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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Holy Crap, I Went 70.3 Miles Without A Car

I don't know how many times I've actually started this post and I have no idea how it's going to look when I hit publish or what's going to be in it. That's probably the closest reflection of how I feel inside right now, having finally finished this race, being at home, and with Miami fully a reflection in my rearview mirror.

I cannot believe it has come and gone.

I cannot believe I have done it.

I cannot believe what I went through that day and that I actually still  finished.

I cannot believe any of it. ANY OF IT.

The entire thing was surreal. It's even surreal as a memory.
Arriving to the sea of bikes and athletes and the gentle whir of nervousness and excitement that was in the air, picking up my race packet, getting my body marked..
scanning the swim course and sitting down on the bank and crying a little in utter disbelief at how freakin far it looked...
thebuoysMiami Man
my hands being numb the whole night and my mind in a fog, trying to break down the swim in my mind, trying to find my happy place, trying not to forget anything, trying above all to have fun. I did a lot of soul searching the day before the race, which I had to write about. The day before the race was almost as intense as the race itself. Maybe even more.

But when 4 a.m. came and all three of our alarms went off, I woke up with a smile on my face. I did that thing where you raise your hands above your head in a big stretchy yawn to welcome a new day like in the tv commercials.

The day had come and I was actually excited! And ready!

I had everything I needed, we ate breakfast, we drove to to the park and started setting up our transition areas, took the potty breaks we needed, saw the other Tri Warriors who were doing the race (there were 5 of us) I put my wetsuit on and headed down to practice swim, where I promptly IRONED OUT ANY FEAR THAT WAS LEFT IN ME!

The water was clear and could not have been more gorgeous. It was a crystal clear lake and I swam out to the first buoy and back and got my wetsuit worked in and my breathing under control and then it was the time that I always think about in my mind when I think of the beginning of a triathlon, where you're standing next to the water's edge 3 minutes before the horn blows and suddenly you are just a girl in a swimcap and goggles standing at the water's edge, visualizing yourself traveling however many miles trying to get to a finish line and you have no idea what journey awaits.

Those three minutes feel simultaneously like a million years and like one split second.

And oh. Was it ever a journey.

The swim went as well as it could for me, there were times I got a little tired and there were times it was hard to spot the buoys because of the glare from the sun and there were times my imagination played tricks on me and I thought I saw a tail swimming away from me, but mostly my mind was turned off and I sang a little and just tried to follow the other feet. After all, why would I worry about the swim? The swim is the shortest event of all three, if I'm going to worry, it should be the other 56 miles or the 13.1 miles! Not the measly 1! (Right?)

The 1.2 mile swim took me 53 minutes. Yes I wish it was shorter. Yes, I wish I were faster. But I did it without panic and when I finished, I wasn't tired. I was just getting started. I felt good.

You see, long before I started, I decided I wouldn't race against anyone. This race was for me and me alone to finish when my body could. It was hard to not want to push with everything you got but when you don't know what the rest is going to take, you don't want to spend it all in one place. You want to leave some for the end, when you know it's going to be the hardest. When you know you'll have to fight.

I started out on the bike and was making great time. It felt great, I was averaging about 19 and it felt like no effort. I wasn't pushing hard, I wasn't going slow. It was nice and steady.

Around mile 25, I hit a bump and my bike computer went out. I slowed a little and tried to adjust it but it wouldn't work no matter what I did and I didn't want to keep stopping so I went on for however long having no idea how much further I had or how fast I was going and it was frustrating. I decided to not care and to just keep going. I was drinking my electrolytes, drinking my water, eating my GU, and it was really windy. I had slowed down considerably and the bike was getting pretty miserable because of the wind.

Then around mile 40, I got a FLAT.

I ran over a tack.

I also had no idea what mile it really was and no idea how much further I had to go but I felt like I was in the middle of nowhere by myself and on the side of the road by myself and bikers were passing me like crazy. I had passed about a dozen other bikers with flats, but thought maybe it was just a rough course or something but come to find out they think someone threw tacks in the road because there were dozens more flats than the ones I saw.

I sat for a second in a daze and felt defeated.

I began to take my tire off. I began to take my tube off and I'm doing it really slowly because it feels pretty desolate where I am in the middle of pastures in a city I don't know and the riders are becoming fewer and fewer between and my mind is foggy because I've never had a flat in a race before.

I think it might have been 10 minutes I was there, getting things started and really really having to pee because I've drank about 5 water bottles up until this point and a car drove up and a guy got out.

I was a little alarmed (thoughts about being kidnapped during a race) as he asked me if I needed help and I asked him if he was from the race and I could see by his shirt that he was. I asked him if I could accept help without a penalty because one of the USAT rules is that you can't accept help but I guess if there's a service offering it to everyone it's ok but I didn't know it at the time but said yes anyway. Then he asked me if I wanted a ride to the finish.

I really had to think about this one.

Am I done?

If I fix this flat, do I have more left?

And I remembered a shirt I saw at the expo the day before: "DEATH BEFORE DNF." (Death before "did not finish.") And I said no. I would not give up. Besides, how could I tell my kids that I decided not to finish? How could I tell anyone I decided not to finish? More importantly, HOW COULD I TELL MYSELF I DECIDED NOT TO FINISH?!

The answer was no. I couldn't.

About 10 minutes later the flat was fixed and I hopped on my bike and trudged along. And by now with my computer not working, my bladder about to break, my legs on fire because the wind is now pounding and almost NO ONE left on the roads, I am now to the point where I have to make peace that I am finishing either dead last or close to it and definitely dead last in my age group. And that's pretty hard to swallow even for a person who decided not to care.

Even the volunteers at the street crossings were starting to not  pay attention anymore, there were so few bikes left on the course.

My husband had passed me a while back, my tri buddies had passed me, I was on my own with my own head to finish this. I was in so much pain I didn't see how and I had no idea how much further I had left because my computer was still stuck on whatever mileage it was when the road bumped it.

I trodded along.

On fire.

And I started to cry. I cannot explain the emptiness and defeat I felt. I just can't explain it. I was overwhelmed with the distance still before me and the feelings of pain I felt.

Eventually I started to roll up on transition and as I'm passing a mountain biker we saw people who were already finished with the race and racking their bikes on their cars because they were LEAVING and she says, "Oh my God, people are leaving and I don't know how I feel about that!"

And I thought that I absolutely DO know how I feel about that and I just flat out hated it and wanted to die, even when some of them would pause from putting their bikes on their racks to cheer me on because that's how supportive people in triathlon are, still the tears and the anger started to flow freely now as I dismounted my bike and ran through transition. I was furious. Furious with the flat. Furious with being at the end. Furious with the pain in my legs and having to pee so badly I couldn't see straight and furious that everyone is finishing and I'm just now STARTING a half marathon.

I went into autopilot and I grabbed my GU, my race belt, threw my sneakers on and headed out like an abused puppy and straight to the porta potty that was situated right at the beginning of the run course. Thankfully. Because I was leaking along the way with 7 water bottles in my bladder.

I jumped back out and headed out on the run course completely and utterly amazed that the legs that were on fire and that couldn't make a revolution even one single mph faster just minutes ago felt GOOD AND STRONG and I began to hit my mile markers at the 10 minute pace and some wave of excitement washed over me as I realized that I was indeed about to finish this thing after all.

And soon, my head started to clear as I looked down at my watch and saw that I could even still possibly finish this thing somewhere within the 6-something hour range and the fire lit again because that was my goal and if I didn't reach my goal I was at the very least still going to be close!

So I hit the water stations, grabbed a water to sip, a water to pour on my head and a cup of Cytomax to sip and moved along, mile after mile. Our run was two laps of 6 miles each that wound throughout the Miami Metro Zoo and somewhere along the route there was a homemade sign that just said, "Ry Ry" and nothing else and it was stuck in the ground and that's what we call my son and what are the chances of that!

And it fueled me.

And I sang entire Paramore songs in my head to keep my feet moving.

I watched the elephants and the monkeys and I longed to smother my face in my babies when I passed families having fun at the zoo and I wanted to make them proud and it fueled me some more.

I hit the 6 mile mark at 1:05 (ONE HOUR AND 5 F**KING MINUTES!!!!! WOOOOOOO!!!) and knew I had more to keep going.

Besides, I fittingly chose my "SHUT UP AND RUN" headband after the bike-crying episode since there was no longer time for my head to bitch about anything and there was nothing left to do but SHUT UP AND RUN anyway and that's what I did.

I began to get nervous because I was pretty sure that all the people I was running with were already on their SECOND lap and that they would leave me at the 6 mile mark to trot toward the finish and sure enough, they were. Very few rounded the corner for that second lap and the defeat began to set in again.

So us straggling runners chit-chatted for a while as we passed each other, we ran alongside of each other for a bit exchanging our tales of the race up until that point, we laughed at the vultures circling overhead and how they were waiting for us to bite it.

Even the volunteers on this course were starting to pack up and I was feeling as if it were the end of the race but my race wasn't over yet and that hurt my feelings a lot but I picked back up and kept going.

At mile 11, my legs began to get really angry with me and the gut rot began and so I walked for a few minutes until it subsided and then I began to jog again and not very fast because now my legs were concrete stumps.

At mile 12 I began to run harder and it was the longest single mile I've ever run in my life and as I rounded the corner and heard my tri friend yell my name I began to sprint and I didn't know that sprint was in there but it was and I saw my husband and everyone began to cheer as I headed toward the finish in a full on sprint with my arms up in the air and the tears in my eyes and I finished. MY GOD I FINISHED!

And I yelled out with no inner monologue whatsoever and to whomever could hear me, "SCREW YOU, FLAT!" in complete and utter defiance to whatever filth thought it was a great idea to throw tacks in the road and make me doubt myself.

I finished in 7 hours and 9 minutes. About 15 minutes after my husband.

Without the flat, it would have been 15 or 20 minutes earlier and that's what my goal was. And I might have even tied my husband or crossed the finish with him.

My run time was 2:40 and I'M DAMN PROUD OF THAT RUN because yes, dammit, I did have a half-marathon left in me after that bike and it came from out of nowhere and that's what I love best about triathlon or even just persistence in general or perhaps it's just called stubbornness and unwillingness to give up in general is that things come out of you from you have no idea where because even you didn't know it was there.

I didn't care where I finished in the lineup but of course, later on, I had to look.

Turns out it wasn't last after all. I was toward the bottom but I wasn't last. Not that it even mattered. Because all that mattered was the finish itself and everything it took me to get there.

I still cry with pride that I did it and even cried while writing this. Because there is nothing in the world more satisfying than coming back from what seems like rock bottom and finishing strong and with everything you got.
And I did that.

Never in a million years had I thought a 70.3 was in the cards for me.

I never even knew what 70.3 meant!

Heck, I didn't even know what it meant till Sunday.

Now I know that 70.3 means anything can happen at any single mile but dammit you got to get yourself across that line, man! And above all, you got to, just GOT TO give it hell.

oh and ps. 70.3 marked off the Official Bucket List. Schwing!


Mommy Mo said...

I am crying with you and giving the tacks in the road the middle finger- WTH. I am SO proud of you- you are truly a rockstar!!!

*Lissa* said...

This is the bestest race report ever. I am completely in awe of you, Christie. You are one bad-ass mo'fo. I am so proud of you. YOU DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!!

Brooke said...

you're incredible. inspirational. my hero. awesome. truly.

and who the bleep throws tacks on a course? that's just hateful!

Beki said...

I am now crying. This is such a great race report. I can identify with your feelings about feeling defeated and being last. That's how I felt in my one and only (so far) triathlon. I am so motivated by you, you have no idea! You are a warrior, a rockstar and a complete inspiration! I love you!

Kirsten said...

Thanks for making me all teary sitting in the middle of a conference! You are awesome. You are my inspiration. You are amazing and I don't even know what else to say except I love you. And I can't wait to hug you in less than 2 months. You're my hero.

AnnG said...

OMG!! I sat and cried through a good part of this post! I can not even begin to express to you how proud of you I am. I can't even imagine how hard this was to conquer but you did it and you did it with pride!! I am so glad you didn't quit back there with that flat tire...that would have meant defeat and there is no such thing as defeat for YOU!! You are one of my heros!!

The Doll said...

I loved this race report and was tearing up through it all. You are amazing and I'm so proud of you for finishing.

Pubsgal said...

Dammit, girl. You made me cry at work.

SO proud of you. SO in awe. SO unable to imagine 70.3...but your race report sure painted a vivid picture of it. (VERY knowing of that back-of-the-pack feeling, though. Even without the tacks from Hell. ;-)

(((hug))) I know we're supposed to be our own superhero and all, but you sure as heck are one of mine.

Pubsgal said...

P.S. Nice bling!!!

Renée aka Mekhismom said...

Way to go girlfriend! You Rock!!! !

Melissa said...

Best race report ever! I'm so proud of you for persevering, Christie! I'm so proud of you for not letting the asshat who put tacks on the course rob you of this day. I've known it all along, but this just confirms what an amazing woman you are, both inside and out!

I've volunteered a few times at the 70.3 down in Oceanside. You summed up the tri community so perfectly. They are so accepting of anyone in the sport, even one of my dear friends who knew absolutely nothing and did her first tri in cotton shorts and a Jogbra riding her cruiser. ;) I love the sport enough that I know I'll finish a tri one day, even if it's just a sprint. :)

Rock on with your bad ass self! xoxo

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh, this made me cry, too. You are utterly amazing. I am so proud of you for NOT giving up.

Wear that cape proudly, mama. You more than earned it this weekend!

Jen ( said...

You are pretty much describing my Olympic triathlon (my first and only race), except I didn't get a flat. Maybe someday I'll be able to write about it.

@FitInMyHeart said...

Love Ya Lots
@FitInMyHeart (Dr. Mo)

Lisa @ Crazy Adventures in Parenting said...

OMGosh, crying. Amazing, inspiring, WAY TO FREAKING GO!!!!!!!!!

Karena said...

Can't believe I'm only now getting around to commenting on this, Christie. You? Are AMAZING!! I'm so glad you didn't let your frustration and hurt after the bike incident stop you from finishing and giving it hell. Because you did indeed give it hell! Wonderful post, so inspirational, and so, SO proud of what you've accomplished!

Roo said...

Oh wow. There are no words for how amazing you are. I'm crying because I'm so proud of you. You are amazing. I love you!

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My Favorite Quotes

"Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it." - Bill Cosby

I tri because one day I didn't believe in myself. And then one day I did.

"I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of a man is to live, not to exist." - Jack London

Some people think it's holding on that makes one strong- sometimes it's letting go.

"Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History."- Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Live life PASSIONATELY, laugh OUT LOUD, love UNCONDITIONALLY. - from my spoon rest.

"The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire." - Ferdinand Foch