Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Dealing with the Demons: Woodstock Sprint Tri

To say I was a ball of anxiety leading into this race would be a gross understatement.  I was a complete headcase.  Mike and G had been trying to talk sense into me and calm me down for the good part of a week.  I got to the event site and was so close to switching to the duathlon but G said if I did that, then I'd be bailing.  He said you owe it to yourself to get in the water and TRY.  He's so wise.  Mike tried to get me to focus on the positive - how nice the weather was, how much fun this is supposed to be.  Don't race with expectations, go out and enjoy yourself.

These guys are so smart.  I'm really lucky to have them in my corner.   Despite their best efforts, I had a hard time calming myself down.  I don't remember ever being this panicked before a race.  Clearly my mind had started to blow things out of proportion. 

We got to Pittock Lake just after 7:30 and as usual the registration process was quick and easy.  This year they had a new system for transition, in order to make sure that someone doesn't "accidentally" walk off with your $10,000 bike.  You were given 2 numbered bands, one for your wrist and one for your bike and there were volunteers checking them on the way in and out of transition.  Good call Mr. Salt!

I always find the first race of the season a bit challenging in terms of getting myself organized in transition.  I think because I was so preoccupied with thoughts of the swim, I was very distracted while setting up my transition spot.  I managed to get everything sorted but it seemed to take me so much longer than usual.

While I was getting myself sorted in transition, I ran into Irina & Carol - two of my Daily Mile friends.  I saw Irina at Around the Bay but didn't realize it was her until AFTER the race, ha ha.  She came over and gave me a big hug.  She understood my anxieties about the swim so we chatted about that for a while.  I felt much more relaxed after talking to her and Carol. 

I got everything set up and decided it was time to get into the water.  Steve Fleck kept going on about how cold it was.  Awesome.  I got over to the beach area and found G.  I talked with him for a bit and then had someone help me with my wetsuit since G wasn't able to.  I made my way into the water. Steve Fleck wasn't kidding.  It was cold.  I got in up to my waist and then sunk down into the water.  Brrr.  It was 8:55 and the race was going to be starting soon so I had to start swimming if I wanted to get a decent warm up in.

I put my face in the water and started moving forward.  Slowly.  Comfortably.  I wanted to keep my heart rate down.  I needed to keep calm.  I swam out a few hundred meters, looked up, panicked and turned around.  I swam back thinking "I can't do this, I can't do this, I can't do this".  I could hear the announcements for the duathlon and wondered if I had enough time to change my registration.   I was beside myself.  I got out of the water and tried to find G.  I couldn't find him so I went back in and tried to calm myself down.  The race was getting ready to start so the lifeguard said we had to go back in.  I swam back to the shore and got out to try to find G once more.

I found him and Mike almost immediately.  Mike asked me how I was and I said not good.  He told me to focus on how nice the day was.  Don't think about the swim, it's 15 minutes tops, he said.  You can do that.  G told me to be calm.  I think he was getting frustrated with me.  I don't blame him.  I would have gotten frustrated with me too.  He told me to get in and stay at the back.  Let everyone go.  He said you know you'll catch them quickly but if it makes you feel better to start at an easier pace then do that.

Sure, I could have thrown in the towel right then and there and just not done it, but that would have been letting my fears win.  I had to go out and try.  I had to race with no expectations.  So I kissed G goodbye and got back in the water.  I submerged myself into the cold murky water and waited.  I was in the last wave which was great as it meant that I wouldn't have to worry about anyone swimming over me if I decided to take my time.

We all started bunching up in between the green buoys and I moved to the back of the pack.  An older woman beside me offered me the space in front of her and I said "No Thank You, I'm happy right here".  She laughed and said "me too".  She said she was nervous and I told her that I was as well.  I went on to say that this part of the race is always the hardest for me so I was happy to stay at the back and ease my way into it.  I said we could hang out at the back and swim together.  She said she'd like that.  So, that's exactly what we did.  The gun went off and the competitor in sat and stewed while the scaredy cat in me sat and waited for what seemed like an eternity.  It was probably only about 15-20 seconds but it was enough for the swarm to get going and spread out a bit.  My friend and I waded in and started swimming.

I was calm and relaxed.  My stroke seemed fine.  Within minutes I had caught a few stragglers.  Shortly after that my right goggle started leaking.  I ignored it for a bit but it proceeded to get worse and worse so I had to stop and drain it.  I got back into a rhythm.  Ran into a bigger group of people, stopped to tread water and position myself.  Started swimming again.  Stopped to drain my goggle again.  I was nearing the first buoy.  The closer I got the more people I swam into.  I got around the first buoy and had to drain my goggle again.  This time I slammed it hard into my eye socket.  It kind of felt like my eyeball was going to get sucked out of my head but it seemed to sort of stop the leaking.  Instead of pouring in, the water was just dripping in a bit.  It was tolerable.  Now it was time for me to get down to business.

I started to push the pace, passing people as I went along.  I was feeling good.  My breathing was laboured because I was starting to work hard but I was IN CONTROL.  And that my friends is the KEY.   The beginning of the race is always chaotic.  The chaos stresses me out.  If I can avoid that stress and deal with things at my own pace, get into my own groove and THEN start the work once I'm comfortable, then I *think* I should be able to avoid the panic.  Before I knew it, I had hit the second buoy.  As I rounded the buoy I swam right into someone and pushed her right under me.  That completely scared the crap out of me and I stopped and started apologizing profusely.  She just laughed and told me not to worry.  Off I went...

The last stretch of this swim seems so much longer than the first stretch even though I think they are roughly the same distance.  I just put my head down and swam.  I glanced up once to see where I was and then put my head back down.  I'm not sure why, but the Eurythmics song "Sisters Are Doin It For Themselves" was going through my head.  Probably because I was feeling pretty darn good about getting that far without freaking out.  I glanced up again to see the swim exit a few meters away.  I started to kick hard to get some blood down to my legs.  I don't think I kicked hard enough or long enough because when I stood up, I was woozy.

I saw G and I waved as I ran into transition.  I was having a hard time getting my zipper undone.  My hands didn't seem to want to work at all they were so numb.  I finally got it undone.  Then I had to try and get it over my damn Garmin.  That was a joke.  I almost dislocated my shoulder trying to pull the thing off.  I got out of my wetsuit pretty quickly after that but I felt really light headed and very discombobulated.  I got my helmet on and fumbled around for my shoes and a gel. I grabbed my bike and was off.

I ran out of transition on fairly wobbly legs.  There is an uphill run on grass, then you get to pavement and you have to run up to the mount line.  From there, you start climbing so your legs are burning from the minute you get on the bike.  I was in my easiest gear and climbing that hill was a struggle.  I was dying.  I thought uh-oh, I'm screwed if I feel this crappy now.  I got to the top of the climb and I was gasping.  Something didn't feel right.  I looked down at my tires thinking one was flat.  Nope.  I turned the pedal and then my wheel caught.  Awesome.  I stopped and pulled over.  I loosened my back brakes and my front brakes.  A volunteer came over and helped me spin my wheels.  Turns out my front wheel was rubbing on my brakes.  UGH.  So he adjusted it and I was off.  That probably cost me a minute.  Once I got going it was game on.  I dropped the hammer.  At some points I looked down at my Garmin and I saw anywhere between 36kph to 42kph.  Yes there were other points where I was doing 26kph (uphill) but I've never seen those speeds during a race. Clearly my winter of riding was paying off.

I caught 3 women in my AG on the bike.  I'm happy to say that no one in my AG passed me.  Usually at some point, someone in my AG will pass me.  Perhaps because I took so long in the swim this time around.  Doesn't matter really.  I was so happy to be flying along.  Ming told me to go out and inflict some pain on myself (did I mention he's crazy?).  I rode the pain train for the entire 20km.  It hurt.  But I felt strong.  I also felt pretty bad ass in G's aero helmet, ha ha.  I actually passed several GUYS.  I did get caught and passed by one dude towards the end of the ride and he blew by me like I was standing still.

I saw G as I made my way down the hill towards the dismount line.  He caught a pretty good picture of me.
I hopped off my bike and ran as fast as I could in my cycling shoes down the hill into transition.  I racked my bike, took off my shoes, then my helmet.  Grabbed my zoots and yanked them on.  I grabbed my sunglasses and a gel and bolted out of transition.  I was officially on the hunt.

I had no clue how many women in my AG were left on the course, if any.  There were a few bikes racked but we were mixed in with the 45-49 year old ladies so I didn't know who was who.  It's always a crapshoot.  You just need to go out there and leave it all on the course.  So, that's what I did.  Once again I started passing people left right and centre.  On my way out of transition, a "mystery lady" called my name as she was running back in to transition.  I was wracking my brain, wondering where I knew her from and why she looked so familiar.   Once again, I realized who she was after the race.  I'll get to that later....My legs were feeling good.  I saw the occasional flash of sub 4 min km's on my Garmin but I knew they were fleeting.  My first km beeped and I glanced down to see 4:13.  Not bad.  I knew I had more in me.  Especially once I got out onto even ground crossing the dam.  As I got closer to the dam, I ran into the first woman in my AG.  I caught her and motored away.  One down and who knows how many to go....Just after the first km, I saw Mike coming back on the run.  I waved and smiled.  I was cooking.  I let my legs fly on the down hill on the trail.  I figured this km would be a fast one.  Sure enough km 2 was 4:02.  Yes.  If I could only keep that momentum.  I was happy to get in amongst the trees for a bit as it was starting to get really hot out (I'm not complaining, just making a note, ha ha).  I motored along here, up past the water station and onto the road.

As I headed towards the turn around, I spotted another woman in my AG.  I got up behind her as we made the turn and as soon as we turned, I passed her and pulled away.  One more down, who knows how many to go and only 2.5km left to find them...if there were any left.  I could only hope there wasn't.

I really pushed the pace on the last 2.5 km.  Running back up that hill just about killed me and my pace slowed to 5:18's but I recovered quickly at the top and flew across the dam.  Every guy I passed offered words of encouragement.  I got a lot of "great run" & "running strong".  That made me feel good.  I saw my friend Michael who told me I had about 600m left. I was gasping I was working so hard.  I came barreling down towards the finishing turn and I caught a younger female athlete who wanted NO part of me passing her so we sprinted to the line.  She beat me by a hair.  I was grinning like an idiot the entire time.  I thanked her after I crossed the line.

photo courtesy of Mike Cheliak, My Sports Shooter

The love was back. 

I wandered around looking for G.  I quickly found him and then I found Mike.  Mike wanted to know where the results were so I pointed him in the direction of the tent.  I was heading over there with him when I ran into Irina and Carol.  Irina had a fabulous race.  She got 5th in her AG.  She was pretty stoked.  I chatted with them for a bit, then found G and got some food.  I then saw the mystery woman again - I looked at her bib and saw Jody, written across the front and I immediately knew who it was.  I ran over and gave her a hug and chatted with her for a while.  Yet another person I know from Facebook / my blog but had yet to meet in real life.  It was a great day for that for sure.

The best part of the day was racing knowing that my teammates were also out there.  Mike was racing his first tri in many years and Graeme was racing his first duathlon.  I had raced with Team Running Free for the last several years, which was cool but the team was so big and there were so many stores that I never really got to know who most people were.  I'd see people at races wearing the Team RF clothes and I'd wave and say hi and we'd chat afterwards but that was about it.  With Real Deal, it it much more personal.  And the support is GENUINE, as evidenced by Mike's pep talk to me at the beginning of the race.  We all had great days and we were all there to support each other as well.  As Mike so aptly put it, "Team work, makes the dream work".

I think Graeme is going to give me a run for my money in the crazy hair department!
 Mike had found the results board and told me that I came second in my AG. I was thrilled.  All I wanted to was to get on the podium.  The spot didn't matter at this point.  Graeme won his AG and was FOURTH over all.   And, he had the fastest bike split of the day by a LONG shot.  Amazing.  Mike ended up 6th in his AG, which was awesome for a first race back, especially since his AG is probably one of the most competitive age groups out there.  So needless to say we were all pretty happy.  Of course we stuck around for the awards.  They did the duathlon first so Graeme got up there twice, once for overall top 5 and then for winning his AG.   When they got to my AG, I was ready to run up when they called the second place finisher.  I stood there ready to go as Steve Fleck announced "and in second place, Jordie Seaton from Thornhill".  What?  I thought I had gotten second.  The next thing I knew, I heard Steve announce my name is the AG winner.  What the what???  Amazeballs.  I ran up to the front fist pumping in the air.  I jumped onto the first place podium and did the Real Deal Podium Salute (flexed my non existent guns).  Pictures were taken,  I hopped off and pretty much danced my way back to Mike and Graeme I was so happy.

What an awesome way to start off my season.  It was a beautiful day to race, I had teammates there to support me and of course, G was there to keep me sane.  If he hadn't gone with me, I probably would have switched to the DU, no questions.   Thankfully I didn't.  I now have a stronger sense of confidence for my next swim.   I know that if I want to avoid the panic, I need to slow down and ease into my swim.  I'm ok with that.  Thankfully I've developed the legs to help me make up the difference in the other two sports. 

A huge thanks to Real Deal Racing and all of our sponsors: Gears, WASPcam, Fieldgate Homes, Iler Silva Law Offices, Toronto Sport and Social Club, Morning Glory Cycling Club, Champion System (love my new race kit!), Powerbar, Balance Physiotherapy, RMP Total Fitness, Spin Kicks, Kenzington Burger Bar and Barnstormer Brewing

I am looking forward to toeing the line again in Binbrook in a couple of weeks!


Unknown said...

Awesome!!! Congrats on a killer race and fending off those swimming demons. You rock!

Ririnette said...

I am really stoked to know you, champ! You ARE the Real Deal, you know that. ;-) I could tell how nervous you were but even before knowing that you placed, I was happy to hear that you managed to conquer your fears and you had a great time out there. That is the most important, but winning your AG, wow, the cherry on the cake. I saw you hammering down going towards the dam, I thought you may catch me as well, even with 1.5k lead. Well done! Is Luxemburg next?

Alice Toyonaga said...

Congrats on what you overcame, what you left out there and for a tremendous first race of the season. It was awesome hearing you call out my name on the bike and to meet you in person. xoxo

Unknown said...

Just.plain.awesome! Even with a nervous swim you still rocked it! And girl, your arms are jacked! You're right, staying in control of yourself is half the battle when in that water. Can I borrow your feet for my HIM? ;)

macnic said...

Huge congrats to you! A fab race and way to overcome these fears. Also, thanks to you I spent the afternoon looking up DUs. HA!!!

Wendy at Taking the Long Way Home said...

Great job on the AG win! I'm secretly glad to know that you were nervous for the swim...that is the one thing about tri that holds me back! Glad you were able to push through it! :)


Phaedra Kennedy said...

Courtney - thanks! :)
Irinia - thank you SO much, that's very sweet. It was lovely to actually chat with you before the race. Your enthusiasm is contagious. :) Binbrook is next, then Luxembourg.
Alice - it was awesome to meet you too! I loved your FB comment regarding feeling like family. I feel the same way with all of my online peeps. I feel like I know a lot of you even though we've never actually met...so when we actually DO meet, it's like I've known you for years, ha ha.
Rebecca - Thank you! Funny, I feel like my arms have gotten smaller over the last 6 months (no real weight lifting anymore) so I appreciate the compliment, ha ha.
Nicole - thanks lady! Two words for you: DO IT!!!! or should I say DU it??? ha ha ha.
Wendy - thanks! That is the one thing that holds a lot of people back. It really can be one of the harder things to deal with. Practice in the open water helps immensely.

Kristen said...

Can I borrow G in two weeks when I am told I have to get into the water in Boise? I can relate to you SO MUCH! I’m sure I will be fine once I get going, but the idea of swimming into other people and getting pushed around really does put me into a panic. I think I am going to do as you did and stay in the back of the pack to avoid the initial madness. It definitely helped to read about your experience in the water. Congratulations on not only making it through, but finishing FIRST in your age group. Very inspiring!

Phaedra Kennedy said...

Kristin - if you get the chance to do any more open water swimming with your friend, I would suggest having him swim close to you so he's jostling you and getting into your space. We did drills like that years ago in open water and it can be scary but it will help you know what it feels like, what your reaction will be like and how to calm yourself down. Clearly I've forgotten all those things, ha ha. It's definitely something I want to work on over the next few weeks.

Robin said...

Look at you up there on that podium. Congrats to you and it sounds like an all 'round great day.

Abby said...

Congrats on the age group win!

rojublake said...

I loved reading this, probably as much as you enjoyed writing it! :) The pride is beaming through and quite right too - well deserved PK! To think that you were Second then end up No.1 on the podium, bet you were positively buzzing!
The support from fellow athletes, doesn't that just say it all?
It's what we do ...

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