Sunday, January 1, 2012

An Angel in My Corner

2011 was the year I wanted to improve as an athlete. Being a 47 year old mom way past her prime, I knew improving as an athlete meant competing against myself. Going in with the attitude that I just wanted to shave minutes off my previous sprint tri time helped me focus on my weak areas and put time into those, which meant mostly the swimming and the running.  2010 was the year for my first sprint tri, so an easy goal to set was to improve upon the time I'd achieved for that one and only attempt. 2010 was also the year I began cycling longer distances, and by the end of October, I knew I wanted to continue cycling, but on a better bike. While I enjoy swimming and can tolerate the running, I learned cycling is where my heart is.

I was determined, though, to give the sprint tri another go to see if I could improve, and I did: 3 times. The time I posted for my very first sprint tri was 1:43. In 2011, I really wanted to shave 15 minutes off. I wasn't sure if I could do this as I'm a slow, slow runner. I figured I could shave off a couple minutes in the swim, and I was gunning for shaving off 10 minutes on the bike, but at the back of my mind swirled the fear of the run. When I crossed the finish line for the event, I checked my watch and saw 1:28. I'd done it, just barely: 15 minutes off my previous sprint tri time.

Two weeks later I was participating in another sprint tri. Could I take more minutes off my best time? I was hoping for shaving another minute or two. I finished this tri at 1:22. Six more minutes? Seriously? And with that huge hill at the end of the 5k that I mostly walked? I was floating afterward, and no one could take the grin off my face when I heard my name called for second place in my age group.

Two weeks later I was participating in yet another sprint tri, the place where my sprint tri days all began in 2010. My goal was to finish faster than I had the year before, and I did, shaving off 20 minutes from my previous year's time. Where in 2010 I wasn't in the top five in my age group, in 2011 I placed second.

With three sprint tri's under my belt by May 1st, I decided I'd accomplished what I set out to do and turned my attention to cycling. I set a goal of completing three century rides. The first was in June, and when I crossed the finish line, I had a tough time keeping the tears in check. While I'd been cycling 35, 40, and 60 miles before doing the century, I didn't realize just how much more difficult 100 miles was going to be. The last 15 miles of the ride I just wanted to quit. The combination of rolling hills and a pretty good headwind made for a painful ride. I kept on, though. If there one thing I'm not that's a quitter.

After my first century, I upped my mileage, cycling nearly every day, going anywhere from 50-80 miles a day. My family very quickly got used to me leaving out at 5 a.m. and returning around 11 or noon. I even cycled from my home to my parents' home a State away, 133 miles. By my second century attempt, I was prepared much better both emotionally and physically. I finished up my century rides by completing my last with an average speed of 17 mph, cycling alone. When a member of a peloton comes up to you after a ride and pats you on the back for doing so well and doing it alone, that's a real compliment.

All in all, 2011 was a good year for me athletically. I accomplished all of my goals and am very happy about doing so. And though 2011 ended on an extremely sad note with Mom's death just before Christmas, I've set my sights on summer 2012, the Bike the US for MS ride, my gift to Mom and all those who are fighting multiple sclerosis. I'm determined to use these next five months to get into "fighting shape." Swimming, running, cycling, and weights are in my immediate future. A serious, controlled diet is planned, but when you live with others who aren't on the same page when it comes to what's considered healthful, staying on track can be difficult. I know I have an angel in my corner, though, and with her help I'm going to make 2012 my best year yet.

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