Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Racing Age(d)

Memorial Day weekend came and went.

We headed up to Michigan for a weekend away. The in-law family has a summer home in Michigan. It’s about a 2 hour drive away from our house but once you arrive there it’s as if you have driven hundreds of miles away to the one remote place in this county that does not have access to the internet.

Yes, I found myself a slice of America where AT&T does not get service.

Chris’ purpose there was rest and relaxation. Maybe eat a little pork. Sit in the backyard with giant bonfire while burning things like twigs, hot dogs and marshmallows. Take a few naps. Play with the son. Do monster brick workout on Sunday. You know, husband stuff.

My purpose there was to race a little triathlon. Yes, it’s time to relearn how to be a triathlete. Maybe put on some Body Glide. Drink some lake water. See if the wetsuit still fits.

Saturday night I was “that” girl. The girl that had to be in bed by 8:15 pm. In other words, the life of the small family party that was taking place on the back patio. In bed by 8:15 pm Michigan time was actually 7:15 pm Chicago time. You can only imagine how well that went. May I also add that it does not get dark in Michigan until 9:45 pm? I didn’t fall asleep until 11!

The alarm clock went off at 4:50 am – and the usual ritual began. The oatmeal. The coffee. I almost had a small heart attack when I realized that there were no travel coffee mugs in the house which meant I had to down fully leaded Starbucks Via in an 8 ounce coffee mug before I left at 5:40 am. Being completely wired that early in the morning when the race starts 3 hours later is not necessarily a good thing.

I spent the next 80 minutes in the car talking to myself.

The race was a bit of a drive from the home. 80 minutes. Not necessarily a problem unless you get stuck behind a pick up truck within the first 3 miles. Needless to say I would not be passing a pick up truck from Michigan while driving a mini van with Illinois plates. This Illinois girl knows better than that!

It was a long drive but a lot of talking to myself, singing and yes, I arrived at the race ready for a nap. I had wore myself out!

I was doing a low key race. One that has been around for over 20 years. In fact, it was something like 10 years ago that I first did this race. What I love about this race is that it really hasn’t changed much in all those years. Years ago it was known as the race that advertised a 1.5 mile swim but when you got out of the water in 18 minutes you thought to yourself – huh. My swim training is going really well! Back then, no one had a GPS – you didn’t run to your friend after the race and say “was it long?” You swam, biked, ran the distance. Heck, we didn’t even have timing chips. Someone stood in transition with a clipboard and wrote down your time. Paper and a pencil.

Can you believe that?

The car was packed full of anything I could need for the race except…my race sherpa. You mean I have to carry my own gear? On race morning that is a risky thing. I forgot 3 things in the car on 3 separate occasions. I did a lot of walking. Finally I had my gear and rolled up to registration then rolled into transition.

The first thing I noticed was that I was the oldest person in my transition row by about 20 years. Turns out the local high school has a triathlon class. And the entire class was there. Along with the majority of the University of Michigan triathlon team. Between doing this race 10 years ago and being old enough to give birth to most of the athletes in my transition rack, I was wondering if I belonged in the grandmasters division.

Not only did I feel out of place but my bike looked ridiculous. A sleek, aero snob hanging out with a motley crew of mountain bikes, hybrids and the bike you borrowed from your parents when you told them you were taking a triathlon class.

Lucky for me – being solo and completely out-aged – one of my athletes was at the race. John, from Michigan, was a welcome face. While standing in transition, an out of breath, overexcited youngster runs up to us.

DO YOU KNOW HOW TO USE THIS THING?

He shoves a Garmin towards me. I explain to him that it first needs to locate satellites. Then you use it just like a watch.

I WANT TO USE IT SO I CAN HOLD A 6-FLAT PACE.

I tried to tell him that holding 6-flats on this course would be challenging. Then I remember I was talking to youth. They see no challenge. They are invincible. My mortal words were not even heard.

I’M FROM KALAMAZOO, I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING.

Oh, to be 22 again.....

Thick fog on the lake left us delayed for about 30 minutes. In that time, John and I got into the water for a warm up swim. The water was a brisk 60 degrees. Which required about a 10 minute warm up to warming up. My first time in open water each year I have THAT moment. The moment of what the hell am I doing? How am I going to put my face into that? What if I drown/die/choke on the water that is …dip….ASS COLD! WHY DID I SIGN UP FOR THIS? Shortly thereafter I got over myself and swan back and forth a few times.

We waited what felt like forever. First they sent off the Olympic race. Then the duathletes. Then finally the sprint women. I lined up right at the front, next to the buoys. The gun went off.

And about 6 women bolted hard ahead of me.

YIPES!

It’s on! This is triathlon, wake up Fedofsky, WAKE UP! I keep the women in sight and somewhere around the second buoy, two of them fizzle and I pass them by. The other four women are a distance ahead but I just keep my eyes on them. The water – cold? – as often is the case, I didn’t even feel it. Once I got going I was so distracted by the effort I couldn’t even feel anything.

I exited the water, a long run into transition and then ready to bike.

The first 6 miles of the bike course were mostly downhill. I didn’t realize this at the time, I thought perhaps I got really fast in the last few weeks and could now sustain 28 mph. Alas, all downhills eventually flatten out and you realize you are not superhuman. You were just going down a really long hill.

The next 6 miles were mostly uphill. That might explain why I was going about…15.

Right when I got warmed up, the bike was over and I found myself again in transition. I had passed all but one woman on the bike and there she was. In transition.

She bolted out ahead of me and you know that moment when you get off your bike, start running and think: holy shit. You mean I have to run on these legs? Didn’t have it. All I saw was the girl. And I started hard charging for her.

As I inched closer to her, I noticed the age written in black Sharpie on her calf:

20.

Look again.

20
.

There comes a moment in every aging triathlete’s life, when they find themselves chasing what feels like a younger version of themselves. When they find themselves running behind a young girl, fresh, looking fantastic in a two piece race suit, a suit you wouldn’t even wear into the shower these days unless you first covered up the bathroom mirror. And in that moment, I did what any racing-age-36 woman would do.

I passed her. I let her dangle there for a bit. And then about 20 seconds later, I surged going uphill.

Yes, folks, I am now among the racing aged. Yet somehow this elderly body was able to keep pulling away on a course that can only be described as Xterra after a night of heavy, steady rains. Over hills, roots, trails, branches, through mud, stairs, bridges, singletrack, dirt road, pavement until finally at 3 miles into the run, when I looked over my shoulder and so no one for a really long way, I eased in the last .4 miles.

Winning is always a good feeling. But not as good as this kid was feeling. Remember the kid with the Garmin? He was in transition while I was cleaning up so I asked him how he did. He told me he had the race of his life. He finished second overall. He was only a few seconds behind first place. He had qualified for Nationals. He needed to find a phone so he could call his mom to tell her about it. He said this with so much excitement in his voice that it reminded me of why I love this sport again – because that moment, when you have the race of your life, you know you are hooked for life. We all remember when it happened to us. And I was watching it happen to this kid.

After the long drive home, this time talking to myself so I could stay awake, I arrived to find Chris geared up for his monster brick. I took over Max duties and while Max napped, I laid in bed trying to get my email to load. If I stood in the far east corner of the room while pointing the phone toward the sky I could actually get one bar of reception.

About 40 minutes later, the sky erupted in a violent storm. I went on a search and rescue mission for Chris and found him about 12 miles away riding in the pouring rain. I commanded him into the van. But the one thing I’ve learned about Chris is that if I hadn’t driven up, he probably still would have been riding. He would have done out and backs on a one mile stretch of road to get his ride in. There’s committed, there’s crazy and then there’s Chris.

About an hour later, I had a food meltdown until someone basically hand-fed me beef brisket until I stopped my whining. Here’s what I’ve learned about myself: I need food. I need meat, I need carbs, I need food. After I was sufficiently quieted by beef, the inclement weather caused us to head back to Chicago early but not without me demanding a stop at the Bass Pro shop in Portage, Indiana to get some fudge. Bass Pro has amazing selection of hunting gear but also delicious fudge. I’m not sure what those two things have in common but the fudge is so good I don’t need to ask.

Unfortunately, the fudge stand was closed on Sunday.

Back at home. A few more pushes until my next big race. I’m glad I raced this past weekend, I learned a few things: 1 – 60 degree water is really not that cold, 2 – my wetsuit still fits, 3 – these old legs still got it, and 4 – I wish I could still wear a two piece during a race.

But the wisdom of my old age has taught me to know better than that!

19 comments:

Keith said...

There I was, settled in, getting my ELF fix. Then I read "I was doing a low key race." I didn't believe it. For a second I thought blogger had swapped blogs on the fly. I had to scroll back up to the top and check. As near as I can tell, the only time you're low key is when you're under a general anesthetic, but even then I wouldn't be surprised if you're still muttering "put me in coach, I'm ready!".

Molly said...

Woohoo!! Congratulations on the wn and getting your triathlon legs going again! I'm glad I'm not the only one that has that WTF-was-I-thinking moment just beforehand!

And...slice? :) AT&T is notorious for the worst coverage EVER! You must get really lucky with it where you live!

Steve said...

Congrats on your race. You are a funny person, and a good writer. I saw the Fennville thing when jen H wrote on your wall. I wondered about that. Now I know.

ADC said...

Huge congrats ELF.

Kim said...

fabulous job out there showing those youngsters who's boss!

Emily W said...

Nice win! And I love the part about John wanting to call his mom - so sweet. Way to kick the 20 year old's behind.

Andrea said...

ACK! Quit saying that 36 is old! I'll be 34 this year - last year in this AG - and it is FREAKING ME OUT!!!!

But around these parts, it's the 35-39 AG that is the fastest, and that is also freaking me out.

;)

Good race!

Wes said...

young people are just "uppity".... besides... the 4th decade is the best eva ;-)

ali said...

Woho!! Nice job and great recap:)) sounds like you are ready for your A race. Go get um and I just hope we are not going to the same race;))

Kris said...

Awww...I wish I could've been there to see both you and John kick it! Glad you both had such great races! I told him to say "Hi" to you for me. ;)

lisa said...

Congrats on your race! (You think 36 is old? wait until you're 51!!)
Chris really sounds like Epic Camp material...(just throwing that out there... ;))

RJR said...

So... You have a mini van? Hmmph.

Alili said...

Very cool! Congrats on the win and for smoking the kids. :)

I'll be eating my weight in Mackinac Island fudge next month!...or just a few pieces.

Diana said...

As a 42 year old, I now realize I should have spent my entire twenties in a two piece. Women that age have no hips! Many years and three children later, it's not going to happen. Then again, maybe when I'm in my fifties I will tell myself that my 42 year old body wasn't so bad after all. That's it! I'm racing naked this weekend!

Congrats on a great race.

Tory said...

This is a great post Liz! Congrats on the win! I hope you were also sporting your trisports.com race uniform as you arrived at transition with all the high schoolers!

Jennifer Harrison said...

I agree...STOP saying 36 is old....it is NOT OLD and you can wear a 2 piece...trust me ....you can! Congrats on your win! Now start prepping to see me next weekend.

RunningShorts said...

That's super fabulous. Congrats on the W-you've definitely still got "it" :)

Alicia Parr said...

Racing aged. Snicker.

Two piece suits are ancient history unless I have some sort of tummy tuck surgery. Pregnancy was not kind to my midsection.

Congrats on your win. I'm sure you'll still put those youngsters away when you're racing-aged 41 like me(which is the same as _actually_ 40).

Trigirlpink said...

Good Lord.... 36? You are still a tween.