Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Santa Barbara Long Course Triathlon Post Mortem

I don't know where to start.

Last Saturday, 8/23, I crossed the finish line of my longest triathlon race to date. 1 mile swim, 34 mile bike and 10 mile run. All I can remember really was the pain and the recurring temptation to quit during the run. And the moment of crossing the finish line - as I was greeted by several friends of mine - that made all the pain so worthwhile. The minute I hugged my friend Shirley as she welcomed me, I couldn't stop the tears from gushing out of my eyes. But i finished something i've been preparing for a long, long time. During the preparation, I faced injuries, fatigue, long work hours that kept me from training, poor training rides, poor training runs and awful training swim days... Even to the last minute leading up to the race, I had to fight my own doubts about being able to do this race.

I knew that I had to keep going. I knew that i had to commit to this race. If i didn't, everything I have been sharing with you through this blog would go in vain. I thought of those who couldn't do what I do, who suffer the pain over which they have no control, I thought of how it would make me feel to be able to finish, and the hope I may be able to share as a result.

The swim was tough. it was cold, it was murky, and my wetsuit was suffocating me (i must have grown out of it, from the muscle mass i've gained from strength training), but the moments from it have already been forgotten....the bike was hard, on a fairly hilly course (about 80% of Wildflower), but it was manageable and rather fun to tackle those hills one after another. But the run, the run....was a true test of my endurance and mental strength. I had never run 10 miles after biking 34 miles. I never ran more than 7 miles (without a preceding bike ride!) during my training run. I had no idea what to expect. The minute i started running, my back was already pinching (I had a back spasm 5 days before the race, just to add a little background story) which made me cringe every time i landed on my right foot. Miraculously, the back pain disappeared maybe 2 miles in, then the pain started to move towards the hips...usually during training it would start around mile 4. Worried that my upper quads may tighten up as they usually do during training, I ran in intervals of 8-10 mins between 1.5-2 minute walks.

I approached this run in intervals - one interval at a time. The more i thought about the entire 10 miles, I only got frustrated and even more tired. I distracted myself by saying hi to fellow runners, cheering on others, cracking jokes and just smiling. By doing so I managed to get through 7 miles. At that point, i thought, hey i can do the next 3 miles, easy. Yes, i mean, it's only 3 miles, right? Wrong. My hips started fatiguing FAST, and they were tightening up more and more every minute. At that point, my right upper thigh and hip flexor were too weak to enable my legs to move up and down/front and back. I was practically at walking pace, and my legs my hip were sinking. The sun was hot and the course was nearly emptying out. I was getting passed by many people, I was lagging even more. I nearly stopped twice wondering if i should or could continue. All i could think was quitting. But i kept going...and as the pain increased i wanted to get to that finish line so badly, and i started thinking..."why am i doing this? what in my life has driven me to be here right now?" and then i started tearing up a little. I was very frustrated and i wished that i didn't have fibromyalgia. But i also knew that it was my mission to complete this race, keep going, and cross that finish line. I wiped my tears and dragged my legs forward....then all of a sudden i heard a man shout to me "Keep those legs moving, you can do it!" His voice and words of encouragement lifted me up, firmed up my determination and kept me going. I started running again, biting my lips. I started singing, i started saying the daily prayer, repeat and repeat and repeat.....until the finish line became visible from about quarter of a mile away. I kept going, trying to go as fast as I could.

The final few sprints to the finish line...I was dizzy, I couldn't really see or hear anything. I could vaguely hear my friends shouting my name, and right before i crossed the finish line I finally saw them waving at me (they told me they were shouting and waving for a while, but i didn't even notice) i looked up at the clock that read 6 hours 15 minutes and 26 seconds (i think!) I was crossing the finish line. FINALLY. My first long course pathway to a half ironman next year!

I was in so much pain, but I was so overwhelmed with a sense of surprise and gratitude. I couldn't believe it. I'm done! I finished! I battled with my thoughts of doubt and fear, and at the end I was standing as a finisher.

Immediately I promised myself that I would train for a half ironman distance next year. I am going to do it. **


Anonymous said...


I don't know you, but your blog came up as part of a daily search I have set that looks for articles about FMS on the internet. I was so moved by your words and impressed by your efforts that I wanted to drop a quick note. I don't ever write to people either, so this is out of character for me. It is timely though, as I just did my 13th Danskin Triathlon a week and a half ago. Not long course, but we all do what we can, eh? With this horrible invisible disease, while working and being moms too (well I am, I wasn't sure if you were). I just mainly wanted to send you congrats from one FMS Triathlete to another. I hope to do longer distances eventually, but for now I guess we do what we can. You Go Girl!!!!

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