Sunday, August 22, 2010

RUSH Triathlon

Last year when I raced in the RUSH triathlon, I got kicked in my face as I was turning to breathe. I gasped and inhaled a bunch of water. As the water rushed into my lungs I thought for sure I was going to drown. Panic and anxiety pulled me up short. I treaded water as I tried to assess how critical the situation was. Several times as I eyed the nearby kayak rescuers I nearly raised my hand to be pulled out. I put my head back in the water to swim, but couldn't breathe rhythmically enough to swim that way. My breaths came in short, fast gasps - I had to keep my head out of the water. I again eyed the rescuers and almost raised my hand again. Several times I repeated this routine, trying to calm myself down to breathe normally. I finally realized the water in my lungs would simply not allow me to breathe deeply enough to allow me to swim the front crawl. So, being kind of stubborn, I flipped over on my back instead of calling for help, and swam the entire half-mile on my back - not even the back stroke, but the Elementary Back Stroke! The back stroke was splashing water on my face, and the last thing I needed was more water in my lungs. I took twice as long as I should have, but I finally finished the swim and struggled out to my bike. Friends who were waiting for me wondered if I had actually pulled out, I was that late. The rest of the race was terrible. I still couldn't breathe. Oxygen is a very good thing, especially if you're racing. The bike took FOREVER, the run was very discouraging. I never walk on a run, but last year I walked almost the whole thing. By the time I finished, I was near the end of the pack, one of the last stragglers coming in. Since I had come in 3rd in my age the year before, it was very discouraging. My husband was asking around to see if anyone had reported an injured racer. He couldn't figure out what had happened to me. The finish was a relief and a disappointment at the same time. It took three days for the water to be absorbed out of my lungs. Three days of shallow panting breaths and a raspy injured airway. I contemplated visiting the hospital to have my O2 level checked. I worried about dry drowning. Finally the water disappeared and my breaths returned to normal. I was traumatized, though. I swore I would never, ever race in a triathlon ever again.

Enter Michael Hays, the RUSH triathlon race director. When I talked about my experience, he was very instructive and insightful, gave me some good pointers, then (darn it!) offered me a complimentary entrance into this year's RUSH. I didn't tell him at the time that I had no intention of using it - I didn't want to be rude. But I accepted the gift with the thought that I'd just not even show. It took months for the memories to fade and a summer of practicing open water swimming with a group of friends before I reluctantly decided to give it another go. I told Michael I'd do it, hoping he'd re-neg on the offer. He didn't. I was stuck.

Yesterday I raced the RUSH triathlon for my third time. It was a dream. The weather was great, my nerves were calm, and I was there not to win anything but to just have a good time. My swim was so smooth and gentle, even with the inevitable kicks from those around me. I almost felt like I was alone, flying in the water on a warm summer morning (thank you for your help, Michael H., Mike W., and Superwoman Lana G!). The men started 5 minutes before us. About half-way through the 1/2 mile I began passing them. The finish came too quickly. I wanted to stay and keep swimming, but I had a bike race to get to. I ran out of the water grinning. It was just plain fun. Transition from swim to bike (T1) went well. I pulled on my new bike shoes (I'm finally in clips) and prayed I wouldn't crash. I didn't. That also made me grin.

My new bike is lovely. It's pretty and sleek, and it's also very comfortable. We took my bike to our friends at and for a custom fitting this week. (I just got my bike on Monday). It feels like an extension of me instead of like a chair I'm sitting on. I was looking forward to a great bike race, but sometimes not everything goes smoothly. I dropped my water bottle right at the start of my ride, and there was no way I was going to stop and go back for it - it would've cost me maybe a minute. So I rode the 15 miles or so without hydrating, and I was t-h-i-r-s-t-y! The long long steep hills at the first didn't help, nor did the climbing temperature and hot sun. I probably lost several minutes simply because I needed hydration. Live and learn! Still, I felt good and was having fun passing people, then being passed. A few of us kept playing leap-frog. One great friend (Natalie) passed me about 3 miles from the finish and challenged me to get her. I finally caught her at the transition, but I didn't keep her!

I took a little longer than I wanted at the bike-run transition (T2) because I was so crazily thirsty. I gulped water as I pulled on my running shoes. Gulped more as I pulled on my hat. Turned to run, then turned back again for more water. I know it didn't help that I've been sick this week. The fever, body aches, and fatigue have been a lot to deal with. Dehydration was one more thing working against me. Natalie took off on the run as I gulped more water, then I took off after her. This time I never caught her. There's a nasty, steep steep steep trail on the run that I have been on countless times during my training. I NEVER walk that trail. The last time I walked it was last year during the RUSH when I couldn't breathe. But I walked on it yesterday - true, for only about 5 seconds, but that just shows how tired I was. I kept my eye on my friend - walking when she did, running when she did. The last steep climb I finally had a good moment. I bolted up like it was a flight of stairs, nearly reaching my friend. But I stopped at the aid station to gulp more water and she was off. It was so fun to run behind her, trying to match my pace to hers. She's a fabulous runner - even ran in Boston - and she set a good pace. I had a nice run the rest of the way back to the finish. About 1/2 mile from the finish, it hit me that I was almost done with the triathlon, and that meant I could now concentrate on my upcoming marathons. That made me happy. I loved the triathlon, but running has always been my favorite. (Although after yesterday's race, swimming might be right up there, too!) The hill down on the last half of the run was great. I kept my friend in sight, using her to keep me going. She unknowingly helped me, pulling me along behind her and distracting me from how thirsty I was. I followed her to the finish. I didn't sprint at the end, I'm not sure if I even could! But at least I did run in steadily. Natalie helped me finish a happy race. I finished ten seconds behind Natalie, got a big hug from her, then went straight to the water table, gulping down 6 cups of water and sports drink. I had run a fun race, had a great time, and was happy to be done. Since my husband was doing a Century ride (yes, he rode 100 miles yesterday in the blistering heat and high winds! And he did it in only 5 1/2 hours!), he wasn't able to be at the finish, but his sweet sisters were there to welcome me in. Jill helped pace me near the end. I should've asked her to run the wretched trail with me! Annmarie and her baby MJ were clapping and cheering. My neighbors were there for their kids, but they cheered just as wildly for me, too. And there was Mike & Jeni Whitesides & family (who had two of their children, ages 15 and 11, also doing the Sprint distance!), welcoming me in, too. My friend Dawn commented that every time she saw me on the race I was smiling - I was! That's because I was having fun and because she was cheering. Who couldn't smile with that combo?

I had no idea how I fared this year until at the awards ceremony Michael announced I'd come in 2nd in my age group. My friend had come in first. It was a great surprise. I apparently came in 13th overall for women, and 39th overall for men & women (out of 204). My friend Jennica won overall for women, and our friend Mike W. won overall for men. One of my running friends Janeese was first in her age group (and 20th overall for men and women), and she only got in the water twice during the past year! She's amazing. It's always fun to know the people winning, and to know they're the kind of people you want to be the winners! So, if everything had gone perfectly, I could have gone faster. But I have never had a race where everything goes perfectly. That's just the way it is. You do what you can with the hand you've been dealt, and hopefully play a good game, have fun, and finish with a smile. And a big drink of water - but not in the lungs. :)

Mike W., by the way, led a triathlon clinic this summer that especially helped me with the open water swim. My goal is to keep what I've learned and now learn more. My weak spot is no longer the swim. It is the bike. I've gone out a couple of times with Tonya Z. (who is an amazing triathlete and did awesome in yesterday's Intermediate distance). Guess I need to work on that now. Watch out, Lance Armstrong. Here comes Stephanie Hancock.

T1 - my beautiful bike waiting patiently for me to take her out on a ride. This is obviously before I dropped my water bottle.

Natalie (my friend who pulled me along and beat me by 10 seconds!), Sarah (another great friend - this was her first tri and she did AWESOME!), and me, waiting for the race to begin.

The Intermediate swimmers (I did the Sprint distance). It was an incredibly beautiful morning. See the kayaks & boats out there? They are there to rescue people who inhale too much water...

So I know the following copy/paste deal doesn't fit well in the blog's space, but you can check out for the full thing.


Racer Number:338
Chip Time Information
Actual Start Time:00:00:00.000
Stop Time:09:46:19.301
Chip Time:01:41:16.3
Gun Time Information
Assigned Start Time:08:05:03.000
Stop Time:09:46:19.301
Gun Time:01:41:16.3

FINAL TIME: 01:41:16.3

Race Distance: Sprint
Overall Placing
Time Back:00:22:10.300
Gender Placing
Time Back:00:09:42.900
Division Placing
Short F 35-39 Place:2
Time Back:00:00:09.500
NoNameInterval TimeTotal TimePaceOverall PlaceOverall BackGender PlaceGender BackDivsion PlaceDivision Back

The kids all got new bikes this week. End-0f-season prices are worth waiting for, by the way! The boys had definitely outgrown their old bikes, and I know they'll grow into these bikes. But for now, the bikes look big to me and the boys look small. Apparently they're sized correctly, though. The boys have LOVED their bikes and have spent so much time riding. Yesterday they rode all the way to the fairgrounds while the girls and I rode in the car next to them (I had my hazard lights flashing and kept by them. I'm not quite ready to let them be too grown up and go by themselves...).

Charlotte with a bike that fits her and a helmet that doesn't. She loves this bike. The hand-me-down she was riding wasn't quite right, and it was too heavy for her legs to push. She's got some good, strong legs from jumping on the trampoline, but (as I can attest), doing one sport doesn't automatically make you fit for another. She's been having fun practicing.

Eleanor also needed a lighter bike Sam's old one was huge and heavy for her. For the first time in her life she was torn when it came to riding her bike or playing with friends. She's such a social person that friends always trump anything else! She actually hesitated a good long time, rode a little more, then gave in to her personality and dashed off to play with her friends. Still, it wasn't long before she returned for another ride.

My dear dear friend Sarah d'E. MADE these shirts and Eleanor's skirt (and matching bow) for the girls as a back-to-school present. I couldn't believe it! She is so super talented. Like my mom always says, the sewing machine growls at me when I walk past it. Oh, and the girls are NOT supposed to have the skootboard on the tramp.

One of the highlights at the fair yesterday was target practice. I wish I'd gotten a picture of Charlotte shooting (she did great), but she was on my lap since she couldn't reach and I didn't get the picture. Here are Sam, Oliver and Eleanor shooting with the help of our friend and neighbor (and Wildlife Officer) Andrew S.

Oh, I didn't get pictures, but we went to West Yellowstone on Thursday for a play (Beauty and the Beast) at the Playmill Theater. It was so much fun. Eleanor giggled and giggled when the castle occupants were fighting off the townspeople. After the play she told the actress who played Belle that we have her movie. Speaking of Eleanor, she told me this week when she was running that her lovehandles hurt. What! Who's teaching her that stuff? Not me. Well, the only thing I could think of saying back (while holding in my laughter) was that mine hurt, too, sometimes when I'm running.

RECIPES: Jeff made this roast last week. Oh my goodness, it was DELICIOUS! I don't usually consider myself a roast person, but this converted me. New potatoes, onions, and carrots dug right from the garden, along with fresh herbs out of the grow box, some whole garlic cloves and seasonings. I don't know what he did, but it was magic.

I do know he rubbed the whole thing (an eye of round roast) with fresh cracked pepper and kosher salt (heavily seasoned), then seared it in the hot dutch oven on the stove (in oil), then piled on the veggies and herbs, filled it about half way with water and added beef bouillon, covered it with foil, placed the dutch oven lid on top, then set it in our oven for 4 hours to roast. Our oven has a slow-cooker feature so it was similar to cooking in a crockpot for 4 hours on high (or you could do 6-8 hours on low). The meat was so tender it melted away. The vegetables were so delicious my kids asked not only for seconds, but thirds, and then kept asking for more during the following days as leftovers. Wow. Good job, Jeff!

I made this Baked Chicken this week - super easy. I haven't been cooking much this summer (hard to do when I'm running our little summer camp 24/7 -honestly, we've been so busy this summer I feel like that!).

Coat chicken breasts (I cut them up into thirds) in a bag of flour seasoned with salt, pepper, ginger, and garlic powder. No measurements, sorry. Just eye-ball it.


1/2 cup butter, melted

1/4 cup honey

1 Tbs. soy sauce

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tbs. Worcestershire sauce

(add more or less of the above according to your tastes).

You may want to microwave it a little to help the sugar dissolve.

Brown the chicken in a frying pan in melted butter. Place in oven-safe pan, pour mixed sauce over chicken. Slice onion all over the top. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until done. Baste during cooking if you want. Serve with rice and veggies.

The veggies in this picture are summer squash, zucchini, and onion (straight from the garden!) sauteed in olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. I added garlic toward the end, then mixed in some diced tomatoes (from the garden also!) at the very end, along with some herbs from our garden (chives and oregano I think is what I used this time).


  1. You TOTALLY GO, Girl! I am so impressed with your desire to only compete with yourself. YOU are my inspiration when I go running and I do believe I think of you every time I go. THANK YOU, Triathlete Woman! (Should I make you a costume for your super-hero alter-ego?)

  2. Sarah - I'd love a costume, cape and all! Oh, wait, no capes. They might get caught on a jet engine or something.

  3. You totally inspire me!!! Way to go Stephanie!

  4. you are AMAZING! it was so fun being there! next time we'll have to race together! so proud of you, steph! p.s. great pic of you after the race ;)

  5. Thanks, ladies. Jill, some quick-thinking talented photographer caught me in the picture :) (thanks for taking it!). Next year let's get a picture of the two of us at the finish!