I was slumped over gasping for air holding on to my husband's shoulder while my coach, Skye, grabbed ice and Dan poured water on my head. I couldn't catch my breath. Only 6 miles into the 13.1 mile run and I was hyperventilating on the side of the road.
I wish I could say I felt strong going into this race but sometimes life doesn't work that way. On Friday morning just hours before I left for Augusta, Georgia, I sat at the doctor's office while she told me I had sinusitis, bronchitis, and enteritis. Basically my whole body was "itis". She gave me three different medicines and told me I should not race on Sunday.
Yeah, right. I've been training for this race for six months. Unless I was in the hospital, I was going to Augusta.
I spent the next few hours packing and re-checking my bag. Hoping that in my cloud of sickness I hadn't forgotten a key item. I was already nervous because I had to get new shifters put on my bike just a few days earlier (one of my caps had popped off during Augusta Camp and with the delays from Hurricane Irma I didn't get my bike back in time to properly ride it before race day). Anyone will tell you that you should NEVER change anything for race day...
I tried to push all the negativity aside and concentrate on what was ahead. This was my victory lap. For all the hard work. For all the hours on the weekends I gave up with family and friends. For every moment I told myself I could not stay in the ocean for another second, go that extra mile, push myself harder on that next lap around the track.
This weekend was about "I Can."
So I went to the race expo and bought my mug that said "Augusta 70.3" and my t-shirt that already had my name printed on the back as a finisher. Because I was surrounded by women on my team that had and would persevere and I would join them.
With friends by my side we walked down to the floating dock to get ready for our wave to start. I jumped in the water to swim out the nerves. With every stroke my breathing settled and I grabbed the dock in anticipation for our start. Women ages 35-39 poured around me, splashing, kicking and off we went! My goal for the swim was to use it as a warm up; swim solid but I knew it was key to not lose my breath. I needed to conserve.
I finished in 35:45. My original goal was 35 minutes. I was off to a great start!
Talking about perseverance-- Three weeks ago, during our Augusta Training Camp, one of my friends took a terrible fall on mile 50 of our practice ride. She ended up in an ambulance along with many stitches and patches of road rash. But she came right back to camp after the hospital and stayed the rest of the weekend to cheer us on. Teresa is also a firefighter and the next week was out working 24 hour shifts to help in Hurricane Irma. It is women like her that I meet in my race journey that humble me. That make me look at challenges in a whole new light.
So, why did I go so far off the topic of race day? Well, I was right behind her when she fell. Every single bit of anxiety about my past bike accident reared it's ugly head. All I wanted was a safe ride for the race now.
As I flew down the hills I braked. I knew better. I knew I was losing momentum to go up the next hill but I froze. I let fear get the best of me while people flew down next to me. I could not let go of my brakes. I prayed for a safe ride. I prayed that I would dismount that bike into a safe run.
And then my chain fell off.
And then it fell off again.
But I was not alone. Someone stopped to hold my bike while I wrestled for way too long to get it back on. We exchanged names and I thanked her profusely. But in my fog of nerves and sickness I cannot remember it for the life of me! I don't think I could have done it without her. I was in panic mode trying to understand how something so simple could keep happening!
Less than ten miles away I rode into transition safely.
Who knows how much time I lost braking on those hills or trying to put my chain back on. But I was off the bike and running into transition.
A half marathon. 13.1 miles ahead of me at 1:10 pm in Augusta, Georgia on September 24, 2017. It was hot. And although my sinusitis and bronchitis had not held me back in the swim and the bike, I would not be so lucky on the run.
I started with a decent pace of 11 minute miles, thinking that I was allowing myself to go slow. Oh, but I had no idea what pacing myself would mean.
Around mile 4 I started to fall apart. All of a sudden I felt like every breath I took brought in less and less air. I started to get dizzy and began to walk. I made sure I was stopping at every Aid Station: drinking water, eating my nutrition, taking my salt, and grabbing ice to put in any place I could store it. I threw ice water on my head, down my back, on my chest. I told myself "only 9 more miles!" but then yelled at myself to shut up because that might as well be 50.
I was not in a good place.
Then I saw our team tent at mile 6 with Skye, Dan, and Dave waving and cheering me on and I began to cry. Dave came over as I totally fell apart. Knowing I wasn't even half way made every single doubt and emotion flow out of me as the little breaths I had got smaller. Skye and Dan talked me off the ledge. After ice, water, hugs, and words of encouragement I was off again.
I realized I could breathe a little better if I inhaled through my nose and not my mouth. I focused on my breathing, my running form, and I even closed my eyes at points. Then my teammate, Jae, came upon me; lifting me up and I held on to her for many more miles. She talked to me even though I couldn't say anything back. She asked what I needed and if I had the ice for my chest to help me breathe easier. She helped me forget the miles we had to go.
This is what team is about.
This is why I am part of a training group.
I ran a 2:49:55. My longest time for a half marathon ever. My goal for an under 7 hour race was gone.
I finished in 7:02:40.
There were many tears at the finish line but not because I was upset at my time.
I was overwhelmed with emotions for finishing while each breath was a struggle. I was overwhelmed with emotions that someone took time to help me put my bike chain back on.
I was thankful for my husband, Dave, cheering at every step and for holding me up when I just wanted to break down. I was thankful for my friend and coach, Skye, for not letting me think for even a second that I could not do it. I was thankful for our team: Dan's smiles and encouragement, Jae's kind words and push during the race, and every single one of us that screamed out each other's names for our awesome accomplishment that was almost over.
I love giving myself athletic goals for my health. But it is the journey with the people around me that make it worth it. It is seeing the perseverance of my friend Teresa who finished in her goal time even after her fall just weeks ago. It is the camaraderie of our team of women in Tri With Skye pushing each other, cheering for each other, being there for each other when it is most needed.
Pushing yourself physically is hard. But it is the mental push of endurance sports that separates the "I Can" from the "I Will".
Want to know what nutrition I used as my base that helped me finish?
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