Final installment of the Crucible (Coach’s name for Memorial Day Training Camp Weekend which I have decided is a good name).
Monday morning. We have to do a 45 minute continuous swim followed by 1:40 run. I’m not looking forward to the swim because I have the dragsuit from Hell. The water is ice, ice cold — stinging my face. At first I can’t get my face into the water so I did my warm up lap with my head above water. I kept trying to put my face in but it hurt. Finally after the fifth or sixth time the water froze my face numb so I was able to swim. I’m not exagerating — it numbed my face so the pain went away.
We swam with swim partners again. My partner and a lot of other people were having difficulty with the cold water and their breathing. I couldn’t understand why I was not having any problems breathing. That was the entire reason I went to the lung doctor and I thought that was what we diagnosed as the cause of my exercise induced asthma — cold water and cold weather. But I was not having any problems breathing. I saw at least 3 (so that means there were more) of my teammates struggling with breathing in that water.
Meanwhile my swim coach is on the war path to get me to swim with longer strokes. (When I ran into the coaches the night before I made the mistake of saying I was going to be the last Trilifer out of the water and apparently he’s just not going to have that.) So he’s yelling at me to press my body down and reach long, reach long. Okay, okay, I think I think I do that but apparently not. I think what happens is I can only concentrate on one thing at a time. So when I reach long I forget to catch the water. When I catch the water I forget to reach long. Then when I have both of those things going my head position is wrong and I don’t kick right. So for this swim I decide to just give in to it and reach long and press down. In order to do that I have to concentrate on driving my arm and twisting my torso so there were a few things I was thinking about.
The swim was hard. It was just as hard as that first time I put the drag shorts on in the pool. Not only was my wetsuit not helping me, it was making it harder. I keep driving twisting and reaching, driving, twisting and reaching. Oh yeah, catch the water, catch the water. Oops, forgot to reach on that one…. Oh my God is that MORE water in my wetsuit legs? I can feel two big balloons at my calves. There is water all throughout the suit. I thought for a second about unzipping the legs but I didn’t know what that would do so I decided to just lump it.
I make it to the dock and my Swim Coach is telling me it looks good. Yeah, yeah, looks good, I’m dying here. This is a total muscular workout. I feel like a horse pulling the plow through a field. I head out for another trip around. 45 minutes of this was going to kill me. Finally after the second time around I make it back to the dock and I see another coach there. I keep trying to pull the wetsuit down from my chin (it rides up to my chin and pulls down on my legs — a nightmare). “I think I should stop now” I lament in my most pitiful voice. “This is too hard! My wetstuit is dragging me down.” I demonstrate by pulling at my neck to show him how far up my face the wetsuit is climbing. He says “I think you should should work through the discomfort. Continue.” You gotta be kidding me. That was my most pitiful look — he probably couldn’t see my eyes through my goggles, had he been able to see I know he would have taken pity on me and let me stop. Instead he just waives me on and yells out “Good Byeeee.” Off I go into drag hell.
Finally my watch says 40 minutes. I see other people have left the water already. My obsessive/compulsive personality takes over and I want to finish the last 5 minutes because then at least I did the whole workout. But I had to get the stupid wetsuit off me. So I head back to shore and swim around in little circles for 5 minutes until it was time and ripped that dragsuit off of me as fast as I could.
That was it. I was sick of swimming I was sick of biking, all I could think was “thank God I just get to put my running shoes on and go running now.” I stopped for a second and pondered the irony of that statement. Running my weakest link was now my preferred link? How funny was that? I just felt like running was something totally in my control. No equipment issues. No bike to futz with, no westuit to fight with. Put on my running shoes and go. This was it. 1 hour and 40 minutes from now I would be done with the training camp from Hell. I can do 1 hour and 40 minutes of running… Right?
As soon as I started running I knew something wasn’t quite right. My heart rate read 124 which is low but I was gasping for air like I was sprinting to the finish. Very strange. I guess the cold water did have an effect on me but I hadn’t noticed until then. For the first mile I was having difficulty breathing. I was able to move but I couldn’t really catch my breath. Then another coach caught up with me and ran with me for a few minutes. I told him I needed to walk and catch my breath. He walked with me and said a lot of people were having problems breathing. That water was cold. I soon picked up my pace and jogged until the 1 mile marker. Then everyone walked for 1 minute and let me tell you it was a welcome rest.
The final run was hard. My legs were tired. My lungs were tired. Systemically I had energy which was good — I did not bonk once the entire weekend so I get an A+ for nutrition. But my legs were feeling heavy, I was having a hard time holding my core and quite frankly I didn’t give a hoot about Chirunning posture or anything else. I was just watching the clock. I was going to run out 48 minutes turn around and run back 52 (two big hills.) It was a nice run because I saw everyone from the team running opposite me and I got a couple of hugs and some people ran over to give me little updates on their weekends. I just love everyone on the team, they are such great people. Everyone was so nice and I think we were all feeling the thank-god-this-is-about-to-be over high.
I turned around at the half way mark searching for my mile markers with a vengence. I really wanted to walk. Any little hill, I walked. My legs were starting to burn. I told one gal “I’m having a Jane Fonda moment.” That became my line for the next hour. Going up the hills my butt and hamstrings and quads just burned. Feel the Burn, Feel the Burn I could hear Jane saying in my head. Oh I feel it alright. If this is not making my butt smaller, nothing will!!
On the run back I was starting to fade muscularly — not energy-wise. My legs just didn’t want to move. I’m doing a shuffle and finally I say, enough I have to walk. Right then Ron (one of my oldest triathlon friends — he did my very first Tri with me in 2003) yells out — “Not Yet! The mile marker is just a little further!” Oh God, okay, if it is really just a little further. So I pick it up again and now I am in Hell. Lord, Jesus, take me now. This is all I have left in my body. So Ron tells me it is just past the Alpine something or other there is a little bridge. Just make it to there. He passes me and I keep running watching for him to stop so I can see where the mile marker is. He’s not stopping. He’s going and going and I’m thinking where the heck is that freaking mile marker and there is no way I can run that far. Then I see him stop. There that is my final mile marker and I start running toward him like I’m running to God. I hit that mile marker and I let out a Hallelujia! (I’ve only run about 6 miles at this point so there is no need for this over reaction but I’m in third dimension of spiritual pain.)
The last little section from that one mile marker to the IGA hill I do my best run of the weekend. I just let it go as fast as I could (which is still slow so it is no big deal). But I promise myself if I can run to the gas station on IGA hill I can walk up the hill but I have to run like I mean it. This is the hill I am going to be walking on race day. I make it to the hill and I’m all smiles because now I get to walk. Brisk walk but walk. Then my butt when into overdrive. Oh. My. God. My butt started burning and cramping. Walking is not easier at all. My legs are so tight it is all I can do to keep going. I realize, this is what it is going to feel like race night at 11 p.m when I am walking up this hill. Every fiber of my being is going to be screaming “Take me Jesus, take me now!” So Jane Fonda, Jesus and I finish the hike up to the top of IGA hill and I see that it does flatten out and I can do a little shuffle to keep moving.
At exactly 1 hour 38 minutes I make it back to camp. I have no desire to complete the extra 2 minutes. My obsessive compulsiveness has been dropped at the bottom of IGA hill. The coaches usher us into the ice cold water to stand in it up to our waists to soak away the soreness in our legs and our souls. Memorial Day Training Camp weekend was officially over, the Crucible was conquered — or was it? You would think we would be all whooping it up and cheering. We did all give a little cheer but really, we all kind of knew that the work was not over. All we had done is completed one more step along the way. We were not finished. Not by a long shot. In fact, in many ways, we were just getting started.
The last words ringing in my ears as I pack up my gear and head for the hotel is one of the coaches saying “Race Day will be harder.” Oh Lord. Jesus take me now…..
“I think it’s a mistake to ever look for hope outside of one’s self.”