Saturday, August 1, 2015


It has been 41 days since Grandma's Marathon. I have worked 39 of those days. And these haven't been nice, easy 8-hour days. No, they have been long, grueling, 12+ hour days, managing events with several hundred people invading the pool each day. I have barely had time to think in general, much less think about writing what I've been up to, but I'm going to try, because in all this work induced craziness, some awesome things have happened!

Transition # 1: Athlete Mode to Meet Director Mode
I was able to take the Monday after the marathon off from work. Instead of resting though, we decided to take a family trip to the Mall of America to use some free Nickelodeon Universe passes we had. It was a super fun day, Kayley and Bill braved all the "big" rides, Logan and I took our turns on the bumper cars and the kiddie train, and we got to eat at one of my favorite guilty-pleasures...Johnny Rockets! But that was it. Fun was over, training was over, racing was over, it was time to work. For the next six weeks we will be in event mode; three championship events, two invitationals, and one Amazing Race. Thousands of people were going to be flooding into our pool, and I have no choice but to be ready. I managed to get a shake out run in on Tuesday morning, and was excited about how good I felt. Since then, I have been able to sneak in short runs, swims or bikes most days, but the thought of following any kind of training plan is totally out the window. It's kind of strange to go from so much structure in my workouts to just getting things in willy-nilly, but it's the best I can do for now. Hopefully my race calendar will not prove too ambitious for all this work I have on my plate!

Transition #2: Marathon Mode to Triathlon Mode
For 20 weeks I was focused almost solely on running, preparing for 26.2 miles. I was afraid to substitute too much swimming or biking for fear I wouldn't be able to complete the marathon. But less than a month after I crossed Grandma's finish line, I was signed up for my first Olympic distance triathlon. It was a race my friend Carole had convinced me to enter, and I was really excited to see how my body would do with that distance. However, I really needed to up my swimming and biking game in a short time. I managed to get in the pool at least once a week leading up to race day, and I had reserved my Saturdays for brick workouts, the longest one being a 20 mile bike/5 mile run that felt pretty solid. Race week came and I felt confident I could finish, just not so confident that I could compete.

July 19th, the Heart of the Lakes Triathlon. I was racing a day after our biggest championship meet of the summer. Swimming a half mile, biking 21 miles, and running 5 miles ONE DAY after I had just put in 75 hours in five days at work. I got up the morning before the race and said to myself "Just skip the tri tomorrow, it's okay". I was so stressed about it. I was not feeling well, I had fallen earlier in the week and had a really big scrape on my leg which was still throbbing, I hadn't slept more than four hours any night that week, and I had almost literally been on my feet for five days straight. I told myself it was not worth it. Sunday was going to be my first day away from the pool in 26 days, I should just be at home, resting, getting better, hanging with my kids who were leaving for vacation with Grandpa and Oma the next was a stupid idea. But, I've never claimed to be the brightest bulb in the box, so of course when I woke up on Sunday morning, I packed my gear and headed out for the hour-long drive to Annandale, Minnesota for my longest Triathlon to date.

I was feeling pretty good, tired, but not as exhausted as I had on Saturday. I was resolved to the fact that I wasn't going to be racing fast today. I felt pretty zen about it. Just swim, it's a gorgeous day, just get in the lake and swim, after that, what happens happens. I got into the tiny town of Annandale and it was packed! Cars parked up and down every street. I drove around for a bit and chose a side street well off the main drag to park. I slung my backpack across my back and started biking in. Of course, I immediately was lost. How is it that I did not inherit one drop of my Dad's keen sense of direction? After encountering some locals out for a walk, I was pointed in the right, I parked far away. Oh well, warm up, right? I got to check in and was greeted by a huge team of very smiley volunteers, I don't think I've ever been that chipper at 6:30 in the morning, but it was great to have such a warm welcome. I got marked up and found rack Q-4, Carole had texted me on my way in to tell me that is where she had set up shop. I was the second person on the rack (Carole was out on a ride) and quickly set up my transition area. I pack pretty light for my races, so it makes it easy to get ready, but then I always second guess myself, did I forget something? Why does everyone else have so much stuff? Should I have brought socks? Why does that guy have a bucket?!? Oh well, doesn't matter, I wasn't going back home to get anything else at this point, so I just went with it. Carole was back shortly and told me "Hey, move your bike over Lady!" Apparently my minimal transition was still too overwhelming for the small rack. I slid over and proceeded to slick myself down with Sport Shield. I got under my arms, my bra line, and the insides of my shoes (someone told me to put it on my feet, but it just seems like all that would accomplish would be to get sand stuck in it, so I've opted to just slather the heck out of the insides of my shoes, seems to be working so far). Carole's friend Dan came over while shimmying into his wet suit and asked "Anyone need some Olive Oil?" He was holding a big can of Pam Cooking Spray. I had to smile, Triathletes are certainly a unique breed! I had decided to fore go my wet suit today. I hadn't really had enough time to practice getting out of it quickly, and I didn't want the extra stress today. So I passed on the Pam and got into my swim cap. Carole and Dan wanted to get to the beach for a quick warm up swim, so I followed along, feeling a little small and naked next to these two neoprene-clad studs. I got to the water's edge and dipped my toes in. While it was nice (75-degrees!) the air was cool and without a wetsuit on I didn't want to risk getting chilled before the race, so I just stood on the beach and tried to look cool while everyone else got in and swam around. Finally it was time to head to the start corral. This was actually going to be my first time doing a mass start, and my first time racing with men...I was starting to feel a little nervous! Wave 4 was called to the ready area and Carole and Dan immediately went to the front of the pack. I wasn't sure this was a good idea, but I figured if I started in front, I'd at least get a few yards of open water under my belt before the crowd caught up to me.

The countdown started, 3...2...1...GO! Hello mass chaos! I ran in and dove under almost immediately. It felt like I was in the middle of a frenzy of feeding sharks. Limbs were everywhere, bodies were climbing over me and drifting under me, I got kicked in the face, then the leg, I was trying to hold my stroke steady and breathe, but it seemed every time I turned my head, I was sucking in someone else's wake. I moved to the outside of the pack and started to breaststroke a little. It was the first time I ever felt panicked in an open water swim. I told myself to calm down, "You are a swimmer, this is your thing, take a deep breath, and just go". I had a bit of a clear lane in front of me, so I put my head down and started to stroke. My breathing calmed down and I got into an easy rhythm and started to pass people. I was feeling really strong when I hit the turn around buoy and for the first time that morning, I started wishing the swim as a little longer. My legs had been tired for the past five days, and I wasn't necessarily looking forward to the bike. I picked up my head and could see swimmers in front of me starting to stand up and run out. I wanted to stroke in as far as I could, so I swam on until my hands hit sand. I stood up and started running, it was a bit of a haul back to transition. Thankfully there was a grass path next to the paved one, I ran on that to get my feet dry and clean. There were a ton of people there cheering. This race was unique in that the transition area was not closed off, spectators were all over the place offering encouragement, it really spurred me on. I got to my rack and was not surprised to see Carole's bike was gone already, but was a little shocked to see that she was the only one. I figured I must have been second or at most third out of the water from our wave (official results confirmed I was third out). Wow! After such a horrendous start I was really happy to know I had such a good swim. I dropped my cap and goggles, slid into my bike shoes and helmet, choked down a couple bites of my PB & J and ran out of transition feeling like this was going to be a good race after all! The weather was great. Sun was shining but it wasn't too hot yet. The bike course started out nice and flat and before I knew it I had passed the five mile marker. Right after that though, things started to go downhill, literally and figuratively. I was coming down a nice little decline when I tired to shift up into my big gear so I could pedal down and pick up some speed, but my shifter wouldn't stick into the gear, it just kept grinding. I finally gave up and just coasted. That's when, I swear, about 100 people passed me. I didn't fair well up the next hill. My legs were really tired and now I was starting to feel a little defeated. I kept plugging away, but my spirit was broken. This sounds really stupid considering I am new to this sport and I had a really rough week, but I kind of felt like giving up. I mean, if I couldn't even bike fast enough to not have everyone and their brother go past me, why bother! Then when the guy riding a FAT BIKE passed me, I actually said out loud "That's it, I'm done". But, I was on a road in the middle of a corn field in the middle of Minnesota, so I had no choice but to finish the bike. By the time I passed the 15 mile marker I was feeling a little better, but was still being steadily passed by other racers. I checked my speed on my bike computer, I was holding 17 mph, not THAT slow, but man, these were some serious riders. I turned down the main street and passed several of the elite racers who were already well into their run. It was starting to get hot and you could see it on their faces. Great. A mile left on my bike and then five miles in the sweltering sun on my feet...did I really sign up for this?

I pedaled into transition and got to my rack. This time a less positive sight greeted me. I was the last bike in. Oh well, I knew this wasn't going to be my best day, I decided to just let it go. I had five miles left and it wasn't going to do me any good to dwell on how horrible my bike leg was. I slipped on my shoes, clicked into my race belt, and swigged down a little more Nuun before running out of transition. There were still a ton of people cheering me on so I started the run strong, no sense in looking as defeated as I felt. The transition area was in the shade, so I didn't realize the full effect of how hot it was until I came out of there and on to the main road. Holy hell! It was a scorcher! I felt pretty good, my legs were bouncing back and I was actually passing a few people, but man, I wasn't sure I was going to survive five miles in this heat. I kept going and noticed several people running in the opposite direction with yellow race numbers on. These were the sprint distance racers and I was approaching their turn around point....where thankfully, there was a water stop! I grabbed the first glass offered to me and poured it over my head...instant relief! I grabbed the next one, walked a bit and chugged it down, more relief! I grabbed one more and poured it down my back, thanked the volunteer and ran on. A little way up the road we turned onto a paved trail, and encountered the first hill of the run course. It wasn't a big one, but with the heat and my general fatigue, it might as well have been Mount Everest! I plodded up it and was amazed to see a SECOND water stop at the top. Not only water and HEED, but ice cold, blissfully wet sponges, I grabbed two from the volunteer and stuck one down the front of my kit. I took off my hat and squeezed the second one over my head. Oh man, whomever planned these stops on the race was my hero!!! After that we turned off the trail and back onto the road. There were no mile markers and I wasn't wearing my running watch, so I only had my time to go by to determine how far I had left. I was a little over 40 minutes in, so I figured I had to be close to or just over the 4 mile mark. I was slowing down a little, but kept reminding myself that I just had a mile to go. We were back on the main street now and I was recognizing familiar landmarks. I passed some volunteers who said "Great job! Keep it up" I said "Thanks, I'm almost there, right?" One of the women said "Yes, you're almost there" and the other said, "Don't say 'almost there''re about 600 yards from the finish!" I got a huge smile on my face, not because I was "almost there" but because I love when folks on the race course get it...telling a racer and exact distance is much more helpful than "almost there". I knew then I could do it. I picked up my pace a bit and turned into the finish shoot. I had to run up a little grassy hill and I remember thinking "don't trip". I approached the finish line and I heard the announcer say "And coming in now, from Shoreview, Linda McKee" I raised my hands to acknowledge the cheers when the announcer said "And she's about to get passed by Teresa Worth". Figures, even in my one shining moment today, I just HAD to get passed by someone else.

But, I was done. I had finished my first ever Long Course Triathlon. I did it on minimal rest, with not a lot of prep, on a super-hot day with only a half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in my belly. It was all good. I found the food tent and immediately scarfed down two spoonfuls of peanut butter, a cup of yogurt, a banana, a granola bar, and the most delicious watermelon ever grown on the planet! I then grabbed a bottle of Gatorade and found Carole and Dan staring at the finish line. "Waiting for me" I said? They turned around, surprised they had missed me. I said "Of course you missed me, I finished before you". We all had a good laugh and stocked up on some more food and drink. Carole and I met up with her husband for a post-race photo op and then headed down to watch the awards. After sitting in the shade for awhile getting bitten by bugs, we decided it was time to call it a day. She congratulated me on a great race, I accepted her accolades with a smile, even if I didn't agree on how great it was. I changed into dry clothes, packed up my bag and hopped on my bike. Thankfully I didn't get quite as lost finding my way back to the car as I did trying to find the start line. I was ready to head home and get some of the elusive rest I had been hearing about!
Happy to have Tri'ed!
Transition #3: Mommy Mode to Kid-less Mode
The kids left for "Grands Camp" on Monday, July 20th. I think we were all pretty excited for this. Grampa and Oma and Grandma Willo and Grandpa Dennis are so wonderful to take the kids on amazing adventures each summer, and the kids can't wait to get out in the world with them. And, while Bill and I certainly miss them while they are gone, I'm not gonna lie, two weeks without kids is kind of wonderful. House cleaning and toy purging are the first order of business, but after that, relaxing, sleeping in, and not cooking are on the agenda. Every year Bill and I think we should get out and do something super-exciting, like eat at fancy restaurants, travel, take long walks on the beach, or see non-animated movies at night, you know all the things folks without kids do. But for some reason, sitting on the couch in relative silence eating cereal for dinner is like bliss. One of these days maybe we'll plan a romantic get-away while they are gone, but this year, a short vacation from parenthood has been plenty rewarding.

Transition #4: Road Bike Mode to Kick-ass Tri Bike Mode:
My friend Heidi decided to let me babysit this beauty for a while...
Yes, this bike is cooler than my car!
While it has taken some getting used to, this thing is A-MAZE-ING! Super smooth, super light, and WAY out of my league. I definitely ride faster on it, but I feel like when I race with it people are going to look at me and think "Um, you're too slow for that awesome of a bike". Not sure if I'm going to be comfortable enough use it for Turtleman yet, but I definitely want it for the YWCA tri since it's a closed course and I can ride my little heart out! This does not bode well for my race budget in 2016, I'm going to want to do ALL the races with this bad-boy in tow!

So, that's it in a nutshell...all the transitions I've been going through for the last month and a half. Tomorrow I head out to San Antonio to visit the USA Swimming Junior Nationals, because what's more fun than working 39 out of 41 days at your own pool? Working 4 more days at SOMEONE ELSE'S POOL of course :) I am excited to see their new facility, and I'm super-pumped to be able to finally connect with Jill and maybe Susanna, two "virtual" friends that I can't wait to meet in real life. After I get back I will have one more kid-less day until the rug rats return, and two whole days to get ready for my next Triathlon on August 8th...what's that old adage? "I'll sleep when I'm dead". Sounds about right!