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2010: Iron Girl Sprint Triathlon

Headline News: Iron Girl Triathlon Team Sistahood completed the journey on Sunday 8/22/2010 (swim, bike, run) and are now a bunch of Iron Girls… (yes, it rained…thank you for asking!). Woo hoo!!!
And, for those of you who want details….here it is: Iron Girl is a women’s only sprint triathlon, held every August in Columbia MD. 2500 triathletes sign up each year – to test their stamina, determination and grit – for an event that can take as little as “just over an hour” for the PRO’s….to somewhere over 4 hours for those who want more time exercising.

Leading up to the Iron Girl sprint TRI – is endless training….and eating….and more training. It is an all consuming activity. You train…eat…think about your next training event…get hungry just thinking about it….turn the smallest detail into a training activity…
Our training looks something like this:

8/10/2010: 2 mile run on the Canton/Baltimore waterfront: 95 degrees. In dire need of air conditioning. Note to self….don’t run in this heat. Listened to my iPod with a whopping 2 tunes installed (Love Shack and Amadeus). They repeat over and over. Someday I’ll add more songs to the run collection

8/15/2010: Open water swim at Gunpower River: winds from southeast – huge waves – could only swim in 1 direction — WITH the waves. Tami (who is all of 78 pounds…wet) and I did water aerobics against the waves. WTF???? Who’s idea was it anyway to swim in this sh@#? (did someone say “Jill”)? Jill, Elliot and Tricia had no problems swimming both directions in the tsunami….That’s because they are pros. Every time I looked over at Tami she was being tossed around in the waves like a little cork. After that “swim” (or whatever you call what we did in the water!) I wanted to go and run. You know, just be cuz. Nobody else thought this was a good idea. I gave Jill the stinkeye, and Tami eventually caved. We did 3 measly laps around the parking lot to make up for the lack of quality swimming in the brown lake. After all of this nonsense…we headed to the diner to devour omelette’s and short stacks. Food makes everything better.

8/16/2010: Pool swim. I brought my new fancy smanchy watch to help me count laps…but then I forgot to press the button each time I did a lap. The one time I did remember to press the lap button on the watch….I sucked down a lot of water – so decided knowing the number of laps wasn’t that important. A man hopped in my lane after 30 min…He must be new to the pool. With my ultra wide kick…rarely does a man dare to jump in my lane and risk bodily injury…

8/19/2010: Last chance open swim workout at Gunpowder River: Just a few days b4 IronGirl – and needed a good vibe in the open water swim practice. Swim buddy Jill and I briefly read the warning post at the shoreline. Something about severe water contamination…b careful w/open wounds…and better not swallow any of the water – or you will notice a 3rd eye growing on your forehead. We should have headed back to our cars…but we got in the water anyway. I think the Purdue chicken farms got flooded upstream. The river is filled with feathers…and more things I don’t want to think about. Jill swam laps around me….I got tangled in seaweed…and managed to finish 1200 meters despite many thoughts about the nasty water.
The training season is now over, and it is Iron Girl weekend. This is where the bacon hits the grease, the sh@# hits the fan….or Tami just bakes us a bunch of cookies. IG weekend starts out with a mandatory shopping spree. It is a very well organized event. First you pickup your race packet with bib numbers….and then you sachet through a maze of vendors with anything and everything an exercise girl could want….but doesn’t really need. Don’t that that “need” factor stop you from buying tho….and there we were – bags bulging with new tshirts, post exercise dresses…and more spandex. Someone has to stimulate the US eco.

Saturday afternoon arrives – and it is now time to rack our bicycles….check out the transition area….and closely inspect the buoys in the water. Team Jill-Holly-Tami and I find our bike numbers amidst the 2500 bikes that are preassigned on large metal racks. We spend another 20 minutes staring at the surroundings trying to locate something “unique” that will alert us to finding our bike during the event. Tami’s bike is next to a tree….Holly is a few rows from Tami’s tree….and Jill and I are side by side near some bright orange cones. How hard can it be to find the orange cones?
Next stop….a quick view of Centennial Lake – the swim course. The finish line is dotted with bright orange buoys quite close together. This is a good thing – because one surely doesn’t want to get lost in the weeds while trying to get out of the water. At the swim start – a huge white buoy marks the beginning of the course. The swim course takes you close to shore in an “outbound” direction – keeping a close eye on some yellow buoys. Two bright red buoys mark the “turnaround” point, and then you head straight back on the opposite side of the lake – keeping your eye on a new set of yellow buoys, around the island…and to the finish line.
From our vantage point on shore – the swim distance looked quite long. I wonder how they measure up 1100 meters in the Centennial Lake? Jill, Holly and Elliot are busy discussing their swim strategy. They will get right up in the pack of swimmers, breathe bilateral, check their heartbeats to make sure they are in the ‘zone’, stay tight to the buoys, and swim past the crowd with their special dolphin kick to the finish line. Yeah right. Tami and I worked out a very different strategy. We would wait 10 seconds after the swim wave starts so that the peeps get out in front of us, stay far away from the buoys, far from the other swimmers, hope the kayaks would keep a close eye on us, and Tami would stay to my left so that we could always see each other. OK, so we might be swimming some extra mileage out there…
After spending another hour looking at the transition from every imaginable angle, we decided it was time to move-on from being overly neurotic – and get some food. Barbecue and a slumber party was part of the evening plan — the night before Iron Girl.
Jill wanted us to arrive in Centennial Park at 2AM so that she could get the first available parking spot. The slumber party IG’s (Holly, Jane, Tami) successfully vetoed this idea – and we arrived in Centennial Park at 5AM. We were one of the first 25 cars to arrive on site.
Along with the rain.
Possibly thunder and lightening.
For Tami and I, a little thunder-n-lightening could be some very welcome news. Especially, if it were to force the race organizers to abandon the swim portion of the TRI….and turn it into a run-bike-run. This wouldn’t be a bad thing. Jus say’n.
But no such luck. We proceeded back to the transition area – with bike shoes, helmets, running shoes, towels and whatever else seemed necessary to get us from one leg of the event…to the next. It’s still dark at 5AM – so it is a bit hard to see. I’m hoping that I pumped up the tires on my bike – and not someone elses.
By the time we finished setting up our transition space in the dark, got body marked, made a few trips back to the car, and waited in very long lines for the porta-potties….it is now time to meander over to the swim start. Holly gets in the water with her swim wave at 6:45 – and she swims like a fish out of the gate. Jill, Tami and I move with the herd of pink swim cap ladies toward the waterline. Our wave starts at 6:55AM – and it seems that these women can’t wait to get in the water. Tami and I get in the water up to our knees….and wait. Jill tries to coax us further, without much luck. Finally the race officials insist that we move further into the water. OK now….you don’t have to be so pushy. We’ll start swimming when we have to.
The gun goes off….and we watch Jill glide effortlessly through the water. That’s what swimming is supposto look like. I had counted to 6….(out of 10)…and Tami was getting impatient. She suggested we might want to start before the next swim wave gets in the water. Oh – ok. And we’re off.
I can assure you – there were NO swimmers on the outside perimeter of Centennial Lake. Occasionally, someone on a kayak a few feet from me – was saying something. With an earplug in one ear — I’m hearing impaired – so his conversation was one directional. But, I got the idea…these were the moments where Tami and I had ventured too far off course. Tami was swimming strong – and I had my work cutout for me — to keep up. Tami swims freestyle, and occasionally does some breast stroke. She swims at a perfectly choreographed cadence, one that was passed down to her from her older sister Beth. I swim using the 1-sided-breast-stroke-lurch. It’s a variation of the side stroke, breast stoke and butterfly – and I’m fairly certain it will be considered as an Olympic event – soon. In case you want to try this in your pool – you basically swim on ONE side (right)…propel outta the water (like the breast stroke) – but only on one side….and occasionally fly outta the water when attacked by seaweed. It is probably the most energy inefficient stroke available to mankind – but if you work at – you’ll get yourself a fine workout.
Slowly…we passed buoys. One at a time… and eventually rounded the red buoys – which meant we can start swimming to the finish line. Tami and I were focused on our swim….but always keeping an eye on each other. Tami would call out to me to swim closer to her – when I started weaving to the lily pads. And I would yell “watch out Tam” – when a swimmer came up behind Tami. I didn’t want my girlfriend to get mowed over….we needed our swim space. Before you knew it….we had reached land. Tami and I stood and hugged. We had done it. The swim is now behind us…and we’re feeling real good.
We run up the hill to the transition area… Where are those landmarks? The tree? the orange cones? Tami can’t see a thing without her prescription glasses – which she is not wearing. She is busy running circles around the transition area – and I can’t seem to locate those friggin orange cones. I eventually found my bike….and Tami located her tree. Whew.
Jill and Holly were long gone from the transition area – and the rain was now coming down in buckets. This should be fun. Tami and I take the first 20 minutes of the bike ride at a much slower than normal pace. Not sure how the bikes will react to slick roadways – and we don’t really want to find out. Slow is fine. For awhile anyway.
Ms. Madone, true to form – cannot hold herself back on an uphill. We easily fly past 30 bikers… And then, the dreaded downhill. Ms. Madone – who has not been herself this year – slows to a crawl to avoid the noodle affect. It’s better to be safe…than fast….so we watch all of the peeps barrel past us. Including Tami. “See ya Tam on the uphill” – I yell out. “Ok girlfriend – you rock” she replies as she whizzes by.
5 miles into the course, the rains had stopped…and the big pools of water on the roads were dissipating. Ms. Madone catches back up to all the downhill speedy bikers….who are now tiring on the uphills. And so we go….fast uphill….slow downhill….for the remainder of the bike race. And with the sheer volume of bikers on the roads….Tami and I became separated.
I returned to the transition area having successfully not fallen off my bike (due to slippery conditions or to the dreaded bike noodle)….and was pumped up to be starting the run. Not because I’m an exceptional runner or anything….but because I knew the end of all of this crazy exercising was near.
One problem…I can’t find my rack#. Did someone move those orange cones? Finally…there it is. I whipped on my running shoes….and bolted out onto the running course. Running….after you have swam 6/10ths of a mile…and raced on your bike for 17.5 miles…isn’t exactly easy. For the first 1/2 mile, you contend with leg mush. This is where you put weight on a leg…and it turns to mush. You spend your energy trying to talk your legs into behaving like a runner – but they just don’t listen. An iPOD would be handy (with my 2 favorite tunes) right about now…but the race officials won’t allow. With an iPOD, at least I wouldn’t have to listen to my own heavy breathing. You know you are breathing scary, when people ahead of you look back, eyes wide, mouth open and JUMP to the sidelines out of your way.
As I descend Heartbreak hill….I see Jill – ahead of me, looking strong. “You rock Sissy” Jill yells out….”No YOU rock Fluffy” I yell back….and she is long gone. Ahead of me is a para triathlete – who is doing an incredible job running with one leg, and one prosthesis. As I pass her, I greet her with “you are such an inspiration girlfriend”….I find myself suddenly very emotional. This woman really is – an inspiration. I vow not to bellyache about my breathing, or how tired I might be feeling. At least I can refrain from bellyaching for the next 10 minutes!
With a mile to go on the run course – I cross paths with Tami – who has not even broken a sweat on the run. She breaks out into a huge smile and we give each other some encouraging words. Jill crosses the finish line first with an amazing blazing time of 2hr 16 min, Elliot and I cross the finish in 2hr 22 min….Tami 2 hr 29min….and Holly well under 3 hours. Considering that Holly had to become a professional bike mechanic on the fly (her bike became possessed – and her chain popped off twice) — she showed what she is made of. Pure grit.
Many many thanks to our support team of Chuck, Paddy, Jim, Rick & Linda, and Dave who braved the wee early hours and rainy weather – to cheer us on, make us laugh and walk at least 5 miles to watch us from every vantage point. And special thanks to Paddy (who did his first TRIrelay this year), joined the gym to be my workout partner, and believes that I can swim in open water – long before I believed it….and Chuck (who also did his first TRIrelay this year)- who never misses an opportunity to support Fluffy, Sissy and everyone else in the periphery. xoxoxoxoxo
Moving forward….we have a new recruit to the TRI-family. Hellooooo Linda – let the fun begin!

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