Why am I here?

Why am I here?

by Marsha H.

Ever wonder what triathletes think about during a long, tough race?  Here’s a peek into our world as Marsha fights the demons and completes her first Olympic triathlon at Pleasant Prairie.  Congrats on a great race and beating the demons, Marsha!  – Coach Joe

Coach Joe always says I am too quiet. There is nothing quiet about what I am thinking during a Triathlon…

I wake up at 3:50am to bolts of lightning and winds and downpour.  It is ugly outside.  I stayed up in Wisconsin with Sue (tri buddy).  We giggle and think about going back to sleep but don’t want to look like wimps in front of the ET family that are waiting for us in the lobby.  We go downstairs and find everyone dressed and ready to go.  I think there must be something wrong with us as we venture out in the cold rain to set up transition. I get to transition and am now wet, muddy, cold and scared of the roads to bike on.  People are leaving and bailing out of the race in numbers.  I look around to see if anyone I know is doing the same.  No… of course not.  Now I think there is something definitely wrong with us all.

The race officials open the rec complex due to the dangerous weather and we huddle in there and wait.  The announcer at 6:30am says, “Now that we only have the strong left and the weak have gone home, we are going to start the race in 30 minutes.”  Blah blah blah about how dangerous the road conditions are and that our brakes won’t work well and…. I feel sick and I want to throw up.  Why am I here and why I am going to do this?  I look around for someone else looking ill and everyone else is packing up their stuff and heading out for transition.  Coach Joe sees me and does his magic pep talk and I head out the door.

It’s cold, wet and, ok, good… a little humid.  That will help me feel warmer.  Great- I look out in transition and everyone has wetsuits.  Nice.  My sure thing swim now just got compromised because everyone now is a better swimmer because they have wetsuits and I don’t.  Have to stop being a baby and move forward.  I am in heat 5 and am standing there ready to go.  I go in the middle of my heat because I am not the stronger swimmer today.  I want to cry and run.  The gun thing goes off.  Am I really running?  Why, yes, I am on autopilot and just dove into the water.  It’s warm and perfect and quiet.  I love the water.  I feel safe in it and it is crowded and, this sucks… there are too many people here in the middle.  Screw drafting… I swim to the outside where I am alone and I get into my rhythm and just swim the way I love too.  What?  The end?  Ok, kick and get my legs going because as soon as I grab sand in my hand I have to stand up and run like fire and get myself on the bike.  No more slow transitions for me.  Got the sand… I am running as hard as I can up the sand hill into transition.  I yell at Patty as I see her leaving w/ her bike.  I am short of breath and can’t breathe and am shaking-no time to think about that, just get on the bike and clip in without falling… ok, I’m in and away I go.

The roads are typical Wisconsin country roads with bumps and potholes everywhere.  Great- standing water puddles.  Slow on the turns no falling allowed.  The bike ride was very cautious.  Time to dismount- don’t fall… I didn’t.  Great, my feet are numb (were my shoes to tight?)  Socks suck to put on when they are wet.  Make mental note to consider running w/o socks.  Shoes on- grab watch, hat, race number- GO!!! GO!!!  Run and get all this junk on.  Can’t breathe again.  Can’t feel my feet.  Is that my sock bunched up in my shoe?  Can’t stop- just deal.  My legs are lead.  Took me 1 1/2 miles before I got feeling to my feet.  Yep, sock is bunched and it’s going to hurt- just deal.  In my rhythm by mile 2 and finally feel great.  Bob passes me; he smiles and boosts my spirits.  Say Hi to more people I know.  Every familiar face is giving me more and more energy and confidence.  It’s great to be in the ET family.  This is fun.  It’s great to be alive.  Did I really not want to do this?  Make a mental note to never ever back out of a race again.  OOh -ouch -pain- what is this?  My side is cramping, I can’t run, I have to keep moving.  Why does this hurt?  1/2 mile of pain, I belly breathe, burp.. Yeah!  It’s gone.  Air bubble.  Make a mental note to learn to hydrate on the bike without taking in air.  Joe is passing me. I thank him for not letting me bail out, but he is cruising.

I can hear the announcer and the crowd welcoming the first finishers.  I can see the crowd and the finish area… pick up pace.  I feel great, tired, yes, but happy.  See the finish line and sprint with everything I have left.  Try to look decent because the photographer is taking pictures. Smile and run…smile and run.  Screw it, I can’t do both at the same time.  Run through the finish, get my chip off, grab a Gatorade and my people and share in this great day of another great achievement!!

What a crazy weather weekend at Pleasant Prairie.  Certainly a great day of mental toughness training.  Stay tuned for more stories from this wild and wet weekend!  All the fun can be viewed at ET Photo.    – Coach Joe

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