Monday, July 23, 2012

Those damn yellow shirts

Strong. (OK, not really, the bike is super-light!!)
I've started and re-started this entry about six times since Saturday afternoon, when I returned home giddy and emotionally spent from this roller coaster of physical and mental highs and lows. And what it comes down to, what you need to know, is the following: 

The official title of this blog indicates that I am a triathlete. This dates back to 2007, when I actually completed two sprints within a week of each other and was all over that title. I had the USAT sticker on my car, even had a bike rack for my heavy metal Toys R Us bicycle. But the reality is that since the incident at Danskin in 2007, I had done very little tri-athleting and really had focused more on the run, focusing on marathons and ultras and then recently just coming to peace with who I am right now as an athlete, but more importantly, as a person. I know I want sport (and multi-sport) to be a part of my life for the long haul, and I knew I'd get back to it eventually, when I was ready.

On Saturday, I finished a sprint triathlon. I trained only for the swim part, knowing that once I got out of the water, I'd be just fine. I didn't let very many people know about it, because honestly, I wasn't sure how I'd do. The day came way too quickly for me, but I put on my big-girl pants (spandex ones at that - yeesh) and went out and did the thing. It was slow. It was ugly. There was a moment (several, actually) in which I didn't think it was going to get done. But at the end of the day, 1:53 after I started, I finished the race*. I was the VERY last person across the finish line. I did what I set out to do. 

But here's the other thing that you have to know.  I didn't do this alone. Far from it.

We cause quite a stir wherever we go. 
I have these friends, you see, and when any of us is racing, especially a goal race, the rest of us will do what we can to be there for support, and either race it too, because we're all kind of addicted to racing, or to cheer. We are good at the cheering. We have these bright yellow "visible from space" shirts with our nicknames on the back, and seriously, we Bring the Cheer. Glitter signs, noise makers, yelling and hooting and high-fiving. Our crew is hard to miss. We tend to attract attention. 

I loves me some Mr K! 
But what you have to know, and what I don't think you can fully comprehend, not even when you see us on the course, is that for these people, this rowdy group you can hear before you even see these bright yellow shirts,  the noise and the shirts and the high-fives and the signs are just a very thin veneer over the deepest most caring and supportive hearts you'll ever be fortunate enough to know.

I had support and encouragement from these people all along the way, from the minute I signed up, after every practice swim, every time I expressed the inner voices in my head telling me I wasn't ready. Race week, I got text messages and emails. I had people offer to pick up my packet when I realized I couldn't get there during packet pickup. These people were THERE for me, physically and mentally and emotionally. How could I drown when I had all this love lifting me up? I couldn't. That bubble of love is a true thing.

Someone tell me how I survived before I met this woman? 
I'm not going to get into the details of the swim, where I panicked 10 feet from the wall, in 5.5 feet of water. The swim that took me more than 20 minutes for 350 yards, with the lifeguards and volunteers at the end of every lane cheering for me and wishing I would just finish already so they could go. I could sense those yellow shirts every time I flipped on my back to try to calm myself down, and during the last lap, that last 50 yards, when I swam nonstop without flipping on my back once as I had the previous 6 laps, I could feel them pulling me along. I wanted so desperately to show them that I *was* ready physically for this, even if my brain wasn't quite there at the outset. That is the power of those damn yellow shirts. 

Tri chicks. Boo Yah! 
I'm not going to tell you about the bike course, where I went out with flat tires because I made a rookie mistake and forgot to air up the tires on Reveille before the race.  Except that the highlight of that moment was seeing TPG on the course, finishing up her second loop as I went out on my first. And the other highlight was passing this huge group of those damn yellow shirts as I finished the first six miles. 

She brings the #HighSocks. And so much more! She won't always hug ya, but she is awesome just the same!
I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about the run course, with all the volunteers getting picked up by a truck behind me, as I was the last person out there, and they were all smiling and happy and cheerful as I went by, encouraging and excited for me, each and every one even though they'd been out there for hours and were probably hotter and more tired than I was.  It was blazing hot by then, and my time was the slowest 5K I've ever put together, but by then, I was mostly OK with that. I knew I would finish. And I may or may not have spent the last half mile in tears, even before all those people in those damn yellow shirts made a freaking TUNNEL for me to run under in my last approach to the finish. It was about the most loved and most appreciated and most undeserving I have ever felt in my life. 

Wanna feel like a champion? Have your friends do THIS right before the finish. AMAZING!
And when it was done, and I literally collapsed in a soggy pile of sweat and tears on Alicia's blanket, I was amazed yet again by this group of incredible people with whom I'm fallen into company. And I am thankful and not sure how to ever express my absolute thanks and love to these people in those damn yellow shirts. 

Special notes: 

  • TPG - you kept my nerves at bay with your silly dancing in line, and your absolute upbeat attitude. The spark and smile in your eyes these days brings joy to my heart. I can't wait to see what you do next!! 
  • Elaine - you didn't know I was racing until that morning. And your first reaction was sheer excitement and enthusiasm. I love it! I will be pulling for you in Austin, girl! 
  • Marci - the signs!! YOU MAKE THE BEST SIGNS!! and you can have that damn kitty cat back. I love you! 
  • MK - you gave me a hug. Even when I was soggy!  thank you for so much. So so much. 
  • Mr K - the BEST hug on race day always comes from Mr K. He knew I needed a hug pre-race and he delivered. <3 
  • DK - YOU BROUGHT ME A CUPCAKE!! if that alone doesn't say "you get me," then I don't know what does!! 
  • Alicia - sorry for making your blanket wet and sweaty. It was perfect. I love seeing you at races. I'm excited to see you more and learn from you and laugh with you. 
  • Erin - the BEST post-race hug. Chaos rules. I know your weekends are crazy and I appreciated you being there
  • Fiona - You kept me in the water. Your calm voice of reason was exactly what I needed to hear. Having the girls there kept me going, too. You are such an amazing role model for them - I'm so in awe of you. 
  • Byron - You told me the right words at the right time. You play such a goofball on TV, but we all know you are such an incredibly experienced and talented athlete, and I have much to learn from you. Thank you. 
So, what next? I know I need to practice swimming a LOT more, so that it becomes second nature and I can overcome the doubts and fears in my head. I know I'm not waiting another five years before I do this again. I know I want to build up to longer distances and bigger challenges. I want to actually race one of these soon, instead of just trying to survive. And I know that when I do, I will have the FIGJAM army in my heart once again. In those damn yellow shirts! 

There are no words. None. 
*FIGJAM note: My previous sprint time, at Danskin? 2:30:53. THIRTY-SEVEN MINUTE PR, BITCHES!!! 


Michelle K said...

Darn you and your blogs! They get me every. single. time. My heart was so full of pride for you when you climbed out of that pool---I thought that it just might burst right there. I have no doubt in my mind that you are going to go on to bigger and better and FASTER races. This, my friend, was just the start of it all. said...

Mama C- I love you so much! I have admired you before I even met you! I had read your blogs before I ever met you and was and am still in awe of you! I am so blessed that I got lucky enough to actually meet you and even better call you a friend! I am so stinking proud of you and I can't wait to see what you do next! You never cease to amaze me! I think it is so inspiring that as afraid of that swim as you were, you still kicked its ass! That is so much cooler to me than anything else...Facing your fears and coming out on top while kicking ass and taking names along the way! You are amazing and I love every minute that I get to spend with you!

That Pink Girl said...

I am SO stinkin' proud of you and the GUTS OF STEELE you displayed on Saturday!!! And a huge PR to boot! Your strength is inspiring!!!
And sugar, I'll make a fool out of myself for you any day! Mwah and congratulations, triathlete!!!

Heidi said...

You were so awesome out there! I can't wait to cheer you on for the next one :)