Saturday morning, we drove west. Across Illinois into northeast Iowa. Past the industrial skyline of Cedar Rapids into a small town along a sleepy river, Cedar Falls.
We headed over to the state park to check in at the race site. Yes, we were racing. More importantly, I was racing! Chris was closing out his season with a great race, the Peregrine Charities Triathlon. Last year, we attended this race as well. I was supposed to race but at that time was pregnant. Actually, the night before the race I started having a miscarriage. Not exactly a great memory. Fortunately, I got pregnant again a month later, had the baby and 9 weeks later found myself one year later at the starting line.
When I decided to race, I emailed the race director. Not only did she carry over my entry from last year but she generously offered to arrange child care for Max with a staff from her corporate child care center. Can you believe it? It meant that Chris and I could race together while leaving Max onsite with someone trustworthy and skilled. We jumped on that very kind opportunity!
The day before the race was pouring rain and 40 degrees. The water temperature was 64 degrees. Yet I didn’t worry about a thing. What’s to worry about? I get to do this. And honestly it didn’t matter if it was snowing, I was racing tomorrow and nothing was going to get in my way. Not 10 pounds of extra weight. Not having major surgery 9 weeks ago. Not having a newborn. Not having been back to “training” for only the past 3 weeks.
And definitely these boobs would NOT get in my way (three words: double bag it!).
How do you pack for a triathlon when you have a newborn? Every time I walked into the garage, I saw something I needed for racing, told Chris to throw it into the house; wetsuit, helmet, goggles. By Saturday, I had amassed what looked like an entire continent of triathlon gear on my bathroom counter, dumped it all into a bag and said to myself that should about cover it. To think I used to have a laminated checklist and get out of sorts if I forgot to pack my favorite pen! The night before the race I found myself digging into that race bag not sure where to start or what I even needed. Do I ever remember how to do this? It had been over a year since my last race! So I just left it all in the bag and waited until race day. Consider it surprise transition bag!
We got a hotel room that had two rooms – one with a sleeper couch and one with a king bed. Chris took the couch, Max and I took the room with the bed. Best way to get to bed early before a race? Have a newborn! Max and I were in bed by 7:30 pm. Up at midnight for a feeding. Then he squiggled, wiggled and did leg lifts for about an hour (HOW do people do the “family bed” thing?!). He was up again to feed at 2:30 am and then at 4 am for good. Waking up early for race day is irrelevant to a new mother. It is my every day! And with 4 straight hours of sleep under my race belt, I felt amazing!
Race morning was cold. 40 degrees. But it was dry. Chris got the bikes ready then we took turns heading out to transition. I walked into transition like a total rookie. The volunteer asked me where my bike numbers were. Check my transition bag – who knows what’s in there! He kindly helped me put the numbers on (it was like my first rodeo) and I headed over to my rack. Threw my stuff down, looked at it, was pretty sure I forgot something but realized I had to get back to the car to feed the baby. On the way to get my chip, I met the babysitter, walked her back to the car and gave her the lowdown on Max. Chris went to transition. I fed Max one last time and then headed to transition for real this time leaving the sitter and baby in the car.
Back at transition the sun had come up but it was still damn cold. My wetsuit was warm and the water felt even warmer so I got in, warmed up and waited for the race start. Before I knew it, the women were lining up and it was time to swim. I had been so busy before the race that I didn’t have time to worry about anything. I stood at the start line, cleared my head with one exhale then assumed start position.
I was doing the sprint with a ½ mile swim. The swim was directly into the sun. The only way sighting could have been worse is if I had swam blindfolded. The gun went off and I bolted. The first thing that popped into my head…I forgot how fun this is! What a great thought to have! I spent the past two years before being pregnant simply not having fun. I spent so much time trying to figure out how to become successful as a pro that I failed over and over again. I overthought, overtrained, under-ate. And that is how you fail.
I am not going to be that athlete again.
I could have been swimming tugboat speed for all I knew but I felt great. About halfway through the swim I thought to myself – wow, there’s a lot of buoys floating around in the water! Then I realized – it’s the men’s wave! I had caught up to them 3 minutes ahead. I’d name drop my wetsuit as the reason I was swimming fast but let’s be honest here – it’s probably the extra body fat and the boobs! After the turnaround, I made my way through a few more men then found myself again totally alone before emerging from the cold water into transition.
T1 was a rusty mess. My wetsuit was having separation anxiety issues. That’s all you need to know about that.
On to the bike and it was cold. I couldn’t feel my hands or feet. But I thought to myself I only have to be cold for less than 90 minutes. It will be over before I know it. And, I always remind myself it could be worse.
It could be Ironman.
The bike was 15.8 miles of thinking how fun that I get to ride my bike on a Sunday morning! Never mind that it’s ass cold or that I cannot wiggle my toes. My wheels are hitting pavement! I picked off a few men but then rode alone. Keeping the pressure on myself but honestly it was hard to remember how hard to go, how much to hurt. I was overly cautious at turns. And I might have been quicker if I dismounted and walked over the railroad tracks. At the turnaround I saw another woman a few minutes back and pushed harder. My biggest surge came around mile 10 when I saw Chris riding in the opposite direction. I cannot tell you how good it felt to be out there with him, shouting GO CHRIS while he shouted GO LIZ!
T2 was even more embarrassing than T1. My helmet wouldn’t let go of me.
Time to run! Now, I didn’t run for 5 months unless you count the ½ mile I ran at a 15-minute per mile pace at week 38 just to see if I could still run. No really, you can run at that pace. A week ago, I was told to run a mile all out and came up with a pace over one minute slower than what I would have run for my pre-pregnancy all out mile pace. The next day I felt like I had done 10 mile repeats on the track. But each run feels better and the pace is slowly coming back.
Fast or slow, I was so excited to be running! The run took us by the parking lot where I waved to the sitter in our car. I kept thinking, the quicker I run, the quicker I can get back to Max! The course was 1.5 miles out and back. Dare I say it felt like forever? At the turnaround I picked up the pace. There was a girl about 3 minutes behind me. I knew she couldn’t outrun me by more than 90 seconds per mile but then again – did you see my transitions? Anything can happen!
I crossed the finish line 1st female and 6th overall including men. I missed my super secret goal by 4 minutes and 56 seconds. But I also spent more than 3 minutes in transition. Yeah, I’m going to be running around my basement in an aero helmet and racing flats this winter, practicing.
As soon as I finished, I turned around and ran back to the car. Got Max and walked back to transition. A newspaper reporter asked to interview me (I was also interviewed by the local television, seriously did I just win Kona or something!?!). He asked how it felt to race after the baby and I simply said to him:
This is my victory lap.
The way I see it, I have nothing to prove, nothing to fear and nothing to lose. I nailed my peak event for 2010 – having a baby. To cross another finish line 9 weeks later is the gravy. Gravy is good but not necessary. I’m out here racing because I want to, because I get to, because I can.
Can you think of any better reasons to race?
Chris crossed the line in the Olympic race 3rd overall. Great end to his strong season (and now he gets to race cyclocross and eat donuts every day). We gathered our belongings and along the way, got a lot of comments from people. How do you find the time to train? We don’t. We make time and make sacrifices. We don’t watch television and we turn down some social obligations. We prioritize and communicate. We focus on what we have to do (care for ourselves, care for our baby, work) and then focus on what we want to do. We want to train for sports, we want to compete, we want to travel.
And so far, our baby, who we have integrated into our lifestyle, has not complained.
After the race I told Chris I wanted to introduce myself to Kortney Haag. He said she came up to me before the race and said she reads your blog! I told him I was going to go up to her before the race to tell her the same. Kortney had her second child 13 weeks ago. Today, she placed 2nd overall in the Olympic race. When I thought about racing today, I actually read her blog for confidence because she raced (and won) 8 weeks after having the baby. If you ever think you can’t do something, just look to your peers to prove you can – chances are someone is out there doing something that makes the impossible seem possible.
And that is what I love about our athletic community!
Now honestly: I’m not sure what is more frightening: seeing “35” listed as my age on the results (I remember when I was F20-24!), seeing a 7:05 pace next to my run split (yikes, I’ve got a long way to go!), the amount of gear we had to pack for not only the race but traveling with a baby (the kitchen sink was in the van, I swear!), spending 4 ½ hours in a car post-race with a newborn (10 miles from home he pooped on my pants – the ONLY pants that fit me right now!) or the fact that I’m 9 weeks post baby and racing again.
Yes, I’ve got a long way to go before I find my best form again. But that is perhaps the most exciting. I may never be my old self again but I think, perhaps, I am something better already. I’m a mom and I’m racing! You know what that means?