Monday, July 21, 2014

It Took My Breath Away

I'm not sure if the lifeguard in the kayak thought I was crazy or stupid. And I gave him two opportunities to decide. About 500 meters from the swim finish of the Delta Olympic triathlon on July 20, I gulped way too much water. When that happens (as invariably it will in open water), I stop short, catch my breath and keep going. This time was different.

Back in February I suffered a nasty bout of bronchitis, and for several months afterward, whenever I swallowed wrong, my breath would catch, almost as if my epiglottis got stuck. A whack on the back would set things right (and frighten the kids), until my husband convinced me to see the doctor. A steroid inhaler quelled the problem.

Sunday morning it happened again. But this time I was in a lake and there was no hubby to get it to stop. I looked toward the kayak, raised my hand and yelled for help. The lifeguard came right over. I told him the problem (between gasps), and rested for about two minutes. At one point, I asked him to whack me on the back with his paddle. "Really?" he asked. "Yep." Crazy or stupid, take 1. He instructed me to pull long, deep breaths, and things were set aright.

I thanked him, and started off. "You're going to keep going?" "Of course I am," I responded. Clearly this kid doesn't know me well. Crazy or stupid, take 2.

And thus began my 3-hour journey in and around Delta Lake State Park, in northern Oneida County, a place my mother took us often in the summer. The Olympic distance tri is generally a mile swim, a 24-mile bike ride, and a 6-mile run. I have competed at Delta three times, if memory serves, first in the sprint distance and then twice in the Olympic. It's a terrific, well-run and organized race, put on by ATC Endurance.

Even with that minute-or-so respite, I can't complain about my swim time. I tried a new strategy for the start--lining up on the buoy side, instead of in the middle of the pack. I was surprisingly untouched for a good deal of the race, and even drafted a swimmer ahead of me, careful to back off if her feet got too close to my face. And with the buoys right there, I didn't drift off track. I always feel triumphant when I pass the men, who yesterday started swimming five minutes ahead of the women, and I left several behind me as I exited the water.

Transition to the bike went pretty well--the new wetsuit I got for my birthday comes off much easier than the one it replaced. The bike was OK--my pace was 16.7 mph--an improvement but not even close to where I wish I could be. I am hopeful that the new bike I am saving to purchase later this year will be a faster ride.

Me and my improved, less damaging, stride.
Last year's race was brutally hot, and my run time showed it. This year topped 77 degrees with considerable cloudiness, which helped a lot. I also have been seeing a physical therapist for about six weeks to solve this patellar tendonitis I feel in both knees. For the first time in quite a while I ran pain-free; the tedious exercises are working, as is my attempt to change my running gate. Being a heel-striker for 30 years has not been good for my joints. This photo shows that I am having some success at changing that stride--nearly my entire foot is hitting the ground at once, instead of just my heel. Bonus: I actually placed third in my age group on the run.

While I wish I had placed higher in my age group, I conquered the only goal I set for myself--finishing faster than last year's time of 3:05:08. This year's finish clocked in at 3:04:38, a fact my astute husband pointed out as soon as I crossed the finish line.

This is Jade. See Jade swim. See Jade bike. See Jade run.
A big shout-out to my girl, Jade Barth Mills, an ultramarathoner who completed her first triathlon, this one, and she beat me! We exited the water at about the same time, I passed her once on the bike, but she got me back, and I can never keep up with her on the run (even though I used to about 10 years ago). Good on you, Jade! I hope you caught the triathlon bug and I see you at future races.

Next up for me: Cayuga Olympic Triathlon, Aug. 3. Last year's time was 3:14:57, but I did finish 3rd in my Age Group! The bike there is tough. So I'll aim for 3:11.