Monday, September 13, 2010

My Triathlon

It is hard to know where to start exactly.

In my The Night Before blog I alluded to my Love and I having a hard time. It was awful actually. "Strife" is what they used to call it in our marriage group we were a part of 10 years ago... I am not exactly sure what all was going on below the surface for him, but for me, the pre-race tension and the panic of the one person who has been neck deep in this with me changing his mind at the last minute was terrifying. We hadn't had a fight in months and it seemed to be the worst day imaginable for one. I was neck deep in it before I realized it could be a spiritual attack. Once I made that realization, I could almost smell the sulfur in the air. My heart and mind immediately settled back into the truth - My husband loves me more than his own life. He has faithfully supported me in every way possible and released me with his blessing to do this. Whatever is happening now is not a direct reflection of his desire for me to complete this challenge before me and finish well. -- We REALLY need to remember in the midst of "strife" what our spouse's TRUE heart for us is, not whatever the topic of the moment is.

The peace quickly pushed the frantic anxiety away and settled in. The service the night before was exactly what I needed. More TRUTH poured in, more tension released.

As I snuggled down (alone so I wouldn't be disturbed by anyone else's lack of sleep - specifically my fellas :) in the borrowed bed, multi-colored striped sheets and blanket in a soft pink painted bedroom, I thanked God for His peace (Philippians 4:7). I slept SO well. It was wonderful.

I woke up at 5:50am. I didn't feel tired, just ready. I started drinking my water. I planned to consume roughly 64oz of water before I left the house. I ate my leftover brown rice noodles and 3 scrambled egg whites. The entire morning there was not one hint of stomach upset. Literally my WHOLE body was at peace.

My friend and her hubby loaded my bike on her car so she could take me to get set up. Our Love's would come a little later with all of our kids.

When I walked out the door of their home, I smelled my favorite smell, the ocean. It was another early blessing in a long day that would be filled with them.

My "stuff"
We headed off toward Lake Stevens at 6:45am as planned. Just a short stop for gas on the way and we arrived in plenty of time. She left me at the curb to park the car and then came back to help me get my gear to the transition area to set it up.

I became a little "jittery" at that point wondering if I would remember all I had learned, specifically what "Iron Tony" had told me about how to set up my transition area. I asked a few questions of the gal whose bike I was next to and it all came back. Whew!

I lay my towel, shoes, helmet and such out for a quick grab once I got back from the swim. The excitement began building as I looked around at all the other athletes getting ready too. I forgot my size and shape and felt like I fit in. I had trained for this event, just like them, I had practiced and planned and prepared. I KNEW I was ready for this.

I greeted my parents, my mother-in-law, and the Love's who brought our kids before I headed out to get in the water. I discarded my sweatshirt with only a half-second thought for the amount of my flesh that would be exposed. Releasing it all to the Lord, eyes on Him, I walked in to the super duper ridiculously cold water.

The water was 65degrees that morning. I am allergic to latex so I had to wear my silicone cap under the latex one they gave me. I was a little freaked out by the places where I could see bubbles coming up from the bottom but couldn't see the bottom!! ICKY!!! I focused on talking with the other gals wading in with me. 

Once in deeper I waited for the start by looking around, deliberately not contemplating the other creatures swimming around with me, enjoying the sky, the excitement in the air and in my own heart as I was about to begin my greatest physical challenge thus far.

Once the countdown was complete, I took off in the pack. It was about 30 women so there wasn't really any claustrophobic sensation (I had been warned that it can get pretty crazy at the beginning of a swim). Everyone was polite as they bumped or kicked into me, 'pardon me', 'sorry', 'oops', it was all very friendly. I never felt worried, I just began to swim.
My swim training both in the lake and in the pool just kicked in. "Bubble, Bubble, breathe..."
I stayed right on track swimming out the 200m to the giant orange buoy. I felt my body shift from warm up mode to full swim mode. It felt great. Then, once I was around the buoy I noticed something pretty inconvenient. I couldn't see the boat ramp area where we were to get out of the water. I am near-sighted and without my glasses, the shore was literally unidentifiable. YIKES! I couldn't just put my head down for 3-5 strokes and pop up like I had to sight for the buoy. I had to look, every other stroke or two for the heads of those swimming beside me and up ahead. It was annoying to know that just as my body was ready to kick into full swim mode I had to keep stopping to get my bearings. As I got closer I could hear the cheering of the crowd and see the very fuzzy dock. I got some good hard strokes in, once freaking myself out by the water rushing under my body, then realizing it was my own stroke pushing the water out of my way!

As I was exiting the water, a woman (about half my size) was wobbling in front of me, I steadied her so she wouldn't fall on the shallowly covered cement and felt another person use my rear to steady themselves. I chuckled a bit on the inside thinking that I must look like a "substantial" support compared to their tiny wobbly frames. I started up the rocky cement feeling the cold bumpy ground on my chilled feet.

My Love, cheering me on as I head for the transition area. 
I was already planning how to get into my shoes the fastest and get on with the bike portion. I was bummed I forgot to empty my bladder in the lake so I wouldn't have to stop later. My transition time from the swim to the bike was just under seven minutes. It is amazing how hard it can be to dry your feet and put socks on when your fingers are numb. The transition area was almost empty when I got there reminding me that I had better get going!

Finally my feet were dry and I got some "gel" in me and a bottle of electrolyte drink and headed off for the roller coaster bike ride. Little did I know that it would be more exciting than I imagined. 

I got on my bike and headed out. I was at the back of the pack so I didn't see anyone else until I got to the first hill. I spotted a young guy, about 13, ahead of me on a BMX style bike. Okay then... As I was heading up my first BIG hill trying to stay confident and focused on keeping my knees in and my heels down, I see a large black dog catapulting toward me barking viciously. Instinctively I let out this deep, loud yell that was apparently enough to stop him in his tracks, I never heard another peep or saw his furry self again. The kid in front of me said, "that dog really scared you didn't he?" and through my gasping for air as I pedaled up the hill past him, "yes, he sure did!"

As I crested the hill, I settled in for the up and down, twisting turning wild first half of the bike ride. I even yelled, "wheeeee" on a couple of the big downhills. Why not? There was literally no one else around, and I wanted to enjoy every minute I could. Besides, the night before, during worship, my mom said she was praying for me and saw this picture of me going down this steep hill with angels on either side holding on to me and all of us with delighted smiles on our faces yelling "wheeeeee"! So I did!

 I could feel my energy stores depleting as I climbed the last couple of small hills before the turn around. I knew I needed to stop and get some fluids in me and another gel. I had to STOP because in all the time I did ride my bike I could never successfully grab my water bottle from my bike frame or balance long enough on my bike to do anything but wipe my nose or brush a stray hair off my face.

As I came to a stop just past the turnaround area, I did something I never do, I put my right foot BEHIND my pedal. This messed with my center of gravity enough that I just fell over. Right into the ditch. Right in front of a car. Right in front of the guys signaling the turn around. Awesome. I felt a blackberry thorn in my booty as I got up, praying it wouldn't poke too big of a hole in my shorts (that would have been awful!). Everyone, including the woman in the car with the horrified look on her face, was saying "Are YOU OK???" Yes, I was fine. Dignity shot, bonking for lack of fuel in my body, shaking and stumbling, but yes, I was fine.

I walked the bike out of the ditch and over to the other side of the road. I sucked down a gel and began drinking the bottle of sports drink I had on the bike, willing my body to come back to life. I looked over my bike and looked down the hill I was standing on top of and decided I had better get going. As I tried to get my right foot in the toe clip so I could head out, it felt like I left my kickstand down. I got off the bike and checked, no, the kickstand was up... what was wrong?

I looked over the side of my bike and noticed the chain was off the sprocket. Dang! I know NOTHING about this stuff and neither did the volunteers! So, I called my Love. He talked me through how to get it back on and make sure it was in the right gear. I started to shake again and cry. He said, "just get back on and finish Jenn!" I hung up, got on my bike and headed off to finish my ride. Everything worked great on the way back, especailly the gel and sports drink, since they kicked in just in time to ride up the super steep hill I had "wheeeeed" down earlier. It was intense, but I did it!!! The policeman and volunteers at the top of the hill holding back traffic were cheering me on and the race photographer was there as I headed down a small hill to snap a picture. I hope it turns out, because the look of the victory I felt must have been on my face!

I had one more HUGE hill to climb. It was daunting! And L-O-N-G! I was in the lowest gears just trying to pedal up with whatever I had left. It felt painfully slow. It was. A few of the Olympic distance cyclists cheered me on as they muscled past me. I must admit, I envied their lean frames and sculpted muscles wondering how many zillions of hills they climbed long before I considered doing this triathlon. I didn't linger on that thought for too long because I had to focus on getting my knees in and heels down and making it to the black mail box at the top of the hill I scouted the day before. I knew I could make it. I was huffing and puffing so hard about half way up that I was actually afraid I would hyperventilate. Since passing out and falling over for a second time was not an option I started praying. I begged the Creator of my body to flood it with the peace and oxygen I needed to get to the top. I felt this tangible strength infuse me and started to shift my panting into slower deeper breaths. Within a few pedal strokes, my head was clearer and my strokes stronger. Then -- I made it. I saw the black mail box and knew I had to start grabbing gears to deal with the rapidly approaching downhill. I shifted, pedaled and smiled as all the training pieces again fell into place. The man on the corner who had cheered me on as I headed off for my ride yelled again what a great job I was doing and that I was almost home! I hollered a "thank you" and pushed ahead to recapture whatever speed I could at the last leg of the bike journey.

I felt great and strong heading back to the transition area. My family and friends cheering loudly for me helped me get past the nervousness I was starting to feel about dismounting the bike on wobbly legs again.
I remembered to get my right foot out of the toe clips and in FRONT of the pedal this time and though it wasn't graceful, I did not fall over but got off my bike and headed into the transition area to park it and head out for the run. My transition this time took just over two minutes and the bike rack area was cluttered with other cyclists debris dropped haphazardly in their haste to get to the run as well. I removed my helmet, sucked down another gel and some water, put on my hat, racked my bike and headed out with more energy than I thought I would have at this point.

At this point I decided to run the WHOLE way. 

I think that at this point I wanted to run the whole way because I knew there were not likely to be any more crazy events in my future. I knew it was just putting one foot in front of the other and that I could do. I had run/walked farther than this several times and I was sure I had the stamina to do it. I KNEW any walking would be cheating myself of time and of the endurance I had built up.

I did have to stop once to go potty though... but that was not a "want" it was a "need" :)

So, I am running at my pace, being passed by everyone, and that was really when it started, really started to sink in. I was almost done. The other racers, many of them, as they ran past me, cheered me on. "You can do this", "you are doing great", "keep it up", "you're almost there"... it was wonderful. I cheered a few people on myself - the ones headed the other direction, back toward the finish line). It was beautiful outside, the dahlias in some of the yards were spectacular, the brilliant orange one with red tips sticks out vividly in my memory. It was nestled next to a short post and rail fence, the bright beauty contrasting beside the rustic weathered wood.

I convinced myself that the halfway point was just around the corner, over and over again. I hadn't driven the run portion so I really didn't know... which was a good thing I think. Then I approached this long, semi-steep hill. I heard a guy at the top with a cowbell shouting encouragement. I was sure he was at the turnaround. He cheered me on and I was glad, because at the top of the hill, I had to keep going!! It was several more turns, a construction crew cutting concrete, a machine of some sort belching out its exhaust, and then, the sweet volunteers passing out water cups at the turn around!!! Whew!

I walked 4 steps as I drank as much water as I could get in my mouth and started running again. I kept running. As I approached the man with the cowbell I knew I was on the home stretch. He got within inches of my face, looking almost into my soul and said, "THIS IS IT! YOU are doing it! YOU are almost done! YOU are incredible!!" I said, "thank you so much! I needed to hear that!" I burst into tears. I cried for about 5 steps before I decided I could be emotional later, I had work to do!

As I came down the hill, there was another man, this one I recognized as one of the guys who ran past me and told me to keep up the great work, he was obviously waiting for someone since he had already finished. His eyes met mine and he said, "Come on now, FINISH WELL!" I nodded and smiled and said, "Yes! I will!". At that point, I kicked it up another notch and stretched out my stride. I knew I was close to the end, and like I planned ahead, I was NOT about to leave any gas in my tank.

I grabbed a quick cup of water at the turnaround point for the Olympic distance runners and headed for the finish line. I could feel power in my stride, I could feel the air filling my lungs and the confidence in my strength to "FINISH WELL" just like I said, months before.
I can't effectively describe how it felt to see that finish line and KNOW that I was about to capture my dream!

As I approached the cheering crowed, I saw my oldest son on my right, jumping up and down, waving his arms yelling "GO MOMMY GO!!! As I looked to my left, I heard my second son chanting, "GO MOMMY! GO MOMMY!! Our friends kids, my mom, and my mother-in-law cheering. As I got closer to the finish line I saw my Dad grinning from ear to ear, tears streaming down his face, pride beaming through his eyes, "Great job Jenni!" as I ran past him through to the finish line.

At the moment, this is the only picture I have of me crossing the finish line. I know our friends took one that came out well, but for now, you see, the end. The clock to my right was started when the Olympic Distance race started.
My finish time was 2:22:01.5

My Love was holding the video camera at the other side. Waiting for me. I gave up my ankle bracelet timer and reached out for him and sobbed in his arms. He held me tight. I cried hard for a short bit, releasing the last of the adrenalin that carried me through to the end.

I let go of him, said a brief "hi" to a friend from High School that came to watch, and went to grab some food. A cup of water, a handful of pretzels, and a bagel sandwich with turkey and provolone never tasted so good!  I found my friends and family and we all stood around and visited, hugged, and I told the tale, in pieces, that I am sharing with you now. Friends who we knew when we first moved to Idaho came to cheer me at the finish, my friend from High School who challenged me to start memorizing scripture when I was a clueless freshman, our close friends who are the godparents to our sons and their kids, my folks, my mother-in-law (Nana), my Love, my sons, and even the race coordinator shared in my victory that day.

So did you, all of you who prayed me through this journey. All of you who cheered me on and wrote encouraging notes on my blog, my facebook page and emails. I am so thankful for this journey. I am still a little sore from my fall, my ankle especially (not once did I feel a twinge of pain on the run!), but I feel great overall.

Thanks again for all your support! What a great day!!!


  1. I'm sitting here reading this, and crying. You truly are an inspiration to me..Your faith and strong-will is amazing, and something I aspire to become. Thank you! Oh...and congratulations!

  2. :) You got me crying twice during the reading of that. YOU are such an encourager...I am so proud of you. You are awe-inspiring. You do things, say things, take risks, and step out into so many areas that most never bother to think of, have the courage to, or who settle for less than. You are a FEARLESS woman...

    I love you Jenn, thank you for sharing that and for your continued transparency. I pray the Lord restores your body during this week and you receive the rest you need. Have an awesome day RESTING!

  3. Oh you made me cry. What an incredibly blessing and encouragement it has been to me to take this "journey" with you and see you cross that finish line. You DID it Jenn.... I just cannot believe it. I don't think I could do it in a million years. Congratulations!!!!

    And thank you for sharing the bit in the beginning about the fight between you and your husband being a spiritual attack. I havn't thought of that before, but I'm positive that has happened in my marriage too. I will definitely check for that sulfur smell from now on.

    Blessings on you and your family!

  4. What an amazing totally inspirational story / event. You finished well my friend! It was awesome to see Erik in all these pictures there for you to cheer you on. You crack me up with the things you write(i.e substantial support & barking dog) Mad Love- Proud of You. JTS

  5. Tears of empathy, pride in you, joy at your processing and completion of your extremely challenging goal can't be stopped. Thank you for sharing "transparently" your heart with us all. I am so proud of you. I praise God for leading you and protecting you. I thank Him for providing those angels (the ones in spandex as well as wings) to hold you up all along the way. And I praise Him for showing you how to trust Him in the "uphills" and "falling downs".

  6. JEnnifer! I am so so so so so so proud of you! I cant stop crying!! You worked so hard and you did it! I knew you could! Great job my friend!!!

  7. Thanks for making me cry! Good grief Jenn that was amazing.. Your amazing and Praise God for being your strength..... Love you

  8. Thank you so much for sharing this special day!

  9. Jen,
    You are more than amazing! I am so proud of you and so very inspired. I loved reading about your journey to this victory through my tears. You are an athlete, a gifted writer and a beautiful, Godly woman. I am blessed to know you and I will continue to cheer you on to your next victory whatever that may be.

  10. I'm so proud of you. You sure have come a long way, baby! I admire your perserverance, your transparency and your faith! Hugs, friend, and coffee soon!

  11. I am so proud of you, Jennifer! You had me crying too. What an amazing lady you are. It's been pretty special to walk this journey with you.

    What's next??

  12. Thanks so much to everyone! I am going to continue to train this winter and decide in the spring if I will continue to do the sprint distance or go for the Olympic distance. I am blessed that you took the time to read my blog. Thanks too for all the encouragement!!

  13. AWESOME and again, awesome (and you know I don't use this term lightly)!!! Your dedication and hard work training for this day shows in your win. Your story is precious. Pride hardly expresses what we feel for you! Grateful to experience with you, your face and stance says it all. Love that Erik is with you in some of the photos:) You are a TRIATHLETE!!!

  14. Wow, Jenn! That is such an incredible testament of God's provision, love, grace, and endurance. I am so PROUD of you! I cried also at various points of your reflections. What an amazingly transparent woman you are. THANK YOU for sharing this so boldly. Love you!

  15. Way to go Jennifer! I'm so glad you got to do it. Now I won't have to. I just did it vicariously though you:) Great descriptions.

    Gretchen V.

  16. I so wish we could have been there to cheer you on. We are so proud of you. You did it girl. NO ONE can take that away from you. It is your accomplishment so bask in it. Enjoy it. Relive it and know that no matter what you DID it!!

  17. What an amazing journey you've been on. You've finished an incredible goal that you set yourself and have so much to be proud of. Your determination and perseverence are very inspiring, as are YOU! I too cried while reading this and almost felt like I was there beside you, as I was in my prayers for you on the day. Rest up and can't wait to talk with you soon. Love you, my sister!

  18. Thank you so much for sharing this incredible journey with us! I had many tears and even laughter reading about race day! I am in awe! YOU are an amazing woman and have inspired me so much! I'm so incredibly proud of you and this amazing accomplishment!! Have an amazing week relishing in this victory He has given you! Laura P xoxo