Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Keep your head held high

"That's the last one."

4 words that I didn't expect to, or want to hear.

So ---- on Sunday I had The Triathlon.  I capitalise that phrase because it's been that long in the planning, I can't believe it finally happened.  I first decided to do a tri about 3 years ago.  3 years and many failed training plans and procrastination later, I finally set this as my Mini Milestone for Week 8 of this round- that means I had to do it!  Marking it as my MM and stating this in my blog makes it official, you know! ;)  No backing out now.

Top of Kokoda dance
On the morning of the tri I climbed Brisbane's Kokoda, like I did in Week 4.  It was a fundraising event that the (can I just say amazing) Relay for Life team that I am a part of had planned, and seeing as I love to 'do all the events' (!) and was a part of this team, I went along.  I can not believe the difference in 4 weeks. I would never use the term 'easy' for tackling this, but I felt fine the whole way.  When I did it 4 weeks ago I was one of the last few to make it up the hill and my heart rate sky rocketed.  On Sunday though it seemed a lot shorter and it wasn't the big deal it was for myself as it was last time.  My awesome trekking buddy C and I jogged on and off on the way down, having fun and good naturedly overtaking people.  Maybe I just was mentally preparing myself for the rest of the day but it seemed fine.  And this time reaching 'The' Yellow Pole was done smiling and running instead of falling over on it, exhausted. :)

At the bottom of the hill we had breakfast, and I joined in for a short while before I had to drive to the coast for Event #2.

The Tutu's & Tiara's Relay for Life team with Mish :)
You know those games where you are asked if you could invite 3 guests over for dinner, who would you invite?  Well here's a spin off question, who would I invite for breakfast on the morning of my 1st triathlon?  Maybe Michelle Bridges?  WELL SHE CAME ALONG!  Seriously, could I have asked for a better breaky guest??  Mish, Billy and the gorgeous Heather came along amidst a busy schedule to surprise the group.  Amazing stuff.  It was so inspiring to have her sign my top I was about to wear in my tri and just hear her speak.  I was already amidst a group of inspiring, amazing people who have inspired me for months now, and then our "guru" ;) just casually strolls on over?  Incredible! :)

Mish signing my shirt!
Anyway --- fast forward an hour or two later, and I arrive at the Gold Coast and at the tri event.  I have avoided swimming since Year 8 swimming carnival (the togs factor) and cycling since 2010 (the awful event factor) so I wasn't really giving myself a great lead in.  However nothing stops me so I didn't even worry about this.  I felt fine and was just looking forward to getting into it.

All of these pink swimming capped girls sat in the seats alongside the pool for our briefing - I felt like I was back at school again.  I may as well have been, for how I reacted when I hopped into the water.  Swimming may be like riding a bike: you never forget, but hopping in the water?  Well, I forgot what that was like.  I sunk to the bottom and got a nose full of water - I couldn't catch my breath, panicked like a freaking 2 year old on their first swimming lesson and instinctively started scrambling for the side of the pool.  My gosh.  I hadn't even been doing the tri for 5 seconds and I was already a mess!!

I calmed myself down, reminded myself of what it's like to be in a pool (!) and started swimming.

I had the pool to myself
I was probably the 3rd last person to hop into the pool (it was done one at a time).  People had finished the swim leg before I even jumped in.  So it wasn't any big surprise that I was quickly overtaken by the 2 behind me and was coming last.  It's a timed event from when you start yourself, so I know I wasn't coming 'last' as such.  But physically I was the last one in the pool, and that was really embarrassing.  There were spectators and then there was the whole group of the next event sitting alongside the pool for their briefing and here I was, a lonesome pink capped figure, the only one in the pool doing a very poor form of breaststroke so I didn't panic with the breathing thing again.

I made it though, jumped out and ran to my bike, reassuring myself that I would make up some time in the cycling and running legs.  I got dressed and started cycling.  A quick background of my cycling: I jumped on my bike for a Mini Milestone last round.  As a once off thing.  The time before that, I had a bit of an experience.  If you want the long version, you can read it here: Coming 7000th  The short version though is that I did the Brisbane to Gold Coast 100km Cycle Challenge.  I was the very last to enter the finish banner and I had a police escort and entourage for a lot of the way, as well as police loudspeakers announcing to the crowd that I was the last rider.  In Queensland's biggest cycling event.  I was horrified at the time and it shot my confidence to pieces.  It's been two years since and Sunday's tri was really the first time I'd made my way back onto my bike properly.
Bike transition

I struggled with the cycling leg.  Physically it wasn't too hard, but mentally it was a different thing all together.  I was at the back from the start, so it makes sense that I would still be there.  But what got me was that the people doing the event that started half an hour after mine, started catching up to me with the cycling.  Yes their distances were shorter, but still....  After 1 or 2 laps (I had to do 3), I realised that I was probably the last person from my event left on the cycling track.  I hadn't thought about bringing my head phones so instead turned on my music speakers on my iPhone that was down my top and put it onto my 'JFDI playlist' that I created.  I was starting to get upset and read a few SMS's and FB messages from people wishing me luck and that helped a lot.  I even glanced over and saw where I had struggled riding 2 years previous - Runaway Bay.  The ironies of this and the name itself (Runaway), were not lost on me.  I started saying to myself "shut up mind": my newly created spin-off of cycling legend Jens Voigt's infamous "shut up legs" quote.  My legs weren't too bad - it was my mind that needed shutting up!!
Cycling track

"Shut up mind."

I eventually finished the 3rd lap and I was reassuring myself that I was now 2/3 of the way through and I would be fine with the running.  I racked my bike and joined everyone on the running track.  It was only 2km but I was tired and struggling mentally so I didn't run the whole way: I jogged and walked on and off.

I was nearing the end of my first lap and as I passed a few girls I heard them tell one of the officials that there were only a couple of people behind them.  I quickly processed this and realised what it meant.  These girls entering the running track were from the event after me.  I was only finishing my first lap and had one more to go.  The event after me only had to do one lap and they had already started it.  I ran around the running 'turn' to start my second leg.  I saw officials on walkie talkies turning their heads away to speak each time they saw me.  I wasn't being paranoid, I am certain they were talking about me - ever since the cycling I had seen them do this and I am sure I was a marker for the last competitor.  I didn't ask anyone if I was last, I learnt that mistake last time.  And besides, I already knew.  I didn't need confirmation.  Instead, the enormity of this started to sink in.  

Let me put it out there that I was not upset about 'coming last'.  I was one of the last to start my event, I was at the back of the pack of each of the 3 legs and I wasn't trained up well etc. etc.  Besides, it doesn't matter of the order - it's a matter of actually starting it, and hopefully finishing it.  But what got me was that it was happening again.  I felt so mortified 2 years ago on the Bris-GC ride - and now 2 years later, here I was again??

I am not used to frequenting super sports centres!
I was the last of all of the events of the day.  Even the event that started after mine had passed me.  Every single person.  As soon as I realised this, I started hyperventilating.  It was like an asthma attack but because I only get very occassional mild asthma, I think it was probably just hyperventilating brought on by myself.  I couldn't catch a breath.  I was wheezing and almost dropped to the ground just out of panic.  I had my hand over my mouth.  One lady who was walking opposite me asked if I was ok and I could only nod with panicked eyes.  Thankfully I talked myself down because apart from this lovely lady (who I got to hug a thank you to later!), there was no-one left.  She disappeared from view very quickly and even the officials in that area left.  As I entered the running field on my last lap, I was completely alone.  I was devastated.  I was also torn - I wanted to hurry up and just finish it so I wasn't as far behind everyone else as I already was so I wanted to run, but I was so upset, I could barely even walk.

I turned my music up quite loud (who cares, I had a running field to myself!) ;) and Gym Class Heroes "The Fighter" played.  All through the day I listened to my songs of the moment - Fighter, Try, Hall of Fame and Battle Scars.  I didn't know if I could do it.  I needed help so I scrambled onto my iPhone and wrote that I was struggling on the FB 30+ crew page.  I needed some support badly and this crew is amazing and I knew that I could get it.  Sure enough I got some beautiful messages come through to say to keep on going.  I was mentally trying to gear myself up for the end of the race - I was now so far behind everyone else I was expecting to be a bit of a spectacle and that was panicking me to no end.  Thank you 30+ crew. xo

I finished on the field and tried to run a bit more but just couldn't.  I went past a few officials closer to the main event - all of the officials were very supportive and encouraging through the whole day- the Pinkie Tri has a great crew.  But as I went past the last few, I heard those dreaded 4 words.  I already knew this but hearing them said out loud just shot me down.

"That's the last one."

Oh my gosh.  It was true.  I entered the main field and saw the finish banner.  This is where I got the grit of my life.  I was mortified, so embarrassed and just wanting someone to hold my hand.  No-one was around because I was the only one still running (!) so I had to do this myself.  I couldn't believe I had left my sunglasses at Kokoda in the morning.  Of all the days.  I could have done with them.

That moment

I'd had members of my 12WBT JFDI team including beautiful L and my friend A call out words of support up till now and this had spurred me along.  But now I was all by myself and I knew all I had to do was to get to that banner.  I had to block out everything.  My friends mum got this shot of me.  She actually captured literally the moment that I dug my fingernails into my hands, blocked out the world and held my head higher than I ever have before.  Every eye was on me and I was absolutely willing the MC not to announce that I was last.  I don't think he did - I just heard him talk about my tutu.  Thank you.  I had been walking but ran down the last bit to that banner, managed to put my hands up in the air and ran through.

I managed to get given my medal, drink some water, take some photos, walk up to the grand stand and sit down before I broke down.  Poor A and A's mum had no idea what could be so wrong.  I could barely explain it... "I.....came....last....." wahhhhh.  I was beside myself.  I could hardly get that out let alone explain that it was because it happened again and how deeply embarrassed I was.

I calmed down and we picked up our bikes, took more photos and said goodbye.  I made it to the carpark and a lovely 30+'er who I hadn't met before, S, recognised me and came over to say hi.  She was lovely but the poor girl probably thinks I'm a nutter, I got two words out before I broke down sobbing again.  Ahhh I'm sorry, it was actually really nice to meet you despite not being able to speak much. :)  

I broke down again before I started my car, pulled myself together and started to drive home.  I only made it out of the carpark and onto the street before I had to pull over again.  Far out -- this really, really got to me.  I eventually made it home :)

To be honest, since then, I haven't really had a big enlightening proud moment or anything.  There's only one thing that I keep thinking of.  Yes, I achieved my goal, I started it, I finished it, I got a medal (!) and as my lovely K said, I can now call myself a triathlete. ;)

But what I realised is that I held my head high.  I gritted my teeth, dug my finger nails in, blocked out the rest of the world and kept going.  This is so hard to do but sometimes, we have to.  My friends have been amazing as well.  And this was just on Sunday.  Don't even ask me what happened on Monday.

When you have the wind knocked out of you, grit your teeth, clench your fists and keep going.

And above all else, keep your head held high. xx

Mish with the Kokoda challengers <3
For my awesome 30+'ers: 'I got a medal!'


  1. Dearest Coco, Did you not know that you won? You did, you might not know yet, but you won.

  2. Oh Sweetheart. You are my hero; I've started training for a triathlon this week (race 1 December). I am in awe that you finished. You had such a big day and I know you don't feel like it but you did SO WELL.

  3. Kate, first or last who cares. You were brave enough to tackle something that is quite big and daunting and there are thousands of people that wish they were brave enought o try it, me included. Well done, you shoudl be proud of yourself and remember you are 1 tri ahead of all those stillsitting on the couch and that includes me.

    Awesome effort!!!!!

  4. Oh honey, you are so far ahead of the game you don't even see that. I'm in awe. I can't even swim to save myself, I'd need to float on a noodle if I get in the water, so I won't be doing a triathlon any time in my future. I think you are wonderful.


  5. YOU ARE AWESOME! And so inspirational! I hope you know that!!! Thank you for sharing your amazing day, filled with highs & lows, and I want you to know that you're a winner to me!!!!

  6. Hi Kate, You are awesome and I understand you being emotional about this but honestly as the saying goes ' You are lapping everyone on the couch' and you were! You were lapping the chickens like me that did not have the guts to even do a triathlon in the first place- Good on you and you inspire me to enter one!!

  7. Hi Kate - I only just found your blog but I hav been reading it for days. I made it to this post at work and have been googling triathlons since. How brave of you to compete! How brave if you not to give up! You are an inspiration!

  8. Kate - you're amazing. I am loving reading your blog. I discovered it a couple of weeks ago and have gone back to the start to work my way through to the current day. You rock!! I started this journey in 2011 with 12wbt with just over 30kgs to lose. I could never imagine being so strong and brave to do the things you have done since you started your first round. I'm still terrified to do a triathlon!! Something about bikes scares me. As cheesy as it sounds - you really are an inspiration!!

    P.S. I'm so jealous about Mish turning up on the Kokoda challenge!! I was meant to do that event but I had injured my lower back and was advised by chiro not to exercise for a bit. I had no idea until this day that she showed up. Soooooooooo jealous!!