Thursday, May 24, 2012

Go Pink!

I did it!!!
On Sunday morning my alarm went off at a time I generally associate with the most raucous of my drunken evenings, I rolled excitedly out of bed, and put on the ugliest thing I've ever owned.

Or at least bought for myself to wear. I was a child of the 80's and 90's and I'm sure there were uglier things, but there were also adults to blame them on.

My partially floral one-piece triathlon suit was allllll me.
You know you're jealous.

I had a light breakfast, checked that I had everything I needed for the 47th time, and drove off into the darkness surprisingly calm. During the hour long drive to my race destination the edges of the sky began to lighten, and just as I pulled up to the water of the reservoir the sun broke over the surrounding hills.
I knew it was going to be a great morning!!!

I felt pretty out of place with my bookbag full of gear and my street bike with the nifty thing on the back for carrying stuff, but everyone was smiling and positive and looked just as sleepy eyed and almost as confused as I felt.

I found a place for my bike on what I thought was a rack near the back, spread all of my goodies out on my towel, and commenced the excellent people watching of pre-race rituals.

I got over-excited and put on my wetsuit about half an hour too soon, and then took it half way off because I felt silly and it touched my throat, and then pulled it back on only 20 minutes too early, and then felt tired of standing around and marched down to the water.
Well gingerly picked my way over all the rocks and twigs and things to the edge of the water, made some general "ewww" faces at the squoogey mud at the edge of the water getting between my toes, and then some really happy faces as I realized the water was a balmy 71 degrees.

The racers were divided by age and gender into different start "waves," and the waves were distinguished by different colored caps. I sort of clumped together with my fellow bright pink cap wearers (my current favorite color, which I took as a further sign that everything was going to be awesome). And was relieved to find out that everyone else seemed just as confused and nervous and excited and unsure of themselves as I did.

And then time magically sped up and slowed down all at once.
It was time to swim, so I swam!
Swimming was the only part of all of this that I have any previous experience with, so I was able to settle into a comfortable pace right away. I stuck to the outside edge of the pack, and looked up to get my bearings every 5-6 strokes or so.
Some super fast people from the waves behind me passed, and I passed some slower swimmers from my packs and others. All the different colors of swim caps were mixed together in no time, and I just stopped worrying about it and kept swimming.
Just as I turned the corner around the buoy I was guestimating as half way through my 0.75 mile swim, I caught sight of the finish!!
I couldn't believe it!!!

I climbed up the slippery boat ramp to the transition area surrounded by smiling strangers shouting encouragement. It was a little overwhelming, and I couldn't pick out my personal "cheering section" of dad and boyfriend from the crowd, but it was encouraging and made me smile in return.

I hurried over to my little transition spot and was able to get ready for the bike ride with a lot less stress than I'd expected. Just peel off the wetsuit, wipe off a little with my shammy, throw on the tank top I brought to cover the hideous tri suit and hold my number, sit down shamelessly to put on socks and shoes (just 'cause other people around me can do all this standing up in 3 seconds doesn't mean I should tip over and hurt myself trying), shoved on my helmet and sunglasses, and I was off!!
Kind of.
You can't get on your bike in the transition area, and the little "mounting" line was pretty crowded with people trying to hurry out onto the bike course, but it all sorted itself out pretty quickly and THEN I was off!!

I was literally one of 2 people out of the 700 participants on a street bike (with big fat tires and handle bars that have you sitting almost straight up)( instead of a fancy road bike (With skinny little tires and handle bars that have you lean way down - they are easier to pedal faster. I walked around and checked), so I wasn't off very FAST, at least not compared to the road bikes, but I didn't mind as much as I thought I would.
People were very polite about letting you know they'd be passing, and as the miles wound on, and more and more and more people were coming up behind me, my thoughts weren't so much that they were passing me, they were more that I was doing AWESOME.
If people on super fancy road bikes, who couldn't have started the swim more than 20 minutes after I did (when the last wave started), took until miles 12, 14, even 16 to catch up and pass me, I was doing really well!!! That means I had to be ahead of all of those people on the swim for them to pass me later. They had the advantage of superior equipment and were only barely faster than me at the bike, obviously I was winning at my made-up newbies with lamer equipment division.

About half the people out on the course even seemed to comment that I was doing amazingly well "on that bike" or "those tires" and shouted "go pink!!" as they passed.

All that training out on the local rec trail paid off. I was even able to bike all the way up the horrible steep awful mile long hill at mile 11 that had about half of those fancy bikes being walked up it!!
Sure, I was in first gear, but I was pedaling, and the coast down the other side made it seem totally worth it!

According to my dad and boyfriend I managed to finish the bike leg before a good 40-50 people who were on those fancy bikes, which to me is pretty darn awesome!

I felt surprisingly energetic as I pulled into the transition area... and then I got off of my bike.
My legs were like twitchy gelatain!
I had about 5 seconds of panicking that I wasn't going to be able to complete the race, but as I walked my bike back to my little stall, and took off my helmet, and chugged down some water and sports drink, I started to feel just fine.

Everything was going to be okay, that bike ride was just hard!
I was pretty sure I had to be forgetting something, since the transition from bike to run was basically getting off my bike and ditching my helmet since I didn't use fancy bike shoes or anything like that, but I walked quickly out of the transition area smiling and excited.
The run portion went 2.5 miles up the road and then just turned around and came right back down it, so there were runners going the opposite direction the whole time. Everyone was totally positive and encouraging. We all shouted encouragement back and forth. "Almost done!" "The turn-around is just past those trees!" "Keep it up, doing awesome!" It was great! I felt encouraged and had fun encouraging others.

I reminded myself over and over of my goal for the run (to run at least half of it) and repeated my running mantra when I was flagging. If I'm not going to actually die, pass out, or injure myself, I can keep running.

There were water stations at each mile marker, which made it easier to gauge the distance, and I ran about half of each mile, just as I'd hoped!

I even got stung by a bee and kept going!
(I'm not allergic or anything, so this isn't technically an important part of the racing experience, but for whatever reason it stands out to me as proof of how bad ass I am at triathloning)

When I crossed that finish line I was running, and I was happy, and I knew that I really did it.

Finishing 614 out of 700 may not sound very impressive, but I did it, and I did it in the amount of time I set a goal to finish in, so as far as I'm concerned that 614 is just code for 1st place.

Go Pink!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Lessons in Roller Derby

Thursday, May 03, 2012

In case you somehow haven't heard me blabbing incessantly about it, I decided to try out for the local flat track roller derby league!!!

What made me decide this, you ask?
Umm... a whim.

Someone told me a couple of weeks ago that there IS a local roller derby league, so I googled it, discovered that there was an informational meeting that coming Sunday for potential newbies, and immediately decided I was going to do it.

Never mind the fact that I've been on quad skates maybe 10 times total and the last time was probably 20 years ago, I was going to do roller derby and I was going to kick arse at it!!!!!

I immediately began diligent work on creating a roller derby name and researching entry level skates.
(I'm still deciding between Shreddy Ruxpin - #85 and Phenoma Blond - #007)
The informational meeting went great, the women there from the league seemed super nice and welcoming, and I was even MORE determined to be a Monterey Bay Derby Dame!!!

When the first opportunity to actually get on some roller skates finally came around the next weekend I couldn't be more excited or more nervous. I got the boyfriend and a couple we are good friends with to go with me, so I wouldn't be so scared, and just couldn't wait to step out on that floor. I was last in the group to put on my skates, but with everyone else so many years out from their last skating adventures and so confidently moving around the little putting on of the skates area, I was sure I'd be great.

And then I stood up.
I was not great.

Standing in those rental skates with such vivid memories of having them slide right out from underneath me as a kid was terrifying. I was like a baby giraffe on ice, and I wasn't even moving or off of the carpeted area yet.

I waved my friends away and assured them I just needed a minute to get used to the skates and would join them out on the floor. They all tore off a wee bit wobbly but quite confidently into the general flow of skaters... I nearly fell at least 47 times in the 5 foot trip from my chair to the entrance to the rink, and stepped gingerly out onto the tiles of the actual floor.

How did anybody manage to move around on these things? Who the hell thought putting wheels on shoes without any kind of device to keep you from tipping over backwards was a good idea? Couldn't I play roller derby on inline skates?

I dragged myself hand over hand along the wall, despairing.
In what conceivable universe was I going to be able to get from this state to trying out with just 3 Saturday evenings of open skate to practice in?
I'd never be a derby dame.
My dreams were crushed.
I wanted to cry!

And then the first turn came.
Those sadists had set up a little blocked off area at the end of the rink where people could practice things other than moving in a general counter clockwise direction, which meant I had to make it all the way across the vastyness of the hockey rink without a wall to clutch.

I was pretty sure I was going to die.
Or be run over by a mob of jeering 8 year olds on spiked skates and mad maxian garb and THEN die.
But death was, in any case, eminent.

I can do this.
Deep breath.
One foot in front of the other in a general slidey type motion.
I can skate, I skated, I even owned a pair of neon pink roller blades with mint green buckles and orange wheels. Sure, I had to run into parked cars or signs to stop, but the going forward was never a problem. I know the mechanics, all these other people seem to be making it across this expanse unscathed. I don't see a single spiked skate in the vicinity.

Let's do this!!!

It wasn't pretty. I wobbled and almost fell several times, but I DIDN'T fall, and I kept going, and I MADE IT!!


And then this girl that I'm pretty sure was born with wheels on her feet whizzed right past me and did a nifty twirly maneuver to go with the music.
I was startled and distracted. I lost my balance, I was going down!!!
Thank goodness I'd made it to within clutching distance of the opposite wall!

Okay, so not quite the master of roller skating, but I wasn't QUITE despairing anymore.
Discouraged, yes.
Disappointed, definitely.
But determined! I want this! I am going to find a way to make it happen for myself!! I am not going to let a little thing like being terrified of roller skating stop me!!

Half an hour or so later I was able to do 3 loops around the rink without touching the wall EVEN ONCE!! Sure, I was maybe 8 inches from it and going about the same speed as I would be walking, but I was doing it! I was skating!!

A few of the girls from the derby league had come in and were hanging out in the little sectioned off area, waiting to show new league hopefuls the basic skills needed to get into what they call "fresh meat" training.

Dear boyfriend came over and encouraged me to join in, but no way did I feel ready to work on anything but not falling down, was he crazy?!

I'll just go introduce myself....
I teetered over, and introduced myself, and explained that I was really just at the work on not falling down stage.
And to my amazement no one seemed even remotely surprised by that, or skeptical that I could be ready in time for try outs 3 weeks later.
Well alright then, show me all of the things!!!

And then something amazing happened.
I stopped concentrating so hard on not falling down, and started concentrating on learning some basic stops and how to cross my feet over eachother when turning.

When I stopped trying so hard not to fail, I did great!!
Sure, I ate it pretty hard a couple of times, but I ate it doing a pretty darn impressive cross-over if I do say so myself.

By the end of the night I was out on the rink skating at appropriate speeds, crossing my feet over eachother, weaving between slower skaters, I didn't have to look down at my feet.


My own skates came in the mail later that week, and the following Saturday I was doing all the basic moves necessary to make it into "fresh meat" well enough that they started teaching me NEW things, things they teach after one makes it into fresh meat.
By the end of my second Saturday night out on the rink I was able to keep up with the "real" derby girls and didn't fall once (other than when learning the correct way to fall and doing it on purpose, of course).

I stopped grasping at what seemed safe and familiar but kept me more or less stationary.
I stopped concentrating so hard on what was directly in front of my toes, blaming every little bump and warp in my path for my stumbles.
I stopped putting all of my effort into not failing.
I started doing things that felt new and awkward and scary.
I fell down, twice, and it HURT, but I got right back up and tried again.

I know I'm going to fall a lot more. I'm going to get some pretty impressive bruises, and it's going to hurt, and the things I learn will often seem difficult, even impossible at first, but I will learn them, and I will learn to be great!