My name is Jada … and this is my Galena sprint triathlon story :)
I have to say that this particular sprint triathlon, I learned a few years ago, is one of the toughest little sprints out there and it has scared me for years! There are three reasons for that: the water is freezing (well, ok … 60), making the swim challenging; the bike is hilly, making the bike challenging; and the run is very hilly, once again making the run challenging. I don’t particularly like those conditions so I have avoided this race. But … there is something to be said for doing what scares you, which is a mantra I now try to live by. In my head, that is the only way through your fears … meet them head on and say, “Nice to meet you, fear, let’s do this!” So that is why I signed up for this tough little sprint.
The first night we met everyone for a team dinner at the Galena Resort and Spa. In the lobby we chatted and hugged. I took this opportunity to pick the brains of the coaches as I often do, off the cuff and on the fly! I asked Coach Jim and Coach Suzy their advice on running uphill, because I had learned this year the run course was slightly different than the years before. The race directors made it even harder by making the first two miles of the run course straight uphill. “Pump your arms, short strides and lean into the hill,” they said. Awesome, I thought. I then turned to my coach, and I asked Coach Joe his advice on the race in general to calm my nerves. He said, “Have fun and use every hill and challenge that presents itself as an opportunity for growth, but most importantly be grateful for the ability to be here and compete.” Really? Gratitude? Opportunity for growth? Hmmm…
Dinner at the resort was great! They had a pasta bar with all the fixings and even some gluten free options for the more finicky among us! It was then I realized I had no food for the morning or anything to drink! Oops!! Those of you who know me know I often fly by the seat of my britches and this was no exception. And if you haven’t been to Eagle Ridge Resort, there is no store just around the corner. It was already 8pm and past my bedtime. Much to the amusement of my teammates, I told the staff and the hotel my dilemma, that I needed a banana and some instant oatmeal by 5:45 am. While those around me laughed, not 10 minutes later, I had a bag handed to me filled with three instant oatmeal packets and a banana!! Thankfully, Russ gave me one of his Gatorades and Steve Mayer gave me an instant coffee. 🙂 As Meghann Tyndorf will attest, ”Don’t ask, don’t get!” Truer words were never uttered! Breakfast solved!
The weather the morning of the race was a bit chilly. Alright, it was downright cold. The thermostat in the car said 37 and the frost which we had to scrape off the windshield confirmed that! Either we are all crazy, or driven, dedicated athletes … you decide! The logistics for Galena can be challenging as well, as you have to set up your bike the night before and take a bus first to T2, then another bus to T1. It can drive you batty or you can embrace the wacky logistics and make friends with the volunteers, bus drivers, and golf cart drivers as I did! One volunteer was going to run back to his house the morning of the race and get me a shot of whiskey to warm me up!! I had to really restrain myself from taking that offer!
The beginning of the race had us all standing around, chatting and laughing and getting into wetsuits … and me still unprepared and now borrowing glide (Thanks, Bill!!) Once again, I steal some words of advice, this time from Coach Darryl about the frigid water temps. He said, “Get in and get used to it, then polo swim at first to generate some heat.” Awesome! In I went and got the initial “holy cow this is COLD” sensation out of the way. I was in the last wave of swimmers (with Chilly Pepper) so we got to yell and scream at our team members going into and out of the water! Then it was our turn. Chilly, Emily and I all made silly faces at Emily’s mom for the camera, then Emily went in and Chilly and I were standing at the line together. Normally, I am nervous at the start of the swim. This day, I wasn’t. I was grateful.
The swim was over in a flash! I lost the feeling in my hands and feet almost right away, so I felt just fine! Out of the water, and a tug of war with the wetsuit later (and almost toppling over), I went into transition! Transition was tricky as my hands were numb and not completely functional, but I somehow managed to get the gloves and shoes on and head out! The first hill was waiting for me right out of transition. Under my voice I said “opportunity for growth …” and up I went! With each hill, I found myself happy and grateful … no, seriously! I was chanting “opportunity for growth” with each hill and I was actually having a blast. I wasn’t scared, or intimidated … I was happy. It was a beautiful sunny morning and the scenery was amazing and I was so very grateful I was there and had the ability to compete. Honestly. I kid you not … those were my thoughts.
The hilly bike course ends with a descent and I whooped as I entered the end of the bike course. I saw the world famous ET Cheer Crew and gave them a whoop as well! Now on to transition and running shoes on! I passed the Cheer Crew and got a, “Go get ‘em, Jada!” and off I went … slowly … remembering Coach Suzy and Coach Jim’s advice, arms pumping, leaning into the hill, short strides. That’s when I realized I couldn’t feel my right foot. Either the ball of my foot was asleep or still frozen. I actually stopped and took my shoe off after the first mile to see if my sock was all bunched up. Nope. Nothing! I heard Coach Joe’s words enter my head again. ”Opportunity for growth, Jada.” I started seeing returning ET runners on their way back to the finish. That was cool. I got a hand slap from everyone on the team. Everyone looked so GOOD! Even when the 60 year old woman passed me, still in my state of gratitude, I said to her, ”I am so glad you passed me! That makes me happy.” No lie. I actually said those words to her. She inspired me to run even faster. Quick turn around and finally the sensation in my feet returned and I turned up the pace a bit. The last quarter mile to go I hear a, “Hey, girl!” on my right. It’s Chilly Pepper!! She said, “I’ve been chasing you!” We ran together the last bit of the race, making silly “Chilly Pepper” faces at the camera man, smiling, laughing, and trying not to fall down the hill on the return! Smiles, hugs and the feelings that come at the end of a race enveloped me. At that moment, I was then grateful to be done!
It turned out to be a beautiful day!! The race over, I was hanging out at the awards ceremony to cheer on those who won, knowing some people might win an age group or an overall. Several Experience Triathlon peeps got awards, Jim L., Mike B., Coach Joe, Bill J. They announced the women’s 40-44 age group and then they called MY name! What? Are you kidding me? I actually said, “How did that happen?” I was completely unprepared for that. Getting a third place age group award was nowhere on my radar. I must say that getting the award was icing on the cake and I wish I could chop the award in half and give it to Chilly Pepper, because we finished at exactly the same time! Finishing and starting the race with a fellow team member and friend is what makes this race a lasting memory for me. I will never forget running it in with Chilly!!
In the end, I took all of the coaches’ advice. I did what they said to do and it paid off. I was most surprised how racing with gratitude was the biggest player in the day’s events. I tend to get distracted by other competitors at times. I compare myself and always find a flaw, something lacking or conclude I don’t measure up in some way. Those defeating thoughts can sabotage the best among us. This race reinforced that we really can achieve our goals, and sometimes the only person standing in our way is ourselves. We are all talented, gifted in some way and racing with gratitude for the chance to line up, face your fears and say not only, “Let’s do this, and I am grateful I CAN do this!” was a game changer for me. I never thought of my insecurities, my lack of skill or talent, I really just focused on me and how lucky I am to be able to do what I do and for all of us to be able to do what we do. I am grateful for the opportunities for growth this sport gives me and the application both on and off the course, as well as the team members, coaches and cheer crews who support one another in the process. So in the end, Coach Joe’s race tips, “Be filled with gratitude for the ability to compete and embrace every challenge as an opportunity for growth,” was perfect advice. Genius.
Check out all the Galena pictures on the ET Photo Gallery!