Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What I Expected...


I went to see Dr Dugas today at Andrew's Sports Orthopaedic Center in Birmingham.  In a nutshell he said it's time to go in and clean up my shoulder.  The MRI I had a few weeks ago wasn't "normal" although he said it wasn't terribly impressive (nothing was "flapping in the wind").  But I've tried every conservative treatment available and nothing has worked to get me back out there the way I want.  So, January 7th I go under the knife.  He knows he is going to cut out a piece of my bicep tendon and reattach it.  He said he would look at every other part of my shoulder/rotator cuff and repair/clean up anything he sees in there.

That's the good news.  The not so great news is that this means it will be 6-8 weeks of doing NOTHING after surgery.  He said I'll start PT the day after, but it won't look like anything I'm used to so he wants me to get it in my mind that I'll be doing NOTHING at all so it won't be such a shock.  He said I could plan to start "training" about 90 days post surgery and if Iron Man training was six months I could plan to race again in October!!  I'm taking that as EXCELLENT news.  The 6-8 weeks of "nothing" is just my ticket to train hard later.

Not the best example...but you get the idea...
He explained that the tendon tear is not exactly what we think of when we hear that word.  It's not like
a piece of paper.  He compared it to a green limb off a tree.  He said if you take the limb and twist it, the fibers would split apart.  If you twist it back together, it might look just fine from the outside, but it's "torn" and not as strong.  He plans to cut that "torn" part out.  From the way he talked there could also be a tear in the labrum that he'll need to repair.

So...from now until the 7th he said I could do what ever I want to do.  He said the shoulder is already beat up, I might as well burn it out!!  I instantly had visions of swimming and running!  The only thing that stands in my way is pain, and they make pills for that!  Seriously I feel like a teenager who has just been given keys to the car and told to have fun!!  (Ask me tomorrow how I'm feeling and I might have a different answer...)

January 7th...19 days and a wake up.  The countdown has begun.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Moving On

I'll be honest...the original title of this post was going to be "I Give Up".  I didn't mean give up on my body, I meant give up on physical therapy for my shoulder.  But, the truth is I am not giving up per se.  I'm moving on.

This shoulder thing has been hanging around FAR TOO LONG.  But, at the same time I have to realize that even though I haven't been 100%, I was able to train for (and complete) an Iron Man race that some are calling the hardest WTC (Iron Man brand) race around.  It may have been "slow" but I finished standing up!  :D

To recap...I started feeling something was not quite right in September 2012.  At first I thought it was sympathy pains for a friend of mine (who has since had surgery for a torn rotator cuff), so I ignored it.  When it kept bothering me I decided I needed to work it more and added TRX and Hot Yoga to my swim/bike/run plans.  When it (shockingly) didn't get better, I went to see Dr Olsen.  After a couple of visits didn't bring relief, I went to see an orthopedic doc, Dr Tindall.  He put me on steroids and told me to back off workouts (which I did).  When the drugs and rest didn't work, I went back.  He did a shoulder MRI (no contrast) and gave me an injection.  When that didn't seem to help he did a neck MRI (thinking it might be a nerve issue) and referred me to another doctor for a nerve conduction study.  The nerve study showed some trouble in the left (upper) trap.  She said the neck MRI was "normal" but that wasn't a finding she would usually see with a "normal" MRI, so she looked at it herself and said there were some slight bulges in the cervical discs.  She said she thought it was a "pinched" nerve.  Dr Tindall said I would eventually need surgery but there was nothing to do except live with it until then.  I had some visits with Dr Olsen again and had some PT with Jay Austin.  I then went to get a second opinion from another orthopedic doc, Dr Layton.  He referred me to another nerve doc, Doctor Cosgrove who gave me some facet joint injections.  THAT seemed to give me relief so I had a Medial Branch Nerve Ablation (they burned the nerves in my neck).  After I came to realize that wasn't the answer I went back to the nerve doctor, but had to see a new guy, Dr Reto since Dr Cosgrove had moved away by then.  Dr Reto referred me to the Alabama Pain Management Clinic where I had facet joint injections, an injection in my trapezius and two injections in my shoulder (one in the front and one in the back).  About five weeks ago I went for yet another opinion from Dr Ortega at Andrews Sports Orthpedic Center in Birmingham who sent me for PT (which I've been getting from Todd Hayes at Johnson and Hayes).

In the beginning, I had very high hopes that PT was going to work.  I'm just a few weeks in but I am not seeing any measure of improvement.  The only time I can tolerate movement is when I'm taking two Aleve twice a day.  I could do that, but then I would end up needing treatment for a stomach ulcer!

So...I'm not giving up, I'm just moving on.  I made another appointment with Dr Ortega for Monday.  I'm going to ask for an MRI with contrast.  He didn't want to do that last time because I had not yet done a serious round of PT for my shoulder (when I went to Jay Austin, they were thinking it was a pinched nerve in my neck).  Dr Ortega didn't want to do anything before trying PT first.  There is a chance I haven't given it long enough to work, but at the same time, I don't think I'm seeing any improvement that might give me hope.

I watched a video on defeat today (see below).  Andy Potts (pro triathlete) says there are two things in life you can control-your attitude and your effort; when you're defeated you aren't able to give your best effort.  I am NOT defeated by this.  In fact, I'm going to say I'm even more inspired than ever to continue.  This shoulder thing will not stop me.
"Defeat meant reassess, rebuild, chase learn more out of defeat than you do success because success makes you overlook things."  --Chris McCormack 
"I look at it as a chance to become a better athlete."  --Tim O'Donnell

Thanks for stopping in...I promise one day (really soon) I won't be whining about my shoulder any more!  :D

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

59th Street Bridge Song

I remember in 5th grade learning the 59th Street Bridge Song.  You know the one?  "Slow down you move too fast, you got to make the morning last.  Just kickin down the cobble stones.  Lookin for fun and feelin' groovy..."

Well...I'm fining myself on the 59th Street Bridge, being forced to, once again, SLOW DOWN.

After I went to the Andrew's Orthopedic Center a few weeks ago, I started doing PT at Johnson and Hayes.  Day one was GREAT.  I was given some home exercises to do twice a day, every day until I returned five days later.  I did them like a champ and got so excited I started penciling in races for 2014, including a tough 140.6, The Great Floridian.  Day 2 I was pushed and told I might need to take the next day off depending on how sore I was.  I did.  Day 3 I felt good, but still pretty sore.  Then I went out of town and was given some extra exercises to do at home but told to drop down to once a day and maybe only every other day.

By the time I went back for Day 4 I was hurting again just like I had been before.  At that point he backed off a little and rearranged the exercises.  Yesterday I was in a good bit of pain.  So today, Day 5, I was told we're going to have to slow down the process.

My back in 2011
Exaggerated winged scapulae
Possibly what is going on is this:  I started out with weak muscles
and what basically amounts to poor posture.  I added load to that and wound up injured.   In the last year I've done TONS of things in attempt to correct the symptom (pain)...but nothing to correct the underlying dysfunction (weakness and poor mechanics).  So, every time the pain went (mostly) away, I went back to working out and - BAM - more pain!  ((This is a theory, but it really makes sense to me and gives me some hope I won't need to have surgery so I like it a lot!))

So...the goal this week is to calm the pain down (most likely from tendonitis in that same pesky spot), then SLOWLY work on building all those little muscles up in the right way so that when I add some load to them, they will work the way they should and not cause pain.

I've decided to keep my 2014 race calendar open for now.  I'm not signing up for any races until I know my body can handle some intense training because in the words of Ricky Bobby, "I wanna go FAST"!!  I know I have it in me, I just have to start with a solid base of strength to build on.

I'm not going to lie.  When he told me today I needed to take a step back, I did start to cry a little bit.  But, all-in-all, this is great news.  If the theory is correct, this little step back is going to catapult me forward in the not too distant future.  You might see me on the sidelines for now...but you will find me on the podium later giving all the glory to Him to makes me strong.

"Life I love you.  All is groovy."  (FYI, in case you didn't know, that's the last line of the song...)

Thanks for stopping in.  Come again soon.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

IMLT Race Report(s)

My IMLT experience was so unbelievable I couldn't put it all in ONE blog post, so I had to do it in parts.  In order to put all the parts into one post, I'm linking them here.

Check-In/Day Before (AKA...Anything Can Happen (the song that was playing when I picked up my packet!!)

Pre-Race (AKA..."What on Earth did I get myself into!")

Swim and T1 (AKA..."You want me to get in the water when I can see my breath but not the buoys??")

Bike and T2 (AKA..."I can NOT climb that mountain AGAIN!" or maybe, "What do you mean there's MORE--there's the end of the ski lift, how can there be MORE mountain to climb??")

Run and Finish (AKA..."Did this really happen??  Wait, I have a medal, finisher's shirt and VIDEO!!")

It's still hard to believe the race is over.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"Your Shoulder Is A Mess"

(picture take a couple of years ago-to remember the horrible sun burn and all those tan lines!)

...not the words you want to hear from the Orthopedic doctor.  But that's much better than, "you need surgery" or "it can't be fixed" or worse "give up triathlon".

After almost a year of trying to figure out what's going on with my shoulder I went to see a doctor in Birmingham at the Andrews Orthopedic Center (arguably the best orthopedic clinic in the US).  Following the most thorough exam I have had, the doctor gave me his very educated diagnosis, "your shoulder is a mess".  As I suspected, there is a combination of things going on (welcome to my life).  I probably have some chronic tearing, likely a torn labrum, tendonitis/inflamation and some impingement.  He said it wouldn't get better quickly, and it will take work.  He was glad I didn't have any races planned so I can stay away from the pool and off my aero bars for "a while".  I'll start physical therapy as soon as I find an "overhead shoulder specialist" who can work with all the various issues I have going on and I'll start praying for a full recovery with PT.

If there's not some improvement in 6-8 weeks I will go back and "see the guys down the hall" (the surgeons).

You might think I would be down about this news, but I'm actually thrilled.  I remember when I had to stop running due to Periostitis.  That's when I discovered swimming and when I got to thinking about triathlon!!  And, when I was able to start running again I came back stronger than ever before.  This will get better.  I will be stronger.  Next year will be my best year yet.  All because this year I had to rely completely on God's strength to get me through, giving me a strong faith and year He's going to bless me with both a strong mind and body!

Let the healing begin!!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Running Naked

Not that kind of naked...I'm talking about running without my Garmin!  (GASP!!)

After "the" race was over and Dwayne and I were back in the condo...I couldn't sleep.  You'd think after being up about 21 hours by the time we got back and having been swimming, biking and running for about 16.5 of those hours, that sleeping wouldn't have been a problem.  I don't know if it was all the Coke I drank on the marathon course (I am NOT a caffeine drinker)...or the simple fact I had just completed the hardest thing I've ever done in my life...but I just wasn't sleepy.  So I did what pretty much every data-junkie I know would do, I pulled out my Garmin and started looking through my splits!  In hindsight I wish I had downloaded it right then.  Instead I just started going through the data on the watch.

I think that's when IT happened.  The watch sounded a long sustained BEEEEEEP and, after what felt like forever, it showed me the information I wanted.  WHEW, I was afraid that BEEEEEP was a bad thing.  The main thing I wanted to know was what my max speed was, but that appeared to be in kilometers per hour (strange...).  I might have been awake, but I was NOT able to figure out math at that point.  I decided to charge the battery since it had been on for almost the whole time I was, so I put it on the charger, and started reading ("Training and Racing With A Power Meter" might think that would put me to sleep, but it's actually a really great book.  No, not in the "popular" sense of the word but in the "everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-training-and-racing-with-power" kind of way!)

Fast forward to the next day when I tried to upload my data...the watch looked like it was connecting and my computer looked like it was receiving data-and then the watch went dead.  I freaked out, turned it back on, found the race data, clicked on "more data" (or whatever it says to show splits)...and --BEEEEEEEEEEP...then data appeared.  Tried to sync and it went dead.  I did this about three times and gave up resolving to call Garmin when I got back home.

Well....long story short...I was not able to download my data, and I'm having to send the watch in to be replaced.  I was able to write down all the information the screens offered for every split of the race (thankfully I had it set to auto-lap every mile)...but 16.5 hours of data, which had to be in the watch because I could look at it, was locked in there.  (sad day)

Now...the sad truth is I have two other GPS watches (a Forerunner 405 and a Timex Global Trainer) but I have decided to run naked until my 910 is returned to me.  I realized I am seriously addicted to data.  I pour over it after workouts, analyze it, evaluate it, base my pleasure with the workout on it, and obsess over it MUCH more than is useful or even healthy.

The first run was very hard.  I kept wondering "how fast am I going?" "I wonder what my heart rate is?" "how many miles have I gone?".  But, the second run was AMAZING, until I was done and thought "that had to be a PR on that course...but I'll never know because I don't have a WATCH on!".  I stopped myself and said, "NO...that run was still AMAZING, no matter what the time was!"  Then...I got in the pool.  Although there is a timer on deck--I can't SEE it with my goggles on.  I had to make myself JUST SWIM without wondering how fast I was going.  I was thankful to run with some gals today who had watches so my thoughts on our pace could be verified.  I have to admit, when I finished up ALL of these workouts, I actually went to hit the stop button on my naked wrist!

It's taking some getting used to, but I think I like running naked.  ...but don't think for one minute this will be a habit I'll keep!!  In fact, the 405 is on the charger as I type.  I have a race tomorrow after all!  :D

Thanks for stopping in, come back soon...I'm working on a slide show of Lake Tahoe photos!  :D

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Where Do I Start?!

I have SO many people to thank who helped me get to the finish line of this race I'm pretty sure I will forget someone really important.  However, I'm still going to try!

In no particular order.

First off...I thank God.  I believe He gave me not only the desire to do this race but especially the strength to finish this race.  There were many times during the training and race day I didn't see how I could finish.  I believe faith that "I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me" kept me going when I really wanted to quit or didn't think I would/could make it.  All good things are a gift freely given and gratefully received.

My husband.  When I brought up the idea of doing this race to him, his first question was, "how much is this going to cost?".  Little did either of us know exactly what was going to be involved. I thought the entry fee was $800 (I think it was less-I don't even remember now).  I added in condo, air fare and food for the trip and came up with a figure he could live with.  I wasn't trying to hide the full cost, I just didn't think to add in all the nutrition, supplements, bike gearing, tires, wheels, doctor visits, coaching, extra shoes, goggles, butt butter, and..and..and.  There's no way to accurately add up the full cost, because I would have been training for SOMETHING so some of that would have been spent anyway.  Up until about a month or so ago every time I would mention the trip he would roll his eyes and groan.  When training started backing off and I started coming a little unglued, just when my confidence took a nose dive, he really stepped up to the plate and became a major support for me.  He started getting excited (or at least acting excited) about going to Tahoe.  As we prepared to leave, he became the chronicler of the whole IMLT experience.  (I'll make a slide show to add of all the photos he took...).  He was my human anchor, placed there directly by God Himself!

My kids.  Raising children is hard.  You aren't ever sure if you're doing it right until you aren't really doing it anymore!  Several times during the day when I would think, "this is the hardest thing I've ever done" I realized that it really was harder than raising my kids!!  I'd like to say I raised them right, but I think something that would be closer to the truth is that they are good kids whose lives I am blessed to be a part of!  I remember my mom telling me I could do anything I set my mind to and I didn't really get it...I think my kids get it and that pushed me to keep moving forward throughout this whole experience.

My best friend, Daisy,  She had to hear about this race pretty much daily for a year and a half!!  When my shoulder started bothering me, and certainly when it wasn't getting better, I know she really wanted to say, "This is CRAZY!  DON'T DO IT!!"  But, she didn't (at least if she did, she didn't repeat it enough times for me to hear it!).  She went with me to doctor appointments to find out what was going on and took me for the procedures I had to try to fix it.  She heard about training and fears and worries and excitement over and over and over again.  As the race drew closer she heard about my race plan until she could have recited it herself!  And...she was excited for me.  She prayed with me and for me.  And...she stayed up WAY past her bedtime to cheer me on (via text to my husband) and to watch me finish!

All my friends (including the athletes I coach who are all also friends).  I can not express how sweet it was to me the Saturday before the race to see all the posts on FaceBook of my friends doing my "goofy prerace pose)!!  I was crying all day long as they were posted.  It was so special to me to feel supported and cheered on by my friends back home.  It helped me feel like were right there with me.  Those photos ran through my mind on race day as did the videos some of the kids made for me.  Even my spin class peeps got in on the fun...and a few people I didn't even know!!!

All the doctors I saw in the last year.  Let's see, I went to Dr Tindall, Dr Layton, Dr Cosgrove, Dr Reto, Dr Donovan, Dr Olsen, Dr Carter, Dr Roberts and both Jays at Austin Physical Therapy.  All because my shoulder hurt and no one seemed to be able to keep it from hurting long enough for me to train for an Iron Man pain free!  :D  (See the thanks to God because it really did NOT bother me enough to even complain on race day...and I honestly don't think that was due to any of the doctors I saw because the week before it was bad enough I worried I wouldn't be able to finish the swim!)

All the people I have trained with.  I really like to train alone, but there have been numerous times throughout the year I joined a group run or group ride for one reason or another.  On most of those days, I may not have gotten it done without the company!

And...all the people who gave me advice, let me borrow stuff, told me about their experiences, asked me WHY...even the people who said they would NEVER do an Iron Man!  :D

Last, but certainly not least, my coaches.   My first coach is a friend of mine who told me about a little group she was working with for what ended up being my first open water swim triathlon (Iron Girl).  She gently ushered me into the world of triathlon and gave me a good push.  I remember her telling me, "if I can do it, anyone can do it!".  I didn't believe her completely because at the time I really didn't know how to swim very well!   Through that group I was led to my first swim coach, I'll call him Coach Coffee (because he has a cup of coffee in his hands from 5-7am every day at master swim!).  He patiently told me "do this not that" over and over until it began to sink in.  Next came Coach Eric.  Eric pushed me harder than anyone has in my life (even my drill sergeants and TAC officers in the army!!  It is because of him I even signed up for this race in the first place!  He said I could do it...turns out he was right!  (And...I'm sorry for all the bad words I called him while I was training and racing...).

... And then came Coach Martha with Endurance Concepts.  After I got hurt I wasn't sure if I would be coached for this race or not.  I didn't think I would be able to take instruction from someone because there were days I knew I just wouldn't be able to get a set workout done.  After all...this was one race out of my life...I have to live with my shoulder until I die!  A good friend told me about Coach Martha so I gave her a call.  She NEVER ONCE said I might need to rethink the race.  She kept telling me she knew I could do it (even when I'm sure she MUST have had doubts).  She worked closely with me to give me just enough to make sure I was prepared, but not so much I wouldn't make it to the start line.  When a coach takes on a cracked egg, it's hard to make sure it doesn't break.  Coach Martha not only didn't break me, she strengthened me in ways that went well beyond my physical body.

Thank you, muchas gracias, grazie mille, danke, merci beaucoup!!

Friday, October 4, 2013

YOU ARE AN IRONMAN (run and finish)


Crap....really?  Now a marathon??  No...just one mile at a time.  Deep breath.  ALL THINGS, not just the easy things....  As I started running I realized nothing hurt!!!  It was just like in training.  I felt pretty darn good actually!!  But I knew I was seriously behind on nutrition so I started trying to drink the EFS in my Fuel Belt bottles.  YUCK.  About that time I was running alongside a tall blond gal who was going about my pace.  I found out her name was Emily and she was from Hawaii!  We decided we would be seeing a lot of each other as we ran to finish the first Iron Man for both of us.  I told her I knew if we kept the pace under 13:30 we'd make it.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy!!  More EFS.  YUCK.

The run was GORGEOUS.  I wish I had been able to wear a GoPro camera to record the whole thing (well at least the first about 8ish miles that was in the daylight!)  It ran up a little hill to the back of a resort/hotel, down by the Truckee River on a bike/running trail.  My coach had encouraged me to only allow myself to walk "trashcan to trashcan" at each aid station and only then if I thought I absolutely HAD to.  I pretty much started a walk run from the start.  I made sure my average stayed right around 13 and at mile 7 I started drinking Coke.  (EFS was NOT working for me at that point and I knew I needed calories.  The trouble with Coke is that once you start drinking it, you can't stop so I had it at every mile, along with some chicken broth after the sun went down.)

The run is a bit of blur.  Emily and I ran/walked together a good bit, then she would walk or I would walk (or stop to use the port o potty---I knew I was hydrated when I started having to stop at almost every mile!).  At about mile 8 (just before the first turn around) I got a space blanket to wrap around my shoulders.  It was SO COLD--even with arm warmers.  I told myself if I could just keep running I wouldn't be so cold but that wasn't working.  After I put my "superhero cape" on, I got into a pretty good running groove until I got to the special needs bags and traded my cape for my vest.  I trashed the EFS having already emptied the bottles from my fuel belt.  When I got to about mile 14 I saw my sweet husband!!  I immediately took off the fuel belt and gave it to him to hold onto.  A quick kiss and I was off again.

I think it's a cruel thing to take people so close to the finish line only to have them turn around for another loop.  At the same time, getting that close to all the cheering and music and hearing, "so and so, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN" motivated me that much more.

I honestly never doubted I would make it once I had gotten to the run.  I knew I would be able to "easily" walk/run my way to the finish failing something crazy.  It was cold and I wasn't feeling particularly fresh, but I never once thought I wouldn't make it.  When I got out to Dwayne again he showed me photos from my daughter and my friends who were cheering me on at home.  I knew it was already so late back home people were wanting to get to bed, but I also knew I didn't HAVE to push.  I took some very good advice from a friend, I soaked in EVERY SINGLE MOMENT.  I listened to the music at the aid stations,  I laughed at the crazy disco costumes, I watched the fireworks someone was setting off, I started running a bit harder at the prompting of a spectator who was banging a pan with a wooden spoon saying, "this is a no walking must at least shuffle! YOU CAN DO IT".  I smiled as people called my name (I loved having my  name on my race bib!!).

When I got to the last turn around I told the volunteer--I'M HEADED HOME!!!

I came into aid station number 4 (for the 4th and final time), a volunteer said, "ONLY 2.5 MILES TO GO!!!"  I looked at my watch and saw that I had an hour.  I could walk it (but I wouldn't because I felt GREAT!!).  I saw Dwayne and was about as happy as I could be when he said, "okay, honey, only 7.5 miles to go!!".  I actually yelled at him.  "NO, TWO AND A HALF!!!"  He looked at me and patted my arm like "oh you poor're delirious".  I told him, "the guy just said 2.5 and MY WATCH says TWO POINT FIVE!!!"  It was like I had told him we had won the lottery!!  He practically jumped up and down and said, "YOU'RE GOING TO MAKE IT!!!!" to which I said, "YES!!!  YES I AM!!!"  He hugged me and sent me on my way.

As I came into Squaw I realized just how cold it really was at that point but I knew it was almost over.  I started looking up at the stars and thanking God for this day.  Thanking Him for the strength to finish. Thanking Him for this experience.  About that time I saw someone with MY HAT.  ((I had given Dwayne one job for the day-to make sure I had my cowboy hat at the finish line.  When he got the chance to go with the photographer I didn't think he would be able to get it to me, and since I had just seen him at the aid station I never expected to get it...but he had set it up before hand to have someone there with it for me!!))  I grabbed it from my new friend and headed into the village to cheers of "giddy up cowgirl!!", "nice hat", and "YEE HAW"...interspersed with cheers of my name!  When I got to the finisher's chute, I saw people holding their hands out for high fives on both I zig-zagged my way to the finish line hitting as many of them as I could.   I heard Mike Riley say, "DANA......"  (I didn't hear "YOU ARE AN IRONMAN" but that's okay because a nice volunteer was standing there with MY MEDAL!!!

I ran into this poor guy's arms and jumped on him as if he had just saved my life!!!!  When he put me down and put the medal on me I realized it was CHRIS "BIG SEXY" MCDONALD!!!  And...that meant he had won the race!!!!!!!  I told him congratulations again and then realized my husband was standing BESIDE ME in the finisher chute!!  (His media badge had given him very special access that he wouldn't have had otherwise!!)  A volunteer wrapped a space blanket around my shoulders and Dwayne led me out of the way of the other finishers where I stopped and hugged him, breaking down into dehydrated tearless SOBS of joy.

God had really gotten me to the finish line.  I had done it.  I was an IRON MAN.   And, through Him I had done it on what was arguably the toughest course out there.

Run time: 5:44:47

Total time 16:24:50

I do have a few more posts I want to make, not the least of which is thank yous.  I'll start now by saying thank YOU for hanging in there with me...I know this was long and drawn out, but I know memories are already fading and it's only bee a little over a week.  I wish I had a 16.5 hour video of the whole thing.  It was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life.  And one of the most rewarding.


Thursday, October 3, 2013



I got on the bike and headed out.  People were cheering and ringing cow bells, music was blaring.  The air was electric.  And cold.

The course went from Kings Beach through Tahoe City to Squaw Valley, downhill a good bit to Truckee, UP and DOWN and UP UP UP Martis Camp to Northstar, then DOWN only to immediately go UP UP UP Brockway Summit, DOWN Brockway which leads back to Kings Beach.  The whole thing would be rode again 1.3 more times ending at Squaw Valley.  There is one little 1K climb (Dollar Hill) between Kings Beach and Squaw that is rode three times.  The first time up Dollar I was feeling great.  I knew not to push so early in the ride so I took it nice and easy.  I played leap frog with a few people, being careful to keep my distance and back off when passed.  The turn into Squaw Valley was already hopping with folks and I was excited to see it the first time (calling this the second to last time in my mind).

At that point the ride got really fun.  It's mostly down hill for a good section and it felt fantastic, except that it was FREEZING and I was struggling to drink and with getting my food out of my jersey pocket.  (I had not practiced this with gloves on and with the tracker belt on over the jacket/over my jersey.)  Every time I tried to drink water I felt like I would lose my breath.  I knew I needed calories so I did the best I could trying to get to them as needed (I had an alarm set for every 45 minutes-this was not the best plan for this course) but it wasn't working as well as it had in training.

I think my favorite part of the course was riding through Truckee!  The whole town had showed up for an IronMan Viewing Festival!  There were outdoor eateries and bars PACKED with people who were cheering and waiving signs.  The energy from the crowd was palpable!  Then the road took us to a narrow bike path...a no passing zone.  This didn't really bother me because there was no one in front or me or behind me at that point!

When the course turned into Martis Camp, I knew the climbing was about to start.  We had been able to preview the course the day before, up to a certain point, and I knew it was pretty much rolling hills and some interesting wooden bridges (cedar bridges that smelled AMAZING!!  enough so I wasn't even worried about the fact the wood ran parallel-it looked safe enough to me).  When I got to the section we were not allowed to go into the day before, I thought it couldn't be too much farther to the top.  I started climbing and glanced up to my right and saw a long line of bikes WAY UP ON TOP OF A HILL...what felt like 25 switchbacks later I saw the end of a ski lift.  That had to be the top--ski lifts take you to the top of mountains!  YAY!!  Not exactly...there was one more section to go. What kind of sick soul would do this to people??!!

The entire time of this section I kept telling myself I would be going down soon, but I knew that downhill was "a bit technical" thanks to a bike course preview discussion given my Chris McDonald a couple of nights before.  (More on this later.)  Leading up to this race I was battling a growing phobia of riding down hill.  Honestly, it had gotten to the point where I was starting to almost hyperventilate DRIVING down hill in my car!!  (I'm not joking...)  I had tried several things to get rid of the fear, but I hadn't nipped it in the bud before this ride.  So I continued to pray...I had been praying since before the start of the race, about ever detail of the day.  I had been taking my thoughts captive and surrendering my fears and worries to God, asking Him for the strength and courage necessary to finish this race.  Starting down the first of two FAST descents, I have to say, He was with me like my own heart beat.

At the very bottom of the hill, the road made a sharp right turn and immediately started up a 2.6 mile climb to the highest point of the ride.  I shifted into the easiest gear I had and started praying my way up this hill.  I was breathing like a race horse but moving like a snail.  I thought of every person I knew who would be watching my athlete tracker.  I imagined it was their voices cheering me to the top (instead of all the strangers who were stuck in traffic headed the other direction...and all the strangers who knew this was going to be the place we would need their cheers the most who came out to ring cow bells!).  I kept saying, "I can do ALL things through Christ...not just the easy things...ALL THINGS, even climb this hill."

In the back of my mind though I was saying, "I can NOT do this again.  This is too hard and is more than me.  More than I can handle.  I will not do this again.  Once is enough."  Only to have that thought shouted at, "I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME!!  Yes, it is bigger than me, but thankfully I have really good 'backup'"  Honestly, before I knew it, I was at the top and almost in tears.

I had calculated my times the day before...if I took every minute for the swim and T1, I had to average at least 14mph for the 112 miles on the bike in order to make all the cut off times and to make the final cut off.  I was WAY behind.  I knew the descent down Brockway was going to be fast and "safe" so after a quick break to eat some food, I hopped back on my bike and went as fast downhill as I could.  I would love to tell you exactly how fast that was, but my Garmin has not allowed me to upload data yet so I only know mile splits.  (Miles 42-44 going up were 5, 5.2 and 5.3 mph; miles 45-47 were 26.6, 27.7 and 23.7.)

I'm not going to lie, when I got to the bottom of the hill and to the right turn which would start my second loop, I "almost" made a left turn to take me the 1/4 mile to my condo.  I could quit now, not have to go back up Martis Camp/Northstart and Brockway a second time...not have to run a marathon afterward.  I was still behind at that point.  But I knew I couldn't give up!  Churchill didn't give up when she was riding on flat tires!  God would give me the strength.  Period.  So I made the right turn.

By the time I got passed Dollar the second time I was feeling better, but I also knew I was very behind on nutrition and hydration.  I had refilled my aero bottle once (or was it twice?), but I hadn't really used my back two bottles.  A little over one bottle (maybe 2?) in 3 hours was NOT enough.  I tried to make a conscious effort to take in fuel/water.  I stopped for my special needs bag (ate a Picky Bar, grabbed o out a note from a friend, a picture of Churchill, loaded more food into my pockets...took off my beanie and the sleeves from my jacket.  After a shameless application of WhoHa Ride Glide (by cramming my hand down my bike shorts since there wasn't a port o potty open) and I was off again.  I knew I had the energy of Squaw, a nice down hill section from there to Truckee, and the town of Truckee to look forward to.  It all came and went faster than I wanted it to because before I knew it was I was at the last aid station before those horrible switch backs.  I had to use the bathroom and didn't want to pee on the bike because it was still really cold.   I knew I was riding less than a 14mph average according to my watch but a gal there said we were about to be at the last cut off and had plenty of time.  She said if we had to we could walk up Brockway, but I told her I knew if I got off the bike my day was going to be done-NO WAY I could walk up a hill in bike shoes pushing a bike fast enough to make the final cutoff.  So off I went to start the 3rd major climb ....were those switchbacks really that steep the first time?

Down the winding road and ONE MORE BIG CLIMB (and one more Dollar hill) TO GO....  About maybe 1/2 the way up Brockway, I felt like I was pedaling so slow I would fall over any second.  I couldn't breath and my legs were on fire.  The guy in front of me stopped and got off to push.  After and agonizing internal debate, I got off too.  My first thought was to stop.  But then I told myself, "Never EVER give up...make them pull you off the course--DO NOT STOP!!!  RELENTLESS FORWARD MOVEMENT" aid station friend was pushing her bike behind me...  Several people passed me and I considered trying to get back on but I thought I would waste more time stopping and trying to get started than I would if I just kept pushing (miles 88-90: 7, 3.6 and 3.3)

When I got to the top I knew I had to give all I had to get to Squaw if I had any chance of making it.  I did my best to stay off the brakes going down (miles 91-93: 35.5, 32.9 and 30.4).  Right turn at Kings Beach and I was on my way to finish the bike...there was just one more climb.  When I got to the bottom of Dollar, I had NOTHING left (or so I thought) in my legs so I hopped off again and pushed up the 1k climb....believing with every fiber of my being THIS choice would be the end of my day.  But I did my best to give it all I had.  When I got to the turn into Squaw I saw runners out on the course already headed back toward the finish.  Dangerously close to the ten hour and thirty minute cutoff  for the swim/bike part of my day, I knew all the top finishers were already in the shower, having already had a post race meal!!  I heard someone yell, "YOU HAVE TWO MINUTES!!!" just as I got to the dismount line!  In the back of my mind I believed I had not made it because I knew I had gotten into the water early, so any second someone was going to take my chip.

Bike time:  8:41:58

As I jumped off my bike and started running for the tent (and away from anyone telling me I was done) I heard my husband yelling at me.  I didn't want to stop so I ran into the tent where I had a split second melt down.  I asked the volunteer how I would know if I made it.  She told me I had and asked how she could help me.  I was in a daze.  I told her I didn't need help and stripped down for the 2nd time in one day!  I put on my running skirt, fresh shirt, fuel belt, and shoes.  I put my hat on my head, grabbed my race number belt, fuel belt and athlete tracker in my hand and ran out the door putting all my stuff on my body.  I heard Dwayne yelling at me again and I turned around to see my sweet husband with his new photographer friend.  I managed to smile for the camera and then had another mini break down telling him I had not made it because I started the swim early (before 7am).  He kept telling me I had made it but I needed to go so I believed him and headed out for the marathon.

T2 5:30

Stay tuned for the Run and be posted tomorrow!  :D

Wednesday, October 2, 2013



IMLT had a rolling start.  This is different from the mass start they have had in most IM races in the past.  It's all part of WTC's effort to make for a more "user friendly" race start.  I'll be honest, I don't like it...  At the same time, I'm sure it helped me have a MUCH better swim experience (and time) than I would have had otherwise.  Basically volunteers had signs with expected swim finish times (i.e. 1:45-2:00) and everyone put themselves in line where they expected to finish.  The idea is that all the faster people get in the water and go so they don't have to swim over all the people doing breast and back stroke.  I had NO IDEA what to expect for a swim time.  In the pool my times were pretty consistently about 1:50-2:00/100y depending on the workout, but: this would be my longest continuous swim, my shoulder had been bothering me pretty bad leading up to this day (consequently I had not had a long swim in quite a while), and I had never swam in water this cold (it was colder on race day because of the storms the day before--I heard figures from 59* to 62*).  Not to mention it was so darn foggy you couldn't see the buoys!!  However I was also wearing my wetsuit (which usually makes for a faster swim), and I felt like the cold water was going to help my shoulder feel better than usual.  Plus, I generally swim faster in races than in training.  At the same time, I knew I wanted to take it nice and easy since it was going to be a long day and I didn't know how the altitude was going to impact my bike.

I lined myself up with the 2 hour swimmers and found a gal I had met the day before who was staying in the condo just above us who was also doing her first IM.  We were talking about how EPIC this race was going to be when a guy grabbed my by the shoulders and told me to stop shaking!!  I don't know if it was adrenaline or the fact that we were standing on frozen sand in sub freezing weather in bare feet, but I could NOT stop no matter what I did.  I started to worry I might already be experiencing the effects of hypothermia.  About that time I was about 10' from the start and Mike Riley was getting us pumped up telling us, "YOU are going to be an IRONMAN today!!"  With party music blaring, I "ran" into the shallow water and all the nerves of the day melted.

Well...not quite.  With the first dip of my head in the water, I started a 16 hour prayer vigil.  I'll do another post to answer the question, "what on earth did you think about all day long"...but I can assure you, first and foremost in my mind all day was the request to God to see me through the day!

I couldn't sight buoys for a couple of reasons...the fog was really bad, but another reason was due to toothpaste.  See, I had bought new goggles for the race--my favorite brand and style and they were even **rose-colored**!!  After swimming in them a few times, and trying the anti-fog spray, they were still fogging up.  A couple of guys told me to use a bit of toothpaste to clean them out.  Well...apparently vigorously scouring them with baking soda and peroxide was the absolute WRONG thing to do as that scratched the inside so that fog was the least of my worries.  I don't think it mattered that bad because if they had been clear, they'd have fogged, and if they hadn't fogged, it was foggy!  Sighting became a matter of trying to make sure I was in the middle of all the fish moving in the same direction.  I knew I was getting off course when I found myself swimming in clear water (which happened a couple of times, but not much).

I was VERY surprised to see so many people doing breast and back stroke.  But, I was even more surprised when I found myself passing a lot of people.  I felt like I was going much faster than usual so I took a quick glance at my watch-and realized I had not started it!!  I started it then and told myself it really didn't matter much...just keep swimming.  I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the (much bigger) turn buoy!!  I was told it was 900m out.   I tried to do the math...900 back, 1800 out, 2700 back, plus the distance between turn 1 and 2, then between 3 and 4...maybe 3100 to go?  (I didn't know how the length of the top and bottom of the trapezoid we were swimming, only that the far side was bigger....I also couldn't remember how many yards in 2.4 didn't matter, I was going to swim it no matter what it was, I just wanted something to think about!)

I concentrated on "catching feet" and then passing when it became obvious I was faster than the feet I was on.  Before I knew it, the water started getting really cold, which meant I was getting close to the bottom of the trapezoid!!  As I made the turn, I could hear the swim finish music and the cheering for all the ones who were finishing that part of the race.  Several guys started running along the beach side of the course but I knew it was a bad idea for me to stand up in the water.  Water running would bump up my HR and I really thought I could swim faster than that.  --I never passed those guys, but at least I knew I was going straight!

Loop one done and the sun was coming up making for some beautiful views (what I could make out of them anyway!).  I tried to stay left as much as I could and anytime someone faster went by me I grabbed onto their feet for a little (or a long) draft.  ((By the way, "grabbed onto their feet" isn't just means I drafted off of them in the water!))  Loop two was fairly uneventful except that I saw some white rubber gloves floating down into the water which made me think a rescuer had to help someone, but I don't know if that's the case.  When I felt  the water getting colder again I knew I was close!  People around me started standing up to run, but I swam as long as I could.  When I stood up I was in water just above my knees.  As I ran under the swim arch I heard Mike Riley say, "DANA--YOU WILL BE AN IRONMAN TODAY!!!"  When I saw the time was 1:3?? I screamed out, "YES I WILL!!!!"


Holy Cow was it COLD!!  I considered running into the warming tent, but I knew I needed to get out on the bike.  I grabbed my bag (thankfully I marked it with a big duct tape X because I had to find the bag myself....and ran over to the wetsuit strippers.  I had already pulled off my goggles and both caps, had unzipped the wetsuit and stripped the top part off...but I had not pulled it down passed my butt.  No matter, when I flung myself on the ground like a dead bug, a man and a woman each grabbed a leg and yanked that thing off like it was catching fire!  They threw it over my shoulder and I ran into the changing tent.

Now, I don't mean any disrespect for what I'm about to say...I'm not TRYING to be overly dramatic.  I just want to try to describe the scene as best I can.  It looked like a scene from a holocaust documentary.  Naked shivering women everywhere with piles of clothing around their feet.  There were certainly no chairs available and really no room to stand.  I maneuvered my way over to the exit door and found a 1' square space to start shucking clothes.  I think it's important to say, I have NEVER gotten naked in a dressing room before.  I've actually tried to do it because other women seem to strip down to their birthday suit with ease and comfort.  Not me.  Today however I didn't have a choice, so off the wet tri suit came without so much as a blink of an eye.  I was able to get my bike clothes on with just a little help with my bra from someone standing nearby.  (Bike shorts, leg warmers*, bra, bike jersey with food in the pockets, arm armers, jacket, balaclava, beanie, helmet, sunglasses in my pocket, Athlete Tracker belt on over my jacket, socks in shoes, shoes in one hand, gloves in the other.)  I stuffed all the wet things back in the bag and headed out of the tent only to discover I had only one leg warmer on!  I dug through the bag, found the other one and put it on.

I knew I wouldn't be able to run well with my shoes on so I elected to run barefooted to my bike.  My feet were FREEZING and were getting covered with sand.  I had a choice at that point-sand or freezing water.  I squirted water on my feet and shoved them into my socks and then into my shoes, struggled to get my gloves on, grabbed my bike and off I went to the mount line.

Total time 19:21

Stay tuned for the rest of the be posted tomorrow.  :D

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Oh such sweet words to hear after swimming, biking and running right at 16 and a half hours!!

I have so much to say about this race!  (Did you expect any less?)  I'll write several posts, but if you have specific questions, or want to hear about something in particular, please let me know.


My husband and I flew out EARLY Thursday morning.  When we got to the Reno airport, the Race Quest van was there waiting for us.  The took us to the condo at Kings Beach.  After we picked our jaws off the floor from the gorgeous views, they drove us over to the IronMan Village a few miles away at Squaw Valley.  (The condo was about half a mile away from the start line; the Village was the finish line.)  I picked up my bike from the Tri Bike Transport people and then went over to the check in area where I picked up packet with all the race numbers I needed and back pack with all the bags I would use on race day and a few little bits of swag, and I got my official IronMan wrist band which identified me as a race participant.

After a trip to the grocery store, we went back to the condo to get settled in a little bit before the Race Quest Welcome Reception where I got to meet Chris "Big Sexy" McDonald and say hello to the female pro I had met previously, Jessica Jacobs, along with all the other race participants who were there with RQ.  At the reception, Chris went through a bike course preview which helped considerably more than I expected it to.  He gave some tips on fueling, hydration, and technique that would help me (as much as it could) on race day.  After that Jessica took us through a race day visualization exercise, somewhat similar to my race pre-cap.   I went to sleep that night feeling one baby step closer to the finish line, not just in time, but in preparedness.

Friday morning I joined about 500 other people in the Lake to check out the swim start.  After the initial shock of the cold taking my breath away, I swam in the clear blue water for about 20 minutes...long enough to let me know I wasn't going to freeze to death but not long enough to cause any issues to arise with my shoulder/neck.  I wish I had a Go Pro to be able to show you just how AMAZING the water was.  It was the best open water swim I've even experienced!

After a shower I headed back to the IM Village for the pro panel and to check out the vendors.  (Dwayne stayed in the condo to write all day.)  After being inspired by the pro panel, I discovered Recovery Pump and wished I had an extra grand in my bank account.  Keeping some long term financial goals in mind I stepped away from the tent after a 20 minute "sampling".  The next temptation...a SWEET Rudy Project aero helmet and glasses combination that was selling for about half off!!  The helmet I fell in love with was a mat black and sleek as a whales tail.  I was really glad at that point I didn't have my credit card with me or I'd have snatched them up!

Later that night I went to the Welcome Dinner and required Athlete Meeting.  Mike Riley, the voice of Iron Man, gave some stats about the triathletes registered.  This race had 606 first timers and the highest percentage of females.  My age group 40-44 had the highest total participants for both men and women.    The athlete meeting didn't give any new information for me since I'd been keeping up on Face Book which was better at getting information out than the website!

Saturday morning I woke up to high winds and a forecast of storms.  After getting all my bags ready I took my bike down to T1.  I "just KNEW" they weren't going to have our bags out in the weather all night...but alas, I was wrong.  When I got there and discovered my dry towel and bike clothes would be left out, on the ground in the rain and sub freezing temps, we went across the street and bought trash bags and duct tape.  After re-bagging it all (so the "official" bag was on the outside), I took my bike over to be left alone on a rack in 20mph winds!!  I felt like I was leaving my baby alone with a drunk sitter!  Later on the RQ shuttle took a group over to T2 to drop bags off there.  After that, there was nothing left to do but relax!  (sure...yeah...right...

Race Morning

I woke up at 3:30 without an alarm, took a hot shower (for no other real reason than to put my hair in a manageable braid!), got all the last minute stuff ready and mentally went over my plan for the day.  About 5:15 we walked over to the start.  MAN WAS IT COLD!!  This was by far the coldest day in Tahoe.  Naturally.  I was surprised to see so many people putting stuff in their Bike bags.  I didn't know we could do that and I questioned if I was forgetting something important.  I found my bike (still safely racked).  A lot of people were knocking ice off, but I had put bags over my seat and my tri bars so I just ripped those off (I didn't notice any ice).  I found a pump and aired my tires then headed back to find Dwayne so I could get my wetsuit on.

As I was lubing my neck up with Body Glide, a photographer came by and asked if I would mind him snapping some shots, which of course I didn't.  He asked Dwayne was he intended to do all day.  When Dwayne said he was going to go nap and maybe catch a movie the guy said he had an extra media badge if he wanted to hang out and help take pictures!!!  I instantly told him to go do it.  He was worried he would miss my transitions, but I told him there were so many people he wouldn't even recognize me and it was MORE than fine for him to go have an adventure!  With kisses and well-wishes, he was off and I was left to wait about 35ish minutes until the start of the race so I headed for the warming tent.  I heard the cannon go off to start the pros, but I knew it would be another 30ish minutes until I started so I just decided to try to stay warm as long as I could.  About that time a gal ran in with a bag and started throwing on her wetsuit and trying to get ready.  She said the shuttle she was on from the host hotel had broken down and she had just gotten there!!  Several people helped her as much as we could and she ran off to get in the water.

Stay tuned for the Swim recap (to be posted tomorrow).  :D

Friday, September 20, 2013

Ready or Not...

The day after tomorrow I'll be headed over to the start line.  (If you just found my blog, I'm about to do my very first Iron Man race.  You can read my "Pre Cap" if you are unfamiliar with what this is.)

I got all checked in yesterday.  I got my uber cool Iron Man back pack, all the bags for all my gear, all the stickers I need to identify all my bags (darn it I forgot to bring duct tape*!).  I bought an IMLT name shirt like the one I got at NOLA 70.3 67.1 (it has all the names of the participants on the back in the shape of an MDot).

I battled this horrible feeling that I don't belong in this place.  Everyone looks like they belong (especially all the people running around in bike kits...).  I can't explain why I feel the way I feel, and I KNOW it's wrong.  So the battle is in my mind.  That is unbelievably liberating.  I have control of how I feel.  It's not something that is being put on me.  It's something that comes out of me.  How I feel is a product of what I believe.  I have control over that.  No one else can change what I think.  Other people can influence my thoughts, but only I have the power to accept or reject what is allowed to take space in my head.

So...I will start by saying...I have (almost) made it to the start line!  I'm not as "ready" as I would like, but Daisy** made a good point the other day.  She said no matter what I had done to prepare, what kind of shape my body was in, what bike gearing I matter what...I would say I'm not as prepared as I would like to be.

Since I started "officially" training for this race (after the procedure I had to burn the nerves in my neck...) I

  • biked 93 hours
  • swam almost 20 hours
  • have run 37.5 hours
(Not including some brick workouts and a couple of races.)  For a race like this, that may not be a lot, but for my body, and for what it's been through in the last year...that IS a lot.

I AM READY.  There is no doubt this race will be a challenge.  I AM READY.

*A lot of people put colored duct tape on their bags -just like people do for their luggage- so they are more easily identified.

**BTW, Daisy has become so much more than a running partner, she is my best friend with whom I am so honored to get to "do life".

Monday, September 2, 2013

Race Pre-Cap

A friend of mine told me a couple of weeks ago to write up a race "pre-cap" of my Iron Man (which is in NINETEEN DAYS AND A WAKE UP!!).  I've tried several times, but I just haven't been able to do it.  I'm going to give it one more tri.  (he he)  (This will be considerably less wordy than the recap...)

Pre Race
My husband and I will get there on Thursday afternoon.  We will be picked up by Race Quest and taken to our condo, which is ON King's Beach (by the start from what I understand).  We will go to the expo so I can get checked in and get even more excited than I already am.  I'll check to make sure that TriBikeTransport got my bike there safe and sound (why yes, they did! :D).  Then we'll head to the grocery store so I can buy good, clean, healthy food for the next few days.  (Chicken, salmon, salad, broccoli, almond milk, almonds, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, bananas, oranges, nectarines...and Diet Coke for my sweet husband.)  Thursday night there is supposed to be a night swim so I'm hoping to get in on that action--I hear it will be almost a full moon out and should be beautiful.

The Athlete Guide has not yet been posted (WHAT IS UP WITH THAT??) but according to the event schedule there is a practice swim Friday morning so I'll head out to that to check it out since I'm guessing they will have the buoys up then.  I'm hoping Race Quest will drive us around the bike course on Friday or Saturday so I can imagine in my mind's eye how I will be mastering the climbs and relaxing down the descents with free speed.  Friday night there is a mandatory athlete meeting so I won't miss that.

I will spend a good bit of Saturday getting all my bags ready:

Bike Gear

  • bike shorts
  • jersey
  • arm warmers that I can throw away
  • leg warmers?
  • gloves
  • socks
  • bike shoes
  • helmet
  • sun glasses
  • Picky Bars
  • sun screen
  • HR monitor
  • Butt Butter
  • Salt Stik Caps
  • lip balm
  • race number belt with race number attached (? do I have to wear this on the bike?)
  • towel
  • baby powder (have you ever tried to put bike shorts on a wet body?)
  • buff or cap for my head
Bike Special Needs
  • sun screen
  • notes from friends/family*
  • picture of Churchill
  • extra Picky Bars and Salt Stik Caps
  • Frog Tog
Run Gear
  • running skirt and shirt
  • sun screen
  • water bottle
  • EFS baggies
  • notes from friends/family*
  • shoes
  • socks
  • Body Glide
  • hat
  • Frog Tog
Run Special Needs
  • EFS baggies
  • pictures of family (I won't be able to read by then I'm sure!)
  • head lamp
  • long sleeve shirt or arm warmers
I will lay out what I will need for race morning-bathing suit and wetsuit, socks and shoes, swim cap, goggles, ear plugs (?), tri glide and body glide, water bottle for start, water bottles for bike (3 full of water), watch, banana and almond butter to eat about 45 minutes before the start.

I will check in my gear and my bike and kiss it good night.

I will pray a LONG TIME and get to bed early knowing I am as READY as I can possibly be and knowing He will carry me through the day no matter what happens.

Race Day

I will wake up at 4:30 to take my meds and get dressed.  I'll write some inspirational things on the backs of my hands (as yet to be determined), I will pray and then head to the bike transition.  I'll load up my water bottles and pump my tires and then head to the start line.  I will go in the water for a little pre-race swim warm up and I will be pleasantly surprised at how warm the water feels! :D

The swim start is a rolling start for this race.  From what I understand, everyone will be in the water by 7 and the slower swimmers will be at the back of the pack.  I will put myself in about the 2 hour time slot, but really I'd like to go in the water AT 7am (so my finish clock time will be right....yes, I know it's probably silly, but I'd like that to be the case if at all possible).  

I kiss my husband one last time and head for the start line.  When I enter the water, all the nerves I have felt the last 3 weeks will wash away and I will swim with confidence, easily being able to see the buoys and swim straight.  From what I understand the swim is being changed from what they have posted (a 2 loop course with a short beach run between each loop) to a 2 loop course where we do not leave the I gladly "just keep swimming", getting closer and closer to the end of the "bike warm up".  I'm out of the water faster than what I expected and I feel great!  (Thank you God!)

I strip off my wetsuit because it's easier to do it myself than to lay down to let someone else do it.  I go to get my bike gear bag and head for the changing tent.  I dry off, strip down, powder and lube up, thank the volunteers and head out for my bike.

I get on the bike and it is glorious.  The sun is up and it is bright and clear.  What a beautiful place to ride!!!  The first 6 miles are nice and flat, there's a short mile long climb and then 15ish fast downhill miles, another mile long climb, then 10 rolling uphill miles, 3.3 miles UP, 3 miles DOWN, 2.8 UP and that is one loop.  I get my special needs bag and realize I'm feeling really GOOD.  I'm making good time and know I will make it well before the cut off.  I have been relaxed on the descents and the climbs weren't nearly as bad as I expected them to be.  I'm ready for the last loop and a half.  I take a moment to pray and thank God again for this day.  

I finish the bike and smile because the marathon warm up is out of the way and I know I have plenty of time for the main event.   

I grab my run bag, change clothes and head out to run along the Truckee River, taking in the gorgeous views!   I am smiling from ear to ear, I have managed my nutrition and hydration just like I had planned and practiced and I'm feeling like a million bucks.  I have seen my smiling husband on the course several times and he has encouraged me like a true cheerleader!!  He tells me about the texts and FaceBook messages I have gotten and it makes me smile knowing I have friends and family who have been watching me via the MyAthleteLive Tracker I've been wearing**.

I am the obnoxiously annoyingly chipper racer that I always am--so happy God has given me the strength to carry out this day to His glory.  I am cheering for spectators and thanking volunteers.  I know this means I could actually be running faster, but I am taking this day in and enjoying every single second of it.

Doubt creeps in about the time  I get my special needs bag and I remember why I'm here when I look at the pictures of my family and then I hear Dwayne's voice telling me I have just 13 miles to go (which is less than 10% of the total for the I really am almost there).  He tells me how proud of me he is and tells me to save the tears for the finish line!!

As I near the finish, I hand Dwayne my sweaty cap and he hands me my signature hat that he has carried with him all day for just this moment.  ...I usually RACE a finish line...but on this day, I take the advice I have been given and really soak in the crowd.  I high five spectators and hear the song that is playing (Overcomer or maybe Roar)...and I cross the finish line, remembering to thank God for giving me this day and the strength I needed to complete this task to His glory!--well under the 17 hour cutoff...and my husband is there and doesn't even tell me how BAD I STINK...lets me hug him and BAWL MY EYES OUT. 


*Please feel free leave me comments on this post I can print out for race day!!
**My race number is 784...I'll post a link later on to tell you how to track me live on race day!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Detox from "All Figured Out"

The week before I started the process I got to go out to Pittsburgh with a dear friend.  I lived it up large on all the best food the city had to offer because, "I'm starting a detox when I get back!!"  Consequently by the time I got back the "couple of pounds" was a bit more than that!  I did lose a few pounds but what I learned far surpassed that superficial loss.

I've known for a very long time I have a pretty strong addiction to food.  Seriously.  Everyone has to eat to live...but a lot of times I think I live to eat.  I think about food all day long.  I go to the pantry about 20 times a day.  The only reason I don't weigh 600 pounds is because most of the time my obsession about food leans the other way.  I am not anorexic and have never been, nor am I nor or have I ever been bulimic.  It's not for the lack of trying.  I seriously bought syrup of ipecac one time because I have almost no gag reflex and could not make myself throw up not matter what I did.   I very quickly became desensitized to the effects; the last time I took it, I had to take three times the dosage, and all it really did was make me feel very ill-but didn't produce the desired results. 

(TMI, I know....but I'm trying to come clean about some things here...)

I read an article recently on WebMD regarding food addiction.  Among other things it said, "Experiments in animals and humans show that, for some people, the same reward and pleasure centers of the brain that are triggered by addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin are also activated by food, especially highly palatable foods."  Some people might use that as an excuse, but I see that as information I can use.  I am addicted.  Food does give me pleasure.  But that pleasure is not good for me any more than cocaine or heroin are good for me.

Yes, I do have to eat.  No, I don't think eating should be an unpleasant experience.  But...when I look at WHY I am eating and retrain my core beliefs about that I can break the addiction. 

I started writing the above post back in April.  I intended to write a post about the detox I did and all that I learned.  There's no telling why I stopped mid-post.  But, here I am four month later and I can't honestly tell you what exactly I learned, other than what I already really knew...I'm addicted to food.

I'd love to say I had not had times of scarfing down a whole package of Oreos or a whole bag of Salt and Vinegar potato chips after I "rehabbed" but that would be a bold faced lie.  I'd love to tell you that my diet is sugar free most of the time, but that wouldn't be true either since my favorite almond milks, the ones I drink every single day, have sugar in them.  I'd love to tell you I don't have any days when my food log shows a number so low for net calories I would get on to me if I were my own coach...but if you looked very hard, you could find my log and see that would be a lie, too.  (You'd also see I stopped logging a long time ago because I thought I had it under control....until today when my coach asked me to start logging food.  I quickly realized I was going to have to add quite a bit to my planned dinner in order to not have to lecture myself with the same words I've been giving one of my athletes lately..."you'd got to eat if you want to train!")

I'd love to tell you I have it all figured out and have all the answers...and sometimes I don't think that's far from true, but I don't LIVE them every day so there has to be something I'm missing!!

I think life is not about living it in a state of "all figured out"'s about the journey.

Thanks for joining me on my journey.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Expectations Released

I've talked before about managing expectations.  I have had a habit of stating a goal for myself but then having an unspoken one hidden away in my mind that really controls me in races.  I may meet my stated goal but then beat myself up because I didn't hit the "real" target I was going for.  In the last year I have been working on letting go of those unstated markers of success.  In Saturday's Wet Dog Sprint Triathlon, I went one step father and let go of any expectations or goals and just simply gave all I had to give on that day for that event.

And, it turned out better than I would have even hoped it could.

Pre Race

I had three athletes participating in this race.  It was a first open water swim tri for one of them, a first ever triathlon for another, and the third was going for a PR.  Because I am training for Iron Man, this was not even a "C" race for me, it was just part of a training day and probably wouldn't have been on my plan if I hadn't already signed up for it and wanted to do it as bad as I did.  (I LOVE this race!)  I had a lot of stress leading up to race day (more on that in a bit) and I had not spent any time working on anything I had wanted to work on for myself (namely practicing getting on and off the bike with my shoes still attached to the pedals).

My main stress prior to race day was that my neck/shoulder pain is coming back.  Before the Medial Branch Ablation I had done back in May, my shoulder was the only thing that hurt.  The doctors kept saying it was a nerve issue originating in my neck but I didn't believe them until the diagnostic block worked and "proved" they were right.  After the initial pain from the procedure wore off I felt like a new person and started training with vigor.  However, in the last few weeks I've had increasing pain in my neck (something I didn't have before, but the doctors said I should have), and in my shoulder.  I've been more than a little worried about it.  I honestly didn't know if I should even try to do this race or not, but I decided if I couldn't do a sprint, I would certainly not be able to keep training for IMLT so I packed my bag the night before and set my alarm.

I woke up with a hive of butterflies in my stomach.  Not only for my own race but even more so for my athletes.  I checked and double checked my bag and hit the road.  I got to the race site and found my athlete who was about to complete her first tri and began trying to calm her down.  I thought she was strangely subdued until she told me she couldn't remember how old she was in order to tell the body markers!  We got to transition and set up, found my other athletes and did a walk through and warm up.

The walk through is something that I dearly love.  The act of going through the motions of what is about to happen calms me down more than anything else.  I get some mantras in place (usually "run, run, run, run"), and it allows me to visualize exactly what it will look like as I am running from the swim to T1 to find my bike and then from the bike to T2 and out to the run.  I think the run through is one of the main things I do on race morning that helps me with smooth transitions.

Second to that is the warm up swim.  I used to not do this, but I can't imagine not doing it now.  It allows me to get a feel for the water--it was incredibly muddy and warm this year!  It also helps me visualize the entry and exit.  As I was going through all these aspects with my athletes I was cementing in my mind all the things I needed to remember for myself.  Namely--let go of expectations you have for yourself.  Just have fun.  Remember you know how to swim, you know how to bike, you know how to run.  Stay calm.  Breathe.

Before we knew it, it was time to get lined up for the start. 


I signed up for this race before I was swimming again so I put a very slow swim time on my entry.  I ended up with a much higher number than any of my athletes.  That was a really good thing because I was able to see all of them enter into the water.  

The one I was most concerned about had never done a triathlon before and had only really learned to swim a few months ago.  She was so scared early on she wouldn't put her face in the water and wouldn't go into the deep end the first couple of times.  I seriously cried as I watched her swim out into that muddy water as if she had been doing it for years!!  At that moment I was able to let go of my worry about her and focus in on my race...just in time for me to hear "GO".  I raced into the water, dove in and started sprinting.

Holy moly...too fast.  But it was like I was on auto pilot and couldn't stop myself.  I was back far enough that I ran into one gal swimming on her back early on, and A LOT of breast strokers.  I was almost out to the turn around point (200m) before I told myself to slow down just a bit because I thought I might vomit!  Then it hit me, "I'm in a race...if I vomit-YAY!"  :D  I told myself I'd rather blow up and know I gave all I had than to slow down out of fear.  My shoulder only reminded me it was there once or twice.  I did listen to it, but as soon as it was okay again, I pushed.

I had told the newby to make sure she swam up as far as she could possibly go.  Too many people get to where they can feel the beach and then they try to run in the rest of the way.  But that will have them running in waste high water most of the time.  If you swim as far as you possibly can (by pulling your arm up by your body instead of trying to make a full swim stroke), you will be in mid-shin level, or at most lower knee high water.  This will allow you a much faster exit.  I was genuinely surprised to see people popping up out of the water with a good 20m to go to the beach.  I got in as close as I could and then jumped out....and seriously thought I would be sick.  Auto pilot kicked back on, "start running, take your goggles off, take your cap off, run/run/run..."

This race includes a good bit of transition in the swim time but I stopped my watch as soon as I finished swimming so I could see my actual swim time.  ((Watch time was 8:21; official race swim time 9:16, 6 out of 20 for my age group.))


Last year I had very fast transitions.  As I was running to get my bike I was focused on what I needed to do as usual.  As I was heading out on my bike I was thinking, "that was quite possibly the longest transition I've ever had".  

I was wrong.

I will say I didn't practice this year other than one time at the transition clinic I gave...and I didn't do what I really wanted to do in this race (start with my shoes attached).  Even T1 time was :46, good enough for first in my age group, tied for 5th for all women.  


I haven't been riding my tri bike this year.  Riding in aero seems to put a lot of pressure on my shoulder and does NOT feel good.  But, this was a race.  No way I was going to do this on my road bike.  Not only that it was only 9 miles.  Also, I just bought some new-to-me Zipp 404s that I was darn sure going to try out!

As I was running out of transition I was starting to beat myself up for not having my shoes attached....and then I had to remember the words I had spoken earlier--"let go of all that self talk and focus on the task at hand.  Not staying focused only robs you of energy".  So I hopped on my bike and heard Eric say, "ride it like you stole it"...and I was off, set to do just that.

Almost immediately there was a guy riding beside another rider, blocking.  Here's the thing, this is a very beginner-friendly triathlon.  This means there are a lot of participants who don't know the rules and don't have a clue that you can't ride alongside another athlete, but instead must pass them and get back over to the right.  So I started calling out, "PASS!!!  PASS!!!" which worked like a charm.  To which I quickly followed by, "On your left!!"

Now, let me be quick to say...I went in the water fairly far back (more than half way) and I have a fast bike so it stands to reason I would be passing people...but this is the first race I have not been passed on the bike by even one person.  Again, I started telling myself, "well, that's because you were so darn slow in the water" but, again, I reminded myself to let go of all of that and FOCUS!  I focused on keeping my upper body relaxed, breathing, and mainly on my pedal stroke.  All the things I talk about in Spin class played on a loop in my mind, keeping my mind and body in the racing state I wanted it to be in.

I realized my watch had not done what I set it to do, so I had no idea how fast I was going and no idea what mile I was on.  I kept telling myself it was NINE miles and that I should hammer it the whole time and give it all I had.  About that time I was coming up on a familiar racing kit.  I wasn't sure who it was but I knew I wanted to pass this girl whoever she was, so I called out, "on your left" and as I got around her I heard, "hey, you aren't supposed to pass me!" from a friend.  As soon as I realized who it was I knew I had to bring my A game the rest of the time because I did NOT want her to be able to pass me back...and I knew she could and she would if given the chance.

As I was headed back to the transition area, I saw another rider in front of me who I could tell was riding fairly slowly and I started to visualize passing her when a stinking stupid car pulled out in between us!!  He slowed way down to give her space, but she was going slower than I was so now I was blocked by a car I could not get around.  I had to put on my brakes and slow way down to keep from rear-ending him.  Thankfully, about 250 yards or so before the dismount line a cop stopped the car and I had enough room to go around it on the right.  Just as I was getting stopped, my friend pulled up beside me and hopped of her bike in front of me.  Darn!!  ((To be fair, I knew she would have me on the run because she is a MUCH faster runner than I am, but I was hoping to at least run out in front of her.))

My bike time ended up being 26:23 (a 21.2 average-my fastest average on any race ever...that bike and those wheels were a good investment!).  That time was good enough for 2nd in my age group.


Again, as I headed into T2, I felt like I was running through mud.  I was fighting the upset over not taking my feet out of my shoes (especially since I had to slow down anyway for that stinking stupid car!), and fighting upset that I didn't practice like I should have.  It seemed like it took me forever to put on my socks (something I said I wasn't going to wear this year when I did this race last time, but when I tried it without them, there was a spot on the shoe that rubbed my foot so I decided socks were better than a blister).  I released all of that, took off my helmet, grabbed my race belt and water bottle and headed out....just in front of my friend.  T2 time was :54, good enough for 5th out of 20 in my age group.


I have been doing longish bike rides followed by 20 minute runs.  Those runs have been at a faster pace than my usual stand alone run pace, and faster than my pace the previous two years doing this race.  I didn't know what this day would bring given the swim and power I tried to lay out on the bike...not to mention how my neck/shoulder had been feeling leading up to this race.  I took a deep breath and told myself to just run.

Since my watch wasn't cooperating, I didn't have any idea what my pace was and since this course isn't marked, there was no way for me to know how much farther I had to go.  All I knew was that I wanted to give my best.

I know I didn't run as fast as I could go because I was chatting it up a bit in the beginning...but when I caught myself, I pressed on the gas.  My friend passed me very early on.  My first thought was to attempt to keep her in sight, but I knew that would be a mistake because she is MUCH faster than I am (even on my very best day).  The one thing I really didn't want to do was to blow up.  I think if my mind got to me during this race at all, it was on the run.  I automatically tell myself I can't run "that fast" so I don't honestly know what I could have done if I wasn't scared of failure.  But, I can say that I did all I could do on that day in that frame of mind.

When I got close to the finish line I put on the gas and pushed in with what I had left.  ((Run time 27:37, 8:54 pace.  Not a 5K PR but certainly faster than any 5K in a triathlon!  This was a solid run which put me at 7/20 for my age group.))


So, take a look at that...6th on the swim and 7th on the run but still 2nd overall.  The bike and the transitions edged me out this time.  Funny story...I didn't have any idea when I finished "how" I had done in terms of time.  I couldn't remember what I had done it in last year and I wasn't able to look at my paces on my watch.  I was able to look at overall results, but not age group results so I didn't know where I stood.  Friends were asking how I felt about how I did and I told them for once I really felt good about a race, even without the benefit of comparisons.  (This is huge for me!)  So as I was looking at the age group times, trying to see how far off third place I might have been, I saw the 3rd place time was 1:05:??.  I thought, "Hey, wait a minute, something is wrong...I thought my time was 1:04:something."  Then it hit me and I looked at the 2nd place to see MY NAME!!!!!  I squealed with delight and then had to call my husband in tears to tell him the news!

By the way, this is about a 6 minute PR over last year...I'll take it! :D

(I will have to say, it didn't take me long to think, "well, maybe this year there was only about 5 people in my age group racing..."  ...some habits take longer than others to break!!)

After the race, I got to go ride my bike longer (not as long as my plan called for because there were some other issues that came up).  I know this was a sprint and I'm training for a race that is about 128 miles longer than this one, but this was a huge boost to my confidence level.  The fact that I am training for endurance and still did this well in a sprint distance is super.

FYI...from this moment it's roughly 59 days and 12 hours until the cannon will sound to begin my Iron Man...and right now I'm excited.  Not nervous.  That's really good thing.  I'm releasing expectations every day and the weight it's taking off my mind is palpable. 

Thanks for stopping in, come again soon!