The Scarlet Letter A

Athena, the goddess of justice, wisdom, war, and… plus-sized women participating in endurance sports. 

500 meter open-water swim. 12 mile bike ride. 5K run.

I was tattooed with the number 824 and a big letter A to represent Athena. To compete in the Athena category, you must be a female over 150 pounds. I guess triathletes are typically very slim as I would never call 150 pounds heavy for a female. The Clydesdale division, “the big boys” as one Clydesdale called it, is for men over 200 pounds. We were our own separate wave start.

At 5:50am on race day, my bf dropped me and the bike off, wished me luck, and went to spectate. I set up my transition site, donned my wetsuit (wetsuit – 1; LP – 2), and waited for our wave to start. When it was time for the As and Cs to get into the water, they instructed us to jump right in – “No dallying.” And so, I hopped into the 60-degree, salty Chesapeake Bay water and bobbed for two minutes. Someone told their friend to “sight to the towers.” I found that helpful advice…and what seemed like no time at all, we were off.

I panicked. Again. I thought I could doggie paddle my 500 meter swim. Well, technically, I could have if I wanted to, but I was going nowhere fast. I took mouthfulls of disgusting water, I got shoved aside, and I stopped swimming altogether. It was about 50 meters out when I decided, if I was going to make it, I needed to freestyle. Stroke, stroke, breath. Stroke, stroke, breath. Not typical for my freestyle, but I needed more Oxygen because I was so nervous. Before I knew it, I was passing some stragglers in the water. I got to the first turn and heard the horn for the next wave. Stroke, stroke, breath. My swimming wasn’t pretty, and any stroke coach would have been horrified, but I had made it through one piece.

I transitioned to the bike relatively easily. The wetsuit came off without a problem, and I was ready to tackle the bike portion. I saw the bf and gave him a smile and a high-five, and began pedaling. There was a small incline leading up to mile 2, The Bridge. I down -shifted, pedaled slowly, and made it over. I was being passed, but I didn’t care. My goal was to just get through this portion of the race.

As I approached the second hill, I tried shifting from gear 2 to 1, and my chain slipped off. I stopped, calmly put the chain back onto gear 1, and with grease-covered hands I continued on. I shifted back to gear 2, and decided that was going to be my gear for the entire race, knowing gear 1 would make the hills easier. (It seems my bike doesn’t like this Athena mashing hard on hills.) As I circled back, the theme song to Big Red gum (80’s throwback, holla!) came into my head. Right then and there, I nicknamed my bike “Big Red” and sung to myself for the remaining 7 miles, “So bike a litter longer, make it last a little longer, Longer with Big Red!”

I was relieved to see when I was starting loop 2, some triathletes were starting their first loop on the course! As I was going over the bridge for the third time, I saw some Athena walking her bike over the bridge, and I was then really proud of myself for pushing on without walking. The other cyclists were very friendly as they passed, many encouraging me to keep it up. After what seemed like forever, the bike portion was finished.

I transitioned to the run with rubber legs. My legs were completely exhausted, and I felt like I was shuffling more than actually running. I didn’t even notice the hill right at the beginning of the run because my legs felt so weird. There were volunteers giving gummy bears at the top of the hill, so I took a few and plodded on. Runners were also very encouraging, cheering on those they passed. I heard a few, “We Are…” and I yelled back, “Penn State!” I had the biggest smile on my face when I passed the two-mile mark. I ran down the hill (which I thought was pretty sizable, and happy I didn’t remember going up it), and was waving to the spectators cheering us on. I came up to the finish line and finished strong. I had done it!

2:10:36. 14:18 – 500 meter swim; 1:10:01 – 12 mile bike;  38:01 – 5K run.

I was pleased with my swim and run times, and I definitely have room for improvement on the cycling. But, I was happy to have just finished on my own two feet, I can save the PRs for future races. I am a triathlete!

I am planning to compete in the Super Summer Sprint Triathlon in Manassas in August, and the Presque Isle Triathlon in Erie if anyone wishes to join me! 😀

Did you get any activity in this weekend?


Oh, the Places You Will Go

When I travel, I usually have some preconceived notion about what I will see – especially when it comes to famous places.

When I was 8 or 9 years old, my mom, grandfather, and I took a trip to DC. I distinctly remember walking past the White House with my grandfather. My first impression of the White House?

“Is that all? Our house is bigger than the White House!”

Yes, I actually said that. Out loud. With lots of other tourists around. I guess I had a bit of a depth perception problem, because our house was definitely NOT larger than the White House.

Then, when I was in Peace Corps, my friends and I took a trip to Egypt to see the Pyramids at Giza. I thought it was completely in the desert, far away from Cairo. It would take hours to get there. We would even need to ride camels to get close to the Pyramids.

The desert part is true enough.

It wasn’t until I saw the Pyramids in person that I realized that Cairo has sprawled out to meet them. The Sphynx overlooks a KFC. There is a stadium was being build practically right beside the Pyramids. NOT what I had expected.

My most recent trip was to the Alamo. I guess that last time I thought of the Alamo, it was still the 1800s, in the middle of the dessert, and people like Davy Crocket were still living there.

I was shocked, shocked I tell you, that the Alamo was in the middle of San Antonio. If you look really carefully, you can see a sign for the Crocket Hotel right behind the Alamo.

My warped perception did not decrease their coolness factor in my mind. It is just eye-opening when you have always thought about these places in a certain light, only to find the reality is much different.

Have you ever been surprised by a famous place?

Wetsuit – 1; LP – 1

As some of you may recall, I am participating in my first full-sprint triathlon in less than two weeks. (Yikes!) I had a mini-melt down over the ordeal a few weeks ago when I realized I needed to fit my plus-sized body into a wetsuit to race in Mid-Atlantic waters in May.

So, I did some recon and decided to rent a wetsuit from an online provider rather than from a local store. I was not convinced that a local store would be able to provide me with a wetsuit that was LP-sized. The online rental place advertised suits for up to 250-pounds of triathlete goodness (and was cheaper) – I was sold.

The suit arrived on Monday and I was a bit hesitant to try it on. What if my worst fears were confirmed? It looked to be LP-sized, and I had enough time to exchange it if necessary. Bootsie sat in the living room while the ordeal began.

I guess the best way to describe me getting into a wetsuit is stuffing sausage into a casing. Rolls in my legs that I didn’t know existed suddenly became my stomach. My stomach flab pushed up and became back flab. Back flab oozed over the sides and eventually got stuffed around front. In essence, I stuffed my body into that sucker. After a good 5 minute sweat session, I tried to zip ‘er up. Nope. I stuffed more overflow flab places, and still couldn’t get it. Shit. I tried 3 or more times zipping, and almost resigned myself to the wetsuit didn’t fit.

Then, I read the instructions. Title: “Be ready for a workout!”

“After stepping in, set the bottom of each leg well above the ankle. Grasp the inside of the suit as you pull it up. Maximize the room in your suit’s shoulders! Carefully (without using your fingernails), inch the suit up both legs – pantyhose style – repeatedly until you can’t move any more material upward and the suit is as snug in the crotch as it can be. Inch the suit to shoulders. Get help zipping the suit! If no one is available, stand straight with zip pull in hand, push chest out and shoulder blades together. We have a demonstration video on our website.”

Yeah. After attempt 1 and reading the instructions, I determined the wetsuit won this round.

Round 2 happened at 5am Tuesday morning. I was refreshed and determined to figure out if this thing actually fits. I had watched the online video where the super skinny model did not have to stuff her body into the suit. Nevertheless, I tried again. Feet in. Stuffing commenced. Stomach stuffed. Back stuffed. Shoulders set. Let’s zip. I arched, I squeezed shoulder blades, and I pulled the zipper. Finally, after 3 minutes, I got the sucker up!

Fortunately, the picture quality is so poor you cannot see my bright red face with beads of sweat dripping down it as a result of the wetsuit struggle.

Swimming? Yeaaaaaah. About that. I felt a bit constricted, so I may very well doggy paddle the damned race.

Getting the suit off took almost as long as putting it on. I am more than slightly concerned how this will play out in an actual race situation. Hot, wet, tired, sticky, and no using fingernails….we shall see about that one.

Alas, the wetsuit and I are tied after two battles. There are three more showdowns, so it is still anyone’s game!