Triathlon Sisters

August 14, 2007

Our First Triathlon: Beginning and Swim

Filed under: swimming,tri for the cure event — by hawk @ 6:32 am

We did it! Barracuda and I finished our very first triathlon!

On Sunday, August 5, 2007, we participated in the Tri for the Cure Triathlon at Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, Colorado. It was an AMAZING event, more than I could have ever imagined. There was certainly the physical intensity involved in the training and the actual event itself, but the emotional part was something I was totally unprepared for. People at this triathlon (all women, all in support of women with breast cancer) were so welcoming, encouraging, and delightful. While there were a lot of nervous people (myself included) the overall atmosphere was one of delight mixed with anticipation. When we first got to the park in the wee hours of the morning, the air felt charged with energy. It was a very cool feeling. It was so hard to part ways with my sister Barracuda as she went to her wave’s transition area and I went to mine. We met up again a little while later at the swim start where we could test the water out and go for a pre-swim.

I was in the second wave (the first wave was for elites) which was the survivor wave. We got to wear the pink swim caps! All the women around me were also breast cancer survivors. I know it sounds goofy, but it was very empowering. I felt proud of who I am, and I hadn’t even begun the tri yet. I was fortunate to park my bike next to Elisa who had done the triathlon 3 times before. She gave me some very helpful tips and assuaged my concerns about how to get from swim to bike to run. Once I unpacked my gear, I had a gear malfunction. The strap for the timing chip broke. Fortunately there was a tent in the transition area dedicated to such things and I was on my way again. There really wasn’t much time from when we got there, got settled, checked out the water, and hit the port-o-potty. It seemed like all of a sudden the national anthem was being played. I surprised myself as I welled up with tears (so unlike me). This is really happening, I thought. The singing of the national anthem was like this thing that united all of us triathletes together with all other athletes that had heard their national anthem played at their events.

After the national anthem, the elites and survivors were called to the swim start. A coach was at the start area and pepped everyone up, congratulating us on all that we had and were about to accomplish. Then the elites entered the water. We counted them down and off they went at 7 a.m. sharp. Then us survivors were called up and allowed to enter the water. The coach was there encouraging people and reminding us to fully immerse ourselves in the water. It was really nice having someone to tell you what to do because I was clueless and still a bit awestruck by the whole event. The announcer then began the countdown along with the waves behind us and the spectators. Then we were off! I stayed to the outside and tried to settle into my rhythm. There were swim angels all along the way — volunteers in wetsuits and flippers who had floaties for people who needed a rest. If they weren’t actively helping someone, they were cheering us on. Very cool. I swam my slow but steady swim for the whole 1/2 mile, never once stopping or resting. This is what I had trained for and this is what I did. The swim was personally my best event because I had focused so much on it (you may recall that I did not know how to swim as of the beginning of this year). As I was swimming, I tried to relax and remind myself to enjoy the moment, to be filled with gratitude for the women around me and for the swim angels, to take in the beauty of the rising sun and the tree-lined shore. Much of the swim was like this for me. I got ran over one time — I was out on the far edge and a couple waves after me had caught up with me. There was all kinds of space around me. I’m guessing that the woman hadn’t been sighting and she just swam over me. I stopped for a few seconds to tread water and let her get beyond me because she just didn’t stop. Then I kicked my legs up and kept going. It kind of made me laugh and I figured she was just as eager as I was to get to the swim finish! My stroke felt effortless as I hit the third leg of the swim which was directed toward the finish line. I kept my eye on the finish line and tried to be as fish-like as possible. Then all of a sudden it was there. Some guys were in the water helping us out because we were on the cement boat launch which was slimy with algea or seaweed or something. Once out of the water I headed for the transition area. My legs felt like cement and I was tired. I think with all the adrenaline and energy I had swam way faster than I ever had which meant I didn’t really pace myself. I was also so relieved to have done the swim that I might have unconsciously signalled to my body that it could relax into recovery mode. Regardless, I got to the transition area and switched over to my biking gear.

Stay tuned for the biking and running legs, the finish, and pictures!


July 2, 2007

that’s some cold water

Filed under: swimming — by hawk @ 5:07 am

Feeling very empowered by my open water swim clinic, I was anxious to get back to the lake. I even canceled my gym membership (which I had gotten only for the purpose of having a pool to learn to swim 1/2 mile in … which I can now do regularly) because I figured that it was lake swimming for me from now on. So on Saturday morning I rode with my friends Cbabe and Pepper from up here on the north side of Chicago down to Ohio Street beach which is at the foot of Navy Pier. It’s where the clinic was and where all the lap swimmers swim.

It was a tough bike ride. Some runners with earphones securely sealing their hearing decided to cross the path without looking. The second one just kind of stopped midway to adjust her mp3 player. This all happened just as Cbabe was just about to pass them. There was oncoming trail traffic as well and no place for Cbabe to go but down. I was right on her back wheel and didn’t even have time to clip out of my pedal (you have to practically sprain your ankle to get out of these pedals anyway — no amount of adjustment has helped). I crashed into Cbabe and went down. Fortunately Pepper was able to avoid us. The runners genuinely felt bad and even stayed around to help Cbabe and I up and hold our bikes while Cbabe yelled. It wasn’t a terrible crash, but enough to kind of unnerve you. A quick look at the bikes told me that they were okay, but the bodies were a different thing. Lots of road rash for Cbabe, poor girl. No road rash for me, but when I fell, my leg was under the bike and cushioned the rest of my body as it hit the ground. So I ended up with a pretty bruised downtube impression on my inner knee down to my shin. Who knew that the inner knee was such a sensitive place! Seriously I’m fine but it was just an uncool trail experience.

Ohio Street beach was just a couple more miles away and we rode on. Cbabe was feeling a bit queasy … post-shock response. She and I were planning on throwing ourselves in the lake and swimming a bit, but she opted (understandably) to sit out and get composed. So it was just me. I was very hesitant because as I looked down at the beach, all the swimmers wore their fancy wetsuits. And I was on my way down with my bike shorts and tank top. “I’m going to freeze my booty off” and “Everyone’s going to laugh” were my two thoughts. Pepper was gracious enough to walk down with me and stand in the water.

I put my flourescent yellow zoot cap on so that if I floated out to sea someone would be able to spot my yellow head and drag me to shore. I walked in the freaking cold water. It took a few moments for the feet to go numb (a pleasant, warming numb) and then I waded out further. In about thigh-deep water, I met a shivering woman who had a swim suit, cap and goggles on. Death-defying acts like trying to swim in cold water for your first time tends to make strangers bond quickly. We chatted for a few minutes.

“This your first time?”

    “Yeah, I’m doing my first tri in a couple weeks and thought I’d better try swimming in open water.”

“Me, too. Where’s your tri?”

    “New York. What about you?”


    “Well, so I guess we should give this a try.”

“We did make it out this far.”

    “Why don’t you go first and I’ll see if you survive the cold water.”

“Yeah, but you’ve been out here for a while already?!”

    “Come on, go ahead, I’ll be right behind you.”

With great reservation and coldness of body, I pushed off the sandy lake bottom and launched myself into the icy waters. Holy crap it’s cold! I barely had time to throw a few strokes when my body went into panic mode. “Red alert! Red alert! Can’t maintain systems. Must shut down. Initiate panic response.” I started hyperventilating and immediately stopped and stood up. I turned around and faced my fellow swimmer who, not surprisingly, was not right behind me. By the time I walked back to her, I remembered what the clinic instructers had said about starting in cold water and how the body reacts in this way. For a moment I had thought that I was freaking out (I was close to it, after all) because it was a bit intimidating to be out there. I chatted more with the swimmer and found that she too had been at the clinic. Another swimmer had by that time walked out to us and expressed her reservations as well. We encouraged one another while we each tried to psych ourselves up. I shoved off again, more carefully this time, and took a few strokes then stopped, took a few strokes then stopped. My body was used to the water and now it was up to me to swim. My goal was to make it to the first buoy which was not far away, but far enough for one’s first time. It took me a while to relax into the stroke that I had spent months refining. I had a very difficult time with sighting and my goggles only allowed straight vision, nothing peripheral. But I was out there and I was swimming. It was fantastic! I tired easily so at one point I flipped over for my backstroke. It was glorious to see the blue sky, feel the water around me, and see the Chicago skyline. I flipped back over but was totally disoriented — no pool wall or lines to get my bearings! Took on some water, coughed it up, and kept on swimming.

It seemed like I was out there for hours, but I think only about 20 minutes passed which included bonding with other swimmers. It wasn’t a “real” swim, but the experience gave me lots of good information about the lake, my body’s response, and what I have to work on. I am still nervous about doing the 1/2 mile there, but will try again soon.

Oh yeah, and the woman I met … she was still standing in the water when I headed back to the beach. She said she wanted to make sure I survived before she tried. I told her she’d warm up and do fine. She decided to stand there a bit longer. Once on the beach, I could still see her standing out there. God bless her, she was trying her best and was going to do it — on her own time. After I had put my shoes on and a dry top and was ready to bike on, I looked out and didn’t see her. Finally I spotted her … swimming.

June 28, 2007

In the lane again…just can’t wait to get in the lane again.

Filed under: swimming — by barracuda @ 7:28 am

I was almost going to jap-out on the pool last night because of my niece’s pre-school graduation, but I did end up going for the 9pm-10pm lap swimming slot. 

I’ve been bringing my snorkling fins to work out with.  My husband says it’s good for that front muscle of your leg and will help prevent cramps.  I know they sell shorter fins for distance swimming practice, but ebay sellers and sporting goods stores across the Rochester, NY area already have enough of my money for triathlon gear.  So my bright pink snorkling fins will do just fine.

Anyway, I swam for about 35 minutes.  I ended up in a lane with this little old German lady that does the backstroke pretty well, but she does the entire thing under water.   I don’t know why that just cracks me up, but I get a little giggle everytime I see her.

I think I must have whacked her with my fin or something because as I was coming back from a lap, I noticed she moved to a lane with another swimmer in it.  Ooops sorry.  I tried to be extra-non-kicky when I passed her, but she took up a lot of the lane (which is fine) and it was hard squeezing by.  Plus my bright pink fins are really long. 

Eh – I was going to try and apologize just in case I did, but I could never catch her during a rest. 

So, sorry underwater backstroke little German lady. 

June 25, 2007

Open Water Freakage

Filed under: swimming — by barracuda @ 2:37 pm

Ok – Hawk was trying out the open water swimming this last weekend, so as the older (and much less wiser) sister, I decided that I had to try it myself.  Gosh, it looks so easy from land – a 1/2 mile can’t be that far out there, right?  Hmmmph – I can run a 1/2 mile, so what’s so hard about swimming a 1/2 mile?

These were my thoughts before getting into Lake Ontario late Saturday afternoon about 500 feet off-shore.  My husband was there in the boat, I had a shortie wetsuit on, and my 8-year old son was in the water with me (with a life jacket) for company.

I started off pretty good and fairly confident (ahh, that white boat that I have to swim too isn’t that far; piece-o-cake).  My son was trying to talk to me while swimming and I had to tell him to stop so I could concentrate (gosh, how can this kid talk and swim at the same time?

Couple waves in my face and jet skis passing by, but nothing I couldn’t handle (yeh, you rather buff, tan guy on the jet ski, can’t you see I’m swimming here!?)  But then I started to realize how far that white boat still was; I had been swimming for what seemed like a long time and it really didn’t feel like I had gotten any further than when I first jumped into the water (you’re psyching yourself out; just keep going).

To make a rather short story even shorter, I had a semi-total freak out and swam back to the boat (with a big L for loser on my swim-capped forehead) after only about .1 miles.  Meanwhile, my 9-year old was just as happy as can be and kept swimming all the way to shore (make that a bolded, bright red, capital L on my forehead).

I got in the boat and was immediately disappointed that I didn’t stick it out and that a child, who has not been training diligently for a triathlon, did better than me.  My husband encouraged me to get back in, but by then I was beaten down and pissed off (okay, so maybe I’ll only do the bike and run legs of the race).

I’m definitely going to try the open-water thing several more times over the next few weeks.  I’m discouraged by my first attempt, but it’s all good and it’s not a challenge if it’s easy, right? (please say ‘Right’)

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