IRONSHERPA – THE TRIATHLETE

It’s been 3 months since I approached Gina with the idea. I knew she could, it was just a matter of mixing opportunity, consistency, planning, and many VERY early mornings, each and every day (and with THAT comes early bedtimes). The biggest hurdle would be getting her to learn how to swim, and confidently. She needed practice on her bike, yes, but her fear was swimming. The problem with the pool in our complex is it “opens” at 10am. I say this in quotes because there are days when it is never locked when it should be closed. For Gina, it is luck if we can get in there on weekends very early, or in the evening before it gets “occupied” by floaters, kids jumping in/out, college sunbathers, beer parties, etc. or basically those without a pool pass. There are only a handful of people (Gina and I being 2 of them) who actually SWIM in the pool. It’s a 20 yard pool so serves it’s purpose between May and September.
As we started her program, each and every week she increased her endurance. We biked around the hood on a Saturday, then the Booty Loop on a Sunday. We would follow it up with run/walk profiles, and finish with pool work. One lap. 2 laps. 3,4,5. She was getting it. During the week we would mix It up. She did yoga 2x a week. Chef Homeboy cooked legit. We still enjoyed our weekend “relaxed” menus, but we were sticking to the plan well. We would sometimes even hit the bed BEFORE sunset if we felt it. But safe to say it was before 9:30 most days. Why? Well, the Holmes alarm rings at 4:30, heck 4am, and her day would begin. She got to being able to handle 4 laps of the Booty Loop, followed by a 30 minute run/walk, and THEN 10 laps of the pool. And she did that on consecutive weekends. I knew she was ready – but a race is different for someone MENTALLY to prepare for as well. I had the TEAMMC motivational videos emailed to her, I would be that confidence head popping out of her shoulder rapping encouragement, even some tunes on the MCIpod list. I took on the role of Ironsherpa. The worries dealt with. And the event we chose to enter??

Looking around the calendars, at first I thought she would be able to do the TriBallantyne event on July 12. That got scratched for several reasons. The swim distance was a bit too long for her to attempt in THAT race. They get a few hundred people, it’s a crammed lane, and the distances were just too long at that time. So I looked a bit on Jones Racing website (www.jonesracingcompany.com) and saw 2 weeks later was the Statesville YMCA Triathlon. It was a cap of 200 racers, labeled as a perfect 1st timer event, contained course, and in a pool. Distances were 150 yard swim, 9 mile bike, and a 2 mile trail run. Perfect! She’s done more than this. We entered, but when I submitted our swim times, I was very conservative and requested that I start directly behind her (each start was 15 seconds apart). The crew at Jones Racing hooked it up, as we wanted to do this race TOGETHER, side by side. Gina worried it would “hurt” my USAT rankings for the year, but screw rankings, seriously. My Ironsherpa was going to be a triathlete, and I was going to finish WITH her.
So it was set. As my coaching duties, I made sure Gina’s questions were all answered. Dorie at the Statesville Y was awesome in confirming it was an outdoor pool, 25 yards, 3-5ft deep. I even measured our pool to confirm to her it was 20 yards. We didn’t know the bike course profiles, but I knew if she could handle multiple loops of the Booty, plus the ones getting there and back along Princeton, she was good. She knew gears, got confident going downhill, learned what to wear. Big thanks to Melissa at IOS for helping me get her the perfect top and tights to swim/bike/run in. Nose plugs, goggles, CARB-BOOM! Testing. And finally a week before the event – a massage from Jessica at Sports Massage Therapy. Golden. She was ready.
Gina exhibited the typical “taper” an athlete goes through in the few days before the event. Tensions, worries about the weather, little irritable, restless sleep. I was enjoying experiencing this on the Sherpa end. Mind you, SHE spent 15 years through our relationships dealing with ME in such states for many races! LONGER races! World Championship venues, and sometimes outside the US. Awesome.
It’s like when you volunteer for a race and see the other side of the coin. As my main man Wayne at Polar taught me a long time ago when I was a new brand ambassador for Polar – you GET “IT”.

The night before, it was like a race night: we had our usual pre-race dinner, laid out our game plan with a time goal of 1:30. We estimated 10 minutes for swim (including transition), 50 for bike, 30 for run. We set everything out, and with the weather looking good, were comfortable and relaxed. We got up before 5, out the door by 6, at the race site before 7. Contained indeed as the setting was easy: parking at the YMCA, got our stuff, got body marked, transition area plentiful and easy to walk around. Music, food, coffee, all provided for a nice party afterwards. Teenagers, newbies, a few seasoned vets, around 200 participants. She was excited and we had plenty of time – for though the race started at 8am, WE started at 8:37 based on our swim estimate. Had a CARB-BOOM! Gel fueling me all this time. We all lined up in numbered ordered, and the racers in front,behind, near us were perfect characters to ease Gina’s swim fears. They were just as nervous, just as inexperienced, and were out to challenge themselves to THEIR limits. It was fun to listen to. More appreciative of who races. The funniest part was seeing the people who got up and WALKED through the swim (note, pool was 3-5ft deep). Yes, many, and a few who shouldn’t have been doing what they did to such an EXTENT. One guy literally walked through the water for more than HALF the “swim”. It gave Gina a better view from above what she could expect. The closer we got to our start, the closer I got to whispering in her ears those cues I use myself to calm down, focus, and channel within. 3 deep breaths.
She adjusted her goggles, nose clips, and a kiss before she jumped in. 5-4-3-2-1, she was off!!! I jumped in next, got my cue, and started right behind her. I was surprised how she started to freestyle after going half a length. She then did it again. Lap 1 down! She stayed in her breaststroke after that. We got passed by a few but everyone here wasn’t in a rush, and there was plenty of room. Gina handled it great. Lap 2 down! She was moving great. One of the volunteers yelled to me by saying I could move around her. “That’s my WIFE!” I told her, to which she encouraged, “Give her a push then!” Gina did it! She exited the ladder, I hopped out using the end side, I hit the Polar RS200 split: 6:15!

We ran together to transition. She got her socks on, shoes, helmet, took her time to check. Ok, now grab your bike cause off we go! I hit the split, 3 minutes. Out on the bike we went. I stayed “draft legal” distance but enough so she could hear me. I could see by her pedaling she was moving, pushing it good. The roads were nice in town, was now warmer in the upper 70′s, low 80′s. She handled the turns, traffic, everything going well. I would come up to her and check. All good. But then we hit a few hills, and one big final climb that almost got her. This was where she could have cracked but didn’t. She was so excited that she was pacing herself too fast. But she gathered herself well and regrouped. She focused, got her spin back, and I got in front of her as we made our way back into town, flatter roads, and cruised along to the finish. I dismounted as she was a few seconds behind me, and she was now done with the ride – and despite a slowdown on the hills, she hit 51 minutes!!

We were out of transition in less than a minute. We started jogging, grabbed some water, and hit our timers continuing to beep on our Polars. The trails were rough, and she had her shoes on loose so her footing wasn’t optimal as it would be on the roads. Still, she pushed and we saw our new friends on the way back, elated, smiles, and high-fives all around. We got to the turnaround in 14 minutes. But with an uphill back, she stayed within herself and walked. We battled as she clearly was low on fuel. She later admitted she only took one sip of her drink on the bike. But when I saw those cones, heard the music, saw the water stop where the trail began, the finish was there! We jogged the final minute and with hands held high, together, we crossed her first ever triathlon finish line!! Our run split was just at 32 minutes. She did a 1:33 (since I started 15 seconds behind her, my time shows me same ahead of her). She, my wife, my Ironsherpa all these years, became a TRIATHLETE. It was all hugs and sweaty kisses. We got great photos, sure to be a FatHead soon. There was a small downside though. No finishers medal. This race only gave age group awards. I tried to distract her from that part as yes, we did indeed finish a race together – and she busted her butt these past few months – and it paid off today. She did it.
We walked around to keep her loose. Got something to drink. Sucked down a CARB-BOOM. Celebrated in all around us. We tweeted photos, texted friends, family. She tried to keep the whole race quiet while she was training. She got to FEEL what I’ve felt all these years. I loved every minute of it.
My teammate from AAA Carolina’s, Steve Trinkle won The Male Masters, one of our friends who was next to us in transition – she won 3rd in her age group. Oh but wait!! Turns out there were 4 women registered in her age group. The female Masters award went to one of them. The awards went 3 deep. They called first place, and then, “Second Place goes to Regina Carbone!” She got a MEDAL!!! That just capped it for us. This one got her a really long hug and kiss!!
And wait! When all was done with awards, everyone scattered homeward, Gina went into the Y to change, and I waited after grabbing a load of extra mini pancakes to take home for breakfast that volunteers cooked up for everyone and was now leftover they were urging to have people take home. As I am tweeting, they were calling out race numbers, giving out raffle prizes! Sure enough, I eventually hear #128! “YO, that’s me YO!” I screamed. She handed me a certificate for a free wine tasting and glasses at Daveste Vineyards in Statesville!! Score!!
The whole quick drive home was nothing but recap and celebration. We had our pancakes/java, unpacked, stretched, changed, did some chores, and went to Mass that evening, no naps. She, and me, ran on fumes. After Mass, we picked out Angry Ales to seal my end of our “the deal.” I ate one of their Badlands Burger and it was delicious. Last time I had a burger from a joint was after Ironman Ocala in March. I could get use to these bets. From there, with the sun now setting, we finished the evening with a small cake and glass of moscato. A cherished day indeed.

I knew she would feel the soreness tomorrow so we made a deal – she gets to sleep in Sunday. And did she. She had some aches keep her awake at times, but an unexpected thunderstorm rolled through early morning and this helped keep her asleep solid (we love sleep or napping in rainstorms). I traced her number 127 still branded on her arm. Seeing her rest, really rest, with the breathing of a calm, restoring power, her eyelids in REM, after all these months – this was special for me. I thought in my head a few times a saying from a poem, a saying that we framed, even had inscribed on our wedding cake – and how true it is for us. It pictures two people riding their bikes, how they encourage each other in their success and failure, and in the final line of the poem – “Today, no matter what it takes, we ride home together.” She IS Ironsherpa, the Triathlete.

We swam after the storm (yes, see, luckily for us, the gate wasn’t locked overnight), which helped her feel the sore spots. Chef Homeboy made the Wade Wilson Pre/Post Race pancakes for breakfast, java, and today we rested for the plan on the next one begins Monday. Yes, she sees where she can improve, mistakes she made, BUT knows that it’s the training, the journey that has gotten her to this point. I look forward to helping her each day.
MC the Triathlete, turned Ironsherpa.

Stay tuned. There are new things brewing with MC. I have a new Brand Ambassadorship with all natural energy gel CARB-BOOM! (www.boomnutrition.com). Contact me for a discount code on your order. And on the work front, I am in talks with a friend, but preliminary with news to come in August.

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