Daily Archives: August 25, 2009

My Iron Girl Experience

What can I say about my experience?  I’ll try to keep this relatively brief.  I went into the triathlon completely naive to what it really takes to complete a swim, bike and run.  I really thought that my running would carry me through the event. 

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The morning of the race, we woke up at 4am.  All of the meetings stressed the importance of getting there as soon as possible (gates opened at 5am).  I packed my stuff the night before based on suggestions from the meetings (extra water bottles to rinse my feet, lots of towels, energy foods, etc).

I didn’t eat much the morning of – I had a banana and a bagel with peanut butter.  I drank lots of water.  I went to the bathroom 100 times.

When I got to my bike (I had racked it the night before), I realized that the tires were low.  I didn’t know how to pump them (the bike wasn’t mine).  I start to panic a little.  Some ladies around me agree that my bike needs air badly and point me in the direction of the bike assistance folks.  THANK GOD.  They pump my tires and I got there before the line became insane.

I am body marked.  Butterflies are fluttering in my stomach.  Either that or my intestines were freaking out.

Time FLIES by in the morning.  Before I know it, the Pro/Elite swim wave begins (and it has been delayed 25 minutes). 

This picture doesn’t do them justice.  These women were ripped.  Insane. 

My in-laws came shortly thereafter and we watched as the first pro/elite triathlete finishes her swim.  It hadn’t even been 15 minutes.

At this time, I also realize that my trisuit happens to be really popular.  I see it EVERYWHERE. 

I keep staring at women’s calves to see who is in my age group.  I am often intimidated, sometimes relieved but always nervous.

By the time I line up for my swim, I want to puke. 

The swim was an in water start.  I was in the middle of the pack and knew that as a courtesy I should stay towards the back of the swimmers since I’m not a strong swimmer.  I didn’t realize that I’d be treading water for 3 f’n minutes. 

My concerns about the swim were getting worse.  The turnaround point looked like it was a million miles away.  Then the countdown began.  5… 4… 3… 2… 1… GO!

I take a few strokes…

and then I freak the fuck out. 

I was paralyzed with this fear of drowning.  I could hardly move.  The idea of putting my head under water makes me feel like I’m drowning.

But could I quit now?  I just started!

So I ended up side stroking and back stroking about 90% of the entire swim.  Ridiculous.  I try the breast stroke a few times only to realize that putting my head under water AT ALL causes immense fear and anxiety.

I am nearly the last person in my wave to exit.  It took me 36:16 to complete the swim.  Other women I knew that competed beat me by at least 10 minutes or more.  WTF.

I was so relieved to finish.  But I was NOT prepared for how awful my body would feel going from the water to my bike.

There were a TON of great supporters along the way that got me going.  Hearing my family cheer me on (I couldn’t believe I could hear them!) really pushed me to go go go!

Trying to rinse my feet off from grass and dirt, then dry them enough to put socks on was no easy task.  Neither was trying to FIND the damn bike.  I had gone to great lengths to memorize where my bike was but was so out of it by the time the swim ended that I wandered around for a minute… and was apparently always near the bike.  My transition time was 5:20.  Reeee-diculous.

And I’m off!

I was slightly relieved to be sitting but was a bit discouraged to see a ton of women ENTERING the park after completing their ride.  I was so far behind.

And now enter the part where I begin to loathe Columbia, Maryland.  Who knew there were so many STEEP hills?  I definitely made up for some lost time during the ride and managed to pass quite a few people. 

All along the way, I was amazed at the fantastic support from spectators and other racers.  Everyone had words of encouragement.  It really helped.

But by the end of the ride, I could feel every rock and bump in the road in my butt.  I’m almost crying in pain.

But despite my pain, I managed to muster a dorky smile for my family.  Seriously – their cheers really lifted my spirits and gave me the boost I needed.  Plus it made me realize that they were watching me.  I couldn’t quit or admit pain at this point.

I finished the bike in 1:21:07.  Not too shabby.

My transition from the bike to run is 2:50.  Seriously – what the hell was I doing?  Other women finished their transitions in under 2 minutes.  Was I having a picnic?  Geez…

Then the run. 

I was NOT prepared for how my legs would feel.  I felt like gumby.  My brain was telling my legs to move but my legs were thinking, “go fuck yourself”.  I am crying inside as I take each step…

But then I see Jeremy.  He was like a ninja with the camera.  Him calling my name picked up my spirits and the fact that he was photographing this part made me not want to look like a complete douche and keep running.

This is when I see Smack!  Crap – more people are watching me.  I have to keep moving!

Factor was also cheering me on.  His sister and cousin were also competing and were incidentally in my swim wave!  I’m sure they beat the crap out of me though.  Did I mention that I almost DIED in the swim?

Hi, Guys!

So, even though I ran 10 miles the week of… and I had been running 3-5 miles at least 3 times a week for the last month… didn’t mean that I’d be able to run after a long bike ride.

Also at this point, families are walking along the path leaving the park.  I’m not surrounded by other runners (and that is what usually gets me going in races).  The competitors near me are all walking.  I jog about 1/2 mile and realize that I just.can’t.do.it.  I start to walk.  I pick it up to a power walk.  I decide to walk up every hill and run the rest.

I finished the run in 35:44.  Not great but not terrible.

Towards the end of the run, the path was surrounded by spectators and Iron Girls.  They were so encouraging.  Every race bib had the racer’s name printed largely enough for others to read so each cheer was personalized.  “Kim – you’re almost there!”  “Kim – you’ve got this… you can do it!” 

As dorky as this sounds – it was awesome.  It was motivating.  It was fabulous.

And I’m so glad that its over.

My overall finish time was 2:41:14.  I really wanted to finish in 2:30.  Maybe next year?  Who knows. 

But I’m glad I didn’t quit.

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Preparing for Iron Girl

I wish I had a clever post title but I don’t.  This post is precisely about what I did to prepare for my first triathlon that also happened to be the all women’s sprint triathlon, Iron Girl.  I’m trying to think of the best way to make this easily readable because I really feel like I could dedicate a month of posts to my Iron Girl experience.  Let’s start at the beginning.

October 2008 – my office posts a story online about several women in the company that did the Iron Girl.  I think, “Hey – I could do that!”  I convince myself that a 0.62 mile swim, 17.5 mile bike and a 3.4 mile run won’t be that bad.  I also convince a friend to sign up with me.

November 2008 – registered.  I didn’t think I’d need to start training seriously until the summer.

February 2009 – decide that I should build up some strength and take a stab at p90x.  I thought I’d end up super strong and in Michael Phelps/Lance Armstrong shape.

May 2009 – Hurt my back.  Don’t finish p90x (in the final week!)

June 2009 – Realize that I haven’t done shit to prepare for the triathlon.  My amazing triathlon/marathon friend tells me about a club that does twice weekly workouts at a pool.  I go to my first one and hate/love it.  Realize I am an awful swimmer and that I need more work.  Convince myself that I will stick with these twice weekly workouts until the triathlon.

July 2009 – Miss my first swim workout and then stop going altogether.  Go to 1 tri-club practice workout in open water.  Have a panic attack in the water and have to stop.  Spend the next 2 weeks avoiding water.  Go swim in a pool for a pitiful workout (apparently I can’t motivate myself to swim for a long time).

August 2009 – Holy shit, Iron Girl is this month.  Where the fuck did the time go?  I haven’t done anything!  Shit shit shit shit shit shit shit fart turd yarg narf.  Crap.  My awesome triathlon/marathon friend convinces me to do a mini triathlon workout with her in open water.  We take it 100 yards at a time.  I am able to swim 1000 yards with a lot of coaching from my friend.  Bike 8.5 miles.  My ass hurts.  Want to run 2 miles, can only do 1.

Holy crap – I am unprepared.  Go on one more bike ride the day before to the farmer’s market.  This doesn’t really count as practice.

To sum up how I trained for the triathlon:

I swam 4 times in a pool (3 of which were triathlon workouts) and twice in open water (with one ending quickly because I freaked out). 

I biked twice and only once was a semi-serious ride. 

I did, however, keep up with running.

That brings us to the week of the triathlon.  I start to panic.  I didn’t prepare.  I stress out so much that I make myself sick.  Crap!  I’m sick.  I have to run 10 miles for my marathon training.  Push myself to cover 10 miles 2 days before the triathlon (wtf was I thinking?!)

I attend a few meetings about the triathlon.  I realize that I am SO unprepared but check out the other ladies and think, “well they don’t look like serious triathletes… I can do this.”

I learn that the oldest Iron Girl registered is a 79 year old woman (that does it every year).  The youngest competitor is 12. 

I learn that the best way to pee while competing is during the long bike ride.  Just pedal and pee.  Or stand up while riding and pee.  Apparently most people know this, do this and then don’t really talk about it.  I’m advised not to wear white socks.

… the next post is about my actual Iron Girl experience.

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