Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Swimming and Biking and Running

Oh My!!

The Seattle Danskin Triathlon is in the books, and I am there, having crossed the finish line. I am now here nursing bumps and bruises and popped blisters, and a crazy grin, and a lot of tears. Life is sweet, isn't it? This was an interesting one. I was a nervous wreck. My body cleaned itself out. But I was so excited I could hardly stand myself. I never once wanted to bail out of it. Ok, I take that back; two weeks before when it was in the 90s I was a bit freaked and decided I would not do it in that heat...yeah, right! Then we were graced with some pretty rain, and much cooler temperatures and I got excited. VERY excited. I knew I could do it. I knew I MUST do it. The weather the week before stayed cool and pretty, until Saturday when it began to heat up. By then my bike was at the transition area, and I had a number painted on my arm and a shirt that I was told I must not wear until I cross the finish line. Hey. Why waste a perfectly good shirt, right?

The night before the night before I got little sleep. No big deal; I would sleep better the next night, which would be pre-race night. All's good. Check in was at Seattle Center and was a zoo. A real zoo. I went with a friend, whose picture will grace the heading of this post (thanks, Nom!) and her four adorable munchkins. It was to be hot, and we went early enough to get a fairly decent spot in line. Like lambs to slaughter we were herded around from line to line. We snagged a few free things, registered and got our timing chips, swim caps and number plates. Then headed to the venue to park our bikes for the next day. The four kids were amazing. I was delighted to not only see them, but use them for some great mental diversion. Had they been whiney or crying hysterically it might have been different, but they weren't and we shared a few songs and stories to keep my mind off the next day's work. Then we got to the ferry. Three hour wait, the sign said. It can't be true, says I. But once again, I was wrong. Once finally on the ferry the younger three kids were SOOOO ready to get out of their car seats and wander and eat. The oldest stayed in the car with me and we talked about fun things like armpit hair. You see, we were the first car on the downside of the upper ramp. It was 90 degrees outside and there were a bunch of folks out on the observation decks, which extend above, and over, the edges of the car deck. Anyone in a tank top, or without a shirt, gave us a perfect view of their armpits. (And yes, I did secretly check my own, and they were fine, thank you very much!) As the ferry pulled in I thought about my schedule for the rest of the day. In bed by 7 as I needed to be up at 3 to make the two hour drive around Puget Sound; the ferry system just was cutting it too close....IF it ran as scheduled.

As I rounded the bend to the house I remembered: the neighbor's were having a wedding that day...NOPE! That NIGHT! With a live band. A very loud live band that was mere feet from my bedroom. And people. My dogs were going crazy with each car that pulled up. The guest "yes" list was at 103. Funny, that was the temperature in bedroom, or so it seemed. I decided to cool off in the pool and just go to bed. And the band played on...and on...and on...I remember looking at the clock around 11...

I was up at three going over the check list one final time, throwing things into the truck, setting up fans for the dogs and giving them frozen bones for the day. No breakfast for either them or for me.

I filled my bottles with electrolyte mix and stuffed a few gel packs and protein bars in a fanny pack and hit the road. The idea of eating anything at 3am made me nauseous. Perhaps I would stop on the road for something. (No, not roadkill, silly readers!) Parking was at Safeco field and we were shuttled to the venue, on the other side of I-5 by school buses. I paid my money, parked my truck, gathered my things, and headed for the shuttle. I had somehow forgotten that school buses are loud. School buses have no suspension. Oh yes, and school buses take very round about routes that make a few mile ride take forever! It's true. They are, and they did. I never ate. I needed to get to the venue and secure assistance getting my leg to the "out" ramp and helping me to my leg after the swim. I needed some "me" time; OK call it prayer time, if you'd like. I needed all the help I could get doing this thing. It suddenly seemed huge.

The lake water was choppy. If I were to water ski it, I would want a tooth protector in my mouth. It was that choppy. 3000+ women were going to jump into the water and swim over the top of little old me, who is just going to just keep swimming, swimming, swimming...Let me just say that I came out of the swim portion well hydrated, and I was not alone. A race? Nope, not to me. An event! As I placed myself on the bulkhead I was greated with the first of many "Are you Nancy?"s. It turned out to be the person whose name graces the Triathlon that I did with my son a couple of months ago. We had emailed back and forth a few times. It was nice to meet her face to face. We chatted. We hugged. I stumbled up and off to my bike. The sound of cowbells and hoots and hollers from my family made me smile big time. Oh yes, I am supposed to be racing, aren't I?

Wetsuit off, helmet on. Hydration pack in place, shoe, bike, I am off on part two. What a beautiful ride. The express lanes on the I-90 floating bridge were closed down for us. Just keep peddling, peddling, peddling. "On your left" was heard constantly as the true racers zipped by. I tootled along enjoying the view and thinking "I wonder if anyone would notice if I just pulled a U turn right here?" Soon enough I was in the tunnel that I knew was not far from the turn around. My goal was to simply stay on the bike. The very steep hill up to the interstate shot my goal, but it was the only time I had to walk, and I was not alone there. The rest of the ride was accomplished from the seat of my steel steed. On the way back across the bridge I was humored by my odd shadow. I was carried by all who cheered me on as they passed me. I slowly began to accept their kudos and statements of "you inspire me."

Back to the transition area. Leg off, running leg on. (Thanks, Dad.) I am two thirds done. Number belt on. Fanny pack with gelpacks on. I am off for the run/walk. As I leave the gate, nice volunteer man says, "do your really want to leave your bike helmet on?" sigh. Lucky for me my crowd of kids and grandkids, signs and cowbells, and a neck cooler, are right there cheering me out to the route. Kira takes my helmet and ties on the neck cooler. Morgan is there too!! I cry a few tears of joy and take off running. I hear him holler as I go. "Go Ma! Look at her run!!"

I decided, because the heat is now hitting me, to do a walk/run thing. Jog a bit. Walk a bit. The route is fantastic. It winds along the lake. People sitting in their front yards on lawn chairs cheering us on. Runners coming towards me giving me the high five. People passing me, patting me on the back. I cry. I stop to chat with a few of the folks in their yards. I can't help it. I grab a hug or two from the motorcycle policemen along the route. I realize that each time I do this I am more energized. Yep, call me the energy hawg, or hag. Whatever. It is true. Suddenly, behind me. Nom. She wants to take a picture. We are about halfway through the run portion. Two thirds (plus one half of a third) through the race. She wants a picture. You see it above. Not too bad, eh? She walks with me a bit and then takes off. You see, she is actually running a race. Me? I am having an experience. Yep, that would be it. Bands along the route, helped me keep the rhythm going. Then it happens. Well there were two "it happens," but I will only relate one right now, as the other needs to stay with just me a bit longer. A woman says to me (for the gazillionth time) thanks for inspiring me. But then this: "I was going to quit until I saw you." I felt pretty humbled. And I just kept walking, running, walking. (Nemo was my constant companion in this race!!) At about 1/2 mile to go it happened again: "Are you Nancy?" I turn and find a woman in a green jersey. I have no idea who she is. Seems she is on Nom's team and would like to walk with me, which is where I was at by then...walking. Sure, says I, but if you are going for time, you do not want to be with me. No problem, says she, I would like to walk with you. We walk, we talk. I explain that no matter what I must run across the finish line. She has done the race so she would get me running at the right place and cross the line with me. My angel in green, she was! Up the hill and around the bend and then we begin our run. People are crowded around the ropes. I am running. Gimping, but running. People are yelling, cowbells everywhere. Where is the finish line? I am dying here!! A gentle voice at my side turns to coach. Go through the pain. Through the burn. Don't stop, you are almost there. It is in sight. I cry. Do not stop at the first pad, she says. It is not the finish line. Go through the next set and you are there. The crowd is roaring. I can't breathe. I hear my kids and grandkids. I feel lifted. I did it. Everything is a buzz. And a microphone is shoved in my face. I hear about every three words this guy is saying. "Inspration...name...why" I had no clue what I said as my brain is shut down now. I did know that my voice was broadcast all over the freakin' park. I could hear myself! To this day I cannot recall what I said, but my son said it was good, so I will take that. He taped part of it, and I will see if I can find a way to link it. Pretty darn funny. Perhaps he edited; great job if you did, dear.

Timing chip is cut off my leg and medal placed around my neck. At this point the blisters on my stump from the bike ride are on fire. The one on my foot doesn't feel too great either. It is hot. I am an emotional basket case. I am hungry and ready to just be home. It is not to be.

Why? My bike. It is at the park. I am parked at Safeco field. I must ride a school bus to my truck and drive back to get my bike. It took two hours. After meandering through neighborhoods and gettting on I-5 (for a one exit drive) traffic was at a standstill. I mean stopped. I was in serious melt down mode. It showed when I finally got back to the park and no one would let me stop to call Morgan and have him meet me. You see I could only pull over and stop if he was already standing there waiting to meet me. ??? About a mile up the road I am close to tears. A nice volunteer noticed "blue." My handicapped placard was hanging from the mirror. Yes indeed, and I was feeling it. I had mistakenly removed my leg for the drive back to the park and my stump had swelled. Putting it back on to walk another mile to find Morgan, in 90s heat, was just too much to ask. He waved me over and told me that he would call down to the guys at the park and I was to pull into the almost empty parking lot that was blocked off, and right across the street from the park. I had on my sunglasses, so he could not see the tears welling up, but they were there. I needed food! I needed rest! I needed some quiet time.

I took Morgan home. He talked about how proud he was. I had my dark glasses on. That was a good thing. I am so proud of my kids. The table has turned.

We stopped for Fish Burritos and I headed for the infamous ferry wait line. It was time to go home to my dogs. It was time to just think. It was time to heal. As I said earlier there is more to the story, but I am not ready to put it on paper yet.

It's all good, no worries, but personal. Perhaps later. Thanks to my family, blood related and other. Thanks to Dad for the means to get the leg that has me doing this. Thanks to the Tri-babes and the fearless Turtle for keeping me going. Thanks to Nom for the idea. Mostly thanks to Mom and Dad for giving me heart.

Out for now, but it ain't over.



Léo said...

Oh Nancy! Your post made me laugh and cry! I look forward to the next intallment. You amazing woman!!!

alta said...

Oh wow. You truly are soo inspirational. People at work are asking why I have tears in my eyes. I can't explain, I just made them read the entry. I don't think I could even muster the strength to even consider doing a triathlon. You go girl!!!

Kira said...

and thank Dori....just keep running, just keep swimming, just keep pedalling, what do we do we swiiiiiiiim we swiiiiiiim! :)

Colette Kingsley said...

Thanks for the running : ) commentary of your day! It helps me to be a part of your experience. So glad everything went well! Congratulations!

gnome517 said...

you also said something about vets coming home from the war inspiring you....and your family....and something else that i can't remember right now. I didn't know that part about elisa! that was fun to read. thanks for sharing! looking forward to the next race!!!!