“I can’t change the direction of the wind,
but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”
So before I update you all about my latest big decision, let me fill you all in on the latest going ons of the week. No big surprise that’s it’s been a busy one! Let’s break it down shall we:
On Saturday I went for a Daffodil Group Ride with some peeps from the Tri Club which entailed a very scenic 26 mile ride through the countryside. It was loads of fun, and I was able to keep up this time without any real trouble. It also was a great opportunity to meet some new people and get some mileage in on my bike. Due to the frequent stops for photos (and chatting) it was terrific practice for clipping and unclipping too!
Lately, I feel like every time I get on my bike, I get more and more comfortable… and consequently that much better. I have been extremely fortunate to have joined an exceptional Tri Club (through our local YMCA) with members who have been beyond supportive. I was so afraid initially of people getting annoyed with me for being too slow or a giant chicken, but in reality everyone has been nothing but encouraging. The group ranges from elite athletes (who –ahem– win Ironmans) to novices… to train wrecks like me. Sometimes I feel like the only newbie in the group, but I think that is primarily because I am always trying to push myself to do the harder rides and workouts. At no point, though, have any of them made me feel like I don’t belong or am not good enough to train with them. I have truly enjoyed getting to know every member I have met so far.
Plus, I have found that group riding has done wonders for my comfort level with cycling. I am so much braver when I am with the Tri Club peeps. I think a lot of it has to do with being distracted by the company. Making conversation with the people around you is a great way to relax, as it turns out. Who would have ever guessed?
Anyway, the ride was by no means easy. There was a long steady climb for a good part of the way out and lots of quick winding downs coming back. I spent most of the trip trying to catch the two gentlemen ahead of me, which was perfect for motivating to move faster without getting freaked out about it. They were both very warm and friendly, and the fact that one of them happens to be a minister only added to my ease about being around them. (I told him I felt much safer riding with a minister.. maybe that’s why I worked so hard at keeping up!)
I definitely came off the ride on a high note. I managed a moderately difficulty route… (Did I mention all the left turns, traffic, and intersections (ie cycling hazards) at the beginning?) AND I wasn’t even that tired at the end. Mostly I was hungry, but that seems to be my biggest issue with cycling. I suppose I will have to work on balancing well enough to eat without stopping… mental note to add that to my goal list…
Now that we’ve covered the highlights of my weekend, let’s recap where it all went down hill, shall we?
Having conquered my Saturday bike with dignity still intact, I was feeling pretty optimistic going into my first open water swim. After all, I am a swimmer now. I go to the pool and turn out laps like it’s my job. I just keep going, and all is good and right in the world.
Enter the wetsuit…
I thought it was a great sign that I scored a great deal on The Clymb, and that my wetsuit came in time for the first session. However, I was slightly nervous having read all the horror stories about first time experiences with open water swimming and wetsuits. I expected the suit to feel tight. I expected to feel anxious about not being able to see more than a few inches. I even expected the water to be really cold. Somehow, though, I did not expect to struggle as badly as I did.
On the bright side, I did have a few things in my favor. The first is that swimming, in general, causes me anxiety and makes my heart rate skyrocket. In that sense, I am very accustomed to having to calm myself, slow down, and get my heart rate under control. This came in handy when the discomfort (and resulting anxiety) associated with the freezing water and tightness of the wetsuit caused my my pulse to quicken. I spent almost the entire first half of my swim doing a modified version of breast stroke (speaking of strokes… Coach M may have had one if she saw my technique) so as to keep my face out of the water… which just happened to be a cozy 64 degrees.
completely stupid and delusional a glutton for punishment, I had decided to forego starting simple and went straight for the half ironman course instead. After all, if I can swim over 2 miles easily in the pool, then 1.2 miles should be no problem, right? Yeah, not so much… There was a point when I considered turning around sooner, but I knew there was a dock waiting at the turn around for the HIM where I could get out and warm up before heading back. Had I done a shorter route, defrosting was not an option.
By the time I reached the dock, I was managing 6-10 strokes at a time before my heart rate would climb. I considered this a major victory. I was very grateful to have my own personal Triathlon Guardian Angel looking out for me (the same Tri Club member who offered reassurance and called me a rockstar at the duathlon). I hadn’t realized that he kept an eye out for me the whole way, and I actually felt guilty that I had caused him to stay in the freezing water so much longer than he would have otherwise. He kept telling me how great I was doing and meant it sincerely (which is especially amusing when you consider that I probably looked like I was drowning). In the beginning, he tried to swim beside me and give me advice on sighting and my stroke. Eventually he gave me space to sort it out on my own. It wasn’t until I saw him at the dock that I was aware of how long he had been keeping tabs on me.
Once he saw I finally had the hang of things, he headed back. Meanwhile, I only stayed out of the water long enough to warm up enough to breath before hopping right back in to start the swim back. Because they were already taking down the course, I had my own personal kayak escort for the entire stretch back (sort of the equivalent of the running sag wagon). I am proud to say that I did at least front crawl the entire way back. I only stopped twice briefly to change strokes and catch my (frozen) breath. I finally was getting the hang of sighting and was kicking harder than I probably ever had in my life to get to that shore (and my fleece pants!).
Even though I should have been proud of myself for sticking it out, I wanted to cry. My half ironman dreams seemed so out of reach at that moment. Here I had invested so much time and effort, but it did nothing to prepare me for that swim. The open water swimming was a whole separate beast. It was yet another hurdle I needed to overcome, and it made me realize how badly I wanted it.
I was surprised when I got out of the water that I was greeted not just by other people, but by some cheers. I thought everyone would have already packed up and headed home, but instead they were there encouraging me. They said they were impressed by how much I had swum (especially given how much extra I did going off course) and were surprised when I told them it was my first open water swim. I think one woman’s mouth even dropped when I told her I had only first started swimming in October. So all in all, I guess it was not as epic a failure as it seemed at the time.
As I said, I am a glutton for punishment. I think we are all well aware of that by now. Any normal person who had an exhausting morning of fighting a wetsuit in freezing water would probably call it a day, but I needed to know if the REV3 bike course was doable. I had heard it was hilly and challenging, however, I also have heard that triathlons tend to be less hilly than regular cycling. I convinced the hubs to ride it with me, and within 10 miles I was ready to turn around. My body was exhausted, and to be 100% honest- I WAS SCARED $H%TLESS. The course was all up or down. It was really steep at parts, and the wind was so bad it was literally knocking me off balance. Since the last miles of the course are a repeat of the beginning anyway, we basically covered over 20 miles of the course. I felt completely defeated. I couldn’t believe I had worked so hard, and yet I was light years away from what I needed to accomplish for this race.
Being the most supportive husband on the planet, the Adam rode the course on his own yesterday to see how bad it was. He biked all 56+ brutal miles just to see how long it would take and gauge if I could do it. I had no idea what he was up to until I saw him this morning. He finally agreed with me that there was no way I would make it through in the allotted time. He is a FAR superior cyclist than me and it took him 4 hours. He said he had every faith in me that I could handle the course, but didn’t think there was any way I would do it fast enough for the cut off, especially after swimming. It must have been far worse than I ever could have imagined for him to concede this. He did finally admit that it only became progressively harder throughout the route.
The Silver Lining
Obviously, I was disappointed, but he only confirmed what I already knew in my heart. The race I have had my heart set on for the past year is a greater monster than I ever could have imagined. I am not giving up on my dream to finish it one day, but it won’t be this year for me. Instead, I went ahead and registered for the Olympic Distance. Given that I am still scared to death, I am pretty sure I will still be challenging myself… which also means I should be able to live with this decision without being too disappointed. As Swim Bike Mom likes to say, the important thing is to Keep Moving Forward.
I may not meet my goal in the initial timeframe I set for myself, but I am also not giving up. I still want to do a half ironman this year, and I still want to do the REV3 Quassy (someday). In the meantime, I will continue to take steps to get there- even if they are baby steps instead of giant leaps! Right now, the next step is the REV3 Olympic Course.
In the words of Diana Nyad (my idol who I tried to channel during my freezing, anxiety provoking swim):
I will find a way.