Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Bariatric Betty's Try-it-athlon

My 1st Triathlon "ink"

Wow.  Triathlons are EXHAUSTING.  I know, big shock, right?  I went into this with my eyes open, and with some helpful advice from my husband (a former triathlete).  Paraphrasing here: "Be prepared that when you go from the swimming to the biking you legs feel awful, because your arms have been getting most of the blood flow.  Then when you go from the bike to the run it's even worse, because your legs feel all floppy."  OK, so why did you enjoy doing triathlons again?  No seriously, I was lucky to have his advice, because otherwise I could imagine I might have thought I was having serious neurological issues.  This was a mini-triathlon - I ended up swimming about 1/2 mile in the 15 minute swim, rode 7.75 miles in the 20 minute bike, and ran 2 miles in the 20 minute run.  The run I'm very proud of, because I usually jog an 11 minute mile, so I was really pushing myself to run that fast after the bike and swim!  Even more tiring at times, however, was the mental exercise. 

Backing up - I have not done a lot of athletic competitions in my life, mostly because I've never been very good at them.  Since I had bariatric surgery this has changed - I have a lot more confidence to compete and enjoy it, even if I'm not going to win.  As an overweight child I was on a swimming team, a diving team, and a community league soccer team (no tournaments or chances for ribbons/ medals trophies).  The swim team practice was fun for a while, until we start having our meets.  I loved swimming and getting faster/ better. 

Then came our first big meet.  I was a good distance swimmer, but not particularly fast.  Definitely not one of the superstars of our team.  Still, I hoped to place third or second at some meets that year, and maybe the next year I would be even faster.  I really enjoyed swimming with my friends, and I loved the fact that we got to eat candy Ring Pops in between our races to keep our energy up.  I was supposed to compete in freestyle (the 400 I think) and breaststroke (probably the 200).  I might have been in some team medly races as well, doing free, breast, or backstroke.  The one thing I couldn't master for the life of me was the butterfly.  I understood the principal, but couldn't get the timing/ coordination down. 

So, the meet is about to start and my coach pulls me over.  He wants me to swim the 100 butterfly.  "But Coach, I can't swim butterfly."  "Yes," explained the coach "but one of our guys who was going to swim this race isn't here, and I don't want to leave an empty lane.  And I don't want to tire out my best swimmers by adding another race to their meet."  In other words, because he didn't want to have an empty lane, he was perfectly happy to put me in a race I couldn't even do and not mind tiring me out before the races I had a slim chance of placing in.  Yeah, that worked out well.  I felt humiliated as I fumbled through two lengths of quasi-butterfly, finishing far after everyone else.  And then I was exhausted and came in last for my original races (granted, that might have happened regardless).  Needless to say, swim team was no longer fun.  I had learned how much value the coach placed on me (a negligible place holder) and found going to meets embarrassing and humiliating. 

Fast forward to yesterday when I was swimming in the triathlon.  My first thought as I was starting was actually for the woman sharing the lane with me - she had mentioned she "wasn't much of a swimmer" before we started and seeing her start I realized she was not being falsely modest.  I was worried about her making it through the swim, but luckily we were in a shallow enough lane that she could stand up at any point and be ok.  All of the sudden, I realize that I'm in my first swimming race since that swim team year.  Whoa.  My life is totally different now.  I'm a grown woman, healthy weight, and strong.  Nobody is making me do anything.  I realize I don't have to be competing against anyone in the pool with me - I can compete with myself, trying to do the best I can, which might just be finishing the race.  Then, I realize that I actually am swimming faster than at least a couple of people in the race.  My lane partner, for one.  She has stopped several times and stood up to catch her breath.  And a guy a couple people over.  Huh.  Still, I keep swimming and just try to focus on myself.  My breathing, my stroke, hit the flip turn, glide and kick, my breathing...etc.  And after a minute or two everything settles down.  I'm just swimming laps, like I always do.  And 15 minutes isn't a long swim for me.  I realize that if I take it easy (I don't want to push to hard at swimming since I have two other events to come) I will finish the swim and feel good, this doesn't have to feel stressful.  And suddenly, it's not. 

I finished the swim feeling good.  Got changed quickly and went into the gym where the spinning bikes had been preset to our personalized settings.  Everything felt good.  I haven't been biking or spinning in the last year or so, so this was going to be my weakest event.  Again, I didn't want to wear myself out before the run, so I wasn't going to push myself too hard.  Great news - they had music (140 bpm, good for spinning) and I just got into it.  I was singing along a little, definitely keeping loose while I was riding.  My legs didn't feel bad, so my husband's warning seemed to have been for naught.  I was able to drink 24 ounces while I was biking, so hydration wasn't a problem. You know how I've got no padding left around my tailbone?  Well, that's true for everywhere a spinning bike seat hits, too. ;)  Of course, even when I was morbidly obese those things were still uncomfortable!   Anyway, I held my speed at around 105 rpm, and felt great.  Just started to break a sweat at the end of the 20 minutes.  Then they blew the whistle and I hopped off the bike, looking forward to the run and being able to push myself more.  I took one step, and....

Ohhhhhh boy!  Have you ever been on a boat for hours or days and then stepped on to dry land, only to feel like you're off balance/ the land is moving?  That's the best way I can explain trying to walk after the bike.  My legs felt rubbery, and my hips were all kinds-of-whacked-out.  I only had 5 minutes to get up to the track and I knew I NEEDED to stretch out.

Climbing the stairs to the track, I felt my hamstrings tighten up to the point it hurt.  Yup, gonna be doing stretches until it starts, just hope it loosens up... and it did.  I won't say stretching felt good, it hurt, but I was able to run without pain when the whistle blew.  Now my family started cheering me on - that felt fantastic!  "Go, Mom!"  "You're doing great, honey!" "We're so proud of you!".   My assigned lap-counter even started cheering me on; "You've got this, Becky!".  It's the last event, I don't have to hold anything in reserve, so while I paced myself for the first 18 minutes, for the last 2 minutes I ran as fast as I could.  When the whistle blew I had gone a half of a lap further than I had imagined I could in that amount of time!  Yay, me :) 

It took a minute to catch my breath, and I was sweating!  It's been a while since jogging two miles made me sweat (barring beastly hot weather).  I ate a bite of a banana to make sure I had a little carb boost until lunch time, went home, showered, made lunch and the rested.  My whole body was exhausted for the rest of the day.  My body was still a little sore Monday, but not bad.  I can't wait to find out my overall score/ placement.  Next year, I want to beat it!

This weekend I'm doing the Cleveland Clinic Healthy Solon 5k.  A bunch of the members of my local support group are going to do the 1 mile walk.  I'm so excited that so many of us will be there.  We've even got someone coming in from one of my facebook WLS groups that I've never met in person before.  Eileen, can't wait to meet you!  Pictures to follow (like you didn't guess that, right?)!

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