sometimes katie is a [sprint] triathlete…

…so I FINISHED VALLEY GIRL. I. Finished. A. Sprint. Triathlon.

My five weeks of training paid off. I followed a training schedule I found online (attached: Triathlon Novice 6 Week Training Program – found here). I had to s-m-a-s-h 6 weeks of training into 5 due to time constraints (see previous blog post about why I signed up for this crazy event: sometimes katie needs to train). I did experience a horrible gluten reaction in week 3, which set me back a little bit. I was honestly contemplating just giving up, figuring it was a sign I wasn’t supposed to do it. I kept saying to myself – oh, I’ll get back to the gym tomorrow… And it was a big mental battle to keep going. It would’ve been so much easier to stop right there. Get my free time back. Go back to feeling frustrated about my health…. BUT – I packed my gym bag that Sunday night, and decided that Monday after work I would pick up where I left off.

Don't Quit

I learned a lot about myself during those 5 weeks of training. I learned that I can’t eat a baked potato for lunch before a workout. That night I ran out of steam SO QUICKLY and had to go home early with a killer headache. I learned that carbs are ok [actually they are vital], and my body depletes them fast, so a good option for me during a long workout is gummies {goo => gag me}. I found some at Huckleberry’s called Bolt Pro Bar, and I tried them out a couple times on my training days where I had to “do all 3” (swim/bike/run). I was amazed to find that when I ate them, I didn’t get a headache, I didn’t get lightheaded, and I didn’t “lose my steam.” During the event, I kept them in my belt, pre-opened, and was able to leisurely chew on them during my bike ride. Definitely helped.

Pro Bar Chews

 

I also learned that there’s something to the whole “training” thing. At the beginning, I kept saying there’s no way I’m going to be able to do this. BUT… my butt got used to sitting on a bike seat. My quads got less sore after each workout. My legs got less wobbly transitioning from bike to jog. After awhile I didn’t get out of breath. I didn’t need my inhaler as quickly. I didn’t need as much rest between sets. I felt STRONGER and it felt SO GOOD. Surprisingly, I actually started to feel those pretty little endorphins after a long workout. I was AMAZED! You can feel GOOD after a long, hard, sweaty workout?!

Life Will Test You

Another thing I learned – I DID have the determination and the dedication to complete this goal. This aspect of it all kept blowing my mind. There were times I would leave the gym after being there for 3 hours and have tears in my eyes. Not because I was tired, or sore, or regretful, but because I could not believe I had just done that. I gained confidence, and felt a shift in my mindset about exercise in general.

As the event got closer, I got a little nervous, but didn’t let it stop me. I didn’t skip any workouts, I kept eating well, and focused on the 3 days before the race to really GET READY. I drank a ton of water (and also some water with Nuun tablets), really made sure I had enough fuel (and SLEEP), and counted down the days until the event.

I decided to do a sort of “mock run” of the event (which I learned is called a “Brick”). One Saturday morning, I jumped into the shower in my swimsuit, swim cap, and goggles. I turned cold water on for a few minutes so I was soaking wet, and then jumped out. Waiting for me on the bathroom counter was Tri-shorts, a tank top, socks, running shoes, a belt with my inhaler in it, and my helmet. My husband had my bike ready for me, and we went on an 8-mile bike ride. It was somewhere between 90-100 degrees that day, and I started to run out of steam pretty quick. I was chugging my water bottle like no other, but the heat just really got to me. We got back home, and I hopped off my bike into a run…. Hahahaha. Not really. I gingerly got off my bike, and tried to go right into a jog. My legs were pretty wobbly. I took my helmet off and put a visor on. I decided to walk for about 2-3 minutes until my legs felt okay, and then was able to jog. By now, it was about 3 p.m., the hottest part of the day, and my body wasn’t havin’ it. I think we ran about 1.5 miles and called it good.

What I learned: 

  • I needed a microfiber-type towel to wipe me off quickly so I could get my socks on after my swim.
  • My hair needs to be in a high bun to wear my swim cap, but a low bun to wear my helmet, and a high bun to wear a visor. (Was I really going to have to change my hair twice during the race?)
  • I DEFINITELY needed to wear a sportsbra underneath my swimsuit. Enough said.
  • I don’t exercise well in the heat (I knew this already.)

On the last week of training, one night I had told my sister I’d sub on her 6-on-6 outdoor volleyball team. It was my last chance to “do all 3” at the gym, and I didn’t want to miss that opportunity. I actually made it all work, and felt like a freakin’ madman. Here was my Facebook status update that evening:

facebook update

The night before the race, I was getting really antsy. I researched what I was supposed to eat. I couldn’t figure it out. I knew that a gluten-free pizza wouldn’t hurt my stomach, and I had worked out the day after having pizza and felt fine. So we walked over to our favorite neighborhood pizza place, The Flying Goat, and ordered my usual [my usual is now pepperoni, jalapenos, and olives — if you knew me as a child, or even an adult before 30, this is shocking. Katie is picky.). The pizza arrived, and I almost started crying. I forgot to order gluten free. One thing I DO know is that gluten hurts my stomach. And I would not perform well the day after eating regular pizza dough. So I told my husband to enjoy it, and went home and just made something healthier anyway.

My alarm went off pretty early that next morning. 4:30 a.m. is not a time I like to have my eyes open. I hadn’t slept well that night, waking up to odd sounds, and in cold sweats, and my brain wouldn’t turn off. I was actually relieved it was time to get up. I had everything laid out, backpack ready, food packed, and was nervously excited. It felt like the first day of school or something. My dear husband wasn’t moving as quickly as I was, and so I told him to just take his time and meet up with me later (we had to take 2 cars anyway that day, he was hiking at Mt. Spokane after my race).

Here’s my pre-race shot [where you can see, I’m not quite awake yet!]

Surprisingly, the 30 minute drive out there was really peaceful. Quiet, and I had time to reflect on the whole experience.

I had to park at a school and then ride my bike to the transition area. I looked around at all these fit, strong, beautiful women with fancy road bikes and Tri-suits, and my heart started to pound. I felt so out of place. I even had to look at how they attached their race numbers to their bikes, because I couldn’t figure out how to do it the night before. I got out of the parking lot quick, and rode over to sign in. Luckily, I walked up to my bike area at the same time as a friend from high school did, and we were both SO relieved to see each other. She’s an amazing runner, and so she’s done some running races, but it was also her first Sprint Triathlon. We were able to set up our bike stations together, get our numbers written on us together, and go down to the water and take a look at what we were up against.

Our “row” of bikes. It was so weird being in the 30-34 age bracket – I still don’t feel old enough!!

Rear view of my bike and my transition station – I had no idea the best way to do this, but luckily, I wasn’t trying to win the race! Also – notice my big ol’ mountain bike tires compared to all those skinny little road bike tires! One day I’ll have me one of those 😉

A view of the swim course, 1/3 of a mile on the beautiful Liberty Lake. Some women jumped in beforehand to “test the waters.”

My friend Maja and I! She calmed me down before the race so much, I would’ve been a wreck without her! [and p.s. – she got 4th place in our age range – WHAT A STUD!]

We had enough time to walk around, calm down a little bit, and say hello to some friendly faces. I actually met one of my neighbors I recognized, who was competing in the Elite group (who knew?). As the time drew nearer, we got our yellow swim caps on, and made our way to the beach.

The girl next to me asked if this was my first race, because it was her first too. She told me she transferred her registration over a week ago, and was nervous that she wasn’t ready. I was amazed! I thought 5 weeks wasn’t very long to train! I recognized her as we were in the water, and she was one of the girls who was breathing pretty heavy and had to go to backstroke for awhile to catch her breath. (And then I didn’t see her again, after she passed me on the bike).

SWIM

We were the third wave to go. As I ran into the water, I surprisingly wasn’t shocked by the cold temperature. It was PERFECT. Well, except that I repeatedly got kicked in the head, and the arms, and the legs. And the women in front of me created waves that were splashing into my face, making me swallow gulps of lake water. I could not get into a groove. It was so weird. I should have expected this, since I only practiced in the lanes at the YMCA, but I don’t think I could have practiced it. I had to calm my breathing down, and just keep my head afloat for the first couple minutes. I eventually got tired of fighting the girls around me, so I stopped, moved to the side, and created my own lane. Once I did this, I was good to go. I used the breaststroke the entire time, since that’s what I practiced (bad shoulder makes for a not so fun crawl stroke). The first half felt so slow, but then the last half felt pretty good. I actually passed one or two of the pink caps, which was the teen-29 group.

Photo by Joel Gillespie: A shot of swimmers on the last stretch, with volunteers in kayaks to encourage and give swimmers a reprieve if needed.

Photo by Joel Gillespie: A GORGEOUS shot of the beach where the swim took place.

I had never practiced running after swimming, so that was a little weird. But I just let my slightly wobbly legs carry me over to the transition station.

Photo by Joel Gillespie: me jogging across the road to the transition station, where I would hop on my bike. I didn’t see my husband on the sidelines, and I was so happy that he got a shot of me with my swim cap on!

What I learned: 

  • Next time I do a Triathlon, I either need to jump ahead of the pack, or let the pack jump ahead of me before I start. Fighting the pack is not fun.
  • I want to get faster at swimming. I may take some adult swim lessons at the YMCA to get some pointers about form, and see if I can actually tolerate the crawl stroke instead of the breaststroke.
  • I need to have a bucket of water or a small water bottle at my bike station to wipe my feet off before I put my sock and shoes on.
  • I would like to invest in a Tri-suit in the future if I continue to do these. It will save me time.

BIKE

At the transition station, I wasn’t in a huge hurry to get dressed and start the bike. I mean, I went quickly, but I knew I needed to focus on the task, otherwise I would’ve forgotten something importance. So I threw on my Tri-shorts/skirt, tank top with race number, socks/shoes, race belt with inhaler and energy gummies, and my helmet. (Sidenote: because I straightened my hair the night before, it was thinner, and able to be kept up in a higher ponytail the whole time. I didn’t have to mess with it the whole race).

The first part of the bike was uphill. Without any time to “warm-up,” I quickly got my fantastic exercise-induced asthma. I took a couple of puffs, and tried to calm my breathing and just ride. The first part of the bike felt pretty good, because I had practiced hills a little on my Saturday bike rides with my husband. I even saw a friendly face on the sideline that made me smile immediately – my uncle Todd of Todd Conley Photography. He happened to be shooting the event, so it was fun seeing him a couple times during the race.

Photo by Todd Conley Photography: this is in the first mile of the bike ride. Mostly uphill, and my asthma was already bugging me. After about 10 minutes I was good to go though!

The little computer on my bike hadn’t been working since the first week of training, and I finally gave up trying to fix it. If my husband and I hadn’t drove the bike course the day before, I would have had NO idea where I was at and when it was ending. The course was beautiful, and took us out to just about where the State Line of WA/ID is. My legs felt great the whole race, and I made it up all the hills without having to get off my bike and push it. That felt good.

What didn’t feel good was that women were passing me right and left!! Okay, just left. But really. I started to get a little self-conscious. I felt like I was going at a pretty good pace, but these women were flyyyying by. I had to remind myself that their bikes were a lot lighter than mine, and a lot of these women had been doing this for years. The nice part about being passed though? The encouragement. I stopped feeling sorry for myself for feeling slow, and started smiling, knowing that these strong, athletic women were rooting for me. I started thinking about the future, and how I want to be cheering women on during their first race. There was even a 60-year old (or two?) that passed me, and it PUMPED me up. How awesome is that? Getting passed by someone twice your age, that’s in better shape than you’ve ever been? I want to be that.

(Oh, in case you have never been at an event like this, ages are written on the calf)

Rockin’ my age on my left calf.

Since we couldn’t have headphones in, I decided early on that I needed to have a good song stuck in my head to get my through the race. I don’t know how it got there, but it ended up being “Mountain of God” by Third Day. (click video to hear it — it’s a good one)

These are the lyrics:

Thought that I was all alone
Broken and afraid
But You were there with me
Yes, You were there with me

And I didn’t even know
That I had lost my way
But You were there with me
Yes, You were there with me

‘Til You opened up my eyes
I never knew
That I couldn’t ever make it
Without You

Even though the journey’s long
And I know the road is hard
Well, the One who’s gone before me
He will help me carry on
After all that I’ve been through
Now I realize the truth
That I must go through the valley
To stand upon the mountain of God

As I travel on the road
That You have lead me down
You are here with me
Yes, You are here with me
I have need for nothing more
Oh, now that I have found
That You are here with me
Yes, You are here with me

I confess from time to time
I lose my way
But You are always there
To bring me back again

Sometimes I think of where it is I’ve come from
And the things I’ve left behind
But of all I’ve had, what I possessed
Nothing can quite compare
With what’s in front of me
With what’s in front of me

Basically, I had the chorus on repeat. It talks about a long and hard journey, but God is always with me, and you have to go through the tough times to experience the great ones. I was reminded of the hard training. The long nights at the gym. The struggles with figuring out what to eat.  And really what I was reminded of was my lifelong struggle with my weight. My eating issues. My aversion to exercise. Not having any self-confidence. I remember coming around a turn and the sun was shining through these big trees that were covering a cute little cottage next to a farm. I got this goosebumps-like feeling, a warmth throughout my whole body, and I knew God was with me. I can’t explain it much more than that. But I was overcome with joy and tears filled my eyes. At that moment I decided I wasn’t going to complain anymore (in my head), and I was going to go hard, and enjoy this race, because I knew I could do it.

Photo by Todd Conley Photography: Me truckin’ along on my mountain bike!

The bike ride was 12 miles. I had no idea what my time was. Funniest part of the bike ride? The last part was downhill. It was a nice time to stretch my legs out (I wasn’t clipped in – mountain bike, remember?), but as I saw the women in front of me “dismount” off their bikes, I got a little nervous. This was NOT something I practiced. I debated trying to swing my legs to one side and jump off, but knowing I can be a little clumsy… I decided to just stop, straddle the seat like I always have, and then get off. I felt silly, but I can’t be the only one who didn’t know how to do that, right? RIGHT??

I walked my bike over to the rack. I was using this time to calm my legs down and get them ready for the run. This was the aspect I was most worried about. Flashbacks of nearly falling over after my first couple bike rides.

I traded my helmet for a headband, chugged some water, clipped a water bottle onto my race belt, and off I went.

What I learned: 

  • If I continue doing sprint triathlons, I absolutely need to invest in a road bike.
  • I can’t forget to take my E+ energy shot before the race! (I had it set out, but completely forgot due to the adrenaline kick just before beginning. I wonder if I would’ve had a quicker time if I took it!)
  • I should practice putting my inhaler in my pocket before race day. I couldn’t find it in my Tri-skort for several minutes and probably looked pretty silly digging around for it!
  • Practicing hills really comes in handy on race day.
  • So does practicing using the waterbottle attached to the bike.
  • I need to practice “the dismount.”

RUN

My brain was telling my legs to jog. But I didn’t actually feel like I was moving any faster than a walk. It felt like a struggled power walk. Nevertheless, I kept going.

I had eaten some energy gummies during the bike ride, so I felt fine during the run. I did immediately get asthma, but …………………………………………………… I tried running with a water bottle clipped to my belt, but it wasn’t on very well, and it kept bouncing against my hip. I threw it towards a water station, and figured I’d come back and get it (I tried, and it was gone. I owe you a water bottle, Jill!)

It was really fun passing a group of ladies from church who were there to cheer me on. One of them actually made me a sign!! She’s the awesome gal I bought my registration from because she’s a little too preggo to do a Triathlon 🙂

HOW AWESOME IS THIS POSTER??? Thank you Liz!!

Once again, my asthma kicked in as soon as I started running. I took a few puffs, and kept my legs moving. It’s funny, I didn’t feel like I was running. I felt like I was power walking. Or maybe even a step below that. By now, I was getting passed as equally as I was passing people on the run. I remember passing a lady and her telling me I’m doing a great job, and I said back, “I don’t feel like my legs are even moving!”

Photo by Joel Gillespie: In the first couple minutes of the run, I looked up and saw my handsome husband with a camera!

Photo by Joel Gillespie: Joel cheered for me, and made me smile, making me forget all my worries about the run and keep going :)

Photo by Joel Gillespie: Joel cheered for me, and made me smile, making me forget all my worries about the run and keep going 🙂

We ran through some random neighborhoods, and even did a U-turn on one of the residential streets. It was hot by now, and I could feel the heat affecting me. I’ve experienced heat stroke a couple times in my life, playing sports as a teenager. Even though I was super-hydrated, I still was pushing myself harder than I ever had outdoors, and I was starting to get a little headache. Some of the residents had their sprinklers out so the runners could go through them, and it was SO refreshing. I made sure to say thank you to every single one of them! I also took advantage of every water station there was. Because of this, my mouth didn’t get too dry, and my head stayed cool.

I DID; however, need to urinate PROFUSELY. I tried to ignore it, but after I passed mile 1, I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop thinking about it. Luckily, there was a Honey Bucket on the route. I jumped in, quickly peed, and was able to focus on the run after that.

I still didn’t think my legs were moving though.

We eventually hooked onto a trail that runs around a park/golf course in Liberty Lake. The park was on my right, and a road was my left. I heard a honk and someone yelling, “KATIE! Wooooo!!!” I looked over, and there’s my husband again, but with his iPhone in his hand, and I couldn’t help but just laugh again. He took a quick video, and it wasn’t until I actually watched this that I believed I actually was J-O-G-G-I-N-G.

I told myself I was not going to stop. I did not need to. I had trained for this. It was almost over.

The ran took me onto a busier street, and then back into a neighborhood, along a park, and then there was this magnificent looking finish line!! I just kept chuggin’ along. I was hot, my head was starting to pound, and there was a lady behind me who was moaning and grunting as she was closing in to pass me. It kinda freaked me out, and she actually apologized as she passed me. Whatever keeps ya goin’, lady. Then, all of a sudden, it was over!

Photo by Joel Gillespie: Here I come down the home stretch!! My husband found a spot at the finish line, and was able to capture my last few moments. You can see a little smile on my face, because I know I’m SO CLOSE!!

Photo by Joel Gillespie: I was a little stunned after I finished. It actually took me about an hour to realize it actually happened!

I was really most excited about getting a medal. My first ever medal!! I didn’t even care what it looked like, I was just so proud that it was mine. And remembering how hard I had to work to get it.

Photo by Joel Gillespie: my first medal, in all its glory!!

After I finished, I was joined by my husband, and two friends BreAnna and Kelsey. They made sure I got some liquids and some oranges, and got in some shade. David’s Pizza (who also catered for my wedding) was serving the participants free pizza and salad, so I ran over and got something to eat. Of course, there wasn’t gluten-free pizza, so I just ate the toppings and it held me over. I found a shady spot, and just sat. I was so hot, and thirsty, and a little tired, and just dazed from the last few hours. I seriously couldn’t believe that had just happened! Never in my life did I think I could accomplish something like that.

Photo by Todd Conley Photography: I ran over to the fancy background, where my uncle Todd was taking pictures. I was very excited to have such an official photograph!! I think he told me to pose, and it just felt so right :)

Photo by Todd Conley Photography: I ran over to the fancy background, where my uncle Todd was taking pictures. I was very excited to have such an official photograph!! I think he told me to pose, and it just felt so right 🙂

Once I felt like I had cooled off, I had to then walk all the way back to the transition area, check out my bike, and bring it back to my car. My friend BreAnna volunteered to ride my bike back up the hill to the park, which was a relief. My little legs were verrrry tired by then. I couldn’t stop talking about the whole experience, so I’m glad my friends and husband didn’t get tired of it (well, at least they didn’t tell me if they did). I cannot put into words how amazing it felt to have people there supporting me. It would not have felt so great if they weren’t there. I am forever grateful, and hope that someday I can return to the favor to someone else who accomplishes something like this for the first time.

My cheerleaders - Kelsey and BreAnna. It wouldn't have felt so good without them cheering me on.

My cheerleaders – Kelsey and BreAnna. It wouldn’t have felt so good without them cheering me on.

And of course, my number one fan. I'm so thankful for him throughout the whole process. Coming on bike rides and runs with me, being patient with me through my aches and pains, being okay with all the hours I wasn't home because I was training, and just telling me how proud of me he was. I got a good one, people. <3

And of course, my number one fan. I’m so thankful for him throughout the whole process. Coming on bike rides and runs with me, being patient with me through my aches and pains, being okay with all the hours I wasn’t home because I was training, and just telling me how proud of me he was. I got a good one, people.

After the race, we celebrated with my favorite restaurant, Boston’s! I finally ate the gluten-free pizza I never had the night before. And a milkshake. I deserved a milkshake.

What I learned: 

  • A supportive pair of running shoes is worth the investment. (See: sometimes katie buys flashy new shoes)
  • I need to make sure I’ve eaten all of my fuel before I start running. I didn’t even think to eat more during my run, and quite frankly, I didn’t need to.
  • No matter how much I think I’ve hydrated, I need to hydrate more. Possibly during the race.
  • I should try to remember to put my GPS watch on for the run next time, to see exactly how I paced. But part of the fun was not knowing, and then being pleasantly surprised!

STATS:

Okay, I have to remember I didn’t do this race to win anything, or to prove to anybody but myself that I could do it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basically, I was at the lower end of my age range, but right in the middle of the pack overall. That feels about right. The swim was slower than I thought (due to getting kicked in the face and fighting the waves). I took my time with the transitions. The bike was about what I thought it would be (but I know it’s the area I can improve the most in the future). The run was faster than expected! Turns out I was running, not power-walking :).

My goal was to finish in at least 2 hours. I finished in under 2, by about 5 minutes. Seeing that made me smile pretty big. It’s no world record, but it’s my record. My first ever sprint triathlon.

I would love to do this race every year. We’ll see how it goes financially, nutritionally, physically, and motivationally (not a word, I know) how it goes. I almost signed up for an Olympic triathlon in September, but being $100 a pop is prettttty expensive, especially when you have an old house you’re always working on.

All I know is that this race made me realize that I am a lot more capable than I ever thought. I am not just a softball player. I am not just a Physical Therapist. I am not just the “smart one” in the family. I am not defined by my body shape or weight. I am not NOT a runner. Or a swimmer. Or a biker. I am a sprint triathlete. I will cherish that moment for the rest of my life.

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