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This blog is out of use and out of date. I am now posting on mercedesorten.blogspot.com

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Eagles In the Tummy: Lonestar Quarter Iron Triathlon

Galveston beach. Shining, imported white sand. The sea breeze cradling the salt on its strong wind blew me with a rush into Houston, and then Galveston. The buildings ripped open by Hurricane Ike. A triathlon festival was all set in the middle of this windy, Hurricane ravaged chaos. Hundreds of capable athletes gathered in Moody Gardens this past weekend for a Sprint triathlon, a Quarter Triathlon and a Half Iron. I was one of them and proud to be there, happy to be able to compete. I was grateful to be alive.

It was with this gratefulness and awareness that I woke up at 4:15 on Sunday morning for my first triathlon of the season. Everything I did that morning felt like it was done with intention. As I zipped up my transition bag, it felt like I would remember that single action forever. Everything was moving in slow motion. I was ready to tri. I had the Ironman at the forefront of my mind. My companions were focused, too as we drove into Moody Gardens and listened to my friend Joe's expertly crafted mix.

As I unloaded my bike and expertly pumped up my tires (yes I'm celebrating the small successes, here. I've had so much tire trouble in the past and had none Sunday morning! YAY!) I realized my brakes were off kilter. I pulled up the quick release and walked my bike to transition with my companions. We were mostly silent, thinking, contemplating the distance ahead.

A nice mechanic from Bike Barn adjusted my brake pads with an allen wrench in less than 2 minutes. After getting body marked, I headed to my spot on the rack. 1315. I set up my transition and chatted with a few friends who were nearby. Natasha VDM and Michelle G wished me good luck. Transition closed shortly after I was finished pulling on my wetsuit to the waist and we all walked somberly over to the swim start. I pulled on my pink cap and tucked my two braids inside of it. Ray found us and wished us good luck; he was nice enough to come down from Austin just to support us! I hugged him and then went to take a dip in the water.

As we entered the water, tons of girls around me exclaimed about the cold. I thought the water was warm! I guess that is what happens when you train in 68 degree natural springs like Deep Eddy and Barton Springs. This water was WARM compared to that. I felt great immediately in the water. I knew I would have a good, relaxed swim. I did not give it my all; I was definitely cognizant of the necessity of energy conservation at this point. The Clydesdale guys started ahead of us girls, and I passed most of them easily. I felt amazing and strong in the water. I love my wet suit. The salt water bit my lips a bit but I was out of the water in less than 20 minutes and running up the astro-turf to the wet suit strippers. Per instructed I unzipped my wet suit to the waist and lay down on the ground in front of one of the wet suit dudes. I was AMAZED at how fast he pulled my wet suit off my legs. I've struggled with that thing so much and he made it look easy...he ripped that thing off in less than 2 seconds. I felt like a little seal as I ran off to get my bike.

I sipped some Gatorade and headed out to the bike course. The first 10 miles went by like mud. I kept wondering when Michelle G would come and get me. When she finally did, I tried to grab onto her wheel but the headwind was a bit too much for me. My thin Danskin tri shorts and the pancake flat terrain along the beach made my booty ache. Despite that pain, I felt at peace near the waves and with the sea breeze blowing directly into me. I'm no stranger to wind. I love wind. I also love hills and I am shamed to admit it but I missed them on this course. Masochistic, maybe? I felt good at the turn around and I kept my nutrition in mind and ate throughout the bike. I passed and got passed. I know I have more work to do on the bike. The more often I'm on it, the faster and more efficient I will get. Come on, 5mph faster, come to me!!! As I rode along the seawall I sang some Jay-Z lyrics and thought of my good friend Janet. For some reason the water really inspires me and I felt a strong push from it as I neared Moody Gardens. I pushed it in and as I neared transition, I downshifted as low as I could go and spun super fast like my friend Jess instructed me. As a result of this trick, I did not feel gooey loose-y goosey legs coming off the bike. I ran to transition and was excited to put my running shoes on. I had my eye on a couple of chicks who passed me on the bike.

Excited to finally be running, in my favorite element, I started out too fast. I blasted out a 6:30 minute mile that seemed to go on forever. I finally settled in to a 7:30/7:45 pace and kept passing people. That felt good. I caught a lot of the people that passed me on the bike, and with every pass I gained confidence and speed. I started narrating inside my head. I have the most ridiculously positive self-talk during my running in triathlon. It is humorous. To my embarrassment, I will share some of it: “You’re strong-strong-STRONG, Mercedes, you’re a Queen bee when it comes to running. Pass him, get that guy, take him out show him what you’re made off. Steel. You’re TOUGH-TOUGH-TOUGH. You pass that guy’s ass he is grass keep pushing gotta keep pushing.” I came upon a couple of women who seemed to want to run with me and I out-paced them every time. I would not let anyone mess with me on the run. I never let anyone pass me. Running is my game and I played it well during this triathlon. As I rounded the second loop, cheers from my dear friend Corrie helped me press on. “Finish strong!” she called and I picked up the pace more. I took goo, flat coke, Gatorade and some power bars on the run. After that goo at mile 3, I felt amazingly better and pushed it harder. I saw my special on my second lap and I passed Joe as I neared the finish. He looked good. I found the finish line and gave it what I could. I saw the clock ticked 3:09 as I crossed and I was overjoyed that the announcer did not mis-pronounce my name like Evil always does. Evil always calls me Mercedes Orteen or Ortega.

The volunteers and support were great at this race. This was probably the best run race I’ve ever competed in. I was very impressed. The volunteers went above and beyond to cheer and encourage everyone at every stage in the race. The bike support was really good, too. I saw a lot of people with flats out there. Somebody was watching out for me on Sunday because I did not get a single flat. I kissed my bike, Fizgig, later that day thanking her for the good work.

Post race I was in a haze and I walked around chatting with random people. I ate a power bar and some of the flavor-ice. Everything seemed surreal. It started to get really hot and I stayed in the shade stretching as much as possible. I knew I had a while to wait. I chatted with Michelle G and saw Natasha but didn’t talk to her. I went to cheer on runners as they finished their second loop or last loop of the course.

My special looked AMAZING at the finish. Joe looked good, too. It was his first triathlon! I’m so proud of him. Check out Joe’s blog to the right of this posting. Joe is the one that coined the phrase that I used in the title of this blog, the one about the eagles. Joe said he had "eagle sized butterflies" before this tri and I found that metaphor to be highly amusing and inspiring.

My support group and I went out of a much deserved, delicious seafood meal at Guido’s on the seawall after everyone finished and got a massage. I thoroughly enjoyed my gulf shrimp and fresh oysters at Guido’s. I finished the day with the same gratefulness that I started it with. I was grateful to be alive and with people that I care deeply about. This weekend was a triathlon success. I’m ready to get back on the bike, that’s for certain. I’ll definitely do the half Iron near those same waves on that same white sand beach next year. I know I’ll be (even more) ready then.

Current book I'm reading: The Dogs of Babel
Current song that is motivating me: Jay-Z "Blueprint 2"

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I am a marathoner. That means I have a tummy that could sieze a spider.