Summer Fun and Fitness

Those of you who have read my previous posts know that I am a marathon kayak racer who, at age 52, needed a change of pace.  After a friendly challenge from my huband, I decided to try a sprint triathlon last summer, and I became obsessed with learning all I could about this sport of triathlon.  You may notice that I have not posted a single blog since May.  It’s been a busy summer, filled with exciting adventures, training, and racing.  “Tri-ing” something new has been a fantastic adventure in itself!  Starting over and seeing rapid improvement is good for anyone’s morale, and it made us feel “young” again.  I say “we” because my husband had no choice but to join me in this new endeavor.
So, while our once beloved kayaks and surfskis gathered dust in the garage, we were busily working on our biking, swimming, and running skills.  I’m a track coach, so running comes fairly naturally.  I used to bike race, so that came back rather quickly, but swimming… gosh, I’ve spent the last 20 years making sure I DIDN’T swim.  My mantra on windy/wavy days was “stay in the boat, stay in the boat…”  You might think that paddling skill would translate quickly to swimming skill.  You would be wrong.

Soo- we started out with a rather ambitious goal of a half-Ironman on June 19.  The Patriot Man, in New Freetown, MA.  Being a track coach, I have access to great athletic facilities (except a track- but we’ll save that for another post).  We do have a pool, so we swam all winter.  I took a swim clinic with Coach Al Lyman in February, and continued to work on the drills and skills which he passed on through a video analysis.  We ran through the winter, culminating with a half marathon masters PR in late February.  We added cycling in March, and I commuted 20 miles to work at least 4 days per week.  Our spring “bike to the beach” was fantastic and we planned many more such bike adventures for the summer, however, once our racing season got underway, we realized we didn’t have time for such “frivolous” activities.

Our first race of the year was the first of a local sprint series held at Lake Terramugus (Lake T) about 13 miles from our house.  I was thrilled to win the overall women’s title, and Ken had his best race in the 7 or 8 years that he has done these triathlons.  We now had some confidence that our hours of winter training had worked well, and we focused on our half IM which was 2 weeks away.  The weather warmed up ALOT for Patriots and it became a day of carefully planned nutrition and hydration.  My plan worked well, Ken’s not so well.  After surviving the swim, we took off on a flat, but very windy double loop bike.  I was unpleasantly surprised by how FAST all those women were!  Even old (like me) women!!  Holy Cow, I now knew that I had work to do.  3:00 for a 58 mile bike was not terrible, but it wasn’t where I wanted to be either.  Despite little run training, due to some knee issues, I felt good on the hot run course, was very happy to have my fuel belt, and passed 100 or more wilting triathletes.  Ken opted NOT to wear his fuel belt and will never make that mistake again as he became one of the wilting triathletes and struggled with heat exhaustion and cramping.  We both finished 2nd in our age groups, which was nice, but we also knew that we could do much better with the proper training.  And, in my case, proper equipment.  My 10 year old Masi Road Bike was a great bike, but I couldn’t get comfortable on my clip on aero bars and even after taking it in for a fitting, I realized that it just wasn’t fast and never would be.  I struggled with the decision of upgrading to a new bike.  I combed Craigs List and E-bay looking for a “deal”.  I wasn’t convniced that at my age I could do justice to a new, expensive time trial bike.  Then a close friend wrote me an e-mail and said, “if you have more fun, it will be worth the money you spent” and I realized that he was exactly right.

Now that I’d made the decision to buy,  I wasted no time in shopping around and figuring out what I wanted.  My son turned 21 on July 9th, and what better way to celebrate than buy myself a new toy!  I ultimately decided on a brand-new Cervelo P-2 and I will tell you that I LOVE my new bike.  It is so much fun to ride, and my bike times are back to where they were 20 years ago (who says you can’t BUY speed… maybe Lance was wrong and it IS about the bike).    Less than a week after bringing home my new ride, the 4th Lake T. sprint was on the calendar.  Despite a little tentativeness, I rode 1:30 faster than my best ever time on the course, and had the fastest women’s bike split of the season. 

A few days later, Ken and I headed to Asbury Park, NJ (by way of a family gathering and bridal shower).  We entered the “Metro-Man”, an intermediate distance race and this time we won our age groups, AND I had the fastest women’s bike split of the day.  Whoo hoo!  This was fun, although I must add that Metro-Man is not a race I would recommend and despite the fun of being in Asbury Park, it was the most poorly run race I’ve been to.  For $120 entry fee, and a night in a hotel, we expected more.  The final insult was that although they promised to mail our age group awards, there was an invoice attached… yep, you had to pay for your own award!  Only in New Jersey, right?
Another lesson learned at Asbury Park is that it’s a lot more fun to go to local races, or at least to races that are attended by other people that you know.  In canoe and kayak racing, I always knew everyone, but in triathlon there are so many people that we could go to races 2 hours away from home and not know a single soul.  Through regular competition at Lake T and a couple other local races, we developed some good friendships and  friendly competition.  I am pretty competitive and serious about racing, but the camaraderie and social aspect is important in keeping it fun.  And lets be honest, at age 52 and 58, it better be fun!

Today was probably our last race of the season.  My knee hasn’t gotten better, and I knew that with no run training I could sneak through the 5Ks at Lake T., but shouldn’t attempt a 10K at Litchfield Hills Olympic.  I regretfully signed up for the “aquaman” division (swim/bike).  I convinced myself that this would be great because I could focus on my weakness and then “kill” the bike.  We woke up (at 4am) to thunder and pouring down rain… not a good day to hammer on a hilly bike course, so now I was down to “focus on the swim”.  And guess what, even though I pouted as I collected my “aquabike” number, I had a GREAT time.  My best swim yet, and the 3rd fastest women’s bike time of the day… 1st female aquabiker.  I started in the last wave with the old men (my husband included) and after  swimming strong the entire way, I spent the tricky bike course navigating between much slower bikers.  It was a little scary at times, but I stayed in control and the P2 handled terrific, as always.  Did I mention that I love my bike?  After finishing (which was pretty anti-climatic as everyone else ran out of T-2 and onto the run course) I got back on my bike and rode the course in reverse, cheering on Ken and lots of other friends that we had met through the course of the summer.  Ken had a good day too and not only won his age group, but beat his best friends son and favorite rival!

My college cross country team returns this week, so summer is really over.  I am excited to see the athletes, and I know we’ll have a great year.  I hope that they continue to share the passion for fitness and competition that I have developed and retained for so many years.  In thinking back on the summer- it’s been awesome. 

We didn’t go anywhere, but I’ve only begun to recount all the fun and excitement of training and racing together and with friends.  Ken and I are lucky- we are very close to the  same pace, and training together is one of the best parts of our marriage.  We catch up on the day as we run or bike, and we share in each other’s nervousness and excitement at races.  Being fit has many other benefits; we’re confident in our jobs, because we know we are healthy and energetic “50 somethings”.  We are more fit than most “30 somethings”.  We have energy every day, we wake up excited about the day, and we go to sleep pleasantly tired and relaxed.   For days after a goal training session or race I walk around with a big silly grin on my face, and I know that I am truly happy to be alive.  I can’t think of a better way to live.

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3 Comments »

  1. SL said

    Love it!

  2. It has been a wonderful year and meeting you and Ken has been a blessing. Thank you so much for your help, guidence and participation at the Lake Terramuggus Tri Races. I look forward to some solid winter training and race booking!

  3. Gail R. said

    Love it!!

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