Been there. Done that. It’s no biggie.
So here’s the brutal truth. In essence, I have been training for the Capital of Texas Triathlon for a year and a half. I did the Sprint distance last year. I had trained with THE best triathlon team coach in the area for 10 weeks. I trained with Coach Sandy Overly and the Multi-Sport Maniacs all year until the South Padre Island Triathlon in October. I trained with virtual coaches all over the great State of Texas. I trained with some of the most incredible Ironmen in the area. Over the course of this last year, my run pace went down but my swim improved a bunch and my unexpected love for cycling jumped me up tremendously on the bike. My determination to do well at CapTexTri this year was unwavering and my training was consistent and challenging me to the next level.
And then I got sick one month before game day. And never really got the chance to heal 100%. I don’t want you to think that this is an excuse but understand that I KNEW what my body could do and I KNEW that my body was not healthy and I KNEW that I could make a decision to pull out, go back to the Sprint level or continue on and do the best that I could at the toughest level that I had never done before. Ultimately, I chose to do my best. Today, hindsight is 20/20.
I was told never to write when I am angry so I purposely didn’t update the blog immediately after the triathlon. I’ve calmed down a bit and wanted to do this while the memories are still fresh in my mind.
Things were hectic in the homefront. The decision to leave Friday morning officially came Thursday evening. I’m scatter brained to begin with so I expected myself to forget SOMETHING… like all the whites in the dryer, including ALL my Balega socks and my white triple crown baseball cap that I washed the night before. Lucky for me, I usually have an extra of everything in the trunk of my car.
I wanted to join the 5AM group for a last bike ride and also wanted to join a few of the girls at 5AM for some laps at Municipal Pool… but my eyes had other plans. I was woken up by Jeanice via telephone shortly after 7am. Clearly snoozing was a priority for my body.
Hindsight: My body was in dire need of rest. I ignored the signs.
Never show up to a party empty handed in Austin!!!
The bestest and most quietest back seat driver ever :)
Jeanice and “Cowboy” escorted me on the drive up.
I am so lucky to have such great true friends by my side throughout this journey. No hidden agenda. Just genuine honest selfless support. What a ride this has been!!! I’m the luckiest girl ever!!!
Donny let me know he was with me every single day of this event!!! I miss him so much!
I packed up and picked up some goodies for my Austin hostess with the mostess and caravaned with Jeanice to our destination. Spending a couple of days with my life-long best friend is the BEST way to de-compress… no, wait… spending a couple of days with the my best friends 6-month old twins who are both drop dead gorgeous Gerber babies that immediately stole my heart and wrapped me around their little fingers was the BEST way to de-compress!!! While I was there with them, I managed to sneak in a short little run, ride and swim of about 20-minutes each. I was feeling pretty good.
Double Love!!! Fiona and Jake have my heart forever!!!
I’ll skip to SUNDAY. Packet Pick Up and Bike Check in.
I arrived at packet pick up at about 10:30am on Sunday. Yes, I am certainly an eager beaver! It opened just 30 minutes before I arrived. So I figured I would take the chance to first walk the course and get acquainted with the changes that were being buzzed about. Seems the organizers decided to flip the swim route and go counter clockwise instead of jumping off and going left first.
I walked over and searched for the transition area… uh oh. It’s not where it was last year. BUT I see fences and white tents nearby so that must be where the action is at… but first.. the swim. Where’s the dock that we jump off from? I don’t see it. Panic sets in.
Oh. My. God.
Are we supposed to walk in from the Dog Park entry???? Sarcastic voice in my head is freaking out now. Surely this can’t be!
I continue to walk… a little faster now… and I see an artificial green grass turf ramp leading up from the lake to the running trail. I peer out and see two men swimming. LAW BREAKERS!!! yes!!! I love when I get to meet people like this!!! Not that I want to break the law but I know people like this are SERIOUS about training and they want to get as comfortable as possible with the race course before the actual race. Which is really what I was doing, too, but I knew it was illegal to swim in the lake.
Hindsight: They knew it was illegal to swim in it, too.
So I stick around and watch them for a while. They were amazing swimmers. As they finish their swim, they come up from the water and walk onto the ramp. The shorter one seemed a bit startled with my questions.
“Is this where the swim exit really is?” I ask.
“Ummmm I’m not sure. It was here like this but I’m sure it could move.” He began to dry off a bit while continuing to answer my questions.
“So, does that mean that there isn’t a dock for us to jump off of this year? I don’t see a dock!! Only the dog steps.” I begin to ramble as I realize this guy really really looks like Justin Timberlake drying off!!!
This is the REAL Justin Timberlake getting out of a lake. Bad quality photo but it should help your imagination get to what I’m talking about.
He smirked and clearly realized he was speaking to a super nervous freaked out rookie way out of her league and calmly looked over in the direction of the dog park stone steps nearby and said that the swim entry would likely be there. I snapped a picture of it and zoomed in frantically searching for dog poo. I knew they were secretly giggling inside about me but I didn’t care. Outwardly, the Justin Timberlake guy was a true gentleman and wished me luck as I did him and went on my way to measure the distance from swim exit to transition.
0.31 of a mile!!!
Holy cow!!! Are they serious?!?!?!
I look to the left and look to the right. Which transition exit goes to bike and which one goes to run? It’s better to get the facts than to waste time here guessing. Frustrated, I decided to just go to packet pickup and get my answers.
I was still there early enough to not have to mess with crowds. No lines at all! I just walked in like I owned the joint. Nice!!!!!
Remembering the drama I endured last year with the registration mix up, I was delighted to quickly speed through without any problems whatsoever!!! The cool volunteer even did a “selfie” with me!
After running into a few fellow Maniac teammates and numerous “Wally” clad fans and chit chatting with them for a while, I browsed the isles of the expo. I saw Wally and Laura at the Jack and Adams booth. I walked up just as the owner was asking Wally how they met and we all giggled.
Something pulled me away though… I gravitated towards the “Please be Kind to Cyclists” booth. I think the same power that pulled me there was the same power that made Al Bastidas practically jump over the table to hug me. You know when you meet someone and you get that feeling that this person is going to be a big part of your life from this point forward? That was the feeling I had. Over the course of the next few minutes as I continued to walk the isles of the expo in the convention center, Al would end up hunting me down three more times with ideas and questions and suggestions and letting me know he’d be in the area the following week.
The quest to continue Eddie’s dream may just have made an ally. This is Al’s story. He is a lucky one.
I also got to meet face to face with the staff of LifeTime Triathlon that day. They showered me with gifts and goodies. A tri suit, a race belt, some gift cards and yes… a selfie!!! :) I know… I’m a dork.
Lifetime Fitness Triathlon chose me to be one of this year’s Ambassadors. I am very grateful for their support and hope to continue our journey together!
After all this, I was able to meet up with the TEAM and get my bike, Mimi, checked in and racked up. I get so nervous leaving her on a rack like that, alone, in a park… without me. She’s like my baby. An expensive baby!!! But thems the rules… and she was being guarded. I took one last look over her. Checked her brakes, her gears and spun her tires… and that’s when I saw it. Oh no!!! Her rear tire is punctured!!! All the way through!!! It was small but big enough to do some major damage. And too late to and too expensive to find a replacement. Could I chance it? I have no choice.
Hindsight: I did have a choice. I should have called Wally to look at it and see if he could find me another tire at Jack and Adams to safely replace that afternoon.
Then I heard it again…. Hero by Foo Fighters. And my team was right there with me to witness. I can’t describe the feeling I have to know that those around me, those who truly have my back, can feel what I feel and share the joy of it with me.
Hero blasted from the speakers and my girls all huddled around me insisting that the moment be captured. I really really love these girls!!!
I left my bike at transition and walked with the TEAM to Chuy’s, an Austin foodie favorite, to grab some lunch. I was starving!! We ate and went over some details like athlete tracking aps for our friends and family and carbed up. We all returned back to the hotel together in Rolando’s massive Mercedes Benz party bus!!! Woo Whooo!!!! Guess who rode in the back seat?!?!?!
Welcoming my teammates to Inspiration Dinner. Clearly I was having a bad hair day ;)
We got all dressed up for the occasion.
I think the ERICAS stole my Soul Glo!!!
Christa Emig taking the podium… and our hearts. I finally got to witness her Key Note Speech.
My TNT Super Heros!!! Christa Emig and Eric Cooper (*I tweeted this pic to MK who I later sneaked up on the next day)
After some shenanigans and lost key drama, I eagerly dressed up for the Inspiration Dinner. My regret from last year was not attending the dinner and listening to my roommates speech that night. When I heard that my roommate from last year was going to be keynote speaker once again this year, I made sure I wasn’t going to miss out.
Good thing, too. SHE WAS AWESOME!!! I wish now that I had recorded her so that YOU could witness her incredible positive attitude and outlook on life. There is clearly an innate indicative trait that all the successful people I admire have and that is a positive attitude bursting with a great sense of humor. She, Christa Emig, rocks that trait.
I sat there at the table with Coach W two seats down from me. It was the first time I had ever seen her really choked up. Inspiration Dinner really is that… inspirational. It was Coach’s first dinner with us as a TEAM. Being a cancer survivor herself, I knew she had more connection to what was being said a million times more than I ever could imagine.
After dinner, we all met once again to go over last minute course changes, tips and rules. And of course… pictures!!!
Up to my room I went with my trusted and familiar roommate, Jeanice. Jeanice and I had been roommates for almost all of my TNT marathon events. I love rooming with her because after all the chaos, worry, and anxiety passes and we sit on our beds waiting those last five minutes before we go downstairs to leave to the race, she says the most amazing prayer with me. We bow our heads, hold hands and sanctified poetry spills from her lips every single time.
And she didn’t fail me this time either. Her prayer brought tears to my eyes. It was powerful. Powerful.
We both grabbed our bags and made our way to the elevators to go down to the lobby and met up with the rest of the TEAM. Just when the elevator door opens, I see Justin Timberlake again… but this time with his bike. OMG! His BIKE!!!!
See, take note… if I were like any other normal girl and saw Justin Timberlake in an elevator, I would jump in and hug and kiss him and get autographs and selfies, etc… but noooooooo, not me. I salivate over his BIKE!!!!! *Note: this is NOT Justin Timberlake but a guy who looks just like him.
Justin gives me a familiar smirk and a nod as Jeanice and I enter the elevator. Its just the three of us in there. So I say oh so matter of factly “When my bike grows up, I hope it’s just like that one. Clearly I need to feed it the right stuff.” There… he laughed, wished me well and exited.
Oh noooooo!!!! It’s raining!!! No… It’s STORMING!!! It’s raining cats and dogs and I have no jacket and it’s freezing!!! Please Momma make it stop. Please make it stop.
And it did. :)
The Team took more pictures and poof! We’re off! Like a magnet, I was drawn straight towards Mimi. There she was. Sparkling with rain drops waiting patiently for me on the rack. #920 under the big shady umbrella of a tree. Dang! She’s beautiful! Three thousand people there and all around me are triathletes from the Valley. It was awesome! The sun was peeking over the horizon and transition area was humming with excitement. What a surreal sight! I mentally went over my transition area and double, triple, quadruple checked everything…. everything… ohhhhhh… Wally!!! Wally! Look at my tire!!!
I showed him the hole that I had discovered the day before. I saw the look on his face. It wasn’t good. He knew I saw and said “You want me to get you a new tire?”
How does he do that???? There’s no way he can do that… oh wait… this is Wally. He can do anything. Knowing him, he probably had an extra special orange tire in his back pocket as we were speaking. But no. We had 15 minutes left before transition closes and there’s no way I could do that to him. I’ll just have to take my chances.
With that, I made my way to the lake, wet suit draped over my shoulder, goggles around my neck and coffee with a straw in my hand and swim cap stuffed in my back pocket. Blur. Blur. Blur… How I got from transition to the lake (approximately 1/3 of a mile) I have no idea. The next thing I remember was Coach Luis looking at me and asking me “You done with that?” and grabs my coffee and throws it away. What???? Zombie mode turned off. I’m awake! I’m awake! Seriously! Does he not realize how dangerous it is for someone to grab my coffee??? And live to tell the tale????
Ok, lets get serious. The pros and parolympians are in the water swimming. They’re awesome! I’m awestruck. Each one of them are gliding through the water effortlessly. And then, just like that… just like last year… out of the water and zooming right past me is Aaron Scheidies!!!! I was starstruck!!! And in that moment… the excitement got me. WOW!!!
Time flew by much faster than last year. I have NO idea how that went so fast. Over the loud speaker, the announcer says that it’s time for the time trial start and things should be moving along much faster. Just as I begin to squeeze into my wet suit, the inevitable happens. Crap! I gotta go.
The porta-potty line was a gazillion people long. sigh. No choice. I had to wait but made it just in time for me to do my business and make it over in time. I zipped up my wet suit, pulled and tugged a bit more… a bit more… and just a bit more again… and there… like clock work… HERO by FOO FIGHTERS is blasting on the speakers. Tears well up in my eyes as I see Laura in the distance. I point to my ears and she recognizes the song and comes over to hug me and then she begins to cry with me.
Every single race I’ve done with TNT and LiveSTRONG has had the FOO in it somewhere somehow. That’s how I know Donny is still with me. He surprises me like that.
And so Laura is off to walk the plank. And there goes Alex and Roy and Ben and Ronnie and Vero and… the whole team went by. Suddenly it clicks… wait! I need to go too!!! I jump into line. Old school cut in the cafeteria line way, too!!!
“Ok, if it’s cold, it’ll be cold for just a few seconds. It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be hard. Just don’t give up. You can do this. It’ll be 3… 3 1/2 hours tops before you can finish. You can do this. Just don’t give up. Don’t give up,” the voice in my head says to me.
“Grab your goggles. Don’t let them fly off when you jump in the water,” she continues.
“Must you always lecture me???”
“Focus!!!! Its your turn to jump!” she yells
I remembered to jump closest to the land so that Anita (Sarah’s mom) could get a photo of me going into the water but the girl in front of me panicked and was struggling. “Just go! Just go! Jump!” my inner voice yells at me. And I jump.
Argh! Water rushed up my nose and down my throat. My eyes opened and there’s that same yellow brownish murky water I remember from last year. It’s not cold. The water is perfect. But I feel the burn the back of my nose and throat. It’s stinging bad.
No complaining! Go Go Go!!! Swim! I hear the man on the dock yell out “You’re on the clock!” I knew he was talking to the girls that were struggling by me but I took heed and shot out like an Austin Bat. Wow! Ok, this feels good. Water isn’t cold. My heart rate is good. I’m taking a good pace… all is well. All is well. First yellow buoy gone by. Second buoy gone by. Stroke stroke sight. Stroke stroke sight. Ugh! That sting in my throat! It’s burning.
SHUT UP WILL YA??? No complaining! You can do this. Your swim has become your biggest asset lately. Use this time! Focus!
Ya, ok. You’re right. Nice pace. Ok, lets keep my mind busy while I swim. What do I think about… what do I think about… hmmm this water stinks. No really. It smells like dog poo. Really really bad dog poo. I’m so thirsty. Don’t drink the dog poo Myssie. Would ya stop complaining??? Geez! Do I have to be so negative throughout this whole swim??? Good lord!
This was the beginning of my demise. The cough begins. And this is like no other cough before. This is foamy green thick mucus littered kind of coughs coming out. It echoed over the lake it was so loud and ugly. Embarrassed and scared it wouldn’t stop, I searched for a kayak to hold on to. It was a matter of seconds for the rescue kayak to come save the lake from my lung toxins and the loogies I was ready to purge.
“Are you ok?” the kayaker asked me.
“Yes, I just breathed in some water and need to cough it out is all. Let me have just a few minutes and I’ll get back to the line.” I calmly responded. I was at the first orange buoy. Ok, the first hard part int he water is over with. Just a bit more and I get to swim WITH the current. The swim will be easier then. I coughed up a lung, gathered my breath, settled my heart rate down, said “Thanks!” to the kayaker and went on my way. Okay, Okay. Okay, Okay. Stroke, Stroke, sight. Stroke, Stroke, sight, COUGH COUGH COUGH.
No way!!! Okay. Let’s float. Catch your breath, cough out all that crap from your lungs and do this again. It’s ok. It’s ok. Get it together Myssie! Just don’t give up! Don’t give up.
No! It’s not okay! I can’t afford to stop and mess up on this time. I have too many people counting on me. Hundreds of people have given thousands of dollars to me because they believed in me. Even more have convinced themselves that if I can do it, they can too! And what’s worse, there’s frenemies tracking me right now chomping at the bit waiting for me to be slower than they are so they can rub it in my face. They’ll publicly wish me luck but secretly hope I never make it. I have to do this! I HAVE TO DO THIS!!! I PROMISED THAT I WOULD NEVER GIVE UP!!!
Okay, fine. Don’t give up. But just take your time!!!! Go on and cough it all out so you can get the rest of this swim in!!!
A second kayaker comes up to me. I grabbed onto the kayak. “We’re taking you in. Are you ok? You’re coughing and wheezing. Do you have asthma?”
“No, I just breathed in water is all and I have a cough. I’ll be fine.” COUGH COUGH COUGH
And that’s when I saw it. The red flag went up. My head went down. Tears gushed from my eyes and filled my goggles. I stopped my Garmin. “I’m not supposed to give up.” I said. “I’m not supposed to give up.”
I heard the jet ski zoom over and someone told me to hold on tight to the stretcher.
A stretcher??? Oh you gotta be kidding me!!! I’m so embarrassed. They’re going to think I’m hurt! The’re going to think I’m weak! They think I can’t do this!!!! Humiliated, my head goes down and the sobbing is now uncontrollable.
YOU GAVE UP!!! YOU GAVE UP AND YOU SAID YOU’D NEVER GIVE UP!!! YOU GAVE UP MYSSIE! YOU GAVE UP!
I gave it my all and my all wasn’t good enough.
I’m not going to go into my personal war in my head. I beat myself up pretty bad. So bad that I feel it is detrimental to post here publicly. The scars I gave myself will likely last a lifetime. Will I ever be able to forgive myself? Knowing me, forgiveness will likely come only after redemption and that, to me, isn’t really true forgiveness.
Ashamed, coughing and crying, I ran straight to Anita. I wrapped my arms around her, dug my head into her shoulder and cried out “I didn’t make it. I didn’t make it” and then did the same thing to Kat and Coach Luis and Jackie Swanson. It was when I was crying to Jackie that I saw Alex run by.
“Get it together Myssie! Alex is doing this because you coaxed her into this! Look at her! She’s doing it! Pull up your big girl panties and cheer her and everyone else on like a good sport!” Damn! My inner voice was yelling at me again and was right. AGAIN.
I jogged into transition like a ruined girl’s Sunday morning walk of shame. I went straight to Mimi and sat in front of her saddened that she wouldn’t ride that morning with me. I grabbed my phone out of the ziplock sandwich bag tucked under the towel and called the first person I thought of. Xavie.
After a few rings he answered. “I didn’t make it. I got pulled from the swim.” The speakers were blasting music so loudly that I couldn’t hear anything he was saying and again in shame and frustration, I began to sob.
“There. Pity party is over. You let it all out. Now go do the right thing. Go cheer everyone on,” my inner voice sternly commanded.
I dried off and put on some dry clothes over my sopping wet tri suit, grabbed my orange towel and a fig newton and perched myself on a stone wall by the beginning of the run course. Two fellow TNT running mates from a prior marathon that I had run with two years ago came over and sat with me. They gave me a few minutes of silence to console my soul, asked if I was ok and then just like old times… we began shouting “GO TEAM” to all the purple people that passed by. The faces of agony quickly turned into ear to ear smiles when they heard us and gave us waves and hugs. It felt soooooo good to see everyone do what they never thought they could. It felt sooooo good to be a part of this chapter in THEIR journey. It felt sooooo good… even after my own personal disappointment.
After the majority of the team had made their way by us, we decided to make our way to the finish line to welcome them all in and also get a chance to find a porta-potty. FAIL!!! Over the loud speaker we hear “THIS IS NOT A JOKE. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER NOW!!!” The entire crowd quickly squeezes into the covered porch area of the convention center as barricades, tents and signs fly around as if they were auditioning for the tornado scene in the Wizard of Oz!!!
The fresh smell of rain was overpowered by the overwhelming strength of body odor and lake stench. The sudden drop in temperature made all of us that were still wet from the swim or sweaty from cheering and biking and running begin to shake uncontrollably and pop out into goosebumps. That’s when it hits me… I DNF’d because I was coughing and the safety crew thought I was having an anxiety attack (It wasn’t an anxiety attack. It was a cough attack.) but the rest of these people were pulled from the course because of weather!!! I have never ever seen this happen!!! Over three thousand people entered this race and less than a quarter of them got to experience the thrill of crossing the finish line which is in my opinion the absolute biggest rush of emotion you can ever experience in a race. Rain, hail and tornado force winds stole this feeling from all my teammates and most of my RGV triathlete friends!!!
Now the feeling that I had a few minutes earlier was the feeling that most everyone there had as well. The difference was that every single one of them knew they weren’t going to be allowed to finish this race so we all immediately began talking about how to get closure and redemption at our NEXT race!!!
THESE ATHLETES ARE SOMETHING ELSE!!! How lucky am I to be around so many positive, humble, selfless, unstoppable cancer crushers?!?!?!?
So after collecting my bags in my room later that afternoon, and quite honestly in a sour mood about my personal defeat, I get into the elevator and guess who’s there??? Yep, Mr. Justin Timberlake look a like!!!! But he’s all cleaned up and dressed nicely and it’s just us two in the elevator this time. With his back up against the glass of the elevator, he coyly looks up with his little smirk and asks “How’d you do?”
I sighed and responded “I didn’t make it,” sighed and shrugged. I then asked him “How’d YOU do? Are you happy with your results?”
“Ya, I’m happy. I did well. See ya next year?” He asked.
As I drove by myself on the long way home, I got a much needed phone call from my old friend and spiritual coach, Dr. Derek DelaPena (You can buy his book here on this link
). Few people that I know knows what it feels like to DNF. He is one. In fact, that feeling is very real and recent for him since he was unable to finish the Texas Ironman last weekend. We had a good long talk. I loved his perspective on our experience and as bitter as the feeling was, I am glad that it happened and look forward to getting back up on that horse again with him.
As the sun was setting, I correctly predicted the haters who would gloat and write FB postings that were intended to add salt to my wound. I also correctly predicted those who would give me genuine words of wisdom, encouragement and the strength to overcome my personal defeat. What I don’t know yet is if this admission of defeat will affect those who looked to me for hope in their own personal challenges. All I can do is hope that they continue to seek within themselves, just as I seek in myself, the ability to overcome, endure and get up again until I can, until they can… until WE can. Because what I think people have forgotten is that I look to so many others for my own inspiration.
Derek was right. DNF means Did Not Fail. Don’t get me wrong… this feeling hurts like nothing else. But it’s NOT “devastating”. Success is what happens after you get up from falling down. All I’ve done is fallen down.
I’ve fallen down a lot. This isn’t the first time. It won’t be the last. Well, I hope it won’t be the last!!! Because THIS is where the lessons are learned :)
Oh! By the way… Justin Timberlake’s twin… he got second place overall. He’s a pro. Check out his time!!!