Tag Archives: triathlon

2011 Our Triathlon Summer

For our family, this summer will forever be remembered for our triathlon accomplishments. I became an official triathlete in June at the Hawk I sprint tri in Lansing – my first race. Israel became a half-ironman at the Koop just last week. The boys spent lots of time in the pool and lake and improved their swimming. Manu is on his way to (short) distance swimming.

Today, history was made once more as Imanuel fulfilled the last requirement for him to become a triathlete. Get those training wheels outta here!! Manu rides a two-wheeler!!




Ty trying to be like his brother.

He’s gonna have to wait a few years…

Team Revolution Represents at the Koop!

What an amazing experience.  Having so many close friends under one roof for nearly a week was such a blast.  There is something so sweet about Christian fellowship, that no matter where you’ve come from or what you look like, you’re drawn together like family.  But then adding to that the most physically-challenging race any of us had ever endeavored brought yet another dimension of oneness between us. 

Although I met my goals that I had set for my bike ride, it seemed to pale in significance when I realized how our success involuntarily became corporate.  We raced as a true team and that brought so much more satisfaction (and at times heartache) than racing alone.  But I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.  So, I just wanted to express my gratitude and appreciation to each of you who were a part of this race with me!  Know that in so many ways, I raced it for you.  You are AWESOME!    Seriously.   

With great coaching from Northwoods Endurance and the best mobile cheering/support crew EVER, we came out with winners of the Women’s Relay, a valiant effort by our Mixed Relay Team, and two Ironmen 70.3 – John Yoon & Israel Ramos!!!  We are all so proud of each other.

Below is the link to a video of the race that Israel and I pulled together along with David and Tennille after everyone left us on Monday.  This is a memory that we will cherish and I hope it will be the same for each of you who were a part of this journey too.  What will our next mission race be?!  This Revolution is going to be unstoppable!

Playing Outdoors

The summers up here are amazing.  Save maybe a week or two of extreme heat (- where it may reach 90 degree weather), the U.P. really comes alive.  We survive, like many other yoopers, without AC, so the outdoors easily becomes an enormous playground.  The temperatures inside and out are often comparable.

The other day I was trying to think about why in all of the previous summers we didn’t spend as much time outside.  For the past couple of months, I can’t think of a day where we didn’t go outside to play or a week where we didn’t go swimming at the lake.  Then I calculated that for 2 of the 5 summers I was uncomfortably pregnant and the other 2 summers I was nursing an infant.  This was my first summer where I could be out and play.  The baby, Ty, is now running around and wreaking havoc so it is actually quite efficient to have the boys playing outdoors while the house gets a break and remains (somewhat) clean.

Manu and Micah have nearly completed their two weeks of swimming lessons over at Michigan Tech.  Tomorrow is their last day.  Manu has learned how to swim and can go quite a ways all by himself.  Today, Manu jumped off the diving board in the deep end without a life jacket and was able to then swim over to Israel.  Micah can also swim a few strokes on his own.  He is more dense than Manu so he can only swim underwater.  He can swim for as long as he can hold one breath.  Israel plays a game with Micah where he pushes him gently underwater and Micah touches the bottom of the pool and comes back up.  They have improved so much in such little time!  They are both well on their way to becoming triathletes…which is their ultimate motivation to learn how to swim.  In true yooper form, the boys (including Ty) enjoy going to the beach and swimming in the lake (Superior), even though the general population would consider it to be too cold.

The other day we headed over to Prince’s Point which is a beach area by Tech where Israel does his open water swims.  Chris came with us and the both of them suited up and swam the 1.2 mi swim to the flag pole and back while I played with the boys at the beach.  Chris made it back before Israel and we were watching Israel swim when we noticed that he stopped swimming for a while.  At that moment, we saw a fairly large bald eagle soaring over the lake.  It was so beautiful and we could clearly see the white on his head and tail.  It started circling around the lake and I was thinking to myself how neat it would be if we could watch it swoop down and catch a fish.  Israel by this time was kind of flailing his arms and really appeared to be struggling with something.  Come to find out, he was suffering from a bad cramp in his leg.  We immediately connected the two and realized that the bald eagle was actually circling Israel!  We found that quite humorous until Israel started calling for help and Chris had to go back in and swim to his rescue.

Eagle bait.

My “garden”, if you can even call it that, has really been a sore matter from the very first year I planted.  That first year, I had tomato plants, lettuce, green onions, Korean sesame plants (“keh-neep”), leeks (“boo-choo”), and roots (“doh-rah-gee”).  It wasn’t that bad.  The sesame plants took over, which is normally what happens – I equate them to weeds, but everything grew well.  But that was also the year where the self-same day we had planned to pick all of the tomatoes, the deer came over while we made a trip to town and ate them ALL.  You can imagine my shock when, after coming back from Walmart, I headed to the backyard with my basket to harvest all of the tomatoes and I found nothing but stubs.  They even ate the tomato leaves.  The year after that, I never planted anything.  I just let the garden go wild.  I ended up with green onions, “keh-neep”, and “boo-choo”.  The following year, I transported a few wild strawberry plants and raspberry plants into my garden.  The next year we were able to eat a handful of berries, mainly strawberries.  But this year the raspberry plants decided it was their turn to take over the garden.  They were able to withstand all of the weeds (-I had stopped weeding after the first  year), and much to my surprise, they flourished!  I consider it quite a miracle that my sorry garden was able to produce anything.

And finally, last but not least, we have spent many hours outdoors training for the Kuparisaari Triathlon that is coming up in less than two weeks.  The boys enjoy riding their bikes and running on our long driveway for their “workouts”.  Israel has been training to do the half-iron by himself and I have been doing mainly bike rides since I’m just doing the bike leg of the race.  Despite putting on ample sunblock, we are getting quite dark from long rides and runs. 

We also enjoyed a special visit from the Shins last weekend as they were passing through!  We had such a great time catching up and training together.  Tennille is doing the swim leg of our half-iron relay team and David is training for the Detroit marathon in October.  On Sunday, between the four of us, we biked 56.2 miles, ran 26 miles, and swam 2.4 miles!  This was the day after we stayed up until 3am talking.  Tennille and I then topped that off by doing a trail run the next morning (on Monday) through Hungarian Falls.  Good times!  True friends never let friends miss an important training workout…even on vacation. 

From all this working out, my thighs are getting ridiculously large.  But then again, I knew this is what I agreed to when I accepted this challenge.  So far I’ve done two 56 mile rides and I was able to do them sub-3:30 which was my race goal.  I’m hoping I’ll be able to go even faster on race day.  I’m not about to let my thighs get huge for nothing!  Totally looking forward for our friends to come up for race weekend!!   

Here are some memorable pics from the past month:
Fourth of July

Camp Sagola

Uncle Chris’s race in Wisconsin

And finally, cool animals in our big backyard…


T-20 days

Yesterday evening, I went on my longest ride that lasted a little under 3 hours and 30 minutes and covered 56 miles.  It was my first half-iron distance ride.  There are very few places that I know of where on one bike ride, amidst the rolling hills, you can see deciduous forests, endless acres of farmland and hay bales, a breath-taking pristine lake, coniferous forests, and a Native American reservation and casino. 

There are very few words to describe how the ride made me feel, but the closest I can think of would probably be, biking in the yoop is the bomb diggity.
20 more days until the Koop!  I’m glad to know that I’m at least able to go the distance.  Now, just to shave off some minutes for the race.  Getting excited…!

Becoming TRUE: Cycling Edition

You know you’re a true cyclist (according to J. Ramos) when…

1.  You are visibly sporting all of the appropriate tan lines:  shoes, shorts & bike jersey, (patch on lower-back for tri uniform), watch, sunglasses, & helmet.  Your face is multi-colored.

2.  You have a permanent black smear on your right inner-calf from your bike chain. 

3.  A bug pelts your sunglasses at 40mph and you don’t blink.

4.  On multiple bike routes, you know where all of the dogs live that would possibly attack you.  (You may have named them.)

5.  You can peel a banana with your teeth and eat it while maintaining perfect balance and speed. 

6.  Snot-rocketeering is like second-nature.

7.  You wake up one morning and your favorite jeans are, all of a sudden, super-tight at the thighs.
8.  Some flying insect has flown into your helmet or shirt and caused you to look absolutely ridiculous and then nearly die from an oncoming vehicle.  But that never stopped you from riding again.

9.  Unless it’s your day off, you don’t bother to do your hair.

10.  One of your goals in life is to be able to pull your kids in a bike trailer up a cat 5 hill.

A Race to Remember : the Finish!

As I got into a steady pace, I quickly realized how warm it had gotten.  The good thing was that from the looks of it, most of the run was in a shady, wooded area.  I was frustrated because I wasn’t able to get my GPS started for the bike in time, and as I started the run, I couldn’t figure out how to reset it again.  I really wanted to know my time up to this point, but I just had no clue.  I was feeling pretty strong, though, and was encouraged that I was able to actually pass some people (-the ones that were walking or limping ). 

Soon enough, I saw the first water station and I got really excited.  I ran close to the man who was holding out the little cup of water and grabbed the cup.  I’m not sure if there is science to that too, but I ended up spilling over half of the water.  I had a small sip left and I really wanted to go back for another full cup, but I decided to take my chances that I could make it to the next station. 

After a mile or so, my legs were beginning to feel tired and my breathing was more labored.  An image of my ice-cold Gatorade bottle kept coming to my mind.  I just couldn’t let it go.  I was sure someone else was enjoying it…probably right at that moment.  I kept pushing forward.  Then I remembered I had a Goo, that David had given me, in the little back pocket of my uniform.  Tennille and I both weren’t sure if we wanted to eat one, but we took it with us just in case.  Hoping it would give me an energy boost, I reached back, under my t-shirt, and slipped it out.  I ripped it open and squirted some into my incredibly dry mouth.  Being so viscous and grainy, I was physically unable to swallow it.  As I continued to try to maneuver the glob into my throat with my tongue, my eyes caught sight of another water station.  There were three athletes right in front of me and we all made a bee line to get a much needed drink.  The weather was officially hot.  The first athlete grabbed a cup, then the second, and finally the third.  By the time I got there, as if on cue, both of the volunteers were empty-handed and simultaneously left to go fill up more cups.  I kept on running.

I thought I would throw-up from the Goo.  It was still plastered in my mouth.  I tried to take my mind off of the Goo by thinking about my running pace.  I was trying to gauge how well I was doing by looking at everyone’s left calf (for their age) and guesstimating how much sooner or later they started from me.  I pushed to pass up every girl I saw.  But it was getting hard to keep up my pace.  I was beginning to lose hope in making any of my goals.  At last, I spotted another water station.  I immediately squirted the rest of the goo into my mouth, hoping I’d be able to wash it down with the little cup of water.  I slowed down and gently grabbed a cup.  I tried to make sure I wouldn’t lose a drop and managed to pour it into my sticky Goo-filled mouth.  I swished around a little and then swallowed.  It totally worked!  My mouth was empty and free!  I decided it was time to give it everything I got.  I reached the half-way point, turned around, and started the run back to the finish line. 

During training, 5ks had eventually become fairly easy for me.  But this by far was the longest 5k I had ever run.  It was taking forever!  We were no longer running in the shelter of the shade and the sun was blazing down on us.  People were beginning to tank.  I was so tempted to start walking.  I started telling myself, “I can do this.  I will do this.”  I wasn’t exactly sure what “this” meant, but it sounded good.  I would persevere.  It was seriously depressing to see all of the athletes around me looking so exhausted.

Then, I heard someone call out my name.  I looked up and there was Tennille with a huge smile on her face.  I was seriously so excited to see her.  She looked at her watch and yelled out, “We’re at 1:06!  You can do it!!”  We gave each other the hardest high-five that I have ever experienced as we literally ran passed each other in opposite directions.  As my hand recovered from the sting, her words sank in.  Only 1:06 had passed?!  My personal goal was 1:20.  I was a little more than half way done with the run.  I could totally do it!  Hope totally erupted from within me and I once again picked up my pace.  I started to believe that just maybe I could get in the top 10 in my age category.  I had arbitrarily set that as one of my sponsorship categories and it would bring in an additional $200 in donations from my sponsors.  I had to try.  I didn’t have much to lose.  I was running for those kids.  I wanted to make a difference.  There was a slender, super-fit older man that passed me up and I determined that I would stick right behind him until the finish.  He kept me at an uncomfortably difficult pace. 

Finally, I began to hear the crowd cheering and I knew it was almost over.  The professional photographer was stationed there and began shooting pictures of all the athletes as we passed by.  I was now able to see the final left turn to the home stretch.  Israel was there with the boys.  Manu was waiting for me with his hand out for a high-five.  I gave him a high-five and then as I passed, I saw that Micah had mustered up courage to put his hand out, but too late.  He’ll have to wait for next time.  I heard the announcer call out, “Now coming to the finish line, #364, JUDY RAMOS from CHASSELL, MICHIGAN!”  They gave me my finisher’s medal and I went to find my family.  I did it!

After sharing in our excitement together, Tennille and I decided to head over to check our times.  We were so happy that we had both killed our personal goals!  I even reached Chris’s overall time goal for me by 36 seconds.  By the next day when the final rankings were posted, I miraculously held on to the #10 spot in my age group!  Thanks to all of my donors and supporters, we were able to raise $910 for Love 146.  Team Revolution has raised over $2,000 during the Tread on Trafficking campaign ranking 5th out of the over 100 teams!  It was the perfect ending to an incredible race.

This whole experience has helped me realize how strong the human will is.  It is a God-given power that is stronger than mere physical or mental capabilities.  It is a force that dictates how we make every decision of our lives.  As we exercise the will for the right, we develop a mental toughness, a stubbornness to principles, and an unwavering adherence to what we believe in.  Isn’t that what we are constantly striving for?  It isn’t surprising then, that the Bible likens the Christian experience as a race:       

“All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.”  1 Corinthians 9:25 (NLT)

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.”  2 Timothy 4:7 (NLT)

I always thought it was so cliche when athletes would win a game or match and then thank God for it.  But I think I can genuinely say that God has taken the time to personally teach me in a tangible way.  Success for the Christian requires a life-time of training, but with proper discipline and motivation, anything is possible.  If we remain faithful, we will finish.  There will be set-backs, but we learn from them and as long as we are moving forward, we are getting closer to the finish line.  Friends are given to us as gifts to help us along the way.  We must be focused on our ultimate Goal and have faith. 

The best news of all?  All of Heaven is rooting for us.  Let’s win the race that really matters. 

“…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:1,2 (NKJV)

A Race to Remember (4/5) : the Transitions & the Ride

I pulled off my swim cap and goggles as I geared up for T1.  I threw them in my bag and started my routine.  I stepped onto my beach towel and dried off the bottom of feet while I cracked open my water bottle and took a few swigs.  I quickly jammed my feet into my cycling shoes and strapped them in.  My sunglasses were sitting in my bike helmet on top of my aero bars and I slipped those on and then placed my helmet over my wet, matted hair.  I wouldn’t have to worry about what my hair looked like until after this ride was over.  I lifted my black Quintana Roo from the rack and clip-clopped in my clipless shoes as quickly as I could to the other side of the transition area.  It was a pretty smooth, quick transition and I was excited for the ride.

Tennille had driven me through the bike course so I was able to get a feel for the scenery and where to make the turns.  That was really helpful throughout the ride.  I tried to push hard for the entire duration of the bike but would get discouraged when so many guys would seemingly effortlessly pass me up.  But about one out of every ten guys would mention some words of encouragement to me as they rode by.  It meant a lot coming from another competitor.  Not only that, almost throughout the entire 10 miles, there were fans, volunteers, or policemen cheering at every corner shouting things like, “You’re amazing!”, “Keep it up!”, or “Almost there!”.  Every time I would hear that, I couldn’t help but say “Thank you!” because it did so much to help keep my spirits up.  The Hawk-I really made my respect for the people of Lansing and their triathlon community skyrocket.     

The course seemed harder than I had anticipated.  I got so thirsty by mile 7 but I didn’t carry any water along.  I haven’t yet learned the fine art of pulling a water bottle of out the cage, drinking from it, and returning it back, all while maintaining proper balance and speed on the bike.  I was so wishing that I hadn’t misplaced my Gatorade because it was part of the plan that I’d drink most of it during T1.  I should have drank more water.  But finally the end was in sight.  In the final turn, volunteers were yelling at us to slow down.  Apparently, one of the bikers had wiped out there and he ended up in an ambulance and taken to the hospital.  I got off my bike and once again clip-clopped all the way back to the other side of the transition area to my spot.  If I was smart, I would have just taken my shoes off and ran barefoot.  It would have been much faster, especially since my legs were so jello-y too.  Hindsight is always 20/20.

Time for T2.  I ran right past my transition area.  I had to turn back around.  Good one.  That wasted 10 seconds.  I saw Israel about 50 feet away waving his hands in the air and cheering loudly for me.  That came as such a surprise since he isn’t one to do that publicly, amidst hundreds of other strangers.  And that motivational music wasn’t helping either.  I totally got weepy.  It felt like I was in movie or something.  I was able to contain myself before it got seriously out of control and reminded myself that I still had to run a 5k before this thing was over.  How embarrassing would it be if I was crying now because I was actually doing it, but never really finished it?  Now was NOT the appropriate time to be emotional.  I had to get moving! 

Time for T2 – take 2.  I parked my bike then took off my shoes, helmet, and sunglasses.  I slipped on my running shoes, threw on my Tread on Trafficking t-shirt, and put on Israel’s red, Ironman 70.3 headsweat.  Before the race, I had been concerned that my hair would be a hot mess by the run portion.  And as much as I was aware that this wasn’t a beauty contest, I knew I’d be unhappy if I had nasty helmet hair in the pictures.  Especially the ones of me finishing the race!  The headsweat was the perfect solution to hide my wet, nappy hair and it was much more time efficient than my original plan to pull out a little mirror and some hair pins.   

Finally, I transferred my GPS from my bike to my wrist and took off running.  No water during T2.  I would wait to drink the cold water from the aid stations.  I was hoping there was one towards the beginning of the run because I was thirsty.

A Race to Remember (3/5) : the Set-up & Swim

The weather was perfect.  Music was blaring and excitement filled the air.  With nearly 700 athletes gearing up for the race, the energy was amazing.  David had driven us to Hawk Island State Park which is about 15 minutes from their place.  Israel stayed back to let the boys sleep more and would meet us at the start of the race.  Tennille and I got in line to pick up our race bags which included a purple swim cap, our bib, a technical tee, and our race number stickers for our bike helmet and bikes.  We got marked on both arms and they wrote our age on the back of our left calf.  The final stop was to get our time chip and then we were off to set up our transition area. 

I was anxious to get every thing set up so I’d have enough time to mentally prepare for the race.  But this was precisely when things got harry.  First of all, a lady had set up her things in my spot.  With the help of the nice guy next to me, we moved her bike and things since she didn’t show up for about 10 minutes.  When she came back, she was attitudinal even after I showed her that she was in my spot.  Anyway, I finally began setting up my things on my loud, flowery beach towel.  Then, I noticed I didn’t have my cold bottle of Gatorade.  I must have misplaced it somewhere between registering, getting marked, and putting on my bib.  Tennille went to try to find it for me after she had set up, but to no avail.  So now, during my transitions, I just had a warm, small plastic water bottle to hydrate.  That made me sad.  I was still putting all of my gear in place when I realized that we were missing the first-time beginners’ orientation.  We had planned on going to that.  David brought my bike over to me and I noticed that during the transport, my chain fell off.  I got it back on, but both my hands got covered in black grease.  We both had to use the bathroom but at that moment, we heard the call for all athletes to make their way to the start line.  We had no choice but to head over, with the hundreds of others, to the lake. 

With a few minutes to spare until the race would start, we decided to get used to the water.  I rubbed the grease off of my hands the best I could.  As we waded in, we no longer had to go to the bathroom.    (FYI, this is totally acceptable triathlete behavior!)  That was a relief, but then as I plunged in and swam a few strokes, I felt my time chip slip off my ankle.  I momentarily panicked and began to frantically drag my feet around trying to feel for it, but then I saw that it was floating next to me.  I strapped it on again, hoping it would be more secure.  I then proceeded to kick my leg like it was going out of style (underwater, of course, so no one could see) to ensure that it wouldn’t fall off again.  Out of all the worst-case scenarios that had crossed my mind, I never imagined that my time chip would fall off.  It would definitely be the worst, most pointless way to ruin a race.  I felt unprepared, nervous, and uneasy as we came out of the water and headed towards the start line. 

But then Tennille, in one swift comment, managed to dissipate all of that.  She pointed and exclaimed, “Look over there!”  I turned my head and behold, there was a skinny man wearing nothing but what resembled a too small pair of women’s black panties.  It was so bunched up that I’d safely say that half of his cheeks were hanging out.  For the first time that day, I felt more sorry for someone else than for me.  I instinctively looked around hoping his girlfriend, wife, parent, friend or acquaintance would run to his rescue to pull out his wedgie or better yet, bring the wetsuit that he accidentally forgot at home.  Neither of those things happened.  I didn’t know whether to laugh or pity him.  We busted out laughing, really hard. 

I saw Israel and the boys, and in that moment, I felt overcome with gratefulness for all of the time they had sacrificed to let me train and get to this point.  It helped me put things into perspective.  It was going to be a special race no matter what.  It was my first triathlon. 

Tennille and I merged with the other hundreds of purple swim caps.  The race began with the elite.  The different groups lined up and started in intervals with a few minutes separating them.  When it was time for our age category (women 24-29), Tennille and I went right up to the front of the pack.  Apparently, Chris had told me NOT to go towards the front because we’d be more likely to get kicked and hit.  Whoops.  We reasoned that we’d rather have people pass us up than us having to swim around people.  It made sense when we discussed it. 

3…2…1 and we were off! 

We ran from the grass, crossed the timing pad, and splashed into the murky, mossy water.  After a few giant steps, I dove in and tried to get into a swimming groove.  My bilateral breathing and sighting rhythm was interrupted with a few kicks to my face and body, but I kept going.  I felt like I was going in slow motion and was tempted to push harder.  But then Rick’s race day motto came to mind:  Don’t go chasing fat girls.  He had shared that with Israel a while back, but it was quickly becoming applicable to me.  All sorts of women who were much more out of shape than me (or so I thought) were passing me up!  But I knew that I just had to stick to my own pace if I wanted to finish strong.

I turned the first buoy and this is where I encountered the sidestroke lady.  She appeared right next to me and I saw this as an opportunity to actually pass someone up.  She was swimming the sidestroke facing me.  I continued swimming with bilateral breathing, hoping that every time I would breath on her side, I would see that I was gaining on her.  This never happened.  She stuck right by my side and just stared at me.  I became somewhat carried away by this bizarre phenomenon that I failed to properly sight.  And I think she was relying on me to stay on course.  We were making a wide arc to the second buoy.  By the time I saw what was happening, I tried to swim harder to pass her, but I couldn’t get away from her and her stare.  As a last-ditch effort, I thought about swimming under her to cut back on course.  I refrained, but I did manage to sneak in front of her and cut a close corner around the final buoy.  I finally reached the shallow water and ran up to the grass path marked out for us.  The cheering crowd gave me an adrenaline rush.  They were probably cheering for the thirty-something guys who began minutes after me but were finishing already, but either way, I felt like a super-star athlete.  It made me push harder.

My otherwise sensitive feet were numb to the mud, grass, concrete, and little pebbles as I raced over to my transition area.  I had a feeling I had taken much longer than what my swim goal was, so it was time to kick it up a notch to make up for lost time.  I crossed the timing pad marking the end of my swim portion and entered the transition area.  It was time to perform the dance that I had practiced and gone over in my mind again and again.  I wanted it to be flawless…except I would have to do it without my nice, cold Gatorade.  Boo. 

A Race to Remember (2/5) : the Pre-Race

I felt so nervous the couple of weeks before the race.  In fact, I even had a triathlon nightmare one night where I ran from the swim to the transition area (which happened to be in some school hallway) and someone had taken my bike.  I was extremely distressed.  But there was a bike left in my area.  The problem was, it was a little kid’s bike.  Wanting to finish the race so badly, I hopped on and started pedaling my heart out…I’m talkin’ cadence of 200rpm…with a speed of 5mph.  I just started crying as disappointment and then embarrassment set in.  I was so glad to wake up from that.

I continued to have these visions of race-day-disasters.  It ranged from:

the reasonable : cramping, getting kicked, flat tire, having to go to the bathroom, or stopping at any point before finishing, etc.


the completely irrational : slowly drowning in the open water and no one seeing me, forgetting where my transition area is, wiping out and totaling my bike, forgetting to take my bike helmet off during the run,  not being able to finish, or worse yet, finishing last.

So, I was somewhat of a wreck coming into the race.

I had set sponsorship goals with the hopes of raising more money for our Tread on Trafficking Team as well as to motivate me in my last few weeks of training.  Family and close friends were offered different sponsorship options ranging from Goodwill sponsorship – donating if I just wear the skin-tight tri uniform and show up on race day, to Platinum sponsorship – if I make it to the podium (HAHA!).   There was that fear of not meeting any of them (-I had no Goodwill sponsors anyway)!  Most of them chose to be Gold sponsors where they would donate $100 if I made top 10 in my age group.  Last year’s time to beat was 1:12:14.  Highly unlikely considering my personal goal coming into the race was 1:20.

I am acquainted with competition, but the sports I participated in were totally different.  In tennis, you win some games and you lose some games, but there is always time to regroup before you win the match.  You can consult with your coach.  You have breaks and can drink as much as you like.  All of the other sports I competed in were similar in that respect.  I knew there would be none of that here.  I guess I just didn’t know how I would handle the non-stop intensity of a sprint tri.  In training, I had never done all three portions (swim, bike, run) consecutively so I really didn’t know what to expect.  And yet for some compelling reason, I just couldn’t get myself to accept that just finishing the tri would be satisfying enough. 

Perhaps my expectations were too high.  I felt some comfort in reminding myself that I gave birth to my third child only a year and a half ago.  But then again, that really wasn’t a good enough excuse.  After all, women in Thailand have been known to be working in rice patties during labor, squat under a tree to give birth, then pass the baby on to a nurse and go right back to working, right?  For me, this race could very well symbolize a sort of personal redemption – that after dedicating 6 years to incubating, nurturing, and feeding 3 boys, I had reclaimed my body and was able to successfully train it for this race.  Not only that, in just one race lasting less than an hour and a half, I could potentially earn over $300 in donations for an amazing organization.  I totally wanted to do this but wasn’t sure if I could.  The suspense was kind of killing me. 

The day before the race, I got my final pep talk and some motivational words of wisdom from Chris.  Hilariously enough, during the race, those “words” were actually useful.  Tennille made some killer pasta shells for supper so we could carb up.  It made me feel much better talking things over and being with her.  She just seemed so excited and I so wanted to feel the excitement without the self-inflicted pressure.  We packed and organized our bags and made sure everything we needed was in place.  We had a photo shoot of our gear (-thanks, David!) and then we wrote our final fundraiser note on Facebook.  Our Gatorades was in the fridge and our bikes were waiting in the garage.  We ended up talking and stayed up late…

I woke up early.  I grabbed my phone and it was 4am.  I went back to bed.  I jerked awake again and grabbed my phone.  It was 5am.  Then again at 5:30am.  Then again at 5:40am.  Then again at 5:59am.  I stayed awake for the minute and my alarm went off at 6am.  I looked over at Israel and woke him up saying it was time.  I walked to the bathroom and the door squeaked open.  (This was Tennille’s cue to wake up.)

Ready or not, it was race day, baby.

Our gear

Our cause

A Race to Remember : the Preface

Towards the beginning of 2010, Israel found himself perusing the web and ended up at trifind.com.  He had recently decided he wanted to become a triathlete.  I’m not entirely sure what or who inspired him, but that’s what he had set his mind to.  On the bottom of the webpage, he saw a link for triathlon coaching.  Just out of curiosity he searched Michigan, and then the U.P.  To his surprise, there was a match:  Northwoods Endurance:  Personalized endurance coaching for all levels of triathletes

It caught his attention, but it wouldn’t have been enough for him to actually be interested.  Then, he read one of the perks being discounts on Xterra wetsuits.  Being the aspiring triathlete that he was, he had been looking into buying a wetsuit.  So, without consulting his wife, he decided to give Northwoods Endurance a call to see what he could arrange to get the discount, but not the coaching.  He met with Rick and Chris, two young guys that work and study at Tech, but are also level 1 certified USAT coaches.  This was just a side thing they had started.  Even though their coaching fees were low and affordable, it was much to my chagrin that Israel came back home with news that he was going to buy a brand new Xterra wetsuit for “dirt cheap” AND he now had a triathlete coach.  What in the world.  This was not something I was pleased to hear about.  Not only had Israel just blown hundreds of dollars on a bike and the gear, now he was going to blow a couple hundred more on a wetsuit AND he hired a coach.  The worst part of all was that Israel hadn’t even started any sort of regular exercise to back this hobby up!

After our wallets somewhat recovered from the initial blow and as time went on, I began to see how the best investment that Israel had made was working with Rick.  When he completed his first tri, the Hawk-I, I was so proud I had to hold back tears.  And it was truly inspiring to see how he went from barely being able to run a mile (and hating it), to eventually running a half-marathon.  It felt like he was really gaining too much for what he was paying for.

Towards the end of 2010, Israel came up to me one day after getting off the phone with David and said, “Judy, I want you to do the Hawk-I this year while I watch the boys and just support you.”  David had just told Israel that he decided not to race in the Hawk-I again this year so he could support Tennille as she did her first tri.  She wanted to do the Hawk-I.  So, thanks to the Shins, Israel was inspired to do the same for me.  The problem was that I had never said I wanted to do a triathlon. 

Israel had been persistently trying to get me into triathlons for some months now.  But I just couldn’t commit to it.  I was graciously given a bike by some good friends of ours and I trained for the Belle Isle Triathlon where I did the 12 mile bike portion.  But it was tough to find time to even train for that.  Right before the race started, I remember nursing Ty in my biking outfit and spandex and thinking to myself how ridiculous I must look.  It was super-fun, but I didn’t see it going anywhere at least at that time.

We invited Rick and Chris over for dinner.  Israel wanted me to start thinking about getting into triathlons.  My sister, Julie, was visiting us before she moved to Guam.  All I remember was how we told them stories about how we hauled hundreds of pounds of Lake Superior rocks on our backs for our low-budget landscaping job.  No interest in triathlons for me.  Not yet.

In January of this year, Ty was weaned.  Soon after, I went to Guam for two weeks to visit my sister.  We were super-active.  I played tennis, hiked, swam, scuba-dived, and skydived.  When I came back home, I was ready to commit.  I wanted a physical challenge and this seemed to be just the thing.  I decided I wanted to do the Hawk-I in June.  Israel was in full support.

We invited Rick and Chris over again.  I filled out the paper work and basically signed my life away.  Okay, not quite, but close.  Christopher Schwartz officially became my coach.  I purchased a 3 month membership to the SDC and my training began.  For 6 days a week, I was given work-outs.  Sundays were long runs.  Mondays and Fridays were on the bike.  Tuesdays and Thursdays, I was at the pool.  Wednesdays were tempo or interval runs.  The only time I had guaranteed to train was early in the morning before the boys woke up, so I would wake up at 6am and be at the SDC from 6:30-8am.  I pushed hard but limited myself to what I was assigned to do.  That provided the perfect balance for my training. 

As a member of Team Revolution, I had to think of a mission project to race for.  When the Bonellos and Justin Kim informed us about Tread on Trafficking and Love 146, the decision was easy.  This was it.  I would race to help put an end to child sex slavery and exploitation.  Tennille was on board too.  With this cause came motivation to train and to raise awareness about it.  Everything was falling into place.   

I must say that my coach was pretty awesome.  I began with hardly any experience in swimming and biking.  He patiently worked with me and answered too many of my ridiculous questions.  And I learned.  It was encouraging to see such apparent progress and marked improvement.  The journey to my first triathlon was sweet, but it was about to come to an end.  Sunday, June 5th, 2011 was right around the corner.

I was almost there.