Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tri, Tri Again!


I did it and it feels great! I completed the Danskin Sherox Triathlon on Sunday Sept. 13th. I know some of you are wondering what made me want to do it so I’ll give you a little backstory.

About 3 years ago my friend Rochell told me that she had done a triathlon. What made this so exciting was that she was not the person that I would have expected to tell me that. You know how you have some people in your life who you think are one way, but then they do something that makes you think twice? Well that was one of those moments. After I heard that she had done it I was really curious about the tri and I got to thinking about doing it. The triathlon that she did was the Danskin Tri and she told me that it was an all women’s tri. With that, I was hyped and I told her I would do it the next year.

I started telling other women I knew about the tri with the hope that they might join me and I got a few people to bite. A few of my friends signed up before I left for London with my band, but I needed to keep all my funds at that time to take with me. So I told them I sign up when I got back. Well when I got back from London I found out that the event registration was closed. I had no idea it would fill up so fast. So I was left to be a spectator. That year my friends Laura, Rochell and Anna did the race. It was a great day, but I was supposed to be in it with them.

Then last year I was sure I was going to do it. Laura had raised enough money the year before that she got a free pass to be in the 2008 race. So I had to do it especially since I had convinced her the first year she did it and then I couldn’t get in. Well as luck or no luck would have it I was late to register again so I couldn’t get in. A few weeks before the race, there was an orientation at Paragon Sports. Rochell called to say that I could sign up on the spot if I wanted to. Well I hadn’t trained for the race at that point so I knew I had no business trying to do it. It was also a crazy summer. I did a lot of traveling with the band etc. So last year was out.

This year Laura and I were on it. We were checking ahead of time to see when the window opened to register for the tri. At the exact time that registration opened we were on horn. Well online really. There were so many people hitting the server at once that it was hard to get onto the website at first, but soon we got on. We registered and we were in! Now the work begins. Laura was able to get a few of her co-workers to join us and Rochell was in as well. So we had a little crew.

Race Preparation
They say that you only have to train 10 weeks to do a sprint triathlon, but I had been out of the gym so long that I needed to start as soon as possible just getting my body used to working out. I remembered Hanifah and Olive telling me about this boot camp class that they were going to at the Y with this guy named Gary so I decided to give it a shot and a least jump start my body that way. It was indeed a good start. Gary was kicking our butts, but that’s what I needed.

At 10 weeks out I knew it was time to get out of the gym and hit the road. So I tuned up my bike and got ready to hit the road. Luckily my friend Regina was already out riding her bike so I had someone to ride with. She did not break me in easily. One of our very first rides we went to Coney Island. From where I live that about 20 miles there and back. I sometimes forget how close I am to the ocean.

I found a tri sprint training program online and tried to follow it to the letter. I really focused more on the endurance side of training as opposed to weights and stuff like that. I just wanted to make sure that I could get through the damn thing. I wanted to make sure I could do all the distances required in the race individually.

My training schedule did not go as smoothly as I would have liked. There were a few travel interruptions. I think the biggest was Michfest. I was able to run out there, but not swim or bike. Then when I got back from Michigan I was so beat down that I really needed a week to recover. It was a challenge to get back in the saddle, but I did it. Some days I would bike to the park and run it. Some days I would swim, come out and get on the treadmill. It was serious, but it felt good. In the beginning I didn’t think I was losing much weight, which is not why I did this, but you figure with all this working out something has got to happen. I just showed me how much my body has changed over the years. It’s cool, but I did take note.

In the week before the race I thought I knew what my weak link would be; the swim. That’s not because I’m not a solid swimmer. I was on the swim team in high school and a lifeguard, but just because I thought I had trained in the pool the least amount of time. I’m a runner. Well at least I was in high school and college and of all the things I’ve kept up as time when on it was running. I thought the bike would be okay. Wasn’t too worried there. I’m not the best biker in terms of strategy and my bike is kind of heavy, but I knew I wouldn’t have too much problem here.

The Day Before the Race
It turned out to be just Laura, her friend Carla and I in the race. Rochell had to drop out because she hurt her ankle and Laura’s other co-worker hadn’t really properly trained so she decided to volunteer this year. Since Rochell couldn’t come we borrowed her bike rack, which was a huge help.

The race is called the Danskin New York Metro, but it’s really in New Jersey; Sandy Hook to be exact at the Gateway National Recreation Area. It’s right at the beach. We left on Saturday and our friend Adrienne joined us so that she could come and cheer us on. It took a little while to get out of NY as it always does, but soon we were off.

The day before the race we had to go to orientation at Brookdale Community College to get our race packets and draw our numbers on, etc. Danskin also has a little expo so that you can purchase anything you may have forgotten or just if you want some more gear.

When we entered the schools arena we had to check in on a big board to see what our bib numbers were and what wave we were in. Then we went downstairs and waited on the line that corresponded with our number to get our race packet. I was number 1291. In the race packet there is a bib number, a folding self-adhesive number for your bike, your timing chip and ankle strap (to calculate your time), and a sticker for your bike helmet. You also get a swim cap that corresponds with the color of your heat. At the table there is a sheet to see what time your wave leaves the beach in the morning for the swim. My heat was at 7:40am.

Then we moved over to the line where we got our official Danskin Tri t-shirt and a few other goodies in a bag, but it’s really all about the t-shirt. We could have gone to get our chip activated after that, but instead we walked around the expo to shop a bit. I bought a Spibelt, which is kind of like a fanny pack, but it doesn’t sit on your fanny and it’s a lot more compact and cool if that is at all possible. Basically the Spibelt has a little zipper pocket that expands so fit your keys, cell phone, camera or anything like that and it sits close to your body so it’s not bouncing around. Also we were given two clips of sorts so we could wear our bib numbers on our belt instead of having to pin it to our shirts or in my case my tri-suit. So this was really helpful especially since my mother sent me on a mission of getting a few pictures of myself. So I figured I would run with my camera. I also bought a pair of yoga pants and a workout top.

After a bit of shopping we were ready to head out. We got our chips activated and then we drew our numbers on ourselves. We had to put our number in black marker down each arm and then write our age down the back or our right calf. After that was done we headed to the hotel.

After checking in, we dropped our stuff off and headed out for some food. In the spirit of carb loading before a race we went to Olive Garden. It wasn’t the greatest, but it filled the hole. After dinner we went back to the hotel and made a game plan for the next morning. We decided we needed to leave the hotel by 4:45am. That meant we needed to be down at the car to rack the bikes at 4:15am. It had taken us some time to rack the bikes leaving NY so we wanted to make sure we gave ourselves time. With that being the plan I new I had to get up at about 3:30am. So I needed to go to sleep ASAP, which was really a challenge. I’m a night owl so trying to go to bed at 10pm was a challenge. I don’t know what time I ended up really getting to sleep, but it wasn't before I saw Serena black out on the judge at the US Open. LOL! I gave myself some Reiki to settle down a bit and it worked.

Race Day
I woke up before the alarm. I always do that when I think I might over sleep. I opened my eyes at about 3:15am and just lay there. I had set my alarm on my phone and on the hotel clock just to be safe. When the cell went off I jumped up. I turned off the hotel alarm clock because I didn’t want to hear it as well. I took a shower the night before so that the morning I just brushed my teeth, got my stuff together and got dressed.

[Check the time y'all!]

I have to say that I was pretty proud of myself because I was ready to go at 4:05am. I waited around a little and then I called Laura at 4:10 to say that I was going to come get the car keys from her so that I could rack my bike. Turns out she was ready too so we headed to the car. We racked our bikes and then Laura went back inside to get Carla’s bike. We racked hers and then we headed back to our rooms to get the rest of our stuff. We met back at the car, loaded and when Laura looked at the clock to pull out of the lot it was exactly 4:45am. I love when a plan comes together.

[Bikes? Check!]

We headed to the park anticipating traffic, which never came. We just breezed on in. There was a little slow down when we got close to the parking area, but that was just because people were turning in. It was great! We got there, parked, took the bikes off the rack, gathered our stuff and Carla, Laura and I headed in. Adrienne stayed in the car to catch a couple more ZZz’s since she was only spectating.

We made our way to the transition area found a place to rack our bikes and set up. A transition area looks something like this. Basically right beside your bike you set everything up so that when you come out of the water there is no searching for sneakers, helmets, etc. You place your bike gear toward the front of your transition area and your run stuff behind it because that’s last thing you do.

[My morning game face.]

It was still dark at that point, but the sun was slowly coming up and the bay was coming into sight. There was so much wonderful energy. Some people came with a whole crew to cheer them on. Kids, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, moms, dads, friends it was just amazing!

[The People]

I was ready to go but now of course I had to go the bathroom. Turns out that before the race I had to go to the bathroom three times! That’s a lot, but the nerves finally kicked in. I was pretty calm, but that happens to me before I have to hit the stage as well. Someone once told me that nerves show that you care. Well I surely cared that morning.

[Let's Do This!]

When Laura and Carla got their stuff in order we all headed for the beach for the swim. The whole race began at 7am with the elite athletes. Laura’s heat was at 7:37am and Carla and I were at 7:40am.

The waiting, the waiting, the waiting…

We headed over a spot on the beach we could see the swimmers going out and also take a good look at the swim coarse. It didn’t look so bad. I calmed down a bit as we waited for our heat to be called. As the time got closer we headed over to where we would enter the beach in earnest to get ready to swim. Laura’s heat was first. She’s not a strong swimmer so she asked for a Water Angel. That is something that the Danskin races offer their racers who are not strong swimmers. Basically it’s someone who is on a surf board along side you so that if you feel like you can’t go further then you can stop, hang on to the board, catch your breath and keep going. Well that day there were either not enough water angels or they didn’t have them. Whatever the case they had to modify their approach with Laura. So while she working that out our heat was called to the beach.

On the beach I remembered watching a video that talked about getting out ahead of everyone else during the swim so that you don’t have to worry about having folks in front of you possibly kicking you. I remembered that, but I wasn’t brave enough to run out in front of everyone. So I made another plan. I thought I was stay on the side closes to the buoys so that A) I would be swimming a shorter distance than being farther way, sort of like running on the inside lane and B) I just thought that would be a good place to be as many people might want to be more in the middle of the pack or on the right side where there is more open space, but a longer swim. Well none of those things happened. Lol.

When I got in and got going I was sort of in the middle of the pack, which was challenging because you had to beware of the person in front on you. I learned a little trick to wear you goggles under your swim cap so that they won’t get kicked off and it worked. I did see someone out there who had lost their goggles.

The swim itself wasn’t bad, but the staying out of peoples way was a real challenge. It was challenging to find an open space. When I did I was able to get my rhythm. The only other challenge was swimming straight. I kept veering off so I had to look up and make sure I wasn’t way off course. By the time I made me way around and back to the shore I was so hyped. I thought that was going to be the hardest part for me. When I looked at my stopwatch I thought it said something like 11:45, which would have been an UNBELIEVABLE swim time for me, but as it turns out it was too good to be true. I think my watch really said 17:45 or something like that, but when you are looking quickly you see what you want to see. I’ll get to my real time later.

So I’m out of the water and run/walking to transition because I’m barefoot and the ground was full of rocks so I was being careful. As I came out to the road I saw Adrienne who took a picture of me. Then later down the road I saw Regina, Jeff, Josie and Dawoud who came to cheer us on as well. I stopped an posed for a photo because I was so glad to be out of the water. When I got to my bike I dried off and wiped down my feet. I put on my socks, sneakers and helmet and jumped on my bike. Carla was already there getting ready to ride. Even though she left after me for the bike ride I knew she would probably pass me because she more of a biker and her bike is a Cannondale and light as a feather almost literally.

On the first leg of the bike we had a tailwind. So it was a nice ride. I actually rode in a gear that I don’t usually so I knew that the adrenaline was pumping. About half was through the first leg of the ride Carla came racing by screaming “Go Shelley!” That was cool. I knew she would be by. I just kept on going. I wasn’t trying to out bike people, but I did pass a few folks, which the competitor is me was happy about. Lol. But coming back on the bike was tough because we had a head wind. Wow. I mean it felt totally different and I had to really work. On my way back I passed Laura on her first leg so I yelled “Go Laura!” to give her a little pick me up.

When I got to the end the bike route I was more relieved than tired, but when I got off the bike my legs were like rubber and I still had the run ahead. I racked my bike, took off my helmet, put on my race belt with my bib number, put on my Brooklyn visor (gotta represent) and headed out for the run. Carla was already gone, but I thought I might catch up to her because she had hurt her knee and was wearing a brace so I knew she wouldn’t be going too fast.

The transition between the bike and the run was the hardest part for me. I didn’t want to run, I just wanted to sit down and my butt was killing me! There is really something to be said for having a good bike seat. I took a couple sips of water and a small bite of banana that almost made me nauseous. I’m not a big fan of bananas but I felt like I should have something in my system. The banana almost took me out. Lol.

As I took off for the run my legs were burning. When it comes to sports a lot of it is mind over matter so I was really working it in that moment. I had a great boost when I ran by a volunteer who yelled out my number as I passed by with such jubilance. I felt like I had to keep going for her! In the run you have to make two loops before you head to the finish line. I wanted to pick up my pace along the way, but I didn’t want to kick to early and burn myself out before I could get to the finish. So I kept a pretty good pace. Eventually I did see Carla. I gave her a “Go Carla!” as I passed her by and just focused on the end game. One loop down, one to go. It was tough, but I made it around and then we came to a volunteer who said that there was only 200 yards to go. At that point the sprinter in me woke up and I started to kick. I could actually see the finish and I wanted to get there sooner than later. So I pushed. Before I knew it I was there! Someone put a medal in one hand and bottle of water in the other. Wow! I did it! Wow.


I looked up and saw Jeff and Regina followed by Adrienne all with cameras. So I stopped and posed a bit. Then gave them my camera to take a couple for my mother. I was just trying to catch my breath. I took a picture in front of the Danskin backdrop and then waited for Carla and Laura to come in.

Carla came first. She was spent, but looked great as well. I took a couple of photos of her and she also took a photo in front of the Danskin backdrop. We waited for Laura. In between time Carla saw some women she knew that were in the race. Not to long after we saw Laura coming to the finish. Carla ran out to greet her right after she crossed the line. After Laura caught her breath, we all took a pictures together for our peeps and then in front of the Danskin backdrop. It was amazing! Just amazing. Mission accomplished!

[Carla at the finish!]

[The Tri Crew. Laura, Me and Carla]

After chatting and mingling a bit we headed back to transition to get our stuff so that we could head out. It was time to eat! Regina and Josie had to head back to NY. Dawoud also had to head back to his place. So the lunch crew was Jeff, Adrienne, Laura, Carla, one of Carla’s friends, Laura’s co-worker Natalie and I. There were supposed to be a couple of Laura’s other friends but it took us so long to get to the spot that they had to leave. We ended up eating at a spot called Turning Point that was on the shore. It was part of a complex called Pier Village. I hate to say this, but I have never been the Jersey Shore in earnest. I mean I went to Atlantic City, but it was at night and in the winter. I went to cheer on Laura in her first tri, but we didn’t stay and hang. This time we didn’t really, really hang, but I got a chance to really see the beach and it’s really pretty. I mean it made you want to go to the beach. It was clean and nice.

[Jersey Shore]

We ate lunch finally, stopped at a chocolate spot and then a baker called Cake, Bake & Roll, which was amazing. Then we headed back to the car and home. A great day was had by all.

So here are my results. I did the swim (1/2 mile) in 18:10. That was 3 or 4 minutes better than in training! My transition time between the swim and the bike was 6:45. I did the bike ride (11 miles) in 39:54 with an average speed of 16.5mph. That's way faster than I bike at home. The transition between bike and run was 2:45. I did the run (3 miles) in 27:20. So my total race time was 1:34. I came in somewhere in the middle of the pack. I am very proud of myself, but the competitor in me says “You can do better!” So I will continue to work and I will do it again. On a side note, three months before the race my cholesterol was 171. For those of you who know, you know that's not good. After the race it had dropped to 114! My doctor was shocked. That's another great reason to keep doing what I'm doing.

I hope you will join me next time. I know, I know, you can’t swim, you don’t have a bike, your sneakers are jacked up. All of these things are excuses. When Laura decided to do her first tri she could not swim. Not only did she do the tri and just did another and now she even likes swimming. Lol. So I don’t want to hear it. You can do it!

I’m glad the Sporty Spice in me is getting a chance to come out again. Working out to get into that bikini or that little black dress doesn’t do it for me. That’s not enough motivation, but say that there is a race involved an I’m all over it. Yes ladies and gentlemen the woman that you see wearing heels and makeup at the show is really a tomboy. Meditate on that and I’ll see you next year.

[Yeah Baby!]