Monday, July 22, 2013

"I'll carry the weight", or 2013 Subaru Vancouver Sprint Triathlon pregnant 'race' report

This song struck me quite emotionally while running yesterday, from Canadian artist Serena Ryder, about what it's been like to run around with this little bean in me for the last 8 months:


I'll carry the weight
I'll do anything for you
My bones may break
But I'll never be untrue...

Your love is like an ocean
That always takes me home
Whispering wind is blowing
Telling me I'm not alone
Your love is like a river
That I am floating down
I've never been a swimmer
But I know that I'll never drown

The current grows stronger
Under different shades of blue
I've fallen in your water
Forget everything I knew....

Oh, what I wouldn't do....

There have been some amazing moments running along in the past few weeks, where I go from totally irritated (read: often my bladder), sore, grumpy, frustrated, to completely inspired, light, strong, floating even.  It can change so quickly and is unlike anything I ever felt in training before.  And it goes back & forth, and I just have to ride it out for the better or for the worse, sort of like these weird semi-contractions I can get from time to time.  But it makes me feel alive, and I think that is a major reason why I stick with it.  And it gives good reason as why I chose to race this past weekend.

So how did it go, you ask?  Let me tell you!

"I wanted to ask but.....", "Are you pregnant?", and "Are you doing the whole thing?".

 Most common phrases heard during last week's Subaru Vancouver Sprint Triathlon.  Honestly, people, are you polite or are you actually doubtful?  I know we live in a world of inane political correctness, but come on.  Lean girl eats a cantaloupe whole for lunch?  Like how a snake eats a pig?  I think it's become more obvious to me when girls are pregnant, so I know I should cut people some slack.  But it would be so funny if I wasn't, how on earth could you get a belly like that?

"You are totally my hero".  "You are so inspirational".  "You are crazy".  Ah, the love.

In any case, yes, I did the whole thing.  As in, the shortest races I've ever done.  500m swim, 20km bike, and 5km run.  It was awesome.  I would also like to include that if you are racing while reasonably pregnant, the transitions really should be included, as to me, they were actually the harder events.  No kidding.  Run up long beach in sand when your ligaments are slowly turning to rubber bands? Check.  Get biking shoes on while not sticking out your rear so far that no one can get by with their bike?  Get on & off bike while people watch you and wonder, "what the hell is up with her stomach?" Return & put on running shoes & then get upper ab cramp (actually I was quite excited, meaning my abs are still strong enough to actually cramp), then push the baby down away from my ribs & take a big pregnancy breath to reassure you & your baby that everything is fine & you're going to run now.  Clearly, T1 and T2 were far more athletic events for me.

Well, there's still no 'pregnancy' category at the races (although, it did show up on the back of my race #), but I'm pretty sure that I'm winning them so far.  I can't help it.  Apparently being 33 weeks pregnant did not make me much less competitive than usual.  Nice to know that some things never change.  I like to win stuff.

Let's cut into some of the more memorable moments & dilemmas that I had going into this race.

1 week before the race, at the doctor's office, at week 32 check up time:

Me: "I'm doing a race next week"
Her: "Oh, you are?"
Me: "Yes, it's short.  It's for fun." (She understands my race history)
Her: "What is the likelihood of you, say, crashing your bike?"
Me: "Well, a lot less likely than when I cycle commute to work in traffic".
Her: Silently gives me the evil eye
Her: Then laughs, "Well, that's interesting logic".
Me: Series of explanations of closed course, riding on the right, getting passed is ok, I will watch the road for bumps. "I'll be fine".  My husband is at the appointment with me, & she is also his family doctor, so she seems to take some comfort in the fact Shawn will be at the race with me.
Her: "Well, at least you're riding with people who know what they're doing"
Me: I resist telling her that a lot of these people are monkeys on speed bananas when they're racing.
Her: "Be safe then, and good luck.  Have fun".
Me: I have the best doctor.

"I have confidence in confidence alone":

I was of unshakeable confidence the day before that visit.  Thought nothing of the race, just show up, swim a bit, bike and run & everything is fun.  I really didn't think too much about what could go wrong, or if I did, I certainly didn't embody any of the stress that comes along with worry.

But now I started to feel a little hesitant about the process.  Quite a few "what if's" popped into my head.  At the time, this was distressing.  Looking back, this was probably actually a great thing for me to have to work through.

The swim, "always floundering":

I went for my first open water swim of the year down at the beach the day before.  It was cold.  I did not like it.  Amazingly, my wetsuit fit (maybe Blue Seventy should start marketing it's suits to 'grow' with pregnant women...?), which was a relief.  But my body didn't really 'warm up' to the chill of the ocean and I envisioned some of my first triathlon experiences that largely involved panic attacks & feeling like my heart was going to burst out of my chest.  Now, on my own & responsible only for myself, I can handle high levels of stress in the water (read: My swim experience at Ironman St George, for example).  But I am now responsible for this little baby and it's well being.  It was a very heavy feeling.  Not a bad or good one, but a definite sense of duty to ensure that this baby comes first.  I would guess moms and dads already understand this.  And in essence, it sums up the entire race experience for me, but there was more confidence where there was less risk, certainly.  So the doctor's visit was a useful 'check-in' for me.

I also realized I was being a bit dramatic about the whole swim thing (consistent given my swim history), when I was pretty sure I saw a killer whale jump out in the ocean just off course.

It was probably a salmon.

So on race day, after a very pleasant warm up, I lined up at the back, tried to console the first time very nervous looking back of packers, "Hey, I'm doing this pregnant - you can definitely do it not pregnant", and very much enjoyed walking into the water last.  Or at least I was trying for dead last.  Some pokey girl with no wetsuit was last in (and can you blame her?).  I'll say, it's a much more pleasant start to go in last than first.  Why didn't I think of that a couple of years back....?

And lo and behold, I was totally fine & very comfortable in the swim.  It was a bit upsetting to be very relaxed & cognizant of other people at the back of the back, really struggling with swimming, floating on their backs, doing the panicked thrash about, gasping for air, and I really felt a pang of guilt that I should stop & reassure them that they'd be fine.  But there were boats out there for that, and I knew they would be fine (again, I've seen 'not fine' at other races like St George - there is a big difference).  So around the buoys I went, flying way off course with the current (which really was fun when you could care less about winning a race), and zipped back into shore.  And no one kicked me or my child.  Bonus.

T1, "Insert strange stares here":

Sandy run slog.  Wishing I had a sign that said, "Yes, I'm pregnant".  Noticing that I had sandy toes.  Very impressed that I could get the wetsuit off without a cramp or major baby ninja kick to the ribs usually causing a little bit of reflux (at best), or puke (it happens).

The bike, "The aerobars are still possible!":

Really, a cruise.  I was worried that the Spanish Banks hill would be tough on my ability to breathe, as the baby is up high enough that bent over, there isn't much room for diagphramatic excursion, and therefore, oxygen.  But I slowly pedalled up and everything was fine.

The turnaround merge thing that we had to do in the sprint though was a touch ridiculous & only because I could care less about time and went very cautiously, was it safe.  I let the speed bananas monkeys just blow on past before taking my appropro place on the road.

The 'no pass' zone was interesting because I was behind a woman who was behind a very young competitor (I believe he was 16), who was obviously not as fast as the train of people behind him.  But no pass is no pass, despite how much barking the asshats behind us did (can you read english fools?), we all slowed down & had a nice little cruise through the UBC suburbs.  Then, hilariously enough, said asshats who were so upset that they couldn't pass, passed in a great fury of gearing up and hammering down on pedals, only to accelerate for such a short period of time they appeared to gas themselves, and for sport, I repassed a bunch quite easily and was then ahead of them again in the next no pass zone.  They did less complaining this time :)

The downhill was my only true concern for the bike so I rode to the right & let people fly by, thinking to myself, crap, did I ride down the hill that fast last year?  Braking all the way down in my comfort zone, I was happy to pedal on the flats to get back to T2.  Anyone that passed me on an up or downhill was really right back there with me on the flats.

T2, "Unbuckle my shoe" (please, someone, do it for me):

I had my eye on an older gentleman that was peddling into T2 in front of me.  I thought, I could pass, but then I also thought, for what purpose?  So I let him go.  Good thing, because as he dismounted he also fell over, crashing two other women down (women who tried to pass him).  I skipped by the yardsale & went to rack my bike.

Then I got that dreaded ab cramp.  But with some straightening up & relaxed breathing, I was off to the races.  As in, I walked a few steps & decided running would be fine, then I ran past my major T2 cheering section, and ran out onto the course.  More familiar faces where out there, cheering & majorly supportive - my husband & his posse of massage therapists, Allan P, Clint L - thanks so much for your big smiles & shouts of encouragement!  It's nice to feel like you're still 'racing' even though you're not actually racing anyone but yourself.

The Run, "Bellies out":

Firstly, a woman blasted past me, and I realized, that's probably how people felt when I went past them last year (no lack of ego here).  And then I just settled into a rhythm of breathing (which is quite important for me at this stage to be able to run comfortably), and enjoyed the beautiful sunny day it was.

It was warm, which is something I've been quite careful with, so it wasn't long until the belly made an appearance from underneath my racing kit (ironically it was my national racing kit that was the only kit that 'fit' at this stage).  I don't think I've run with a shirt on, only a sports bra, for probably a month, maybe two.  It's hot, and I have a lot of belly surface area to cool off on, so I'm not suffering under a shirt for modesty's sake.  Besides which, I think it makes the message more clear - "pregnant runner".  Because that is what I am.

So up & around the hillier section of the course (I could have done with the flatter western section but c'est la vie) & back down around the park, I had fun - I even passed people!  Exhilarating.  (Who cares if they've bonked from doing the 1/2 Ironman....).  At 4km to go, running very conservatively I decided to speed up a bit.  Side note: I forgot to get a new battery for the heart rate monitor I have been wearing so I took it easier than usual after my doctor had asked me to now keep my heart rate around 170 or so for the last 7 weeks of pregnancy - only because I have been very comfortably training at lower than lactate threshold, or short speed intervals with it about 10 to 18 beats higher.  And before you freak out, please understand it was very easy for me to get my heart rate to 220+ in training....

So there were 3 guys right ahead of me and you know how impossible it is for me to resist passing them...and I was running with such comfortable effort that it really was fun to shift gears and sail by them (of course knowing that we had probably 500m left in the race).  A girls' gotta do what a girls' gotta do boys...

The finish, "Belly rubs are for dogs, people":

What can I say?  To see happy & smiling people (a lot of stranger smiles which is weird but kind of nice) - and familiar faces being supportive & encouraging was very uplifting to me.  It had erased any doubts that I had of myself before lining up for this race, any worries about criticisms or "I told you so's".  It also made me realize that it had been a while since I had lined up & faced some fears head-on. I had so many challenges last year that is almost became second nature to be tackling major fears, but this year has been a little quieter, and although of different challenges, not as many that made me feel uncomfortable & out of my element.  And getting through the process of racing this time was definitely a hurdle to overcome.

And my time wasn't too shabby either.  1:19:05, which is only 4 minutes slower than the triathlon I did at 26 weeks (which is a bit incomparable with it it being a pool swim & a flat bike), and still only 17 minutes slower than my one and only fastest attempt at the Sprint distance at 1:02.  More surprisingly (as I wasn't fussed about time) was that I ran a comfortable 21:52 5km!  As I run these days, I just feel like I am going slow as molasses, which I don't mind because I'm happy to still be able to run at 34 weeks, but I really didn't think I could run that fast (although maybe the course was short - but I'd be the only person to admit it I'm sure).  I finished exactly 100th OA, I think 9th in my AG, and in the top 25 women.  Pretty darn good for 33 weeks pregnant.

Where to from here?

Now at 34 weeks pregnant, I've decided I am now officially retiring from racing - until the baby is born.  It will probably take me longer to get back to racing postpartum than it will be relative to pre-partum!  I think I can be happy with jogging along (I decidedly gave up 'speedwork' at 32 weeks as my knees and pelvis were starting to complain quite loudly), cruising around on my bike & swimming like it's a perennial recovery day at Kits pool for the next 6 weeks.

I have finished work & am now off until this baby arrives, which means I get so much free time that I never had before.  It is so nice.  I had a pretty busy work schedule with working full time & commuting back and forth to Vancouver Island on a near weekly basis to work, that being able to just do nothing is a pure joy.  Mind you, my nothing might be different than other people's nothing, but it's nice to have the down time.  I am becoming increasingly proficient in napping, and luckily, the ability to be home & on my own food schedule has helped settle my awful, awful experiences with acid reflux, which was affecting me quite negatively for the last 2 months.

Again, I have nothing but great things to say about everyone that has been so supportive & encouraging about my desire to want to continue to remain active throughout my pregnancy.  I don't know how anyone would do it any other way, but that's my bias & I'm fully respectful to everyone finding their own path.  It is an amazing learning experience about your body, and it has been much more rewarding than I ever thought it could be.

I still have this inkling, as I continue to go out & train, that I'm still training for a big 'race' that will happen sometime around the end of August.  I still have that feeling like I'm prepping my body & my mind for something tougher & more challenging coming up.  As with every race I did, the stakes were raised & the pressure was greater, and it really is very similar in that sense with awaiting this labour & delivery.  I find it such a fascinating process, and I am honestly very excited to see what this is all about.  Sure, some people may read this & think I'm crazy, but if you haven't figured out by now that these are the type of things that I live for, then you probably don't know me very well.

I've cried in an Ironman (into my goggles for anonymity), I've bled & oozed things, I've peed myself & most certainly have pooped painful rocks, I've torn things & have been absolutely stand still racked with pain and at times, questioned if the lights were going to go out on me.  So, not saying I have this down pat, but those were some of my best memories of doing the sport that I love.  And why wouldn't I face this next challenge head on with my hands full of confidence that I am going to do great?  Makes sense to me, so that's what I'm going with.

So thank you for reading, and hopefully it gives some light into what my experience was like, and even more so, hopefully it inspires those that didn't think it was possible, or wanted to try for themselves to achieve things that aren't mainstream.  I still maintain that in the future we will see a 'pregnant' category at the races, even if Tri-BC hasn't made one yet :)

Happy summer training everyone - see you out there - I will be easy to spot :)

34 wks