Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Nation's Triathlon - Part One - The Race

Part of what's taken me so long to post this darn thing is the sheer enormity of the experience.
I simply cannot seem to put it all in one place long enough to get it down, let alone, in one post.
The posting of The Nation's Triathlon will therefore, occur in a three part series.
So, for your viewing pleasure, Part One: The Race

We arrived in DC on Saturday morning, somewhere around 9:45. The littlest Stink and the man headed out toward the Museum of Natural History, and I headed out to make personal history.

It is my impression that these "before race expos" and safety briefings are pretty much the same across events (info gleaned from my extensive two triathlon portfolio.)

That said, this mandatory rule reading was a bit more tongue and cheek than the Philly SheROX, the gist, however, was about the same: rack your bike by your number, be conscientious when setting up transition, the water's clean enough, flail frantically (as if there's any other way to do it) if you're in trouble on the swim, don't even breath into another athlete's bike space, volunteers are placed strategically about the various courses to yell directions at you - heed them. Finish the run strong - we're taking pictures. Oh, and please sign the accidental death waiver at the door and thank you for participating.

On that happy note, we head over to the transition area to rack our bikes for the evening and take a quick and dirty (literally) dip in the Potomac.

The idea of this first swim is for the triathlete to get comfortable with the current and the route, even if in truncation.

It is during our wait to enter the river that my swim buddy, tridiva extraordinaire, Lesley G. says, "You know, looking out there, this doesn't seem like such a great idea." Hmmm. ya' think?!

I'm willing to propose that the pre-swim also serves to rid the athlete of an enormous amount of nervous energy. It did serve that purpose well - right up until about midnight.

Right about then, I sat bolt upright in bed, positive that I had overslept the alarm, set to ring at 4:00 AM so I'd be ready for the 4:45 shuttle back to the race transition area.

I hadn't. Overslept that is.

Then around 2 AM, Trainer Joe banged on my door, military style yelling - "Stink!!!! Get UP!!!"

I barrelled from the bed yelling, "I'm up! I'm up!!" and flung open the hotel door to an empty hallway - He wasn't there after all - who'd a thunk?

At 3:30 AM, I woke and lay awake in bed listening to the DC night un-silence until 3:58. I turned off the alarm and got out of bed.

At 4:15, I tell myself repeatedly that dressing in purple, green, and black spandex, smearing Body Glide in odd places, and drinking absurd amounts of fluids all before dawn, makes total sense.

I am still telling myself how normal all of this is as our shuttle pulls into transition and I get a glimpse of thousands of scantily clad people greased up and wandering about federal park grounds in the middle of our Nation's Capital in the wee hours of the morning.

Yup, we're totally normal.

Within the area, were racks and racks of bikes, nowhere near enough rows of port-a-potties, and what they called a corral (an area where we would all, in short order, be called to wait for our swim wave).

In the predawn grey, the air is almost chilly, but I'm not fooled. Temperatures are predicted to reach record smashing highs by late morning. I have hydrated well in preemptive defence, and have thus traversed the potty lines twice before realizing my wave has already been corralled! ACK!!!

So my mad dash to the corral (jumping and yanking my wetsuit up the whole way) was not quite the meditative experience I had planned. I could not help but to compare the process of being shepherded into a large holding pen and then led through a chute to a murky green depth to a sheep being led to slaughter; or perhaps to my own personal green mile.

That's me at the rear, the poor white-capped lass with her hands grasped tight in plea and prayer.

With four minutes to horn, we begin to enter the water, a gaggle of ivory latex, neoprene and skin. (That's Lesley G there in the front giving you her goggles in the headlights look - she sure seems totally calm doesn't she? That pre-swim must've worked wonders for her, huh?)

Some of you may remember with fondness a YOUTUBE clip I linked to of a swim start; a poor fellow being pummeled with padded oars thrust under water as "Swim MAN SWIM!" is shouted in his ears.

This next picture may seem eerily familiar to you.


The course went upstream to Memorial Bridge, under the second pass, a bit farther upstream to a turnaround, back through the 5th pass and downstream another 1/2 mile or so to the exit ladders.

In essence, that is exactly how it went too, except for the sun glare that made swimming the last 1/2 mile downstream like stroking "into the light". Fellows on boards and boats were shouting something about a red fire boat. "Swim toward the fire boat." Is what I think I heard between getting clobbered over the head by the arm of the zig-zaggy swimmer beside me and focusing hard on not sucking water.

It would have been even better if I'd actually been able to see the big red fire boat before I was directly upon it.

Regardless, I exited breathless but feeling as if I could have gone further if needed. Trainer Joe was among the throng outside of the chute.

"Who STINKS?!" he shouted, grinning, as I passed.

"I STINK!!!!" I shouted back, pumping my fists in the air before losing him in the wet of the misting tent.

Swim time: 39:57 (In Philly, I swam 1/2 mile in 22 minutes; this was a faster swim time for me!)

Here's a shot showing my elation *snort*. I soooo don't remember feeling as bad as all this; but I think it's like labor; the extent of discomfort fades in the glory of the moment.

So that's me running toward transition. Ideally, a triathlete will have their goggles and swim cap off and their wetsuit to their waist by the time they arrive at their bike. I was on my way.

I can't figure out T1; I have been really mulling it over.

You take an athlete, someone who has just been madly stroking a river for a mile straight, you make them run yards and yards back to their bike and then, and here's the kicker, you ask them to get out of a wetsuit. I would be inclined to believe, if anyone actually watched transition, that this whole process is designed for the sheer amusement of race organizers; but, thankfully few people actually see this debacle.

Lucky for you, my sweetheart, manned with the "big girl" camera, got it all in still just for ya'll.

T1 time: 2:33 (I did have several calf cramps while trying to yank off the wetsuit, but a little point-flex of the foot, and I was off!)
The bike was a fast, flat, beautiful 25 miles through the city.

Flat courses are good because there are no hills to crank through and bad because there are no downhills to coast. It was spin, spin, spin all 25 miles.

For the first twenty, man was I flying! I was averaging a super speedy (for me) 19MPH and loving every minute. At mile 20, my legs fell off.

Not literally, of course, but as if a switch was flipped, my bike slowed and I cranked and cranked to pull off 15 MPH for the last 5.

In hindsight, I might have decreased that 19 MPH average to 18, and saved some leg for the end, but at the time, I was just intoxicated by the sheer speed of it all!

Bike: 1:25:38 average pace, 17.6 MPH (Philly: 16.0 MPH pace)

T2 should have been easy, but I forgot my race belt and had to run back to get it.
T2: 3:59

By run time, it was H-O-T hot. You could see the waves off of the pavement.

I grabbed a Gu, hoping to gain back for the run some of my lost bike legs, slurped down a water and headed out.

The run course was flat and sunny, and at least for the first 4 miles (out by the Point), pretty darn boring.

I chatted up several other TNTers from around the country, thought lots about all the folks that had gotten me to this point and who promised to carry me further still, sang the songs from my TEAM STINK playlist, and unabashedly walked each aid station where I took water/Powerade mixes and put ice in my cap.

On mile five, I had a minor skirmish with my digestive system. It seems that my stomach did not love my cerebral addition of another Gu. It rebelled in loud yucky belches and had me taking an extra Powerade at mile 5 aid station.

The last mile, was peppered with people. Folks lined the sidewalks. They waved signs and hooted out numbers. Two of those crazy folk happened to be my mother and sister who yalped and smiled and jumped about waving "See Stink Tri" signs.

The set up of the last half mile can only be described as cruel.

We ran toward what seemed to be the finish, but then switched back. Then again, toward the capital, then back again. As if that was not enough, the final switchback (where MaryAnn, wearing a purple princess cap was stationed with the "Go Team" cheerleaders) lead to a mile long finish corral (alright, it wasn't a mile long, but you couldn't have convinced me of that at the time).

By that time, adrenaline had kicked in and I was moving!

I could see the finish line, the crowd and the photographers, Coach Joe appeared as if by magic, running (well, likely a light jog for him ;) ) outside the sidelines to my left. From my right came a little flash, a blur of hair and grin and there was my girl, the littlest STINK!!!! She ducked the sidelines and came dashing out to run me on home!!

Run Time: 1:08:15

There were over 3000 registrants to the Nation's Triathlon - 2398 individual finishers.

800 or so of those were from Team in Training who, together, raised over 3 million dollars for LLS and cancer research.

The center of metropolitan DC was shut down, the streets lined with people, some of our military and Congress folk, even the Mayor of the city swam, biked, and ran through the Capital of our Nation, and we were a part of that.

You may not have known it on Sunday morning; but you were right there with me, right at my side the whole time.

Together, we did it.

Time: 3:20:21

Thank you.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Promises, Promises.

It's coming, I swear.

I've gotten your emails; I know that you're anxious.

I'm downloading photos and I absolutely promise some this evening.

The short story is WE DID IT!!!!!!! You and me and a boatload of congressmen.

If you missed Super Nancy's posting of my stats in the comment section (Nancy, you are just the best!) of the last post, here's the recap, in brief...

39:57 swim
1:25:38 bike
1:08:15 run
total time: 3:20:21

Of 953 women, I came in 460th, 1626 overall (there were 2396 finishers).

Next up...

The LONG Story or One HOT Tri.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday Night, but just barely.

I'm awake; I am packed and repacked, but I am still awake.
and it's very late.
and I have to get up early tomorrow to get the littlest Stink and the Man out of the house and into DC.
and I am spending entirely too much time reminding myself that I am soooo trained for this and will be just fine. My digestive and respiratory systems haven't gotten the message yet...

Maybe I'm getting sick. (cough...hack)

Even less appealing is the weather forecast.

We have gone from thunderstorms to merely cloudy skies, high humidity and heat that if not actually breaking records for DC in September, will according to all accounts, feel very much like it.


off to meditate on penguins and Klondikes. I am sooo trained for this and will be just fine ;)

night, now, friends and folk.


So I've been packing the ol' bags for the race in DC this weekend.

Not an organized person by nature, I work best off of checklists.

Here's the SWIM check list:

  • Swim Cap

  • Giggles

  • Wetsuit

  • Towel

  • Body Glide

  • Sunscreen

  • Baby Shampoo

We've discussed the cap and giggles (with baby shampoo de-fogger) in previous posts and the towel is self explanatory, but the rest may be new to some of you.

Sunscreen is a given, but must be sprayed on AFTER the body marking and NOT rubbed in, but rather, allowed to dry on the skin.

The wetsuit is a relatively new thing for me, and though I have, during this week's taper toward race day, been out swimming 300s in it, I still cannot help but feel as if I am attempting to swim wrapped in a rubber taco.

It is not a comfortable thing, a wetsuit. To look at it, you might think it was made for a much taller version of the littlest Stink - a lass with a waspish 21 ish inch waist and freakish proportions. You would be wrong, of course; I am expected to wriggle and jump and squat and pull and pant and gasp my way into this contraption and then...then, I am supposed to swim smoothly down the river in it.

This is an interesting concept.

When I first lay eyes on the neoprene body girdle, I said to head gal Mary Anne that clearly, there had been a mix up. She, without batting an eye said. "Nope. It's yours. Try PAM or Body Glide sprayed on your ankles, under your arms and around your neck."

PAM?! Like the cooking spray?!

That evening, I sequestered myself into the bathroom with my stick of Body Glide, my can of PAM and my neoprene taco. I imagined the MAN standing outside the door hearing alternating grunts and aerosol spray shwishes and the happy domestic waft of oil from beneath the door.

I made him go downstairs.

Fortunately, I did not need the PAM, but it is quite a feat of athletic contortion to get that sucker on...and off. I propose it should be given its own race leg. (would that make this a quadrathlon)

In all honesty, if you can get past that pesky panic that sets in when your lungs are compressed, and the inevitable, accompanying claustrophobia, the suit does make one remarkably buoyant. It also really helps to limit leg fatigue. And as Trainer Bob (seen here in his own Taco) quips, it is oh, so slimming.

I imagine myself as Scarlet O'Hara with Mammy at the helm...
Hold on and SUCK IN!

SWIM gear...


This picture of the BIKE list is not a fair representation of the stuff required for this leg of the race. Much of this STUFF is hidden in the little under seat pouch. So, in addition to

  • BIKE


  • Gloves

  • Bottles

  • Glasses

  • Ruby Slippers


  • happy bottomed Socks (you can never be too colorful)

You also have hidden under tush

  • Tool kit

  • Tire thingies (to pry off a flat)

  • Lube

  • CO2 cartridges

  • extra tubes in case of a flat


  • weird valve adapter

Comparatively, the RUN seems blessedly simple.

  • Shoes

  • Hat/Visor

  • Belt (for number)

  • Gu or some other food-like source just in case.

  • Body Glide is good here too.

  • And I can't forget this - (well, technically, I could forget it... but I don't think they'd let me race. I'm willing to bet my Body Glide that there is a USAT rule against it.)

    My TNT tri suit.

    So that's it. That's all there is to it.


    I don't seem to be going anywhere fast.

    Go figure.

    Monday, September 8, 2008



    photo lifted from credited to Capitol Concerts

    With 7 days left until race day, we've surpassed our fundraising goal!!!!!

    THANK YOU!!!!! THANK YOU!!!!! THANK YOU!!!!!

    To date, I have logged:

    26,350 yards or 16.5 miles in SWIM,

    358 miles on BIKE,


    101 RUN miles!

    All total, that's 475.5 miles -or- round trip - from my house in Pennsylvania to the White House 3x (plus 25 miles!)

    Nation's Triathlon... Here we COME!!!

    Storm's a-brewin'

    I haven't blogged it, mostly because I didn't want to subject you to peevish ramblings and outright whining but since you asked...

    If workouts were MAJOR rot, my attitude was worse. I was outrageously fatigued and unaccountably surly.

    I walked half the run on the 26th, seriously contemplated getting off my bike and parking tush on the side of the road on the 27th, and repeatedly sucked water and otherwise flailed ineffectively about on the swim (that'd be the 28th).

    Not to be outdone, the second half of the week consisted of the run that wasn't (I just decided not to go - 'cause first I'd have to put on my run clothes, then I'd have to tie my shoes, then pull back my hair then...) and a bike that went from a mapped 25 miles to a sad, sad 10. (at mile 10 I heard church bells tolling. This signified, I was sure, a higher message to STOP for God's sake!!! STOP!!!)

    On Sunday, I drug myself from bed and went (oh, woe to the other tri-folks) for the team swim-bike-run "brick" session.

    I managed to keep my whining to a minimum on the swim, but let fly on the bike.

    Because I was humping along at the back of the pack, poor Trainer Bob ended up with my sorry self.

    A lesser man might have run fast and sure for the hills, but not our guy Trainer Bob. In all honesty, I think it just may be some sort of sadistic code of coach's honor; you know, hang back with the last trailing tri-folk, the captain stays with the ship and all that.

    To reward his stalwart devotion to the cause I sang him a shrewish tale of angst and sorrow (I'm thoughtful like that). I think I even cursed at him (I know - ME?!) when he cheerfully reminded me that we do 2 bike loops.

    So, the second loop finds me gazing hatefully at my surroundings, (I mean, how dare the sky be so crystal, the trees so vivid a green), and choking on the crisp September air.

    I am a wretch.

    I think of those folks that would give anything for that chill and the technicolor of the day - I think of Evan, the teenage son of a fellow triathlete, his fight with Leukemia nearly over and I start to cry.

    Now, I am not generally a crier; I don't do it well, or often, and quite frankly, had Trainer Bob not been discreetly riding my tail, I might have just tipped my bike over and given way to the "ugly cry", right there on the side of the road.

    He was though, silently back there pedalling; so, I kept going.
    He continued to be sage-like and quiet, a Yoda on wheels, until he asked if I had checked my resting heart rate recently.

    No, I had not.

    He said to do so the next time I woke. "If it is over 72 or so", he said, "don't train that day".

    I made it through the rest of the bike, and thanks to Bob's tales of Triathlon Greats, through the run as well.

    I even made it home and into bed before I slept 4 hours straight.

    I checked my heart rate when I woke.


    I didn't work out on Monday.

    The next morning - 72.

    No training on Tuesday either.

    6 AM Wednesday - 64 BPM.

    I rode the rail trail with the littlest Stink to the ice cream shop.

    Thursday I woke in what I can only describe as an Oz-like world. To say I sprang from bed and clapped my hands and declared the day ripe for a good bike ride might be a slight overstatement, but not by much.

    It appears, (and I'm sure that some of you, more familiar with this sort of thing were on board long before now), that I was over training. Trainer Bob calls this "crossing over to the other side".

    It is not fun, it is inexplicably debilitating and depressing.

    I hope never to land my house there again.