Sunday, August 23, 2009

Lessons from a Virgin Triathlete

I woke up at 3 a.m. the morning of the Iron Girl, courtesy of my toddler. It was really thoughtful of him. He must have known that in several hours, I was embarking on the most challenging physical feat since passing his melon head through my pelvis a year-and-a-half ago, and wanted to wish me a hearty "good luck" -- in the form of some night-time yelling.

My husband was on duty since he didn't have to swim 1,100 meters, bike 17 miles and run three later that day. But, I still woke up. Can't keep a momma down. I retreated to the quiet of the basement in an attempt to continue past five hours of sleep, but the damage was done.

When I left the house groggily at 5:40 a.m., I found them like this...

"Good luck, honey. You're going to do great," the big one said. "We'll be cheering for you."

And with that, I was off.

The ride down to the event with my neighbor, her sister, and my sister-in-law was filled with chatter. For some it was excited chatter (them) and for some (me) it was nervous chatter. Was I really ready for this? Was I going to make it? Was my body going to spontaneously shut down in reaction to such concentrated, strenuous and lengthy physical activity? Would I emerge from said physical activity a mere shell of my former self? What was the other option? Throwing up my hands right then and there and saying, "Sorry guys. I'm a big, steaming load of chicken shit...mind taking me home?"

We continued on, got stuck in some traffic, parked the car illegally, and ran into the transition area where our bikes were -- just minutes before it closed. Got my shoes, Gatorade, etc. set up next my bike and was ready to rumble.

I was in the 35-39 age group, which was the largest and had to actually be split into two groups because there were so many women. My theory is that women my age -- particularly if you've squeezed out a couple kids and are living a nice, quiet life in the 'burbs -- are hitting that critical "I still got it" point in life. Except this time around, the ever-elusive "it" doesn't manifest itself in sex, drugs and rock 'n roll, but triathlons and 10K runs.

I put on my yellow swim cap and waded into the crowd. Pretty soon we were off. I'm not going to say a whole lot about the swim because, honestly, it was pretty uneventful. I grew up swimming, trained well, and had participated in the trial event. I was ready to kill it.

And here I am finishing. Pay close attention to that smile on my face because it didn't stick around for long. Little did I know things were about to head in a drastically different direction.

First lesson in triathlon biking: Don't expect to be able to keep up with someone riding this...

...when you are riding something like this...

Oh, and while you’re at it, you may want to consider NOT underestimating the power of actually getting on your bike as part of your training regimen...well, at least more than twice. My anxiety had always been with the running and, shit, I just figured if I could Mary Poppins my way along on the bike, that would be just dandy.

I never expected to jump out the water, hop on my bike, and get passed a devastating 134 times (I counted). There also is nothing quite as humbling as getting your gears blown off by a 58-year-old she-devil on a bike -- when you’re only 36. I was moseying along on my beach cruiser when I heard an aggressive, “ON YOUR LEFT!” only to turn and see friggin’ Dorothy Zbornak whizzing by me in a fiery red and black bike short/top ensemble.

My eyes followed her until she disappeared into the band of bikers up ahead. Wow.I mean, wow.

I decided to pick up the pace, but found something curious about my legs and how fast my bike as moving. As much as I spun my legs in an effort to propel myself and my big wheel forward, I never could quite get there. Then I looked up ahead and saw a hill. If I could make it up without my thighs spontaneously combusting from the chemical burning reaction taking place inside them, then I could really, really get some momentum going and make that slope downhill work for me.

I wiped my brow. This was my chance to show those 60-year-olds what I was made of. Come on Sophia! Bring it Rose!

I cycled up the hill...slowly. Then I hit the top and changed gears to pick up the pace. Lookin’ good, lookin’ good. I began to race down the hill at full speed. My cheeks and lips blew backwards, my face naturally botoxed from the sheer force of the wind. I was flying. “Hahahahahahaha!” I cackled. “Take that bike bitches!” And just as I thought, "Man I am going seriously fast," I heard those dreaded words: On. Your. LEFT!

Three bikes zoomed past me. No amount of strength, will, and determination could make me and my preschool bike with training wheels go any faster. I resigned myself to the fact that it was going to take me a really, really, really, really long time to finish the bike portion of the event.

I must have looked like the saddest most pathetic little person on wheels, since my fellow bikers kept yelling out words of encouragement that felt like "Good job, you sweet little beginner" pats on the head: "Almost there!" "Keep movin'!" "You're doing great!" "Lookin' good!" Now, who were we kidding? You knew and I knew and everyone watching knew that I looked anything but "good" as I grunted up the hill on my bike with some strange rebel force occasionally jerking my front wheel suddenly to the right or left at the most inopportune times. There was one particular biker that shot me a look of death when she passed me, and I inexplicably jerked toward her almost causing a calamity of spokes and pedals. "Oh, um, sorry, biker lady, ma'am, miss. Oh. Yeah. Whoa! Get back here front wheel!"

Since I’d actually done decently on the swim portion, family and friends that had come to see if I was going to make it out alive/cheer me on, thought they’d missed me on the bike. Clearly, I must have passed by already. Had to. No way I could be taking that long. As they were about to move on to the finish line, lo and behold, there I was. Legs spinning frantically, bike moving nowhere.


I did finish the bike ride after what seemed like an eternity. When I went to disengage and start my run, I found that the bike seat had actually lodged itself inside my ass. That felt really good. It took me a minute, but once I was able to separate the two, I was ready to run (3.2 miles, thank you very much) and even ended up passing some of those bikers that had initially passed me. Take that mo' fos!

So, how do I feel about the whole experience? Honestly, and I say this with not a hint of sarcasam (a rare moment, so enjoy), I loved every second. I even loved the horrendous bike part. The entire time, I was just so frickin'tickled (yes, as in pink) because I could not believe I was actually doing it.

The icing on the cake? My daughter meeting me a couple of meters before the finish line. She stood there with my husband, beaming. As I ran up, they both screamed and jumped up-and-down like maniacs. I saw her face explode in excitement, love, and wonder. There I was. Her mommy. Not the mommy of library books and afternoons of imagination and dress-up. But a sweaty, tired running mommy who decided to do something different...and finished it.

T shoved M toward me. She grabbed my hand and off we went.

“Mommy, why did it take you SO long to finish? And, why are you SO sweaty?”

“Oh, honey, Mommy just finished a super, duper long race.”

“Sooooper, doooper long?

“Yes, sooooper, dooooper long.”

“Well, we’re almost there, Mama. We’re almost there.”

P.S. Since we were both up at 3 a.m., I thought it only fitting to show you what J was doing when I crossed the finish line.


*Check out more pictures.


Unknown said...

You loved it and you did an awesome job - I knew it! Let the peer pressure begin, you will have to do it again next year!

OSMA said...

a most heartfelt congratulations on an amazing triumph!

Rosana V. said...

@jess@one sided momma thx ladies! it was awesome and i'm thinking...still thinking...about next year. we shall see!!

galugo said...

Hilarious! Hats off! And, really, I think some of those other women were on some illegal doping stuff.

Rachel said...

I am so impressed by you!!

Rosana V. said...

@galugo i agree. with my legs spinning at a rate of 360 rotations per way i'd be passed that many times under normal circumstances. ;-)
@rachel aaaw...thx!!!

heathersh said...

I love, love that Marley ran the last yards with you. And you can count on a middle-of-the-night wakeup when you NEEED sleep, of course. That is so cool - and nice writing.

Rosana V. said...

@heathersh it was definitely a "moment." so glad i did it...and, yes, i wouldn't expect anything less from jack.

Aspen Real Life said...

What a tremendous feat! Congratulations. It is so good to shake up life a bit when the mundane trivialities of everyday living gets the best of us.

I loved the photo of your little one in bed with your husband.

I can relate to the pain of getting up early to workout as I have been waking up at 4:45am every day for the past month

Glad to find you!

Rosana V. said...

@jillian thx! it was pretty amazing...even the ugly parts. ;-)

Cristie Ritz King, M. Ed said...

I am admitting I'm a little teary-eyed. I'm probably more proud of you than I should be.
Rock on Mama!

Rosana V. said...

@christie aaaaw! love it -- thank you so much. it was such a feeling of accomplishment. still basking in the after-glow...