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Celebrating the Iron Girl TRI Journey

Columbia, MD
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Somewhere mid-way through endless hours of swimming, freestyling, studying technique, breathing efficiently, bicycling, hill repeats, interval training, running…fast running….and just thinking that we are running fast….for one very long week in early July….time stopped.  Training stopped.  Perspectives changed…and not a whole lot about anything that we once thought “mattered”….mattered any longer.
When the Emergency Room physician first discovered the large mass in TriSista Jill’s lungs — there was name dropping.  The “C” word.  It was a game changer….and suddenly we were all an even tighter knit group of friends-and-family.   There was a lot of Google medical research done by not-so-medical-family-members….text messages averaged 100 per day….and we looked for a sign…any sign…of hope.  We hoped someone in our network might include some kick-ass doctor at Hopkins.   We hoped for a new reality.   And suddenly, 3 little birds appeared.
The first sign occurred while stimulating the economy at Starbucks.     As I waited to be served an extra-dosage latta-soy-latte….the hub of the coffee grinders and cash registers hushed….and the chorus line of Bob Marley’s tune….repeated over and over.  Who listens to the music at Starbucks – when you are in a rush for caffeine?  Yet, some force….beyond logic…was begging me to pay attention.   This was a message for our TriSista Jill….and in a strange surreal twist, that turns logical thinkers into head-scratchers – the message was clear.  “Every little thing is gonna be all right”.
For the next 3 days, the scene repeated itself at Starbucks.  Each day….the same Bob Marley tune was playing.   How is that possible?  And sure enough, with the power of all of the TriSista’s, friends-n-family positive thoughts….OK – AND with the help of some kick-ass doctor at Hopkins….Jill’s diagnosis changed from the “C” word….to something akin to a medical turd caused by too much open water swimming near chicken farms on the Gunpowder River.
In case you are getting bleary-eyed, and wondering if this year’s Iron Girl Columbia TRI Blog is a bit of a ‘tear jerker’….don’t you worry.    With a new lease on life, TriSista Jill was not about to let the rest of us off the hook.   Oh no.  That week off of training….the luxury of sleeping in until 6AM….those days were over.
Thanks to Patty (who we recently discovered is the state champion for dead-lifting farm equipment in Maryland), a new watering hole was discovered.  Located west of Frederick, was a clean lake, shallow (uber important – jus sayn;-), with live fish, under-water-visibility – and no floating bird feathers or duck poo.  This became our open water swim training grounds.   Every weekend, we car-pooled (no pun intended 😉 an hour-plus drive….to wait another hour plus to get into the popular crowded park….to swim 30 plus minutes….inhale food an hour plus at the Myersville diner….and add another hour plus drive to return home.   Never once did we question the logic of this training routine.   We’re triSistas….this is what we do.

South of the border (North Carolina)….TriSistas Holly and Shelby had ramped up their training program to new heights.  By Golly Ms. Holly could be seen puttin’ on the ritz (code for “makeup”) both before and after training bricks.   Apparently Holly has designed a special “speed cream”, that you work up into a lather, plaster it onto any slow moving body parts – and instantly – you move “slick”.  She did not share her speed cream with the rest of us, but we will be watching her closely from now on.

Shelby had gotten herself an iPod.   She discovered that if you crank up the volume on your iPod, you no longer hear your body complaining about pain.   Let’s just say that Shelby got a little too carried away with the volume control.  When her foot finally broke with a stress fracture….during the final leg of her first ‘southern belle’ triathlon, she didn’t hear it coming.   Shelby screamed for help – and two volunteers rushed to her rescue.  Rushing, in an elderly sort of way.  The first volunteer – was in his early 90’s….and the second was closer to 100.  Never underestimate a senior man over the age of 90 who volunteers for an all-women’s triathlon.  They know exactly what they are doing.  5-6 hours later (who’s counting?), they took turns holding Shelby’s hand.  While icing her foot may have been more effective, clearly the situation was a cluster, and Shelby’s IG debut was put on temporary pause.
In the mid-Atlantic, summer temperatures reach record highs.   The norm, is 100 degrees, with a heat index well into the 120’s.   Outdoor pools baked in the extreme heat, and morphed into large saunas filled with too many humans.   Every morning, at OH-DARK-thirty – we dragged ourselves out of bed (because Jill insisted – jus sayn 😉….and pushed ourselves to swim…bike and run.   With Jill’s lung turd keeping her oxygen capacity down to the 60% level….this just meant that she needed to take moments here-n-there….to hack up a hairball…and catch her breath.  All I can say, is when her TT starts (code for “Turd Treatment”), and Jill’s lungs are back to 100%….I’m gonna need to borrow Holly’s speed cream.  While Tami and I didn’t have the “lung capacity issue”, we were more than happy that our training regimen included all of Jill’s breath catching breaks.
By 0400 Sunday August 21….the TriSista slumber party had come to a end.   Chuck was brewing multiple pots of coffee for the slumber-girls and getting the latest internet weather reports.  Jill, had apparently taken my queue from our last IronGirl event in Atlanta…and slept the night in her TRI clothing.  It’s very efficient.  Outta bed…and ready to go.  Jane consumed a protein drink and a large bottle of crystal light….while working on juju for a rain-thunder-lightening dance that could nix the swim. Tami changed from jammies to TRI skins in the hallway, and ate exactly 1 teaspoon of peanut butter and 3 crumbs of bread.  She then managed to lose her bike number…assigned swim cap….and timing chip.  The rest of us went into a frenzy trying to locate all of Tami’s gear.  Shelby was busy tending to her foot cast, and lamented how much she would miss not being able to swim in .62 miles of pond scum.  Laura, our sign artist, without even a sip of caffeine…designed 2 picassa posters in support of the TriSistas.  ByGolly MsHolly had no time for breakfast. With a flick of the wrist, a bat of the eye, and a flick of the hair….it was makeup time – and out came the speed cream lather.
By 5:30AM…we were bustling in the dark transition area….and proceeded to get “mechanical” with our bikes.  Getting “mechanical” goes something like this:   “How much air should I put in my tires”…..”I dunno…what does it say on the tire”…..”I can’t read it in the dark”……”You wanna guess?”…..”How does 90 sound to you?”…..”Sounds good to me”….”let’s give it a go”…..”How do I know when I’ve put in 90 pounds”….”Does anyone have a tire pump”….and on an on.    You’d have to agree….this is some world class bike “mechanic-ing”!
Just moments before the 7AM triathlon start….we were greeted with the most delightful popup thunder and lightening storm….with buckets of rain.  Granted, not everyone was ecstatic to see the weather situation unfold….but I held out one last bit of hope that the swim portion of the TRI would get cancelled.  No such luck.   With a 15 minute rain delay….our swim waves were called to the water.
Holly’s wave first….and she glides through the water….makeup intact…swimming like a fish….with speed cream.   Jill, Tami and I are next.  Jill is our designated swim angel…and Tami and I put up a pout each step further away from shore.   The role of a swim angel, is to keep your sinking ass from drowning, point out obstacles (i.e. other women who swim worse than you) and keep you on course (i.e. away from the shoreline snapping turtles and snakes) and close to the buoys.   The role of Tami and I….is to stay as far away as possible from all swim obstacles….even if that means swimming an extra mile or 2.   Swim conversations would go like this:
Swim Angel Jill:   “Come this way (substitute name here — Sissy or Tami)….closer to the buoys”
Jane (Sissy):   “ok”…..and continue on a course away from the buoys….toward land
Tami:   after 3 or 4 freestyle strokes…..”we’re fine”….and back to head in the water….with no course correction
Despite our obstinate behavior….our swim angel brilliantly guided us to the swim course finish line.  The 3 of us were beaming from ear-2-ear….as if we had completed the entire event.  We still had the bike…and run….and none of us were wearing Holly’s speed cream!   We had some work to do.
Our plan…was to finish – together.  Jill and Jane would take down the bike course….and Tami would catch us all on the run.   Team J&J work the bike course like this:    Jane races up the hill on “Black Beauty” (yes, I name my bikes)….and passes 25 women…..and Jill flies down the next hill passing 25 more women.   This tag-team effort hurts some feelings…especially those women in the younger age categories…and they eventually wear out trying to chase us down.  OK OK….maybe this is not very “nice”….but hey Ms. By Golly had all the speed cream!   We had to do “something”!
Off the bike course….into the transition area…for a quick change into running shoes.  Jill’s lung turd…reared it’s ugly head…and insisted that Jill slow it down…and get oxygen. It was a moment to reflect.  6 weeks ago…the diagnosis could have been much worse.  How incredibly amazing — just to be participating….and soon to be finishing –  the Iron Girl TRI.

All of the triSistas finished their Iron Girl journey – and it was big smiles at the finish line.  This year’s “record buster” award goes to ByGolly MsHolly — who set a personal best record – beating her prior PR by 25 minutes.   That is no easy feat – tho maybe you could share with us some of your speed cream next time?….jus sayn 😉

Setting goals….overcoming obstacles…picking up the pieces…pushing to get fit ….achieving…. believing…. inspiring…. and knowing – that “Every little thing..is gonna be all right“.   Congratulations to all the TriSista’s – to their amazing stories and journeys.
L–>R   Holly, Patty, Tami, Jane, Jill
Special thanks….
Bro Chuck…for putting up with all of us during IG slumber weekend….making coffee…chasing us around on event day….and for all of the fabulous pictures!
Chuck & Jill – for hosting the slumber party & Afta Party
Paddy….for enduring my crazy swim obsession over the past year!
Laura…for being great support to all of us, holding your mom’s makeup bag, signage….and joining the TRIsista hood next yea
Linda & Rick – for joining the TriSista’s & TriMista’s this year…getting up early and chasing us around on the IG course – you guys rock!
Shelby – volunteering at the finish line….and waiting patiently for her turn….it will come!
The ‘Hood…
TriSista’s:   Jill, Jane, Tami, Holly, Shelby, Patty, Eliott, Trisha, Deb, Melody, Kim, Maria, Julie, Linda, Minh, Emma, Lamie
TriMista’s:  Chuck, Paddy, Rick, Owen, Trung, Bi