Monday, February 24, 2020

22 years of journey

There has to be joy in the journey, right?  And there has been so much for the past 21 years.  I did my first triathlon in 1998.  I think so much has happened over the years in life overall that I forget the progression of just one aspect of life.  

This year, one of my new year’s resolutions was to downsize the amount of photo prints I have in storage boxes.  Remember early 2000’s when I think we still had film cameras and had to just develop the entire roll?  Ha! I knew I had plenty of junk shots that needed to just be discarded of instead of holding space in boxes, so I’ve been going through a box of photos each week this year.

This past week, I went through a box that apparently was a big place that I deposited race pictures, and it reminded me of so many races that I haven’t even thought of recently.  I started off back in 1998-around 2003/4ish doing maybe 8-10 triathlons a season!  I just loved it so much and life was different then.  I could first just plan my own schedule around no one else’s and I would get up in the middle of the night all alone and just drive myself to races in places that I’ve never been before.  I remember bringing AAA Trip tik’s!  Remember those?!  Yea, we are talking the days of film and trip-tiks!  There was no cellphone, and looking back, I don’t even know how I made it to all of my races on some of the backroads and printed maps.  I was in grad school, so I know I packed everything- I had zero money to buy anything other than the race itself- so I packed water and food and everything I needed!  It was low key and honestly a BLAST!  Then I met Ryan and he started coming to races.  Ohhhh, poor guy had no idea what he was getting into!  What fun days he probably had watching as the races grew longer and longer up to the Ironman in 2003.   ???

Anyway.  The point is, it was incredible to look back at so many races and see how much background, experience and memories they have all brought.  I really think any race you do, whether you view it as a success or not, is WORTH IT!  You are ALWAYS MORE FIT from doing a race, it is just a great workout that you often cannot force yourself to do on your own.  But you also just learn so much.  You have different swim experiences in each race, different crowds, currents, starts, etc.  I’ve done swims that have felt blissful and ones where I tread water for a minute or two in TEARS. (not joking).  I’ve hyperventilated, had my goggles kicked into my eyeball, swam over, swam through grose lake grass in the middle of the lake for like ½ mile, swam with debris in the Potomac in DC, swam down the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, swam in Lake Erie 3 days after it was unswimmable due to high levels of feces.  I swam in a lake in central Florida, apparently with alligators.  Not being from there, I figured there was some sort of de-alligator process that USAT would go through.  Nope.

I’ve biked on pancake flat courses (Eagleman), hilly as all hilly courses through mountains and seen people crash in front of me, received a penalty when I shouldn’t have, probably missed a penalty when I did deserve it, had people swear at me (2 races, this made me so sad), I’ve gotten frustrated very frustrated at people not staying right and not knowing the rules, I’ve gotten pushed off the road by a farm truck that took up the road and we had to literally get into a ditch.  I’ve had my chain drop, I’ve had my hip lock up.  I’ve pushed too hard, I’ve dropped a water bottle.  I’ve learned so much.

I’ve run through so many experiences as well.  I’ve bonked and walked, fueled well and ran “like my heels were on fire” to my first sub 5 hr ½ Ironman, I’ve had a port a pot nearly tip over on me, I’ve had to go in the woods!!  I’ve helped someone who passed out, I’ve gotten encouragement from others, I’ve given so much as well.  I’ve been exhilarated by my finishes, and I’ve faced such disappointing days as well. 

I’ve raced all over Virginia, Maryland, DC, Pennsylvania, Lake Placid, Buffalo and Penn Yan, NY, Boston, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Wisconsin, Vermont, Oregon, California, now a run race in Turks and Caicos as well😊

They haven’t all been complete goal reachers, but I have learned from every single single single one of these races.  I truly feel that I have had so much joy from all of my experiences; my heart and soul are so much more complete and ME from making this all happen.  It would have been so easy to skip out on half of these races, but I SIGNED UP.  I TRAINED.  I DID THEM.  I learned.   I’ve crossed the finish line THRILLED, but also really really dejected.  But, I also have never given up.

It reminded me, I have so much more to come!  My hip currently is a bit of an obstacle.  However, it isn’t an all out road block.  I’m back in a healed place where I can jog and bike.  I cannot go at the intensity that I may CHOOSE, but it still brings me GREAT JOY to be out in the world, looking for the next opportunity and place to spend time on the roads.   I love having things on my docket, tangible reasons WHY… I’m currently loving just moving.  I may be slow, but honestly, if I can shuffle without too much pain, I’ll TAKE IT!!

I have learned to love swimming over the years- it isn’t my favorite, but I do LOVE what it provides.  I love the feeling of coming out of the water and whole body is spent.  I will never be “a swimmer” because I don’t have the pure skill from having grown up as a swimmer and I don’t see myself making the time investment in the pool at the sacrifice of my other sports, but I love it (not every time and not in the first 90 seconds when I’m cold of course).

I love biking and although it scares me sometimes, I love feeling my legs being strong like clockwork and seeing the beautiful country roads by way of bike.  Running just gives me a huge sense of freedom by going where my feet can take me. I have a different perspective right now, but I hope 20 more years from now, I have some pictures of some really cool new race experiences that I don’t even know of right now.  The journey is not always under our control, but it IS under our control if we are in the arena, if we are ON our journey fully.  Even if you are someone who doesn’t want to do a triathlon, there is so much to be experienced by running 5K’s, or working towards a new biking goal.  There is so much available to us.  It is sometimes scary to think big, scary to commit, but it is always worth it.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Turks and Caicos and... not the marathon...

Turks and Caicos marathon to half😊

I cannot believe it has been nearly a month since I was in paradise and I haven’t written about my experience- I really want to remember as much as I can!

Race morning- race started at 5, the bus was supposed to come at 4 that would pick up at the place I was staying and take to race start location.  Ummmm, so, when do you even wake up when you need to leave your room by 3:50?  Weird.  I think I may have woken up in the 2:00 hour!  So strange, but I strangely appreciated this early race time because when I have taken these trips on my own, I like to be back at the end of the day by dark since I’m trying to be as safe as possible while traveling alone.  So, it is nice to have a few days of living by the light of the earth and slowing down when the earth goes dark for nighttime!  It makes getting up in the 2:00 hour easier!!

I was worried I’d be the only one standing around waiting for the bus to race, but I got down a minute or two before 4:00 (I knew the bus wouldn’t be there until after because we were the last stop).  There were probably already 10 people… 10 characters, haha! Down there waiting!  It was a definite learning experience for me into the world of the inter-continental running club!  Many of them had matching jerseys/singlets on and I quickly learned they all had documented finish times for marathons in all sorts of countries.  I think some guy was over 100 countries.  I am thinking, ummmm, of course he is retired, but that is a lot of MONEY to get to all these places!!  Anyway, it was interesting.  I felt like I was a total newbie athlete!  And, in the back of my mind, I definitely knew I wasn’t “all in” to this race. 

I was unsure if I’d be able to do the marathon with my limited last 5-6 weeks (lack of) training because of my hip. However,  I still wanted to see what was possible and enjoy the experience.

We were waiting for the bus and a few of the people decided they were going to walk to the race start.  A guy mentioned he wasn’t going to since the bus knew there were those of us waiting at this stop, and he’d be making the way and not able to find us.  I agreed with that and so I waited also, just to be polite, even though of course I’m itching to get to race site and have a few tries at the port a pot to try to make sure I’m all EMPTY before race!  So, we wait.  We wait until probably 4:20 and no bus, so we start walking.  As we are walking down the road, a minivan pulls over to us and lets us know that he can bring us.  We realized then it was a good thing that not everyone had waited, because it was no bus, it was a minivan, so definitely limited seating!  We continued to walk and got to race site at approximately 4:35.  This is so new to me – arriving at race site with only a little over 20 minutes to go!  I would have been freaking out if I had big goals for this event! I hit a port a pot, there is no lock on the door, so that is odd, but workable.  Also, there are like 30 people at the race site.  Hmmm, not sure where everyone is???  I’m starting to get worried this may be a LONELY RACE!!!  I asked a woman at a table if I could leave my backpack there during race as  I was super concerned about this issue. I wasn’t intending on going back to the room I was staying after the race because it was in the opposite direction of where I was hoping to walk to for the day.  My focus was really on BEACH TIME!  Luckily, she said she’d keep an eye on my bag for me and I could keep it there!  It had my swimsuit, water for the day, food for the day, etc.

So, I try to get into port a pot one more time, no success really, and I am thinking, this race is going to be on “carribean time” I just know it… but I was on my way back to start line and realize, they are lining up, someone is talking to those at the start line, and I boogey over and someone says, “ready, go”!  I almost missed the start!  Then I realized:  there were probably only about 50 people!  Seriously.

And that was for both ½ and full marathon.  I had no idea who was doing what.  (I had no idea what I was really doing either since I just had to see).

Anyway, so I began and felt fine fitness wise.  First 4 miles, it was pitch black but luckily there were lights on the roads we were running on at that point that really kept it visible.  I had decided to not wear my lights because people had convinced me they weren’t going to, and that I really didn’t need to.  If I was going to do the full marathon, the last thing I wanted was lights dangling around my body, being excess.  (for this race, I was already carrying excess: in terms of WEIGHT since I hadn’t been running… 5-6 lbs makes a huge difference and I wasn’t committed to complete perfect eating around holidays.  Also, I was carrying my phone in a ziplock baggy because I was too nervous to leave the phone with my backpack in case it got stolen.  And a credit card.  And of course water and gels.  So anyway, I was like my own Sherpa which I didn’t love so I went with no lights).

The first mile I had the first experience of barely seeing the person in front of me, but could at least see in the dark enough to him that I saw he went way off the side of the road and I realized he was veering off to the side of a road covered in flooded rainwater!  This happened a few times through the race!

We got to mile 3 where there was supposed to be a bathroom, but it wasn’t there that I could see.  I was still ok but kind of wanted to go because I knew the morning had been kind of rushed and quick and I didn’t know when I’d have a chance again until maybe I got back to that spot and they put it out.  Anyway, I was fine so kept going.  Went around a corner and ROAD LIGHTS did not exist anymore.  It was DARK.  Pitch black.  I’m thinking crap.  I should never have trusted someone else with telling me what to do.  I should have brought lights.  NO lights at all, and I’m losing sight of the guy in front of me.  Luckily, I was so thankful for the volunteers that were at turns.  I kept thanking them, inside thinking that I better be plenty appreciative so that they REMAINED THERE on the way back so I knew where to turn since there was such a sparse amount of runners.  I get to mile 5 and….. immediately…… GI system starts freaking SPINNING and piercing me with pain and I know I have to find a way to go to the bathroom.  Sorry to say, but the runners were sparse and I honestly dodged behind some very short little palm tree that wasn’t really tree it was like a palm bush?? I don’t know, but… I did and it was like 25 seconds and I’m off again.  Phew- embarrassing, but I was kind of proud of my efficiency.  It was definitely starting to feel like a really humid morning.   But, I’m happy thinking, ohhhhh it is going to be so lovely and hot during the rest of the day on the beach!  We go through this dark housing development street and there is something I spot in the middle of the road.  Honestly, I think it is like a dinosaur/dragon/relic from the past that is out to get me. It was weird the way it was so still and the shadow was laying on the ground, but it was like a dog shape almost, and the “body” curled upward very smooth and almost like it had a beak in the front. I just keep running thinking, this cannot be, I must be hallucinating, I think I’m with like ancient reptiles now, come on Sharon.  So, I veer as far to edge of road as I can and keep my eyes to the right to watch for sudden movement.  Nothing.  I get right parallel with it and see that it is this huge like “palm frond” that has fallen from a palm tree that was in the median strip and it was just waiting/ on its edge/ to be picked up for the trash!!! 

The turnaround was near the ferry to go to another island, wasn’t sure if we would go right to the beach at that area but I never saw it.  There were volunteers there that were telling us of the turnaround, but no cone, so I didn’t know if I had to run around them, high 5 them, if I was missing something! And no one was right there in front of me for me to copy, so I’m asking them, where is turnaround, and they are yelling back at me,  “anywhere”!! And I’m like, anywhere?  So, I just turn around.  Hmmmmmm… I ddin’t love that.  I kind of like an “exact” race course!

Anyway so I making my way back.  This would take me back to the ½ way point for the  marathon and then to repeat the same out and back a second time, if I could do it to complete the full.   I can feel my legs starting to become a bit fatigued, not bad, but just in the effort.  Frankly.. just normal. BUT. I also felt my hip.  Right after this turnaround, maybe ½ mile, I took one step and this huge searing, sharp pain went through the center of the joint.  My brain panicked with fear for my next step and I’m just waiting, with bug-eyes, I am sure…. And.. it was ok.  Apparently it was just that one step of weird stabbing sharpness and then fine again!  But, it then started to get tender and talking to me and tightening.  And tightening more, and more tender.  I have to go to the bathroom again at mile 8ish. Shoot.  Same thing, no port o pot, I go behind another tree /shrub and…. Just went super quick, then I’m worrying because it is dark, was I too quick, what if I have like, something ON ME. GROSE. So, then I ran annoyed for a few miles thinking, I just want to shower!!?!!  And, the whole time also sensing my hip and asking myself silly questions, of what to do.  I was obsessively thinking, “half marathon or full”  what should I do.   

I realized my hip is progressively feeling pain more and more.

I realized I will definately be walking some.  Not just hip, but my legs are feeling heavy now also, the beginning of dead, and I feel that the fatigue is making things worse for my hip.   My unpreparedness fitness-wise for this race was going to play right into my weakest link, which was my hip.  And my big worry is not the immediate pain of the day, but the days after, and the weeks and potentially MONTHS of added recovery time I may be creating for myself. 

I realize if I am walking a lot of this race, I am going to be repeating this road.  So, basically in the middle of nothing.  And…. That could be a long walk.  Also, contributing to my indecision, I wasn’t sure if my stomach was going to be smooth and cooled off or still irritatingly prone to need to “go offroad”, ahem.  And… if I was walking, I was fine with that, but… I kinda would have preferred to walk on the beach, on the sand, seeing the gorgeous colors of the water.  I had a feeling I may regret the hours trudging along on sidewalks, (while wanting to take a shower) and made the decision to try to stay decent strong for the rest of the ½ and then be done with the race and get to the beach!

I was a little bit disappointed, but also knew in the long run, my body is just not quite working as I want it to, and in no way is allowing me to be in control when it wants to teach me a lesson or two. 

Once I had this decision pretty much made up, I think it allowed me to have a slight physical pity party for myself and I slowed down, and then slowed more and more and then it ended the last 3 miles feeling very difficult, basically confirming my decision that this was not a day for a marathon for me.  I was really glad to be done when I was on my last mile.

I crossed the finish line, literally kept going to the table where my backpack was, grabbed it, ran into a port a pot where I delicately changed into my swimsuit, put my grose clothes in a tightly tied bag (to burn haha) and literally walked out, over the walk to the sand, dropped my backpack and was in the ocean.  From finish line to ocean, was probably under 2 minutes!! And… it was honestly glorious.  It was one of my favorite mornings at the ocean of my trip! 

I got to finish line a little before 7 and I remember looking at my watch while in the ridiculous turquoise waters at 7AM!  I had been up for over 4 hours, ran a half marathon by 7am and was in the water!  I literally played in this spot for over an hour.  All by myself!  I could not believe people were not finishing the race and coming over to the water to get in!!!  Of course most people wanted to go home and take a proper shower, but not me, I carry all my stuff since I was staying away from the very main part of the area.  It was ridiculously heaven.  This was the sunniest, hottest morning--- the other days and mornings, it rained about every 15 minutes, and so looking back, I was so lucky to have this time of literally gleeful play.  I knew it when I was there, and it doesn’t bother me a bit, but everytime I was in the ocean, I was like all by myself!  There was never a crowd of people! I am in this ridiculous heaven all by myself- where are the people??! And I am literally looking around, left to right looking at the water that my body is IMMERSED in thinking, I’m INSIDE of this!  I would be one of those people standing in a picture of clear, gorgeous, seaglass- turquoise-heavenly water.  Little me… in this heaven…. I was there, I still cannot believe.  What a dream come true.

 (me above not happy w/tuna on crackers before race)- after race right