Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Return to the Beginning..St. Anthony's Triathlon

Learn from your Past
Live in the Present
Create a Beautiful Future
-Joel Brown

As I stared at the whiteboard in my office with a list of races that were my initial goals for 2014, there was "sadness and euphoria" (cue the Billy Joel music…don't know what Im talking about…go to YouTube and look up Summer, Highland Falls by Billy Joel)…I always set the bar high when setting goals because it makes you push past your limiting mind.  A Half Ironman was nothing but a dream a few years ago…now it has been a reality multiple times….The Marathon brought shivers to my soul at one time in my life…now I have completed 4…If you don't put it out there…and dream about it…it may not come to fruition …

But this weekend was about returning to the place that helped me move forward in my triathlon experience.  St. Anthony's Triathlon was my first Olympic Distance triathlon and I remember physically shaking on the beach thinking of the distances…back then..they seemed so far…I mean…26 miles on a bike is a long way…right??  A 6 mile run is TWO 5k's…that's crazy.  The thought of going nearly a mile in open water…totally insane.

But here I was…doing the inaugural SPRINT distance at St. Anthony's…and standing on the beach …shaking again…not because of the distance…but because of the lack of belief in myself.  There was a part of me that KNEW I could handle the distances of a Sprint (750 yard swim, 12 mile bike and a 3.1 mile run) but I never lose sight of the fact that you ALWAYS respect the course and the distance no matter what race you are attempting.

I looked around me and saw women who were just beginning their triathlon journey.  The nerves were high and I tried to calm a few ladies telling them they were going to do great…and maybe I was trying to calm myself.  Let's face it…I was attempting this race …COLD…meaning…no training…just my fitness base to go on.

Meanwhile, my friend Martha Centeno was more than ready.  She HAD been training…HARD!! and she was focused.  This was her FIRST REAL open water ocean swim and she was nervous as well..but I knew she would do fantastic.  She was so ready …

As we headed down the beach, to the in-water start, a lady tugged at my shoulder…and asked "Arn't you the one that likes pancakes!?" I literally laughed out loud that this woman had raced with me before and knew my superstition…I start ever race with the same statement…"You know…we could all just go get pancakes…..Nah…this is much more fun!!"  And with that a few ladies laughed and the tension was eased a bit…and the horn went off…and we were stroking.

Counting buoys in open water swims has always gotten me through.  Whether it was a LONG course like Ironman or just 5 buoys like today…it always feels so difficult to get ..to…that….last…turn…buoy!! Why is that??  It's that painful reach for the top bar that I talked about…it's reaching for that finish…and as I made each stroke in the water, I remembered…Oh My Goodness…this really IS fun!!

Well, the turn buoy did arrive…and as I made my way out of the water, it is the first time I have smiled coming out of choppy water in a long time.  That satisfaction of one discipline completed filled me…and I was off to transition.

Ahhh yes…transition.  It is indeed my happy place.  It is the one place that I can honest admit…Im FAST…damn fast.  While others are fooling around with extra gear…I race light.  No socks…just my clipped helmet, my shades, my shoes, my race belt..grab the bike…and GO.  Although the distance from the water's edge to transition was a long one, my in-transition experience was that of Speedy Gonzales!!

Onto my other happy place. .. Margarita (my beautiful lime green Trek Speed Concept bike) was ready for a workout in the streets of St. Petersburg on a course that I truly enjoy.  Why?? Because it's technical.  I love the turns…like leaning my former Harley Davidson into a turn, I love the feel of that lean of the bike.  I might not be the fastest lady on the course, but I love the lean.  Give me the turns and Ill give you 12 miles of the most fun you can have in a triathlon!!  I grinned the entire way…all the way back to transition.

I racked the bike, removed my helmet and as much as I love the bike, the run is NOT my happy place.  This body was built for comfort not for speed and the run course is usually my torture ground.  Today, I decided I would enjoy the walk/run pace of 2 and 1's…and as I did…I met back up with my past.  My teammates from Team in Training of past years were headed back in from their 6 mile run along with members of my current Tri with Sway Team.  I saw two Team in Training Coaches on the course that remembered me and cheered me on.  I saw a lady that use to work at Disney that now lives in St. Pete who was a spectator…and on and on and on.  People flooded by me like a trip down my triathlon days past and it made me realize just how far this strange trip has taken me.  Before, this race seemed so impossible…even a sprint was so difficult…and now…it's a joy…with every stroke…every pedal  and every step.

In the final mile, as if to make it all perfect, I saw my current coach - Consuela  - armed with a water gun full of ice water….which gave me  a cooling splash to take me to the finish line.  Some of my teammates who had already finished their race cheered me on..complete with bull horn.

A NO race would be complete without the screaming of "Go Cutie Go" from my husband and words of encouragement from my friends, Rene and Martha as they followed me down the road.  Martha had past me at mile 9 of the bike…and it was a joy to see her leave me in the dust (Yes…really!!)…How lucky I am to have a wonderful support crew that cheers even after they race…they are the best in the world.

Then before the final turn, a familiar voice…screaming for me to move it…came from the curb..and it was Hector..my previous coach..screaming for me to get to that finish line….and with that…I made the turn to a finishing chute that didn't seem real because it was all so perfect.

As with every finish, I look to the heavens to thank the Almighty for one more finish line.  This was my first finish after an Ironman DNF…so it felt pretty amazing.  I stepped across that line…and didn't even look at the time…I didn't care…I got what I wanted…


Belief that Triathlon is my passion and that I really DO belong racing this sport.  NO…Im not the perfect image of a perfectly chiseled athlete but Im willing to wager that I had more fun and had a heart more full of joy on that course than just about anyone…

Who would have thought….all from a mere Sprint Distance Triathlon..

Remember…always respect the distance!!!

And where with this experience lead me? Who knows.  As always…Ill keep you posted.