Breath-I know how big of breath I need when I turn my head between strokes. When I run I focus on breathing out to breathing in enough air. During child birth classes they taught us to focus on our breath. A long time mentor of mine has spent a decade reminding me breath work is vital.
When I choose to race the Montana Women’s Triathlon I worried about my breath. I knew I wouldn’t do any altitude training. In many ways a foolish idea because I knew going up 4,000 feet would change how I breathed in all three disciplines.
I didn’t practice at a higher altitude until four days before the race. An article I read recommended arriving ten days in advance to acclimate. As I worked through my last brick my lungs reacted for the rich oxygen filled air to find thin Montana air. I felt light headed multiple times and after the adeline of the workout wore off I felt awful. Some of it was due to stress, but most due to the altitude. A bubble of panic laid heavy in my chest.
The next day my swim practice didn’t go much better. Not only was the air thin, but I needed to adjust to longer swim lanes -37 yards to 50 meters. When I finished I felt floating thinking I could complete this triathlon without more training. Even the reminder of why I wanted to do the race, something fun for me, was not enough to abate the panic.
When race day came I stood an awe as an 83 year old woman ran past me on her way to T-1. She’d been the part of the elite group of swimmers. Suddenly, a new life goal appeared to me if I lived to be old and healthy. As I waited in line for my turn to swim everyone in line cheered for swimmers as they exited the pool. This why I tri.
When my turn came I took a deep breath and crossed the timing mat. During the swim I forced myself to take 5 deep breaths every time I touched the wall whether I thought I needed them or not. I wanted my breath during the swim to be as normal as possible and the breaths on the wall helped. On the bike I felt fine. As I ran out of T-2 the air I thought would flow into my lungs didn’t. I felt the thinness of the air along with a severe hip flexor cramp. For a moment I panicked, however with time I focused on breathing out and running through the cramp. As I neared the finish a participant I passed yelled, “You go girl!” I grinned.
When I finished I had realized I had a 7 minute PR even though my run was slower then at the Beaver Freezer. Shock and elated, I laughed. I took a deep breath of thin Montana air excited to know I prevailed.