Saturday, August 25, 2012

Suburbatory


I just got back from Max’s preschool open house.

Let me start by saying these are not my people.  You put me into a crowd of 2000 sweaty, lean, charged up Type A superfitfreaks and I feel at home.  In fact, I feel like the mayor.  If USAT had any sense, they would move Nationals to Chicago next year and put me in charge. Free race morning coffee.  NormaTec boots in (CLEAN) porta-potties for the post-race unleashing of the fury of nerves, Power Gel and threshold effort.  Take your time.  Chocolate fondue fountain with – no, not strawberries – but spoonfuls of peanut butter for dipping. 

But Mayor McTri has nothing on Naperville.

Earlier this year, we moved to Naperville.  From Lisle.  We were moving on up.  Parts of Lisle are nice.  Parts are suburban ghetto.  Right around the block from us there was more than one car propped up on cinder blocks.  But not in Naperville.  Land of teardowns, competitive peewee soccer leagues and the best school district around.  Naperville, once voted one of the best places to raise a child.   This would be our new home.

We found an older house in a nice neighborhood nearby by everything we liked to do – bike at Fermilab, run at Herrick Lake, swim at the quarry.  We bought the house per the advice of our realtor – you can change anything inside or outside the house but you cannot change location.  That said, we changed a lot of things inside and outside the house but love where we are at.  

Soon after moving in, we were greeted with suburban charm – plates of cookies, flowers, neighbor introductions.  The incessant are you joining the neighborhood pool?  We’re still not sure what goes on in the pool and not really interested in paying the $2000 bond to find out.  Yet everyone we meet – even those who don’t live in the neighborhood – ask us if we’ve joined the pool.  We’re convinced that every Friday night the “social” involves dropping your kids in the pool, your keys in the bowl and going home with an entirely new family. 

The neighborhood also produces a newsletter.  My eyes widened and my competitive blood boiled when I read about a competition that involved having the nicest garden/landscaping.  The winner had a picture of their house on the front of the newsletter.  I had visions of my house one day being in that photo.  The coach in me created a master plan.  I referred to it often.  When Chris said, Liz, more hydrangeas?  It’s all part of my master plan.  Enter about $$$$$ in new landscaping and an obsessive need to water everything twice daily.  This led to an exorbitant water bill but like I’ve spent $$$$$ on race wheels, helmets, supplements, I’m willing to drain Lake Michigan if that’s what it takes to win this thing. 

At times, the transition to Naperville has been difficult.  I’ve been the victim of a ding dong ditch.  I’ve had to train the USPS delivery guy to never EVER ring my bell after 1 pm.  I’ve yelled GET OFF MY LAWN to junior high students too lazy to follow the sidewalk rather than cutting the corner.  I’ve been told that my garbage cans were facing the wrong way at the curb.  I’ve wasted 20 minutes of my life driving to the post office to claim a certified letter from a bunch of lawyers informing me that someone was stinking rich enough to buy the 1.3 million dollar lot two houses down from me and wants to build a house on it.  In the category of things I don’t give a shit about, the letter would have been much better if it said “we’re building you a 1.3 million dollar house and paying the taxes on it.”  I feel like I need 20 minutes of my life back.

“difficult”

Little did I know my comfort would be further tested when I took my son to his new preschool.  In a few weeks, Max will begin a one day a week parents day out program.  Basically pre-pre-school.  It will be a great socialization opportunity for Max.  It will be an even better FINALLY PEACE AND QUIET opportunity for me.  I have no idea what I am going to do with 5 hours entirely to myself once a week.  Maybe pee with the door closed?  I’m willing to find out and will report back to all of the stay at home moms in late September.  At that point, I’ll probably be twiddling my thumbs with all of the freetime that I used to spend cleaning up the kitchen floor.    

Really, though, this is all for Max and his development.  At Max’s two year old check up, the nurse told me she had some questions.  More like 100 of them.  The questions ranged from was your house built before 1970.  Yes.  Lead paint risk.  Does he tantrum what you would consider excessively?  Define excessivelyDoes he respond to you when you call his name?  Sometimes.  It’s a yes or no question.  Yes.  Does he sleep in his own bed?  YES.  Does he like to be around other children?  YES.   

Would it not be easier if you just installed a camera system to watch me so we don’t have to go through this litany of questions every time I am in this office?

Does he have 50 to 100 words?      

….(silence)

You mean I’m supposed to be keeping records?  I’ve kept him alive for the past 6 months since I’ve seen you, is that not enough? 

I tell her Max has about 20 words.  She tells me he should have 50.  Even up to 100!  100 words!?!  He’s two years old.  WHAT on earth should he be saying!?  We live a very simple, quiet life, he and I.  And he’s got the basics – mama, dada, Boss, coffee and rocks.  What more does he need to say?

Enter pre-pre-school.   To get Max around more kids, more language, more opportunities for imitation.  Sure, I talk to him all day.  So much so that I now talk to myself, mommy needs to go potty.  Really, Liz, I don't think anyone at the coffee shop cares.   

On Saturday, the preschool hosted an open house.  An opportunity to get to know the classroom and the teachers.  I walked into the building feeling like this was the first of many future steps of Max stepping away from me.  Sniff.  Independence is both relieving and heartbreaking.  By the time he’s 5, if we don’t have more kids, I’m going to need another dog or something else to need me.

I thought carefully about what to wear to this open house.  I’ve heard enough stories from Jennifer Harrison about horrifying her children by showing up at school to pick them up wearing cycling shorts.  Seeing that I had ridden 3 hours before the open house, wearing cycling shorts was very tempting.  But I knew I needed to make a better impression.  Or at least, smell better.

I put on a dress, first thinking – maybe this is too much – but it’s 95 degrees outside and it seemed like the best option.  I did my hair.  I put on eyeliner.  Contain yourselves: I even had on a necklace.

Once at the school, Max goes immediately to the kitchen set, pretending like he doesn’t know us (already?).  I’m left to look around.  Watching the steady stream of moms, dads and kids walk into the room.  A few minutes later it hits me.

I am the only woman in Naperville without fake boobs or a baby bump. 

Also missing: full eye make up, hair with highlights, oversized necklace that matches cotton strapless to the floor beach dress, Louis Vitton bag, Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses and token good looking husband wearing long pants and a matching polo.  Oh, I’ve got a good looking husband, trust me, I stared at his good looking ass for 63 miles earlier that morning, but he was standing in the corner with a pair of Rudy Projects propped on his head, cargo shorts and a Star Wars themed cotton t-shirt that had three men riding bicycles – two dressed as Storm Troopers, one dressed as Vader.

I rest my case.

I want to fit in.  Desperately like the junior high girl stuck inside of all of us that only comes out in moments of self-doubt and new situations. I don’t need to fit in (and have spent most of my life NOT fitting in) but there are times you want to fit in – if not for your own social sake but for the sake of your child not being THAT child with weird parents standing in the corner wearing a Star Wars shirt.

(I married into this?)

Max, of course, fits right in.  He’s a little small but what he lacks in height he makes up for in utter cuteness.  In fact, it’s been decided (actually voted on, in the car afterwards) that he IS the cutest one there.  There was another boy who was perhaps equally as cute but he had an epic meltdown requiring his father to extract him from the Thomas the Train table. Tantrumming significantly diminishes the cuteness factor. 

As Max not only played with but dismantled the play kitchen (teacher says: we’ve got a future engineer here), I looked around admitting that – like it or not – these now are my people.  I need to learn to relate to them.  To, gasp, fit in.  So I eagerly put my name on the list to volunteer to make play-doh for the classroom.  I can barely make dinner but play-doh, yes, I CAN DO THIS!  What else do we do.  Do we drink coffee? I can do that too.  Do we talk about how our kids are a genius?  My boy can say rocks – not rock, ROCKS, PLURAL!  I don’t just want to fit in, like anything else, I want to win.  You can take me out of the competition but can’t take the competitiveness out of me. 

Sigh.

Being around the other moms, I quickly feel like my fitness friends are a secret cult I escape to a few times a week at masters or online or teaching a class in person and the rest of the time, I’m bumbling about trying to look normal, talk normal and refrain from always carrying a water bottle.  My fitness friends speak a language I understand and do things that make me feel – well, like me.  When I blow my nose into the street, they don’t flinch.  When they come back to the wall and ask what I swam my 100 in, they give me a congratulatory fist bump.  They understand the importance of hydration hence why I’m carrying a bottle with electrolytes. 

You can understand, then, how I feel like I’m going to have trouble fitting into normal mom world.  I’ve been warned many times about the inner workings of suburban mom life.  Jennifer has shared stories from her own existence; they drink a lot, they complain about being fat but don’t want to exercise.  For a moment, I think to myself but I drink a lot (sometimes) and exercise all the time yet STILL complain about being fat.  How can I not fit in?  But any athletic mom knows how this goes.  I give it a few weeks before someone in that group of moms walks up to me and confesses their workout sins.  The problem with looking fit is that ordinary people feel compelled to walk up to you and tell you what they haven’t been doing.  So much so that I feel like I need to pull a screen in front of us and prescribe a few Hail Marys.

But I want to make a solid, personal best effort at fitting in with the mom circle.  I will speak their language.  I will only pick up my son wearing full make up.  I will wear NORMAL MOM CLOTHES (there goes the comment to Chris – the best part is that I can ride my bike right out from here & get to Plainfield within 20 minutes!).  I will not wear anything from Lululemon.  Nor a Sweaty Band in my hair.  I will fit into Naperville, dammit.  I will one day be Mayor McMomNaperville and will WIN the gardening club award.  Then spend every Friday night at the neighborhood pool in a mom bathing suit that involves a tankini and a skirt. 

Suburban life will be a smashing VICTORY!

(crickets)

None of this will happen.  Not even if it’s part of my master plan.  Because long ago I decided in life that my master plan was to keep on being my bad ass self.  In fact, the best piece of advice I’ve ever received was from my friend Steve:

Never change who you are for someone else.

So there’s a good chance that next Wednesday at 1 pm I will be picking up my child in cycling shorts.  I will smell like 3 hours of dust, grit, wind, salt and hard work.  I will probably have sunglasses on top of my head and a Sweaty Band in my hair.  My feet – should you get near them – will stink the stink of my cycling shoes that I cannot for the love of god wash off (I’ve tried, trust me).  I will bring my son home, put him down for a nap and will spend the next 3+ hours writing workouts and answering emails for other fitness freaks just like me. 

And if everyone stays off my lawn, I will consider this not just a win but a landslide victory of being me no matter what the outside pressures or how out of place I feel.

(but I still wouldn’t refuse a Louis Vitton bag should someone gift it to me!)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Nationals in Burlington


This past weekend, I traveled to Burlington, Vermont for the Olympic distance National Championship. 

The last time I was in Burlington, I was in my early twenties, I remember drinking at Nectar’s, walking on Church Street and a lush green in the trees I’ve seen nowhere else.  More than a decade later, the mountains still roll out along the horizon, the trees are still a magnificent green and Church Street remains filled with a mix of tourists and earthy vagrants.

My last trip to short course Nationals was back in 2007 in Portland.  The trip where Jennifer earned her nickname, Miss Daisy.  This time, we were talked into traveling with the elderly but at least we knew the risks.  There would be many trips to the grocery store, thermostats set on 80, frantic phone calls before 6 am about either needing to eat or fearing a rogue bear attack. 

And let’s not forget the steady stream of Fox News in the background.

By the time we boarded the plane to leave Chicago, I might have already blown my taper laughing.  But the joke was on me.  It took less than a day before I was christened with a new nickname.

Maude.

As in, the main character in the television show with Bea Arthur?

Yes.

Turns out if you find yourself sitting in the back of a Suburban, complaining about getting a chill from the air conditioner, having a food meltdown every 2 hours and going to bed at 7:15 pm, you officially qualify as one of the elderly.  As Jennifer said,

There’s a beekeeping convention in Burlington.  Maybe we can find you a bonnet.

Race morning finally arrived after what felt like two days of waiting, walking, eating, finding a parking spot and talking about all of the things we wanted to eat after the race but couldn’t eat right then.  Finally, race morning arrived.  Quickly I set up my stuff in transition, did a short run and then waited with Jennifer.  As the morning ticked on, the wind picked up from the north and we watched the water got choppier and choppier until I could see white caps in the lake.  The harbor looked like a washing machine of small waves and the buoys were bouncing all over the place.  The wind was making me cold.  The water was making me nervous.  And by the way, this was Nationals. 

I was getting a little antsy.

As my start time moved closer, we were corralled by wave before being let on to the pier.  Once there, I saw Lori and Stacy from Well-Fit, both who live in the city and swim in Lake Michigan all of the time.  They know chop!  Lori said to swim under any wave and Stacy said to kick like crazy when I got any current.  

Soon after, we were standing on the pier waiting to be let into the water.  The official said we could warm up for about 8 minutes before the deep water start.  Before I knew it, it was time to line up.  My original plan was to stick right behind Stacy, who is a very strong swimmer.  Yet as the race start got closer, too many girls filled in around her.  I looked at the water, looked at the crowd forming around us and knew I needed to come up with a new plan.  I’ve learned at national or world championships everyone is generally nervous, aggressive with a strong potential for the swim start to become completely nuts for no reason.  I had to get out there!  So I started as far right as possible, knowing that any draft I was giving up would be worth not having to fight my way through all of the nervousness.

The gun went off, I had contact with one girl for about 30 seconds before I found myself with the cleanest line ever.  I was easily able to focus on the task at hand – swim through this chop as calmly and quickly as possible.  The first section was the hardest – directly into the wind.  But even in chop there is always a rhythm to the water.  I ducked under any wave, came up for air at the top, easily sighted on a buoy then went back under.  Before I knew it, I was at the halfway point, made the right turn and then had the current with me.  I made myself as long as possible, kicked like crazy and found myself sailing by men from the prior wave. 

I exited the water to begin the long run to transition.  When I got to my rack, I suspected I was in a good position when I noticed very few bikes missing.  The start of the bike course was narrow and crowded along a bike path.  I had swam through a lot of men and found myself surrounded by them.  The early miles of the bike course had a lot of turns, hills and congestion.  This felt like one of the most crowded bike courses I have ever done, it was passing or getting passed. The bike course was also anything but flat – not hilly but quite interrupted.  I rarely had a consistent stretch of road where I could put my head down, lock in watts and ride.  I was either surging up a hill, going around a man or trying to corner around a set of cones.  At times I got frustrated because a plan for the bike felt nearly impossible.  At the same time, I told myself to just do work, don’t worry about the details.  I took some risks out there, at times going harder then planned.  At Nationals, you can’t expect you’re going to save a few minutes on the bike and then run down some of the best women in the nation.  I also knew the run course was mostly downhill which meant even the weaker runners would be running well.  On this course, at this race, there wasn’t a lot of room for playing it safe or error.

The last few miles of the bike course were chaotic – potholes, turns, traffic cones.  By the time I got back to transition I was ready to run!  Immediately, my legs felt great.  The run course soon went up a 300 meter hill.  As I climbed the hill, Kurt told me that 2nd and 3rd place were right in front of me.  I was confused – I knew that at least 4 women had passed me on the bike.  Maybe I outtransitioned them?  The run flattened out before making a gradual descent.  I was running through a lot of the older competitors but not seeing any other women.  Around mile 3, Gail passed me.  I suspected it meant I was somewhere in the top 5 of my age group.    

The run course winds down into a trail where I could finally see two women ahead of me.  One was running strong.  The other was fading, then tripped over a bump on the trail.  She quickly rebounded but I knew at that fall she was getting tired and easily passable.  Soon after, I passed her and set my sights on the next women.  I wasn’t reeling her in so picked up the pace.  When I finally passed her, she went with me.  It was clear she was not going to make this easy.  But then again, it’s not supposed to be easy.  I surged, she matched it.  I ran with her, she didn’t waver.  And then she pulled ahead.  I don’t know how it happened or why I didn’t respond but that’s racing.  At some point it comes down to the choices you make – not the weather, not the race organizer, not your equipment, it’s all you out there.  You choose to take action or hold back.

By the time I saw Kurt again, he told me three things: She’s 10 seconds away from you. You’re 75 seconds from the finish line.  And stop fidgeting with your race number.  In my defense, I was scratching my back.  But the point was taken.  If you’re going to get her, focus and get your ass going.  Turns out, she finished about 20 seconds ahead of me.   

I finished 6th in my age group.  Top 10 go on the podium at Nationals.  My goal was top 5, stretch goal was top 3.  I might have fallen a little short but I am satisfied with my race.  What it all comes down to is this: I am healthy.  I get to do this.  Know what I mean?  Make no mistake – I am very competitive and when I show up at a championship, I know very specifically what needs to be done out there.  Yet, gone are the days where you’ll find me crying on top of my bike box after a race because I finished 2nd.  Or 6th.  Or last.  How I do does not change who I am or what I think of myself.  And falling short of a goal doesn’t mean make the journey of getting there any less worthy.  I chose Nationals because it was scary.  Because it was short, hard and took me well out of my comfort zone.  I learned a lot about my limits both mentally and physically during the training, and racing.  Above all, I am fit, healthy and this sport is my opportunity.  It’s taken me a long time to respect that.  But once I did, I started to really enjoy myself.

After the race, Miss Daisy and Maude put on their podium best.  Which turned out to be nearly matching outfits from Lululemon.  After being in this sport so long, we didn’t care.  We might have matching neon green hair one day.  We spent some time with a girl named Beer and Pizza.  We made Kurt join us not because he wanted to but because how often do you get to spend time with girls this good looking AND fast?  After the awards, we went out and had second dinner.  Along with second beer.  We almost shit ourselves (easy at our age, after childbirth and so many Ironmans) when the waitress told us she was training for a marathon but then got mono (which is in the category of things you should never say to your patrons).  Then, Miss Daisy demanded ice cream (though she spent the entire weekend saying I really don’t like ice cream).   

Sure, we all believed that.  Just like we all believed she’s really a good driver.     

Five years ago, I placed 6th in my age group at Nationals in Portland, just like I did on Saturday in Burlington.  One of my biggest goals in this sport is to stay consistently competitive.  Not many athletes can say that.  Some burn themselves out mentally or physically long before they have a chance to chase their best times or races.  Yesterday I went 4 minutes faster than I did 5 years ago.  I know they were different courses but I also know that means something.  The best times, even fast times, are still to come.  Keep stretching yourself, look for new ways to make yourself uncomfortable to learn and grow as an athlete, enjoy the process, and along the way make some friends and have some good laughs.  

Monday, August 06, 2012

Naperville Sprint


Forgive me, readers, for I have sinned.  It has been many days since my last confession blog.  In between now and then I’ve written at least – AT LEAST – a dozen in my head but never found time to sit down and write them out.  Or if I had the time, all I wanted to do was read a cooking magazine (though I don’t like to cook, I just like to look at pictures of food) or click through OMG (I like to dull my brain with the latest in baby bumps and other celebrity happenings).  I’ve been thinking of hiring a ghostwriter but it would be on the waiting list behind housekeeper, cook, nanny, dog walker, gardener and personal shopper (top priority: buy my groceries; next priority: buy me one of everything at Lululemon).

What brings me to this blog today?  I raced the local sprint triathlon. 

The Naperville Sprint Triathlon is located about 5 minutes away from my house.  On the same course as the women’s triathlon I did earlier this year, the same course as my first triathlon many, many years ago.  I love this race because it’s local, well-organized, beautiful and competitive. 

The race starts early which means an even earlier wake up call (4:15 am – yikes), a lot of Peaberry (my caffeinated weapon of choice), oatmeal (with cranberries and walnuts) and then standing around waiting for the husband.  By 5:15 am, Chris declared me “ansty”.  Exactly where I wanted to be.

The best part of doing a local race is that I know everyone.  The worst part of doing a local race is that I know everyone.  Some of my athletes were there, some of the athletes I coach at masters, some that I swim with at masters, kids from my swim conditioning class, people I’ve grown up with, friends, kids from the kids team, acquaintances.  Looking around, I think I knew roughly 2000 of the nearly 2100 athletes there.  There were a lot of quick stops for socializing, hellos and catching up.

At 6:30 am, they let us into the water for a warm up.  After 8 weeks of 90+ degree temperatures, it’s safe to say the quarry has become an 84 degree bath of suburbanite sweat, hair and band-aids.  Truly disgusting.  And green.  I didn’t feel too snappy on the warm up but with a race this short, it didn’t matter how I felt.  If I did this right, it would be so short that I wouldn’t even have time to feel. 

But afterwards I might recall a little bit of pain.

The race start is unique – time trial start into the quarry in groups of 4.  The race director said he would send us off every 5 to 10 seconds depending on what was going on in the water.  Which made me think: what exactly would be going on in the water?  Looking at over a thousand people behind me, I suspected a lot of backstroking.  You lined up according to your swim time which requires a good deal of honesty about your ability which is why I lined myself right under the sub 5:00 sign.  We were swimming 400 meters.  There is no way – not even with paddles and fins nor Timmy’s draft – that I could go sub 5:00 for 400 meters.  But it was either line up in front or get stuck in what Noel called the “sea of humanity” standing on the beach behind me. 

I lined up next to Rich who is a phenomenal pool swimmer.  He swam the 100 x 100 with me and on normal days at masters practice I have no business being in his lane so I don’t even try to swim there.  But more recently, I’ve been running with him on the track.  The first time I went to the track, I looked at him and thought – oh, swimmer boy, IT’S ON!  You’re on MY GROUND now.  Lane one is MY lane.  MINE!  But the truth is, boy can run.  And run quite well.  Even told me that the other night I had a “pacing issue” where I went out too fast. 

Impossible.  I was aiming for consistency.

All set to draft off of Rich, the first group of 4 was being sent off when someone grabbed me by the arm to pull me up into the next group of 4.  It was my husband, pulling me up next to him.  Five seconds later we were running into the water.  So much for my plan!  Chris is generally a better open water swimmer than me and immediately I knew if I could draft off of anyone’s feet it would be his.  Sadly it lasted about two strokes when he pulled away and I found myself mixed up in the …

Sea of humanity.

Mostly the sea was a bunch of local high school and collegiate swimmers who fizzled after 200 meters.

The run through transition is long, about 400 meters, but unlike the women’s triathlon where they make you run around the perimeter, in this race anything was fair game.  I did my best Olympic hurdler impression and found myself running over concrete parking blocks, through grass and pretty sure I hopped another competitor. 

My plan for the bike came to me the other day while I was at the quarry.  I saw someone wearing a shirt that said: risk everything, fear nothing.  I don’t often draw up my race plans from the back of a t-shirt but this one struck me.  I find that inspired people walk around looking for inspiration. They are open to it in any form it comes.  The uninspired sit back and wait for it.  I’m alwayssearching, eyes open, looking for anything that speaks to me.  This shirt spoke to me at the right time.  Risk everything and fear nothing, no fear of pain, failure, preparation, what ifs.  You might, then, call that plan freedom.  

The first loop of the bike course was empty with just a few men ahead of me, open roads, some wind.  My legs were burning but that’s to be expected.  If not, you’re probably playing it too safe.  By the second loop, the course became more congested.  It was a continuous loop of ON YOUR LEFT.  In between shouting, the cadence was high, the effort was violent.  In a sprint, you have to go as hard as possible on the bike with no regrets: I kept saying to myself risk everything, fear nothing!  The run is so short that even if you over-ride it, you won’t be out there on the run long enough to even notice.  And, honestly, I find that most athletes “think” they are going hard enough on the bike in a sprint but when you look back at their power files – it’s not the case.  I raced with power and gave myself a range I expected to see but did not race by it.  Instead, I occasionally looked down and not surprisingly, more often than not, I needed to go harder!  Using power helps you train and race up to your potential and takes the guesswork out of – could I have gone harder – you’re in the moment, taking action. 

And that is how I rode my way to the fastest female bike split!

The run out is another long transition, again hopping parking blocks and dodging other competitors until finally you head towards the Riverwalk.  I suspected I had a good lead on the rest of the women but this being a time trial start meant every second was important.  Every time I wanted to back off I kept asking myself – could you settle for being beat by seconds?  I left the transition and quickly found myself running through a group of men.  Heading up Jefferson, I dropped a few of them and went to pass a 20-year old who then picked up the pace to match me.  We ran together a little until I surged and dropped him.  I felt good.  I was breathing hard but I was used to this sound and feeling.  While weekly visits to the track might not be making me significantly faster, they are getting me more comfortable with the sound and feeling of being uncomfortable.  When I go to the track, it’s short segments of hard, heavy work, often in the heat and humidity with an entire gaggle of men on my heels, repeat for up to 3 miles.  You get used to the sound of hurting. You get used to running competitively with others.  You get used to surging, kicking, playing the game!  After all of the solo Ironman training, I felt I really needed to get back on the track and learn HOW to race again.

At mile 2, I noticed a group of guys right behind me.  They quickly passed me and I noticed their calves: all were in their 20s.  A few of them pulled ahead when it was just me and the guy I had passed earlier.  Anyone who’s ever had the joy of running with me knows that I tend to narrate my inner voice.  Out loud.  Stick with them, don’t let them get away from you, I said to him.  I said it more for me than him, talking myself into trying to match their pace.  But he responds: I’m fighting a cramp.  I want to ask him a dozen coach questions: how was your swim, your electrolytes yesterday, your breathing, your breakfast, your dinner but instead…I said nothing. 

We are in the middle of a race here, folks.

Together we make our way down Aurora.  We approach the Riverwalk Path for the final part of the run when the lead bicycle pulls in front of us warning people that I was coming, clear the way, lead female here.  AND SHE IS LARGE, FAST AND SCARY (embellishment added).  About ¼ mile from the finish, the cyclist turns to the 20-year old guy and says,

Give her a clean finish, will ya?

The kid says that he will comply.  We near the quarry fence so I pick up the pace, sure enough he sticks with me.  We are racing together down the Riverwalk.  And at that moment, it hits me – what probably any 37 year old woman has thought when out there racing right next to a 20 year old.

I am old enough to be your mother. 

(but how often to you get to race your mother at a 6-something pace!?!) 

The kid not only gives me a clean finish but he uses 17 more years of youth to outkick me to the finish line.  Just in time, they set up the tape so I could break it.  I finished first female, ahead of the next competitor by about 2 minutes.  I was pleased with my splits and felt like I had truly gone as hard I as I could out there.

(Back in May, at Galena, I remember something Erin Kersten said. Someone asked her how her race went (she finished 2nd overall) and she said, very matter-of-factly, I went as hard as I could out there.  It wasn’t what she said but the way she said it.  Completely honest as if she had dug the entire time, laid it out there with no regret.  There was no second guessing or doubt in her head.  I remember walking away from that and thinking – could I say the same?  More often than not, when racing, the answer is no.  Today, in this race, when Chris asked me how I felt, I said I went as hard as I could out there.  Truthfully.)

It felt good to win this race for the second year in a row.  Interviewed by a local paper and television station, I felt like a celebrity.  Let me tell you – winning never, ever gets old.  Everyone deserves a day of feeling like a superstar, whether it’s at the local 5K or the national championship.  There’s a disturbing trend in our sport to minimize anything other than top 70.3 finishes and Kona qualifications.  “Small” successes are just as much a part of the sport, in fact – they are what made the sport, the local race, the field that is 99 percent beginners backstroking – that’s what it’s all about.  As much as I enjoy the big marquis races, when I go back to a smaller race I remember why I started the sport in the first place – to be outside, to push myself and to have fun.  I don’t always need to fly across the country or pay $$$ for a race to do that!  Winning makes it even better and why you will rarely hear me say – it was just a sprint, or no one showed up or there were only 3 people in my AG.  Confidence building shouldn’t be a series of yeah but’s.  Be proud of what you do out there no matter where you do it!

At the awards ceremony, in what can be described as one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever heard at a triathlon, the race director explained the awards, hurricane glasses, and how they hold the ever famous and potent New Orleans drink.  Psst….we’re in Naperville.  He went on to explain that if you have 3 hurricanes they will put you out of commission for 3 to 4 weeks.  His exact words.  A look of quiet puzzlement fell over the crowd.  Making a drinking joke to a bunch of triathletes go over about as well as making a sex joke to a bunch of nuns.  It’s just not going to go anywhere.  As as I accepted my hurricane glass, all I could think was:

How soon until my 2 year old breaks this?

The good news is that my glass made it home in one piece.  The better news is that my husband also got one for winning his age group.  Now we can BOTH drink hurricanes!  (how the hell do you even make a Hurricane?)  And even better?  How about my brother in law!  This summer, he signed up for his first triathlon.  After the race, Chris ran up to me with his phone and said did you see the splits?  I thought he was going to gloat about his 17something 5K split (blahblahblahyeahyou’refastforanoldguy), instead they were the splits of my brother in law.  He didn’t just finish his first triathlon, he completely rocked it!  We are very excited to welcome another member of the family to our dark side of we can’t go to dinner that weekend because we’re racing.  

Congratulations to everyone who raced yesterday.  As always, thanks to TriSports.com for the fabulous race kit and even better support.  And thanks to all the youngsters who pushed me out there.  Nothing was better than Rich telling me afterwards that his 19-year old son told him that he was having a pretty good race until some lady passed me.  I was that lady.  And though the fast lady inside of me simply shouted ON YOUR LEFT, the mom inside of me wanted to tell him that he really should consider racing in something more concealing than a Speedo. 

Ah, to be 19 again….