2nd point of the Triple Crown – CapTexTRI

CapTex Triathlon panorama

The moment is here. THIS is what I have trained so hard for. THIS will be the most difficult of all three challenges towards the “Triple Crown” that I am vying for. It is the Triathlon.

Allow me to take you back to Friday morning. I’ve tried very hard to balance my family and training these last few months. It is the precious moments like these that I now cherish so dearly. My time alone – just a few minutes really – that I have with my two boys before I drop them off at school. We go over the day’s schedule, chit chat, sing to the radio, laugh or what not. This Friday morning was certainly not a “what not” kind of morning.

I dropped off my “Little Skittles” first. We do our traditional morning routine – except that I didn’t make him his sandwich or hot pocket because it was Friday and that means PIZZA!!! He slowly crawls out of the back seat of the car. I tell him “I love you baby! Don’t forget that I won’t be here to pick you up after school.” He replies, “I know Mom. Don’t worry. You’ll be back on Tuesday after you win your race.”

Michael smiles at me from the front seat. We both caught that… “win“.

“Thank you baby! I love you and I’ll miss you.”

“I love you too, Mom.”

And he closes the car door and makes his way through the double doors.

Next.

*sigh*

I begin to feel the nerves set in. My eldest son, my rock, is next. He’s always been so mature and calm.. and so intuitive! He gives me a huge hug as he leaves but comes back to poke his head into the car again and says “You’re going to be great. Good luck Mom. I love you”  – He knew I was already nervous. He can read me like a book.

“I love you, too, pops.”

I return to the house to stuff in my over packed luggage and race gear. I drive through El Pato and Delia’s tamales and exit with two incredible bags of deliciousness – a small token of thanks for Cyndi who has offered to host me for the weekend at her house.

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Just by coincidence, I am stopped by a friend right as I leave my second stop. She said she knew it was me because she recognized the orange bike on my car. She was on her way to the interior of Mexico to pay homage to the Virgen of Guadalupe for all that She has bestowed upon her.

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*Remember that I really believe in signs — this was from Momma. A reminder that I was who Momma prayed to La Virgen for. I will soon need to do the same thing.

So I’m driving up to Austin (alone) and it begins to rain. After getting advice from my bicycle guru to pull over and take my bike off its rack, remove the front wheel and place it in the back seat of the car so that it won’t get wet in the upcoming storm… I pull over at the next gas station and do as instructed. I’m a little worried because I’ve never dismantled my bike before by myself. The guys at Wally’s Bike Shop have spoiled me by making sure my “Mimi” is always in tip top shape. I say a quick little prayer for wisdom and courage.

Tada! I did it!

I turn around and tada!!! Summer (One of my dear friends from PNO = Parent’s Night Out) is there at the gas station… Lesson: just when you think you’re alone and scared, give it to God, say a prayer and everything turns out alright.  Summer *coincidently is with her family and follows me all the way through the rain storm so that I am ok and drive safely in Austin – a little later than expected but I’m safe.

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I’ll fast forward to Sunday, the day of the Expo and registration and set the mood by letting you know that the rain storm continued nonstop for all those three days. Austin is sopping wet. I had planned on swimming in the lake and biking the race course early that morning to develop comfort levels… oh well! So much for that!!! The rain ruined those plans!

Sunday morning I was able to meet up with the Cyclepaths and examine the transition area in full detail. We all knew our bib numbers and where we were to place our bikes and transition mats. We studied and measured the way to the lake and the way to the bike exit and then all the way to the run and finally the finish line. But when we saw the wooden plank where we were supposed to jump off into the lake… it all got real.

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Each of us stood there with faces that said nothing but explicatives. We all tried to hide our faces from each other. We all knew better. So what do we do when we become little chickens? TAKE OUT OUR CAMERAS AND SAY CHEESE!!!

I took an insane amount of photos that day. I wanted to remember every single detail of the lake, the dock, the transition, etc…  as if maybe somehow I could unlock a magic decoder and find a secret passage way to the finish line and not have to endure the pain and fear I knew was destined my way. I stared at that lake for hours.  I stood at the edge of the makeshift pier, dipped my feet into the water and my eyes slowly made their way from where I would imagine myself jumping in. I then imagined myself swimming to the first buoy and taking a wide right turn being careful to stay on the left. I had a strategy. I continued… slowly, conserving my energy for the run that I knew would take me down later in the race.  I reach the next buoy and take another right in the same fashion as the last. There! Now I’m almost halfway there! Speed it up Myssie. Here we go! Increase your speed now. Don’t forget to sight every few strokes. There you go! Another Buoy! and another one! Take a right. Look up! Don’t forget to sight! Last thing you need is to go off course and swim extra! See that there?!?! It’s the arch! It’s the arch!!! Go! Go! Go! climb up the artificial grassway under the arch and let’s go get the bike!

Yes!!!! That’s how I’ll do it! I imagined it all in my head. I went through the whole thing. I had a plan. I knew what to do, where to do it and how do to it! There. I felt good. The explicative face was gone.

I think everyone else did exactly what I did, too. We were all a bit more comfortable now.

Onto the expo! Let’s get this done!

As I walked through the lines that felt like Disney but no ride that day, I saw many familiar faces. There was truly an incredible showing of Valley athletes already in line offering to cut me in so that we could chit chat and comfort each other along the way. So many of the people I look up to were there in line with me. WITH me!!! with ME!!!! I remember thinking to myself “These are the elite athletes… how can I be here with them? I’m so out of my league!” And regardless of how I thought of myself, they treated me like a rock star.

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Wanting to record every moment of this, I handed my phone camera over to a friend to make sure they captured me registering and getting my bib number and goodie bag. FAIL. The poor boy attending to me couldn’t find my number. I was sent to another line. And then another and another.

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I was mistakenly registered into the “First Triathlon” group and NOT the Sprint Triathlon that I had trained for. I needed the Sprint to qualify for the Triple Crown!!!!

I calmly explained to the doe eyed boy on the other end of the table that I HAD to change from “First Tri” to “Sprint” because I was raising thousands of dollars for LLS and before I knew it… tears. Tears gushed out of my eyes. Janie immediately took charge and wrapped her arms around me and demanded that I get a space in the Sprint because it was a part of a much bigger picture. She tore into that poor boy! He never knew what hit him. “But it sold out last night” he responded. “There is nothing I can do.”

You know that part in the movie where everything just stands still and all you can hear is your own heart beat? Ya, it was kinda like that.

And then it was like the Heavens split open and the angels sang. Chavez tells the boy “Give her my spot.”

Who does that? Seriously? WHO does that?!?!?!

“I’ll take her spot in First Tri and switch her so that she can do the Sprint in my place.” Chavez gives him her bib number. He does as instructed.

I don’t think I’ve hugged anyone that hard since my momma. I couldn’t talk. Tears. More tears. And more tears. “You know I love you, right?” She said. “This isn’t my race. This is yours.”

lesson: we all live among angels

I settle in to my hotel room. I had opted not to go to the Team in Training inspiration dinner because of all the emotions that it brings up in me. I used my best friend as an excuse and told the team that I was going to have dinner with her. It was a lie. I just didn’t trust myself to be strong enough to deal with crying in front of complete strangers the night before I was to embark on one of the most challenging days of my life. I had lost way too many people that were so close to me this last year. I didn’t want to relive the story for others to understand why I was doing what I was doing nor did I want that dreaded question to pop into my head about “How did they survive and not my Momma, not Sissy, not Rodney, not Donny, not Dezma, not Jana…” I just don’t want to go there. I don’t want survivors to feel guilty that they received the gift of life while my loved ones didn’t.

I unpack my bags, drink my pedialite and make my phone calls.

I’m greeted a few minutes later by my roommate that I had gotten to briefly know via facebook. She was a cheery experienced triathlete. Whew! And then I get the text update from twitter about how awesome the survivor speech was at inspiration dinner given by… yep, you guessed it… my roommate!

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What Facebook didn’t tell me: She was an experienced traithlete. She is a survivor.

lesson: never miss an inspiration dinner

We stayed up way too late chit chatting and getting to know each other. She truly was inspiring and a fabulous tattoo artist I must add.

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So here we are… 4:15 a.m. The morning of the triathlon. I’m up. I’m up. No honestly. I’m up. Kinda.

We get our gear. I’m so used to Jeanice being my roommate. I miss her. She prayed with me before each event and always had the most perfect things to say. I said my prayer to myself.

I go downstairs to the lobby. I recognize the rest of the team immediately. The saying that I had heard all year long – “One Team, One Goal, Beat Cancer” – it really did make sense. I am really part of one team. They made me feel like I was always a part of them…. just further away than all the rest is all.

We snapped a pic and headed over.

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It was dark. The trail seemed like just a few steps away from the hotel. Was it really this close? Why didn’t it look this close in the day light?

Oh my God. It’s here. I’m here. Oh my God.

Ok. Bring it. “Trust in your training.” I hear those words over and over again in my head. “Trust in your training.

I hear over the loud speaker “Olympic distance triathletes can enter the transition area.” I walk in. No questions asked. I was that focused. No one could stop me if they tried.

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I go straight to Mimi. There she was. Perfect. Over three thousand bikes on racks and I went straight to her. It’s like there’s a bond between us now. No other bike existed at the moment.  I could almost feel how excited she was to get out on the road with me.  I laid out my orange transition towel atop the purple yoga mat that my TnT Team autographed for me and carefully placed my helmet, shoes, chomps, glasses and cap all in sequenced order.

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I struggled leaving the transition area. Once you leave, you don’t come back until after your swim. I went over everything in my mind. Over and over and over again. “I must be missing something”, I think to myself. “Surely I can’t be this prepared.”

lesson: trust in your training

Port-a-potties stink! When nerves hit, my tummy goes bonkers. In the three to four hours of eternity that separated my time in the transition set up to the time I jumped off the dock, I went to the port-a-potty three times! This was probably one of the worst times of the entire weekend. I was in one of the last waves to race so I had no issue waiting in the long potty lines.

The combination of nerves and fear and focus probably had something to do with this next scene so I highly recommend that if you are ever around me during another time like this… leave. For your own good and the sake of the world. Just leave.

As I was waiting, the potty line formed along the transition exit to the last leg of the race, the run. Behind me are “pink” girls. You know the kind… they show up in make up wearing pink ribbons in their hair, curled and with hair spray and giggling. (It’s a TRI-ATH-LON!!! Do you feel my sarcasm??)

I watch in awe as the athletes race by me. Two athletes quickly pass by tethered to each other. One pink girl behind me blurts out “I didn’t know I could rope myself to someone faster than me! I wanna get tied to you (pointing to the other pink girl) cuz your faaast!”

My stink eye pops out. I turn around and calmly say “He’s blind. You should have seen them swim together. They were amazing.”

The pink girls solemnly say in stereo “Ohhhhh”

Go ahead and google the name Aaron Scheidies. I was in complete awe. The “pinks” were such bimbos. He won first place that day.

This is Aaron Scheidies tethered to Ethan Zohn. This photo was not of them at CapTex but just wanted to show you what it looked like on that day. Just by coincidence (or not) I ended up meeting Ethan Zohn (winner of the TV reality show "Survivor" and a real life two-time cancer survivor) a year later in Washington DC lobbying for cancer treatment reform and more affordable and accessible avenues to treat cancer.

This is Aaron Scheidies tethered to Ethan Zohn. This photo was not of them at CapTex but just wanted to show you what it looked like on that day. Just by coincidence (or not) I ended up meeting Ethan Zohn (winner of the TV reality show “Survivor” and a real life two-time cancer survivor) a year later in Washington DC lobbying for cancer treatment reform and more affordable and accessible avenues to treat cancer.

lesson: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”-Bambi

It’s almost time to jump in. I make my way over to the pier.

All the familiar faces are there waiting as well.  We give our hugs and wise words to each other. We all know we’re going to do well but some of us still have our doubts. And this is when I lose it…

Abba’s Dancing Queen plays over the loud speaker. This was one of her favorite songs and Mama Mia was the last play we got to see together. Nesta must have seen something come over me because she grabbed me by the shoulders, tried to shake me back into reality and cried out “Remember why you are doing this!”

It was just like the scene from Airplane. You know when the passenger screams out “I gotta get outta here.” And the line forms from all the other passengers to slap the daylights out of her…. yep, that’s what happened.

Ironman Lori was next in line. “You can do this!” she said. Tears rolled down my cheeks. She hugged and shook me again. “You can DO this!” Alex came up and tried to take a picture and quickly realized no amount of photoshop would make this a good photo op.

The crowd began to move forward. This was my wave. I’m on the dock.

Dear God! What have I done!!!

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I desperately try to remember this very spot from the day before. I close my eyes and take a deep breath and plunge deep into the water. The water is cool but not as cold as I had imagined it would be. I look up to what seemed like 20 feet of murky yellowish brown water and push my way up to the water’s edge for air. I pop up and see Farrah – the only cyclepath in my age group – off to the right. I look over to my left and screaming like a herd of banshees are my friends holding up their hands in my now famous hand sign saying “I love you”.

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I hear the gun. And we’re off!!!

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I start off a little slow to conserve just as planned. I get bumped. Bumped again. What is this? A pack of drunk swimmers???? I spent all that time worrying about swimming straight and no one else swims straight?? Oh come on!!! Not even 100 meters into my swim and between each stroke I’m already saying to myself “Never ever ever again am I doing this. Never ever ever!!!”

Here’s the first buoy! Ok Myssie. Just like we planned. Take it wide and slow and…. HEY!!! Watch it bucko! Slam! Blam! Oops! Hey!!!! Oh come on!!!!! More drunk crazy swimmers?

Alright so this isn’t really how I planned it. I stop and gather myself. Regroup Myssie! Ok, let’s go. Do it again. Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. Breathe. Stroke. Stroke. Look up! Don’t forget to sight! Breathe. Blam!

It’s the same crazy crooked swimmer!!! She keeps slamming into me. She must be using me as her guide just as I was using Farrah… wait. Farrah? Where’s Farrah???

I stop and do a 360 looking for her. There she is! Hanging from a kayak!!! Oh no! Farrah don’t give up! I try to yell out to her but nothing comes out of my mouth. I’m out of breath myself! Why would she go to the kayak? She wasn’t tired yet was she? What happened? Could it be… oh noooooo.

LAKE WEED!!!!

I absolutely hate lake weed!!! It was all over me! Tangled around my feet! Crawling through my fingers. Ewwwww!!!!

Struggling and hyperventilating, I push through. I had no choice. I wasn’t about to stay there and let the lake weed call it’s friends and have the rest of them hang around me, too!!!

Next buoy! Yay!!! I’m half way there!!! I remember the imaginary scene from the day before. Let’s go! This is where I speed up. Are you kidding me, Myssie??? Speed up??? Lake weed just tried to kill me!!! I’m so hungry. I’m so hungry. I’m so hungry. YOU speed up. I’m gonna take my time and gather up all the sense I have left now and rethink this whole thing through. (What? After all these stories posted you really thought I DIDN’T TALK TO MYSELF during these crazy races??? You’re nuts!) Fine! Let’s take a bit more time and… next buoy!!!

TAKE A RIGHT!!! Look up Myssie! What do you see???

THAT’S THE ARCH!!! THAT’S THE ARCH! That was the last buoy! Wooo Whoo!!!! Swim Myssie! Swim as fast as you can! We’re almost done with the hard part! Yesssss!!!!

I put my head down into that murky water and swim faster than I’ve ever swam before!!! Stroke! Stroke! Stroke! Sight and Breathe.. wait! Oh crap! Seriously???? I’m off course!!! Danggit! Swim! Swim!

Yay!!!! I made it! I hear a volunteer yell out to me “Careful! It’s a big step here.” They grabbed my hand and led me to the strip area. One person yanked my cord and pulled down. Another held one arm and another held the other while ten million others pulled my wet suit off, stomped on it (to get the excess water off of it) and handed it back so they could help the next person.

WOW!!! It’s over! The swim is over!

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MIMI!!! Here I come! I know transition was supposed to be no more than a minute or so but I was starving.

lesson: Eat well the night before and the morning of the event. Take extra food just in case.

I scarfed down two packs of orange Gu chomps. Got my gear on, grabbed Mimi and off we went. I know I was smiling the whole time! The fun part begins now.

Running in mud in my new orange clips felt odd. Like slippery tap shoes! I hear someone yell out “There’s the mount line” and of course… it’s an orange line. 🙂

I pass it, move to the left so that other more experienced riders don’t fall over me and carefully mount my bike.  One clip on. Hiyaaa!!!! Woo whooo!!! And we’re off!

It was like a parade of bicycle porn. The most amazingly beautiful bikes on this Earth were side by side with me and Mimi. And just as I was oogling their bikes, they were oogling Mimi. “Your bike is SIIIICCCCCKKKKKK!” a fellow cyclist cried out to me as my smile grew even bigger.

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I reach the first hill. I remembered this hill from the LiveSTRONG marathon. It was tough but conquerable. An older gentleman is by me. He’s riding a gorgeous Cervelo but struggling on the hill. I immediately look over and yell at him “You got this! We can do this together. Come on. Let’s climb!” We both get up off our saddles and pump our legs up the hill. We make a left up another hill and then… weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!! Down hill. The guy had no mercy on me. He dropped me like a one night stand. He was FAAAASSSSSTTTTTT!!!  Good lord that’s fun! I don’t think I’ve ever gone that fast on this bike! Wow!!! Good thing this was just my first loop! Can’t wait to do this again! Then a hair pin turn and I see the guy again over the horizon. He’s a ways up. The competitor inside me awakens. I’m gonna catch him!!! I look up. There he is. Blam! He took the turn too fast. His bike snaps in half and shatters. I see him laying motionless on the ground with one tire between his legs and the rest of his bike on the other side of the street.

I had to ride by him.

I hear a lady yell out “Call 911!”  He didn’t get up.

The voice inside my head calmly says “There is nothing you can do. They’ll take care of him.”

lesson: this can be fun but there is real danger involved

The smile on my face is no longer there. This is exactly the spot where I saw the guy next to me wipe out on the loop before. What a surreal moment captured!

The smile on my face is no longer there. This is exactly the spot where I saw the guy next to me wipe out on the loop before. What a surreal moment captured!

Twice I see Coach Overly on the other side of the bike course. She yells out “Go Myssie!!!” each time. I see Jorge running. Dang he’s fast! It’s awesome to see so much purple on these bikes!!! TnTers everywhere!!! And of course they’re all along the trail with cowbell!!! I hear zooming up from behind me “I recognize that orange bike!” It’s my roommate! And shortly afterwards I hear “You are strong!” It’s MK Cooper. How can anyone fail with support like that????

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I finish the last loop and see more familiar faces. Casey and Jackie Swanson are at the end of the bike course. They wave me in and cheer me onto my run. I dismount my bike but not before Alex catches me with a big smile. I remember telling her “I didn’t FALL!!!” That’s all that counted to me. I didn’t fall. 🙂

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I place Mimi back onto the rack. I laugh as I take off my helmet. This is a huge joke between me and Chavez. I get my cap and glasses on and slip on my shoes. Wait. Stop. I’m not winning this thing. Savor this. Look around. Awwwww. Now that’s it. Feel that?

MOMMA!!!! The sun came out. The cool breeze whispered by. The smell… the smell. It wasn’t the damp stinky mildewy smell from the early morning. It was a clean fresh smell of life. My life. My new life.

Run!!!! I ran through a little shady trail, took a right onto the street, took a left up a hill and into a strange alley and poof! From outta the blue is MaryKay Cooper, my TnT virtual Flex Coach. “You are strong!” She says it in a way that is almost whispered. The tone at the end of the sentence didn’t go an octave higher which meant that it wasn’t a question. It was almost like an accusation. You are STRONG! I am STRONG! I am? Oh ya!!! I AM!!!!!

I run around the little circle and see a TnT coach and ask, “How many more loops?” He yells back at me. “This is it! Last one!”

“Woo Whoooo!!!!!” I exclaim. I’m so loud and jump up so high that the photographer asked me to come back and do that again. I reply “Are you kidding?!?!? I’ve gotta go THAT way to the finish line!” and everyone laughs.

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As I make the last turn to the right to the finish line, I can’t help but wipe away the tears.

I did it. I did it. I really did it.

And I hear her familiar voice… “I knew you could do it, baby. You were the prettiest one out there.”

“Thank you Momma”

I crossed the finish line and got my medal.

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