Redemption at TRIROCK Austin

“Run your race.
Stay in your lane.
Don’t look left or right and wonder.
Your journey is perfectly yours.”
~Angelah Johnson

7 seconds!!! 7 more seconds and I would have been DEAD LAST in my age group division at Trirock on Monday and I’ve never been more happy or proud of myself. Out of 2100 people who competed at Trirock on Labor Day, only 19 women aged 40-45 dared to do the full triathlon. I placed 18th!!!! Why am I so happy???

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Because I got MY GOAL. Not yours. I reached MY goal. This age group consisted of THE most competitive women of all age groups considering experience and speed. In fact, the person who won the whole entire enchilada of the event was a 42 year old woman, a mother of two and yes, in this age group.

Did I let these women, these facts, this event intimidate me from doing this event or MY very best?

No way Jose!!!

And because I never compared myself to these women (or you), I was able to keep focused on my goal. REDEMPTION

I just wanted to prove to myself that all that training, all those workouts, all those sacrifices I made, all those times I could have slept in, all those times I could have hung out with friends late night with drinks, all those times I pushed away the pizza, cup cakes, chocolate, all my effort wasn’t in vain.

I NEEDED TO FINISH THIS RACE FOR ME.

The self punishment I endured from the DNF (Did Not Finish) at the Capital of Texas Triathlon on Memorial Day earlier this year was harsher than you could ever imagine. I’m very hard on myself. All my life, I’ve done everything at %110. I cannot allow myself to be less than my best. I just can’t. I understand that sometimes my best isn’t good enough and sometimes I make mistakes…. But those mistakes are made with me giving my all and I learn from each failure.

I am no longer a beginner marathoner, cyclist or triathlete. It is no longer cute for me to continue on this journey. In fact, it’s actually become quite “in” to dismiss and ridicule me within the circle that I once used to train with. People now perceive me as a competitive athlete. They are so very wrong.

I’m still just Myssie.

People forget that the only race I ever did as a child was in Kindergarten and I got a white participant ribbon as I came in last. I wasn’t in track or volleyball or swim team or basket ball in high school. I was VP of Home Ec, costume coordinator for drama, a non-officer Sergeanette… And a prissy Miss Edinburg.

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So if it makes you feel better about yourself to compare yourself to me, go right ahead and scrutinize my times, my photos with cellulite and extra tires around my waist. My game is not with you. My medal holder is completely full of all new white kindergarten participant ribbons that shouldn’t mean much to anyone else but me. They are not first place trophies that contain State or Region records. They simply symbolize a challenge outside of my comfort zone that I didn’t give up on – something truly difficult TO ME, physically and mentally, that I accomplished not just for me but for a few people that I love that can never do something like this… Ever.

So let’s get down to business and talk about the TRI.

I roomed with the Ericas at a hotel close by. It was by far the WORST hotel I have EVER stayed at!!! Even though I reserved a room with TWO double beds, they put us in a room with only one double (not even a King) bed. There were more friendlier cockroaches scurrying around than there were friendly hotel desk clerks willing to accommodate us.
“Could you move us to another room with two beds?”
“NO”
“Could you provide us with a roll away cot then?”
“NO”

It didn’t matter what we asked for. The answer was NO.

Fast forward to race morning: I was surprisingly calm and organized. I walked over to transition while the Ericas slept in. (I was doing the Olympic distance and they were doing Sprint so we had different transition set up and start times)

As I made my way over, a young woman asked if I had ever done a TRI before. “Yes, but this ones special.”
“Why?” She asked.
“Because I never finished the last one. I have to prove to myself that I can do it now before I can do anything else.”
“Whoa…. And I thought I was high pressured.” She said softly. “This is my first time. I’ve done sprints before but never this distance..”
“Are you nervous?” I asked.
“Yes.”
“Good! Let it fuel you. If you weren’t nervous, I wouldn’t think you’re normal.” And she smiled.

I entered transition as if I was a pro. My bag over one shoulder and my helmet in the opposite hand with my stickers correctly placed on all items, I stuck out my legs for body marking and announced my race number like a drill sergeant and my age with pride and marched directly to my Mimi.

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There she was, sparkling in the moonlight waiting patiently for me like a good steed. I set up my area quickly, took some pictures with my phone, re-read the text from Xman, sent him back a text and then made my way out. I rubbed the seat of my bike lovingly and told her I’d be right back.

Lisa grabbed me as I was exiting transition. “Come on! We’re going to be interviewed on live TV!”

This motley gang of weekend warriors that I have found myself surrounded by these last couple of years are amazing. Trirock triathlon was NOT a TNT event but they all trained with me and showed up because of what this meant to me… and to them now. All donned in purple kits, I stuck out like a sore thumb in my orange sunflower triflare outfit. But I was still part of the team. The reporter did an excellent job and I wish I had the link to the video to show you how well Cat did!!!

Normally Jeanice leads me in a little prayer before all our events together but I couldn’t find her. She must have gone to the portapotties and got stuck in line. So I quickly grabbed Cats hands, looked up at her and blurted out “I can’t find Jeanice for prayer so you’re my Jeanice now.”

I said a short prayer, gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek and lined up to Jump off the dock. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and opened them to Ben standing beside me with a big hug.

“I know today means a lot to you. You’re going to be fine. Have fun.”

And as I get closer moving like cattle to the dock, I see Anita with her camera. I wave her down making it impossible for her to get a good shot and I jump the barrier to give her the biggest hug ever. Anita was the first person I saw when I was dragged out of the water at CapTex. I sobbed uncontrollably that day on her shoulder. This morning was no different. The entire crowd saw the emotion between us and cheered me on. It must have been a sight because a photographer from a trade magazine asked if I always get this emotional before triathlons.
I responded with “Her daughter has cancer. I lost my mom to cancer. I’m doing this for them. I can’t fail.” And then he started crying!!!

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And there I was at edge of the dock awaiting my turn quickly trying to figure out if I need to have my hand on my goggles or on my Garmin start button….

JUMP!

I should have had my hand on my goggles. I plunged into the warm murky water and went deep… so deep I swear I must have been inches away from the center of the Earth. It seemed like an eternity!!! What in the world??? Seriously, it cannot be THIS deep!!!

Calm down Myssie. Its just your nerves. Grab your goggles. You’re fine. You’re just fine. Wait. Wait.

There.

My head broke the water’s surface and I took a deep breath, adjusted my goggles and calmly began to swim. My strokes were perfectly timed. Slow and steady and strong. I kept my head up and out of the water. Coach W’s superman drills had helped tremendously and I was confidently going straight. My neck was hurting but I didn’t want to risk going a stray on my course and adding more distance than what was needed. 100. Turn right.

“You’re going too slow Myssie! Come on! Speed it up! You can go faster than this!” my evil inner voice yells at me. Hoards of swimmers skim past me and my “no wake zone” filling me with anxiety.

No! Stop it! Shut up! I don’t care who’s watching my time right now, who’s swimming past me nor who’s making fun of how much faster they are than I am. This is MY race and I am going to do everything possible to make sure I finish strong.. not fast. STRONG! YOU HEAR ME?!?!?

Ha! I put her in her place didn’t I? 200. Keep going.

BLAM! Seriously??? A swimmer slams into me.

Stroke. Stroke. Keep those knees tight and ankles light. Stroke. Stroke. 300.

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With my head still up and out of the water, I felt my legs drift down. I knew I was creating drag but still too scared to trust myself with my head down and drifting off course with my drunk swerving swimming habits. My neck was really killing me at this time but I wouldn’t dare allow myself to stop.

“If you stop now, you’ll keep stopping throughout the race. Whatever you do, DO NOT STOP. DON’T YOU DARE STOP!” my inner voice keeps yelling.

500.

Ok, this is where it happened. I was at the 500 mark at CapTexTri when I had my first cough attack. I’m fine now. Keep going. Keep going.

600.

Yes! You’re doing it Myssie! You are doing this!!!

Arghhh!!! Stop it! Stop thinking about this so much! Ok…. then what am I supposed to think about?

700 meters. This is the point where I was removed from the last triathlon I did… on this exact same course.

THATSWHATIMTALKINGABOUT!!!!

As I take my breaths off to my left side, I can see from the corner of my eye people cheering from the bridge. I hear my name being yelled out. What??? Who in the world is that?

DON’T YOU DARE LOOK! Stay focused! You’re doing so well!!!! 800!!!! Right turn.

I felt the change in the current as I made my turn. I saw the 900 right in front of me. It seemed so close!

Come on Myssie! Push it hard now! Yes! Yes! Yes! 900!!! Right turn!!!

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Oh my God! God! Momma! MOMMA!!! DID YOU SEE THAT??? DID YOU SEE ME??? DID YOU SEE??? I felt like a six year old girl making it across the monkey bars for the first time on the playground making sure that Mom saw while she was sitting on the bench nearby.

And just then… right that moment… the sun came out in such a glorious manner that each wave shimmered around me in ripples of gold glitter. I had surpassed my own personal moment of doubt and conquered it… and Momma was there to see me.

“Don’t get all happy now. You’ve still got half way to swim yet you silly girl!” My cocky inner voice never seems to let me win.

Alright, let’s speed things up a bit. BLAM! Dangit! Who are these guys in the silver caps that keep swimming into me?!?!?

I duck my head in and pick up my pace… finally! I sight every third stroke, keeping my form and finally resting my neck a little better. BLAM!!! Ok, seriously. This really needs to stop now. *I’ll bet I rolled my eyes in the water.

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I didn’t even see any of the other marker buoys after that. I only saw the screaming crowd by the finish and all the kayaks blocking me from it!!! What? Why are there so many kayaks there? Ugh! Why don’t they get out of the way??? Don’t they know…..

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ARRRRGGGGHHHHHH!!!!! LAKE WEEEEEEEDDDDDD!!!!! LAKE WEED! LAKE WEED! IT’S EVERYWHERE! OMG! IT’S ATTACKING ME! Grabbing my arms! my hands! crawling around my neck! OMG! It’s trying to get into my mouth! OMG OMG OMG!!!

Yes, I screamed like a little girl. I admit it. There.

And so did everyone else.

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The hydrilla infestation was so thick that you could not swim through it. I sloshed through the icky slimy vicious floating jungle for what seemed like the equivalent of the time I spent in high school and climbed out of Lady Bird Lake looking like the swamp monster. A man came up to me and immediately asked if I was ok.

Yes, I think so.

And that’s when I felt the ickies attack. All those weed leaves that were left on my were moving on my skin!!! Ewwww!!! I must have jumped up and around trying to brush off the ickies when the man tries to unzip my sunflower tri suit.

NOOOOO!!!! It’s a trisuit NOT a wet suit!!!

It suddenly dawned on him that there was nothing underneath it but my birthday suit!!! Good thing I took off towards T1 so that the photographer couldn’t catch him blushing!!!

Ahhhhhh finally! I ran barefoot almost a mile to T1 where I knew my Mimi was eager to get going. And so was I!!!

As I removed my Mimi from her rack and trotted her to the mount line, the volunteers began buzzing about the matchy matchy orange kit and bike ensemble I had.

“Nice Kit!”

“You are styling girl!”

“Wow! I love your trisuit!”

TRIROCK austin triathlon Myssie Cardenas-Barajas Felt Bicycle Mimi's Miles

The compliments were endless the whole time I was riding. But shortly after I was on the course, going South on Congress, I noticed my bike feeling heavy. I couldn’t pin point it. Was it because I had missed so many 5am rides that I lost my mojo? Was it that I hadn’t been to Austin in a while and needed more hill training? Was it the new tires I had put on and just wasn’t used to the new treads? What ever it was, I decided, I was just going to push through it. I didn’t stop in the swim so I certainly wasn’t going to stop in the bike!

Going North on Congress was a blast!!! I messed up my Garmin… AGAIN… by hitting the wrong button so I didn’t know how fast I was going. And again… I reminded myself… today is not about speed. It’s about finishing something I started.

After my first loop, a young female volunteer yelled out for me to stay to the right. I made a wrong turn. I should have continued straight. She apologized the next time I went around but by that time, I had already done an extra loop on my bike route.

Eh, it’s ok. It’s not like I have to worry about someone accusing me of skipping a loop, right?

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After my ride, I jumped off and trotted my Mimi back to her parking space. I plopped down on my towel to spray my hamstrings with biofreeze and looked up. THATs when I noticed that her tire was completely FLAT!!! No wonder she felt heavy!!! (these photos were taken at the beginning of the course… it must have been a slow leak or caused by a little pot hole I bumped along the way)

Eh, nothing I can do about it now. Go run!

I sprayed so much biofreeze that Zilcher park will not have to be fumigated all year long!!! But it made my legs feel AWWWWEEEEEESOME!!! Boom! I took off! Holy Moly! This stuff is great! My pace hasn’t been like this in forever! Goodness I feel great! I feel fabulous!!! I feel…. hot. Holy Moly… I shoulda paced myself. Oh my… I need water.

I stopped. I walked. Oh man… I think I just bonked. Come on. Come on. Get yourself together. Push it! Push yourself.

I grabbed a paper cup of water and dumped it on my head. I had goosebumps everywhere. I was dehydrated. It was almost noon time and it was triple digit heat. I stuffed ice cubes in my baseball cap and poured more water down my back and face.

Ok… let’s do this! Vroom Vrooom!!! Nope. Not gonna happen. I ran/walked intervals for the remainder of the last loop and then cramped up yards away from the finish.

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but I pushed through and I FINISHED. I FINISHED WHAT I STARTED AND THAT’S ALL I WANTED TO BE ABLE TO PROVE TO MYSELF.

As I crossed the finish line, my teammates were all waiting and so were the volunteers who awarded me “best dressed” and gave me my finisher medal.

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I did it. I did it Momma! Did you see me?? Did you see me do it??

And now that I know I can do this… I can continue on to what I set out to do in the first place.

 

*So if you find yourself now at the end of this entry wondering if you can do that thing you’ve been wanting to do, accomplish, discover, create – whatever that thing is – trust in yourself and keep trying. YOU CAN DO IT. YOU WILL!!! Even if you don’t succeed the first time or the second or the hundredth… you’ll get there. You really will. Just don’t give up.

And don’t let what those others say about you stop you either. It hurts, I know. But it’s because in your strength they clearly see their own weaknesses. Let it fuel you.

 

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