Monday, August 8, 2011

Swimming like a cat, riding like the wind, and running UP a Dam Road

I think I must have been a cat in a former life.  Ok, so I don't actually believe in reincarnation, but really my aquatic skills are quite feline in nature.  It seems that no matter how much I try, no matter how many laps I swim, no matter how much I channel my inner Michael Phelps, I just plain stink at swimming!!  Tri for the Cure was yesterday and in case you didn't pick up on it, I am not too happy with the way the swim portion went.  But overall it was a great race.  Here is a breakdown of Tri for the Cure 2011!

All set up and ready to go!
Pre-race I was assigned a swim start time of 8:00 sharp so of course I set my alarm for 4 in the morning.  Seems a bit ridiculous, right?  But here is the thing about Tri for the Cure.  It is the largest Sprint Tri in the nation.  Over 3000 women sign up to race which means one thing: parking is an absolute nightmare.  You better get there early or you're schlepping your gear for a couple of miles.  So I pulled into a primo parking spot around 5am and made my way to transition.  I set up my area, got my tires fully inflated, and checked out the course.  Then I waited for 2 and half hours.

Racing for a reason this year:  Each year participants can race in memory of or in celebration of someone who has battled breast cancer.  I was honored enough to race in celebration of Sheryl Dahm.  Sheryl is a mentor mom at my MOPS group.  I have been inspired by her and her story of battling (and beating!) breast cancer.  She is an awesome lady who is always there to give the moms in our group a smile, a word of encouragement and wisdom, a prayer, and a shoulder to lean on.  I am so grateful for Sheryl and so happy she let me race in her honor!

Swim (Goal time: under 20):  Finally around 7:45 I made my way down to all the other blue caps in my wave and began the nerve racking process of waiting for the swim start.  I began my internal pep talk, "Ok, Katie you can do this.  You have been practicing!  You can can swim front crawl, you can sight, you can open water swim.  You have this in the bag!  This year you are putting your head in the water.  No breast stroke!  Great form!"  I should not become a motivational speaker because as the bullhorn sounded I panicked.  The swim start was chaos.  The water was choppy, arms and legs were flying in all directions, and the sun was directly in my eyes!  I couldn't see, I couldn't swim, I couldn't breath.  All of my hard work and what did I do????  I swam breast stroke with my head out of the water just praying I could hold it together for 750 meters.

Disappointment washed over me and I just wanted to swim back to shore, grab my stuff, and go.  Not only was I going to be slower, I was also going to be exhausted from this.  Good form is important for speed but it is even more important for efficiency.  When you swim you should look like this -- not this /.  Looking like this / means you are dragging your body through the water instead of gliding on top of it.  When I finally reached the shore I was so relieved because I knew I could not swim another stroke.  I ran to the finish mat tired but glad that I survived.  Surprisingly, I was still 3 minutes faster than last year and (barely) made my goal time for the swim. (Actual time: 19:31, Rank: 1104/2411)

T1:   I have already mentioned that in a race of this size parking is a problem.  Another problem is the massive size of the transition area.  Transition is a part of your total race time so you want a spot that is close to the start and finish lines of all three events.  The elite group is assigned a spot right next to all three starts.  I was assigned a spot in Kansas.  Needless to say, my transition times were slow (almost 8 and a half minutes!!).

Bike (Goal time under 40 min):  I was a rock star on my bike.  Yeah, that's right, I am going to brag a bit.  Please feel free to skip this if you don't want to read about  how awesome I am (just kidding).  I might suck at swimming, I might be average at running, but I can go all Lance Armstrong on my bike.  Ok, I am not that good but cycling is definitely my thing.  I blame it on my mannish thigh muscles.  I only got totally passed once (played leap frog a few times with 3 ladies and ultimately passed them).  Although, I must mention that the elite and competitive groups had long since finished the race by the time I started.   Overall, I was very thrilled with my cycling portion and it almost made up for the heinous swim.  (Actual time: 36:08  Rank: 115/2411)

T2:   See complaints from T1

This is the evil time chip
Run (Goal time: under 30min):  Running is hard to do after swimming and cycling.  Running up a hill (that lasts for a mile and a half) is super tough.  I started out kinda slow and picked it up a bit when I got to Dam Road.  The run was pretty good except for one little thing.  Half way through the bike I realized that my timing chip was starting to dig into my ankle.  At the start of the run I really noticed it and by the end I was in excruciating pain.  I thought of a review of Running on Empty where it talked about Marshall Ulrich running across America when he had a foot problem.  He told himself that his foot did not belong to him and he kept running just ignoring the pain.  So I tried that and discovered that I am not Marshall Ulrich.  That foot still belonged to me and it was pissed off.  By the time I got my chip cut off, I had a bloody mess on my ankle.  Oh the poor volunteer who had to cut it off!  Partially severed foot aside, it was a decent run and five and a half minutes faster than last year. (Actual time:29:15  Rank: 482/2411)

Overall (Goal: Under 1:30:00):  It is hard for me to not be disappointed with this race because of the swim.  But I need to look past that and realize that overall I did a good job.  Swimming isn't my thing, but that doesn't mean I am going to hang up the goggles.  I will keep working on it until I can describe my swim as "good" instead of "avoided death." (Actual Time: 1:33:18  Rank 350/2411)

I do love Tri for the Cure!  This is where my love for (or obsession with) triathlons and racing in general was born. I love the atmosphere, the organization, and you can not help but be inspired when that group of cancer survivors starts their swim (there was even an 84 year old survivor who raced!).  It is a great race for a great cause and I was so happy to be a part of it again this year.

P.S.  I missed you Audrey!


  1. Maybe a mother should not hear about the bloody mess of an ankle. You did a fantastic job overall. You improved over last year and you are still determined to continue to grow - that sounds like success to me. The swimming is a beast you will conquer at some point. You go!

  2. As usual, I am super impressed! Way to go!! And I LOVE that you did it in honor of Sheryl!! I'm sure she is honored and proud of your accomplishment in her name!

  3. I missed doing it was the first time in 6 years I wasn't there! Great job year I'll be running!