Monday, July 15, 2013

Steelman OWS 5k, or why I can't walk down to my mailbox today

Can you see ALL the buoys? No, no you can't. Cuz it's too damn big.
 I'm hurting today y'all.

That was a LOT harder than I thought it would be. 

My right thigh is locked up. Won't move. 

The back of my neck, "sight" muscles- burnt to a crisp. 

Massive headache. 

Some other, non-fun stuff (wearing the same bathing suit for 10 hours? [because we had a kids' pool party directly afterwards] *NOT* recommended.)

Why do I do this again? 
pre-race. Scurred.

Quick & Dirty Recap / Blog post titles I composed in my mind while 
1-2-3 stroking for the 2+ hours it took me to complete my 5k: 

  • "Why I'm not a racer" [answer: because I am slow and my muscles don't care to go faster. Just. always. finishing. never racing! Am I starting to get frustrated at this??]
  • "So I thought I was a swimmer..." [seeing the 40-something-year-old ladies with arms bigger than my thighs - but cut like a steel pipe - really put this crowd in perspective]
  • "Letting the fear take hold" [because I spent the entire second loop asking the kayak-ers if they were going to pull me out because I timed out, or if I was last] [they all said no.]
  • "Why racing with men sucks." [because they are all agro and sh**]
  • "You can't call it a taper if that's your normal training week" [maybe not 200+ miles of driving and 2 parties post-race to prepare for in the same week of your race]
  • "DND - or Did Not Drown - Did not finish last - #winning"

Slow & Painful Recap
(but probably not as slow as my swim was yesterday)

I must admit I did not train much for this. I've said many times, I could swim all day. I really do love to swim. But as with most things I love, I tend to forcefully intensify said love beyond the brink.

I'm so good at taking things too far. I really wish it was a gainfully employable career path.

The most I swam in preparation for this 3.1 mile swim was about 1.5 miles, twice. I also swam a couple of 1 mile practice swims, and in the past, I have swum up to 2 miles at a stretch with no problem.

But those were all in the pool. 

I have swum this particular lake for all of my triathlons post-babies, and know it very well.

But not that far out into the middle of the lake, when, say, a current was a blowin'.

So they gave us a triangular route and each leg was approximately .5 miles - one was a little less, one was a little more, and 2 loops would end up equaling 3.1 miles. They started us at 9 am in 5 minute waves - starting with the 3.1 men, the 3.1 women, then 1.5 men, 1.5 women, and relay teams.
From Steelman athlete note.
They gave the 3.1-ers an option to take a breather half-way through with a little refreshment table set up around the start/finish line. As I rounded around the half-way point, I saw a couple of guys in the wave ahead of me stopping to do so. And I just couldn't. I knew if I stopped, I might not get back in. And I knew I was leading the back of the pack, and I didn't want to keep the race director waiting in his car, packed up and trying to head home.

This is also my biggest fear for my half-iron in September. I imagine myself picking up the trash with the organizers so that they don't hate me for making them keep the finish mat plugged in.

Anyhoo, the first leg I felt good. I was staying with my wave, and yet letting them kick ahead of me. I like to have a little space around me.

Before I got to the first .5 buoy I was starting to be passed by the 1.5 male racers. Stupid men. They are like effin ZOMBIES! I hate them. They start to crawl up on your legs like they are going to eat them but you start to kick your feet at them faster so they actually see you and they back off but then hover along side you like they are going to eat your brain instead. You see their mindless faces breathe on you as they pass by. Gross. To quote Dirty Dancing:
"This is my dance space. This is your dance space. I don't go into yours, you don't go into mine."
Let me clarify my prejudice was proven before the end of my second side of my triangle, when the 1.5 female racers started to pass me, and I did not get bit or mindlessly breathed on. I can't wait for IronGirl Columbia next month with my tri sisters.

I was checking my time and I hit the first two sides in 22 minutes and the next, 20 minutes. Not great, not even good, actually, but this was:
a) open water and
b) more crowded than I thought it would be and
c) I was in it for the long haul. Just keep swimming.
"If you do the first 1.5 in 60 minutes you can still finish the whole thing in 2 hours," I said to myself.
The third side was a little marred by reeds. The race director warned us there would be 'a little.' I would say there was a little more than a little, but my brain was already wandering by this point so I started imagining I was in Harry Potter's world and if I just had some gillyweed I would be golden.

The disorientation did rear its ugly head towards the end of this first loop, but I reminded myself I had only swum a mile and change, and that is usually a piece of cake for me. Stay focused, sight the dock, finish 1.5 then pull yourself together.

The sighting on the second loop was the most disconcerting. I did not plan/train for this, and it's why the point in between my two shoulder blades up to the base of my skull feels like a concrete sidewalk that's been broken up with a jackhammer and left to bake in the sun. There were not as many buoys as I remember, and I suppose that's because it was just feeling longer in between them. There were also 1/3 of the racers, so I didn't have other swimmers to sight on the sides of me and I felt incredibly alone. At first I enjoyed it! I wanted the lake all to myself. I wanted to imagine that I was just on a lovely morning swim with ten of my favorite kayakers at the ready to give me a lift should I get tired.

But then I started to be afraid the race was over. My mind was really playing tricks on me. The wind picked up and the current was against me. Before the first .5 was over I asked one of the kayakers if I was last. She laughed and said,
"No. Plenty of people behind you."
I'm pretty sure she was lying but at least she wouldn't be mad at me for keeping her out here so long.

I rounded the first point on the triangle and it took me 27 minutes. I knew this for a fact because I had passed the halfway point at exactly 1 hour and 0 seconds. I thought that was incredibly helpful, even if slow.

27 minutes versus 22 minutes was the difference the current made. And a little bit of fatigue, but I typically speed up during a swim so I was pretty sure it was the current.

My thighs are starting to spasm as I type. Funny. They don't like this story.

On my second leg in my second loop I think I asked three more kayakers if I was last, and if they were going to pull us out because the race was over. I tried to make it 'ha-ha' funny but it came off as 'scared', I guess, because they all offered to let me hang on their kayaks for a breather [one even made sure I knew it was legal.] I did not want a breather. I wanted to not be last! I shook them all off and went about my swim.

As I rounded the last point on the triangle and headed home I started to sprint. This is when I take these huge shoulders of mine and burn them into the water. I know this pattern well. I scoop the water with my arms like an excavator and let my legs almost go limp. I pull myself to the finish line with nothing but chest and shoulders.

But my arms didn't go. They just continued their up and flap down onto the water like two whale fins on a ride around the bay.

So I called on my thighs, my massive thighs, to kick it up a notch and burn my arms into the finish line.

But my thighs didn't go. They just swiveled and swished, and did their little kicks like they've been doing for an hour and forty five minutes. No one wanted to work with me. No one wanted me to beat the 50 year old woman in front of me.

So I just swam in, and I stopped my timer. I made it before the awards ceremony started, which was my goal.

I picked up my towel, bag, and flip flops, which were just sitting in a nice spot by the lake. No one in this crowd was there, in the middle of a state park at 11 am on a Sunday, to steal my stuff. To find my car key and walk around the parking lot to steal my car. Which, incidentally, had my bike racked on it without a lock in case I had to bike to the start line from another parking lot. No one was there to steal that either.

I love tri people.

In fact, at the start, two women were talking about the fact that it was one of their birthdays, and I chatted with them a bit. I gave her a birthday hug and told her it was more for me because I was so nervous. She laughed about it being my first time, and said, "it is a long swim." But this year she was turning 60, and  'moving up an age group', so that meant: 'she was YOUNG again!' I thought that was a fantastic emotion.

I guess this is what keeps me going back.

I am proud of my endurance level, my fitness level, my accomplishment.

But my training, well, yea, gotta work on that...

Post-race. Ready to start my mommy day.


  1. Yay for you Ashley! I am super impressed. I recently started swimming again. Until two months ago, the last time I did laps was with you! I love hearing about your accomplishments! Thanks for the inspiration. --Lindsey Brown

    1. Oh my gosh how funny! Yes seeing how the ladies there made me feel like I was back at a swim meet. I think it is such a fantastic mommy workout - peace & quiet - whole body - less pressure on the joints! :) XOXO

  2. You are the Bomb! You're braver than I would ever be to tackle that. Great job on the finish (and not being last-lol)!!

  3. Well done! and Good luck with your half iron man, I would love to do one of those one day! I am going to follow your blog so I can see how you get on.x

    1. Right back at you! Yes I hope to do a half-iron some day, too... ;) hopefully it's september 8th, if I don't chicken out!!

  4. Awesome job, I definitely couldn't have done that. And I know I would have been the same and wouldn't have been able to stop part way through for a breather--I never would have gotten back in. You are incredible, trained or not-so-trained this is a huge accomplishment!

    1. Thanks yes the results just came out and I wasn't even last in my age group! LOL. There's my win.


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