Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Eagleman 70.3- A Newbie's Perspective:)

In the spirit of family, I figured that we could make Eagleman a family blog. I wrote yesterday from the Sherpa's perspective and today's blog will be written by Genny from the newbie's standpoint. Without further ado, here's Genny!

I can’t wait to burn my bike: One woman’s journey to thirty

On my 29th birthday I decided that I needed a goal. I had recently gotten married, bought a house, and was working the daily grind. My husband and I were not ready for the “kid talk” yet so I needed a challenge, something to strive for, and something to tell me that another year older will only bring on bigger and better things.

My family was bred to run. I always say that the Cullen’s have genes that are made up of part determination and part crazy. My older sister turned Professional Triathlete last year and has been becoming increasingly better with age. My younger sister recently qualified for the Half Iron World Championships in Las Vegas. My sisters always came home with medals and personal records and I was content with standing on the side lines watching and enjoying my active social life. I really had no desire to do a Half Iron because I really did not believe that I could do it. But what better accomplishment can you have if you complete something you thought was unattainable? In October 2012, I registered for Eagleman 70.3. And so began my journey.

I was extremely fortunate to convince my brother-in-law, Danny Ferreira, to coach me for this race. I will from here on out call him my coach because he truly did get me through this race and I will be forever thankful for that. Training started in November and I really eased into it. I asked my coach if I could have Mondays and Fridays off from training. I knew myself and if I didn’t have off days I would have burnt out very quickly. My coach frowned upon this, but also knew me well enough to agree[EDITOR'S NOTE: not only did she have Monday and Fridays off, she also had to skip a few workouts for concerts, and beer fest-see you can train for a triathlon and still have a life:) ]. Throughout my training I had to overcome a series of obstacles. I had endured three sinus infections, later finding out that I have a severely deviated septum. For the entire winter I also biked on the trainer not getting outside until early spring. Starting my training off with 2+ hours on the indoor trainer was more than brutal. I remember repeating over and over again in my head while I stared at the same spot in our backyard, “I can’t wait to burn my bike.” I had images of me finishing the race, running over to my bike, dumping gasoline on it and watching it burn in a fiery blaze as I watched and let out an evil cackle. I was not a biker and the trainer only confirmed this. Not only was the trainer boring, but come to find out, more difficult than biking on the road.

As soon as I got out on the road, my luck didn’t change much. On one of my harder bike workouts I ran over glass and blew out my back tire. “Are you F’ing kidding me!?” I came back to the house crying and called my coach so he could talk me off the ledge. After replacing my tire I had to pull it together emotionally. I was so concerned about making my family proud of me that I would get extremely upset if I had a bad workout or if I had to miss a workout. I didn’t want to be the only sister in the family that couldn’t do this race. My thoughts throughout my training revolved around my time and what my family would think of me if I bonked or couldn’t finish the race. However, a few weeks before the race, I came across an article in Time magazine. It quoted someone saying “Climb the mountain so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.” This meant so much to me on so many different levels. I had been so concerned this entire time about making my family proud and what they would think of me and less concerned about my personal accomplishment. I am doing this for me. Not for anybody else. This perspective helped me tremendously.
The Iron Family

Brandon apparently lost interest in the stencils after the first poster:)

The last few weeks of training were motivating. I felt myself getting stronger and faster and I enjoyed my long workouts knowing that I could finish the race even if it were the next day. As the race day approached I was excited knowing that both my sisters and my cousin were all competing in it as well. What a way to accomplish a goal knowing that your family is out there on the race course with you.
Deidre and Genny-relaxing pre-race

Race day started at 4:00AM. We drove to Cambridge, Maryland and set up transition. Unfortunately, my cousin, younger sister and I had late heats so we didn’t start until 7:50, 8:25 and 8:35, while my older sister started at 6:50 with the Pro Women. The down time was both good and bad. I hit up the port-o-john multiple times, which proved to be beneficial later, but it also increased my nerves especially watching Amber come out of the swim looking tired and swimming a couple minutes slower than last year. Word was spreading that the swim course was slightly longer than 1.2 miles. Zoinks.

Genny out of the swim- smiling

At 8:25 I creeped into the water with my age group trying to stay calm and focused. This is it. I had trained for this for seven months. Just have fun! As we waited to take off, the announcer called out “90 seconds ladies.” I said “OK, one more tightening of my goggles”…Snap! Oh sweet Jalissa, my band just snapped. As I took a look at the band, luckily it just came out of the loop and I just had to re-loop it. “30 seconds ladies,” says the announcer. “All right asshole I get it, we’re taking off soon.” If only my hands would stop shaking so I can get this in. Phew, I got it in and it felt tight. Our heat took off and only a bit of water trickled in my goggles. As long as it doesn’t overflow I’m good. Hopefully I don’t get pink eye from the swill we are swimming in. The swim was tough and I got pulled under once and knocked on the head twice, but I felt strong in the water and I didn’t let myself panic.
Genny starting the bike smiling

I got out of the water at a slower time than I thought, but I didn’t drown! Success. I patted myself on the back as I ran down the shoot to the transition. Nothing wrong with a little positive reinforcement. I also saw my husband, coach and family cheering me on. Awesome. I hopped on the bike and started the 56 miles. The course took you out to marsh land where there were little cars and no people except for the racers. I kept thinking to myself, just enjoy every minute of this. I looked around and took in the views. It was beautiful and not that sunny. I choked down a couple GU’s, which gave me severe heartburn, and tried to get my legs loosened up. Twenty miles into the bike I was not feeling great. My heartburn and the Choptank river water were getting the best of my digestion. I felt slow and lethargic. Then, I looked up ahead and, no joke, saw a turtle crossing the road in front of me. If that wasn’t symbolism, I don’t know what is. I continued to chug along on the bike until I had about 17 miles left. I don’t know why, but I felt amazing all of a sudden. I grinded out the last 17 miles and came into the transition with a smile on my face. I knew my strength was running so when I came into the bike transition I was in celebration station. However, as soon as I got to mile one of the run, I was violently pushed out of celebration station and I skidded, bumped, and face-planted into realization station. Oh right, I have a half marathon to complete.
Genny finishing the bike still smiling

The run was nothing more than a mental battle. The sun came out full blast and there was zero shade. I used each water station to re-hydrate and pour ice down my shirt. Everyone on the course was very friendly and “Nice Job” and “Great pace” kept me going. I was also motivated by looking at the ages on some runners and seeing the 70+ age groupers out there getting it done. Wow. If they can do it, I can do it.

Smiling while working hard seems to run in the family

I pushed hard through the last three miles as my husband met me at the last quarter of a mile and ran with me. I saw my friends and family cheering me on and I was so emotional that I wanted to cry. The last 200 yards my coach yells out, “Genny, you need to pass three people before the finish!” Seriously!? I gathered up all my strength and made it past two people finishing as strong as I could.
Genny kicking hard to the finish!
70.3 miles before 30 years old. I finished 34th out of 72 in my age group. Right in the meaty part of the curve. I am not only going into my thirties being in the best physical shape of my life, but knowing that this journey has made me a stronger person, a better person, and has changed my perspective on getting older. I still want to be setting goals when I’m in my seventy’s and eighty’s like the men and women on that course and I encourage everyone to continue to strive for something they think is unattainable. You will be surprised on how it changes you.

And as for my bike, it is not laying in a pile of ashes, but I think I’ll wait a couple weeks before taking it out again.

Amber and Genny pre-race
 Up Next for Genny? A little bike burning? More likely, she will be signing up for another race:)

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