Monday, June 28, 2010

I Did It! Iron Goddesses Unite!

Hello All.

The Iron Goddess produced more than a few goddesses this past weekend in Grass Lake, Michigan. There were over 550 competitors, all women seeking to Raise the Bar on themselves in either the Full Sprint, Mini-Sprint or duathlon events. So persistent were they in their pursuit that not even thunder and threatening clouds could prevent them from trying. My daughter Rachel, my sister-in-law Tammy and I competed in the Iron Goddess Triathlon at the Waterloo Recreational Area in Grass Lake, Michigan on June 27th. Here is how it all went down.

We set our alarm clocks for 5:45 am at my brother’s house on the day of the race. With tri bags packed and a non-digestive-disorder-producing breakfast in our tummies, 8 of us including competitors and support team set off for the race. By 7:45 am we had set up our transition areas, attached our timing chips (I brought a few extra safety pins to nail them on since timing chips have a way of falling off during the swim, bike or run) and converged on the water front. The first wave of swimmers set off at 8:00 am right on time. Then wave number 2. Next Rachel hit the water in her electric orange swim cap. My heart was racing for her and I cried on the beach (she didn’t see that) because I was so proud of her. In her first triathlon attempt she nearly drowned during the swim and had to be pulled from the water. My heart was in my throat. Just as things were getting under way with her swim, Mother Nature announced herself with rolling thunder. All swimmers who were in the water no matter where they were had to get out. I scanned the water looking for her – impossible of course! Some swimmers remained in the water because they had gotten far enough in the swim I believe they made a decision to keep going. I don’t blame them but I didn’t know whether to be excited or worried since a shot of lightning would be deadly. All I could do was wait and watch. When I realized that Rachel wasn’t in the group who had turned back it dawned on me that she had stayed in the water and that she was going to finish. I went over to the swim finish line and waited until I saw her. I was thrilled to see her in good spirits emerge from the water. She looked great and then looked confused realizing that I was not in the water yet. But on she went and the worst in my mind for her was over.

The race coordinator, Eva Solomon, did a fantastic job of keeping the rest of us who were still waiting to swim, at bay. We had to wait to get clearance from the Sheriff before we could enter the water – at least a 20 minute delay. And with good reason – a nearby township had been devastated by a tornado while we stood on the beach. Until that morning the water had been too warm to use a wetsuit – 80 degrees F. But now with stormy weather it was time to pull my wetsuit on. There was a feeling of anticipation for all of us as we waited to race. It was difficult to settle my nerves. I just wanted to get it over-with at this point. The announcement over the loudspeaker was that we would have to wait another ten minutes or so. But suddenly the call rang out - “Anyone planning to swim the 800 meters had to get into the water now for a mass start.” In a jumble of zipping up wetsuits and spitting into goggles I found myself standing near the front of the wave of swimmers. I felt that swimming was my strong suit – I have been in the water since I was a small child learning to swim from my father. Surely I could not get into trouble here. But I went out fast with the fastest swimmers and did well until I got to the first marker. I realized I was panicking or it felt like I was panicking. My beautiful steady stroke fell apart and I found myself breast stroking to try to settle myself. The feeling was very much like I could not get enough oxygen into me fast enough. It didn’t help that I had forgotten to pull my swim cap down over my ears. I had to talk to myself all the way from here on in to stick to it, to stay steady, to calm down and to keep pulling. I could hear others around me groaning and gasping as they went. In the weeks leading up to the tri, everyone had warned me of the possibility of this happening to me. I was so disappointed to be experiencing it myself. My arms and legs were cooperating and I kept up a decent breast stroke until I could put my face in the water and do freestyle again. I could see my sister-in-law Tammy nearby as we both plugged onwards. I swam until I was pulling into the sandy bottom of the beach and then stood up, ripped off the upper part of my wetsuit and headed up the hill to T1 (transition 1). I didn’t realize until afterward that the run up the hill to T1 is counted as part of the swim – good thing I ran it.

At T1 I was still counting myself lucky to be standing on solid ground – perhaps I dawdled a little too long with this happy thought because my T1 was a bit too long – but I found my bike, jammed my helmet on my head, sunglasses followed, shoved bare wet feet into previously opened bike shoes and off I went. I was still chewing a Shot Block and messing with my gloves at this point. I managed to get one glove on and carried the other in my other hand for a while, then threw it away. In future for short races I will forget about the gloves. I ran my bike to the start line jumped on and began to pedal with a fury because I didn’t know how good I was on the bike at all. My plan was to catch up to others whom I could see in the distance and then just keep passing people. My real race strategy was to pass people on hills because I knew I was strong on hills – thanks to the cycling I did in the Caledon Hills near my home I guess! Anyway it worked and I managed to push my way further and further along the route. Every hill I climbed I passed other competitors. Let me tell you this is a very encouraging feeling, especially for a first time racer. I feel as if was constantly shouting “On your left!” My legs felt very good during the bike segment and I did not think about the run at all because I knew each part of the race would take care of itself. Loads of folks on the sides shouted encouragement including the Iron Goddess race volunteers who were amazing. Thank you all for being so wonderful out there. Before long I was dismounting my bike and heading to T2.

At T2 I racked my bike, pulled off my helmet and jumped into my running shoes which I had laced with speed laces. These laces are wonderful because they let you secure your shoes with no tying or fumbling which is probably what would have happened to me. I took off on my road race hoping my legs would cooperate. The test came early as the course took us on an incline for the first ten minutes. I just followed my strategy of passing others and again heard myself shouting out “on your left!” over and over again. On and on I ran through trails, roads and bush. At one point in the woods I came to a steep decline and found myself throwing myself down it with a joyful whoop. I announced the “big decline” to others and as I managed my descent I heard approaching competitors scream “Oh no!” in fear of that obstacle. That pushed me on to try harder and I kept going. I wasn’t sure where the finish line was but I could hear the shouts of the crowd becoming louder as I ran. I had imagined myself numerous times coming to the finish line in a full on sprint and had wanted to do that for the last half mile or so but – and this is an important learning – I hadn’t seen the course so I didn’t know how soon to turn on the jets. As it turns out I did turn on the jets and pulled in for a decent finish but next time I will start earlier.

At the finish line I was greeted by Rachel and Tammy, my husband Robert and my brother Ron and his sons Ryan and Reid as well as Mat, Rachel’s boyfriend. Incredibly I had made it. I had survived it. I had accomplished the goal I had set for myself which was at the age of 50 to test myself in another way. I feel I did just that. There were hugs and embraces all around and then we were off in search of food – how good is that first mouthful of food after such an experience? Pretty good right?

As I returned to the transition zone on my own to gather my gear so I could pack it in the car I was overcome. Tears poured down my face – I wasn’t sure why they were happening now but I couldn’t stop them. I guess I just realized I had done what I set out to do and that it was okay not to be perfect at it. That I had struggled and battled through anyway and that I was in the company of others who had done the same. It was overwhelming to me. After I had stowed my gear and secured my bike onto my car I headed back to find the others. There was an enormous crowd near the admin area where everyone was checking out the results. I felt I had accomplished what I wanted to and didn’t need to check anything. But at the urging of my family I was pushed to the front and saw a blur of numbers. Tammy asked me “Do you see that?” I did see my name and for some reason it was first on the list in my age category. I was stunned. Really stunned. I said to my sister-in-law, “There is a mistake. Something is wrong there.” She confirmed there had been no error and that I had placed first in my age group. I was dumbfounded. The best surprise though was that Rachel placed first in her age category and that Tammy had placed 2nd in the overall Masters category. This was too much. I was more excited for them than for me but all around this was a spectacular way to have things end. We were all on a high from then on.

Even today as I unpacked my wetsuit – which was still stinky from the lake – and my cycling shoes – also stinky but not from the lake – I am as excited and overwhelmed as yesterday. I find myself not wanting to do anything to ruin my good work. I have decided that to do well in the upcoming half marathon I will lose a few more pounds to become a little tighter. That may happen anyway as I train for it. My body still feels the adrenalin rushing through it and the thrill of the pursuit. I applaud the competitors who raced with me and who overcame their fears too. Remember I went into this with a number of fears : would I crash my bike under a car again, would I become claustrophobic, would I make it? Everyone won in some way yesterday. I thank Eva Solomon for giving us the venue and the opportunity to discover something new about ourselves.

Congratulations to each and every participant. I met lots of you yesterday and heard your inspiring stories. Well done!

Thanks and congrats to Rachel and Tammy too. Tammy you inspired me to try this and encouraged me to go for it. Rachel this was redemption for you – you did it and you continue to amaze me.

Hugs and kisses all around for my nephews Ryan and Reid who supported us and shouted “FULL JAM!” all the way.

More hugs and kisses for my daughters Chelsea and Kelsey-Lynn who tattooed my racing gear with positive messages. They helped.

Thanks to Ron who put us up for three days, attended to my bike and transition zone and who shouted so loudly I felt we were still little kids playing together at 87 Sunset Boulevard in Kingston, Ontario.

Thanks to Mat who stood behind us all the way with a quiet patience. Very steadying that is. He also tweeted for me as I completed each leg of the journey to keep you updated and cheering me on!

And to my husband Robert who has helped me in so many ways become the woman I never knew I could be until I met him.

Keep it tight!
Tosca Reno

P.S. Check out the results here....


Carey said...

What a beautiful piece of writing, Tosca! My heart was racing, and I got tears in my eyes just from reading it.

I feel like my journey is tracking at almost exactly 10 years behind you, right down to our birthdays which are 1 day apart (I turned 41 on May 21). Your writing online, in "Oxygen" and "Clean Eating," and in your books keeps me inspired because there's clearly no reason I can't do it, too!

I just read in yesterday's paper that an Ironman triathlon will take place about 20 minutes from my home on my 42nd birthday, May 21, 2011. This will be the first Ironman ever in Texas, and the location couldn't be more perfect for it! What an honor it would be to cheer you on! ( for details.)

Ann said...

I'm so proud of you Tosca!! What great fun - you must feel great. Way to go!!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for setting such a great example! and to top it off you showed Your-Self who you are

Tessa said...

Hi Tosca

Like your other commenter, Carey, I got tears in my eyes just reading about your triathlon experience. This is my first time reading your blog, and an excellent introduction I must say!

I've been wanting to try a triathlon for a long time, and I think you've just given me the extra push I needed to get serious. My son (my first - yay!) is now 10 months old, so I'm a little less exhausted and a little more mentally able to launch myself toward a new goal.

Thanks for the motivation and congratulations!!!

April said...

That is amazing - Congratulations! I too got all teary-eyed reading your recount of the race. I've always wanted to do something like that, but I don't get along with bikes and I am a piss-poor swimmer so I sometimes fear it will never be. Very inspiring.

Hugs ♥

Cori said...

Thanks for sharing this, Tosca. What a beautiful and inspiring accomplishment. I recently became an empty-nester, turned 46, and moved - with my husband - a state away from our family. I'm feeling the need to ... something. I'm grateful I discovered your blog and way of life; perhaps it's part of the inspiration I need.

Sandra said...

I've been reading your Blog for ages but never commented...what an inspiration for us over-40's you are! Thanks to your generous sharing of your experiences, I now find myself thinking that I can do anything I set my mind to. Tears of joy all the way from the Blue Mountains in Sydney, Australia.

Pensguys said...

I'd like to know what you ate for breakfast that day. I'm experimenting with different foods before my long runs each week.

You did GREAT!!!! I'm so excited for you! I could feel the emotion and especially when you were crying for "no reason". I did that after completing my first half marathon...just overwhelmed with emotion.

Holly said...

Dear Tosca,

Thank you so much for writing your entire experience during your tri from start to finish. You amaze me and inspire me in ways most cannot even come close to. I teared up too several times reading this, but better yet, I imagined myself pushing myself to a similar level of contest and achievement. Anything is really, truly possible, and I am grateful to women like you who prove it time and time again.

Additionally, our love stories with our husbands, by the way, mirror very closely (VERY closely!), so I was touched by what you wrote for Robert as well because I can totally relate! Such a beautiful thing to read and feel. We are lucky women!

Great work, and I'm so excited to stay tuned on your half marathon training and conquer.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on finishing and major congrats on the 1st place finish in your age group! That's awesome!!

spotlessmind said...

Congrats Tosca!! You're an inspiration.

Martta said...

Wow, exciting reading that took by breath! Congratulations to you and Rachel, superb!

This summer I will take time to excercise and build up my shape; have suffered from sports injuries and it feels and shows. Thanks for pushing with your example.

Enjoy sun, summer and life!

Stefania (Ingredients for Life) said...

Absolutely amazing!

Liz said...

great job Tosca! The same thing happened to my husband during the swim at his first tri. He felt like he could not get air and like you, is a great swimmer. Congrats on winning your age bracket, I see a new hobby for you!

P.S. made your banana bread yesterday. the best!!!

Amanda said...

Thank you so much! I've been on the edge of my seat since saturday waiting for your post! You are an inspiration-I was telling everyone I know on saturday-Tosca is doing a tri today!! and coming in first in your age group-what an accomplishment! Ironwoman here you come!!!

Congrats again,

Amanda said...

oh and p.s. after I ran my first marathon i started uncontrolably balling crying at the finish line for no reason-I think its the realization that you finished because I definitely had an inner fear deep down the entire time that I wouldn't finish. I was just overcome with emotion at the end. I'm glad I'm not the only one!

Congrats again,

Anonymous said...

I so loved reading this and the raw emotions that you shared. I am planning my first Triathlon next year (this year is a full marathon) and the swimming is my greatest fear. I have an irrational fear of dark water. I'm a decent swimmer so I'm positive I can overcome this. I don't want my fear to be stronger than my desire to do something. It was so reassuring to read about what you did in the water to calm yourself and keep your focus.

Beth said...

BIG, BIG Congratulations!
And just as a side note, that post was really well written. I was right there with you every leg of your tri.

Anonymous said...

I set out to train for a tri 3 and a half years ago, and i hurt my knee. Barely have been able to run since then, and put on about 25 pounds. The day i realized i went from working out 4 hours a day to not really being able to walk was hard... and so i truely feel your joy in that you got to finish one. My goal is to do one in the future, in the best shape of my life.. the goal is to lose 70-80 pounds first. Your clean eating advice in books and otherwise is so helpful... i really dont know what fitness-loving women like myself would do without you. What a wonderful way God has chosen to use you in this life :)

sharon said...

you are really a great person and a good example for everyone.

The Strongs said...

Congratulations Tosca, all of your hard work has paid off. Emotions are a funny thing. I, too, cried after completing my first marathon. The tears did not flow right away. They came about an hour after the finish line when I finally found my husband in the crowd. I had no idea where they were coming from, but I could not stop them.

Thank you for your continued writing and sharing. It is very inspiring. Your hard work and dedication never cease to amaze me!

Gail K said...

Congrats, I too did my first triathalon in June at age 55. I also experienced the anxiety in the water. It still is such an awesome thought that I did it! I have thirty pounds to lose that have haunted me for the last 25 years. These pounds are a much greater mountain for me than even the triathalon. With the help of your site......I am going to do it!

TriGal said...

Congrats Tosca on your first are amazing to place first in your age group on your first one! I have been doing triathlons for 10 years, and I'm turning 48 next week. My strongest years in triathlon were in 2003-2004 when I did a full ironman and was the leanest and best condition of my life. Since then I've been through 4 ear surgeries and have delveloped ashtma...and have gained 25 pounds. I have been working very hard to get my conditioning back, in fact I just completed the Ironman Branson 70.3 (half ironman) race last weekend. My goal is to come in much leaner (lose this extra weight) and be a lot better conditioned next year. I have a lot of your Eat Clean books, you have inspired me to finally get with the program and Eat Clean so that I can increase my obviously works for you! Thanks Tosca!
Cheryl Shakespeare