Sunday, August 22, 2010

Race Report: Irongirl

I was having a bit of a meltdown last week about training. Lots of little things at work, etc have been building up and I felt totally overwhelmed. One of my Trakkers teammates, Kelly, works for Irongirl and I got to hang out with her the night before the race. She is an amazing Mom and triathlete, and her energy is just what I needed. Race morning, I had half a bagel with peanut butter (I bought almond butter to try but didn't want to do it for the first time on race day). As always, so nice to see all the MMTC folks at Centennial Park (literally dozens of people).

The Swim: (26:06 115/239)
I set out for this race with some goals after the Celebration Sprint (the same course, but co-ed in June). After my meltdown, I wasn't sure how it would go, but I was hoping to push hard. This is the part where the tri gods remind me that I should just be thankful to participate in this race on this day. Treading water before the swim start, I had to pee (sorry, TMI here). When bearing down to pee (while treading water), I went into SVT. I knew it before I looked at my heart rate monitor, but "206" confirmed it. In healthcare we look at everything as risk vs. benefit. I seriously debated pulling myself out of the race, but decided that since I didn't feel dizzy or faint I would at least try. The risk was that I could start to feel bad (and if I did I would go for the nearest kayak), the benefit was finishing the race. Thankfully my race buddy Jen was there (she happens to be an ER nurse) and I had about 60 seconds to tell her what was going on and figure out what to do- I was so glad to have her there. My only bit of panic came from the fact that people were packed so close that it was difficult to tread water comfortably. I decided to erase any time/place goals, and just swim. I told myself that if I started to feel at all crummy I would head for the nearest finish is worth risking my well-being. It took about 5 minutes for the rhythm to "break" (go back to normal), but it did. It still wasn't a fast swim, but it worked. (The funny part? I was 1 minute faster than at Celebration in June- I kept swinging wide of the buoys.)

T1 (2:24 18/239)
I was a bit wiped from the swim...tried to bust it out as best I could. The one thing I did in the morning that paid off- set my gear on a towel, with a trash bag over top (I hooked one end under the towel so that it wouldn't blow away). My shoes stayed dry (at least until I wore them in the rain) and I don't think it slowed me down. Sockless again on the bike and run- I love TriSlide.

Bike (59:58, 17.5mph, 13/239)
I knew I had ground to make up (with our age group split into two waves, it was weird to have some faster people behind me). I only got passed by three women from my age group. Didn't pass as many as I would like to have on the bike (at least in my age group), but I think I got out of transition before a lot of other people after the swim. I made the mistake of thinking to myself (near the turn-around) that people were following the rules of the road pretty well. It got worse on the last 1/3 of the course. Going down one of the hills on Folly Quarter Road on the way back, women were riding several wide. This was one of those hills where you could go 30+mph. The road was a bit wet, but I hated to ride my breaks. Trying to balance a positive attitude with a strong race, I did lots of yelling "Passing on your left, stay to the right if you aren't passing." (I made sure to say something encouraging as I passed). I felt really good about the bike.

T2 (1:30, 46/239)
There was a wreck coming into transition not long before I got there. The bikes were cleared but there was a woman who injured her knee (what a bummer). I found my rack easily (3 rows from the bike in and out) and got out as fast as I could.

Run (30:43, 38/239)
I felt so strong at the start of the run. I wanted to push it. I did for the first mile or so, and then lost some steam....a bummer but I was happy that I could make it to the run. It was so nice to see everyone on "The Hill", and then come back to the lake and see the finish on the other side. I was still struggling, but then I got to the last hill, and there was my teammate Kelly She cheered (and told me she knew I had more kick than that- I am totally motivated when someone tells me I'm not doing as good a job as I could be). I kicked it up for the finish. The energy at this race was amazing, and the volunteers from MMTC were incredible. Many thanks to everyone!!!!

2:00:38 (26/239, 190/1900+) (Not far off my goals, so I was super happy!)
(Thanks to Geoff and Kelly for the great pics!)

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Tale of Two Teams

I was not popular in High School. (No shock to those of you who may read this and actually attended school with me). I wouldn’t say I was glaringly unpopular; I just never was in the inner circle of any one group. Only 80 people comprised the 9th-12th grades at our school. That meant there were not many large groups. I hung out with a variety of people (the athletes during track and basketball season, other friends at other times). I got along with various groups, but was never really “in” any of them. As an adolescent, this frankly sucked. I got along with most people, but didn’t feel like I truly belonged in any of their groups. In my adult life, the ability to get along with lots of different people seems to serve me well. (If only I had known then when I know now).

Now, as an adult, I have the opportunity to be a member of two amazing teams of people (actually more than two if you want to be technical, but two for the purpose of simplicity). The first is my healthcare team- those I work with on a daily basis, and more recently those on Maryland-1, our state DMAT (Disaster Medical Assistance Team). A DMAT is a group sponsored by the Federal Government, activated in much the same way as the military reserves, but for domestic disasters. Many of the states have them, and they have been integral medical support for disasters such as 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, as well as planned events such as the inauguration, air shows, etc. The Maryland Team formed this year, and as I write this I am on a plane returning from MAC (Mobile Acute Care) Training at Brooks Air Force Base in Texas. Six of our team members attended this training, preparing for work as a strike team evacuating critically ill patients from hospitals (via air force transport) in advance of a hurricane.

I am also fortunate to work on a daily basis with an amazing team of healthcare providers….our team isn’t just doctors and nurses, it is unit secretaries, facilities management, registration and medical records staff, pharmacists, security, cafeteria staff, and so many more who make our hospital function the way it does. There is nothing more rewarding then the care providers coming together, pooling their talents to save a patient. Each brings a piece of the puzzle….working in tandem to achieve the desired result. When it works, we potentially save a life. When it doesn’t, we try to learn and grow and support each other.

The second team of people I am fortunate to interact with are my triathlon team(s). I am a member of the Mid Maryland Triathlon Club, which is comprised of literally hundreds of triathlon enthusiasts from all professions. We have one of the most supportive clubs, and the best tent support at all of our local races (I think we get lots of new member registrations after each of our local races when they see just how awesome our tent and food spread are). This year, I was blessed to become a part of Team Trakkers. This group of triathletes is spread literally across the country (and Hawaii), and encompasses the spectrum of abilities. Many of us have never met in person, but we have already formed an amazingly supportive network. They are my teammates, and I would gladly do anything for them. I don’t mean to sound cheesy, but this is totally true. I have come to know them through their blogs, tweets, and team emails. At Rev3 Quassy (and I’m sure at Cedar Point next month) the Trakkers love was flying.

Occasionally, these worlds intersect. I met several triathletes during my disaster training this week (and one of my DMAT teammates is in charge of EMS for Irongirl). On the flip side, if a disaster hits in September (when my team is on call) and we are called up, it may impact my tri season. There is no question where my priorities will be, but it would be a bummer.

Recently I reflected on these two “worlds” that I feel very lucky to be a member of. While one is my profession and one is a hobby (because I am DEFINITELY not fast enough to make it my profession), there are a lot of similarities.

1. I have met amazing people through both. People who are supportive and talented and often fun. These individuals are also generally gracious and humble, despite their ability or position. Some of the most talented triathletes I know are the most willing to lend advice. This week’s DMAT training involved 80 DMAT personnel from all over the country…paramedics, RNs, NPs, MDs…. Looking around the room, you didn’t know what job a person does in their “real life”. Since our team is new, everyone was extremely helpful and gracious.

2. Preparation is key. You must be well-trained for upcoming events. Otherwise, when the big moment comes, you bonk. Bonking during a triathlon sucks, but it just means a bad race. Bonking at work means someone freezes during a critical situation….not such a good thing. Hence why we train incessantly for a tri, and recertify in critical courses such as Advanced Cardiac Life Support at work.

3. The key to a successful race/ day at work/ DMAT deployment???? To quote the DMAT members of Tennesse-1, “The CAC Factor” (CAC = “Common A-- Courtesy”). Their theory? Stop looking out for yourself and look out for your teammates….then there will be 34 other people looking out for you. It applies to everyday life, courtesy on the tri course, etc. Not a challenging concept.

The place where these two worlds diverge is the recovery phase. After a race, I can have a big glass of chocolate milk, put on my compression socks, and recover. After a critical patient at work, or a busy day, you don’t know what is coming next. With the DMAT, a deployment means 12+ hour days in unpredictable conditions (possibly a tent hospital, sleeping on cots), with an unknown number of patients. Somehow, working with a great team makes it all bearable….just like seeing a friendly face handing out water on the run course or hearing a cowbell as you ride by makes a race that much more enjoyable.

A team makes the tough moments a little easier, and the victories that much sweeter.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Paying it Forward, Tri Style

On paper, triathlon is an individual sport. On race day, you compete with yourself and the other triathletes out there. Prior to taking up the sport 18 months ago, my only exposure was the annual coverage of the Ironman World Championships in Kona.

Since becoming a triathlete, I have been amazed time and again by how many people (at all levels of the sport) "pay it forward". The Tri community is a small one (often less than 6 degrees of separation), and people are always willing to help their friends, or even their friends' friends. Recently, two of my tri mentors, Team Trakkers "Mom" Sharpie, and Krista Schultz (who gave me my intro to tri at She Does Tri camp), met in Colorado. Only in a sport like tri can you be on a bike ride in Colorado and realize you have mutual friends across the country.

I can't begin to describe all of the amazing people in the Mid-Maryland Triathlon Club, Team Trakkers, or the She Does Tri camp. Here is an excerpt from my Team Trakkers application (written last year).

"Is there an athlete who has influenced you? If so, tell us how.

Prior to this Spring, I had occasionally watched triathlon on the annual Ironman Championship coverage specials and coverage of the Olympic games, but I had not followed specific athletes. After developing interest in the sport, I joined the Mid-Maryland Triathlon club and attended “She Does Tri” camp. There are people who have influenced me significantly since that point, as much for the way they support others in their exploration of the sport as for their amazing performance. Sadj B. is one of the founding members of the Mid-Maryland Triathlon Club. She competes in the 64-69 age group, and consistently achieves podium finishes in her races (including first in her age group at the Augusta 70.3 this autumn). Mark Y. is another club member who is Kona-bound after a podium finish at Eagleman. Both Sadj and Mark are generous with their time and support of other athletes. They are always available for support and feedback and embody the most positive spirit of the sport.
... Collectively, these individuals role model not only excellent performance, but the true spirit of support and camaraderie that makes the sport of triathlon so enjoyable. " Sadj and Mark are just two of the amazing people I have met in this sport.

It honestly doesn't matter how long you have been a triathlete, or your skill level. The willingness of athletes to help someone newer to the sport than them is really inspirational. In every direction, whether it be Team Trakkers, She Does Tri, or MMTC, there are people willing to help/cheer/support.

Even in my second season, I love that I get the opportunity to pay it forward, too. Last week, I participated in the Iron Girl Swim. This was an opportunity for hundreds of women to swim in Centennial lake and experience their first open water swim. Along with several other MMTC members, I tread water in Centennial lake for about 90 minutes, encouraging swimmers and swimming alongside those who needed assistance. When the sun glare made sighting impossible, I yelled encouraging words ("Swim for the sun, the buoy is right under it."). Perhaps the one thing more rewarding than competing in a triathlon is volunteering at a triathlon.