I do it, and I do it big. Here's to not forgetting about it.

Posts tagged ‘Half-Ironman’

Permission Granted

Every Triathlete Ever: OMG, it’s so hard; this is so much work. I’m miserable right now. You should totally do this. It’s great.

Um, what?

I can’t be the only person who has noticed this. When E.T.E. is asked why I should, like, totally do this (this being sign up for X or Y race), typically the response involves his or her addiction to racing. “I just love it, Joan.” Of course, having chosen to do it more than once, I’ve experienced the thoughtfulness of E.T.E. as I panic and question my decision. However, not one of them warned me of what would happen after my first half-ironman.

The afterglow.

Don’t misunderstand. Any fool could reason that life after a big event would feel calmer. I knew my training load would be lighter, despite having two races left in my season. Time in the pool and on the road feels easier now that I’ve experienced what I can accomplish when I put my mind to it. What I was NOT expecting was to be a more forgiving person in the classroom.

I realize that things probably should feel different for me this year, in that I’m no longer quite a rookie at work. I am noticing drastic changes for the better. The way I talk to my students is different. I am much more calm in general, and it takes a lot more for me to become upset by anything that happens at work, really. I had thought that I was already judicious with choosing my battles, but now I am seeing that some situations aren’t even battles. When a student is flipping out about playing a. stupid. note, I handle it much more sensitively.

I must admit that I feel more than a little foolish about this change. I am an experienced musician and have no shortage of empathy for my students as they deal with performance anxiety. Why, then, have I been such a (relative) bitch to them in years previous? I believe the reason is twofold:

1. I have had the opportunity to see their growth despite my imperfection.

One of the many reasons I love being a specialist is that I am privileged to work with my students for several years. There are times I have looked through and executed my lesson plans and thought to myself – shit. Did I teach anyone anything? Now I am able to see students who used to look at me like I have two heads use musical terms with ease and play confidently. Children who once were completely unenthused about playing by themselves eagerly raise their hand to show me what they can do. While I don’t take all the credit, I think it’s fair for me to take some when what they do is pretty solid. They quote things that I have said that make it seem like they have paid attention to me throughout the years despite all the errors I’ve made along the way.

2. I have had the opportunity to see my growth despite my imperfection.

From the department of the bleeding obvious – I’ve always been imperfect. I’ve always made progress nonetheless. However, I have been a musician for so long that the process has often taken place without my being aware of it. The difference between the person who starts something at 4 and the one who starts something at 27 is stark. Only a complete dumbass My head would have to be buried under the sand for me not to be aware of the risks I’ve taken in the last 22 months; I’ve signed more “if you die it’s your own damn fault” waivers than I can count.

It took me 7:35:58 to finish 70.3 miles. Were there things that could have gone better? Of course. Did I do my absolute best? Totes. Are most people faster than I am? Am I black? I know I have a lot of room to grow, not because I’m black and therefore inherently meant to participate in endurance sports but because I know my best can get better. I’m giving myself permission to enjoy where I am right now, despite all of my flaws.

How gracious of me to allow myself to be human, whether I’m in the classroom, on the race course, or anywhere else. I’m welcome.

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Seventy Point Glee! Race Report

The Swim

Man, was I thankful that I didn’t have to jump into the water. That’s some gangsta ish. That’s not how I roll. I sat on the dock and slid myself into the water. The girls went ahead of me but I just hung on to the dock. I was determined to go my own pace and I wanted to wait until I heard the horn.

My pace for the swim? 120 BPM.

After the horn, I turned on my mental playlist to John Philip Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever. March tempo the whole way, baby. I know I can maintain that tempo comfortably. Oh, hey water in my left eye. Wasn’t expecting that. “I’ll be okay! I can see – where’s the first buoy?” I looked under the water and saw some creepy mossy looking business. Note to self – close eyes under the water. Blech. Oh, hi buoy! I settled into my rhythm and started chanting to myself. “Don’t forget to kick. Don’t forget to kick. I’m not scared. I’m not alone. Who’s not scared? Joan’s not scared. Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. Stroke.”

The water felt absolutely wonderful. I must admit – another reason I close my eyes under the water is because as I breathe on my right side and return my face to the water, I see the bubbles caused by my right hand and freak out a little. “What the hell is that?! It’s your hand, Joan. Chill out.” 🙂 The best part about closing my eyes is that my other senses heighten. There are not words that accurately describe how much I delight in the sound of my arm hitting the water. The depth reminds me of a bass drum. You know how a sista can’t get enough of that bass, riiiiiiggght?

The buoys changed color from yellow to orange. Progress! I started to hear people shouting. Tee hee. Maybe one of them is my Mom! I started to listen for “Go Jo!” Nope. Keep swimming. I saw some people standing on a dock and I swam that way. They pointed me around a corner. “Oh good! Not sure how I would get out of there.” Whoa. The first leg is done.

The Bike

In transition, I threw on my bike shorts over my tri shorts. You know – tryna protect mah girl for the 1% chance I become a mother to more than cats. As I turned onto the main road out of T1, there was a bit of an incline. “First hill! Nailed it!” I giggled.

If you don’t already know, Red Rocket and my relationship is just beginning to become less tenuous. Just to illustrate, in my last training rides before the race, I was excited to be able to signal turns. I can take my hand off the handlebars for more than a split second now! Smashing! What I’m saying here is that hydrating/getting nutrition while still riding is still out of the question for me at this point. I made a plan to stop every 30 minutes to drink and eat and not take more than a minute to do so. My first stop was uneventful. Sweet.

As I kept riding, I was feeling more confident. I took my right hand off of the handlebars and touched the water bottle. “Ermahgerd could this happen today?! Could today be the day that I drink and ride?!” Then I heard the voices of both Coachie and The Mentor in my head. “Nothing new on race day!” Come on. Could that really apply to drinking a little water on mah ride? I touched the water bottle again. I got a grip on it and pulled. It was free! I held it triumphantly – and quickly realized I wasn’t woman enough to try drinking from it now that I had it free. It was almost time for a scheduled stop, anyhow, so I pulled over to put it back. I always clip out with my left first and lean that way to get back on the ground. Aaaaand Red Rocket wanted to go to the right. “Shit. SHIT. SHIT!!!!” But I unclipped righty in time. A passing rider asked if I was okay. “I’m cool!” I replied. Thanks to my p***y like reflexes, anyhow. Moving on as originally planned – stop to hydrate. 🙂

Having those stops planned proved to be very helpful mentally. “I don’t have to ride for four hours. I just have to ride for 30 minutes – 8 times on a row. I can do that.” A couple of those 8 rides were REALLY hard. I was so thankful that my longtime friend had given me a heads up about this big ass downhill. He said that he saw people freak out and break going down and not have the momentum to get back up again. Suddenly, I felt myself going down faster than ever. I didn’t look down at my Garmin because I knew I would see a number that would make me freak. I pedaled through and shifted down like a boss. Then the equally big ass uphill came. I checked the Garmin. 6 mph, it read. If I weren’t breathing so hard I would have laughed. But I made it up the hill! The last aid station was just ahead. A man said that the worst was behind me. “You promise?! Don’t lie to me!” I said. “I promise!” He smiled.

I talked to God a lot on this ride. I sang myself songs. I said my personal chant to myself. “Pedal pretty! Pedal pretty!” I remembered to push and pull and listened to the sounds of the revolutions. Revolutionary, indeed. I found myself glad I was clipped in. Red Rocket and I bonded a lot. I’m not going to say I wasn’t glad to see the “Welcome to Georgia” sign indicating my ride was almost over but I wasn’t dead. Good thing – my run awaits.

The Run

After grabbing my CamelBak and changing shoes, I started to run. 5/1. Let’s do this. I felt good – at first. I was on the same 30 minute plan I had been on as I rode – nutritionally, anyhow. I can walk and drink like a freaking BEAST. Tee hee. After a mile or so I started to feel super drained. Then I looked down and realized I hadn’t taken off my cycling shorts in transition. Whoops! “That’s okay,” I thought to myself. “That’s not enough to stop me from finishing.”

I had seen some of the amazing group cheering for me as I ran. I smiled and exchanged some high fives. After I passed them, I thought, “Hmm. I’ll probably see them again. Maybe I could give them my shorts. Nah. I can finish with the shorts on.”

My pace got slower. And slower. Aaaaand slower. I passed the 3 mile mark and started thinking. “You know what? 60.2 is nothing to be ashamed of.” The two lap half-marathon was a bit of a tease, in that you see people headed toward the finish as you are on lap one. Some dude passed me and was like, “We can totally do this for twenty more minutes. Let’s go!” I grinned and said nothing – not because I was ashamed of being on lap one but I didn’t feel like hearing what was sure to be a patronizing response.

I saw the group again and stopped. “I left on my cycling shorts! Take them please!” I heard some dude shout, “Put your clothes back on!” Some chick passing said, “I’ve never seen anything like that. That. Is. Awesome.” I grinned and continued. I felt 20 pounds lighter and my pace picked up again. Rock on.

After about mile 4, some chick rolled up next to me. “How fast are we going?” My Garmin read about a 12 minute mile. We ran together for a bit and she asked if I minded if she stayed with me. “Nope!” I told her my 5/1 plan and she said that’s what she had been doing as well.

As we ran, I learned that this was also her first 70.3. Moreover, she also normally trains alone like Lady J and is a teacher like Lady J – an art teacher, even! Specialist triathletes unite! God sent me a kindred spirit for the last 10.1 – and man, did she help me. Yes, I still had to control what was going on in my own head. The rhythm of my chants helped for reals. Lady J can’t lie though, y’all. There isn’t anything in the world like leaning on someone and allowing her to lean on you. Some of those 5 minute intervals became more like 4/2. 3/3. It was getting done, nonetheless. After mile 12, we started strategizing our finish line pose. I would jump left, she would jump right. Amazing.

7 hours, 35 minutes and 58 seconds. I ain’t mad. And you know what? I could do that again. With the same help, of course. Thanks again, Lord!

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Seventy Point Free: Pre-Race Report, Part II

Like many active people, I wear a Road ID. You know, the “if I collapse before the finish line, call…” bracelet. On it, I have a line from one of my favorite Bible verses: “Run with perseverance.” It’s funny what can happen when you see something frequently. I can look down at the bracelet as I am training and think to myself, “that says run with perseverance.” Then I go back to hating what I am doing, or wishing I hadn’t committed to doing whatever race is coming so I can stop in the middle of my workout. As the weeks before my race turned into days, I started to reflect upon why I had chosen that phrase to be on my bracelet. I would go to the Bible and study the verses –

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (‭Hebrews‬ ‭12‬:‭1-2‬ NIV) (emphasis mine)

The writer of Hebrews continues –

Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (‭Hebrews‬ ‭12‬:‭3-4‬ NIV) (emphasis mine)

When I arrived in Augusta, the hype was high. Because I am a head case, I cannot feel support from others without simultaneously feeling pressure. “Oh, man. All these people believe in me. If I don’t finish for some reason, I’m not just letting myself down. I’m letting all these people down, too!” Truth be told, I was already planning my next move if I didn’t finish. “Well, I’m signed up for an Olympic in November. I can just upgrade to the half-iron distance then.” Well, what if I don’t finish THAT? Oh, dear.

This pressure support was around to remind me to think positively. “You WILL do well. You WILL finish. You have trained enough. You’ve earned it.” While I think that focusing on the positive is absolutely necessary for sanity, I believe it’s also important to be real. Here is what is real:

1. While I have swum, biked, and run the full distances, I’ve never done them consecutively. I do not know what my body will do.

2. I do not know what the weather will do.

3. I do not know what Red Rocket will do. If she does anything other than move forward when I pedal, I won’t know what the hell to do with her.

There are a million things that could happen on race day. I have absolutely no control over the vast majority of them.

How liberating.

I stop to consider Jesus. Indeed, I have not resisted anything to the point of shedding blood. My charge is to run free – free from the things I cannot control. I cannot allow what may lie ahead to entangle what is immediately before me. This may sound strange, but knowing that there is no guarantee of my finishing helps me to race more freely. I am not guaranteed even one more stroke in the water, an additional hill, or one last step. My race is marked out before me, and it’s my job to get there because – while I don’t know that I can, I also don’t know that I cannot. God knows what lies ahead and is with me. I’m still living and therefore must press forward.

This medal would be pretty neat, but the most important battle is already won. Because of Him, I can run free.

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Seventy Point Whee: Pre-Race Report, Part I

In stark contrast with my previous experiences, the hours leading up to the race were super enjoyable. I understand why all you people insist that being around one another is wonderful. Quite frankly, it can be a helpful distraction from nerves. However – many of the same people were at St. Anthony’s and I remember purposely hiding behind a tree at one point trying to avoid people. Either I am getting more comfortable with racing in general, getting more comfortable with people in general, getting more comfortable with these people specifically, or a combination of all three.

And it is absolutely wonderful.

If you know me at all, it is very easy to tell when I’m uncomfortable. Where my comfort ends, my jokes end. Even inside my own head I cannot make myself laugh, which is absolutely tragic. While next to Red in transition, I found myself laughing, coming up with Facebook statuses and memes for later, and just being happy. Yes, I was focused on what I came there to do, but I didn’t feel the need to shut everyone out to do it.

I am pleased that I am now in a place where I feel I am not dead weight among my triathlete friends. I understand that I probably never was, but it is nice to feel that I am becoming grounded enough to share the smile, hug, or joke that a fellow athlete might need to help get them through the day. I suppose that’s usually how it works, though. My circumstances haven’t really changed. I’m only becoming slightly less hard-headed and realizing what amazing people I have around me.

Guess I’m not such a tribaby anymore.

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Seventy Point Tee Hee: Official Statement

I was wrong about something and I’d like to admit it in a public forum.

Racing for 70.3 miles IS harder than 45 minutes of teaching Kindergarten. Even harder than the class with the kid whose mom forgot to give him his medicine.

I may have more to say about the race later. No promises.

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Shoutout Series: Seventy Point Brie

I feel kinda cheesy writing this one. Heh. See what I did there?

I’m just going to come right out and say it. If you know me at all, make sure you’re sitting down before you read what you’re about to read. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

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I.
Am.
Glad.
I’m.
Not.
Doing.
This.
Race.
Alone.

Oh, Get a Grip Tri Team. If you don’t know already, I silently cursed your presence at St. Anthony’s. Nothing personal. You just served as a reminder that I’m “slow,” and I didn’t know you well enough to know that you most likely didn’t – and still don’t – see it that way. In the months leading up to this race, I have enjoyed getting to know you better as I have had to take what I see to be the scariest of all risks with you – being vulnerable.

I’m looking forward to seeing you, laughing with you, racing alongside/behind you. I don’t care anymore because I like you. I am stoked to support you and be…*clears throat.* Supported by you. In fact, I have been looking at your bib numbers and coming up with rhyming mantras you can chant to yourself as you go on Sunday. Because I’m the music nerd who cares.

To The Get A Grip Tri Team. Thanks for helping Lady J do it.

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Seventy Point It’s Just Me! Why y’all trippin?

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Tee hee. Hi!

I’ve gotta say, I am a *tad* overwhelmed by the amount and intensity of support and encouragement I am receiving regarding Sunday’s race. I wrote earlier this week about how I feel eerily unterrified about it. Among the other things that creep me out are the types of words being used to describe this undertaking. “Heroic. “Beyond Mortal.”

Now. This might be where you say, “Lady J. You know you have problems accepting praise.” To which I say, you’re absolutely right. However, I don’t think that’s what this is. Unless I am discussing food (I want to marry this sandwich. Joan Medianoche),I make a concerted effort to use my words conservatively. I want to say exactly what I mean in order for those with whom I communicate not to misunderstand. I want to convey my thoughts and thought process as accurately as possible. It is also a means of defense as offense, for I know that anything I say could be potentially held against me. I am a thinker – perhaps, to a fault. I understand and respect (mostly) that not everyone is like this and doesn’t necessarily put such thought into the words they use. A lot of people just – talk to say things.

That being said, the language utilized is coming from people I kinda care about. Could they know what they are saying and what I’m hearing? Let’s see what Oxford has to say about it, shall we?

hero
Syllabification: he·ro
Pronunciation: /ˈhirō /
NOUN (plural heroes)

1 A person, typically a man, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.

mortal
Syllabification: mor·tal
Pronunciation: /ˈmôrdl /
ADJECTIVE

1 (Of a living human being, often in contrast to a divine being) subject to death.

In the past 6 months I have been reminded just how mortal I am. I’ve battled plantar fasciitis, Ben and Jerry, and plain old laziness. Hell, I grew so frustrated at one point that I removed full Ironman, marriage, and Ph.D. from my bucket list, forever cursing all that is endurance related. Go ahead and check. Notice how 8-11 are still missing. The only reason I didn’t remove half-Ironman is because I already registered and dammit, I’m going to get my money’s worth from World Triathlon Corporation. Nope, definitely extremely mortal.

I suppose that does make this endeavor heroic, then. Swimming in open water is scary, and I’m doing it anyway. Red Rocket has all kinds of parts I don’t understand and I’m spending 56 miles with her. From there, I’ll have to take about 27,000 steps to the finish line.

Still. I protest. I feel like people typically use the word “hero” when they are referring to someone doing something they wouldn’t do. When I ran my first race, I was courageous. I loathed running when I registered for it. I weighed 30 more pounds than I do now. I remember waking up with the same nervous energy in the days leading up to the race as I have been this week. I was on top of the world after running 5k in 40:49, a time I’m fairly positive someone could power-walk if s(he) tried. I admit that I didn’t have the same relationships I do now, so I can’t positively that I would have been any less praised at the time. I narrow my eyebrows, nonetheless.

I think of my babies when I ask them to do heroic things, like share music and feelings with one another. I hope that they understand that I genuinely respect and admire them for making the effort to play the three notes that it takes to produce “Hot Cross Buns.” If risk is relative to the risk-taker, perhaps the application of the word “hero” is relative as well.

Maybe it is the cumulative heroism of this distance that makes it such a big deal. On those days where I considered quitting but chose to press on. The days where I had not so private meltdowns and lived to blog about it. I’ve had to fight my mortality quite a bit to get here. That’s noble-ish, at the very least.

*grins* Go ahead, y’all. Keep trippin’. I’ve earned it.

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