Monday, August 17, 2009

D. Jen Harris, Chef/Triathlete

It all started innocently enough, about nine months ago. One day, while working with Cathy, my personal trainer, I turned to her and said "do you think I could do a triathlon?" Yes, was the answer.

I knew that I wanted to join her training group (which starts 10 weeks before the event), but I also wanted to get a head-start on my training. I started hitting the pool once or twice a week, walking (because I only run if some one's chasing me) once or twice a week and shopping for a bike. I was feeling good about my progress, until that sad day.

January 31st. My dog knocked me down, I sprained my ankle, and while I can say the triathlon was not the first thing I thought about (because at first I was just ow, ow, ow, ow, owwww), it came to mind pretty soon.

My ankle was so severely sprained I couldn't even swim (the gentlest of sports) for two weeks. I continued working out with Cathy (she adapted my workout so that I could do it in my huge ankle boot) but I was unable to walk or ride my bike for months.

I really started to worry about whether or not I would be able to participate in this year's Danskin Tri. But things turned around when I added Tami, my physical therapist, to my team. I let her know early that I needed to be ship shape in time to join the training group and together we made it happen.

Flash forward to race day. I knew that with the help of my physical therapist, my trainer, and the incredible women in my training group I was ready, but I was still nervous.

The day started early (but not as early as some). My wave was going to start at 7:34 a.m. which meant that I needed to be dropped off around 6:30 a.m. so that I had time to set up my transition area, pee, and warm up a little in the water before the race started.

Finally it was time...3...2...1...go! I took off into the water trying hard to find my own space to swim in, so many legs kicking, arms flailing. The first leg of the swim was the hardest for me, but once I rounded the first buoy, I found a space and settled into my rhythm. I started to notice swim caps of different colors around me (the waves in the Danskin are color coated by swim cap) so that meant I was passing people that had started 3, 6, 9, even 12 or more minutes ahead of me. I'll admit, that felt good. I knew at the start that the swim was going to be my strongest leg and it was. My time goal for this leg was 30 minutes (in the pool, I have not swam 1/2 mile in under 27 minutes) and my official time was 21:48. Unbelievable.

Onto the bike. Following a pretty slow transition (but my bike was FAR away from the swim) I started out on my ride. Due to a couple of vacations, I didn't get as much training for the bike as I would have liked. Of the three events this is the one I was most worried about (especially following a disastrous training ride the Wednesday before the event).

The first couple of miles were nice and flat, then one medium hill (complete with cowbell) then a super steep, windy hill. I knew this hill was coming and had decided ahead of time that I was going to dismount and walk up the hill (trust me, I was not the only one that did this). Next came the express lanes of the 1-90 bridge. I found my (slow) pace and just started pedaling. Soon came the first hill. I looked at it and said "I can get up that hill", and I did.

The road evened out inside the Mercer Island Tunnel and I let out a big whoop (it echoed very nicely) which was met with several other whoops of triumph. The first hill was followed by another hill, then another (and maybe another) until I made it to the half way point. I turned around and that's when my knee (another old injury) started talking to me. I persevered, going up and down the hills again. I heard "on your left" a LOT more than I said it (but I did say it, which, like in the swim, made me feel good). I rode down the steep windy hill and soon heard "two miles to go, and it's all downhill". Some of the sweetest words I have ever heard. My time goal for this was 1:10 (not fast I know, but that was my goal) and I finished in 1:07.

My second transition took half the time of my first. I switched out my shoes and headed for the run/walk start. My husband, who had cheered my coming in on the bike, had run around to the other side of the transition area to wish me well on my walk (I was very happy to see him again). My ankles do not like much walking, so I knew I had to find a nice, pretty slow, but steady pace. I soon found myself walking next to a 59-year old cancer survivor named Terri. It's a little embarrassing to say that my pacer was a 59-year old, but she kept me going, and I kept her going.

The end of mile 2 included a very steep, mean hill, but we conquered it (with the help of the drummers keeping the beat at the bottom of the hill). As we got to mile 3 I told Terri it was time to pick up the pace, "Were almost done, let's finish strong." As we crossed the line I was greeted by several members of my training team and lots of hugs. My goal for the walk was 1 hour (again, not fast, I know) and I completed the walk in 1:00:08.

Soon, more hugs (and kisses from the husband) lots of "good jobs" and a few "I'm proud of yous". I couldn't stop smiling (and I'm proud of me too).

While I was training, I came across a saying "If you think you can, you can, if you think you can't, you're right." This molded my training and my thoughts on race day. While I was in the race I saw lots of shirts with motivational sayings on them. The one that really struck me was "The miracle is not that you finished, the miracle is that you started." That could not be more true. I don't know how it even occurred to me to try a Triathlon, but I'm so glad that I did.

I could not have accomplished this without the help of Cathy, my trainer, Tami, my physical therapist, the cheerleading squad that was my training group and of course my wonderful and supportive husband.

Today, the day after race day, I signed up for another Triathlon. I guess I've got the bug.


  1. Jen,
    This is such a nice blog you wrote. I'm so glad we were part of the same training group. Cathy is pretty amazing but in Cathy style, she always throws it back to us and lets us enjoy our milestones even though she took in part in it.
    I will see you at the next finish line I am sure. And I hope in my Kitchen too! We will talk soon.
    Nicole Ji
    Fellow Danskin Teamate

  2. Congratulations Jen! I loved reading about your journey. I saw you come down the shute to the finish line and might have even high fived you.
    Did you say you are doing the trek? Keep me posted!
    P.S. Loved your bluberry lavender jam!!! Karalee