Time is speeding by and the South Beach Triathlon is around the corner. This race will be unlike any other for me as I will be Kerry Gruson’s able body in the half mile swim, nineteen mile bike and four mile run set for April 6. We call this project ThumbsUp, since it’s one of Kerry’s life mottos. She became quadriplegic after a horrific incident, yet her attitude and outlook on life is undeniably inspiring. You can read more here.
Many of you have asked about my training. It’s really quite simple: I need to get stronger at each discipline, not faster. And so this is a perfect challenge for me.
I am not a fast triathlete, nor am I motivated to become faster. By itself, a race time is not enough to get me out of bed and do the workouts on my schedule. I noticed this for the Miami Marathon; my lazy nature was getting the best of me. But once I decided to run it fundraising for Brianna, a little girl in Dreamer’s class waiting for a heart transplant, I became less resistant to the actual training. Where the time goal left a hole, the cause filled a gap.
Another thing that gets me out the door and training is fear: “what if I can’t do it?” That little doubt that persecutes me also serves a purpose; and there is plenty of that for the South Beach Triathlon especially since a portion of the run will be on sand. I add to these Kerry, who as far as athletes go, is practically my opposite. She is a risk taker, a fearless competitor and she wants to win. Combined, I have a reason to plan my entire day around my training, and to sacrifice a Saturday night for an early Sunday session. Now, I am one motivated Mami.
I put my swim in the hands of Liliana Montes who runs a program out of the Key Biscayne Community Center, the bike in the hands of Andreas Heuser of Ultrabikex, and the run in the hands of Joey our “alpha wolf” at Wolfpack Tri. I also built strength at Fitness Together with two personal training sessions a week. I have been training hard, and I feel stronger but I also feel beat up.
A different sort of beat up then when I was training for Ironman Florida. There, tired felt like energy was zapped from my body, taken by some extra terrestrial. I wasn’t necessarily sore, but rather exhausted. Here, tired feels older, like my body is falling apart. It isn’t of course, but things hurt; either my rotator cuff, quads or hip but it seems like something is always bothering me. Building strength takes a toll. But one I happily pay.
Because I feel stronger than ever. Not faster, but definitely stronger.
And this week I put my training to the test.
For the swim, Lilly created an open water workout and we met on the beach. She swam next to me for a while and I realized, pulling the kayak was much easier than pulling a parachute Lilly had me training with at the pool. She then got on the kayak and it didn’t make much of a difference. Then, another friend got on the kayak and I was able to pull her as well. Holy moly. Swimming was going to be fine. Next week, we get Kerry on it.
We still need to figure out the logistics of how to get Kerry in the kayak safely, either inside or outside of the water. But at least I know I can pull her and chances are we won’t drown.
The bike was another story. I borrowed 95 pounds worth of weights from Tomas at TFIT 360, put in on our carrier, the WIKE, and set to the road. It didn’t go very well. The WIKE would pull me back as I tried to inch forward. I labeled it the “boing boing” as it was like riding with bungee chords. Handling was also a problem; I felt too wobbly to get a drink without stopping, and felt unsteady on the turns. Though things were smoother by mile seven, the boing boing was draining and worrisome.
I panicked, called Kerry and asked if we could ride together. Being Kerry, she said of course and we set out for a ten miler. A friend suggested that the boing boing is created by dead spots on my pedal stroke, essentially, the bike was too heavy. If I changed gears and increased my cadence, the boing boing might decrease. She was right and things were much smoother. I realized Kerry hadn’t been on a bike since the 1970s. It was a special moment for both of us … more on that on a different post.
Yet I was drained after ten miles, and the race is nineteen so we need more practice. The South Beach Triathlon also includes some bridges and I had a mental block with those. What if I can’t get Kerry to the top of the bridge? What if I can’t handle the bike on the way down? What if, what if what if. So I asked my friend Carol if she could go with me to the William Powell bridge on the Rickenbacker Causeway. This is the highest point we have here in Miami. It runs a little shy of a mile with a 4% incline.
I was nervous and waking up to a windy morning didn’t help my cause. I borrowed the weights from TFIT 360 again, and set out to conquer Mount Miami.
We met about half mile from the bridge, and my voice cracked as I tried to hide my tears behind the sunglasses. Carol encouraged me, and when for one second I thought about reducing the amount of weight she said “make it as hard as possible, that way you know you can handle it.” I put all 95 pounds and we set off.
Heading westbound we faced the wind. I put my head down, shifted gears as we approached and prayed to any God that would listen. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t too hard either. I wasn’t panting for air or felt my legs burn enough that I could not keep pedaling. I’ve struggled much more on other climbs. I learned that all the time and effort spent with Andreas at the Ultrabikex Studio had indeed worked! I could get up that thing. The way down wasn’t a problem either, the WIKE doesn’t come crashing into you but then again, I hit the brakes the whole way down.
And finally came the run. I had already run with Kerry, as you can read here, so this has been the forgotten discipline of our road to the South Beach Triathlon. I was told by the race organizers to expect close to 1.5 miles of sand. In case you don’t know … wheels don’t roll well in the sand. It is going to be difficult, there is no way I will be able to run it, so I am shooting for a fast walk. And I have a plan B. At the race, there will always be someone with us. If the sand gets to be too much, that person will take over for a bit. The important thing here is for Kerry to finish, not that I am the only person racing with her.
After this week I know that I am strong enough to go the distance. I couldn’t trust my training without testing it, and now I know it’s there.
Next week will be about training with Kerry as much as possible. We will be doing our first brick workout (21 mile ride then 1.5 mile run), and getting her on the kayak. We will be practicing not only to build endurance, but to figure out the details of how everything will actually work. I want to get to the point where I am confident so that on race day we can focus on smiling and spreading our ThumbsUp message. I am quite happy to give up fear as a motivator for this one.
As always thank you to our sponsors Ultrabikex Studio and See Me In The Dark for your support without which, none of this would be possible. Want to help and don’t know how? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.