2:27:58: It's not a biblical passage, it's my race time from Sunday's She Rox Triathlon. I am still so elated! I think another rush of adrenaline has started coursing through my body since I saw my actual results in live numbers. There are so many aspects to the day that are overwhelming to me, it's hard to put all my thoughts together to create a complete picture. These are a few words that touch on the feelings I've been having from 6:30 am Sunday morning until now:
- Profound sense of accomplishment
Prologue - Starting the Day: I left my house around 6:30 am and rode 5 miles up to the event. As I approached the She Rox start, I was struck by the magnitude of day. I wasn't there to be a spectator, watching the Philadelphia and CGI Triathlons, I was there as a participant. I felt my first wave of tears and emotions. At 7 am there were over 1,000 women cuing up to be body marked and make their way into the transition area. We stowed our gear and some women took a warm up swim in the river. I looked around for friends and found a bunch of my buddies. Time felt like it had slowed down and sped up in the same instant, like I was in slow motion but everything around me was moving at warp speed. One minute a bunch of us are at the bathrooms and then we're standing in our age group waves waiting for our turn to take to the river for the swim. Over the loud speakers a woman is singing The National Anthem. It is still and silent and all of the women are sharing this single moment as one before we enter the race.
Part 1 - The Swim: The swim waves begin at 8 am. My group in purple swim caps, the 40 to 42 category, hits the water at 8:28 am. The river isn't scary but the swim is daunting. I couldn't get a good breath and I felt like I forgot every swim stroke I ever learned. I mange to doggie paddle, breast stroke and get on my back to butterfly stroke the entire 1/2 mile. I didn't stop, I did not have to hold onto the life guard rafts and I finished the swim in 34 minutes. Which for me, was amazing. I thought I would be in the water for 45 minutes, especially at the rate I was going. As you are about to finish swimming, the volunteers on the "beach" help you out of the water, pulling you to the safety of the shore. Ascending the beach head, I yelled out to the crowd "I survived the Schuylkill!" and I raced up to the transition area to throw on my biking gear and run my bike out to the bike start.
Part 2 - The bike race: This is where I feel in my element. I definitely had moments where I thought I was biking great and then I would be freaking out in my head thinking that I sucked at this and that I could never ride in a race again. As bad as I thought the swim portion was and that I was relieved it was over, I had similar thoughts about the bike race. Again, breathing was hard due to my nerves. The first 5 miles were difficult but then I started to feel in control. I took the hills with good speed thanks to the lighter bike and the descents were fantastically swift, almost reaching 30 miles an hour! After the first loop, my logeyness subsided, my breathing became more relaxed and I felt great. I could hear Liz and our friend, Ben, cheering me on as I came around the first lap. On the second lap I went much faster, took the hills with greater ease and really felt myself sprinting with confidence. As I finished the bike loops and ran my bike into the transition area, I was really charged up and ran quickly. Liz took some photos of me at the bike transition area - and I remember yelling out - "I feel like I'm gonna collapse!" Instead, I put on my sneakers, grabbed my visor and ran out to the run area.
Part 3 - The Run: Running on asphalt, in the sun is hard because I've only run on a treadmill. As I told myself during the swim, it was about finishing, and then during the bike, it's not a race against anyone else except myself, I gave myself permission to walk the run portion if I needed. Power walk, speed walk, light jog, I did it all, in 39 minutes. During the run, you can "see" and really get a sense of what's going on. In the river, it's about moving forward and staying afloat. Biking, moving forward and getting that portion completed. The run - you are almost done and now you are powering yourself with just your body, not the water's current and/or a wet suit, and not on two wheels, but rather on just your legs with no machinery or gadgets. I could talk to other women and share encouragements. At the end as I neared the finish I knew I wanted to finish with a final run. I had saved enough energy to make the last moment really count. And as though some higher power took over my body and lifted me to the finish line, I sprinted, powering my legs with a swiftness I didn't know I had within myself. Cue the tears - 'cause the waterworks were on full force.
Epilogue - The Post Race High: Liz and Ben found me right away, all of us in tears together. We hung out for a while, meeting up with some of my tri-buddies, my mentor, Sue, and friends Veronica and Jason. After wandering a bit and gathering up my gear, Liz and I stayed for the awards ceremony. I am so glad I did. I got to see the tri leaders win their awards and hear some great inspirational stories. The best part of the day was watching and cheering for the woman who was the final racer to complete the tri. The She Rox Coordinators ran out with her as she was finishing and brought her in and up to the awards podium. The crowd was cheering and clapping for her. She didn't give up - she made it to the end and everyone was so proud of her accomplishment. She wasn't in last place, she was the final finisher, the woman who closed the race. To say she was in last place negates her achievement and what she and all the participants accomplished was mighty. She is among the many women I saw who made me feel happy to be a part of the event. There were all kinds of women out there on Sunday, many of whom were first time participants. There were all kinds of body types and abilities. There were all kinds of bikes. I learned an enormous lesson on Sunday, that I need to unlearn judgement. It does not matter what a person "looks like" or what age she is. I saw a women who was 73, and I just bet she did a fantastic job. Ability and determination does not know color, body type, social class or age. If you think you can do it and you practice and train, you can do it. You just have to try. I am humbled by the power of determination. I completed a triathlon and I am going to do it again next year. I am a determined woman.