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You know the old saying “if you fall off the horse, you’ve gotta get right back on”. Well, falling off that horse can be freakin’ scary! I mean, hello, you just fell 5 feet off of a LIVE animal, most likely head first! If you are a perfectly sane individual, you’re going to think twice about getting back onto that horse’s back. And if you’re really sane, you’re going to get the hell out of there and go get yourself a nice, safe ice cream cone.

Luckily, I’m completely insane. I went back for more. (And no, not ice cream)

Now I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy my first tri training experience, but it wasn’t a walk in the park. Physically? I felt great the next day. Mentally? All I could think about was being defeated by the depths. Your mind can definitely make you want to “not get right back on”, but if it’s something that you really want, then you’ve just got to get over it, and do it.

All week long I was trying to mentally and physically prepare myself for the next tri training with the group. I knew they would be preparing for the Top Gun Sprint Tri the following weekend, so they would definitely be in a serious mode.

The week after my first tri training I was focused on my two weaknesses: biking and swimming. I got in about 15 miles on my bike, and about 600 practice yards in the pool. I really tried to work on my stroke, my posture on the bike, and my breathing for both sports. It’s funny, but when I’m jogging, my breathing takes on such a rhythmic pattern that I don’t get winded, and I feel really great when I jog. As a swimmer and biker, my breathing is completely out of wack. I’m trying breathe the way I would on the pavement, but it’s totally wrong, and definitely something I need to work on. I hit the bookstore on the Saturday after my first tri training and read a few great articles on perfecting your swim experience. SO great that I found it necessary to drop some cash and buy two of the most expensive magazines. Ever. I was feeling a lot more educated on the subject, and couldn’t wait to put it to the test on Sunday morning.

During the week, my parents added to my tri quest by purchasing some proper apparel for me. (When your birthday is in June, you pretty much celebrate it all summer long). The package wasn’t delivered in time for Sunday, but I should be able to take it on my trip to the Keys this weekend and put it to the test out in the pool! I’d like to take a moment to thank one of the sponsors of my first triathlon: Rick and Judy. We now return to our regularly scheduled blog.

I arrived right on time Sunday morning at Ft. Desoto. Same gear, same lunch, same drinks, same bike… different mindset. I woke up feeling like I could tackle the deep water. I had mentally prepared myself all week long for it, and this would be the true test. Unfortunately, Lindsey had already checked out the shore with another member and informed us that buoys were set up for another group doing a practice for next week’s Top Gun. I would be able to get a first hand look at what I would be faced with during an actual tri. A moment of brief panic slipped into my gut. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to face the reality just yet. After all, it was only my second training.

As we walked around the lagoon on our way to the beach, I caught a glimpse of the orange bulbous buoys bobbing over the waves. There were four of them set up, about 50 yards or so offshore. Originally I thought that all tris had participants swimming directly out towards the horizon and back to the shore. Another misconception that was cleared for me that morning. You see there are some tris that have you do a distance swim parallel to the shore (score!). I was definitely feeling better about things, as they didn’t look too far off shore, and the distance from the first buoy the fourth was less than the distance that I had completed the week before. I knew I was capable of that, so I thought this would be an easy, first accomplishment of the morning.


I got in the water. Magical swim cap and super goggles in tow. Followed the group out to the first buoy. Put my head in the water and started swimming. I literally got about 10 feet when panic started to set in. The water was deep. I definitely was not able to see the bottom, and I kept seeing these dark splotches all around me. Realistically, I knew exactly what I was seeing. The water bubbles inside my goggles were creating these dark patches which of course made my brain appear to be seeing sharks, whales, manta rays, alligators and more swimming underneath me.

Like I said… insane.

The rest of course is history. Hyperventilation set in. I flopped on my back and high tailed it back to where I could reach. I was terribly mad at myself. I could feel the tears welling up inside my not-so-super goggles. I felt defeated. Why couldn’t I get over this. A woman of 31 years was letting her imagination and fear get the best of her. I looked down at the rest of the group, and even two of the new members who claimed they weren’t the best swimmers were out there, in the deep water, doing their thing. I was really proud of them, and so so angry at myself. I kept thinking about last week, and being in the deep water for that last leg back to the start, but I couldn’t put myself back in that mindset, especially since I was alone in the water.

After about five minutes, I got my breathing under control, went a little further out to my tippy toes and started swimming towards the group. I was parallel to the buoys, so I knew I was getting my distance in. Lindsey came to meet me half way and I explained to her what had happened. I was grateful for her kind words and motivation, but I knew that it would take more than outside support to get me over this stupid fear. It was ingrained in my brain, and I had to find a way to evict it on my own.

Once my breathing was controlled and my mind was clear, I took the same route back to the first buoy. I thought about being in the pool. I closed my eyes if I saw something questionable, and I concentrated on each and every stroke and kick. My swim back was strong. I just wish it had been on the other side of the buoys. Deb, the group organizer, gave me tons of great feedback on my form and continued to encourage me to do this. It’s definitely nice to have people motivating you to do something you never thought you would ever be able to do.

When we got out of the water, and prepared to bike, I knew I was going to be biking alone today because Lindsey didn’t have her mountain bike this week. She found a place in Riverview that will rent you one of their bikes for a week to take it for a test spin (great idea, huh!?). If you decide to purchase one of the bikes you rent, they’ll put the rent fee towards the final cost of the bike. She had been looking to upgrade to a hybrid bike, so that’s what she had rented. The other three members had road bikes, and because of that, I would be the caboose in our bike train that morning. The good news?

A. I had a new bike seat courtesy of my mom (which I installed at the last minute Saturday night).

B. I knew all of the landmarks to help gauge my progress.

C. I did the mileage before. I knew I was capable.

D. There are no landsharks.

I hopped on my bike, set my stop watch and hit the pavement. I lost sight of the group pretty quickly, but I kept on peddling.

Flag pole.

Dead end.


46 minutes later, I was back at the parking lot feeling better than the week before. My legs weren’t jellyfish this week (ok, maybe octopus?) and I felt like I could put out more foot distance this time around.

The 5k practice was excruciatingly hot. Again we only did about a mile and a half, but at least I didn’t feel like I had the weakest quads on the block. All that biking during the week had definitely helped, and if I had really wanted to, I think I could have gone further on foot.
In the end, I feel like my second tri training experience was a success, despite the watery meltdown. With a little time, more practice and motivated people all around, I WILL conquer this fear and complete my first triathlon in no time. I’m feeling stronger than I ever have felt. I’m feeling like an athlete. I never got to be one in high school or college. I never had the skills to make the softball team, or the courage to try out the following year. I have always been the token “fat girl” who was “a nice friend”, but deep down inside, I have always wanted to be an athlete.

It may have taken me 15 years to get here, but I’m doing it now, and that’s what counts.


Training or death sentence?

The morning of my very first triathlon training with the group brought four trips to the bathroom. I was severely worried about what I would be faced with in regards to the swimming portion of this training. You see, when it comes to deep water, I have this irrational, unreasoning, ridiculous fear of it. And it’s not something I have developed in my adult years. This goes back much further in time than that. When I was born, I know my parents had my scuba tank all picked out, hoping that I would join them under the sea in scuba bliss. Years of them arguing, begging, pleading, and even a few feet of rope (by means of tying it around my waist and throwing me overboard with some swim wings, hoping I would enjoy the deep water through osmosis) was not enough to get me to budge, and in fact, made the fear even more embedded in my brain.

When people ask me just “what” it is that scares me the most about deep water, a few words come to mind:

dangling. sharks. the movie “open water”. dangling. sharks. dangling.

Deep water makes me feel out of control, unsafe, and vulnerable to all sorts of creatures and situations that I just don’t enjoy. So what’s a person to do? (Tequila?)

I shook off all deadly thoughts, packed up my gear and headed out the door. I wasn’t really prepared for a “triathlon” per say. I didn’t have the correct swim suit, bike pants or sports bra. What I did have going for me was my fancy, middle-priced swim cap and goggles. Deep down inside I was hoping that it was a magical cap and super goggles that would kick my fear in the ass. Right.

I almost turned around and went home twice on my way to Ft. Desoto. But I didn’t. (Goal #1. Check!). When I Deb, the organizer of the group, I instantly felt a little bit better since not only had she reassured me via email, but now she was saying those same words of encouragement to me in person. Two of the gals in the group had already participated in their first Sprint Tri, and all three of them were doing the Top Gun Tri during the last weekend of July.

I figured they were going to be WAY out of my league, and that I would never be able to keep up with them during this training. (Get in car, leave, NOW.)

I followed them down to the shore, took a look at the water and cringed a little. It was pretty calm, but it was very churned up. Not only would I be swimming in deep water, but I wouldn’t be able to see the bottom (crap). I snapped out of my deathly daydream, slathered on some sunscreen, put on a dri-fit tank over my swimsuit (I was wearing my regular bra for extra ta-ta support, and didn’t want to woo everybody with the beautiful straps that were showing), grabbed my magical cap and super goggles and got in the water. (Goal #2, Check!).

When we got in, I learned that one of the other members that was with us was also pretty fearful of the deep (hooray!), so I didn’t feel so bad when she declared she’d be staying closer to shore than the others. After a few pointers, breathing techniques and distance set, we started off on our first swim. I was in water about as deep as my shoulders (which I could handle) and I wasn’t doing half bad! As soon as I was able to get a rhythm in with my strokes and breathing, I was able to keep a straight path and make it to the end. I used a front crawl stroke for most of the distance, getting on my back for short backstrokes a couple of times when I got tired. Luckily, when you’re competing in a tri, it doesn’t matter what method you use. The goal is to “get out of the water”, and that’s what I did. (Goal #3, Check!).

We swam back to the start, then did a shorter swim one more time before we got out of the water. During the shorter swim, Lindsey, one of the “old pros”, helped me get into the deeper water for the length back to the start. I stayed with her for most of the leg, and was amazed when we stopped and I realized I was treading water! For a moment, I thought panic would set in, but I was OK. The fear is still there, but that was definitely a baby step in the right direction (Goal #4, Check!).

We got out of the water, dried off, had a snack and got on the bike. Once again, I didn’t have any “biking” apparel, so I kept my swimsuit top on, threw on dri-fit shirt and my knee shorts I’ve been using for jogging. I LOVE these shorts. I bought a few of them at Wal-Mart back in the spring and they’re fabulous. They don’t ride, bunch or gather up top. I don’t have to worry about pulling any wedgies out when I wear these, so I figured they would be just fine for the biking. I wore my regular running shoes, adjusted my helmet, and off I went.

Riding a mountain bike is good for training, but bad for speed. It’s heavy, bulky, and makes you do twice the effort you would normally put out if you were on a hybrid or road bike. But for now, it’s all I’ve got. Lindsey was also riding a mountain, so we stayed together for most of the ride. Most sprint tri bike distances are around 10-12 miles. At Ft. Desoto, the distance from the North beach to the East beach and back is equal to 10 miles, so that was the goal. Along the way, Lindsey pointed out some mile markers to help gauge our location.

Flag pole= 3 miles (yes!).
East beach dead end= 5 miles (whoo!).
The fort= 1.5 miles to go (gasp!)
I work well with landmarks.

I had to stop 3 times during the trek, for some water and butt relief (no not farts, butt soreness), but I was able to finish the 10 miles! (Goal #5. Check!) I got off feeling like my strong jogging legs had turned into jellyfish tentacles, but I knew we had to get some foot mileage in. We power walked (I crawled) down a path about a mile or so, and I realized that the transition from bike to 5k was going to be something I’d really need to work on. Jogging had made my calf muscles super strong, but my quads? Forgetaboutit. Biking was a totally new workout for them, so when I went to walk, they basically said “F-U” and went to sleep.

At the end of the day, I was excited about the prospect of completing my first triathlon. Yes, I was still nervous about the swimming, and I knew I would have to put some work into those quads, but I felt like it was totally doable. I’m hoping to have lots of support from both the group and everyone out there so that I can keep this mindset and complete this goal. As for now? I’ve got a week until the next tri training which will be plenty of time to get all of the panics out of my system, get on that bike, and hit the deep end (no, I won’t be going off of it… hopefully.)


Gotta Tri

Over the course of 2 years, I picked up a little hobby called running. When my best friend and exercise partner Kristin and I decided to get back to walking, we thought we would start incorporating some running into our daily regiment. We only made it about 10 yards the first few times around. Winded, sweating to death and shin splint-filled, we never thought we would be running 5k races just 2 years later. In February of 2010, we participated in the infamous Gasparilla 5k race, and despite the rain and freezing cold, we earned a heck of a respectable finish time.

We were hooked.

4 short months later, we participated in a 5k benefit run, once again finishing with a great time, which happened to be faster than our Gasparilla time!

We were toner, stronger, and more motivated than ever.

Around the same time as the benefit run, I purchased a bike. I had been toiling with the idea for quite some time. I found an awesome deal on a mountain bike, and off I went. I was surprised when I realized I would need to build a whole new set of muscles for biking! I joined a few biking clubs online at Meetup.com, including a few off-road/mountain biking groups with the intentions on leaning towards mountain biking as a new sport endeavor in the near future.

In July of 2010, I stumbled upon a newly formed group on Meetup called “New Triathlete”. My father and I had talked about doing a Duathlon (run, bike, run) the following year. He had purchased a Trek hybrid and wanted to start getting into serious biking. I already had the running down pat, so a duathlon seemed like something we could relay. I figured that the Tri group could help me prepare for the duathlon. I had absolutely NO intentions on participating in a Tri.

1. I didn’t think I would be able to ever conquer my fear of deep water. I’m an excellent swimmer, but depths and I have never been best friends.

2. I had a false idea of what a Triathlon was. I had “Kona Ironman” in my mind, not realizing the variety of Tri types there were (mini, sprint, etc.)

I decided to email the group organizer and another group member, just to get a little more information on the group, and what the actual training consisted of. That’s when I found out about a little thing called the “Sprint Triathlon”, in which they both proceeded to convince me was totally “doable” and encouraged me to give the training a shot… including the swimming part.(eek).

Within minutes, I mustered up the courage to RSVP for the training session. What’s the worst that could happen?… I don’t get in the water? I knew I could handle any biking or running. But the swimming? That was my kryptonite.

The very next morning I found myself standing wide-eyed at an 8 foot wall of goggles, swim caps and other swim accessories I had never heard of at Sports Authority. I didn’t want to buy the cheapest product, nor the most expensive (in case this endeavor was all a crazy idea in my head) so I grabbed a pair of blue tinted Speedos and a blue Speedo swim cap to match. For $17.80, you can be a swimmer too.

The evening before my first meetup, I did some online reading, found some blogs on “do it yourself tri”, and even a plus sized tri blog that I found very useful! (Plusrunner). Completing a triathlon was something I felt I could do (in my head). The proof of course would be in the proverbial puddin’. Was I able to physically do it was my greatest worry.