Not your average suburban mom. I’m more your typical, normal, commonplace, everyday, garden-variety suburban mom. With a thesaurus.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Some call it "Fourth Place"; I prefer to think of it as "Third from Winning"

"Duuuuude, Kel, nice job on FOURTH place. You
must be soooo stoked and like, super fast, man."
So I totally did it.  I may have cried a little.  But I FINISHED THE RACE. I also may have placed fourth in my age group.  (Please don't harsh my buzz by reminding me there were only four in my age group.)

Thank you for all the prayers on my Facebook plea Friday night. My triathlon was on Saturday. My LAST CHANCE Thursday evening swim workout ended about fifteen minutes after it started.  I was stuck behind a slower swimmer and had to switch from freestyle to breaststroke.  I wasn't really concentrating and made a lame attempt at the breaststroke kick and tweaked my knee.  I tried water walking on it and it hurt so soon I just got out of the pool. 

On Friday night Sarah came over to look at it.  (How did I manage to get a training partner that is also in orthopedics?!)  She thought it was a bruised meniscus and told me how to treat it.  She encouraged me to go to the race as planned, and if I needed to, I could always DROP OUT.  All I could think of was a huge DNF next to my name.  What a struggle - do I try and risk a Did Not Finish - or do I just throw in the towel and not try at all?

I trained and trained my tush off for this race.  I only do one triathlon a year because I have four kids and they have some pretty messed up priorities.  I mean, they would rather have money to eat dinner than allow the woman who birthed them to participate in numerous triathlons.  How selfish.  So this was my one shot this year. *Enter Eminem's Lose Yourself swelling in the background like a wave ready to crash on the beach of Lake Huron* (Compatible simile FTW.)

"I love open water swimming.  Also, if you smile wide
enough you can almost forget this water is about 70
degrees*". (*not a made up number to shock you;
the legitimate temperature of the water.)
It was a huge victory for me to get in the water and start that race.  My lifelong buddy - good old Fear of Failure - was with me the entire previous twenty-four hours, but I finally duct taped his mouth on the beach before the swim and just decided I was going to go for it.

So, how did it go?

It was awesome.  And it sucked.

Firstly, some background on the young fella in the picture.  Sarah and I have been training with a teenager named Jacob for a few months.  He is a runner and a cyclist, and I thought he would love triathlon, but the boy needed to learn how to swim.  (I mean, he could swim, but he couldn't swim, youknowwhatImean?)  He decided to do the Olympic distance (which was double my Sprint!) and a very ambitious goal for a first tri.  He worked really hard to get his endurance up for the race, but we never had time to do any open water practices.  Pool swims are vastly different from open water.

The water Saturday morning was C-O-L-D but also really, really rough.  Lake swims are usually fairly calm, but Lake Huron is one of the five Great Lakes, so it has things like tides and waves and undertow and mimics more closely an ocean swim than a smaller lake swim.

Pre-race I threw every word of wisdom at Jacob I could think of.  I'm sure it was entirely helpful and didn't freak him out at all.

"Dude, don't worry about your time - just stay alive.  You can make up time on the bike and run.  If you get tired switch to breaststroke or sidestroke.  Take your time to recover.  You are not going to drown.  You might get kicked, your goggles might get knocked around. You could even inhale some water, but remember, you can go a long time without air. Just stay calm, you'll be fine.  Look for the kayaks if you need help.  But, you'll totally be fine."

I'm a really good coach/pep talk giver.

The race started (Olympic distance first) and Jacob was off. There were only fourteen in his entire race and it was a very competitive field.  He was the youngest by a few years.

I waited nervously for the Olympic Distance swimmers to round the buoy at 250 yards, and then I peed in the water joined the horde of Sprinters close to the start.

I thought I was being smart this year by not placing myself behind the slower swimmers.  I knew I had upped my game in training and was ready to be a lot more confident in the water.  At the bell I scrambled for my position.  It looked something like this:

Only 20 yards in I got kicked in the face and my goggles got knocked off.  I also inhaled a ton of water.  I couldn't catch my breath and the waves (which really look non-existent in this picture so you're just going to have to trust me on that) were knocking me back.  I was already in over my head (haha - figuratively, as well) and couldn't stand to get any air or to fix my goggles.

I freaked the heck out.  I could feel a panic attack a-comin'.  It was every worst case triathlon scenario combining into a fantastic culmination of suck.  I don't even know if that sentence makes any sense - I just know at that point I was having a huge problem that had nothing to do with my knee.  I thought about calling for a pool noodle, but then realized I couldn't find a kayak in order to request one. Finally I remembered what I told Jacob, namely that I wasn't going to die.   First I had to clear my lungs and get some air.  After a minute of sidestroking and slowing down my mind while taking teeny breaths that did let in some air, I calmed down enough to cough a bit.  Once I had my full breath I adjusted my goggles.  They were still a little wet inside (and very foggy) but at least I wasn't completely blind anymore.

I tried freestyle but at this point I was fully entrenched in the breaststrokers.  I just couldn't get through anywhere.  These people had dutifully followed directions and waited in the back so they wouldn't get swam over, and honestly, at that point I was just not powerful enough to swim over anyone. (But I probably accidently goosed at least three people with my stroking arm.)(Stroking arm.)(*giggle*)

When I neared the beach I tried running out of the water but the undertow was cuh-razy strong and unexpected, so I sort of stumbled majestically.  Like, the waves battered me from behind while the water grabbed at my ankles and I did a weird curtsy looking thing in order to stay upright.  (Shout out to Will and Kate!) The beach that separates the water from the transition area is about 100 yards of soft sand.  I ran about six steps before my knee said, "Naw, girl, let's meander this beach."

Meander I did.  It looked something like this:

I would subtitle this photo: Discouragement/I'm About To Kill Something/Brian Better Not Be Taking A Picture Of Me Because I Hate Everything Right Now/I Can Literally Feel Seaweed On My Back/Tri Shorts Moving South In Order To Display a FANTASTIC Muffintop
I'm not going to lie.  I cried a bit in Transition.  I told Brian, "I can't run. Waaaaa." (Not an ugly Kim Kardashian cry, but a pitiful little whimper-esque thing.) Brian ignored me and yelled, "GO KELLY! YOU GOT THIS!" which is why I married him.

Broccoli tattoo in full effect.
P.S. It's totally not really broccoli.
Thinking only about the hill.  And my bike shorts.  Which were caught on the seat.
Bike started just the way I needed it to.  I was totally worried that the bike course starts with a hill.  There is no real lead up to it; it's just right there as you get on your bike.  As I was getting on my bike, my tri shorts caught on my bike seat. Since the only thing they have to grip is my bathing suit, the bike seat pulled my shorts down fantastically low and I had to make a snap decision - commit to the hill or pull up my shorts?

You don't even need to wonder what I chose; you know I'm a super hardcore athlete, so of course I mooned* everyone along the entire bike course. (* It was just a bathing suit moon, 100% legal, chill out.)

The bike portion was  I knew the course, biking wasn't hurting my knee (it never fully extends while pedaling), and, since I seriously doubted I would be running, I went full out for the duration, not worrying about conserving any energy for the 5k. WOO-HOO!  Miles 3-6 are a steady incline, so my legs were feeling it by the time I turned around.  Then I got to Speedy Gonzales my way downhill. It was wonderful.  THAT was what I trained for.

After bike I decided I was just going to walk to stupid 5k.  I certainly wasn't going to quit at this point.  The race volunteers assured me the course would still be open (due to the Olympic racers) for as long as it took me to finish.  My pride took a beating as I strolled past spectators cheering on the first finishers.  I jogged a few steps every ten feet just to test things out.  It was getting easier to jog as my legs calmed down from the bike portion, but it still wasn't the most graceful looking comfortable thing I've ever done.

I walked about 3/4 mile before I had this epiphany: It hurts to walk.  It hurts to run. I may as well run because it will go faster.  (This is the kind of reasoning that separates us from primates, y'all.)

About this time I met Jack, my Triathlon Best Friend.  Jack and I had been leapfrogging for the run portion.  (I know some people hate leapfroggers, but they don't bother me at all.  I just assume it's their well thought-out plan to avoid injury or something else altruistic.) He kept asking questions about the run course and I explained how clearly it was marked.  I was pretty sure he was over the tri thing at this point and just wanted to chat with someone.  Plus he kept jogging and walking at inconsistent intervals, so Hey There, Sherlock.

I finally called out, "Yo, Number 14," which was his age,"Wait up a minute."  He stopped and I caught up and continued, "So my knee hurts and you look like you are struggling a bit.  Let's stay together and set little goals.  What do you think?" He was all, "Totally, Woman Who Seems Not Crazy At All Like Someone Who Is An Expert At All Things Triathlon."  This was an excellent system for both of us.

Jack was a fourteen year old who recently moved to Michigan from Australia. He is the oldest of four, a soccer player, and about to enter high school in the fall.  I was all, "I could be your mom." Jack's proper response should have been, "No, you're not old enough," but instead he replied, "Yeah!"  I forgave him since he encouraged me for almost two whole miles before his uncle caught up with us and Jack blew our current pace out of the water to finish with Uncle John.

The last half mile was run on pure heart.  I knew the course; I knew I had the equivalent to a few blocks and some downtown area to run.  I was pretty warmed up and my knee wasn't as loud in it's complaining.  I knew I was going to finish this running. Dare I say I actually felt TRIUMPHANT at this point?  I probably cried a little again.

50 yards to go! Run, Kelly, Run!

SMILES? 25 yards to go!


I crossed the finish line at 1:35 - less than five minutes slower than last year.  You gotta believe that stung a little.  If only I would have run the whole thing ... ;-)  I came in fourth in my age group - there were only four of us, natch - and top three got finisher medals, but hey, now I know what is possible for next year, right?

We waited for Jacob to finish.  He finished in an impressive 2:39.  He beat out two other triathletes.  He was last out of the water but not last up the beach after the swim; he averaged 18.5 mph on his 24 mile bike course riding a heavy mountain bike (with the lock still attached!)(wish I'd caught that earlier), and finished the race with a 6.2 mile run with an average pace of 7:39 - WHAT?! (oh to be young, driven, and naturally athletic.)  I was so proud of him.  He worked so hard and is now a TRIATHLETE!

Future Ironman.  You heard it here first, kids.

We completed the day with a Grand Slam breakfast at a Denny's where the hostess loved me and got me a giant bag of ice to put on my knee.  She even sat us in the corner booth so I could prop up my leg behind Esther while we inhaled ate our pancakes like ladies.

I shared my bacon with Eve = Best Mom Ever.

The End.


  1. Great job! What an exciting feat!

    1. Thanks so much! I was really proud to FINISH!!!! :)

  2. You did it!! Yay for you for not giving up!

    1. YAY! See you at Run the Red Carpet ;-)

  3. wow, I can't even imagine doing just the 5K I'm SOOO not a racer! How did you know that was you in the picture in the water...everyone looks the same! You inspire me to get out and get some exercise!!! Congrats on finishing, despite your knee!

    1. Lol - mostly an educated guess and a LOT of zooming in :) Thanks, Sue!

  4. What an exciting (albeit terrifying) race! So sorry your knee was bothering you but kudos for finishing!

    1. Thanks, Kali! Now I feel like I can relax a little :)

  5. Oh, Kelly!! I was teary though the end of this--what an awesome, amazing story and accomplishment!! I am so, so happy for you!!! You are a rockstar, girlfriend, and I'm proud to know you!!!

    Also, you are frickin' hysterical. I laughed SO hard throughout this!!

    Also (some more), I just told Jamie about your friend who did the full tri and we both were in AWE that he could run a 7 something pace after swimming AND biking!!

    Great, great story. Thank you so much for sharing!!

    1. Ohmylanta, he's crazy fast, right? Since he's about 17 Jamie has plenty of time to catch up to him. But thanks for all the well-wishes. Doing the actual race always reminds me why I love triathlon so much!

  6. Goosing people with your stroking arm - classic! Had my snickering at my desk at work!

    My first fall on the bike happened with my pants getting stuck on the seat too, but instead of mooning, I just fell over :)

    Great job with this tri. It is super impressive! Plus, you shared your bacon with your daughter, which is a feat in itself. Must be because you have "broccoli" tat. LOL I love tree tattoos!

    1. Lol - it is generous to describe my tattoo as a "tree" tattoo, so thanks. I mean, a tree tattoo is totally what I wanted, but my squatty little broccoli tat is sorely lacking ;-) I can't wait for you to do your tri!


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