Patriot Half IM Race Report: The Swim

Yes, I am aware I have been slacking on this whole blogging thing; such is life. But, I figured I should post something about my recent triathlon–one which I actually FINISHED (insert a million smiley faces), not only that, but finished faster than I expected. Since there is so much to share regarding this race, and the fact it is almost dinner time and I need to work the next couple of days, I decided to separate the post into a couple different installments. Yes, the post about Mooseman was gut wrenching to write. But this post may just be the polar opposite 🙂

Before the Race

The days leading up to the race were raining and yucky–perfect for stopping any motivation I may have had to sneak in an extra ride or run. Truth be told, my conception of “tapering” meant “do as little training as possible.” I did follow my training plan for the most part. And, I even swam in my wetsuit twice (I’ve mentioned how I despise swimming in one). With all the hills around us, I just couldn’t be motivated to do longer than 50-55miles on any long ride, especially knowing I would be jogging after. Sure, back in the autumn I went on multiple 50+ mile rides a week, but those rides never proceeded runs. Or attempts to run. My thought process was, “hey, I’ve run numerous half marathons this year. I’ll be find running on race day.” My mindset preparing for this race was completely different than the last time I trained for a triathlon. Nutrition? Unlike the last race when I thought you would be able to complete a full half IM eating perhaps one power bar and drinking gatorade, this time around I started my nutrition plan when I began my long rides. In the end, I think it helped. Finishing a couple long bricks made me hopeful that I would finish this race. I was filled with postitive excitement for the race.

And then I had a seizure. One week before race day.

Yes, I’ve had them before; I was diagnosed with Epilepsy when I was 16. But I’ve gone for a couple years being seizure free. This one, however,came out of the blue. I kept thinking, “I didn’t even do a long hard brick work out today….I fueled well…I think I hydrated myself enough…” It has been years since I have had two seizures within six months of each other. If you have epilepsy, you know the feelings associated with having a seizure. Thankfully for me, I know when I’m going to have one. But despite the fact that I know I will “survive” a seizure, the post-ictal phase (or when you are “coming to” from having one) freaks the living day light out of me. It is a weird out of body experience, and there is always a small part of me that is terrified that I will have a seizure that will be prolonged requiring medical intervention.

By chance I had a doctors appointment a day after I had a seizure and I was trying to think of things which might have provoked it. It couldn’t have been physical exhaustion; I had completed far tougher brick workouts in the weeks prior, and the day before the seizure I only did a small easy brick–one I’ve done time and time again- which never caused me to have one. Even thinking back to when I worked night shifts with sleep deprivation and lack of nutrition, I never had one. My doc, on the other hand, thought differently. In fact, he advised me against doing the race. He told me I was at a higher risk for having a seizure when my electrolytes were out of balance and probably had one as a result of not a single work out, but an accumulation of stress on my body. “It is your body, but just keep in mind what can happen when you push yourself to the limits.”

Not exactly what you want to hear the week before a race which you have been training months for, huh?

Having this seizure changed my feelings towards the race. It especially changed the feelings I had towards swimming. Before, I had no problems swimming by myself. Heck, it was something I loved to do–being the sole person swimming at dawn at Onteora (or Stissing) while the water is still with a mirrored reflection of the trees, and the songs of birds brought on a sense of serenity and peace that biking and running never really brought. It was a sense of calm. Over night, my feelings about swimming changed drastically. For the first time, I was afraid to swim by myself. I remember a couple days after having the episode, going to Stissing and looking out thinking, “there is no one here. What if I have an aura…What if I have a seizure and no one sees me and I drown?What if I get to the beach, but can’t swim back to the car? What if I have a seizure during the race?” These feelings of anxiety were different than those I felt having to swim in a wetsuit. I actually feared for my life. (Sounds crazy, I know).

Somehow, I managed to just face this forgotten fear of the water and just swim. Race day was soon approaching, and the thoughts of Mooseman were still fresh in my mind. I couldn’t just give up on all these months of training because of what happened. I’ve never let my epilepsy stop me from doing what I wanted to do in the past, so why let it govern my life now?

The Race

The Patriot Half IM takes place in East Freetown, MA, a little less than three-and-a-half hours away from me. My chief cheerleader and chauffeur took Friday off and we drove down, and, like we have the tendency to do on races that take place out of town, made a mini-trip out of it. (By “trip” I mean stay in a hotel and eat dinners out. Yes, very exciting I know. But when you have not had a weekend off from work in over a month, an over-nighter trip in a hotel in a different state is freaking amazing.) The race itself is small–limited to 1000 participants and that includes the aquabike portion (please don’t ask me what aquabike means. I assume you swim then bike then swim, but really have no idea.) The whole vibe from the event differed tremendously from Mooseman three years ago. For one, it was raining and dreary. For another, there weren’t a zillion vendors offering free samples (I admit it, I love those free samples from race expos!). Long pond, where the swim would take place, is the largest body of fresh water in Massachusetts. Kevin willingly stayed while we listened to pre-race tips and then we headed out to dinner for the big pre-race dinner. As we departed and learning what I should do for my transition, Kevin stated the only transition he would be doing is from his bike to the couch with a beer 🙂 Ohh my love.

I think I have everything I need

I think I have everything I need

It is my tradition to have a veggie burger with french fries the night before any race (I’m not a pasta kind of girl) but the restaurant we went to didn’t have any veggie burgers. So, I decided on a sandwich with french fries. I don’t think I have ever, in my life, said, “I think I will eat this because it has more carbs.” I may never say that again, either.

I’ve read that it is typical before long-distances races for participants to have trouble sleeping; I was no exception to this. I kept thinking of the place I was in three years ago before I attempted my first half IM and triathlon. Man, I’ve grown so much since then, not only as an athlete but as a person as well. So much can change in three years.

My  0430 alarm went off sooner than I would have liked. I’m not sure if I know of any non-athletes (or athletes) who enjoy waking up at that time on their weekend days off. But my man was a trooper and we were able to grab some grub before I did some last-minute foam rolling and were out the door headed to the race course. (Our hotel provided early breakfast for those participating in the Patriot Half.)

I got my body marked with my number 700 and set up my transition area.

I've never had a specific spot in transition before.

I’ve never had a specific spot in transition before.

Triathlons include way more accessories than duathlons and the transition area seemed so much more cluttered than my usual transition areas at races. Mind you, this race was three times longer than my normal duathlon race so, I guess there would be more “things.” I got zipped up in my wetsuit and kept thinking calming thoughts. Instead of fearing the suit and thinking it was constricting my airway and choking me, I decided to think of it more as a flotation device to help me in the swim. Mind control :-p

Pre-swim warm up...I'm the one in the wet suit

Pre-swim warm up

There were people getting into the water to warm up a bit and after I had a gel, decided to do that in order to acclimate to the temperature of the water. I swam for a couple strokes to warm up and the fear, tension, and anxiety I felt was nowhere to be found.

See me? I'm the one in the wet suit and pink cap haha

See me? I’m the one in the wet suit and pink cap haha

 

No panic attack means thumbs up!

No panic attack means thumbs up!

It just so happens a fellow Hudson Valley-ite/mountain biker/triathlete/duathlete who has been in a number of local races I have done in the past was at this triathlon too. It was great having her there, to get triathlon/swimming tips from someone who has done triathlons and group swims in the past. She also brought it to my attention that my number, 700, could be read as “007.” Little did she know that would have a big effect on me during the run portion of the race.

Bev--an amazing athlete :-)

Bev–an amazing person 🙂 and fellow Hudson Valley athlete

The 1.2mile Swim

Unlike Mooseman, Patriot’s swim start was a “time trial” start. Instead of having a mass exodus of swimmers (which is what I remembered), three swimmers ran into the water to start the swim every ten seconds. Swim waves were categorized by age group. A pro to this style of swim start (not that I can really speak of triathlons, since I haven’t really ever completed a full one before) is that you are not surrounded by thousands of swimmers splashing at you and trying to drown you. A con is that you are unable to acclimate to the water. ( That mini-swim I decided to do ended up being a good idea as I knew what the water temperature would be likes). Before I knew it, it was my turn to start the swim. If I was able to finish the swim portion of Mooseman in frigid water, I could do this. And sure enough, I did. From the start I was able to get into my normal rhythm of breathing. As I swam I thought, “Just keep swimming.”

And, we're off

And, we’re off

Just keep swimming...

Just keep swimming…

 

…To be Continued…

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She’s Baaaaack

Wow, has it been over a month since I have written a post? It is crazy how fast time goes. I feel the older I get, the faster months fly by!

November was composed of mostly working, trying to overcome colds, with some runs and rides thrown in with the mix. The bad thing about being a nurse (or, any other employee who must work on Thanksgiving for that matter) is that you miss out on family gatherings. But, let me say despite missing out on the big turkey dinner (actually I did not miss the turkey, since I don’t eat turkey), I am thankful for getting to see a sister for a couple hours, thankful for my wonderful family, Kevin, and great friends, my health, and for where I am today.

Homemade noodle soup delivered to me by a special colleague

Homemade noodle soup delivered to me by a special colleague

Cleaning your bike and derailleur every ten minutes because of mud accumulation isn't too fun...

Cleaning your bike and derailleur every ten minutes because of mud accumulation isn’t too fun…

What I'm thankful for: reminders on my way to work not to sweat the small stuff

What I’m thankful for: reminders on my way to work not to sweat the small stuff

So, what is with the title?

I was lucky enough to have two Saturdays in a row off and was able to participate in two races, and I feel I am back and better than ever.

Last weekend, I ran my first 5k in three years, the Run Santa Run:Return of the Claus 5k. Since I do not really ever run for speed, I used it as a test to see how I could do in a 5k that was not at the end of a duathlon. To my surprise, I did not do too shabby. Thirteenth place out of 400+ runners, plus third female overall made for a happy end-of November. My personal photographer/ support team/ race day chauffeur, Kevin, tolerated my Christmas music in the car the hour + ride to the race to snatch a few pictures of the exciting day. Before the start of the race, there was a fitness instructor who led a “warm up.” As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that warming up before a race is actually beneficial (wait, did I just say that?!?). For running with a sinus infection,the race wasn’t that bad at all. I still enjoy longer distance races, however, as you do not have to run as fast (well, for your average runner you don’t…Just wait and I might change my mind when I decide I want to run a marathon in a certain time period).

Race day go boom

Race day go boom

Look Kevin! Aerobics at a race!!!

Kevin, do you see this?!? Aerobics at a race!!! (I’m the crazy one turning around)
Okay. Enough of organized pre-race aerobics

Okay. Enough of organized pre-race aerobics

Annnnd, we are off! If you can spot me, I'll pay you a million dollars.

Annnnd, we are off! If you can spot me, I’ll pay you a million dollars.

Today, I ran my first 5 mile race, and got to do it with friends of mine which was a true blessing. It was the MHRRC Knights of Columbus Holiday Run . We did have a threat of snow last night, and I was extremely glad that it did not snow so I could partake in the race. However, even if it did snow, I would still run…I mean, if one of my patients exclaimed, ” you can still run if it snows!” then, I can technically run in the snow. It is just slushier, that’s all.

I had no idea what the course was going to be like, and it did have it’s rolling terrain that I was not expecting. I went hoping I would finish in under 40 minutes, and I managed 36:46–another PR for 5 miles. Not only that, the only female who beat me is a professional duathlete on team USA (my role model). I was pretty stoked. Lets see how my legs feel tomorrow. I was also able to witness friends run their fastest five milers, too, which was even more exciting. It is such a wonderful feeling to see others accomplish something–and to see them happy.

Jen (a mountain biker-turned fellow duathlete- turned runner) close to the finish

Jen (a mountain biker-turned duathlete- turned runner) close to the finish

My first running trophy ever

My first running trophy ever

Cycling chicks turned runners (but still spend plenty of time with their bikes!)

Cycling chicks turned runners (but still spend plenty of time with their bikes!)

In other (exciting) news,  met with my coach last week and decided to face my fear of triathlons and fear of failure and sign up for another half IM distance race next spring! Is it weird that planning/ choosing races do to brings me joy and excitement? I picked a few other races to do before the Patriot Half–I plan on running the Shires of Vermont marathon again, as it was such a (shall I say fun?) lovely race….Well, it was fun when it was overwith 😉 My main concern regarding the Patriot Half is the swim; I went for a swim for the first time since I saw at Onteora Lake this past summer, and it was—ehh—embarrassing. (The last time I was in a pool was over a year ago!) I guess this past race season I spent more time on biking and running instead of swimming. Thankfully, I have a few months to gain back my courage with the swim portion of races.

In the non-athletic news, I’ve experimented with new cupcake recipes. Thank goodness other people like cupcakes, otherwise, I do not know what I would do with all the baked goods I bake. I was also blessed to help decorate more than one Christmas tree. (If you don’t know, I am a complete Christmas dork and love everything about the season!)

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Gingerbread latte cupcakes with lemon cream cheese buttercream and little gingerbread boys

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Mocha peppermint cupcakes with peppermint buttercream swirl

eggnog cupcakes with spiced rum buttercream...Good for warming your soul...I mean tummy

eggnog cupcakes with spiced rum buttercream…Good for warming your soul…I mean tummy

First attempt at homemade peppermint chocolate bark= a delicious success!

First attempt at homemade peppermint chocolate bark= a delicious success!

Kevin's tree--he chose for a snowflake to be the tree topper this year instead of a nutcracker.

Kevin’s tree–he chose for a snowflake to be the tree topper this year instead of a nutcracker.

My favorite snowman nurse

My favorite snowman nurse

The 2013 Geuss Christmas tree

The 2013 Geuss Christmas tree

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My 2013 Christmas tree!

I wish everyone a wonderful Holiday season!

When was the last crazy post written?

December 2018
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