You guys, I'm back!! Where have a been? Oh, well training for a triathlon takes some time. But, NOW, I'm officially coming to you as Erica - the triathlete!! Woot, woot! I still can't believe it. Just 2 short weeks ago I finished my first 70.3 triathlon (1.2 miles of swimming, 56 miles of biking and 13.1 running) in Bradley, California. Life has still been busy now that my event is over, but I've been trying to wrap my head around the fact that's it's all done! Plus, I'm a slow processor. It take a minute for me to absorb what just happened.
Let me take you back just a bit. My journey started back in February, when I decided it was time. Time to start a new challenge, to face a new beast and travel into new adventure. The triathlon. I signed up one day and didn't tell any one for about a week. It was my own little secret, or I was in denial I'd actually committed to this thing. Who knows.
My decision on how I would train was a no brainer. Team in Training has been my second family since I moved to the Bay Area in 2011. The people, the coaches, and the cause keep me coming back and I had the confidence that they would get my to the finish line even if I didn't quite believe it in myself yet. I see cancer patients on a daily basis in my everyday work and I'm very passionate about this cause. If I am going to pour my heart, soul, time, and sweat into training for something, I want it to be for a good cause.
I learned a lot about life balance, my fears, and my thresholds during this training season. There were many f-bombs and many smiles along the way. I captured my journey up to 9 weeks on my TNT blog which you can read right HERE.
I've been trying to put into words all the was this race. Some say it was an unusual weekend because of the low amount of participants (due to the drought, the course was modified a bit), but to me, it was perfect. I felt the energy and the spirit of all I heard about Wildflower. I knew it was a tough course, I biked part of it a month before during a training weekend, but putting it all together was a whole other thing.
Race weekend came fast. Thursday before the race, I packed up the car with all our camping gear, food, and my post race beer, which was very important to me, and C and I left right after rush hour Friday morning. The drive was great. It took about 3.5 hours from our house and I was jamming out of some T. Swift to get in the zone. We pull up to our campsite and got started on setting up our home for the next two nights. Oh, maybe I forgot to mention that we were camping during our race weekend. That's what's so unique about Wildflower is that its in the middle of nowhere and we camp. I try to glamp (glamours camping) actually. With an air-mattress, fitted soft clean sheets, full on meals (steak and brussels for post race), and lush. I'm not a barbarian for crying out loud.
Any way, back to the weekend...
What was interesting about Wildflower was how crazy the drought effected this race. They actually had to move the start of the swim to a whole different area because there wasn't enough water in the lake at the original start, which they had to do last year too. So there were 2 separate transition areas, a swim/run transition, and a bike/run transition. The race actually goes like this: swim 1.2 miles, run 2.2 miles to the bike start, bike 56, then come back to the bike start and transition to finish the run, 10.9 miles. Kinda crazy. So, Friday after we set up camp, we headed to the expo, picked up my bib, cap, and bike numbers, and brought my bike/run stuff to the bike transition to set everything up for race day, because Saturday we were going straight to the swim start.
Ok, every thing was set up. I walked through where I would run in, bike out, bike in, and run out. Bam, done. I got this bright yellow smiley face balloon to tape near my bike so I could spot it easier, plus remind myself to smile in between everything.
We headed back to camp to settle in, finished prepping for Saturday, relax, and fill our bellies with delicious food (grilled chicken, sweet potatoes, gauc, grilled corn goodness). After dinner, I sat with my teammates around a blazing camp fire and we talked about what was next. The Race. Our coaches went through the course, gave us some pointers, and assured us we could do this. My amazing manager, Meredith, gave us this to read: Cue tears...
Then we each talked a bit about how we were feeling. I have to tell you, I was the calmest I've ever felt before a race. I then said "I'm kinda freaking out that I'm not freaking out!" But, overall, I felt ready. I felt excited. I felted honored to be with my teammates, Duane, Andrew, Wen, and Michele, who worked equally as hard for this moment. I felt strong. I was in it. Shoot - I knew I wasn't going to win, so I was ready to have fun! I had no expectations ahead of me, which was a pretty amazing feeling. I went to bed, belly content and heart full. Ready to bring it.
I slept fairly well for being outside in a tent. Heck, I had my eye mask and ear plugs, so I did alright. I woke up a bit before my alarm. Dressed in my purple gear. I warmed up with some camp coffee and heated up my breakfast (I pre-made oatmeal so as not to hassle with breakfast), sprayed a crap load of sunscreen on, and awaited our departure. Andrew and Wen left early, so Duane and I, plus our coaches, headed to the shuttle to get to the start. Now, I didn't have cell service out there, but Duane did, and as we were riding the shuttle, he read a few kind words and well wishes people posted to up on the good ol' facebook. Cue tears again. Whoa. A quick nudge from Duane helped me to get my head back in the game and I was ready. We pulled up to the boat ramp. The start!
We jumped off the shuttle and got scuttled to a bunch of volunteers who were ready with big black markers to write all over us. We were marked every where. Both hands, both arms, on the side of the leg and on the calf. Numbers every where. We scooted into the potty line then made our way to the actual ramp. We were lined up by number, so I tried to find a good spot I could mentally marker to find on the way out of the water. I ended up picking a spot right at the end of a really long (and steep) carpet that was lined up the boat ramp I had to run up after the swim.
As I was settling in, taking in the morning and I met a new friend!! A fellow TNTer, Rachel, is on the Iron Team this season and was using Wildflower as a training race. Rachel is kind of a badass and I immediately loved her. We squeezed into our wetsuit and made our way down to the water. As it turns out, Rachel is a fellow social worker. Small world. Rachel and I were in the same wave and chatted nearly the entire time before we started. My calm kept on throughout the whole morning, and I think my easy going convo with Rachel in the morning helped.
The wave before me went just about 8:20 and so my wave could move into the water. The temp was actually a pleasant 65-67 degrees. Much more balmy than the 53 degree Bay the week before. I took a little dive to get used my surroundings, stretched my arms, and took some deep breaths. 8:30AM came and we were OFF! I felt strong! I felt comfortable and in sync. This was happening. I had a little trouble spotting since the sun was just coming up and shining in my eyes, but I kept to the back and to the left and went with it. I had a few songs playing in my head, kept my mind on my breathing, kept moving forward one stroke at a time and 36ish minutes later I was dashing out of the water up that very, very long carpet to my stuff. I quickly threw on my running shoes, race number, and shirt and got to running.
My first run. I noticed I was starving. It was about 3hrs since my breakfast and my tummy was talking to me. Luckily I stashed a lara bar in my stuff and ate it on the way. This run felt slow. I was getting my land legs back. After swimming, they can be a bit wobbly, not to mention, again, but the boat ramp was steep as F. This run was a 2.2 mile half trail half road. It was a bit sandy, but I made my way through it OK. I turn up the next ramp to my bike and I see my cheerleader!! Chris was standing there ready to find me and pep me up! He stayed around this area to catch me each time I went through.
Does this capture the steepness?
Ok, so I get to my bike and quickly switch my shoes, throw on my helmet, add extra sunscreen, and GO.
Can you see me? Near the yellow balloon?
And I'm off. I'm sailing towards Chris and I realize - CRAP - I forgot my gloves! I've never ridden without them...whoops, because there's no turning back now. I'm sending good thoughts to the Wildflower Gods that I don't get a gross blister on my hand.
I head out of transition and face my first big hill: Beach Hill. Now, I'd like to start calling this Bitch Hill. It is SO long and steep. I ran up in during out training weekend, but it is not the same thing. Deep breaths, one pedal at a time, slowly, making it up. And were up and off. After this hill, I feel good, because I know my hardest one after this is Nasty Grade at mile 42. So I take my time up the other hills, make sure I eat my nutrition and drink lots of water, because a killer hill towards the end of the bike is going to be rough. Also, it was windy. In every which way. Which made it a tad more challenge. I had some conversations with the wind out there. We did not see eye to eye. It was testing me. Grr..
My bike eats: A peanut butter sandy, plantain chips with macadamia nuts, a bonk bar, and a few sweet potato gus. I ducked taped some food to my handle bars for easy access and got a few comments about my "picnic" lunch. I took them as compliments. I'm sure they were jealous they had nasty energy thingys to eat and I was eatin real food, right? I ended up eating every hour and drank the crap out of some water. It was warm out there.
I hit Nasty Grade. This was it! I pumped myself up for this. I've done it before on training weekend. I knew what it was all about. Slow and steady. I had a few fellow TNTers out there from other regions. We each said well wished, good jobs, keep strongs to each other, but it was HARD. One guy from the Iron Team saw me struggling and said "You know what sucks more than this hill? Cancer." Yup. You're right. And I kept going. Up, up, up!! To the top! Then there is Skull Crusher...what is with these names! Again, I did it - I did IT! I was doing it! Over half way done with the whole race. Holy crap.
After a few more smaller hills and one nice descend down Lynch Hill, I was back in transition for the run.
At it again. One last time. I transitioned into a clean pair of running shoes, more sunscreen, and I'm off. 10.9 miles left.
My legs are tired. I'm tired. My breathing is a little wonky. I do OK for the first couple of miles then we hit the trails. More hills. Big hills. I hike, because, you just can't run up them at this point. I'm not alone out there, others are hiking, I'm totally OK with this at this point. I'm still moving forward. I then start a hike/run game plan. Run to the hills, hike up them. Over and over again. This is a good plan and it is working. My spirits are doing OK at this point. I'm singing to myself. Having one on one conversations. Thinking about my post race Blind Pig, steak, corn, and brussels that are waiting for me at camp.
At each water stop I grabbed 2 cups of water. 1 to drink, 1 to dump on my head and neck. The volunteers by the way, were incredible. So nice, so encouraging. I loved them! They were all Cal Poly Students. A bunch of rock stars if you ask me. The other random spectators out there, I love you too. The guys with the ice cold towels that I wrapped around my neck for 3 miles. The lady who stood with a plate of cold oranges and ran with me as I ate one to offer me another. The group offering beer funnels - maybe I should have taken one? Each one that told me I was doing a great job. Ahhhh, I love you guyyyys.
Ok, this is it, I'm finishing...I'm running back down Lynch Hill and I'm almost done. I see my teammate Wen and we dash across the line together! WOW! I was greeted by my loving husband, coaches, and manager. I could not have done one step of this without them. Holy cow. At that moment - I started dancing. Ha! I was dancing! Maybe I could have pushed myself more? Naw, I had such a great time. I did it just the way I wanted.
And now. I'm a triathlete. BOOMZ!
I felt amazing and I got to watch each of my teammates pass through the finish line. I'm so proud of us! We were a small, but very mighty group and stuck together and each accomplished 70.3.
Cheers to us! And cheers to all the wonderful love that was sent my way and each generous donation. Through the past few month you all helped me raise $3,223 for life saving cancer research. WOWOWOW!
Like I said, I can't believe it is over and I felt that way x10 the rest of the weekend. After every one crossed. We celebrated with hugs and smiles then headed back to camp. I'd literally been thinking about my post race dinner/beverage since the first run. I showered, felt like a new lady, then we got the fire going and grilled steaks, brussels sprouts, corn, along with other fixing brought by friends of friends. We reminisced about the day and that was that.
Now, I can't stay still for very long and its not like cancer has been cured or anything...so who knows what will be next. Stay tuned.