Friday, April 13, 2012

Once an athlete, always an athlete

There's a fine line between aspiring to be an athlete and actually being an athlete.  In my eyes, if you've put a pair of running shoes on and have gone for a run, you are a runner.  If you've gotten on a bike and pedaled, you are a cyclist.  If you've put a pair of goggles on and swam, you are a swimmer.  If you do it more than once, you are an athlete.  

Personally, I exercise because I like it. It's that simple. And while it started when I was 5, over time, I've realized, I am an athlete.  I swim, I bike, I run, I climb, I hike, I ski... and the list goes on. Yep, I'm an athlete. In addition, I now take care of my nutrition, my weight, I follow a plan, a routine, I aspire to be faster, I celebrate my successes and learn from my mistakes.  

But there has been ONE time and one time only when as I ran, I felt like the athlete I've always wanted to be.  Here's my story: 

I woke up at 4:00am on Thursday morning and got in my car.  The car was already packed and I was sure I wasn't forgetting anything. Started driving west. By 6:00am the sun appeared on my rear view mirror, I smiled. Kept driving.  Left Colorado and drove through Utah.  Enjoyed the nice scenery in Arizona and said hello to Vegas: "I will see you Saturday" and finally crossed the state line to California. By 7:00pm, I got to see the ocean, by 7:10 the sun set and by 7:25 my car was parked and ready to be unpacked.  Success

On Friday, I walked to the race expo to finally get focused and pick up my packet. The weather was playing me games.  It was overcast but humid, so a light jacket felt good while not in motion.  Then the sun came out and it was still humid... I felt hot. Thought to self: "Gaby, stay hydrated". 

Saturday morning rolled by.  I left the condo at 5:50am and went straight to T2 where I set up my running gear.  Came back to the swim start and T1 and set up the rest of my gear as I got ready for the start.  

The first swim wave started at 6:45 and I heard one of the pro triathletes say: "Damn! This is cold!".  I thought they didn't complain.  Great, another CDA-like swim. My swim wave started at 7:27 so a few minutes before, they let us in the water... it was a water start.  The water was cold. 55 degrees, not a single degree higher! Also, I forgot about the fact that swimming in the ocean means salty water. YUCK. 

The gun went off and the start of the swim, while in the harbor, was perfect. After approx 400 meters, we turned left and the waves started, the water also felt colder and I drank much more water than I would've wanted to.  As I reached the turn around point, I was expecting to have the waves on my back and have the current help me back into the harbor, but no. The waves were coming sideways, so... more "sips" of water.  Finally, made it back to T1, looked at my watch real quick and looked like I had successfully accomplished my goal of PR'ing the 1900m swim by 1 minute. Success

Moving on. As I was getting ready for the bike leg, I kept looking up to the sky, wondering what the weather had in store for me. Earlier, before my swim, there was a light rain that turned into a very very light drizzle, but felt humid. I decided to leave knee and arm warmers behind and took finger gloves. Got on my bike and started pedaling.  The first 20 miles were FAST. I kept looking down to my GPS and I was moving at a steady 22-24 mph.  Whoa! Bella truly brought her A-Game to this race.  I was focused on my nutrition and ate 250 calories/hour religiously.  Took my salt pills once an hour and stayed hydrated without over-doing it.  Mile 21-40 were hilly.  Those were some BIG hills, and I focused on sticking to a steady and manageable pace. I was passing people as if it was my job.  I felt strong, but wondered if I should slow down to save some energy for the run. I didn't, and just stayed focused.  The last 16 miles were back to flat. Lots of pedaling and no rest for the legs.  Got to T2 and glanced at my watch. I, again, had successfully PR'd the bike leg by 12 minutes. Success

I got ready for my run.  Headed out feeling strong which actually scared me.  I have never really been successful at a triathlon run, I always end up having stomach issues or aches and pains so I decided to stick to a comfortable and steady pace, keeping a PR in mind.  That said, PR'ing was not too much of an issue, considering my previous 2 half Ironman runs had been dreadful, but still, I did not want to underestimate it.  I ran through aid stations without taking water knowing that my body is not used to consuming water every 10-20 mins and stuck to my rule of: 1 gel and some water every 45 minutes or 4 miles.  

The course was surprisingly hilly, even though I had heard it was going to be as flat as it could get.  No, not at all, some long but not too steep hills and some steep but short climbs. I stuck to my pace.  As I reached mile 8, I realized I was feeling great, my stomach was content, my legs were strong and my mind was focused: "I will crush this race!". I stuck to my pace, but I smiled. The mile markers were coming fast, faster than usual. And just like that, I could see mile marker 12 in the distance when my GPS said I had been running for 2 hours. I was excited. I sped up. Just like that, I reached mile marker 13 and shortly after that, the finish line.  I had completed my run in 2h13m15s. My fastest half marathon ever is 2h3m... and that was without the swimming and the biking. WOW.  I was almost in tears and it felt good to not be in the back of the pack for a change.  I had just PR'ed my run by 51 minutes. Success

Ten minutes after I finished my race, the sun came out... it got hot. But I was done... and happy... and felt like the athlete I've always wanted to be. So there. You can aspire to be an athlete but it's not until you put your running shoes on and go for a run that you will become an athlete... and not until you do it over and over and over again, that you will become the athlete you've always wanted to be.  It just takes some patience.

To my biggest fan... little brother

1 comment:

  1. i just LOVE IT! casi lloro de solo leerlo! me hubiera encantado estar ahí! te admiro Gabita!