Times:
Swim: 43:02 (could I be a more pathetic swimmer?)
Bike: 48:59
Run: 31:32

For me, the Danskin started in April of 2003. I was in the hospital after my Whipple Procedure and I was thinking, “I want to do something amazing that I never, ever dreamed I’d be able to do. What should I do?” I had a LOT of time to think about this as hospitals are not so much the laugh-a-minute carnival of fun that one would have you believe. I remembered in the back of my head someone talking about the Danskin triathlon. I was laying there with tubes sticking out of my oh-so-sexy belly, able to walk maybe 25 yards without needing to sit down, and I’m thinking, “Triathlon? Oh yeah, I could do that!”

Color me delusional!

I knew it wasn’t going to be in 2003, but that was my goal in 2004. I started reading as much as I could about triathlons and that particular triathlon. I started biking in the gym. I went from walking to running. I thought a lot about swimming, sure I’d need to do that at some point as well. In March I was one of the first people to sign up for it, the very day registration opened.

In April I started training in earnest. I found out that despite the fact that LAST time I was in the water, I’d swam just fine, I could no longer swim very well. (Never mind that “last time” was probably when I was 12.) Roy bought me a cheap mountain bike and I started putting in the miles on that. (And have the scarred knees to prove it!) I kept on running, my favorite of the three sports. I joined discussion boards. I set up a training log. I read other people’s race reports. I was SO excited!

I trained, and trained, and trained some more. When I found out that my father-in-law had scheduled a trip to Norway for the two weeks prior to the Danskin I was not happy. Not that I didn’t want to go, but I didn’t want to go THEN. I wanted to be prepared and I worried that I wouldn’t be able to train in Norway. Never fear, I ran in Norway, I swam. I didn’t bike, but I was okay with that. I was ready to go!

T-minus one week to the Danskin I wake up, in Norway, feeling horrible. Not to worry. I’m sure it’s just a 24-hour flu thing. I’ll be fine. Monday, still sick…no worries, it’ll be fine. I pushed myself to get out of bed. No stamina to run, I walked. I still had 6 days. Tuesday, still sick. I tried to push the worry from my head. We walked from Gravdal into Bergen and around town that morning, about five miles. I denied that I was going to have to give up the Danskin. I’d worked too hard to let some bug or troll get me down. Wednesday came and I was still sick. I shed a few tears and finally faced up to the fact that I was probably not going to be able to do this. I rested. I prayed for a miracle. Thursday was the trip home and while I felt better, I was still sick. Friday I would decide if I could do this or not.

Friday came and I felt a little better, but after a morning of shopping and re-stocking the house, I was sick again. That was it. No Danskin for me. With a heavy heart I emailed friends and family and said “No Danskin.” I was sick about it, but what could I do?

Saturday morning I woke up dark and early…about 2 a.m. As I lay there cursing jet lag I started thinking about Danskin and about why I wasn’t doing it. Was I really THAT sick or was I bagging out? How would I feel about myself Monday morning? How many other women would be there still in treatment for cancer, weakened, ill, tired with bodies that had betrayed them. Was I going to let some stomach troll keep me from doing something I’d dreamed of and worked towards for over a year? I prayed about it a LOT. I thought about all the possibilities. I knew that there would be on-track support through every leg of the race. I knew NO one would think less of me if I had to stop. I knew that Roy would be there supporting whatever decision I’d made. I knew God would be with me. I also knew I’d be in some GREAT company. Right there at 2:30 a.m. the morning before the Danskin, I decided to go for it. I got up and went online and looked up the schedule. I found my swim gear and assembled it. At 3:30 a.m. I threw on the lights in the bedroom and announced to my blinking, confused husband, “That’s it! I’m doing it!”

“You’re wha??! What time is it??! Are you sure? Are you feeling like you’re up to it?”

“I’m sure. I’m doing it!”

“You are aware it’s 3:45 in the morning, aren’t you?”

“That clock is fast. It’s actually 3:30.”

“You’re sure?”

“I’m sure.”

Fast forward to the expo. This is my first Danskin and this place was crazy! Roy, the pterodactyls living in my stomach, and I made our way through the lines. I looked up my race number; 170. Cool! Was that a good number? I made my way over to the sign that said what time my swim wave would start: 7:03.

WHAT?!

Looked again. I was hoping for 8:00 or so…I couldn’t go in the third wave!

I got in line for body marking, Roy pointed the camera ready to shoot. I convinced myself that I’d made a mistake. I whipped out of line back over to the wall to re-check my number. I heard Roy call “Tory!? Where are you going?”

Damn. I wasn’t wrong. Okay, it is what it is. Maybe there is a benefit to starting to so early, but I swore I’d signed up in the recreational category!

Got body marked and then entered another winding line to pick up my race packet. Then another line to have my chip checked (what a great idea with almost 4000 women competing, to check the chips). I knew I had a course review at 12:30 and a First-Timer’s clinic at 1:10 so I wanted to get over and get my goodie bag and check out the rest of the expo. I was standing in line waiting to pay for anti-fog solution when I saw Kathy Kaleb, a great lady I had taught with at the junior high. I said hello, we both talked about how darn NERVOUS we were and how glad we were to find each other. I wish we’d made arrangements to meet the next day, but we didn’t.

While we were talking Roy disappeared only to reappear with a Women’s Danskin 2004 hat for me! I wear a blue Nike hat when I run (to cover the scary hair from swimming and biking) so when he saw a Danskin hat of the same color, he knew I had to have a new hat for this. Don’t I have an awesome guy! I hugged him and kissed him and thanked him for the 8,000th time for being such a wonderful, supportive guy.

We headed over to the course review, which was interesting. When that ended I wanted to move closer so I could actually see Sally Edwards. I’d read two of her books and I was so fascinated by this woman who was a 16 time Ironman champion, but dedicated herself and her life to making little people like me feel like we can accomplish anything AND raising money and awareness for cancer. I hung on her every word. When we did the little cheer “I am an awesome swimmer! I am an awesome cyclist! I am an awesome runner!” I swam and I cycled and I ran with a big grin on my face. I ignored the pterodactyls, who appeared to be salsa dancing, at this point, with the trolls and bought into being an amazing woman. I cried with the survivors who spoke. I clapped. I cheered. I was PUMPED!

After making one more trip around the expo where I picked up some lace locks and a race belt, we headed out to Genesee Park to rack my bike. I tried to coax the trolls and giant pre-historic birds out of my intestinal tract but it was a no go. We got to the site and parked in the first parking lot that said “Bike rack parking” and walked my bike to the park (discovering we could have just driven UP to the park…but oh well). I got my rack placement, A, and made my way up to the front of about 6 million bikes. Whoa! Maybe there is a benefit to starting so early…but wait there are signs. There were four racks in A and one rack said “Elite”. Yeah, so NOT me…passed that one by. The next two said “Team Survivor”. Well, I am a survivor of Hank, but he was only pre-cancer, so not me. Then one wasn’t marked so I looked and was dumbfounded. Every place was taken! Finally a lady said “You just need to move a bike over. That’s what I did. There’s supposed to be ten to a rack anyhow.”

I hated to do it, but I did. Whew. That’s done. I was right in A4, directly in front of the walkway to the swim entrance. Prime real estate, if you ask me! Roy asked if I wanted to go look at the swim course, and I said I did. We walked out there and I said bravely, lying through my teeth, “Wow, that doesn’t look bad at all. I can totally do that.” (What did Dr. Phil say about “fake it until you make it?” Well I was faking it BIG time!)

We headed to the hotel, checked in, then realizing we had not eaten since breakfast, we went out to dinner where I talked about tomorrow and Roy reassured me, and the trolls and pterodactyls ordered fish tacos and bread and then fought over the bits and pieces as they went down. Took a short swim in the pool until some cigar smoking, teenie weenie, cannonballed in right on top of me. We shared our piece of cheesecake we’d brought with us and I fell deep asleep.

Woke up dark and early once again! I always say, if you’re going to do an endurance sporting event, it’s best to get like 3 hours of sleep a night for the 3 nights prior to the event! I listened for the trolls. They seemed to be quiet. Maybe the pterodactyls, who were there but sleeping, had eaten them. After lying in bed wide-awake praying, going over and over the race course in my mind (especially the swim), I woke Roy and we got up.

Quick breakfast of oatmeal and tea at Denny’s and we were off to the site! I wanted to be at the transition area an hour and a half before my start, for some reason. So we headed to the parking area and were on the first shuttle out. We got there before the transition area even opened. By then the pterodactyls were WIDE awake and doing fly bys in my stomach, but no sign of trolls at all. I set up my area while Roy took pictures from outside the transition area. I had brought my “My First Triathlon” medal for good luck, but not a lot else. Less is more, they say! That took about 2 minutes of my hour and a half. I sweet-talked Blue, my bike, and told her what was going to happen and that I’d missed her the night before. I checked and rechecked my gear. Two more minutes down. I walked over and talked to Roy then we walked around. I went back into the transition area with my thoughts and left Roy outside. My doubts were surfacing. I can’t do this. I can’t. I can’t do the swim. I’m crazy. I have been flat on my back, can’t walk for 20 minutes without sitting down sick for a week, and I think I’m doing a triathlon? What am I insane? I made up my mind to tell Roy I wasn’t going to do it. I couldn’t do it. I started to cry. I stopped crying. I said “Knock it off you big baby! Grow up!” I prayed. I gave my fear to God. He took it. I felt better. I wrestled it back from him and caressed it a little more. He waited patiently with his hand out, ready to take it back. I handed it back…snatched it again and held on a little more, then finally gave it over to Him and said “Here, I don’t want this. Keep it.” He promised He would be my swim angel and nothing would happen. I thanked him and squeezed out a few more tears, but this time tears of love and joy because I knew He was with me, and I knew He gave me Roy and Roy was with me, and I knew I could do it.

At about 6:30 I put on my brave face and shouted down the pterodactyls and Roy and I walked out to the swim course for a look-see, and then a warm up. No one was warming up. Was that normal? Finally someone walked into the water, so I went in after her. We laughed nervously. The water was WARM! Whew, that was a relief. Another lady joined us. We joked a little about how this was going to be so great. One lady dove in. I dove in. I swam a few strokes and turned around and looked towards Roy (blind as a bat, you know). I swam out to the buoy line, and back in. I stood up and shouted, “I can do this! This is AWESOME!” People smiled and a few laughed. I didn’t care. The pterodactyls flew out my ear and my personal swim angel settled on my shoulder and whispered, “I never had any doubt.”

The announcer explained how things were going to go. A lady started a warm up. I couldn’t see her, but I warmed up with her, the women around me bobbing and jumping and stretching and smiling nervous smiles. She pumped us up. Soon it was time. We counted down, ten…nine…eight…the elite group, wave 1, went out. Ten…nine…eight…the first group of Team Survivor went out. Now it was my wave, group two of team survivor. I have no idea why I was put into the TS group, but I figured it was either a mistake or God’s way of telling me, “After all We went through together last year, my dear, you are a survivor so I’ve put you here.”

Sally was in a boat to meet us as we entered the water. Our secret word was “fantastic” and we were the best swimmers. Ten…nine…eight…seven…six…I…five…am…four…a…three…fantastic…two…swimmer…one. We’re off!

The swim went relatively well! I started to swim the crawl. I started to pray. I remembered the verses I had brought with me. I tired quickly…that’s okay, you’ve been sick. Just roll over and relax some, get back in. I spent the first half swimming backstroke half the time and crawl half the time. I think my illness hit me most in the swim. The first buoy came up and I shouted “Woo hoo!!” and went around it. I realized I hadn’t panicked! I prayed thanks to God and headed out. About halfway into the swim I thought, “Okay, time to challenge yourself. Swim ten sets of crawl without stopping.” “Is it stupid to do this while in the race?” “No, just do it.”

Did it.

Then I thought, “Pray and be thankful for as many people as you can without stopping.” One-two-three breathe. One-two-three-Roy-breathe. One-two-three-Janny-breathe. One-two-three-Angie-breathe. One-two-three-Greg-breathe. Who’s Greg? No idea. Oh well, he must need my prayers today! I thought of everyone who needed prayers and everyone and everything I was grateful for. Soon I was rounding the next buoy. Woo hoos around! Got kicked in the chest, oh well! The shore looks a long ways away! Oh well! It is what it is! Kept going kept going. Looked for the plants I knew I’d be seeing underwater as I got closer! There they were! For some INSANE reason decided “I want to take one home as a souvenir and put it into the pond. Kept a few in my left hand as I swam in the rest of the way. About 50 meters charley showed up…as in horse. I told him “Horses don’t swim. Get out of here and bug someone else, but not another competitor. Someone on the shore. Go!” He did, so if someone on the shore got an unexplained charley horse, sorry about that.

Remembered the words of the lady from the swim clinic, “Keep swimming until you touch the bottom three times, then RUN!” Touch, touch, touch, up run!

Saw Roy and screamed “I did it! It was AWESOME! I did it!”

“You DID do it! I love you!”

“Glasses!” He handed me my glasses, I ran off to transition one feeling like I was running on air. I did it! I did it! I did it!

I took over six minutes to get to the bike start. Hopped on and got going. The first part was beautiful, right along the lake. We woo-hooed and cheered “The swim is over! It’s all easy from here!” I got passed. I passed. I got passed a lot. I didn’t care. Uh oh, big hill! It is what it is, right? I shifted down, but not enough and ended up hopping off and running up the hill about 50 feet or so, back on the bike and onto the I-90 floating bridge. Into a tunnel, lots of “Yah!” and “Woo hoo!” and “You go girl!” The I-90 stretch was long and straight, slightly hilly but not bad. I thought a lot about the swim and I prayed and I cried. I knew that God had seen me through it in a way I could never have done on my own. I said prayers of thanksgiving for Julianne who was my swim coach through the last month or so.

Turnaround time. I thought I heard my name, but no…who would know me out here? Going going going…passing on the left, being passed on the left. I could tell my time wasn’t great, but that was okay. I’m not a fast cyclist on a good day and my quads were complaining about the complete lack of exercise in the last week. It’s okay. Did a body inventory; legs…good, quads…sore but good, shoulders…wow, didn’t bug me once in the swim! Great! Big goofy grin…firmly in place. Attitude…A++. It’s a good day to be alive!

Rode in down the big monster hill…nice on the way down. Lots of spectators cheering. Called out thank yous to people on the course and complimented some guy on his beautiful dog. Came around the corner. Could see the bike finish. Remembered the words from the swim clinic about dismounting, throw one leg over, and coast in until you have to dismount, then run in. Hopped off, started to run, jelly legs! Whoa! Laughed a HUGE guffaw “Okay, running in is NOT going to happen today!” Walked in! “Wooo hoo! Bike is over!”

Found my legs and loped into transition. Dropped off the bike, grabbed my hat, stuffed my gel into my tri suit and took off. Much faster than T1!

This was MY leg. I love running. I really do. I had acknowledged going in that there was going to be a chance that I might have to walk, but that was okay. Jogged over to the start and took off amid cheers. Roy called my name and snapped a picture! I slowed and yelled, “I love you!!!!!!!” then ran off.

Oh it just felt great to be alive! The sun was shining! The lake was gorgeous. I was on this course with 4000 other amazing women! I ran past many people, calling out “You’ve looking great!” “Way to go!” “Only THREE miles to go! We’re nearly there!”

I came up on a lady running ahead of me and noticed she had a Lance Armstrong bracelet on. As I ran up to her I called out “Live strong! I have my bracelet on too!” She said, “I’m not feeling very strong right now.” I slowed and I said, “You know what? You are doing something today that 99% of the people out there would never even DREAM of doing.”

“I know.” She said wearily.

“You’re living strong. We all are! We are awesome! Keep going!”

I stayed with her a few more paces and then picked up. I saw a lot of ladies struggling and called out encouragement. Like in my last triathlon I figured I may not be the best triathlete, but I was going to be someone who made others feel GREAT about what they were doing.

Mile one, looked at my watch…whoa! Under a 9 minute mile? Is that right? Can’t be. Looked at the lake on my left…how beautiful. Wondered if the people who lived there took this amazing site for granted. Yelled, “It is a wonderful day to be alive!” Cheers from other ladies. “Beats a day of being dead ANY time!” Laughter.

Thanked the course support…passed a guy playing bongos and said “Thank you!” He yelled out “Looking awesome!” I said “you have NO idea how much your support means to all of us!” Running…running…turned the corner, mile two…wow, about 9:40 mile. That’s great! Woo hoo!

“Ladies! You look incredible!” “Woo hooo!” “Oh my Lord, look at that hill!!” It is what it is…headed up a nasty hill. Why did that they do that to us! After half a mile swim, 12.4 miles of biking, 2.75 miles of running, they give us this hill???

Came over the top of the hill and said to the lady next to me, “Well that kind of sucked, didn’t it?”

“Yup, it kind of did!”

“Ah well, we’re home free now!”

The spectators were getting thicker, yelling, cowbells, air horns. “You’re almost there! You’re almost there!”

My heart leapt into my throat as I turned into the park. Lots of cheers. Blessed shade…it was getting toasty! I turned a corner and saw the finish line, oh my God. I did it. I did it. I did it. I started down the finish chute and started to cry, couldn’t breathe “Don’t cry yet. You can’t breathe when you cry. It wouldn’t do to pass out before you hit the finish line. Buck up little soldier!” Fought back the tears and ran hard, let the cheers fill my ears, crossed the mat, heard the beep, started to cry…ran up to a volunteer who placed a medal around my neck and said, “Congratulations. You are a triathlete.”

I stumbled through the cheers and found my wonderful Roy and hugged him and cried and cried and said “Thank you…thank you…” He said, “I’m so proud of you” and laughed at my tears. We hugged and hugged and hugged. I was so tired. I said “A week ago I couldn’t get out of bed. I can’t believe I did it.” “I can’t believe you did it either!” My swim angel on my shoulder said, “I never had any doubt.”