Right now I am writing this blog post while sitting outside in the sunshine, enjoying a glass of wine, while Justin is doing yard work and Axel is taking a nap. Hallelujah for baby monitors. This is probably the most relaxed I have been in a while – something about the quiet, the warm sunshine, and the cool breeze just feels so good in this moment, especially when the weather in Bend has been absolutely bipolar lately. On Thursday it snowed (!!!) and now here it is nearly 80 degrees on Sunday. Oh, the Jekyll and Hyde nature of our lovely Bend.
My first triathlon of the year is in 10 weeks. When I was pregnant with Axel and was 10 weeks from my due date, it felt like an eternity – all I wanted was to meet my son. But now, the weeks seem to be flying by faster than I can count them. We’ll be loading up the car and driving to Coeur d’Alene in no time. If you think triathletes travel with a lot of gear, imagine how much a triathlete traveling with an infant requires! I’m excited that there are a slew of athletes from Bend attending as well.
This past week was a positive reminder of how far I have come in this sport. Not just since having a baby seven months ago, but since I started my triathlon journey in 2014. This was the last week in my three-week build series, and it ended with a bang when I did a half ironman simulation on Saturday, followed by a 15 mile run on Sunday. This was my longest run postpartum and it felt great! A special shout out to my husband who tracked me down and brought me a cold Gatorade halfway into my run since the drinking fountains in Bend’s parks still haven’t been turned on for the spring/summer. He loves me.
I also did my longest swim EVER on Thursday, the full Ironman distance of 2.4 miles. And wow, was it a long swim. Thankfully I had my music and a variety of pool toys to keep me occupied. By the time I finished I had been in the water for 1 hour and 35 minutes, including rest breaks between sets and a little chit chatting with the many swimmers who were sharing my lane. It wasn’t necessarily a pretty swim (I don’t know how to swim pretty) but at least I now have one Ironman distance swim under my belt.
Now, onto the simulation…
On Saturday I joined Coach Mike and another one of his clients (also a friend), Adrian, for a half Ironman bike/run simulation. Essentially the plan was to bike 56 miles at goal pace, do a simulated T-2, and then run 3 miles at goal pace. Before we started, Mike gave me a target time of 2:50 on the bike and 8:30 min/mile on the run. I secretly wanted to do 2:45 on the bike, which was my time when I did Lake Stevens 70.3 in 2014.
The bike went better than I could have expected and I completed the 56 miles in 2:37 (including stops and yielding for traffic) with plenty of gas still left in the tank. As we approached the 56-mile mark, I looked at my watch and started screaming sounds of joy into the air. You would have thought I won the Tour de France. This may be fast for some and slow for others, but for me it was perfection. I don’t like using the word perfect, but it truly was a fulfilling moment. It was months of hard work coming to fruition. It was a reflection of my time away from Justin, Axel, and my home. It was a testament to all the grueling hours I had invested in my trainer rides over the winter. And that was part one…
Once we finished our bike leg, Mike and I took off on the run. Mike’s son Luke (an eleven year old athletic carbon copy of his father) ran with and paced Adrian. Originally the plan was to run 3.5 miles at an 8:30min/mile pace, but as soon as we got going we were both feeling good and decided to push it. We ended up running a 10k averaging 7:25min/mile. This is unheard of for me. I was breathing hard and could “feel” each step, but I pushed forward keeping pace with Mike. When we arrived back to his house, I collapsed on the grass with tears of joy welling up in my eyes. I did not know I had that in me. Self-discovery is a beautiful thing.
What I have been learning is that I don’t need to be in a race environment to recognize and appreciate hard work. Yes, it is nice to PR and give it my all during a race so everyone can see a number posted on a website or in the newspaper, but quite frankly it’s also nice to see those numbers being executed behind the scenes when no one else is looking. Even if I never bike a 2:37 in a race, it doesn’t mean I can’t. Because I can. And I have. I don’t need a race to prove anything. Thankfully though, races make it a bit easier to reach those milestones – adrenaline, camaraderie, competition, aid stations, spectators – it’s all there to bring out the best in an athlete.
This was a big mental week for me more than anything and a lot of goals/ambitions came to fruition after I accomplished some pretty big high points in my training. Right now I feel like my biking and running are really starting to click together as a single unit. Running off the bike used to be a real struggle for me, but lately it has felt natural.
When I started this Ironman journey in January, my goal was to get back in shape, have fun, and chase my dream of crossing the finish line after 140.6 miles in CdA. Training for my first Ironman, after having a baby, was a big enough goal that I did not need to put additional pressure on myself to perform to some “standard.”
Although I still have a similar mindset, something is happening in my training that I did not expect – I am surpassing my goals and finding a new kind of strength in my body and mind that I did not have in years past. I’m discovering a new side to “me” as an athlete, perhaps brought out in part by the miracle and accomplishment of pregnancy and childbirth, and am building confidence with each passing week. And most importantly, I am really enjoying myself and having fun. I am fortunate enough to have an hour or two each day to myself, and I actively choose to train hard and make this a priority in my life. Doing this each day makes me feel alive and brings out the best in me.
I love this sport. I love the fact that one can experience highs and lows in a matter of minutes, even seconds. Where pain and elation can be felt simultaneously. Where you, the athlete, completely control your own destiny. Where at the end of the day, everyone finishes what he or she has started, no matter the speed, obstacles, setbacks, or circumstances. Because hey, we’re all in it together, doing something we love.
I’m looking forward to the recovery week ahead and taking it easy on the bike and run. It’s never easy in the pool. ☺