Monday, July 8, 2013

With One Week to go…

I’ve been training for 19 weeks for the New York City Triathlon.

It's been a journey from being cold and sad...
To feeling strong and happy! (and warm)

When I signed up for the triathlon in January, I was hopelessly naïve and had absolutely no clue what I was getting myself into. I’ll admit I was even a little over-confident about the whole thing. I had run two marathons already – a triathlon would be easy in comparison.

I was also looking for a new adventure, something to get me out of my comfort zone. I wanted to do something that didn’t just benefit me, but other people who were in real need of help.

I definitely feel like I am about to achieve something bigger than myself this weekend, but I was 100% wrong about thinking the training would be easy. It was really hard.

I don’t say this to elicit sympathy from anyone, but rather to remind myself that training for any race is supposed to be difficult. It requires a little sacrifice, a bit of discipline and a lot of sleep. While I think that having experience in endurance running helped me, it didn’t prepare me much for the swimming and biking portions of the training. I had to work really hard to build up my endurance for both.

I remember the first weekend I had my road bike – I felt like I was flying. My new baby was so shiny and fast. I ended up doing a ton of mileage at a Saturday morning practice, more than I had ever done, and realized about ¾ of the way through that I was dog tired. I slowly made my way back to my apartment after practice, and was convinced that if my couch was a foot further away from my door, I would have collapsed on my floor instead. My right knee ached, and I slept for about 2 hours afterwards. I learned that day to respect the sport, and respect your ability level.

Showing some love and respect for my bike.
I did not collapse after this practice I will have you know.

I remember the stretch of weeks when I loathed going to the pool on my own. I would mumble curse words to myself on early Thursday mornings when I had to slip into my tight swimsuit, share a lane with another crazy New Yorker, and blow dry my hair in an insanely hot gym while sweat poured down my face. This SUCKS.  I couldn’t find anything positive about my solo swim practices. I wasn’t very good, I didn’t feel myself improving, and I couldn’t shake my frustration.

Then at some point, I started to KIND OF enjoy it. I started passing people at the group swim practices that I attended religiously. I patted myself on the back when I finished a set of long sprints and didn’t feel like dying. I successfully finished an open water swim and didn’t die. I learned that not everything is supposed to come easy or be fun. Sometimes you have to really work at it, and believe that it will pay off in the end. 

I'm smiling! Even though I'm about to swim!
I remember when I was cursing my body for not cooperating when I was recovering from injury. This was especially frustrating because while I might not be very good at swimming or biking, I felt like I was kind of good at running. I couldn’t do it as much as I wanted to, which I felt would have lifted up my spirits. I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to complete the race.

Finally, my injury let up, after some aggressive physical therapy and foam rolling. As I slowly built up my endurance, I savored every step. It felt amazing to be able to do the one sport that I feel most confident about.

Last Tuesday, I finally made it to a group run, which I had avoided all season because it is inconvenient for me to get to (plus, I really enjoy running alone! Not ashamed of it one bit). We were told to do mile repeats, but I just ran at a steady pace because I didn’t want to risk hurting anything. I let people pass me, and focused on my steady breathing. I felt strong, even if I wasn’t going as fast as everyone else.

After practice, I was talking to some fellow teammates, and we were sharing how we felt about the upcoming race. I said how I felt most confident about running, since I have done several races in the past. One girl, whom I had never met before said, “Oh you’ll be fine on the run. You looked so strong out there!”  It was such a small comment, but really boosted my confidence. Even if you’re not running as fast as everyone else, if you feel strong, chances are, you’ll look strong to other people too.

When I first signed up for this triathlon, I was most nervous about getting to my fundraising goal. I know asking people to donate their hard-earned dollars to my race is a bit of an imposition, but I hoped I would get close enough so I didn’t have to pay for the difference myself and have to live on ramen for months.

I have said before that I am truly amazed by the generosity I’ve been shown in the past few months. And two weeks ago, I surpassed my fundraising minimum. This was a huge part of my goal for this race – to raise enough money that would make a difference for families fighting LLS. Even if I don’t have a great race, I take great pride in knowing that I did something to help others in need. If you supported me in the past few months, whether it was by donating or just listening as I worried about training, thank you. Give yourself a pat on the back because we just did something really awesome together.

So here we are, a week away from my first Olympic Triathlon. After 19 weeks of insanely early Saturday morning practices, countless uncomfortable swim workouts and many moments of questioning my own sanity, I am just days away from putting myself to the test. It has been a crazy journey, but I feel ready for it. Let's go.

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