Saturday, June 16, 2018

I gave up triathlon for a year and this is what happened....

I always seem to click on those articles...

  • I did plank every day for 2 weeks and this is what happened.
  • I drank a gallon of water every day for a month and this is what happened.
  • I had sex every day for a day and this is what happened.
Blatant but effective click bait titling.    

Most of those articles are because the author made a definitive choice to do something, or not do something for a specific amount of time.  This is not one of those articles.  

I didn't intentionally give up triathlon.  Up until July 17, 2017 I was training for IM Racine 70.3.  Kindof.  Sortof.  I was training in the sense that I woke up every morning knowing what I was supposed to do that day to be ready for the race...then went to bed each not having not done anything.  My job interfered; my family needed me to neglect them from up close, not afar; and my heart just wasn't in it.  I just couldn't muster up the energy to get on a bike for 3 hours, or to get my long runs in.  I just didn't care enough.

But still we went to Racine.  It was my husband's first 70.3, and I brought all my stuff with me on the chance that I would get caught up in all the excitement and decide to just suffer through it anyway.  Ultimately I chose to be a spectator, and drove and rode my way around Racine cheering, waving, and forgetting to take pictures as he rode, ran and walked by me.  

It wasn't until we were heading back to Indiana that I realized the mental load I had been carrying while training not training for the race.  I suddenly felt this weight lift off my shoulders when I realized that I was not scheduled for a single race.  NOT.  A.  SINGLE.  RACE.   For the first time in over 5 years I had nothing on the calendar.  And it was bliss.

In March 2017 my doctor told me that I probably needed a therapist because I was so despondent about gaining back the 40 lbs I lost training for Ironman.  I decided to get a personal trainer instead. In April I met my tormentor trainer Kim.  She changed my workout routine to incorporate weight training.  At this time, I finished a Sprint Tri in May, was committed to a Ragnar Relay in June and was still training for the Racine 70.3.  Over the summer, slowly and stealthily our weekly sessions incorporated Cross Fit style exercises and I found myself learning Dead Lifts, Back Squats and kettle bell swings.

When the pictures were posted for the Sprint I completed in May, I was horrified.  There, posted on Facebook, was all the photographic evidence of my weight gain.  Just having a trainer wasn't going to be enough so I decided to start going to Indiana Medical Weight Loss Center, and get help and guidance from a fellow triathlete Dr. Stacy Braff.  Stacy changed my diet to increase my intake of protein and eliminate white carbs, fried food and sugar.  I began to take a mild appetite suppressant and supplements to help curb carb cravings.  The weight started to come off about a pound a week.  I was still working out 5 days a week, but not to the level that I needed to have the endurance to get me through 70.3 miles.  

Muncie May Triathlon 2017

Post Racine, while wrapped in the bliss of not having a single race on my schedule, I continued to follow Stacy's weight loss program, and submit myself to Kim's weekly beat downs.  I added a 4th day of weight training each week.  The pounds kept coming off.  This continued on through the Fall, the Holidays, the Winter. Somehow I found myself in a Cross Fit class once a week, something I regularly swore I would never do. I finally found a workout schedule that I could sustain 5 to 6 days a week.  This time, as the pounds came off, something strange was happening.  There were hard spots on my body.  I had lost weight before...probably the same weight over and over...but this thing with the hard spots was new.  Turns out when you do a weight loss program along with strength lose fat and gain muscle.  I had never experienced that before!

So winter turned to Spring, and thought started turning to registering for the Muncie May Triathlon that I had done every year.  I was bummed because it happened to be on the same day that my oldest son was graduating from college.  Then it dawned on me...I hadn't been on my bike in nearly 10 months.  It will have been over a year since I had done a triathlon.

Hence the click bait title.

So in the year since my last triathlon, I have lost 40 lbs of fat, and actually gained muscle from when I started with Stacy.  I also succumbed to peer pressure and registered for a Sprint Spartan race in July 2018 with a bunch of friends.  But because I'm an idiot, I decided to actually go for a Spartan Trifecta, and completed a Super in May of this year, and just finished a Beast earlier this month.  I'll get my trifecta with the shortest race next month...the race that was supposed to be my first and another thing I swore I would never do.

Spartan Ohio Beast, June 2018
Spartan Ohio Beast, June 2018

I haven't given up triathlon forever.  I still get teary eyed every time I think of crossing the finish line at Ironman Florida, and would like to attempt it again and this time try and finish without crashing. This is not a post to promote quitting triathlon, or promoting Cross Fit or Spartan.  This is a post about how one day I woke up and realized that what I was doing wasn't working so I did something different. I wanted my outside appearance to look like the athlete I knew I was on the inside.  For me it meant building muscle, giving up sugar, and making sure every mouthful that I put in my body had some sort of nutritional benefit.

I know that my identity isn't a number on a scale.  Proof of that is that I weigh as much now as I did when I completed Ironman.  But now I'm much stronger.  I'm much leaner.  My clothes are smaller.  I'm not training like it's a part time job.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

I am not a Fraud

I ordered a book last week called “The Brave Athlete: Calm the F*ck Down and Rise to the Occasion”.  I had seen several people mention it on various Facebook groups, and Triathlete Magazine featured it in their latest issue.  I read the preview and thought it was funny and could be motivational.  I mean, there’s profanity in a book about Sports Psychology!  What’s not to like?

I started reading it before bed the last few nights.  I’m only 2 chapters in so far…so this is not a review. This book is not what I expected.  Yes, there is profanity.  Yes, it is about Sports Psychology.
But there is more.  So much more.

The first chapter is about the physiology of how your brain works (many big words).  I’m a college educated girl and I like to think that I know things, but I’m also 47 and have come to the realization that there are certain things that I don’t give a crap about…and knowing the names and functions of all the parts of the Limbic System counts among that list.  It is highly unlikely that I will need that knowledge in my current job as a food service manager, so I didn’t bother to commit those terms to memory.  In spite of my apathy about brain stem terminology, is interesting to know how your brain functions and how much your fight or flight response (your Limbic System) contributes to all the mind games that are playing while you are training or racing or lying in bed at 5am knowing you should, but not wanting to get up and go run.

Once you get through that, you get to the good stuff.  Chapter 2 “I Wish I Felt More Like an Athlete”

This is where the book is not what I expected.  Instead of inspirational stories and profanity laced examples of athletes who have overcome their own personal mind games, this book  is also a workbook of sorts.  There are questions that you need to answer about yourself and how you view yourself as a an athlete.  I wasn’t expecting this, but being the dutiful wanna-be I am, I grabbed a pen and started answering some questions.  And in doing so…I had a major epiphany.

I haven’t been posting on this blog.  I have blamed in on all sorts of things.  My work schedule.  Depression.  Apathy.  Last night, while seeing my responses to the questions and statements in the book last night, I realized the true reason I haven’t been writing. 

Ever since I finished Ironman, I have felt like a fraud.

Mind.  Blown. 

We got back from Florida and almost immediately I was on a plane to train for a new job.  I was still so tired.  I did work out the 2 weeks I was away for work, but my runs felt so hard.  I got back the day before Thanksgiving and then there was the whirlwind of the new job, longer hours, holidays and kids out of school.  Looking back at my calendar I did work out, but obviously it wasn’t at my pre IM levels.  As the months went by I did the bare minimum.  I managed to PR a half-marathon in April, but that was only because my friend had a really bad day and decided to run with me instead of up at the front where she would normally be.  I got a tattoo.  I half-assed trained.  I started to gain weight.  Then more weight.  Then more.  In August, I managed to pull IM Ohio 70.3 out of my ass somehow.  In October, I managed to cross the finish line at Marine Corps Marathon.  Then came winter again, and more weight. 

As I type this all out, I realize that finishing a 70.3 and finishing a marathon are all significant accomplishments.  I should have been proud, and I’m sure I was in the moment.  My inner dialogue was so much different.  I was constantly critical of myself for not doing better, for not training more consistently, for not improving. 

Because my inner 7th grader is constantly comparing herself to others, I saw friends out there training all the time, while I would sleep in and skip workouts.  I saw others having fun during their training, while I would show up grumbling and complaining, struggling to finish what would have been (subjectively) easy the year before.  I diminished this huge accomplishment (Ironman) because in the year following it, I knew I couldn’t replicate the effort…while I watched the other people I went to Florida with crossing finish line after finish line. 

For the last year I blamed all this on depression, apathy, my work schedule, and lack of discipline.  I realized last night that this whole time the depression, apathy and lack of discipline were all because I have felt like a fraud. Why would I post on a blog that strives to show that big girls can do great things?  Especially because I could only do them for a split second and then went right back to where I started at.  Total fraud.

But I am not a fraud.  I may not be as physically fit as I was in November of 2015, but I am not a fraud. 

I have completed an Ironman.  I have the pictures and the finisher medal and a scar on my elbow to prove it, and I am not a fraud.

I may not be as fast as everyone anyone else in the running group, but I belong there, and I am not a fraud.

I may not be able to ride 50 miles to Muncie for waffle fries at Chik-fil-A right now, but I belong on that bike, and I am not a fraud.

This morning I woke up and went to my weekly session with my trainer.  As I walked from my car to meet her, and reminded myself that my Self-Schema* (p 45) needed to act more mature.  I strapped on my Alter Ego* (p 50) and proceeded to have my ass kicked for an hour. 

There were other women there.  Tiny women with toned arms, and tan lean legs that looked like they belonged.  My Alter Ego and I were red faced, dripping with sweat, doing some of the most un-graceful looking Burpee Pull Ups ever seen.  We smiled at them and knew that we belonged there too. 

We are not a fraud.

This is the spot where I did the most pathetic looking Burpee Pull Ups in the history of ever.  I had to chalk up mid way through because I was so sweaty that I slipped and face planted.  Burpee Pull Ups are punishment for something I've done in the past...I'm sure of it.  

*This is not a paid endorsement.  I’m only 2 chapters in.  For all I know, the entire rest of the book could suck.  But I have a suspicion that it won’t.  Get.  This. Book.  

Saturday, August 13, 2016

How I Failed as a Women For Tri Ambassador

Please forgive the varying back ground colors and the weird placement of pictures.  Blogger is being stupid today.

I became a women for Tri ambassador in 2015 and was thrilled. I was so excited to promote the sport of triathlon among women in my community.  I was a member of Team IMF raising funds for the Ironman Foundation and my whole life revolved around my upcoming first full long course race IM Florida. I was a living, breathing promoter of all things triathlon, all things Women For Tri, and all things Ironman. 

In 2015, I raised over $4,000 for the Ironman Foundation.  I worked harder on anything I ever had in my entire life to train for Ironman Florida, and actually completed the race in spite of myself.  I bought "You Can Tri With US" tank tops as gifts.  I acquired an entire wardrobe of triathlon, USAT, Ironman and Ironman Foundation clothes as well as a huge collection of hats, water bottles and other gear.  I got a tattoo, but that is a story for a different post.  What I am trying to say is that in 2015 I acted like a sponsor for triathlon and Ironman and Women for Tri.  I gave it money.  I gave it time.  I gave it energy.  What I did not give back was a woman.

In 2015, I did not directly influence a single woman in my community to take up the sport of triathlon. In fact, I did the opposite. 

I am ashamed to admit that as of all that time, energy and money I failed Women For Tri.  And worse, I directly influenced not one, but 2 middle aged white men to become triathletes, a demographic that is so under-represented in our sport. 

Not. husband.  

Tom did a Sprint Tri here in our town along side a bunch of our friends.  It was a great day.  I wanted to be there to cheer him on at the finish line so I acted as sherpa for Tom and a volunteer at the race site.  He had a great swim and a fast bike and a fast run and completely crushed any kind of PR I ever had.  He even placed in his age group!  (And, he looks pretty good in lycra...just sayin)

A week later, my brother John did HIS first Sprint Tri somewhere in Minnesota.  He also had a great day, but since he's always been a great runner, and still holds a school record at our High School from 1998, he wasn't satisfied.  (Those annoying high achievers!!!)

As a finishing present, I sent him his very own Road ID with the following inspirational quote:

"IF MY SISTER CAN DO IT, I SURE AS HELL CAN"  His response?  "That bitch!" but I am assured it was said with love!!!!

So Women For Tri, I apologize.  I did not come through as an ambassador for you.  I did not bring more women into the sport.  I have failed.

On a personal level though...I have gained much.  

I gained a training partner in my husband, even though as a newbie he still leaves me in the dust in all 3 disciplines.

Also, I have had more contact with my youngest brother in the last 6 months than in the previous few years...and once in a while he actually takes my advice!  So I have gained a friendship with a guy I have known since he was only minutes old!

Take another look at that pic of my brother running in to the finish line.  That little girl who is airborne with her Daddy is my niece Kylie.  Maybe...just maybe...the seed of triathlon was planted in her that day.  

Both Tom and John have each completed another Sprint.  As I type, John is in the midst of a Ragnar Relay up there in Minnesota.  Tom is out doing his long run.  They both have mentioned the possibility of 140.6 in their futures.  

Middle Aged White Guys...look out.  My guys are coming for you!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

140.6: The Aftermath

IM Florida was almost 5 months ago already.  5 months!  That just sounds crazy to me.  There was a year to prepare.  There was a day to remember.  Now all that is 5 months in the past.  The next crop of Ironmen-To-Be are ramping up their training, wondering what to eat, wondering what to drink, denying themselves rest days, and wondering if it’s too soon to think about what to pack. 
The last 5 months have not been what I hoped.  For a year I put in an insane training schedule that was still moderate for Ironman standards.  Training became a habit, a way of life even.  I never imagined I’d fall off the wagon.  But I did.

In the weeks before Ironman, I was offered a new job.  I delayed my start date because of the race.  My new employers were understanding, but wanted me to start as soon as possible.  We pulled into the driveway very late on Tuesday night after 2 days on the road.  On Wednesday I cut my vacation short and went in to my old job to tie up some loose ends, and then Monday I was on a plane for a 10 day trip to train for my new position.  It was the first time I had been away from my family for more than a few days.  I was still in recovery.  In less than a month I travelled back and forth to Washington DC for Tom’s Marine Corps Marathon, back and forth to Florida for Ironman and then back and forth to Pennsylvania for my new job.  It was one hell of a month.  And it was exhausting.

I started my new job and went from a VERY flexible 30 hour work week to a regular schedule of 10-11 hour days including weekends with most of it spent on my feet.  I’m not whining.  I know there are plenty of triathletes that work long shifts, sometimes multiple jobs, all of it on their feet.  But for me it was an adjustment.  I’ve always grown bored very quickly behind a desk, and have always been as active as possible at work.  But this was a whole different thing.  I found that I could work the extra 20 hours a week no problem, but it was hard to get back to training.  Sleep just felt so much better.

Then there is the whole S.A.D. thing.  If you don’t have Seasonal Affective Disorder, say a prayer of thanks to whatever higher being you believe in, be it God, Buddha, Allah or Specialized.  Also, shut the hell up before you say something stupid like “it’s all in your head.”  It’s not.  As soon as the days shorten and the sky gets gloomier, it feels like an energy switch is shut off inside and it cannot be turned back on by force of will.  I know this because I’ve tried every November and December for almost 14 years.

So…between the new job, the change of seasons, and renewal of my Netflix subscription…I went from 6 days training anywhere between 13-19 hours a week, to 2 hours a week…if I’m lucky.  The whole time feeling like crap because I see many of the other people I trained behind with all last year keep moving forward.  They’re running and spinning and swimming and not at all acting as exhausted as I feel. 

But hope is not lost.  The sun is out more often than not, and days are getting longer.  The weather has warmed up enough on a few occasions that I actually WANT to get out and run.  There are bulbs blooming and I smelled hyacinth while walking into a store a few days ago. 

On those days that I actually get my ass moving, it feels good.  Sometimes a little stiff in the beginning, but that happened before my hiatus.  My running pace is a significantly a faster version of slow about a minute faster than this same time last year.  Recovery has been pretty quick.  In fact, a few weeks ago when I was spent from the longest run I had done in a while, I walked up the stairs in my house to take a shower and as that veil of fatigue from working out came over me.  I felt…normal.
I’m signed up for a few races already this year, including the inaugural IM Ohio 70.3 in August and as of this morning, the Marine Corps Marathon in October.   I’m not going to sit on my ass for much longer.  In fact, in the middle of typing this post I debated about taking a nap…which I actually really need…but I realized that it wasn’t raining at the moment, and the storms will be back any time.  So instead of putting off my run until I couldn’t go because of a tornado warning…I laced up my shoes and ran.

Five months.  It seems like the blink of an eye.  It also seems like an eternity ago. 

One thing I haven’t missed in the last five months is smelling this bad all the time.  Peace out world…this Ironman needs a shower.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Day I Became An Ironman

I can’t believe it has come and gone.

After a year of planning, training and obsessing.. Ironman Florida is over.  And I finished.

I am an Ironman.

Holy crap!

I really don’t know where to start because so much went on that weekend.  Traveling to Florida, getting towed in our first 5 minutes, playing at the beach with the kids, having friends drive from Illinois to watch, my husband being there for me at the end when I really needed it most…each of these things were blog worthy on their own.

For now I’ll just focus on my race.

Swim (1:43:50):

Oh my gosh I was bouncing around I was so excited in the morning. The girl on the beach was much different from the girl curled up crying in bed the night before. For a year I had been in fear of getting beyond the breakers.  There is a video online of the 2013 swim start that at points was the stuff of nightmares and I envisioned that video every time I thought about the swim.  During a few practice swims in the Gulf in the previous days something clicked.  I understood how to cut through the breakers, to swim in the waves, to deal with the swells.  I no longer had fear of swimming in the ocean.  As I was standing in the start corral moments before the race, I saw my friends from Illinois.  Crystal, Chrisy, Noel and Rebecca had driven down to be obnoxious, make me laugh and watch me become an Ironman.  My worlds collided.  I was standing with my triathlete friends from Richmond then was overwhelmed with hugs and signs and awesome t-shirts from Greenville.  These are 2 of my favorite pictures from the day, and I'm pretty it's because I was so excited and nothing hurt yet!

Tad and Amy and Unknown Whistling Triathlete dude
Chrisy, Noel, Me, Rebecca and Crystal...and a sign that says 140.6 miles to Bacon.  Sadly, they did not present me with bacon at the end.  I only just realized that this very moment!  WTH???

The swim was not wet suit legal, although you could wear one if you wanted.  I chose not to, and I was glad.  I’m sure any extra speed and buoyancy gained by the suit would have been offset by the discomfort of baking in black rubber in the sun.  One of the deceptive things about the swim start is a sand bar that is about 50 meters out from the shore.  Even if you start to swim, you have to get up and walk across the sand bar anyway.  The water was comfortable, and since it was self seeded, it wasn’t as crowded and crazy as it could have been.  Sighting was an issue.  I have a pretty standard pattern when swimming open water, swim 8 strokes, sight, swim 8 strokes, sight…but this pattern didn’t help much when it would be time to sight but I’d be at the bottom of a swell, no buoy in sight.  The current didn’t help much either…pushing me the wrong way.  I’d see the next buoy off to my right…redirect.  Next time the stupid thing was to my left…redirect.

It was a 2 loop swim, so we had to swim in, climb up the beach, run through the timing mat, run down the beach a bit and do it all again.  On the return to shore, the surf helped propel us forward.  I had my ass handed to me by one wave on my first return.  It pushed me down into the water and my chest hit the sand.  Unlike many out there, I managed to not drink any water.  Getting back in the water for the 2nd loop was daunting.  By now the breakers were curling at the top.  I laughed and yelled "Surf's Up!" but others near me weren't amused.  Otherwise the 2nd loop was similar to the first.  The current would push me wherever it wanted and I kept redirecting.  But I learned my lesson because on the second return to shore as we came to the breakers, I just body surfed those suckers in.  I’m pretty sure I even yelled “Wheeeee!” at one point.  Because of the obnoxious-ness.

Overall, my swim ended up being slower than I hoped.  (The whole day was slower than I a pattern was set).  My Garmin tracked my swim as 2.71 miles, there was a lot of sand bar navigating and then there was the whole lack of wet suit thing.  I was pleased none the less.  One thing that I wasn’t prepared for was the boredom.  After a while it got really freaking boring.  Boring, boring, boring, sight, boring, boring, boring, sight, boring, get kicked in the head, boring, boring, boring, big wave…

T1 (9:54):

I had heard tales of the changing area, but until you experience it yourself, you will never really understand. Right there in the athlete guide Ironman tells you that public nudity is not condoned…but it’s a free for all in the changing room.  First thing that I saw when I ran in was a giant set of tits.  They were pretty nice ones too!  Didn’t catch her face or race number on account of I was shocked to be looking right at her chest in all its glory.

But anyway...

The volunteers are amazing.  As soon as you run into the room there is a woman there who offers to help.  They help dump your gear bag onto the ground and help you pull your pants up, your top down and help hook your bra.  The woman who helped me has done several IMs and told me to breathe deep and enjoy the day.  I didn’t ask her name and hardly remember her face.  I think I was still traumatized by those boobs.

Bike (7:20:22):

I was all excited that my bike was racked in one of the first spots because of being on Team IMF.  It really didn’t give much of an advantage other than knowing where to run to and not having to read signs.  Whitney, the coordinator for Team IMF handed me my bike and I went on my way.  I can barely walk in my bike shoes because of the cleats I have, so I left them off until the last minute.  I took off and tried to stay calm.  I didn’t want to over do it in the first hours because I was too excited, so I made a conscious decision to keep myself in check.

Looking at pictures from that day crack me up because I realize I was hardly ever looking at the person who was actually taking pictures.  This is me leaving T1.

A friend had lent me his carbon wheels, and in practice rides I found I was much faster on them.  Usually I ride at a 16.5 mph average, and for the first hour according to my watch I was holding 17.9.  I kept telling myself not to push, and even switched into a lower gear.  It was really exciting going so much faster and I had super high hopes for the rest of the ride.  Then suddenly…out of nowhere…a 12 foot alligator crawled out in the road and I had to swerve to not hit it!!

For real!  It’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

The reality of losing control of your bike because you were trying to fill your aero bottle is too embarrassing, so Alligator Crossing The Road is what I’m going with.

I got up pretty quickly and assessed.  Big bloody goose egg on my elbow, bang on my hip, but my shorts were in tact so I knew it would just be a bruise.  Hit my head on the pavement and was grateful for the helmet that my friend Craig lent me, but it wasn’t cracked so I felt safe to go on.  Thankfully no one was around me at the time, so I didn’t take anyone out.  I would have felt horrible if my stupidity would have cost someone their race.  A passerby stopped on the other side of the road and came over to help me out.  He told me he had raced IMFL in 2013 and apparently that made him qualified to administer first aid.  I was a little shaken up and I’m glad he kept me there for a few minutes until I the shock wore off.  I got back on my bike and headed off for the rest of my day.

Because I didn’t really trust my judgement, I asked for a medic at an aid station about 15 miles later.  I kept bumping my elbow on my aerobars and it would start bleeding again and really wanted it wrapped up.  Also, I didn’t want to be stupid.  I knew I hit my head and wanted to make sure that I was OK.  My head didn’t hurt, I wasn’t nauseous, and I didn’t think the “light headedness” was anything more than the fact I had been moving for 3 ½ hours at this point.  They cleared me but I had to wait a bit for them to show up.  They came in an ambulance.  It was moderately humiliating.  (They didn’t believe me about the alligator either).

Got Gauze?  Nice wrap job, huh?  It would have looked more bad ass if it would have bled through the bandage, but hey, I'll have an that's something!

The remaining 95 miles on the bike were not as fun as those first 17.  I watched my average slowly go down.  And again with the boredom.  Boring, boring, boring, hill, boring, boring, aid station, stop, refill aerobottle, boring, boring, repeat!  The last 35 miles were not as bad since you didn’t see the officials riding around any more, and it wasn’t like any of us out there were in contention for Kona slots or Age Group Awards…so there was more riding side by side and conversation.  I realized it was like medicine to me.  Just a 5/10 minute chat with someone would rejuvenate me for a while.  I know…I talk too much.

One of the perks of Ironman is that when you get off the bike, you hand it off to a volunteer and they rack it for you.  (Unless you were at Maryland this year when you had to do your own manual labor).  I told the volunteer he could rack it or throw it in the dumpster.  I didn’t really care.  I was really really really glad to be off that bitch.  At this point I still felt OK, and was ready to rock the run.  I knew at that point I could do a 6 hour marathon and be pretty close to my 15 hour goal.

T2 (11:57):

The 2nd visit to the changing area did not have the same level of nudity as T1.  The volunteers were just as awesome, even more so at this point.  I don’t know if it’s just me, but I’m pretty disoriented when I’m in transition.  She was asking me fairly simple questions, but I kept just staring at her trying to remember the words I needed to use.  Anyway, this volunteer was also a multiple Ironman, so I trusted her when she told me since I brought a complete change of clothes that I should change.  I had been rained on and everything was wet.

On the other side of the room there was a woman passed out on the floor.  As disoriented as I was, I was grateful that I was still standing and moderately comprehending the world around me.  I was glad to be in dry clothes and ready to take on the run.

Run (7:05:59):

I already had planned on walking for the first ½ mile.  When you first start running after being on the bike, there is this period of time where you really can not feel your legs.  Its hard to explain.  You know they are there, you can make them move, but it takes a lot of faith to believe that they are actually underneath you propelling you forward.  Usually I end up much faster in that first mile than I intend so my plan was to walk until I had my legs back and then start my 5 minute run/1 minute walk intervals.

That’s when the nausea started.  As soon as I started to run I got light headed and felt a wave of nausea hit me hard.  I ran for 2 minutes then walked for a minute.  I tried again.  Nauseous again.  Walked a bit.  Ran.  Nauseous. Repeat.

By 2 miles I came to the realization that I wasn’t going to run and this was going to be a very very long walk.  Very long.  Walk.  #*^@*^@%!!!!!!!!

I hadn’t felt like that since my very first 70.3.  During that race, I didn’t have the nausea.  Just the light headed ness.  I walked the bulk of a ½ marathon.  I knew I could get through the marathon.  I knew it would be a very long day, but I knew I could do it.  So I just kept moving forward.  KEEP.  MOVING.  FORWARD.

I saw my friends from Illinois around mile 5 and I wanted to break down and cry on them. But as I walked up and opened up my mouth, a joke came out instead.  I told them I needed  a shirt that said “Walkers can put 140.6 on their cars too!”  I got some hugs and then kept moving forward.

One of my friends posted this on facebook.  They said I was the Energizer Bunny...just kept going and going.  I love this pic even though it's blurry because I look like I'm pulling off this whole triathlete thing even though on the inside I was hurting so bad at this point that I was fighting a break down.   Steph's new Ironman rule:  Fake it till you FINISH!

The run route takes you through residential areas, and the homeowners were out in full force. There were front yard parties, and signs, and crazy lights and costumes.  They were amazing.  As the evening went on (and on and on and on) they got progressively drunker…but wouldn’t share their beer which I found kind of sad. It is a 2 loop course that turns around in St. Andrew’s park which I’m sure is just a gorgeous piece of Gulf Coast real estate by day…but in the dark it was just pavement.

The aid stations were awesome.  I genuinely felt bad for not taking Gatorade, bananas, Gu or any of the other things they were handing out.  I stuck with water.  As much as my nutrition drink mix was making me sick…the cardinal rule of triathlon is NOTHING NEW ON RACE DAY and I wasn’t going to mess around and make matters worse.  I tried to thank everyone I came across, but there were so many volunteers that I’m sure I missed a ton.

I saw my friends around mile 10 and they told me my husband and kids were waiting for me by mile 13.  By this time I was hurting bad and just kept thinking in 45 minutes I’d see them, in 30 minutes I’d see them, in 15 minutes I’d see them…until finally I did.  I stopped for a few seconds and got hugs and kisses.  I clinged to Tom and told him I didn’t think I could do this anymore but he told me that I could and I would.  I walked to the special needs area, got my bag and walked back to them.  More hugs, more kisses.  The kids had been really antsy and had met their limit so Tom took them home.  I kept walking.  And walking.  And walking….

Eventually I was walking along side a guy named Philip.  He had a meniscus tear in his knee and this was his one and done IM.  He had to walk because he couldn’t run.  So we walked together.  And walked and walked.  At one point he had to stop and I kept walking ahead but he caught up.  Another time I had to stop and had to play catch up to him.  It went on like this for miles. And miles. And miles…

Around mile 20 I had to use the bathroom.  I had used liquid nutrition in part to avoid this situation, but nature called, so I had to use the porta-potty.  I know…TMI.  The worst part…sitting down.  I’m pretty sure even the staunchest germaphobe would have caved and sat down because squatting was not an option.  Even leaning my arms on my thighs hurt.  And it turns out I was wrong, the worst part was trying to stand back up. But I did.  With profanity.  Oh the profanity.

I had lost my walking partner at this point so I started back in to town on my own.  And it was so hard to get moving again.  That brief stop was just long enough for every muscle in my legs to think they were done for the night so I had to wake them up again.  It took a while but eventually I picked up the pace.  And I saw my friends again.  And I apologized to the two people walking near me for my obnoxious friends and then walked with them for a while.  We shared names but I only remember them as Crystal Lake and Maine.  There are a lot of people like that who I chatted with but don’t remember names…Bike Guy, Boston, K-T Tape lady, Poofy Ponytail…

About a mile later as Crystal Lake, Maine and I are starting to complain about all the hills on the run course (others referred to them as speed bumps but after 15 hours…they were hills...big hills) I saw a guy walking toward us that looked an awful lot like my husband.  It was.  After dropping the kids off, he came back and started walking the course until he met up with me.  It was so rejuvenating seeing him.  He told me that I would walk faster if I wasn’t making so many jokes with Crystal Lake and Maine and I rolled my eyes and kept walking.  He would tell me to march over the speed bumps hills, and I would roll my eyes and keep walking.  He would tell me how boring it is to spectate a sprint tri let alone an Ironman, and I would roll my eyes and keep walking.  I never felt more loved.

I don't have any pictures of Sherpa Tom walking with me for the last 5 miles of the "run" but this was him on the beach before the swim start.  He looked pretty similar!

Eventually we caught up to Philip again.  He was struggling at this point.  Not only his knee but his back.  He really didn’t think he was going to make it, but we kept walking.  I knew we would make the cut off but he didn’t seem sure.

We got this.
We’re almost there.
F**** speed bump hill.
Just to that parking garage and we turn left.
Just over a mile.
F**** speed bump hill.
Just under a mile.
.7 miles
Just after that building we turn left and then right to the chute.
Almost there.
There’s the chute.  .2 miles left.
Run it in.

While I’m trying to reassure Phillip that we are almost done and that he can do this, Tom is right there with me telling me I’m almost done and I better run all the way in.  When I got to the chute I started running and he walked to transition to get my bike.

I’ve visualized the finish line at Ironman for years.  Every time I did, my eyes welled up with tears and I would get choked up.  I’ve read that I should savor the moment, take it all in, high-5 everyone and enjoy it.  I did. I ran all the way in…ran…no shuffling…and had a huge smile on my face.  And I saw the bright lights, and I heard my name, and I heard him say “You Are An Ironman” and he was talking to me, and I sent secret hand signals to those at home and then I got to stop walking.  It all happened too fast. The finish line that is, not becoming an Ironman…that took a long freaking time.

Holy crap.

I am an Ironman (16:32:02)

The next hour or so was full of hugs,high 5s, pictures, gathering of stuff, walking to the car, trying to bend my legs to get into the car, trying to read all the texts and facebook posts, having to put the phone down because my arms and hands were shaking so badly, trying to get out of the car, getting my shoes off, getting undressed, showering, dealing with chaffing…oh the chaffing.

Tom and me
The girls again!  Chrisy, Noel, Becca and Crystal.
Cliff, Angie, Mindy and Rob

Will I do it again…yes, but not for a while.  I know that I finished, which is more than many people that day, but that run is already haunting me.  I wasn’t trained enough to deal with the issues I had that day.  If it had been a perfect day…no crash…no stomach issues…I MIGHT have made my goal of 15 hours.  Now I know what I didn’t know.  I’ve experienced it, and I know what to prepare for. But it won’t be for a long time.  My kids need to be older.  The training takes too much time away from them and from my husband.  They put up with a lot of neglect this past year.  I owe them my attention for a while.

Swim 2.4 miles.
Bike 112 miles.
Run 26.2 miles.
Lord it over everyone I know for the rest of my life.

Friday, November 6, 2015

It Takes A Village

I'm a bad blogger.  Good bloggers provide content on a regular basis.  I do not.

If you happened to live inside my head, you would find numerous cleverly worded, elegantly crafted blog posts about my past year of training.  But you don't want to live there.  Trust me.  Especially this week.

But just as any good Catholic must go to church on Easter and Christmas...even a bad blogger about triathlon must at least post a pre and post-IM recap.

It's almost here.  This time tomorrow I'll be putting bottles on my bike, dropping crap off at special needs, and wondering when they are going to announce if the race is wet suit legal or not ( probably won't be.  Glad I brought a swim suit.)

I've been working on this post in my head for a few weeks.  And it kept getting longer and longer.  I wanted to make sure I said something special about all the people who have made a difference on this journey to Florida. And there are many of them.  And there are a hundred different anecdotes I wanted to share about those people.  But then I worried that I would forget someone and then feel horrible.  And it would probably  be Ashley, and she's still pissed at me for not getting a screen shot of her crossing the finish line at Louisville last month, so no list of Thank Yous.

I wanted to write how the important thing is Just To Finish.  Well yes...that is important.  But I also want to do well.  I have been training with some amazing athletes this year, and although I know this is my race and my race's still hard to not hold yourself up to them in comparison.  I don't want to just be the token (former) fat girl that they tolerate on group rides.  I want to be like them.

It's also hard not to hold yourself up to basic math.  I have calculated and re-calculated estimated times for everything.  I know what the times are for my worst case scenarios.  And I should be able to finish in under 15 hours.  So that is what I really want to do...finish this bitch in under 15 hours.

And this is where I start to freak out...

I freak out because I have 17 hours to finish.  And better, stronger athletes than myself have used almost all 17 of those hours.  Some have gone beyond that.  Some didn't finish at all.  If better athletes than I struggle with 17 hours...who the hell am I to think I can do it in less?

So I freak out at the unknown.  The X-Factor of Ironman.  Will it be the heat?  Will it be the swells in the ocean?  Will it be a mechanical issue with my bike?  What will be the unknown tomorrow?

Once again, I'm going to highlight how Ironman is like childbirth.  The pregnancy (training) seems to last forever until you are at the point that you know you are as ready as you will ever be and just want to get it over with.  You come to it with a birth plan (pace calculations on a post it note) and way too much packed in your suitcase (every piece of gear you own).  The nurses (anyone who has done an IM previously) will reassure you that what you are feeling is normal and that you are going to be fine.

But the first time is mildly terrifying...because of the unknown.  How bad will it hurt?  Will anything go wrong? Why did I think this is a good idea?

I won't continue on with this analogy because I have 4 children...and I promised Tom that this is the only Ironman I will do...

So that is where my head is at right now.  I know I've done the training.  I know that I can finish.  I know I am going to be an Ironman tomorrow.  I just don't know what I don't know.

But about that Village:

It really does take a village to get to Ironman. I really want to acknowledge everyone who helped me get here, but I really can't.  Not today.  I'm getting emotional just thinking about it.  If I swam, ran, walked, rode with you this are part of this list.  If you reassured, encouraged, motivated or inspired me this are part of this list.  If you watched my kids, let me off of work or covered for me while I trained this are part of this list.  If you live in my house, are related to me in any way and I have neglected you this are part of this list.  If you are my're at the top of the list.

But I do want to thank 2 different people that had the balls to be honest with me this week in a way I needed to hear. In different ways, they both told me that a year ago, they thought that there was no way I would go through with this.  They both told me that have I defied their expectations.

Mine too.

Bored on Saturday?  Feel free to track me at the following link:

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Are You An Athlete?

I looked absolutely ridiculous.

I had just finished a swim at the quarry so I was in my club tri-shorts.  They have graffiti all over them and a big skull on the thigh.  I had wet hair so I grabbed the only thing in my gear bag, a black beanie.  I wasn't even paying attention to my was dry and didn't smell bad...the only 2 criteria that mattered.

There I was standing in line at Aldi with 2 loaves of bread and some hamburger patties hoping that I didn't see anyone I knew.

"Are you an athlete?"

I looked up into the face of the slightly strange looking woman in front of me, surprised to see her staring directly into my eyes.

"Are you an athlete?" she asked again.

"Um no...I'm just training for a race" I answered.

"Aren't you an Ironman?" she responded, pointing to my shirt.

I looked down.  It was my volunteer shirt from last year's Ironman Florida.  "Well not yet.  I hope to be.  My race is in November."

That was it, the extent of the conversation.  It was her turn to be rung up and her attention turned to the cashier, and then bagging and boxing her items.  I had never seen her before and I haven't seen her since.  But her question has stuck with me.

Am I an athlete?

My quick response is no.  I've never been an athlete.  I've never been good at sports.  I played soccer as a kid for many years, but I never was a star.  I never scored a goal.  I don't think I made any type of significant plays.  I swam in High School and then again in college.  But while I could swim forever I wasn't fast.  I would be the JV swimmer the coach would put in the 500 to give the Varsity girl a break between the 100 Fly and the 500.  I did karate in college, but that was a lifetime ago. So no, I wouldn't say I am an athlete.

But then I look at my training calendar and see what I've done in the past year to prepare for IM Florida.  In the last 2 1/2 months alone I have put in over 1,200 miles.  Is that something a non-athlete does? Probably not.

Then there's this:

I got my bib number last night.  For an Ironman race.  A freaking IRONMAN!!  2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run.  Me.  ME.  ME!!!!  Is that something that a non-athlete does?  

Hell no.

So crazy eyed, chatty lady at Aldi...yes.  Yes I am an athlete. I'm a spandex wearing, quarry-scented athlete in a ridiculous beanie.  And in 24 days...I'm gonna be a freakin' IRONMAN!

Only 10 days left to finish my fundraising for the Ironman Foundation through Team IMF.  If you'be been putting off making a donation...please click RIGHT HERE and get it off your mental to-do list.  Several have told me that they would donate and haven't yet.  Don't make me tag you!!  ;) THANK YOU!!!!!