Myotonic Dystrophy Foundation, I had no idea that he was modeling it after a cross-country workout. When I met with him for his conference for the senior program that I run, I cheerily asked, “So fill me in, where is the route?”, imagining that it would span the local roads around our school.

He began, “Okay, so we’re going to start on the track. Then we’re going to go back in the fields by the community college, loop around there, then come back on the track, then loop on the fields over by the basketball courts, then run along the fence by the playground, then back by the baseball field, then loop again, then finish on the track.”

I blinked a few times. “So…so…it’s not..on…road?”

Him, “Oh no. Only a little bit.”

Me, “So…I’m guessing I won’t get a PR at this 5k, is what you’re saying.”

Him, “Um, well, probably not.”  #understatement

Did I ever imagine I would find myself running a cross-country practice/meet simulation at the age of 43? No, no I did not. But still, I was excited to come support a student endeavor and run with members of our community.

The weather was perfect, overcast and relatively cool for Dallas in mid-October. It was by far the most relaxed race I’ve ever been to, more like how I imagine a group training run put on by a running club would go (not that I would know, since I can barely muster the energy to run, never mind simultaneously extrovert). There wasn’t a clear start time, rather we mulled about chatting until bibs had been picked up, and then my student grabbed a megaphone and called out “Okay, let’s head to the track now!”.

We all (48 registered 5k runners) gathered on the track behind the starting/finishing line, and then he counted us down and we were off. We did a 1/2 loop on the track, then exited through a gate to hit the fields behind the community college campus. Student volunteers were posted at various points along the route to direct us where to go, which for me, was simultaneously fun (since they all know me and cheered me on) and disconcerting (since they all know me and cheered me on). A few senior boys commandeered a golf cart and played “Eye of the Tiger” on full blast as we made our way past them.

While in some places we were clearly running on an oft-used path (well worn dirt trail), in others, we were *literally* running through knee high grass. The New England native in me found myself obsessing on the possibility of ticks, and I kept fighting the temptation to high step to try to avoid touching the grass.

As I exited the community college fields to rejoin the track, I glanced at my Garmin, sure that I had run at least 1 mile. I was already tired, but without mile markers or a familiar route, couldn’t gauge the distance.

Clearly, since according to my watch, I had run exactly .55 miles. Oh dear. Those grass and hills were no joke.

Fortunately, the next section involved some track/parking lot/school drive running, and I was able to get into my normal rhythm for a bit, until I had to turn back on the grass to loop around the school grounds.

I hate running on grass.

As I looped back on the track to begin my 2nd school grounds circuit, I passed my husband and all the other non-runner supporters, who cheered. I looked at him and groaned as I passed.  He ran cross country in high school, so the “off-road” running was familiar to him. He laughed.

I disliked him tremendously at that moment on both counts.

I ran out of gas at exactly 2.1 miles (I know, because I looked at my watch thinking “welp, there goes that sub-10 minute pace I was keeping”). I run-walked the last mile, half-disappointed in myself, but mostly thinking how much I could never do cross country because running on anything other than a treadmill or asphalt makes a normally challenging activity, damn near excruciating.

I finished in 31:46, which all things considered, is okay for my first, and last, cross country run.

Most importantly, over $10,000 was raised for a very worthwhile and important cause, so huge props to my senior who worked hard to put together this race!

 

Complainers

I know this will be very difficult to believe, but when I was a child, I was often grounded.

For the most part, these punishments were not warranted for anything I actually did. I was an honor roll earning, rule-following, teacher-pleasing, National Honor Society card carrying, Div I-bound swimming, “good girl”, who did not touch her first drop of alcohol until after high school graduation.  I made good choices.

What came out of my mouth, however, was not always … agreeable. Cooperative. Pleasant. Again, I know this is difficult to believe.

And so, I often found myself stuck in my room, disallowed from television, then Atari and Nintendo and the phone, and later, Friday and Saturday social events, As this was before the advent of the internet and cell phones, it was very isolating. Not long into my childhood, my mother discovered a personality trait that enabled her to make my punishments that much more excruciating effective.

She wouldn’t tell me how long I was grounded for.

You see, my mother realized that it wasn’t so much the actual punishment that could get under my skin (although I didn’t enjoy it), rather what made me absolutely lose my shit was the limbo of not knowing how long the winter of my discontent would last.

It was not only the loss of control and power in my life (the restricted activities and social life),  but the ignorance of not knowing when it would end. I walked around daily in a heightened state of misery and anxiety, not only from the dearth of pleasurable pursuits, but without the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

It was equal parts brilliant and evil. Nicely played, mom.  Well done.

I did not outgrow this mindset in adulthood, and it was one of many contributing factors to the onset of my PTSD. The combination of a (perceived) complete loss of control over nearly all facets of my life, with the uncertainty of when and how it would all be resolved, was crippling for me. I worked on this issue for a couple years in therapy: the roots of the tendencies, the manifestations of the emotions, and coping strategies for how to gracefully navigate future situations that might elicit or trigger these reactions.

I’m a lot better. I’m also still very much a work in progress.

Which brings me to this year. This year has been tough. I have told many people in my life over the past few months that, for the first time since the early days of  3 children under the age of 5, I feel like I just. can’t. do. it. I thought by year 18 as a working mom, I would be somewhat immune to the tidal waves of stress. Not that I thought I wouldn’t still be exhausted and busy and stressed out, but that I wouldn’t have those days upon days of feeling like, as my mom used to say, “I want to get in the car and drive down 95. And just keep going.”

I’m trying to reflect on why I’m feeling so strung out. Yes, I have 3 teenagers to parent on top of a very busy and demanding full time job. So I’m busy. But I also have a fantastic marriage, wonderful friends, a stable financial situation (I don’t worry about basic necessities, so #blessed), a job that I actually enjoy and find fulfilling 90% of the time, and last but not least, my physical health.

Life should be good. Life is good. Except…

What I have realized is that there is a cosmic convergence this year of several life situations that are both 1. completely outside my control and 2. I have no idea how and when they will be resolved. They are not insignificant issues, and some of the most important people in my life are grappling with them. In short, there is a huge amount of uncertainty and distress for several members of my most inner and cherished circle, and I have no idea where to go with all of that.

Loss of control. Lack of clarity as to what I’m dealing with. No idea as to when it will be resolved. My 4-decades-long potent cocktail for despair.

I’m working on it. I’m practicing my self-talk, and mantras, and gratitude. I’m running. I’m seeing my therapist. I’m reminding myself that I have been through far, far worse, and my batting average of survival is 100%, and so is that of everyone on my team, for that matter. I’m telling myself that in the grand scheme of the beautiful, miserable, heartbreaking, terrifying and ecstatic joy ride that is existence, my problems are not that big.

I’m trying not to complain. I don’t always succeed. But I’m trying.

Marathon 2018

I wrote earlier this year about my difficulty in finding a race that I wanted to run for my only first marathon. It’s very important to me that my kids attend this endeavor, for a variety of reasons. For one, I think it’s important that they witness their mom complete a goal of this magnitude, with all the blood, sweat and tears that will undoubtedly come with it (that whole role modeling thing).

For another, especially as my eldest gets ready to head off to college next fall, I feel like this is the culmination of an identity shift over the past several years. I began running in 2013 to cope with the aftermath of my divorce, and the main reason I’ve persisted is to keep my sanity with the ongoing coparenting challenges, and exposure to my PTSD triggers.

It’s been a long, long winding road. Pounding out the miles helps.

I was leaning towards the Houston marathon, which occurs in January, but I realized that it would interfere with soccer and swim seasons for my boys. Ideally, I wanted a race I could drive to, because our budget is quite tight, and it needed to be 1. on one of my weekends and 2. not interfere with a sporting or performance event for any of my 3 children.

You can see my dilemma.

This is all to say that several weeks ago, I unofficially decided that the Oklahoma City Memorial marathon fit all my criteria. While it is during my busiest time of year (I run a senior year program that occurs during the last trimester of senior year, ie April 29th is smack in the middle of it), Oklahoma City is close enough that I can drive back on Sunday and be in my office on Monday morning (and my senior won’t miss any of his AP classes). I have heard and read that the OKC marathon is heartfelt and full of crowd support, and one of the more desirable marathons to run.

I made my peace with it. But I wasn’t overly excited about it. I mean, it seems like a cool marathon, but for my first, and quite possibly only 26.2? Meh.

But then, during last week’s long run, I listened to a recent Human Race podcast. If you’re not familiar with the show, it features stories of unusual or inspirational “every day” runners (meaning, usually not famous).  This one featured a woman named Amy Downs, a survivor of the Oklahoma City bombing.

I know. Weird, right?

She told her story of surviving the bombing in 1995. How she was diagnosed with PTSD after being buried alive in the rubble, waiting for rescue, for hours. How she began running, and then eventually, competing in triathlons, as a therapeutic approach to her PTSD. How the gun going off at the start of races triggers her, as does putting her face in the murky water for open water swims (reminding her of being buried alive), but she keeps doing it. How she believes in telling her story, because confronting the trauma, talking about it, pushing past it, is the only way to get through it.

She divorced her husband. She eventually remarried, to a man she met through one of her training groups.

I was transfixed as she described her PTSD; “I describe it as an app that’s always in the background, it’s just there. The only time it’s more of a struggle is in the spring. During spring it becomes difficult. It’s not like I’m sitting around thinking about the bombing, I’ll become anxious and on edge, and then I realize it’s March.”

I thought of how Septembers are for me.

She ran her first marathon at the Oklahoma City Memorial marathon. She trained to break 5 hours, and then just a couple weeks before the marathon, she got injured in a bike accident. She described her frustration, “This is my life, I planned it perfectly, I did the training program for the 5 hour marathon, and nothing ever works out. My plans never work out.”

She still went on to run it, finishing in a slow and frustrating (for her) 6 hours and 30 minutes.

Exactly the amount of time she was buried alive, waiting for rescue.

When the interviewer asked Amy how she remains so positive, and inspiring, and athletically accomplished (she’s training for an Ironman), she said, “Even in tragedy, it’s important to ask yourself what you can take that is positive out of it. You can’t control what happens to you, you can only control how you respond it. Yes, it’s not fair. It sucks. Life is not fair. But what are you gonna do?”

Life is not fair. Plans never work out. But what are you gonna do?

I’m going to run a marathon.

 

Stonebridge Ranch sprint triathlon race recap

It hit me as I was laying out my gear on Saturday night for my traditional pre-race layout photo that this was my first such photo in 2017 (I raced one other time this year, my February 15k, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to run that until I woke up that morning, because of a fender bender the day before).

One other race in 2017. Wow.

2017 has not been my favorite, and it certainly hasn’t been about “me” at all, due to some health issues with a member of my family. I’ve been fairly low on the totem pole of priorities, as are most moms, I’d reckon. So, after a few summer months of a fairly disciplined training cycle preparing for this triathlon, I was especially disheartened to get sick the two weeks before this race, not to mention a crazy Aug/Sept schedule that only allowed me to get to the pool 6 times in the 5 weeks leading up to the race.

Life, man. Still, I was up and at ’em and ready to go on Sunday morning, albeit with a few albuterol puffs and some coughing.

I left the house at 5:50am to drive the 30 min to the race site and have time to set up in transition and get my chip before the 6:55am transition lockdown and 7am Olympic distance start. My husband would leave later, closer to 7am, with the 3 kids. All 3 volunteered (no guilt trip, bribes or directives involved!) to come cheer me on, which I really appreciated. I almost always schedule my races on weekends when they’re with their Dad (because 3 teenagers. Enough said.), so they rarely see me race. I’m actually not sure my races are even on their radar, to be honest. They asked me at dinner the night before what I actually do in a triathlon.

They’re teenagers. But they’re really sweet kids.

The weather was gorgeous for the swim start, although it was a balmy 90 degrees by the run. It was my first time at the Stonebridge Ranch triathlon (okay, only my 3rd triathlon period), and my 3rd ever open water swim. Which is all to say that I am still very much a triathlon newbie.

We lined up on the area by the dock to watch the Olympic triathletes start their swims. While I was waiting, I saw a former student (I taught him senior year English) exit the water in third place, which was incredibly cool. I cheered his name loudly as he dashed by me (roughly 10 yards away) towards transition, and he told me after the race that he heard me yelling.

The swim: We entered the water (man made lake) off a dock, one by one, ants-marching style. It was too warm to be wetsuit legal, which worked for me as I do not have a wetsuit. I felt pretty strong throughout the swim; I sighted well, did not weave off track at all, and steadily picked swimmers off. I kept telling myself to slow down, pull back, and save it for the bike and run, but yet again, I cannot follow this advice.

I don’t know how to not “race” on the one leg that I can do well (more on that later). When I exited the water, I glanced at my watch, and saw I was sub-14 minutes, which was about where I thought I should be, given my conditioning. I also suspected, given how many swimmers I passed, that I did fairly well.

This turned out to be true. I was first in my AG out of the water, and the 7th woman overall.

I wish I could end my race report here, because that’s where the good news ends. #swimmer

my husband caught this picture of me exiting the water from his viewing point. 

See the guy in the neon yellow/green shirt in my husband’s picture? This is what he captured. Um. Okay, the good news is that I was running. The bad news is everything else.

T1: I noticed when I looked up the 2016 results (do all triathletes do this? Because I have to do this. It gives me an idea of the size of the field and how competitive it might be) that the T1 times for my AG were almost all between 4-5 minutes. This struck me as very odd. That is a long transition time.

It turns out that there is a very long run from the water exit to the transition area. As in, run down a big hill, across a field, between sets of tennis courts, and then finally into the transition area. I’m not kidding. It was a hike.

running down the hill towards transition. I look fast because I was trying not to fall down. It was a fairly steep decline.

see the edge of a tennis court in the far left side of this picture? We had to run over there, down the width of the court, then hang a right and run between two full court-lengths. 

The bike: What to say about the bike? I am still slow as molasses. I mean, okay, positive reframe – it was my first race using the clip-in pedals, and I did not wipe out at the start or finish. On the other hand, there were 10 and 11 year olds that were flying by me and doing those obnoxious yet graceful running-leap mounts and dismounts that would quite certainly land me in the hospital if I ever attempted them. I, on the other hand, very carefully and gingerly swing my leg over and settle myself and check left, check right, making sure I am not taking anyone out before slowly-grandma-style start to accelerate (and vice versa on the finish). It was hot, and there was a monster hill on mile 1 just out of the start (and then again at the beginning of loop 2) that was kind of brutal.

At least I handled it better than the person in front of me on my 2nd loop, who abruptly had to hop off her bike halfway up the hill because she couldn’t keep the momentum going, which then led the poor guy behind her to also half-fall/half-jump off his bike to avoid crashing into her. This all happened about 15 yards in front of me, which led me to involuntarily call out “oh shit, that sucks” as I swerved to avoid them.

Other than that, the bike was fine, but slow. I passed 3 or 4 people. Roughly 30-40 people passed me.

me on my trusty $200 Schwinn.

The run: As in my previous 2 triathlons, there is an initial euphoria for me going into the run because I am off the bike and alive praise Jesus all I have to do is keep my body moving forward I will not crash! (remember this. Wait for it.). Then, within a few minutes, the hurt locker sets in and I think “how in the WORLD am I supposed to run right now? This is not possible!”

Every time. Every. Time. (all 2 previous times).

I don’t know, y’all. I’m not a runner. I mean, I am in the sense that I have taken up running and I do it regularly, but let’s not forget that I am slow. I’m fine with that in half marathons. I’m still so proud that I can do half marathons. But in triathlons, it bothers me that I’m slow, and despite following training plans and really putting in the hours and training, not having the endurance to even do my pace for the 5k/10k part.

On this particular run, as some sort of cosmic balancing act for not crashing on the bike, the universe decided it would be fun if I tripped and fell with roughly 1/2 mile left of the 5k. I went flying. Down for the count, skidding across the gravel sidewalk trail. Immediately 2 other runners came to my aid (because athletes, whether runners or triathletes, are seriously the nicest people), and I had to do that embarrassing “fine! I’m fine! I got it!” while holding up my bloody palms and brushing off my bloody knee and immediately hobbling-jogging again, so that I wouldn’t slow down their race.

So that was fun.

 

this smarted more than it looks. Road rashes are the worst. 

I finished the race around 9:15am, and had to wait around for transition to open again, since we weren’t able to take our bikes out until the last cyclist left the field. My finishing time was a 1:38:08, which was a good 7-8 minutes slower than where I wanted to finish, so I was not pleased with my performance, but happy to be done.

We headed out to brunch with the kids, and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I checked the results page at almost 11am and saw that I was 3rd in my AG. What? How was that possible?

It turns out it wasn’t. When I checked the results page this morning (to get the swim split picture for this blog post), I saw that while those times were accurate for myself and the two women in front of me, the other women were (previously) listed at their “finish” times, vs chip times. They actually finished in front of me – it’s just that I came out of the water before them by quite a bit.

With my former student. He won his AG, and placed 3rd overall for all men. He’s a rockstar.

Triathlons are long. And hot. And boring.

But they love their Mom

So, I have many thoughts about triathlons, and none of them very positive (this week). Three times, I have won my AG, and placed very, very well in the entire female field (without anything beyond the bare minimum for pool training), for the swim portion, and three times, I have done abysmally on the bike and run.  I don’t know where I want to go with this (and fortunately, since my triathlon season is done, I don’t need to make any decisions right now).

I have considered trying Master’s swimming next summer. I’ve considered focusing on aquathlons and open water swim challenges. I’ve considered that at some point I will get better on the bike and run. I’ve considered that maybe I should just try to be okay with being a rockstar on the swim part and merely average (or below) on the bike and run and just do it to have fun.

I don’t know. It’s an awfully expensive and time consuming hobby to be left so wracked with emotional frustration. But who knows. For now? I’m looking forward to getting a bunch of road races on the calendar, where simply getting that finisher’s medal really is an accomplishment for me.