Monday, June 28, 2010

Swim, Bike, Run, Repeat.

Sunday marked a humbling experience. And that is completely acceptable to me for it served as a reminder that only I can improve my life and my body—not anyone else.

I finished my first Olympic distance at the Philadelphia Insurance Triathlon, which is twice the distance of my previous triathlons. Olympic means swimming nearly a mile, biking 25 miles, and running 6.2. I’ve done all three many times, just not sequentially. So I trained pretty strongly for this event, which I needed to do before I attempt my Half Ironman this summer.

Well, first of all, the swim portion turned into a 5K run after a swimmer from the short race on Saturday drowned during the event. His body had not yet been recovered by the time Sunday’s larger race was to begin. And so the 2,000 of us had to run, bike, and then run again. This, unfortunately, was not good for me, considering that I continue to battle PF in my right foot. The longest distance I have run since March is 7 miles. And now I had to run 9.3.

The first leg went fine, considering I was not mentally prepared. I just wanted to come in under 30 minutes, which meant taking it easy so as to preserve my foot for the longer leg. I made the time, but not without pain. But I managed through it and then rode my bike on a hilly course with several technical climbs and turns, in about 90 minutes. For this, I was exceptionally pleased. Riding through the city, catching the views up and down the Schuylkill, reminded me of how much I loved my college days at Temple and my countless memories that helped shape my early days of writing. As I flew down Kelly Drive, I heard birds singing and my wheels spinning as my mind rapidly processed everything like an avant-garde film at the Ritz.

But in the end, after the wistful moments passed, I ran the slowest distance I’ve ever run in a competition. And the truth is that I did not really run it very much. Due to the humidity, the heat, and the heel, I did the “old lady shuffle,” passing some people who collapsed from heat exhaustion along the way and were now aided by ambulance crews with IV bags.

Overall, however, I was humbled not by the distance, not by the 3.5 hours it took, and not so much by the heat, but rather by the women in my age group who were phenomenally strong and physically jacked. Their bodies were tight, taut, toned. They are the women with whom I want to be affiliated.

I tried to explain to some people that you can go to running events—marathons, half marathons, 5ks—and you will see a lot of people who “run” but who are not really in shape. They say they are athletes (and they are on some level), but if you have big back-fat or a double-wide derriere, you’re just not in the same league as someone who invests in their body. Rather, you are someone who just wants to say they ran a marathon, just for bragging rights. For me, it’s not about a medal or shirt. It’s about saying I did something in the best possible shape I can be in.

And part of it is to role model for my girls, to let them know that just because I’m a girl, I’m no candy ass.

So today, as I take it easy to recover, I am about ready to climb into the saddle of my bike and log some mileage. And I scour my schedule to see when I can sneak in an extra swim this week, just because it’s what I should do to look like the strong, confident women who made me think about how much more I can do to make myself as well-rounded—physically as well as intellectually—possible.

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