Wednesday, May 29, 2013

My 1st pregnant race report! The Comox Tri-K Sprint Triathlon, or "Aero-bellies unite"

What an interesting weekend I just had!  You may or may not be caught up to the fact that I did my first 'race' in pregnancy, this past weekend at the Shoreline Orthodontics Comox Valley Tri-K Triathlon.  A big thanks also to Triathlon BC, who supported a pre-race expo with the Comox Valley Triathlon club.  I was delighted to be invited & to speak on all things triathlon on Saturday, a well attended event with a lot of great positive feedback!  I'll post some photos at the end of the expo & the other great guest speakers!

First off, this is what a 26 week pregnant person at a triathlon looks like.  You may have not seen one of these before.

Comox Valley Sprint Triathlon @ 26 weeks pregnant

 Yes, I am pregnant.  Yes, I raced.  Yes, there were some funny sideways looks.  And yes, someone told me to please not deliver the baby on the bike course.  (I don't think being aero qualifies as a good labour position anyways).

 I'm 26 weeks pregnant & change.  My baby is now likened to the length of a cucumber (we're past citrus fruits - yeah! mostly an inside pregnant woman's joke really....), and almost 2 lbs.  I am, however, significantly bigger than the date of my last triathlon, Ironman Canada.  I don't weigh myself at home, but last check up at the doc's office had me in around 22 or so lbs heavier. Our kid kicks & moves around, and I think is learning how to mimic riding a bicycle in utero, based on the number of times I get bumped in the ribs these days.  I would love to be able to see right through my stomach & see what he or she is doing, but I'll have to wait until it comes out.  For now, I'm very happy that it is safe & sound exactly where it is.

 So back to the race.  Why did I do this?  Good question.

 I've thought about that a lot myself.  The long & short of it is, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.  Why?  Because this is a huge part of my life & my identity & the core of what makes me tick.  It makes me happy.  I know we're beyond pregnancy as a 'condition' or 'situation' in this world, but I'm not sure we're quite up to speed (literally) in the world of 'what can a pregnant woman do'?

This, apparently.

Courtesy of Vancouver Island Photography

 The only point of contention was the bike.  Was I a little nervous about the bike course?  Yes.  So why did I decide to do it?  I have had no hesitancy about being on a bicycle at this point or at any point so far in my pregnancy.  Am I careful when riding?  Yes.  But I have always been, & so being careful doesn't make me scared, and therefore I feel quite comfortable.  Surely though, in a race course, you take on the risk of the 'other'.  The 'other' cyclist who may bump into you by mistake causing a crash was really my only fear.  But the course was flat, straight & had lots of room, so my fears were quashed by a bit of course recon.

 And one would ask - why do anything you're afraid to do?  To which as general rules apply, we would all say, 'because it helps you overcome insecurity & doubt', 'builds confidence & strength', and 'sets an example for yourself & others'.  To me, being pregnant does not make these reasons any less important, and in the case that I would state that pregnancy actually makes you stronger and is a better time than ever to serve as a role model, why wouldn't you take on important challenges in life?  And that is why I did what I did, and signed up for a sprint triathlon.

 If you thinking, yeah well, this signing up for a race thing when you're pregnant really isn't that big of a deal, then you've obviously never been a pregnant woman who is constantly questioned on her daily activities of athleticism.  It has been a challenge to get to this point in my pregnancy, while swimming, biking, & running in the 'best' possible way I can.  In my case, it is what is 'best' that I find the most interesting.

 As I have mentioned before, I have been very lucky to have a great medical support team that has been supportive & forward thinking in terms of athletics & pregnancy.  That said, there is only so much they can do & say, and then you, the woman, is left alone to make her own decisions about what is 'best' for her & the developing fetus.  Now this conversation can go on for miles, but I'll tell you what I thought was best.  Doing the race.  I could go on for ever on this topic, which I might in another instalment of a blog, but I'm more tri focused today :)

So let me break down for you the fun & somewhat funny experiences I had in the Comox Sprint Tri this past weekend!

The swim:  500m (9:19).  Minimum 19 seconds spent getting out of hot 25 m short course pool.  4th fastest swim time!

Now, this was a new experience.  A pool start 500m swim.  Staggered start, and I got to share a lane with the two fastest boy swimmers in the race.  Good for drafting for 5 seconds I guess.  I did wonder what might have been going through the guys' minds at this point.

Prior to the start of the swim, I got to stand around chatting with friends in my avant guard sports bra & very tight shorts combo (because not much else in my triathlon kit selection fits) and get some seriously funny looks from families on the sidelines.  In my heat, I got a few "Impressive!''s from the other men racing near me, and I made some funny jokes like "If you kick me in the stomach when passing, I'll totally clock you, haha...." followed by making direct eye contact that meant I'm not actually joking and that wouldn't be my first fist underwater, "haha".

Start of swim with friend Sophia, the 'team' behind Active Living Physiotherapy!

Then we were off.  And I found out swimming in a sports bra is like swimming with those parachutes behind you.  But I'm all for increasing my resistance in training these days (read: weight gain), so that was terrific.  After 500 m of swimming in a pool which likely had a temperature of 26 degrees C, a bit too hot for someone with a built in heater to feel 'great' in, I faced my biggest challenge of the whole triathlon.  Getting out of the pool.

As we were getting out from the deep end (read: no floor to jump up of), and a general softening of my triceps (not entirely my fault as hormones are somewhat to blame), it was not the most graceful performance.  It did initially get some feeble cheers of "Good for you, you can do it", until I stood up & revealed my soccer-ball shaped stomach in which cheers because more robust in the form of "AWESOME!! Way to go girl! Go Gillian" (who knows me there anyways? - oh right, swim organizer & Canadian Olympic Bronze medallist women's 4x100 medley in Montreal's Susan Sloan who I had the pleasure of meeting the day before at the Tri-K Expo).  So awesome.  I will eventually be knocking down the door of that woman to become my swim mentor.  Anyway, that really was the most strenuous thing I had to tackle, and even that wasn't so bad.

T1: (2:49)

After a bit of walk/running out of the pool (I thought to myself, you shouldn't run on a pool deck, those are the rules), I jogged down to the T1 area, letting (gulp) a couple men pass me.  Don't worry, they get passed later.  My Dad was there to remind me to 'take it easy', to which I tell him I AM running easy.  He then offers to take my goggles & cap.  I instantly think, no, that's outside assistance & carry them into my T1 area with me.  Some habits die hard.

Courtesy of Vancouver Island Photography

If getting out of the pool was the hardest thing I did, transitions were certainly the thing I had to take the most time with.  You swallow a soccer ball then try to put on your shoes.  It ain't easy folks.  It's a bit of a round the stomach side bend manoeuvre which can sometimes cause a bit of discomfort, so you have to take it easy.  So I did.  Then I had to put on my heart rate monitor (thanks Kelsey!), then I had to put on my tri top (I actually had one that fit!), then my Dad's helmet (fitted accordingly), my recently glued together bike shoes (they were in rough shape), and off I went on my old faithful road bike.  I smiled when I saw the glimmer of that little silver sticker on my stem that you get when you go to the Ironman World Championships.  It was a nice reminder that this bike had served me well over the years, and I was happy to be reunited with it.

Then insert the "please don't deliver your baby on the bike course" comment.  I really didn't think I looked that pregnant.  I don't feel 'that' pregnant, but alas, people are noticing (which is a good thing!).
Up to the mount line & on with my flying squirrel mount.  Ha, no.

Bike: (20km in 36:21.  2nd fastest bike time!)
Having a trusty HR monitor, was able to see where I was right away, which was my usual high heart rate.  So, it is a nice reminder to just take it easy & adjust to the bike.  I hadn't really tried out my aerobars in a while, but after seeing how straight the course was, and the fact the wind was a bit in our face (and being all for minimizing work output), I tucked into aero and was surprised to find it was better than sitting upright in the drops.  Score!

So off I went, cycling comfortably and passing a few people along the way.  A few men reminded me to 'remember to have fun' and/or 'make sure to take it easy', to which I was both grateful for and also a bit humoured by, as I really wanted to reply, "actually, thanks, I am taking it easy (whilst passing you)".  But this is a fun race & all I was interested in was having fun.  And I was!

Quite an uneventful cycle after I passed a number of people & then had no one really in front of me (we start staggered so you really never know who's ahead, who's behind) and I cycled back into town.  I dutifully took lots of little sips from my bottle of trusty sports drink, thinking I was probably the only person to be doing so.  Also probably the only person to get instantaneous reflux from said yellow sports drink but luckily that is nothing new and at least I felt like I had good reason to.  Got hit by one huge bumble bee right off the nose, and another off the arm, but quite a comfortable ride.

Dismounting off the bike was a little tender, I must say, and I'm pretty sure I said to myself "let's go belly" as I was groaning a bit getting my leg over the back of my bike.  But then again, I'm not sure it was any less graceful than any other dismount I've done.

T2:  (1:49 - key note: both 60-69 year old females were faster than me in this category)
Again, Dad was there reminding me again to take it easy.  I make jokes that I got hit in the nose with a bumblebee (honestly, it was big & hurt a bit) to alleviate any of this concerns.  As in, I didn't have my killler 'game face' thrash through transition look.

And then back to the shoes.  Oh, the annoyance of having to switch bike shoes for socks & running shoes.  That took a while and I was in no rush.  Really one of my only fears was getting a side stitch in transition with all the bending & shifting around of a kid in my stomach.  But as I walked out a bit into the run, nothing was bothering me so I took up a pony trot, and all was fine (I do not start my runs in a blaze of glory these days, although there are 30 second intervals occasionally which would impress most lookers-on).  And off to the run I went.

Courtesy of Vancouver Island Photography

Run: (5km trail in 25:39)
Just because you're pregnant & taking it easy doesn't mean you all of a sudden do not feel like you have triathlon legs on the run, I found out.  I have been feeling great on most of my runs, and all of a sudden I had that old familiar feeling back of "aha - you just swam & biked".  And I loved it.  So, with HR monitor in check, I ran comfortably for the first 1-2km of the run, then when things felt easier, I was able to smooth out my running (a constant challenge with a daily growing bump) & get into a nice rhythm for the next 3 km.  We had a lovely shaded trail section (although a bit muddy in parts which I took care to not slip n' slide through losing any precious ankle ligaments I have working for me at the moment), and back up to the track where we finished with all sorts of cheers & supporters, balloons & announcers!

Total Time: 1:15:57

It was SO FUN.

Courtesy of Vancouver Island Photography


There is no other way to express than by abusing the caps-lock button.  But it's true.  It was so fun, to be out there, enjoying myself on a sunny day, feeling great, cheering on others, having others cheer on me (to the volunteer who once realizing I was pregnant, starting shouting "awesome girl, you're PACKIN', she's PACKIN' everybody....woooo go Momma!")

And I would be lying if it wasn't great to stop & chat with community spectators, volunteers, race directors, Tri-BC officials &  sponsors of the race after and feel both thankful for all the work they did and just plain great about what I was able to accomplish.

Of course, it was fun to peel through the race results I see where I ended up, a 4th place overall & a 2nd in my age group was terrific & fun to see!  Especially on a course where you're not competing head to head, and I was only really competing against myself.  Although I feel confident in claiming the overall winner of the 'pregnancy' category.

I know I joke, but it does make me wonder if there will ever be a 'pregnancy' division in the future of racing or not.  Time will tell, but I have a suspicion it just might appear.

So a huge thank you to everyone involved, to those that supported me, to those that challenged me, and hopefully to those who paid attention to the fact that athletics is important in pregnancy, and important to women who have lives entwined in sport & can never be separated from such.  I feel lucky to be who I am and where I am at this point in time in my life.  It is a pretty neat time to be me.

Now, without delay & to wrap up, some photos from the fantastic Tri-K expo held on Saturday.  I had the pleasure of meeting ITU superstar Matt Sharpe, and overly accomplished triathlete Kelly Guest as part of the guest speaker series.  It was really great to connect with other people with the same local roots & get to hear about what they're up to in the triathlon world.  Pretty darn neat!

Me, Kelly & Matt @ the Expo

Me chatting at the expo about my roots in sport.  Also, looking pregnant - a news flash to me!  Now I get the funny looks.....