First Mile to Half-Iron

Issaquah RainmanBy Tambi Osier

My triathlon story is not just my story, but my family’s story.

Before our daughter Zoë was born, my husband Dan ran the 2003 Capital City Marathon in our hometown of Olympia, Washington.  In 2009 he ran it again and went on to the 2010 Boston Marathon.  He ran it again this year and again qualified for Boston.

After our daughter learned to ride a bike at age five, Dan started looking for a road bike.  Not for him but for her.  I didn’t understand this obsession.  Website after website.  Research and price comparisons.  Wasn’t her Specialized dirt bike good enough?  She’s a girl. And it wasn’t that we got her an old Schwinn with a banana seat.  He explained what he was looking for, a road bike with 20” wheels.  I didn’t understand why, but I conceded.  I was tired of this endless search so I went on Craigslist and in five minutes found it.  A red Rebellato.  There wasn’t any information on this bike anywhere.  But it looked like a road bike.  The man that had it for sale thought that it should be hung on a wall in a bar for decoration.  Dan took Zoë to see if she liked it.  They came home with the cutest bike you have ever seen.  It had to be over twenty years old.  We took it to Joy Ride bikes for a tune up, a new saddle (it still had the original brown leather saddle), and the smallest hand brakes we could find. And pink Bacon Wrap. We can’t forget the pink handle bars.

Next Dan signed Zoë up for a triathlon.  I thought he was nuts.  But Zoë liked it!  And she loved the bike.  She would go into the drops and would just be a rocket.  She was five years old, in the drops, and shifting.  She liked triathlon enough that she would willingly practice transitions.  To see this little girl stand in a bucket of water with her swim cap and goggles and then run across grass in her bare wet feet to her makeshift bike transition was both amazing and hilarious.  I wish I had taken pictures or a video, but I was holding up the bike on the handle of a broom cheering her on!  She competed in the 2010 Seattle IronKids and took first place in her age group.  What a great excuse for a trip to Disney World!  So our family vacation that year included packing her road bike for a trip to Florida.  And bringing home the third place trophy was fun, too!  What an accomplishment for our little six-year-old.

So to top off the year, I ran my first mile.  It was literally on December 31st at the Tacoma Metro Parks Last Mile of 2010.  I had never run more than one lap around a track, but decided it was time to just do it.  Dan was getting ready for his first sprint triathlon and I didn’t want to be left completely behind.  I hadn’t ever run a mile, but my daughter was already biking nine miles to school once a week for some extra daddy and me time.  I had to start somewhere.

In 2011 I did my first 5K.  In February 2012 I completed the TriFreaks Indoor Triathlon in Issaquah.  What a reversal of roles.  I had been the cheering section for years and now Dan was cheering for me.  That summer we all competed in the Seafair Triathlon.  Dan did the Olympic. I did the Sprint. And Zoë did the Kids Tri.

So now what?

We go to Canada of course!  Dan signed up for IronMan Canada in Penticton and Zoë and I were going to cheer him on for all 140.6 miles.  What an amazing scene!  We cheered for Dan, for friends of ours from Olympia, for new friends we met at our B&B, and anyone we met.  We took lots of pictures, rang cowbells, carried his bike for him to our friends’ hotel room for celebratory pizza, and stayed up until midnight to watch the last people cross the finish line.  I was in love.  In love with my husband, my child, and the sport of triathlon.

I must have been nuts.  I had a frozen shoulder from Seafair and all I wanted was to do an iron distance.  So after months of chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture, and massage, I was better and ready to go!

Dan was going to see his swim coach in Bremerton and invited me along.  That night I met Ryan Chapman.  He already knew Dan and Zoë from their previous swim sessions.  I went along just to see what this Total Immersion thing was really all about.  I had watched a few of the TI videos, but I already knew how to swim. Dan learned to swim just for triathlons. It was different for me.  I grew up on a lake and had worked out with a swim team when I was teenager.  I explained to Ryan about my shoulder and what happened at Seafair.  He put me through a number of drills and immediately figured out what was wrong.  We fixed my stroke that night.

I set my sights on the Ocean Shores Half-Iron.  I knew I needed a training plan.  I called Ryan and asked if he would be my coach.  He had one opening left and was happy to let me take it.  I appreciated where Ryan came from and where he was going.  My husband has been an athlete from birth.  He is the same size now at 47 as he was at 18.  He’s fast and lean.  He can’t gain weight.  He comes from a different universe than me.  I am an Athena and always will be.  I lost 35 pounds in the last few years, but I am still an Athena.  Ryan knows what it was like to be heavier and that perspective was the balance that I needed.  Sadly, you don’t lose weight training for a half-iron man.  I took my measurements at the start of training with Ryan.  Happily, I did lose substantial inches.

Dan decided that he would sign up for Ocean Shores, too.  We originally thought that some of our training would be together.  But it was more like ‘Are you running north?’  ‘I’m biking south.  See you in three hours.’  About once a week we would share a lane in the pool.  Sometimes we would spin together if the weather was bad.  But Dan is a competitor and his goal is to win his age group.

So we were off and running.  And biking.  And swimming.  Months of training.  Good days and bad.  Both fabulous personal bests and days of ‘What the heck was I thinking?’  Emails back and forth with Ryan.  Phone calls every Sunday morning.  I wasn’t out to win.  I just wanted to finish.  I knew that I would be last. I knew it going in.

The night before the big race I had a headache.  By morning it was awful.  Painkillers at 5am with my breakfast of simple carbs.  I was thankful that it all stayed down.  Ryan met me at the start of the race.  He had four people he was training for this race including his own wife.  His pre-race attention was much needed and appreciated.  Dan was ready.  I was ready.  Everyone was ready.  Dan and I started off together.  It was nice to see him for a little while.  Coming out of the water I was surprised to hear Ryan cheering for me.  I had forgotten that he was there. I didn’t realize that I had a cheering section.  I was even more surprised to see Dan in transition.  Oh my goodness!  My swim and Dan’s were close.  Okay, he had a rotten transition.  But never in my wildest dreams did I expect a kiss in transition!  I had a great swim!

The bike began great.  I knew that I would get passed on the bike, but I was getting passed by guys on tricked out tri bikes.  I was happy.  I beat them in the swim!  With the out and back loops, I saw Dan a few times.  The wind was hard, but doable.  At around mile 20, I was happy and thinking, ‘This is great!  I could do this every weekend!  Why would I do an Olympic if I can do the Half-Iron?’  That thought soon changed.  The wind got stronger as the morning went on.  Tailwind 17mph.  Sidewind 14mph.  Headwind 10mph.  No one left on the bike course but me.  At one point I watched a windsock change position as I was heading around a turn. Dang it!  I was hoping for at least a side wind. Now it was going to be a headwind again.

After four hours and twenty-two minutes, I pulled into transition.  I was physically and emotionally spent.  My legs didn’t have much left.  I saw Dan in transition.  He was wearing his finisher’s medal and snacking.  It was almost time for the award ceremony that I knew I would miss.  I was in tears.  I was done.  I wanted to finish, but I needed to recuperate. There is an emotional exhaustion that comes with being last. There is an emotional component to seeing that your mate and best friend is finished and you have hours left.  I think about it now and wonder, ‘If I had only tried.’  Though I know I didn’t have anything else to give.  We went back to our hotel and just laid there.  Both of us too tired to move.   Later that afternoon, “Aunt Flo” arrived, a now obvious factor in the day’s events.

My Ocean Shores Half-Iron was still a success. It was my personal best.  I had a great swim!  And I biked 56 miles! Normal people just don’t do that!  Will I do it again?  Probably. But there is nothing wrong with a Sprint or Olympic either.  Normal people don’t do those either. These are “TriFreaks” events, are they not?

So a week after the race we are in Hawaii for my in-laws’ 50th wedding anniversary celebration.  We are on the Big Island about to get onto the Queen Kaahumanu Highway north of Kona when I check my email.  A request to write about my TriFreaks Ocean Shore Half-Iron experience.  Hmmmm… Isn’t wind a big problem in Kona, too?

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Thank you Tambi for sharing!

The TriFreaks Team