Editor’s Note: Ashley, a Second City Fitness client, began training with Jeff in late February and is blogging about her experiences along the way. After a rocking spring, she ran into a series of summer setbacks. But she managed to pull off a triathlon season anyway that included a PR and a new distance. You can read her previous posts here.
I kick ass.
Ok, that might be overstating it a smidge. Or a more-than-smidge. But I’m writing this _ hours after finishing my final tri of the season _ with a huge smile on my face and a feeling of satisfaction because I finally felt … STRONG. Despite a season of setbacks, I rocked my race and along the way I felt so, so solid. Which makes me so, so happy. (And, apparently, prone to overuse of adverbs.)
There’s so much to say about the final weeks of the summer season. I finished my first Olympic distance and DIDN’T wind up in the hospital. (DOUBLE VICTORY, considering what happened at June’s triathlon.) I PR’d the pants off a sprint. I did my first open-water swim competition at Big Shoulders, finishing a 2.5K swim in Lake Michigan while thinking that I wished it was a longer course. And I got to cheer on Jeff and my Chicago Endurance Sports crew doing Ironman Wisconsin, which only made me a) want to NEVER do an Ironman and b) desperately want to do a half Ironman. Apparently, I am not always rational.
With two of my tri girls after a 2.5K open-water swim race in Lake Michigan.
Most of all, I felt like I finally found my groove with a sport after struggling so much with The Ashley Project. (Although my friends who had to deal with The Ashley Pre-Race Freakouts Of Epic Proportions might disagree. )
Why this feeling of post-race Zen?
At the risk of totally oversimplifying it, triathlon gives you permission to have strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has a strong leg. (Mine is swimming.) Everyone has a weak leg. (Mine is running.) And everyone has a just-OK leg. In running, if that’s your “weak” sport, you’re stuck until you get to the finish line. In triathlon, you just need to get to the next thing. When I run a race, I can’t help but still feel like I’m just trying to gut it out, making a not-awesome situation as palatable as I can. (When was the last time you heard someone say: “Man, I had a GREAT Mile 7!!! But Mile 4 and 8 were just meh.”) It took me a while to finally feel like a “runner,” but sometimes when I’m running alone and in the back of the pack, I can’t help but feel … frustrated. It’s so hard to focus on the positive parts when you’re doing a sport where you’re inherently weak. But in triathlon, there’s (almost) always something positive to seize on. A faster T1 or a better-than-expected bike split. And if something is going poorly, you just have to get to the next leg. And I LOVE that.
Chicago Triathlon: International Distance
With the Team Ashley crew, who were so totally awesome and surprised me with shirts and traipsed around the course to cheer me on!! Thanks, guys!! Beer’s on me.
For my first international-distance race, my goal was to simply to finish. I made a plan. Back up plans. Back up, back up plans. I even busted out a mantra and went into the race with a message written on my hands to remind myself to calm down and believe.
I had my sights set on a 4:00 finish, but with a 90-degree day and a spasming back on the bike, I knew as soon as I hit the run course that my goal wasn’t going to happen. So instead, I soaked up the experience. I stopped and chatted with friends at aid stations. I high-fived my teammates and friends who I spotted along the way. I shouted and cheered. And swore. A lot. (What? It was freaking HOT on that run course.) I thought about how incredible it was to have so much support at the race and how lucky I was to be so loved and encouraged. My parents flew in to cheer me on and my Second City Fitness friends surprised me by making Team Ashley shirts and racing around the course to cheer me on. The CES crew even cheered when I got to the finish line tent.
The swim at the Chicago Triathlon.
I’ve never been so humbled or supported.
And while I knew I could have pushed myself harder on each leg, I’m still so proud of the fact that I didn’t let the post-hospital panic stop me from getting back out there.
Plus, I know that next year, I’ll TOTALLY PR the pants off this distance.
North Shore Triathlon: Sprint Distance
Staggering out of the swim at the North Shore Tri. Squint and you’ll see my smile. I swear!
It was cold. It rained. The. Whole. Time. And I don’t think I’ve ever smiled more in a race. This was my last race of the season and I planned to soak up every minute of it. Smashing my goal helped too.
This race had a short swim, only 400 meters. I initially thought I’d shoot for something under 2:00. (My sprint PR is 2:02.) Jeff suggested I shoot for 1:50, since the swim course was shorter than most sprint-distance races. The day before the race, I thought to myself: “Hum, I wonder if I can do 1:45.” I refused to repeat that time to ANYONE. In the end, I finished in 1:42. I was so happy, especially with my bike split (about 16 mph, on a course in driving rain with a lot of turns.) I couldn’t ask for a better way to end a rocky season.
So now what?
It’s bitter-sweet knowing tri season is over, especially since it ended just when I felt like I figuring things out. The fall race schedule has me gunning for another PR in the Monster Dash half marathon in October and Jeff and I are
arguing bickering negotiating about a 2014 race calendar. I’m trying not to be too bummed about shifting my focus. But all my swim-bike-run euphoria goes *poof* when I look at my training plan for long runs over the next few weeks. But, bless his heart, Jeff is trying his best to get me psyched up.
Jeff: The consummate cheerleader. And a whip-cracker during track workouts.
Some of my frustration is that I feel like a new season means that I’m starting all over again, instead of taking my momentum with me. While tri training made me a stronger, better, faster triathlete it didn’t necessarily make me a stronger, better, faster runner. (And, er, about those track workouts….) I’m struggling to keep the pace I had when I was training for the Kenosha half marathon in May. Jeff and I had hoped that this would be the race where I cracked 2:45. But these days I’m not so sure that’s in the cards. I’d be really happy if I can finish in a similar time as my 2:57 Kenosha finish without the benefit of having him pace me. (He, however, disagrees with my assessment and thinks I can get a better time than Kenosha. We’ll see.)
Still, I have just shy of five weeks left to see what I can do with this gradually-stronger body of mine. And I have a training plan loaded with speed work and tempo runs and personal training and cross training.
Fingers crossed, y’all. Stay tuned.
Want to know more? Follow Ashley on Twitter or DailyMile.