Tam finally finished up her race report for Silverman, and I was more than happy to host it up on my site for everyone’s enjoyment. So, take it away Tam!
I am not much of a story teller. In fact, I hate it. And I don’t have much of a memory, especially for an event that lasted 8 hours. I have no idea how to write this thing. I wrote my first draft in 3 hours, just to get all the thoughts out. They were just gigantic chunks of word vomit. So I hope this draft will be much better. Here goes nothing….yet everything. My first race report. And I shall try to keep it as clean as possible…..kinda.
Let me just explain my mindset and training for the 3 months leading up to the race. The start of the rigorous Silverman training started out very awesomely. I was feeling great about my swim (being able to lap Joel), my bike and bike handling skills were improving with every ride, and my run was….well, I’m a runner. I just go. Then comes the month and half before the race. Almost every training session felt awful. My swim was slower (I was getting lapped by Joel), I stopped noticing improvements on the bike, sometimes feeling even weaker with every ride, and I just hated running. My hand stopped cooperating and that just starts all the negative thoughts for every training session. **If you have no idea what I am talking about when I mention my hand, I’ll explain it at the very end of this report.** I know athletes get to a point in their training where they feel everything I was….but for a month and a half?? The weird thing was that even through those horrible training days, I never doubted that I could finish the race. What I DID worry about was whether or not I was going to have a strong enough mental game to last me through the race and allow me to enjoy the experience.
We do the day-before-the-race essentials: check-in, T1 set up, mandatory bike-rack. We were able to do a practice swim in Lake Mead, and thank goodness we did! For one, I had bought new goggles and had yet to test them out. I know, risky for such a big race, but I have had this pair in the past and they worked great (but they started leaking after months of use and then the dogs chewed them up), so I wasn’t super concerned. And two, the swim set my mind right! We did a very short swim but that was all I needed to come out of the water feeling that I’m going to really enjoy the race tomorrow and kick some booty!
The alarm went off at 4AM and I was out of bed and getting everything ready for the day. We met with the rest of the Crazy Trainers at 4:45AM in the lobby, loaded the cars, and left the Coaches behind. If you weren’t there by 5, we were leaving without you (said the coach). And leave we did. But don’t worry, all the athletes made it to the shuttles in plenty of time and the spectathletes met up to start their long day of supporting, cheering, and Sherpa-ing.
The shuttles brought us to Lake Mead where we dropped off the kids at the pool and then walked down to transition. When we got to transition, I was setting up my area and thinking how weird it was that you had to leave all your gear in the bag because that would slow you down majorly. Then Genna came over and told me I could set up my transition like normal. Whew! I would’ve felt like such a goof if I left everything in my gear bag, hanging on the bike rack. I got my tires pumped, and now it was time for me to get pumped!
Oh, so the race was wetsuit optional, which seemed to be an issue for a lot of athletes. Not me. I’m wearing my lava pants. I wasn’t trying to qualify for anything, and I still couldn’t qualify even if I tried. It did mean I had to go in the last wave, but that wave would only be about 10 minutes behind my original start time. Whatever. Eight and a half hours to finish. I got this!!
I was feeling slightly anxious still and for no really good reason. It was amazing to have such a large group of orange to share this experience with. I felt fully supported by the friends at the race and the ones sending me good vibes from afar. But still, anxious. As we were standing around, the winds picked up and the water was super choppy. Nothing I could do about it but go line up in the last wave and wait for my start. So I did.
While standing in line and trying to really get in a good state of mind, I kept thinking about and repeating Cathy’s words: I’m going to kick ASS!! And the song that played right before we got in the water had the lyrics: Even though we ain’t got money, I’m so in love with you honey, tell me EVERYTHING IS GONNA BE ALRIGHT! What a perfect little song for my recent life happenings and for the race today. So, I kept that in my head, too.
I walked drunkenly to the start line. There were rocks everywhere and my feet always managed to find the largest rock to kick. Finally to the start line.
My strategy was to stay wide and out of the way of the majority of feet and arms that would be splashing about. I knew I was going to swim more than the 1.2 miles of the swim, but I’d rather do that than get all flustered with every limb that smacked me.
The horn goes off….or was it a cannon….or….?? I don’t know, some kind of noise that made me know that was the start. So off I go. The water was clear and refreshing, nothing like that salty nastiness off the bay waters in San Diego.
I’m a slow swimmer and I learned very early on to not compare myself to the swimmers around me because that would make me try swimming harder, which would cause me to lose my breath and then subsequently mess with my mental game. I couldn’t afford that, I still had 70 miles….8 hours….to go!! So I just tucked my head and kept on swimming. The water was super choppy, so I had to rotate my body more to breathe. No biggie. Just learn to adjust. I had to find my rhythm and learn when and when not to take a breath, depending on the splashing of the water. I also was extremely careful about feet, considering our teammate, Claudia, was kicked in the head, which ended up causing a concussion. If I saw feet near me, I’d pop my head up. I also had to maneuver around zig-zaggers and fight off a grabber. It boggles my mind that people swim with c-shaped hands. Those hands would find my feet and ankles and grab onto them. Those C’s don’t catch much water! And if those people were trying to use me to pull themselves forward, that’s just stupid. You started in the wetsuit wave, so this race doesn’t even count, fool!
Anyway, the entire time I swam, I had a rotation of thoughts: I’m going to kick ass, I’m kicking ass, everything is gonna be alright, love, joy, and gratitude. At one point, I started tearing up but I had to shut that down quick or else I’d be out of breath!
With all my positive thoughts and smiling in the water, I didn’t even need to count buoys. I just kept swimming. But what I DID need to do was sight. Those buoys were pretty easy to spot, but so were the kayaks of the same color. I did a decent enough job of sighting, and if I couldn’t see, I’d just follow people’s feet and their splashing of the limbs. I make it to the very last buoy, sight for the finish line, and wonder why the heck I keep going right! Oh, a back-stroker was going completely off course and I was caught on her right. She popped her head up, looked at me, and I pointed her in the opposite direction. I keep swimming until I see rocks on the floor, grab for them, continue swimming, and when I reached the rubber mat, I finally stand up, just like Coach Linda told me to do.
58 minutes. Well, 11 minutes before the cut-off so that’s good.
Good news: I am sure the swim was actually quite tough, but I loved it and felt it was a great swim because my mental game was awesome! I kicked ass!
I ran past the awesome group of spectathletes cheering for me and into transition I go. When I get to my spot, I have a random thought that I should see if Joel is gone yet. He’s been faster than me in the swim, so why would I bother checking?? But I did and noticed that his bike was still racked. My heart drops and I frantically look around. I finally spot him getting out of the water. He had a bad swim. =( I made my way over to his transition area, hoping to give him a kiss before we hit the road, but then I noticed he starts walking away from his area. Where is he going?? I hope he’s not quitting! But I had to go! We had told each other that no matter what happens to the other person, we always finish a race. So off I go.
As I mount my bike, a man yells at me to go beat that 1-speeder. Wait, what?? Yup, there was a man that decided to take his single speed bike on a race that has about 3800 feet of climbing. He’s a different kind of crazy. More power to you man, or maybe just more pain.
The hill out of transition was nothing like Bass Lake, but considering I am just starting to use my legs after not using them much for an hour, I decide to take it easy. I decided to take it easy and pace myself for the bike because I have no idea what to expect, but I did know that I had 56 miles of riding ahead of me.
The ride started out pretty easy. Little hills that I thought were “flat” compared to the Great Western Loop. The wind was okay at the beginning, but I knew to be aware of it. Joel had warned me winds could reach up to 20 miles an hour. I couldn’t do anything in preparation for it, so my strategy was to play it safe. The entire first half hour, I kept thinking, “C’mon Joel, pass me, PASS ME!!” At mile 10, I finally hear, “Looking good babe!” Oh good, he’s smiling and kicking ass. Okay, back to worrying about me.
Joel had installed a water bottle between my aero bars so I could drink while riding. What a great idea! That kept me hydrated, though it made me go all over the road at times. But I was hydrated.
The winds started picking up, but I kept my thoughts positive. I was doing pretty good, passing people up the hills with ease while seeing and hearing them struggle. I shouldn’t feel good about that, and I don’t feel good that they were struggling, but I did feel good that I wasn’t nearly as gassed as they were. I’d see teammates going the other way and hear them cheering me on and that kept my spirits up.
As I’m going, there were gusts of wind that blew me from side to side. Though I have an advantage in the wind (being small), the big disadvantage is that I am not as comfortable in aero position as I should be, so I stay up on my base bars, death gripping my bars (which caused a hand blister quickly), and just keep bracing for those crosswinds. And when I needed to stand to stretch my legs, I’d stop rolling forward. If I stood up on a downhill, the crosswinds could knock me off balance. So I didn’t stand much. If I had to stretch my legs, I made sure to do it when I stopped for some nutrition.
As far as nutrition goes, I constantly drank, staying very aware of the risk of dehydrating, and I’d stop every now and then to eat Skratch bites and Base salts. At one point, I had 2 small pieces of the portable PB&J sandwiches I made. That was a mistake. As soon as I hopped back on the bike, I immediately needed to fart, but was afraid that fart would turn into a shart. Well, crap. Oh well. Just keep pedaling. One of the stops I made was strategically planned at the U-turn. I made sure to do that so that I wouldn’t fall during the turn. Last time I tried making a U-turn (Tri-Rock), it turned into a U-fail. I had fallen on a cone and the cone lost that battle….but so did I. So I was not going to relive that!
I kept in mind that at the U-turn, the headwind was going to suck. So here I go, expecting worse headwinds than the ones I encountered going out. But it wasn’t as bad. But the crosswinds!! Holy bejeezus!! Cliff on one side, passing cars on the other…I need to control my bike! However, at one point going downhill, I reached 35mph, which was great for me because I hate going downhill!
My mental game was pretty positive. I kept checking the time just to see where I was relative to what my goal was. My goal was, at slowest, finish the bike in 4 hours. I was looking pretty good. However, there were many times going up the hill where I looked at my speed and thought….I run faster than this. How deflating. How the heck was I going to finish in time?? But then the downhills would increase my average pace. Whew! Sing it with me, y’all!…..Everything is gonna be alright!
Around mile 40, I reach Genna. I could tell something was wrong because she wasn’t even moving downhill well. Soon after, she made the smart decision to not finish the race and take more care of her health. But it was great hearing her cheering for me and telling me I got this.
Soon after, I start feeling like I was losing energy, but I looked ahead and saw the big hill before getting back on the main road. I decided to get up that hill before I stop for nutrition. So I sit back and relax and pedal up that hill, then stop. Take in some nutrition, stretch my legs, and try to get my mind right. The loss of energy started my negative thought process and now I had to do damage control. I couldn’t control it at the moment, so I had to just hop back on and keep making those circles. I had to make cut-off time!
I finally get to the Team Challenge aid station. It was great hearing the cheers and seeing our spectathletes. I stopped for water and Vaseline. My lips were wind-chapped and burning. 15 miles to go. 1 hour. It shouldn’t be this hard. After a few minutes, I get back on the road.
My happy mind and my angry mind kept fighting for the dominant position, but my legs just kept pedaling. My eyes kept checking the distance and the time. This is not looking good.
At one point, we start heading back into the city and get a little help: winds at our back and new road. I kept my speed around 19 mph. Maybe I do have a chance to finish in 4 hours! Then I turn left and HOLY HEADWIND!!!! That hope for 4 hours was shattered. The wind was strong as hell and directly against me. It didn’t want me to make it up the hill. I had to stop twice before the steep climb (that was only 5 frigging miles away from the end!!) to try to ready myself physically and mentally. Neither time worked. But I had to beat the time, so here goes.
With my head tucked, I sit back and try to relax as much as possible and have Chris pull me up the hill. C’mon Chris, pull me up. Pull me up, Chris! We got this! I’m kicking ass, Cathy, and getting my ass kicked at the same time. C’mon Chris. Everything is gonna be alright. I make it to the top, make a right, slight hill, still windy, make a right, slightly flat (relative, I’m guessing), make a left, and a hill. C’mon Chris. We got this. Let’s do this. Pull me up, Chris! I pass Chris while I am getting to transition and he is doing his run. We made it!
I get to the dismount line and hope to God that I do not topple over. I didn’t. Whew!
Good news: I didn’t fall ONCE!! And I didn’t drop my chain either. With all the stopping and going I did and the amount of gear changing I had to do, that was quite an accomplishment for me!
I looked for my spot, looking at rack signs to make sure that I am heading the right way, racked my bike, and looked for my bag. I then realize my bright orange tri-mat is gone. Damnit. Apparently I didn’t need it to mark my spot because I still found it without the mat. No time to worry about it now! Socks. Shoes. Visor. Skratch. Now, where is the exit? I follow people’s fingers, but still didn’t see where they were pointing. I head that way anyway and eventually see where the hell people are exiting.
Right outside of transition, there was a water station. Thank God! Warm. Gross. No thank you. I start my normal running habit. Tiny steps, just keep moving. I wasn’t moving really well, but I said, at least 1 mile or to the first aid station, whichever was first. That was a VERY tough feet shuffle to the aid station. Walk. Water. Ooooh, Coke! Yes please! Mistake. I needed sodium for my muscles because my quads wanted to cramp. Base salts. Mistake. The combination destroyed my stomach. It they were both something new on race day. Sorry, coach. It started feeling like my intestines were being wrung and I couldn’t even stand up properly. Okay. Strategy adjustment: walk the up hills and jog the downhills.
As I am walking, I hear, “TAM!!” Kat! We hug and she shares her words of encouragement and support and all I could do was keep hugging her and start crying. The amount of support I get from the amazing people I surround myself with was overflowing my heart and leaking out of my eyes.
I continue to walk, deciding to start jogging after I get to a portapotty. On the way, I catch Vegas Coach David and walk with him. Then Kat catches up. We walk and try to keep our minds off of how much this sucked. Then I get to the portapotty.
I take my break, start jogging, and jog past the loud and proud group of spectathletes. I start tearing up again.
I start to run up the long hill. That didn’t last long. I walked up the uphill.
I got water and ice at every aide station so I could trying cooling down my core temperature. I had no idea if it was too hot, but when I started to get the goosebumps, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to eat some ice. I would also eat bananas and oranges when I felt my energy level really dropping and my belly yelling at me to feed it. I guess it did help some. I didn’t pass out. =)
The run course was three laps. I saw our teammates 3 times each. Do you know how much crying that is?? Every time I passed Joel, we stopped to kiss and hug, and I would cry. I tried not to do it in front of him or any teammates during the course, but I always lose it with him. Seriously, how am I crying so much if I was probably so dehydrated?? It’s okay, everything is gonna be alright.
The run was mainly a walk. That is very frustrating and discouraging for someone who considers themselves a runner, but that was all I could do. So I changed my goal: finish within the time limit.
My tears were not because I wanted to give up (okay, maybe only once), but because of the immense joy, gratitude, and love I have for my friends and their love and support for me.
Eventually, my brain (and mouth) just kept saying, I’m going to finish this G**D**N race and earn that F***ING spicy pomegranate margarita!!
I never thought about the distance I had left, but just that I had to keep going without passing out.
On the last uphill, a Vegas resident was walking home and kept me company while I was walking up this horrid hill. He asked why I chose this race as my first long distance triathlon. “When one person signs up, all the crazies follow.” We make it to the last U-turn and I start jogging downhill. I stop for a delicious piece of orange, and then make my way to the finish line.
All the teammates made it clear that I was with them. I high-five them all, run to the finish line, and see Joel standing on the other side. He places my medal on me and we embrace. And my eyes sweat.
I finished. WE finished. Everyyyyyy….thing is gonna be alright!!
Good news: I didn’t give up. 8 hours 13 minutes. Just in time. =)
The distance itself is not the challenge. It is everything that Mother Nature throws at you and your own mental game. Many people can do the distances in all three disciplines. Maybe not all those people can do the three disciplines together in sequence. But not many people realize the true challenge of the race. No one knows what mood Mother Nature will be in, so you just have to persevere. And when you have to persist through Mother’s challenges, the loudest voice is the one in your head and it may be trying to break you down and make you give up. Finishing this race was not so much conquering the course. It was conquering my mind and my perceived limitations. I was initially slightly disappointed that I didn’t finish faster, but as days passed, I realize what an accomplishment it was to even finish that race! Would I do the entire race again? Absolutely not. I’ll do the run leg of the relay. Would I do another 70.3? Absolutely….just to prove to myself that I can finish a 70.3 with some amount of ease. Next goal: Be faster. =)
And FYI, I still don’t think I realize what kind of epic shit this race was. I am slowly realizing it day by day.
And another thing. I never really compared myself to someone else the entire race. Yes, I may be competitive, and was happy when I was able to pass someone, but the more important thing is that I paid attention to myself and the race. This was just my first long distance race. When I do my next one(s??), I’ll compare myself to the other girls in my age group. All I know is that relative to the other girls in my age group, I finished 14th. There were 14 girls that finished. At least I finished. Heck, at least I STARTED! There were about 30 girls that registered in my age group. And I STILL PR’d! 😉
Thank you Coach Skip for helping me train for this craziness and for always encouraging and supporting me, and having all the confidence in me that I never had in myself. I’ll never forget that you taught me to ride in aero position like a dad teaches their kid to ride a bike for the first time. Coach Linda, without you, you know I would not be in any kind of water that wasn’t in my bathtub. Yes you made me cry in the middle of the pool, but now I cry at the finish line because you helped me get there. Sally, you stayed with me on my first tri-bike ride on the road just 7 months ago. I was scared to death and hated it, but you stayed with me and had me making those little circles. Chris, I may have made it up all those hills myself, but you helped me tremendously! I just sit back and relax now. Natalie, you are motivation. The challenges you’ve faced and the things you’ve accomplished make you an incredible super being. Kat, what can I say? Nothing. It’s all in the hugs we share. Oh, there is one thing I can say: you’re a LIGER!! Cyd, your Cyd-wagon is fucking awesome. Knowing you are there on the road with us gives me confidence that I can face any challenge and always have you as support. Phil, one day, I’m going to beat you on the bike….you’re my motivation: don’t let that geezer pass you! John, continuously positive, supportive, and smiling. Who wouldn’t want you around?? Genna, you are always giving advice and energy to support others, especially myself. The card will make my eyes sweat every time. Bev, I’ll always hear your consoling words when I know I can’t or shouldn’t continue: it takes more courage and strength to call it quits than it does to continue and hurt yourself. Cathy, the confidence you have in me and the crazy amount of support you give me, on the race course and off, have me feeling forever grateful and indebted to you. And I kicked ass. Randy, swim buddy, you didn’t let me drown. =) And you ALWAYS have such encouraging words. June, you have no idea how comforting and uplifting your text was before I left for Henderson. It made a world of difference to me. Fontaine, you made me REALLY start to realize how crazy I am and what a crazy, epic decision I made. Kevin, Team Challenge is so lucky to have you as a coach and I am so lucky to have you as my friend because you are always telling me I can do it with no problem and you are always there to make sure we are okay and feeling good. You are encouragement. All the teammates, friends, and family that sent positive vibes and good thoughts have helped get me to where I am today. I have come very far in a very short amount of time. Thank you.
Don’t worry, I didn’t forget you hun. I will never be able to thank you enough for being my personal cheerleader and trainer. I would never have gotten into triathlons without you. You know what I am capable of and encourage me to always push my hardest, even though I don’t. You’re there through my best and worst training days and moods. You’re patient as hell with me (except when you’re hangry). You are the most supportive person in my life and I am extremely blessed that you have entered into it and will be in it, next to me, for a very, VERY long time. Love is an understatement.
**So if you don’t know, I have Dystonia in my right hand. It’s a medical condition no one really understands. No understanding means no cure. I am limited in my fine motor skills in my right hand. No typing. No holding things steady. Can’t run normally. Can’t swing my arm normally when I walk. Can’t swim normally. Can’t grip my bars on my bike. Can’t write. Oh yeah. Did I mention I grew up right-handed? So now I write left-handed. Type one-handed. I try not to let it bother me so much, but it’s my hand. It’s kinda always there to remind me that I have no control over it. It was quite a challenge to accept the fact that I could no longer control a part of my body, but it was a great opportunity for me to learn to deal with adversity and to be able to make changes so that they work in my favor, or at the very least not hold me back in doing things I love and need to do. And you know, I didn’t realize how disabled I looked until I saw the Silverman race photos. Wow. I really am disabled. Oh well. I guess that’s why I am so attached to Team Challenge……we like challenges.