October 31, 2010

Fearless Triathlon Recap

Yesterday I completed my second triathlon, the inaugural Fearless Triathlon. This was a double sprint: a 250 meter swim, a 5 mile bike ride (consisting of 2 loops), and then a 2 mile run. After the run, we went back into transition and did the entire course over again. I wrote about my fears last week, and and then I wrote how my fears were alleviated. As I anticipated, neither of my fears (of how cold the water would be without a wetsuit, and about getting kicked off the course if I didn't make the time cut-off) came to pass. However, what I DIDN'T anticipate was how hard this race was going to be. I did a triathlon of similar length a few weeks ago, and while it was hard, it wasn't all that TOUGH. This race broke me, especially emotionally.

The race started with the Expo the day before, where I picked up my packet, timing chip, race bib, etc. The Expo was small and non-descript, and I wouldn't even mention it except for one thing: Chris McCormack (Macca), the two-time (and currently reining) Ironman World Champion, who just won the world title again in Kona a few weeks ago. He was there to give a talk and then sign autographs. He is from Australia, where they have been doing double sprint triathons since the early 90's. I even got to ask him a question! I asked him "when it gets tough, what do you tell yourself to get through the pain?" He answered that you can either accept or deny that the pain will occur...it's best to accept it so that when it DOES come, you can embrace it. He also said that he focuses on what he can control (breathing, rhythm and nutrition) and that the body is stupid and will do what the mind tells it to do. Definitely words of wisdom from a champion! Later I got to shake his hand, take a picture with him, and get his autograph.

The next morning I woke up at 4:40 and was out the door by 5:00. I headed down to Fiesta Island, where the triathlon was to take place. I parked in the "parking lot" (a dirt lot....this will come into play later) and headed down to the transition area. I found my friend who I do these races with, and was able to get a spot right by him. Unpacking my bag and setting up my transition area was interesting...not only was it pitch black (luckily I had brought a flashlight) but since it was a DOUBLE triathlon we would need each set of gear twice, so an organized set-up would be crucial. Athough San Diego has been in the 70s-80s and sunny all week, the forecast for this morning was a 30-50% chance of rain, so I after I set everything up I covered it as best I could with a garbage bag.

Soon it was time to get in our wetsuits and head down to the water. And guess what? This is when it started to drizzle. I wasn't too worried about the rain at this point; what's a little drizzle? I was in wave 3, and I was anxious as the first two waves went ahead of me into the water. Finally it was my turn...the gun went off, and as it was a beach start, we all ran into the water. The swim was simple enough---a 250 meter swim, consisting of a U-shape (straight ahead to one buoy, make a right turn, straight to a second buoy, make a right turn, and straight back to the beach). However, I had a really hard time at first. It was so crowded that I had a really hard time finding space (space is hard to find when swimming in a group, as everyone is horizontal and kicking!). After a while, though, the group spread out and I was able to actually swim. It was hard (as it was in my first triathlon), as an open-water swim is harder than swimming in a pool (at least it is for me). The cold water, the murkiness, the taste...it's all different than what I'm used to. Anyhow, by the time I got out of the water I was already tired. This didn't bode well, as I still had 5 more legs of the race to complete.

I ran into transition, unzipping my wetsuit as I went, took off my wetsuit (which for some reason didn't come off easily) and sat down to put my socks and shoes on. My feet were covered in sand from the beach, and as soon as I sat on my towel my legs and tush got covered in sand and dirt, too. Oh well, no time to wash it off. As I put on my socks, shoes and tank top, the rain started to come down harder. I took my extra pair of socks (which I would need for the second bike/run) and stuffed them under a towel; I did NOT want these to get wet. I grabbed my helmet, and as I pulled my bike off the rack I noticed a timing chip on the ground. MY timing chip! Aaarrgh! It must have come off my ankle as I pulled off my wetsuit. I had safety pinned it on for security, so now I had to spend extra time with cold, wet hands unfastening the safety pin and putting the chip back on my ankle. I'm just glad I noticed it; without the timing chip, I would not have received a finishing time or splits!

Now I was onto the bike course, which was a five mile course consisting of two loops. As I have mentioned before, the bike is my nemesis. I don't have too much biking time under my belt, and I ride a heavy hybrid (since I haven't invested in a road bike yet). I am a very, very slow biker. As I was biking, the rain kept coming down. I finally completed my two loops (like last time, the course seemed much longer than it really was!) and headed back into transition. I took off my helmet and took off for the run.

The run was only 2 miles, which theoretically should be a piece of cake for me....my usual weekly run is 3 miles, and I recently did a few half marathons, so the distance really isn't far. However, I struggled. First, something happened with my breathing. I literally could not catch my breath...I was gasping for air and wheezing. I felt like I was having an asthma attack, although I have never had one before so that's probably not what it was. Second, my socks and shoes were both soaked. Third, the rain was coming down even harder, and now there was headwind I had to run into. I hadn't brought my visor to the race, since it was so early and I knew it wasn't going to be sunny, and I was really regretting it, as a visor would have kept the rain off my face. My whole body was drenched....water beaded up on my arms, and there were rivers of water pouring down my face. Finally, the fast racers were already finishing up! I heard the announcer announce the winner! This was very demoralizing for me...I know I'm slow, but I wasn't even done with the first triathlon yet, and some people were already done.

As I passed the finish line, I asked a volunteer how to get back to transition. He directed me where to run, and suddenly I started to cry. I was so tired, so spent. And I was passing tons of people who were already done, with medals around their necks. The volunteer was amazing; he ran with me for a bit and told me to "let it out". My emotions were so raw! And not only was I crying, but I started to wheeze again too. I must have looked like quite the spectacle to the people I passed. All I wanted to do was quit...I was exhausted, muddy, and soaked to the bone. My spirits were so low. But failure is not an option, so I headed back to my transition area, took off my shoes and race belt, put on my swim cap and goggles, and headed back to the water for round two.


This swim actually felt better than my first. Even though I didn't put on my wetsuit for this swim, the water felt perfect. Since there was no one with me (most people had finished the race already, although there were a few people in the water way ahead of me and way behind me) I didn't have to jockey for space. And I am used to not swimming in a wetsuit during my pool workouts, so this felt more comfortable for me. Again, it was a tough swim, but much easier than the first one. Toward the end, I was tired and just tread water for a bit...the lifeguard at the shore yelled "just swim to me!". This was my second encounter with a volunteer cheerleader (although in actuality, all the volunteers at the race seemed great and cheered me on).

I got out of the water, and got back to transition for the fourth time. I was already sick of seeing my transition area! I put on my socks and shoes (unfortunately for me, I had forgotten to take off my tank top when I got back in the water, so I had to wear it soaking wet...although the rain probably would have soaked it anyway). I got on my bike, and started my first loop. Unfortunately, many of the people who had already finished were crowding up the road (chatting and comparing notes) and I had to literally yell "move it, I'm racing here!" Once I broke away from the crowd, I was in a good mood...I was thinking "ok, let's do this thing! Only 5 miles to ride then 2 miles to run and I'm done!" I did the first loop, but by the second loop I was feeling lonely and demoralized again. Yet another volunteer angel came to my rescue. A man, who was riding some sort of motorcycle along the course, asked if he could ride next to me to keep my company. I readily agreed, and for the entire second loop just listened to him talk. It was nice distraction, and I finally was done and headed back into transition for the last time.

I saw my friend, who had finished much, much earlier, and started to cry. I felt sooooo done. but I couldn't quit. I racked my bike (actually, I was too tired to even rack it correctly and just left it standing with the kickstand!) and headed out to my last leg---the final run. Again, the wheezing started, and it took a while for me to catch my breath. I was shivering...I was so wet and cold. My shoes and socks were drenched. My right foot started to hurt. But I knew I only had two miles left. Amazingly, there were a few people still on the course...I actually passed a few people, so I knew I wasn't going to come in last place (which was my fear by this point!) I was so happy when I saw the finish line....they were in the middle of the awards ceremony and stopped to call my name, which was kind of embarrassing but fun. I crossed the finish line, and luckily my friend was there to cheer me on. I started to cry for the third time.

After grabbing some post-race food, we headed back to transition. My friend had already packed up and put his things in his car, and I'm so glad he was there to help me. When I got there, everything---EVERYTHING--was soaking wet and filthy. I just dumped it all--towels, goggles, Gatorade, etc--into a few garbage bags which he helped carry. When we got back to the parking lot--the dirt lot, remember?--it was all mud. I slipped and slid as I walked across; my new running shoes sank into the mud, my bike tires were covered. A fitting ending to the day---my car would be wet and muddy as I was during the whole race.

As tough as it was, I'm proud of myself. Yes, it was hard physically, but in reality the physical challenge wasn't super-hard. It certainly wasn't the hardest physical challenge I've ever done (I'll always have the Rock 'n Roll Marathon as my toughest challenge to date). It was the emotions that got the best of me. The rain, the mud, me being so far behind, having to do the course again when I was mentally checked out---all of this conspired to make me really have to push hard. And I did. I could have quit, and just done a single course...but I stuck with it and did the double, as I intended. I was determined to finish---strong---and I did.

October 28, 2010

The Brother and Sister Relationship

Conversation last week at dinner:

D: "Remember when you told me that I was going to have a baby sister?"

me: "um....yeah..." (in reality I have no recollection). "what did you think when I told you?"

D: "I was really happy, because I would have a playmate."

me: "and is A a good playmate to you?"

D: "Yes! She's the best!"

Now, I don't think this ever really happened. I got pregnant with A when D was 18 months old, and he had just turned 2 when she was born. I don't ever recall him saying that he was excited to have a baby sister, nor was he excited for a playmate. He did love me being pregnant, and would take his Fisher-Price doctor's kit and put the fake stethoscope on my tummy to "listen" (as he saw the ob/gyn do in all my visits) but I don't think he ever really connected that there would be an actual baby. And, of course, when A was born she didn't come home for 12 weeks, so her birth was a non-event for him.

But I love how he rewrote history.

I've written before about their relationship, about how much they love each other. I don't think he really understands all of her medical issues (I mean, he's only 6) but he gets that she has some "differences". He will sometimes ask questions about her hearing aids; he used to explain to his friends that her trach helped her breathe. I don't think he understands that she has delays; to him, she is simply his sister.

They often play beautifully together, but sometimes he is too rough and it's not good. Today was a perfect example: after school, he took out A's teaset and played tea party with her. He actually put water in the teapot, and bread on the plates, and sat on the floor with her for quite a while doing this. They were both having a blast. However, not even an hour later he was pushing her around and she fell to the floor, smacked her forehead on the tile, and immediately got an angry-looking purple knot in the middle of her forehead.

I hope that their special relationship continues. He makes her tougher; she makes him more empathic. A win-win relationship.

October 26, 2010

Fearless Fears Lifted

Earlier this week I wrote about how scared I was about my upcoming double triathlon. I was very nervous about two things: 1) not making the time cut-0ff, and thereby getting pulled from the course, and 2) getting into the cold Mission Bay water without a wetsuit for my second swim. I am happy to report that both of these fears are now gone.

On Saturday I went to a free clinic put on by the triathlon sponsors. They did some running drills and some swimming instruction (in the water with our wetsuits) and we then had to run 2 miles, then do a quick T3 (this is the term for the transition between the first run and the second swim) and then get in the water to swim about 100 meters--sans wetsuit.

First, I have to report on the swim instruction. This part of the clinic was taught by a swim instructor for the San Diego Triathlon Club. I got to swim to her in the water while she critiqued me. She said that I actually looked pretty good! She did give me some tips for improving my stroke, but I was very pleased with what she said. Considering that I just started swimming (for sport) at the end of June, having the coach say that I looked good was music to my ears!

Anyhow, after the instruction we got out, took off our wetsuits, put on our running shoes, and did a 2 mile run. Then we were to get in the water. Some people (there were about 20 people there) didn't get back in. These were people who were either going to try to get back into their wetsuit, or even had a second (dry) wetsuit they were planning on using for the second swim. But I decided I needed to do it. So I kicked off my running shoes and headed into the water. And you know what? It wasn't even cold! It felt MUCH colder during my first swim in my wetsuit! I think it helped that my heartrate was up since I had just run. Whatever the reason, I easily swam the 100 meters, and the water felt great! So now that I already DID it, I have no fear about getting back in without my wetsuit during the actual triathlon.

After the clinic was over, I approached the race director about my time fear. I told him how slow I am, and that I was heavily doubtful that I would make the 2 hour cut off, but didn't want to get pulled from the race. He responded that they did have to close the race promptly at 9:00, per their permit, but that they had a plan. Anyone still on the second swim would be pulled. But at 9:00 they would send someone out on the course (by bike or by car) and anyone still on the bike or the run would get their number/bib pulled, but they could still finish the race. By pulling the bib, technically they are not "racing" anymore...anyone could run or bike on Fiesta Island. But if this happened, I would simply hand over my bib, and keep racing...I could still cross the finish line and get my time (and get my bib back later). I anticipate being on the last mile of the run at the 2 hour mark (assuming my calculations are correct) so I am very happy I will be able to finish the race.

And now that my 2 fears have been lifted, I am ready to race! Bring it on!

October 22, 2010

Fearing Fearless

A week from tomorrow I have my second triathlon. It's the inaugural Fearless Triathlon, and it's a double one, meaning that I will swim, bike, run, then get back in the water and swim, bike and run the course again. The segments are short (each swim is 250 meters, each bike is 5 miles, and each run is 2 miles). It's pretty much the distance that I did for my first triathlon a few weeks ago (which was a 500 meter swim, about a 10 mile bike, and a 3.1 mile run). This one is a bit longer, with the extra mile run, although it's all cut up into shorter segments.

When I got the email about it, literally my first thought was "wow, that looks like fun!" So I signed up. I hadn't even done my FIRST triathlon yet, but I was already addicted to the training, and knew I would love it. I've been quite excited about it---until yesterday.


Well, yesterday I read the fine print that basically states that the course will be closed 2 hours after the start of the race, and that anyone still on the course after this point will be pulled from the course and receive a DNF (did not finish). Now, I don't know if they will be sticklers to that time or not, but if they are, I'm very nervous about finishing in time.

My time for my first triathlon was a bit over 1:51. IF I have the same speed for my next one, I'll never finish in 2 hours----I still have an extra mile to run in this race, plus there are two extra transitions! In looking back at my splits, my swim was actually decent (middle of the back), my run was slow but my usual run (I'm always back of the pack for runs) but my bike was HORRENDOUS! The only way for me to make up time in this next triathlon will be to go faster on both bike segments.

Unfortunately, I haven't been ON my bike since my last triathlon, which was almost weeks ago! I have still been riding, but travel and rain have taken my bike days inside the gym, rather that outside on my bike. I'm still biking (I even did 23 miles on the bike at the gym this past weekend) but it's not the same as being outside. I plan on a long bike ride on Sunday, and will hopefully get more confident.

The other thing I'm nervous about is my second swim. I am not sure if I'm going to be able to get back into my wetsuit for the second swim--it will be wet, and I will be sweaty--so I might have to go into the frigid water for the second swim without it. And not only would that be freezing and uncomfortable, but it might slow me down (plus the wetsuit adds speed and buoyancy).

I know that if the worst thing happens---and that will be a DNF--then it really isn't the WORST thing in the world. I've been training very hard, usually seven days a week, and am proud of what I've accomplished. And in light of the fact that I just started to bike and swim at the end of June (not even 4 months ago!) and that I don't own a road bike (only a hybrid for now) I'm doing ok.

But I DON'T want to be pulled off the course. I want to finish, and I want to finish strong. Plus, there's my pride on the line. As a sticker I recently saw said, "pain is temporary, but your finishing time posted on the internet is forever".

October 20, 2010

My Nemesis: The Scale




Swim. Bike. Run.


This is what my life has consisted of for the past few months. Ever since the end of June, when I decided to add triathlon training to my half marathon training, I have been swimming, biking, or running virtually every day. Most weeks I work out 7 days a week; I only take a day off if I am sick, exhausted beyond measure, or if it's the day before a race. Since the end of June, not only have I worked out almost every day, but I have also run 2 half marathons and completed my first triathlon. My second triathlon is coming up in about a week and a half; this one will be a double one, where I will swim, bike, run, get back the water and swim, bike and run again.

One thing that bothers me is that in spite of all my exercising, I have actually GAINED weight. No, I am not exercising to lose weight. On my list of reasons why I am exercising, losing weight is not at the top of the list. Before I started running again back in January I was a size 6, and now, 10 months and a million workouts later I am still a size 6. But the scale shows more weight. I have not changed my eating habits, so I know that the added weight is muscle. My body is tighter, my clothes fit better, and I hear from everyone how good I look.

And yet.

And yet, I would like to see the number on the scale reflect what I feel my body looks like. I used to weigh myself daily, and would be in either a good mood or a bad mood depending on what number I saw. Recently I moved my scale into my closet, where I can't really get to it easily (I have to actually take it out of the closet and put in on the bathroom floor to weigh myself). I only weigh myself once a week now. And I am trying not to let whatever number might show up get me down.

Ideally I would just toss the scale altogether...but I'm not that brave. I need to embrace the body that I have. This is a body that I've worked hard to get heart-healthy and bone-healthy. This is a body that allows me to train for and compete in half-marathons and triathlons (heck, I've even once completed a FULL marathon). This is a body that conceived and carried two beautiful children to full-term. This a a body that was cut open twice to deliver those babies. This a body that nursed a boy for 14 months, nursed a girl for 12 months, and produced so much MORE milk that I had to donate the excess to a milk bank. This is a body that I have finally, at the age of 40, grown comfortable in it's skin.

I need to not be so hard on myself---and to ignore some pesty little numbers on a stupid scale.

October 13, 2010

A Snapshot of the NICU (part 1)

When A was born, she was placed in the NICU at Children's Hospital due to numerous medical complications present from birth. She was hospitalized for almost 12 weeks. I was there every day---every single morning, and almost every night. I would have been there every afternoon, as well, except that my son, D, was 2 at the time and also needed his mama. Because I was there all the time, I got to know a lot of the babies and parents.

One baby girl was brought in sometime during A's stay. I don't know exactly what her medical diagnosis was, but she had some sort of red hemangioma covering over half her face. She was a beautiful girl, so tiny. Her parents couldn't have been older than 25; my guess is that they were much younger than that. Whatever her diagnosis, it didn't appear to be good. The father told me that the doctors were in fact writing a paper about her, as they had never seen her presentation before.

"But we have hope", he told me. "Her vitals are good. Blood pressure, temperature, heart rate...they all look good".

That was the extent of the conversation I ever had with the parents, and they were soon transferred out of A's room. I never saw them again, and have no idea what became of their daughter. I can only hope and pray that she survived, and in fact is now a thriving four-year-old, much the way my own miracle baby is. But I'll never know.

What struck me about that exchange was how fervently he clung to his daughter's vital signs. It was the only good news he had; doctors were writing a paper about his daughter, and not because it was a good diagnosis! But there was a shred of hope, and that's what he was focusing on. When you are in the NICU, or ICU, or heck, in any bad situation in life, you need to focus on whatever positive, whatever good news you can find. It keeps you sane, it gives you the will to carry on day by day, when all other feedback is negative and it's easy to give up hope.

I hope those young parents are in a better place now, and that their little girl is doing fine---with good vitals and all.

October 12, 2010

My Flower Girl

This past weekend we traveled across the country to attend the wedding of one of J's cousins. About a year and a half ago, when the couple first got engaged, they asked A to be the flower girl in the wedding. At the time, I had to tell them maybe. She still had her tracheostomy, of course, and we didn't know when it would be coming out. Our pulmonologist had always warned against traveling by plane during the fall or winter, as it's cold and flu season and A would be more susceptible to getting sick. As the wedding was planned for October 10 (10-10-10) I wasn't sure how comfortable I would feel traveling at that time year, assuming she still had the trach. Also, at that time A wasn't walking unassisted yet (although the bride was already making plans for A to use her walker, which they would decorate with flowers).

Of course, this past summer A got her trach out, which changed everything. Soon after the decannulation, I called the bride to happily accept her invitation for A to be flower girl. We booked our tickets back east, bought A a beautiful dress, bought D a handsome suit, and flew out.

I was initally worried about how A would do in her role as flower girl. She had never been to a wedding before, and didn't really know what a flower girl is. Last week I spent a lot of time showing her videos of flower girls on YouTube. And I picked roses from my backyard and used their petals for her to practice walking and taking the petals out of the basket. She eventually seemed to get it, but I still had my doubts. A is very shy in new situations, and I was afraid that even if she knew WHAT to do she'd be too scared. I called the bride to discuss the situation, and we both agreed that Plan A would be for A to walk down the aisle by herself; Plan B would be for me to walk her down holding her hand; and Plan C would be for me to carry her down the aisle. I was fervently hoping for Plan A or B.

As it turns out, A blew me away, as always. She ended up walking down the aisle with her cousin, who was the ringbearer. They held hands, which I think made it a million times easier. I was at the back of the ceremony with her, and when it was their time to go I sent her down the aisle, watching her from behind. She never looked back. I then hurried around the building to slip into the audience, and was back in time to see the bride walk down the aisle. J said that A did amazing, and was able to capture a few pictures of her beaming her way down the aisle.

Later, during the reception, they wanted to introduce the bridal party and have them walk in one-by-one into the room. We waited outside the door, and soon the DJ announced A and her cousin as flower girl and ring bearer. Just like in the ceremony, I gently nudged her away, and the two of them took off into the reception room, onto the dance floor, to thunderous applause. When the rest of the wedding party had entered, everyone (bridesmaids, groomsmen, etc) stood on one side of the dance floor and watched the bride and groom do their first dance. A and her cousin just stood still as statues, watching, still holding hands. And when the DJ announced that it was time for the bridal party to dance, A and her cousin danced a slow dance together (her cousin is 4 years old as well).

My heart was almost bursting with pride during all of this. I couldn't believe that not only was my baby HERE (since the only way she'd have come to the wedding was if her trach was out) but that she WALKED down the aisle---something I never thought possible when she was asked to be flower girl a year and a half ago. And to top it all off, she did fantastic---absolutely perfect. She did me proud; she did herself prouder.

I am so glad we went to the wedding. It was great to get away and see family, most of which we rarely get to see. But more than that, it was so fulfilling to me to see my miracle baby in such a role--as a beautifully-dressed flower girl, playing her part to the hilt.

October 5, 2010

Triathlon Times: The Good and The Bad

As I previously posted, I completed my first triathlon this past Sunday. They finally posted the splits, and I was overall pleased with what I saw. However, seeing the splits laid out made me see in black-and-white what I need to work on: the bike.

My overall time was over 1:51. I am comparing myself to other people in my wave (women aged 40-44). I was one of the slowest in my wave, which I expected, because I am a slowpoke and always in the back-of-the-pack during my half marathons.

Swim: about 14 minutes. I am very pleased with this. I thought I was MUCH slower in the water. As I wrote in my recap, I thought the swim would never end. In looking at the other people in my wave, my time seems about average, or even slightly faster than average. Go me!

Transition 1 (T1): about 3 minutes. Quick and easy. On par with others in my wave.

Bike: over 50 minutes. This is where I obviously need help. It should not take me that long to ride 9-10 miles on a flat terrain! I had a lot of lactic acid burn, and think I am pedalling wrong (just pushing, instead of also pulling). Eventually I'd like to get a road bike, which should help considerably, but that's not in the cards just yet.

Transition 2 (T2): about 2 minutes. Again, quick and easy, and totally on par with everyone else in my wave.

Run: about 38 minutes. I am a slow runner at ANY race, and usually my 5K time would be about 36-37 minutes, so 38 minutes after the swim and bike thrill me. Actually, I was faster than this, because in the middle of the run I ducked into a bathroom for a quick potty break, which easily added a minute or more to my time. I'm thrilled with my time here, doing my usual pace on sore legs and a tired mind and body.

So, the lesson learned here is to keep up my training for the run and swim, but I need to amp up my training on the bike. The bike is now my nemesis, and I will conquer it yet!

October 3, 2010

Mission Bay Triathlon Race Recap ('10)

Today I completed my first triathlon (the Mission Bay Triathlon). I am officially a triathlete! It was a sprint distance: 500 meter swim, 15k bike ride, and a 5k run. I never thought I would do a triathlon, although truth be told I've wanted to do one for quite a while now, and even toyed with the idea of training for one many years ago.

It all came about a few months ago....a friend of mine had been training me for the half marathons I did this summer. I kept getting injured, and he kept telling me to cross train (ie bike and swim). I wasn't interested.....I'd never swam for exercise, and I hadn't ridden a bike in 10 years! However, in June, I gave in and tried a swim. I ended up liking it, and before I knew it, my friend suggested I register for this triathlon. So I did, and the rest is history! I've been training for the triathlon almost every day (most weeks 7 days a week; I only take a day off if I'm sick) and really felt ready for today's challenge.

Yesterday was the expo, where I got my bib, t-shirt, swim cap and timing chip. After the expo my friend and I took advantage of the early bike drop-off at the transition area. I was glad to be able to rack my bike a day early; it would be one less thing to worry about on race day. Because there were so many participants, everyone was grouped into "waves" by age group and gender. I was assigned to wave number 10 (women 40-49). We had to rack our bikes according to our wave and because I got there so early yesterday I got a prime spot on the end.

This morning I woke up at 4:20, as I wanted to get to the transition area as close to 5:00 as possible. I got there, found my bike, and started to set up my stuff. Basically, I just took a towel and put all my gear on it. It's best to lay all the equipment out in a neat, organized manner, because when I come in to change for the next event (from the swim to the bike, or from the bike to the run) I would want to just quickly grab what I need and go (the clock doesn't stop while in transition!). So on the left side of the towel I put my swim stuff (goggles and cap); in the middle I put my bike stuff (helmet, sunglasses, socks and shoes) and on the right side I put my running stuff (my visor). I also had an extra container of Gatorade "just in case" and some various nutrition (Gu, Clif Bars, etc). I brought a lot, as I didn't know what I would want or need.

The transition area was buzzing with triathletes. This was the first triathlon for lots of people, so there was a lot of nervousness mixed in with the excitement. I got marked with permanent marker with my race number on my arm and leg. Soon the sun rose, and it was time to head out of the transition area. I put on my wetsuit (I wore my running capris and running bra underneath), and my friend and I made our way down to the water. They were starting the participants off in their waves every 5 minutes. Soon the wave in front me left, and it was time for me to get in the water. It was cold, but not terribly cold (about 65 degree I'd heard). I swam to the start line, and waited until our horn blew and BAM it was time to swim.

The swim actually was really hard for me, much tougher than I'd anticipated. In the pool, I've worked up to doing about 3/4 mile nonstop (30 laps), and this race was only about 1/4-1/3 mile. I thought it wouldn't be that tough. Well, doing an OWS (open water swim) is much harder than swimming in a pool. Before today, I'd only done one OWS, and can obviously use some more practice. I tired really easily, and it seemed I would never get to the last buoy. My goggles kept fogging up (despite putting anti-fog on them) and my right shoulder mysteriously started to hurt. The good news is that I never got kicked in the face, which was one of my fears. Finally, I rounded the last buoy, got out of the water, smiled for the photographer, and made my way back to the transition area. I unzipped as much as I could on the way.

Back in the first transition (T1) I quickly got my wetsuit off, dried my feet as best I could, put on my socks and running shoes (I don't have bike shoes), put on my helmet and sunglasses, drank a swig of Gatorade, and walked my bike out to the mount line (this is a line where you can't be ON your bike before you cross it).

Finally I was riding. I am not the best biker (I'm slow, as I am in all the events) and I was already tired from the swim and wet! It was a 15k (9-10 mile) ride. It went through the Sea World parking lot and then onto and around Fiesta Island. I was passed by almost everyone it seemed; not only am I slow but I don't have a road bike, only a hybrid. There were no mile markers, and it seemed to go on forever. Luckily it was mostly flat, and it was a very overcast day (in fact, I didn't see the sun all morning) so it was nice and cool. My legs were burning with lactic acid, and I was not very happy. After what seemed like forever it was back to the dismount line and to the transition. In transition 2 (T2) I re-racked my bike, took off my helmet, put on my visor, drank some more Gatorade and ate a few Clif Shots, and was off on my run.

The run was 5k (3.1 miles). I loved the run! I was pretty tired from the swim and bike, but not overly exhausted. It was still nice and cool, and there were not too many runners out (most people had already finished the race, and the rest were behind me). I chatted with a few people here and there (iPods are banned in triathlons) which helped to pass the time. I was glad to see mile markers on the running course. All too soon I had one final push, and the finish line was in sight. The announcer was asking first-timers to raise their hands, which I did. I got a big cheer and a call-out from the announcer. I crossed the finish line, and immediately burst into happy tears.

I am very proud of myself. It was not a fast race--I am slow as molasses--but I did it! I completed the entire course! I am a TRIATHLETE! In a few weeks I have that double triathlon, which is a swim/bike/run/swim/bike/run course. After today, I might be crazy, but I love to challenge myself. And on the docket in January is the Carlsbad Half Marathon, so I need to start training for that (today was the first day that I ran in a month; right after the Disneyland Half Marathon over Labor Day weekend I had sprained my foot). And I look forward to more triathlons next year...now that I know what they are like, I can fine-tune my training and transitions. I have a lot going on to keep me challenged and healthy!

October 1, 2010

Today's Amazing Revelation

I had the oddest revelation today.

I got together with some of the moms from A's new preschool class for lunch. All of these women are new to me; last year A went to the morning session, and this year she's in the afternoon session, and there has been no overlap of kids from year to year. I was excited to get together and meet some of the moms, as I see them at drop-off and pick-up but really hadn't had a chance to actually talk to them yet beyond basic pleasantries.

Anyhow, somehow the issue of A being in therapy came up. Someone asked what kind of therapy she is in, so I answered "speech therapy, physical therapy, adapted P.E., deaf/hard-of-hearing therapy, horse therapy, and soon we'll be adding occupational therapy". She then asked me why A needs so many therapies. It hit me: These women just met A. They have no clue about her medical background. They don't know that she used to have a breathing tube, feeding tube, just learned to walk this year, etc.

It was quite the revelation, to say the least. Until this point, everyone in my life fell into one of two categories: people that were with me from "the beginning", and people that I met in more recent years.

Many of my current friends (and all my family, of course) were there in the beginning. These are the people who knew me before A was born. They knew me pregnant with her, and saw me through the grueling 12 weeks in the NICU. They are the ones who called me all the time, who brought me meals, who watched D (then age 2) so that I could spend time at the hospital. They were with me when I was agonizing over the decisions to get her g-tube, and then her trach. They were my shoulders to lean on when I worried about her not meeting her milestones on time. I quickly learned, through the whole ordeal, who were my true friends and who weren't.

On the other hand, many of my current friends are newer. These are people I met AFTER A was born. I met some people taking mommy-and-me and music classes with A. I met the moms through her preschool. I met even more moms through my son, D. Since A was born, D went through 3 years of preschool and kindergarten. When all of these moms met me and my family, they met a mom who had a daughter with a trach and a feeding tube. A came "as is". My new friends might ask why she had a trach, or why she wasn't walking yet, but they were new to her story. However, they quickly became A's cheerleaders, and were just as overjoyed as my older friends when she started to hit her milestones, walked, got her tubes out, etc.

It hit me today that every person I meet from here on out--whether it is a mom from A's preschool or D's 1st grade class, someone from my synagogue, or a new neighbor--will not know what we've been through. Sure, they might see a beautiful little girl with glasses and hearing aids, who has a speech delay and can't quite run or jump the way other kids her age can. But they have no clue that she used to have a plastic tube in her neck. Or a plastic tube in her tummy. Or that she didn't walk until this year, at age 3 1/2. Or that her speech is 2000% improved from where it was even a year ago. Or that she almost died but now is a living miracle. They wont' know until, or unless, I tell them.

Wow. It's a whole new chapter in my life. I think I like it!