Here I am! At the FINISH of the OC Duathlon! Woo hoo. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I signed up for an Olympic distance race for my first event back in the multi-sport world. An Olympic distance is twice the distance as a sprint, and I can’t even remember that last time I have done this distance. But I’m happy I did because it motivated me to find time to get back on my bike. I had to get really creative to get some training miles in. I have a stationary bike in my yard, but it is SO BORING. I found a “spinning” app & forced myself to do 20 minute guided workouts while watching my baby play outside. I am lucky if I get a solid 20 minutes before I have to hop off to attend to one of her many needs (Kenzy, NO–don’t touch the spinning wheel on the bike baby girl!, Kenzy, NO–stop drinking from the dog bowl!). When originally looking for an app, I was hoping to find some kind of peaceful cycling video that would take me through different locations (ie a little Tour de France, up hills, etc), but instead I have someone named Kevin yelling at me to up my resistance & STAND UP as EDM/Deep House music blares in the background. Whatever works!
I also found time for several weekend morning rides & even biked to work one day last week. I always tell myself on this commute, “I will do this once a week!” and then never do it again for another year, but I was proud for not going into this race completely unprepared. My running continued as usual. Instead of going on long runs, multiple short runs became my new thing on days when I worked from home & had the ability to do it. It is so much easier to motivate myself for a couple (or 3 when I’m doing awesome) of 20 minute runs–and less chance that the dog or the baby will have a meltdown.
The Olympic distance duathlon (I’m not ready for a third sport yet–swimming–who do you think I am, Serena Williams over here?) consisted of 2k run (a little over a mile), 40k bike (24 or so miles) & 10k run (6.2 miles). I had done this triathlon years ago, so I knew it was a hilly one. When not trying to be uber- competitive, I love hills. When my goal is “let’s finish,” hills keep my mind busy. As beautiful as a flat beach ride/run is, I get so bored. This course is awesome in that regard. The duathletes start the same time as the first swimmers, which meant after the quick run I was on the bike WAY BEFORE I normally would be after the swim. The swimmers go in waves, so I sometimes have to wait 30min-1 hour after the first swimmers to even begin the race. Heading out on the bike that early meant a relatively quiet course. I also hoped spectators thought I was really as fast as those elite males!
The longest ride I had been on had been the Thursday before–10 or so miles to work & then the same back home. So I can’t say I was properly trained, especially since all my training out by the coast is completely flat. But I had researched where the major hills were, so it helped being mentally prepared to tell myself when these sections were & when they would be done. Usually I am passed on the hills, but since I started so early, I was often completely alone on the bike course. Instead of feeling slow, I really was able to enjoy the views (horses!), the smells (manure!), etc. On the downhills, I was convinced I was in tip-top shape, everything is so EASY & I am a speed demon. On the uphills, I barely managed 6mph–any slower and there would be a risk of me just rolling back down the hill.
Onto the run. This run is amazing in that it is almost ALL trail run. And not even the same trail–you cross a street & suddenly you’re on a new one. So it is pretty & has some nice shade, which is good in triathlons. As the 3rd event, the run can often happens when it is really starting to heat up. 80 degrees is not my ideal running temp, but again–since I had an early start, I was so grateful for the areas that were still shady and not in the 90s yet. The start of the run is not pretty. There are tons of thoughts running through my mind. They sound something like this: “Ouch? What is wrong with my toe? I think it fell off. I think my third toe has fallen off, but it seems pretty tight in my shoe. I will look at it after the race. 6 miles huh? I wonder if I can just get a ride back home from here? I haven’t run 6 miles since way before pregnancy days. What was I thinking?” I take it one mile at a time. Each mile has a theme. The first is, “Take the first mile to get over that bike ride.” My breath is labored, my legs hurt and the first mile is a chance to shake all of that off & get into a groove. It’s a slow groove, but I’m aiming for an average of 10 minute miles.
After the first mile, the weirdness from the bike wears off & my mile 2 theme is “Focus on breath.” I try to get into a rhythm, and tell myself things like, “Pretend I just hopped on this trail for a fun run!” These things I tell myself are never believable. No matter what I say, I am not speeding up or suddenly developing a pep in my step. But I am making progress. Mile 1 and 2 are relatively flat, so I don’t walk. I know I will be walking once the hills hit. And mile 3–there they are. Hills. First they are short and steep. Then they are longer. My pace slows, but I figure I can make up time in mile 4. I walk up the hills because I’m in no hurry. I don’t really have any terrible cramps or any reasoning as to why I can’t at least shuffle-jog, but I do it so I won’t be dead in mile 5. Preventative walking.
We hit mile 4, and I think I’m home free until some fast guy runs past & says, “Here’s where the fun begins!” I knew right away there was no fun to be had. We turned a corner to see a ridiculously long, shade-less, steep hill that must have been a joke the organizers thought of to entertain themselves. And to top it off, they put a race photographer at the top of the hill! Yes, please, I want a photo of myself walking slowly and painfully up a hill. Make it to the end is my goal, and this is a great goal to have. It completely frees you of disappointment and guilt at going slow. Instead, I’m spending time thanking every single volunteer and making jokes to those spectators that think saying “this is the last hill” when it’s not is somehow an OK thing to do. I am talking way too much to be giving it my all, but hey–I’m still here & moving forward!
The steep hills fade away–there is even some downhill to get myself going at a decent pace again. Mile 5 is FINALLY within sight & my time of 3 hours or less is do-able. I even semi-sprint to the finish in 2:59. I am SO SO happy. I am happy to be back in the sport. I am happy to be surrounded by people as crazy as myself, who enjoy the torture, challenge & outdoor nature of endurance sports. I am happy to be exhausted, to have burned enough calories for 4 normal workouts. I am happy I have done this after having a baby–now a 1 yr old! I am happy for the short chats with people–the words of encouragement from the women that passed me (the women always encourage each other, it’s awesome!), the jokes before the race when we’re happy and nervous, the complaints voiced about those hills as we pack up our race bags & head back to our cars. I’m happy for all the sun, for the opportunity to be outside, for my health at even being able to do this, for the 3 hours of peace. I am shocked to get a 3rd place medal in my division–another benefit of doing the less-popular duathlon option.
There is nothing like a race to get you into training mode again. Finally, my bike is not some weird foreign object stored on a wall in the house. Finally, my race clothes sort of fit if I really suck in–luckily spandex is known for that obnoxious tightness! Forget those people that say you’ll bounce back from childbirth in a year or less. I’m more of a SLOW and steady type. I have barely recovered from the trauma of having Mariah Carey played at the hospital while a baby was being ripped out of my insides, much less come to terms with the hormonal shifts, changes with my body, and oh…having a little one to be responsible for every minute of every day! I have felt immense relief in every moment in which I feel more in touch with who I am again. These moments happen when I’m in motion/working out/being outside & also when I’m laughing with my baby, who is the most joyful little bundle of fun I’ve ever met. To new moms (or anyone) out there, all the workout advice I can offer is: be easy on yourself. Drown out the outside noise. Every moment you are active is a celebration, no matter how slow or challenging.