That which does not kill us, makes us stronger. - Nietzsche

Monday, December 31, 2012

Ironman Cozumel race report: part 5 - the moment you've all been waiting for!


I was RUNNING!!!

Oddest thing, ya'll. As soon as I was off the bike, I wasn't even thinking about my foot anymore. I just started running on it, no problems, no thoughts of the previous issues. It was a big reminder from my foot about my imperfections.

So I'd been thinking about the run and how fast I'd have to do it. I was, in my head, comparing the time that my friend Dana and I walked the Flying Pig Half, both injured. It took us nearly 4 hours. I was trying to figure out if I could still finish the race if my foot would only let me hobble. Anyway, I had about 6.5 hours to do the marathon, so I needed to do a 15 minute mile pace. That number was stuck in my head.

So I started running, realized running wasn't hard at all, and I was doing a 10:30 pace, EASY. OK. I think I can do this after all. The run course started right in the busy part of town, near the cruise ship dock, where all the touristy stuff is. There were people EVERYWHERE. Actually, I got confused at the beginning because they were walking right across the course - arrgh! So I saw runners and spectators and tourists and felt instantly energized. I saw the woman from our resort. She said her husband had just started the run, too. I looked for my own husband but had no idea where he might have ended up at this point. I realized I was still holding the sandwich and decided it was probably in my best interest to get some solid food in my system, now, because my stomach always shuts down at some point during the run.

I switched to a power walk and realized that I could power walk in the 13-14 minute/mile range, and that wasn't too hard either. YES. I think I may be able to do this thing! So I power walked, ate my sandwich, waved and chatted with other runners (a lot of whom were also walking, and a lot of whom I passed!)

My Garmin died after a mile. I knew it wouldn't last for the whole race, but I still had my stopwatch tracking my race time, and it was on long enough for me to get an idea of my running and walking pace. It was actually really freeing doing most of the run without it.

The run course was 4.something out and back, x3. This actually was really helpful, because I broke it up into six parts. I pretty much ignored the distance in my head and figured that if I did each part in about an hour, I'd be set.

The run had PLENTY of aid stations, and the bags of water were wonderful. I want to see them at local races instead of stupid little baby cups of water! They were about the size of those little squeezy novelty toys - the ones they sold at the mall about 10 years ago, that you would squeeze and they'd fly out of your hand - anyone???? They were big enough to get a few good gulps of water, they were easy to carry, and the cold ones were awesome for holding on the back of my neck or even sticking down my shirt for a cooldown. Or, I could bite a hole in the bag and squirt water all over myself as I ran, in a controlled stream rather than having to dump water everywhere.

People have asked me about the weather. Cozumel never got TOO hot and that day it wasn't humid at all. It wasn't nearly as bad as summer in the midwest. However, the high was about 80 and even though the sun was down, it was a little warm for the run.

So yes, mad praise for the bags of water. I had one in my hand pretty much at all times during the run. They also had gatorade (BLECH - I figure I went through at LEAST 5 bottles of gatorade during the bike) and pepsi (yay!) and pretzels, peanuts (that tasted like lime), zone bars, fruits, and gels. The volunteers yelled at us like salesmen calling out their wares. We never lacked for anything to eat or drink.

About two miles in, I started running alongside a guy from Mexico named Roberto. We ran about the same pace and he spoke very good English, so we got a good conversation going. We talked about our families, our cultures, our jobs, food, even Seinfeld and the Big Bang Theory. Some people were blaring Gangnam Style through a speaker. I grabbed my invisible reins and we broke into the dance and the crowd, as they say, went wild! I met an online friend during that leg, from the beginner triathlete forums, and gave him a hug.

I was KILLING my goal of getting through each sixth of the race in an hour. I barely felt like I was running. I felt like I was partying. By the end of the first full loop, though (8.something miles), I was feeling a little more drained than I wanted to be. By now, my goal was just to finish, and not finish feeling like I was dying, and not hit a wall halfway through and have to drag myself through 13 miserable miles. We were close to the finish line. I could see the video screen and hear shouts of "You are an Ironman!" and "Ya eres un Ironman!"

Just before the turnaround, I heard my name. IT WAS MY HUSBAND!!! AAAAAHHHH!!!! I ran toward him and hugged him. He asked if it was my first loop. I got a little pouty, said yes, and then added quickly, "but I'm going to make it!!" "Of course you are," he said. I ran to catch back up with Roberto, who was all smiles and happy and chatty and psyched. He was about to do his final lap and he felt great. And if I ran with him, I realized, he just might kill me. I really needed to slow down for a bit. He tried to get me to keep going, but I told him, "I know ME. I know what I need to do." He told me he'd stick around and watch me finish.

Now what? A random guy handed me a neon glow necklace. I walked for a bit, trying to figure it out. I walked for too long, really. Then I settled on intervals. Run 3, walk 3. Since it was out and back x3, I could see all the mile markers. Mile 19. Mile 20. WHY can't those be MY signs?? Run 2, walk 2. I liked that better. I did that for a while. I did it until I got close to the turnaround and the 13 mile mark. Then I decided to run - the timing mats were at the turnaround and I was thinking of my friends at home, waiting for an update. Plus, there was a porta potty there that I thought I needed. THEN there was the special needs station. Run for the mats, the potty, then run to special needs THEN walk. The timing mats made a satisfying computer doodly-oop sound when I ran over them. Stomach felt wonky. Tried to use the porta-potty, didn't work. Special needs, YAY!!! For a second I plopped down with my bag like I had for the bike. Ya dork, I told myself, you can keep moving forward with this stuff. I opened my other v8, downed the other three aleve - my foot still felt mostly ok but my left calf was tightening up. At least that's a pain that I experience on a regular basis, so I was cautious, but not worried. I still had the mystery pain cream in my pocket, so I rubbed some on it. Anti-chafe gel - the timing chip on my ankle was rubbing big time. No snickers bar in this one, either. Hmm, wtf ever happened to my snickers bar? (I'm still bitter about that.) I did have a bag of fritos and some starburst gummy candy. I walked, finished the v8, and opened the fritos. I walked until that whole bag was gone, enjoying every one. I took a drink from a bag of water, rinsed the salt off my fingers, and ran again. And didn't feel like running much at all.

After not too long, I passed an aid station with bananas. The guy next to me started singing "BA-NA-NA-NA!!" (to the tune of Beethoven's fifth) in an opera voice. I broke into Banana Phone, and he joined me. He was speed walking. I started walking with him and asked if he'd mind some company. I was starting to lose it a little on my own and a sense of humor will get one through anything. He was from Cali, on his last lap, walking because he was having some very similar stomach issues to my own. He blamed too much gatorade. We talked about jobs, significant others, and farts...'cuz we were both farting. A lot. Want to maintain a sense of dignity? Don't do triathlons. When we got into town, a friend of his joined us on the walk for a bit - she had been sick during training and had started the race undertrained. She didn't make it through the swim. I congratulated him, watched him run toward the finish line, and stopped to talk to the husband for a minute. I had it town to a science - 2 hours and 40 minutes to finish. One more loop. 8ish miles. I was SO going to make it. He had to remind me to stop talking and start running again.

This time, turning past the finish line was a bit more sad. TONS of people were cheering near the finish line, and then instead of going down the chute....a left turn. I was starting to hate left turns. My little pity party was super short lived, though, because the people lining the fence at that point were AWESOME. Tons of smiles, cheers, high-fives. Then my husband was running next to me! I filled him in on the race so far, my awful foot saga and the people I'd met. He let me go on my own after a few minutes so that we wouldn't get caught by a race official and promised to see me at the finish line.

That was the pick-me-up I needed. I ran all the way to the end of the touristy part of town, smiling and yelling back at spectators. There were three Mexican women on a corner who half-heartedly said, "Go, go," to me. I yelled back in English, "What's wrong, are YOU tired???" They stood in shock for a second and then we all started laughing.

I haven't said much about the spectators during the race. They were everywhere. The course ran down the main road along the ocean. About half of it was the touristy strip with all the restaurants, bars, expensive stores, and street vendors. Not only were there lots of spectators, there were lots of tourists-turned-spectators. There were people toasting with Coronas at outdoor tables, so close to me that it took a lot of willpower not to grab one from them. The other half was less populated, some parks (I think we were running through parks) and a couple of hotels. There were still some spectators, more local people on that part, and people on hotel balconies and leaning out of rooms.

So I ran until I was off the main drag. Then it got a little lonely, but every time I stopped to walk, it was only for a few seconds. I wanted to RUN. The last lap, like the bike, had a slightly different feel. Not as many people, but more camaraderie. There was an invisible vibe in the air of "WE'RE GOING TO MAKE IT!!" Everyone left on the course at that point was of the just-cover-the-distance goal-setting variety. I saw a guy with one leg (who beat me!) I saw people with arms in slings. I saw people wearing bunny ears. I remembered the gummies, tried them, decided I didn't like them, pitched them.

What surprised me was how good I felt. In my experience, the end of a race feels forever long. But 6 more miles didn't sound bad at all. 5 more miles sounded entirely doable. The macarena was playing. I learned that I remember how to do the macarena. I yelled, "Ganbate!" at a guy from Japan and then had to admit it was pretty much the only Japanese I knew, after he tried to start a conversation. People who had already finished were riding their bikes back to their hotels and cheering us on.

I met another guy from Mexico. He didn't speak much English and at that point, I didn't speak much Spanish. I walked with him for a minute. He told me that his entire family, pretty much, was up ahead watching. Mother, sister, mother-in-law, sister-in-law...he rattled off relations. As soon as we got in their line of vision, he ran. I ran with him. They cheered. Once we were away from them...he walked. I bid him adios and kept running.

The turnaround! Yay!! A race official had been keeping track of numbers on a sheet of paper. I saw him make a check mark. "La ultima!" he said. The last one! Yay!! Across the mat....doodly computer sounds...I wondered who at home was still awake and tracking me.

And then...that magical feeling left me pretty quickly. I tried to run. My legs wanted to walk. I saw a woman walking completely doubled over. Every so often, she'd stop and try to straighten up and double over again. I ran as fast as I could (not fast) to get past her because she was making me hurt. 3.2 miles to go. THREE POINT TWO WHOLE MILES???? Ahh, there it is. The "finish line is forever and ever away" feeling. Doh.

So, I walked, still a fast walk. A woman passed me. She was power walking like WHOA. She was FAST, staring at the ground, determined. I wanted a friend. I was lonely. I caught up to her. She was from Canada and she was PISSED about her swim, her bike, her total time. We chatted for a minute but I couldn't keep that walking speed. I kept walking and then...about 2 miles left. I think. I saw the flag! There was a giant Mexican flag along the shore that was visible for a long time before town. I loved seeing that flag.



This is ridiculous. I'm so close. RUN, dang it, run! So I ran. I discovered something awesome - I was using different muscles than I was walking. So, everything that hurt while I was walking no longer hurt! Granted, other things hurt now, but my other leg muscles were getting a break! I relayed that as I passed fast walking woman. She looked at me like I'd grown another head out of my butt.

I MADE myself keep running. My Garmin, of course, was dead, but I'm guessing I was doing 14 minute miles or so. Maybe slower. But it was all I had. TONS of people on the street were cheering for me. In heavily accented English, a woman yelled, "You are going to be an IRONMAN!!" People yelled, "Keep going!" As if I had a choice. A man and a woman stopped and cheered gave me a blatant "Aww, bless your heart!" look at my ridiculous, stiff shuffle. I passed a few more walkers. Everyone at the five thousand aid stations between me and the finish line was offering me gatorade. The thought made me want to throw up. "No, no mas, gracias!" I kept yelling.

Toward the end, lots of previous finishers, wearing medals, were yelling and screaming and holding beer and high-fiving me. I passed one more walker. I wanted the finisher chute to myself! There was my husband, high-fiving me, yelling that I did it. There were the race officials, pointing me toward the chute. I took a step toward the turnaround instead. "Una vez mas?" I joked.

And then....

You know on sitcoms and cartoons, where the main character gets conked in the head or passes out for some other reason? He starts floating through the air, everything goes white, no sense of reality whatsoever....

THAT is an Ironman finish chute. Suddenly, I was no longer shuffling. I was running. I was sprinting, with perfect form. My feet weren't touching the ground. I felt no pain. No stiffness. I felt nothing. I was vaguely aware of the crowd, more aware of the finish line, the numbers, the announcer. "That is Kate E____ from the United States!!" He seemed to be taking his time because I was the only one in the chute. Everything moved in slow motion and hyperspeed at the same time.

I raised my arms triumphantly. Come on, I'm almost across the line, get on with it...

"Kate, the words you've been waiting to hear..."

My heart was pounding. I was vaguely aware of the glow necklace smacking me in the chin.

"YOU....ARE...."

I started to say it along with him and then realized that I was in danger of making a weird face in my finisher picture if I did.

"...AN...IRONMAN!!!"

A volunteer, a middle aged guy who was I think American (or definitely not Hispanic, anyway), met me at the finish line. I looked down and I was magically wearing a medal (I swear!) Another guy put a towel around my shoulders and I yanked it off. Yuck, I was already hot! I let out an audible sigh of relief when someone else grabbed that awful timing chip off my ankle and I inspected the chafe marks from it. The volunteer asked me how I felt. All I could say was "I can't believe I just freaking did that!" He pointed me to all my options - cold kiddie pools, gatorade (OMG NO MORE GATORADE!!), water (yes PLEASE - they gave me two ice cold bottles), are you ok, doesn't look like you're limping, you look better than a lot of people I've seen tonight, do you want to sit? (NO, I'll never get back up!) do you want food?

Yuck. Food. I had heard from others that there would be noodle soup. I really should eat. "Um...are there noodles...or something?" He led me to a table and told me he could get me a cup o'noodles, and there's pizza.

OMG PIZZA. There was a table covered in pizza boxes and suddenly I wanted pizza like I hadn't eaten for a week.

I think I can maybe try some pizza....

I grabbed a piece and he grabbed me a piece and I didn't resist when he guided me to a chair. I shoveled in both pieces, taking maybe three bites before I swallowed. He returned with a cup o'noodles, seemed to be convinced that I wasn't going to lose consciousness, and moved on.


I got my finisher shirt and photo taken while I waited for the noodles to cool. They didn't cool. I got impatient and went to find my husband - he was right there, yay! - and to collect my things. He became the wrangler of my two bottles of water, shirt, towel, and noodles as I collected my gear bags and dropped my bike off with the bike transport company. I put stuff in bags, made the husband carry them (I had madly painful sunburn on my arms and looping the bags over them HURT), and ate my noodles on the cab ride to the hotel.

Ha. What an anticlimactic end. Sorry about that. But there ya go. There were no pictures of me DURING the run (probably 'cuz it was dark the whole time, ha) but I have some good finish chute pictures. Here, I'll end with those!

Didn't see that camera - this is a legit facial expression!

Putting my arms down too early. And the necklace is up around my face. Whoops!
Airborne! Proof I was really running!! Crossed the line and still running!!
And boom. There it is.


Ironman pics are insanely expensive, btw, but I may still buy some. Forgive the watermarks. :)

My goal was to finish this by the end of the year, and like the race itself, I cut it close but I got it done! More blogs to come...I'll list the contents of my gear bags, because others who did the same were immensely helpful to me. And of course, the year in review and my plans for 2013 and lots more.

Thank you, all of you, for your support this year. Every last one of you. You have no idea how much it meant or how many times I just wanted to give up on the whole idea of this thing. Chase your dreams, ya'll. Impossible is just a stupid concept that the world makes up.

Happy new year!!!

Run time: 6:05:21
Race time: 16:28:31 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Ironman Cozumel recap: Part 4, the rest of the bike (no pics, all my bike pics look the same...)

Been traveling. Been doing Christmasy stuff. Going to try to get this finished for ya'll....

So there I was, pedaling. My foot got really, really freaking hot. On fire hot. I figured the mystery Mexican foot rub cream must've had some Icy Hot-ish properties. I decided that hot foot felt much better than painful foot. However, I was still really, really not sure if I could finish the bike, and even less sure if I could finish it under the cutoff. I didn't even let myself think about running on that foot. Everything was taking longer than I thought that day. It was hot. I felt nauseated. My nutrition plan (solid every 45 - 60 minutes) had completely fallen apart. I tried to get it back on track. 45 minutes after the special needs stop, retrieve gel from cleavage. Try to hold self together.

There were the people, the crowds, the kids, again. This time I didn't have it in me to whoop and yell and pump my fist. I managed some weak waves and smiles instead. It kept me going, though. I mean, can you really ride past smiling people yelling, "SI SE PUEDE!" and say, nah, nah, really, no puedo, and get off your bike in front of them?

This time, there were plenty of people veering right into the transition area, and I had to veer left. Someone else made the left turn with me and tried to be encouraging as he passed me. I passed Chankanaab again. Loop 3, officially on.

The beginning of the third loop was lonely. For a while I saw nobody except the carnage....people stopped along the side of the road. A guy kicking the dirt next to his sad, fallen bike. He asked me in Spanish if I had a camera. A what? Yep, I heard him right. Tienes una camera?? No, no tengo. What the heck did he want a camera for? And why would I have one? I rode off wondering if camera meant something in Spanish besides, umm, camera.

A race official on a motorized scooter pulled up beside me and asked me if I was ok and if it was my last lap. I responded in the affirmative, both counts, and told him that I was t r y i n g! He smiled and sped off. I was dreading the windy part coming up ahead. I was soooo dreading it. The aid stations no longer had gels, and I was out. One of them gave me a warm, mushy half banana. I took one bite and threw the rest toward a dog that was scavenging along the side of the road. I was hungry, but not THAT hungry. Yuck.

About 89 miles in, I passed a guy standing next to his bike. I asked him if he was ok. He forced a too-big smile and made the "cut" hand gesture. "I'm out." I gave him a sympathetic "awww". Then it hit me. If I don't make the cutoff, I don't make the cutoff....

But NOBODY IS GOING TO BE ABLE TO SAY THAT I QUIT.

I did some quick calculating. All I had to do was average 14 mph for the entire time I was pedaling, accounting for the break. I still had my stopwatch counting the race time. I was over 14. I could do it, even with the wind. I swapped Gatorade bottles at the next aid station and they handed me a fresh bottle of watermelon, my favorite. It was ice-cold. I took a huge gulp and it tasted awesome. GAME ON.

I turned into the windy part and I didn't slow down NEARLY as much as I had on the other two loops. I couldn't pedal too hard without my foot getting twingey, but I could pedal pretty freaking fast in an easy gear and it was fine. I started passing people. I yelled encouragement at each one, updating them on how much time was left, telling them we were going to make it. I recalculated every 10 miles and every 30 minutes. Each time I did, the numbers were more and more in my favor. One hour, 12 miles to go. I relayed this to a downtrodden-looking American girl.

I passed the special needs station and wondered if the volunteers recognized me. I waved. Look, I'm still going!! I passed a girl from Argentina. "Si se puede!" I told her and she responded in kind. I turned out of the windy section and watched as my Garmin shot from 13 mph up to 17 mph with no increased effort. I had plenty of time to make it. PLENTY of time.

The only thing I was afraid of was a flat tire, but I put that out of my head as soon as I thought it. If I got a flat, I would grab my bike and run like hell.

The people I passed on that last stretch were much more optimistic. Everyone was smiling. We double-checked our calculations with each other. We're going to make it!! 30 minutes until the bike cutoff. I figured nobody would still be out there, but I was wrong! The cheering crowds had thinned, but people were still out yelling. People on scooters honked, arms shot out of taxi windows to wave at me. The sun was setting but trees blocked my view. Guess I wasn't going to get to see the Cozumel sunset today after all.

It was just getting to the point of being too dark for my sunglasses when I made the final turn. A little boy sprinted alongside me, yelling "SI SE PUEDE SI SE PUEDE SI SE PUEDE!!!!" It was almost a mile after my Garmin read 112, but there it was....the transition area. A crowd of people still cheering. According to my watch, I was 10:19 into the race....11 minutes before the bike cutoff.

You guys, you would've thought I had just won the entire race. I pumped a fist into the air and started screaming. "I MADE IT I MADE IT HELL YES I MADE IT!!!!!" I  almost didn't see the volunteer telling me to stop my bike and then I almost didn't get my foot unclipped in time. I got off my bike, and another volunteer whisked it away. And then.....hoooooly wobbly legs.

I did plenty of bike-to-run brick workouts during training, but mostly shorter ones. I did run after 50-60 mile rides a few times, but that was nothing compared to trying to move my legs after 112 miles. I felt like they were moving every which way but forward. A volunteer went to grab me, but just as quickly, my legs figured themselves out again. Someone shoved my bag into my hands. Into the T2 tent.

I sat down and yanked off my helmet, shoes and socks. A volunteer offered me a tube labelled "repellente." I asked if I needed it. "There are...mosquitoes," came the reply, so I rubbed it on. I had seen advice on the internet to change socks for the run. I cursed that advice as I fought with my fresh socks. I rubbed body glide over everything that could possibly chafe. Another volunteer helped me put my bike gear back in the bag. I popped the mystery blue pills, why not? There was another pb&j in my run bag. I grabbed it and a bag of water, hopped up, and took off running out of the tent without even thinking about it.

Bike time: 8:03:55
T2 time: 4:26

Conclusion, soon to come....


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ironman Cozumel: part 3, the craziest bike ride (part 1)

Apologies for the long delay. I got an eye infection, immediately followed by the head cold from hell after coming back. (I think an Ironman race plus a loooong travel day plus a climate change will utterly destroy one's immune system!) I tried to blog while couch bound this weekend, but it was too much thinking.



Sooo, I ran my bike out of the ridiculously long transition area. The people - holy cow, the crowd blew me away. As I approached the final turn out of transition (just the fact that I'm saying that pretty much tells you that t1 should have been considered an event on its own) I saw TONS of people. Yelling, cheering, cowbell-ringing, noise-making, people. They yelled out my name, they yelled out my number. I spotted my husband (it's nice when your cheerleader is over 6' tall) yelling and cheering and taking pictures. It was pretty freaking great.

The people were on the other side, promise!!



See, there are some of them...

Mounted my bike and took off down the road. I entered all-out "OMG I LOVE MY BIKE!" mode. The weather felt great, warm but not too hot. I had a strategy - the course was three loops. I planned to take loop one super easy and get a feel for the wind and the course. Loop two, I would take a little harder, and loop three would be a little harder if I had it in me. Our resort was 3-4 miles down the road from the park, and I wondered if anyone would be out in front. Sure enough, there was a small crowd! A guy enthusiastically yelled at me, "Good job, great tuck position!!" There was a couple with a huge American flag, and I spotted another guest I had met earlier - her husband and their friend were doing the race. (I had actually met them at the airport when I saw him rifling through his carry-on, which included a bike helmet, and then it turned out they were staying at our resort, too.) She recognized me and started cheering louder. There were speakers blasting music. It was pretty sweet.

There were a couple more hotels down the road with similar scenes. The Iberostar had a guy with a mic and a PA system and he yelled "HEEEEEYYYYYY!" at me. Grabbed a gatorade at the first water stop. The water stop volunteers, as a whole, were pretty great. I would yell out what I needed, they would point me to the right person, and I'd slow down enough that I could grab it from the volunteer, who would usually run with me for a few steps to make sure I got it. That's gotta be a pretty tiring job.

Aid stations every 10k. 18 total. One down, 17 to go. I would use them as landmarks. Stop and stretch every 4 or so if I needed it. I'd never done a long ride without a handful of breaks - kinda hard when you have to go into gas stations to buy food and drinks, plus riding solo, I felt like I needed the mental break for safety - and I didn't know how all my body parts would hold up with constant riding. Promising myself the opportunity to rest for a few minutes was a confidence booster. 

I will take this opportunity to give a completely unsolicited shout-out to my skirt sports multisport top. It has what's called a "cleavage alley pocket", which is exactly what it sounds like. It comfortably holds two gels and was a GREAT place to stash them.

The water bottle I'd put on my bike that morning was warm and gross. At the second aid station, I chucked it and grabbed a bottle from a volunteer. It was COLD!! It had ICE in it!!!! And best yet - it was a souvenir Ironman Cozumel water bottle!!! I was waaay too giddy about that water bottle.

Pretty pretty...(not me so much, I mean the ocean)

About 15ish miles in, instead of boring trees everywhere, I came face to face with the ocean. White sand beaches, deep deep turquoise water, and crashing waves - it was amazingly beautiful. The road turned and I knew we were rounding the southern tip of the island. And THAT is where the wind kicked in. No trees, nothing to shield from a pretty gnarly crosswind coming right off the ocean. I knew it would be windy and I kept pedaling fast but in an easy gear. I tried to focus on the beautiful scenery. That worked briefly. But then I dealt with what I always deal with when a ride starts getting tough - my negative brain kicked in. My hip is tiiiiiight. My heel hurts. WTF? Why does my heel hurt?? That's seriously random. To make things even more fun, the terrain changed and there was what seemed like a 2,000 mile stretch of bumpy, paved-over gravel. I seriously thought that crap only existed on country roads in Ohio (although I was momentarily thankful that some of my longer rides had included it.) Even better, there was a perfectly paved bike trail running alongside the main road. I kept staring at it longingly.

I wanna ride over thee-eere.....

I was later told by a random person that they were going to use that for the race, but decided against it because it was narrower than the main road, which meant more of a challenge for people to pass.

Speaking of passing, a lot of the pros were on their....second? third? loop. I got passed pretty frequently. I passed the special need station. I wanted my bag. I wanted my sandwich and my aleve. Stupid hip flexor. There were a couple of hills. NO WAY. They weren't big hills at all, but anything in that wind just didn't make it more fun. Siiiiigh. That part of the island was super pretty, though. There was the occasional bar or souvenir stand, usually with someone out front cheering and waving, but we were definitely away from civilization. Mostly just water and beaches and crashing waves.

After an eternity (ok, 24.5 miles), the road became smooth again. And I never did take a rest break. I cheered out loud as a woman passing me smiled and reassured me that we'd be out of the wind soon, too. And we were. I figured that sucktastic part wouldn't be too bad next time around, now that I knew what to expect.

As we got closer into town, there were more and more people. People were gathered in small groups, and lots of them had kids with them. They cheered for everyone passing like it was their best friend out there. I heard lots of "Anima! Adelante! Vamos, chica! Si se puede!!" and responded with thumbs up, waves, gracias, etc. And then there was an officer directing us to turn into town.....

.....and holy cow. Everyone in Cozumel must've been watching the race. The streets were literally lined with people. Loud, freaking out people. Little stores were blasting out rock and techno music and I broke into a dance. (Yes. On my bike. This is possible.) A woman looked me in the eye and yelled in English, "You are BEAUTIFUL! You can DO IT!!" For a few miles I got this big old stupid grin on my face. I felt like a freaking rock star. This was probably the most fun I've had in a race, EVER. EVER.

A few miles of that, and then I had to pass t1 and turn left back out of town. There were still a lot of people on my way out as I passed by hotels and touristy shops. I double-checked the distance on my Garmin as well as the time. I was going a little slower than I planned, but nothing too concerning. A sign said "Chankanaab: 4". Four miles to the beginning of the loop? That would put me at around 41 miles, not 39 point something....aww crap. The bike course was gonna be long. I'd have to readjust. I tried to recalculate times and speeds until a few minutes later....."Four KILOMETERS. Durrr." I corrected myself out loud.

I was riding the high of the crowds for quite a while. Started the second loop and kept an eye out for my hotel again. There it was, and THERE WAS MY HUSBAND!!!!! I skidded to a stop, long enough for a kiss. I pointed out various parts of the course: "That part sucks. THAT part is AWESOME! I'm a little slower than I thought I would be." He told me I was doing fine.

Past the other hotels. Gee, I didn't realize how boring this part of the course is. My foot hurts again. What is going on??? Don't think about it and you'll forget it hurts. Think about something else. Think about anything else. I hit 50 miles. 6 miles to the halfway point, after that 4 miles to special needs, after that 4 miles until the turn out of the wind. Here comes the crappy part....

I tried to focus on the scenery again and found myself not caring about it. It seemed like it took HOURS to go six miles. My foot hurt. I couldn't ignore it. The pain started shooting from my heel, up the outside of my foot to the ball. I slowed waaay down. I caught myself going 10 mph. I started talking to my foot out loud, sometimes growling at it, sometimes yelling "ouch!", swearing, telling it to shut up.

53 miles in. I was gritting my teeth and moving forward oh-so-slowly, hunched over in aero position, when in slow motion I felt a huge jolt forward, heard horrific metal scraping noises, heard a male voice yelling "AAAAH!" and heard a female voice (oh wait, that was me) yelling out a string of every forbidden four-letter word known to man. Try to shift gears, is my chain still on, do I have a flat tire now, unclip my foot so I don't fall....I swerved but miraculously stayed upright. A woman passing me looked at me wide-eyed and asked if I was ok. "I'm ok," I said, and asked what happened, if I'd been hit, if the other guy was ok....but that part, I think, came out in a stream of words in random order. She looked confused and kept going. I looked back and saw a bike lying down and a guy with an aero helmet sitting up next to it. I kept moving forward.

I don't know whatever happened to that guy. I assume he was ok because he was conscious, but nobody ever passed me and said, "Hey, I ran into your bike, sorry about that!" I kept waiting for it, though.

That woke me up for about a minute. But then...back to the grind. I tried pedaling with mostly my left foot. I tried engaging my core more. I tried various positions. I tried moving my foot around. Everything would work for a minute and then I was in pain again. I started coasting. A lot. One can't coast much in a crosswind. I hit 56 miles in 3:45. Not bad. I was setting myself up for a 7:30 bike, maybe less. That would be ok. The special needs station was NOT at mile 60, it was somewhere around 61. It felt like a cruel joke, but then I saw the writing on the road: SPECIAL NEEDS AHEAD." YES. I wanted that Aleve sooooo badly.

I stopped at the special needs station and it took forever for someone to get my bag. FOREVER. The first thing I did was dug for the three little blue pills in a ziploc bag. Can of V8, sandwich....where was my snickers bar?? I must've put it in the wrong bag somehow. I was standing and shifted weight to the painful foot, and discovered that I could barely even stand on it. I walked forward a few steps and limped. CRAAAAP. I turned to a police officer. "Hay un medico cerca?" He said no. I must've gotten some kind of look on my face that elicited pity, because I heard a few people asking, and then another volunteer came  running up to me. "You need a medic? What's wrong?" I told him my foot. It was killing me. It really, really hurts. I have no idea why. This has never happened before.

Took off my sock and shoe and plopped down on the ground while someone else held my bike. At first he told me it was because my foot and ankle were scraped up and bloody. Yes, they were. That happened at some point during the swim and I noticed it when I came out of the water, and no, I don't know how it got there but that is NOT what hurts! I directed him to the bottom of my foot and he figured it out. He told me he thought I pulled a muscle and started massaging it. That hurt like HELL but I made him keep going. As long as I was sitting, I took nibbles of my pb&j, which tasted like cardboard, but I needed to eat. I thought to myself how calm I was being about the whole thing....and as soon as I had that thought, THEN the waterworks started. I have to ride 50+ more miles and then I HAVE TO RUN A MARATHON on a foot that I can barely stand on. This is it. It's over. No way am I going to make it. "I...just...want...to...finish!" I sobbed. "That's all. I just want to finish." "Of course, finish, is very important," said my new friend who was still rubbing my disgusting, sweaty foot with his bare hands. He left for a second and came back with some cream that he rubbed into it. I finished 2/3 of my sandwich and tossed the rest into the garbage pile. After a while, he asked if it felt better. A little. A very little bit. He gave me the cream and insisted that I keep it. It barely fit into my shorts pocket. Then he handed me two big blue pills in a blister pack. For pain. Take these. We ran into a minor language barrier. I was too stressed for Spanish. I told him I had just taken some pills that I had in my bag. He got confused and looked for my bag. No, I don't need my bag. I HAD pills in them. I took them. That's why I don't want more. Finally, I zipped them into my shirt pocket. "Mas tarde," I said, and that seemed to satisfy him.

I got myself upright again. I was not at all feeling confident about biking, but I remembered what I had told pretty much everyone before I left. If my leg falls off during this race, I will duct tape it back on and drag it across the finish line. Now I was thinking of having to tell everyone I quit the race because MY FOOT HURT???? Not an option. The volunteer gave me a push back onto the road (yes, really!)

I looked at my watch, which was in stopwatch mode and keeping a running total of my race time. I had spent 15 minutes at special needs. This meant....I had about 4 hours to finish the bike. My foot still hurt, but I could pedal now. Still slow, though, and I was still very worried about holding myself together. And then...would I even be able to run??

......to be continued (but ya'll know I made it, so this isn't all that suspenseful....)


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ironman Cozumel: part 2, race morning and swim

Race morning. I felt surprisingly calm. Slathered myself head to toe with sunscreen before I put my swimsuit on. (I am about as ghostly white as they come!) I discovered that the sunscreen took off the sharpie on my arm. Arrgh. One more thing to get done that morning. Swimsuit on, sweatshirt and yoga pants on over it, and flip-flops. The resort buffet had opened extra early for us (LOTS of IM people staying there). I got pancakes, like just about everyone else, ha. I got a big helping of smoked salmon (but they didn't have the croissants I liked to put it on, boo!) for protein and got a cup of coffee and some juice. I grabbed a banana after all that and nibbled on it as I wandered back to my room. Contrary to the way that just sounds, food was NOT going down easily but I was trying to get as much to eat as I could.

Ran into huz walking out of the room. I did my pre-race bathroom thing - very important! - and made a fresh pb&j for my bike special needs bag. (I had swiped some bread and strawberry jam from breakfast the day before, and had brought my own pb from home.) Huz made sure I had everything - yup, I had carefully laid it all out the night before and checked it about 5 times - and we rode the shuttle to the swim start. I got into a conversation about US politics with a New Zealander next to me.

Can I just say something that was awesome about this race? There were people there from SO MANY COUNTRIES. I met lots of Americans, and of course some Mexicans, but I also met or saw people from Holland, Germany, France, Canada, Argentina, Columbia, Japan, and I don't even remember where else. It was pretty cool.

The ginormous, still overwhelming transition area was buzzing with excitement. I tried to find a tire pump floating around but didn't see one. After some debate, I decided to walk my bike to the other side of the transition area to the mechanic. I tried to leave my special needs bags where my bike was, but got told by a volunteer that I couldn't. He was one of the many kids volunteering, and he spoke no English. My nerves had just about killed my Spanish speaking ability, but with much frustration I finally understood that I had to drop off my bags first before I could do anything with my bike. He tried to take my morning clothes bag, but my pants and flip-flops needed to go in it and I managed to communicate that to him: "Ahora no. No toma. Mas tarde por favor!!"

Shown: about .00000001% of the transition area.



There were two buses parked of course, on the other side of transition for the special needs bags. Under each window was a range of bib numbers, and I handed each bag up to the window of the appropriate volunteer. Back to my bike; on the way I found someone with a sharpie to re-number my arm. Took the bike to get the tires inflated. Back to the rack. Clothes off, into my bag, hung on the bike for the volunteer to collect. I was walking around in my swimsuit feeling quite naked.

The elites started about 20 minutes before the age groupers, so we got to watch them take off. When they started, the dolphins started putting on a show. It was SWEET. There were tons of them, doing flips, upright and skidding backwards across the water. SO cool. We all had to line up around the dock. I waited for a long time to get in line, not wanting to end up in the front getting run over. I finally joined the line and we went to walk around the dock, but ended up having to turn around because there just wasn't enough room for all of us. So, I didn't get to see the dolphin show as close-up as I would've liked. Awww. :(



As we were walking, the woman next to me looked terrified and blurted out, "I really can't swim that well!" Eeek! I tried to give her a pep talk, told her just to move forward, she could hold onto the boats and paddlers and buoys if she needed a rest.

THIS IS A LOT OF PEOPLE!!!

We had to jump off the dock, which, ok, was a little scary. A guy next to me jokingly pretended like he was going to push me. I held my nose, counted uno, dos, tres, and jumped in. I was surprised that my feet touched the bottom when I landed. I tried treading water but the waves kept pushing me back to the shore, and I ended up way off to the side but in a spot where I could stand up. The guy next to me, in heavily accented English, said, "I'm a bad swimmer!" Really?? I played therapist again. We discussed swim strategies, me in Spanish to him, him in English back. Despacio. Tranquilo. Relax. Easy.

No, I don't know where I am in this picture!!

I was chilling in the water (literally, it was COLD if you weren't moving) when I heard the horn. I had planned to wait a few seconds, but there weren't many people around me, so I started swimming. Eek. There were a LOT of people and I'd never done a mass start like that. People were everywhere. Nobody was really aggressive, but I got pushed around a lot unintentionally. Don't panic. Nobody's trying to hurt you. Just swim. After a few minutes, it cleared out enough that I could get into my normal rhythm. Three strokes, breathe. Three strokes, breathe. Nice and relaxed. Just like in the pool. I found my groove. The water was choppier than it had been the other day, but I was moving forward. I watched the coral. I watched someone's watch floating to the bottom - doh! I couldn't tell how deep the water was but the visibility was amazing. I saw a ray skimming along the bottom, a safe distance from 3,000 churning pairs of arms and legs.



I was so looking forward to the turn and it seemed to take a while to get there. I sneaked a look at my watch, which I had put into stopwatch mode and started at  the swim start. It was past 20 minutes, and I hadn't even gone 800 m yet? But wait, I'm swimming against the current right now. I'll make up for it when we turn around...if I ever get there....but I saw people starting to go the opposite direction and realized we were close.

The buoy was a bit crowded when I turned. I tried to follow a guy through the next turn, but apparently his aim was off, because he plowed headfirst into the next buoy. Crap. I tried to get around him, but the buoy floated after me. I tried to get around it and it stayed on me like we were magnetic. Finally I stopped, treaded water, and yelled (more in amusement than terror) "The stupid thing's attacking me!!" An official motioned to me to pass it on the inside. Sweet.

I was swimming with the current now. YES. I didn't even have to do much work and I felt the waves pushing me forward anyway. I was back in the groove. There weren't many fish to see; I suspect we scared them all away. I did see little tiny fish? bugs? Something with glowing blue dots on them, like they were lit up by led. A few jellyfish decided they loved my feet and ankles but I mostly ignored them. I waved to a scuba diver taking pictures, and then *I* was the one who plowed into a buoy. PAY ATTENTION. I could hear music and the announcer when we passed by the dock. I managed to grin and give a thumbs up to a serious-faced volunteer sitting on a raft, who nodded at me seriously.

In very little time, I was at the last turn. And then......ridiculousness. The current seemed much stronger than it had in the beginning. I watched the coral. I was passing it, but slooooowly. I resisted the temptation to look at my watch for a while, but finally I gave in. 1:30. That was my goal time. Dangit. But I could still shoot for 1:45 - my high estimate - and I didn't have too far to go. But I was moving soooo slowly. I watched a yellow buoy over my left shoulder. Stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe....still there. Repeat....STILL THERE. In the same stupid spot. WHAT THE HECK?? This part of the course was getting more and more crowded. I was getting more frustrated and instead of backing off, like I had done earlier on, I stayed in the same position, plowing into people right back and asserting my place. People were moving in every direction. I got clobbered across the back of my head by what felt like a 400-lb dude's arm. My left calf seized up. Awwww crap. OK, do what you do in the pool, keep going. I kicked with one foot and pulled harder with my arms until it loosened back up. My nose was BURNING from the salt water. I breathed with every stroke just to get my nose out of the water for a second of sweet relief. I kept getting smacked in the face with a wave when I tried to look up. I accidentally got a mouthful of water and my throat burned. The smell of fuel from boats and jetskis permeated the air. My armpits were killing me. What the...they NEVER chafe when I'm swimming in the pool. Probably the salt water. WHY had I ignored the table full of body glide? But I'm so close, it'll be over soon. Checked my watch....1:43. I'm not getting out in 1:45. But I'll make the 2:20 cutoff. No matter what, I'll make the cutoff. I swam harder just so I could get out of the water. I could see neon-shirted volunteers on the dock. I was getting closer to them, just sooooo slooooowly. Are my armpits going to hurt like this all day?? Don't even think about all day, just get out of the water....

Whyyyyyyy aren't we moving???


FINALLY I made it to a staircase...a very slippery one. I tried to stand and I was wobbly, still rocking back and forth. I made it to my feet, walked a few steps, then broke into a jog. I saw a sea of faces, heard cheers, couldn't make sense of anything. I looked down. My watch said 2:03. Whew. I wasn't happy about that, but I'd made the cutoff.

Kate vs. Staircase + seasickness
Victorious over the stairs! I think I look pretty badass in this picture. Also, very pale.



There were showers at the end of the dock and I rinsed off the salt water as best as I could. I pointed my raw armpits up at the nozzle, but it didn't do much. Grabbed my bag off the rack and ran for the changing tents....and nearly ran into the wrong one. I wondered why a dude was guarding the women's tent, ha. Someone turned me in the right direction.

All of the things...


I sat down in one of the chairs and dumped my bag onto the ground. I had made out a list of instructions, but I ignored it and just started doing my thing. Suit off. Top on. While I was putting an ample supply of chamois cream in my nether regions, I had a thought and rubbed some onto my armpits to see if that would help. It did, for about two seconds, then....AAAAAHBURNBURNBURNBURNBURN! I frantically wiped it off with a towel, then a volunteer came up to me with vaseline. I grabbed a glob and finally found sweet relief. A woman outside the tent was throwing up loudly, over and over. "Bless her heart," someone else said. Used the porta potty, finished getting all my gear on, sucked down a tangerine gel. It tasted horrible combined with the salt taste already in my mouth. A volunteer offered me what looked like an IV bag. I was confused until I realized it was water. I bit a hole in the bag and ran out of the tent, trying to rinse out my salty, dry mouth.

Bikes everywhere. But where was mine??? 2327, where's 2327?? I started yelling. Another woman yelled back. "Right here, you ran past it!" Doh. Yes, I did. I reoriented myself, grabbed my bike and started the crazy long jog out of transition.

Swim time: 2:01:34
T1 time: 13:15 (longest. transition. ever.)

(Side note: I've heard from a lot of people that the swim was especially awful and LOTS of people didn't even make it past the swim. I've heard anywhere from 35-300 DNF'd, and most everyone reported swim times much slower than they anticipated, including the pros.)

Next up: the bike....

Friday, November 30, 2012

Ironman Cozumel Race Report - Part 1: pre-race adventures

I'm not even sure where to begin, so much to say...so I guess I'll begin a little before the beginning.



Husband and I left the Wednesday before the race. It was a loooong travel day. Two planes, an hour bus ride from the airport, the hassle of dealing with typical Latin American touristy cities - if you are looking for a particular mode of transportation, almost nobody will direct you to what you want because they want to sell you THEIR mode of transportation. After getting about 5,293 different answers as to where the ADO bus would be coming, we finally found it. Fell asleep like a baby on the bus, then a short walk to the ferry terminal.

Something that nobody told me, but I want to stress because there may be people reading this who are considering doing IMCoz in the future: if you fly into Cancun and take the ferry to Cozumel, for the love of God, BRING DRAMAMINE. Neither of us are particularly prone to seasickness and we both about lost our stomachs. That was the craziest rocking boat I've ever ridden. Then the unavoidable Mexican crazy taxi ride, and we made it, in one piece, to our resort.

Bienvenido to nausea town!! Love, the ferry.

The next day, I declined all of that day's Ironman events. Another little detail I missed is that taxis into town - and we were far enough from town that we'd need a taxi - are $15 one way. I've been to non-touristy Central America where a couple of bucks will get you wherever you're going. So, in the interest of saving money, I delayed picking up my bike (I felt like a bad mother) and decided to combine everything into one trip the next day. I did, though, get in the water for my first ocean swim! They had official practice swims, but we were just a few miles from the swim start. How different could the water be, right?

Not quite the YMCA pool, eh?


That was the most fun swim of my life. I found out there was definitely a current - 14:25 out to one dock, then 11:20 back, even after I added on another 100m or so. The waves were there, but not bad at all. I got used to the taste and the sting of the saltwater and the little invisible jellyfish. Yep, Coz has little tiny jellyfish that pinch for about ten seconds and then the sting goes away. I got just a few stings in a half hour. But the fish and the coral beat the heck out of looking at the bottom of a pool, or worse yet, an Ohio lake that's all green and you can't even see your hand in front of your face!! I kept forgetting to breathe as I checked out the coral and the multicolored fish and even swam with a school of fish for a minute. AWESOME.

Definitely not the YMCA!






The next day I did all the pre-race things, and there were a lot. I picked up Pinky from tri-bike transport, where she seemed to have survived the journey with no issues. Went to the expo, where they had lots of ironman gear for sale. I wanted it all but it was spendy. I made it out of the expo with just my free stuff and four co2 cartridges for inflating flat tires, which I had to buy because I couldn't take them on the plane. Four was probably overkill, but I was NOT going to DNF because of a flat tire!!

Photo op at the expo!

I did get a pretty sweet IMCoz jacket in my swag bag. It's got big back pockets, good for biking, and it has thumbholes!! I didn't discover the thumbholes until the next day but OMG! I'm a sucker for thumbholes!!!

There was also the pre-race meeting (in English), a little bit of wandering around downtown, and then back to the resort. I saw several people riding their bikes out of town. Great idea, but I would've been terrified. There was a lot of traffic and obviously no three foot law in Mexico!! Our cab driver passed people on the right, on the left, passed a cyclist super close. Um, no thanks. My bike traveled in the back of the cab.

Reunited...and it feels so good!

Saturday was bike/gear check-in day. Since I had a higher number, I wasn't supposed to drop everything off until 3:30, but I found myself getting really antsy and jittery waiting for that time to come. I sorted out all my gear into the proper bags - one for t1, one for t2, and bike and run special needs bags for the halfway point of each. I had a LOT of stuff. I'll post the full list in a separate entry.



I biked down to the swim start/t1, about 3-4 miles from the resort. It was a good chance to remember what it was like to be on my bike, after a week and a half, and to shift through all the gears, make sure everything was working and everything was adjusted correctly. Tri Bike Transport never disassembled my bike, so everything felt just like I was used to.

The transition area was jaw-droppingly MASSIVE. SO MANY BIKES. My spot was pretty close to the changing tent, but then seriously about .2 miles away from the exit. I got so lost in there. Got myself all sharpie marked, met some of the people near me, checked out the swim course. Holy crap, it looked huge. There was a square-shaped dock. We would start at one end, swim parallel to the shore, turn, swim in the opposite direction for a loooooong time, and then swim back to the other side of the dock. There was a big open space in the middle of the dock, and it was filled with DOLPHINS!!! I could see them swimming around in there. Again, way cool.

Back to the resort via hotel shuttle. Had a good dinner and went to bed fairly early (it helped that I was still on eastern time); fell asleep watching movies. I woke up at 2 AM, wide awake and running through every minute of the race in my head. I tried every go-to-sleep strategy I could think of. I didn't think any of them worked, but apparently I did drift back off to sleep because the next thing I know, Huz was waking me up one minute before the alarm was set to go off. 4:29 AM. Go time.



Part 2: Race day and swim, coming soon....


I'll save you the suspense

Race report: Ironman Cozumel 2012, soon to come. It's going to be long and probably in multiple parts, and I hope to get it done in the next few days.

Spoiler alert: I AM AN IRONMAN!!!

It was a crazy, crazy ride, so hang on.....

Monday, November 19, 2012

6 days

Less than a week!!!!!

Yesterday, I relaxed a little and got a mani/pedi. Hey, the rest of me is gonna look like crap, my nails might as well look good out there! My fingernails are a shimmery pink that should pretty closely match my bike. Even better, the color is called "Pedal faster, Suzi". I love it when nail color names are race-appropriate. (I also have a Flying Pig color called "...and this little piggy".)

And my toesies...they got special treatment:

That color is called "The Thrill of Brazil". I call it perfect ironman red.
I even have my suitcase mostly packed and my race gear list made out. Packing for an ironman is a little overwhelming!

Today, I work 12 hours. Yes, 12 hours. Ick. Tomorrow I'm planning for more of a slacker day so I can get everything done before I go. In 48 hours, we will be at the airport waiting for our flight.

Holy crap, ya'll.

Friday, November 16, 2012

9 days

I've been waiting patiently for race day to show up in the 10-day forecast. So far I'm pleased with what I'm seeing....


Tapering is goooood. I'm starting to feel like a human again and not a zombie. So THIS is what energy (and not training anxiety-induced mania) feels like! I think I like it!!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

12 days

I dropped my bike off yesterday for her first-ever plane ride. My baby's getting the royal treatment - I cleaned her up really well yesterday, took her to the bike shop I know and trust for a tune-up, and then to another bike shop where she'll be shipped via truck to a plane for a trip to Mexico. No disassembly, no dealing with my bike during my own trip. Score.

The guy at my fave bike shop has done bike maintenance for tons of races and tris. He even redid all the grip tape so she looks awesome. OK, so I totally have an underdog bike - less than $1k, a roadie with clip-on bars - but she's MINE and she'll get me to the finish line. I also picked up enough body glide and chamois butter to lube up China. Chafing during my race? Not gonna happen.

Life is busy. Not only do I have my own job, but I've also been working on some other career-related stuff that I will talk about soon, I hope. It's been stressful and it's kept me even busier, but if all goes well, I'll emerge in a few weeks looking like a rock star.

That includes emerging from this Ironman thing. I'm excited and I'm terrified. Absolutely terrified.

Oh, we're hosting my family for thanksgiving this weekend, too, since we won't be around for the actual day. Then I'll be on a plane in 8 days. SO MUCH TO DO, PEOPLE. I have to do all the things.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

no love from my head

Yeah, I'm used to something hurting. Not so much my head.

I had a headache-wanting-to-turn-into-a-migraine from Monday until yesterday night. Yesterday night it became an all-out migraine. Today I've been in a migraine hangover fog.

I very rarely get migraines, but one less than three weeks before my IM? Sure, why not? So this week has been the lowest volume training week since......oh man. Probably before I started training for this thing.

I did get in a 4 mile run yesterday when I thought the headache was better. (Then it came back even meaner!) I did 45 easy minutes on the trainer today. I thought that may help send it out faster, actually. And tonight I will drag my foggy head to swimming because there was no way I was going to subject my head to tight goggles and underwater pressure when it hurt.

Oh well. I'd been wondering how much to taper - my training plan still had what I thought was a pretty high volume for a taper week. My head made that decision for me.

Soooo much to do before the race. Gotta make the final decisions about clothes, nutrition, shoes, gotta pack, gotta get a bike tuneup and send my bike off to Mexico in a week.

17 days.....

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Ironman freakout dream #2

This time I got lost on the run course. I also stopped to have lunch at Subway, and stopped to meet with a client for an hour. Then I was kicking myself because I didn't have enough time to finish the race. I was only 9 miles in, with an hour left. It was still daylight even at 11 pm, apparently. And one of my coworkers was running it with me, and everyone was lost. I was doing 9 minute miles, though, so that was pretty cool.

The run course at Coz is an out-and-back, by the way. I highly doubt I'll get lost.

21 days.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

24 days - Happy November!

Less than 3 weeks until I'm on a plane from CVG to IAH to CUN!!

I think it's a bit early to start having pre-race freakout nightmares, buuuut last night I dreamed that I forgot to go to the expo and get my pre-race packet while we were in Cozumel, so race morning they would not let me race. I was devastated.

That's not likely to happen (but neither is missing the start of a race, and I managed to do that once) but I have a feeling that this is the first of many panic-stricken moments.

The good news is that I'm decently close to a major race, with NO major injuries!! My foot is almost back to 100%. I have a tight calf muscle and I am being very nice to it. Stretch, foam roll, ice, heat, the stick, compression socks, an extra day of biking as opposed to running. It seems responsive. I'm probably a little TOO paranoid about it, but I had a stress fracture that started the same way, and I have an Ironman in 24 days, so paranoia it is. Still going for 18 miles on it this weekend if it keeps on feeling better.

I'm still tired. Taper time is soon. I'm looking at the taper part of my training plan and it still looks hard. Same volume, just shorter long ride and run. First of 3 taper weeks is still a 13 hour week. My plan is to do that week, and if I'm still straight up worn out, Imma slack hardcore for the last two weeks of training. I respond well to rest - some of my best races have been run in the immediate aftermath of healing an injury, where I didn't run or barely ran for a week or two prior. I love me some rest.

Let the pre-race panic begin.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Layers

29 days. Out of the 30's. Eep!!

Lots of things have layers. Lasagna has layers. Fancy shots have layers. (Fun fact about me: I went to bartending school. I learned how to make layered shots.) Onions have layers. So do parfaits. Yes, that is a Shrek reference.

I'm gonna be lazy and not find and post a picture of Shrek and Donkey here.

Workouts also have layers, particularly when you are a triathlete. Brick workouts - one sport followed immediately after by another sport - are a pretty normal part of triathlon. But since triathletes are all about taking the crazy to new levels, there is, apparently, this thing that people do sometimes when training for an Ironman. It's called a triple brick. Bike/run/bike/run/bike/run.

A somewhat standard IM training triple brick is 40k/10k x3. I would love to do that, except the weather has gotten crappy and the amount of daylight and warmth available is shrinking. I did some research and discovered that triple brick lengths can and do vary, and that more non-competitive IMers (like me) decided that distance was not worth the recovery time.

There was not a triple in my training plan, btw, but since I extended the training plan back when I switched to Coz instead of Rev, I've been following this 30 week training plan for about 40 weeks now. I'm bored with it. I hit my longest ride early (because I wanted to get it in while I could still ride the whole thing on the road) and my longest run distance early (because I'm impatient.) So this weekend, I switched it up.

Due to the aforementioned crappy weather, I did all the biking indoors. I decided to stick with the 2.5 hour run on my training plan (ironman training is SO DIFFERENT than standalone marathon training ya'll - you won't find a 20 miler here) and planned the workout around the two spin classes, 1 hour apart, at the local Y. End result: 1 hour spin class/45 min treadmill run/1 hour spin class/1 hour run/2 hours on the bike trainer at home/45 minute run in my 'hood.

 It went fantastically well. I'm shocked at how well it went. Oh sure, it was hard. Spin classes are definitely more intense than riding on the road. I did, umm, adjust them to my particular needs. :) And just the sheer volume and the "I have to run AGAIN after this?" and the boredom and the "OMG I NEED FOOD" and etc. was tough. I took a break before the 2 hour ride to eat inhale two english muffins with pb and j because I didn't fuel well enough during the first 4 workouts. But when I did that last run, I felt like I could've kept going aaaallll day long baby.

The point of said workout? It's not just to practice running with dead legs off the bike; it's to practice working through fatigue and fine-tune nutrition intake. Well, I have gotten slower than I was when I was just focusing on running, but I am getting this working through fatigue thing DOWN. Fatigue ain't got nothing on me. I really and truly am feeling 100% capable of having a good first-time Ironman experience. I am beyond stoked about it.

For the moment, I am basking in the endorphins in comfy clothes, compression socks, and wet hair, happily eating everything in the fridge.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Final Countdown



T minus exactly one month.

I feel good. I'm getting used to tired as a default state. I'm too tired to have crazy mood swings anymore.

I did a 100 mile bike ride this past weekend, all by myself. I did 91 the weekend before. I even rode from home, meaning a 300 foot climb in the last few miles of the ride, both times. Both times were a challenge, but surprisingly doable. This past weekend, I had run 16.5 miles the day before.

I stopped and got homemade cherry pie and fountain pepsi in a small river town in the middle of my 100 miler. It was amazing. The only time I drink pop/soda (I'm midwestern, my husband is from the east coast, it's a constant battle in my house) is when I'm training but it has surprising benefits. Just don't fill your water bottle with coke. The pressure from the carbonation will make the nozzle pop open and it will squirt all over you and you will be sticky for the last 6 miles of your run.

This morning, I really didn't want to ride or run, and I did both, an hour of each, and once I was out there, I was loving it. Well, I was loving the bike. I was a bit grumbly during the middle of the run but that's kind of my default setting. Overall, it was good. Really good.

I run more slowly these days and I'm amazed at how much that doesn't matter to me, just as long as I'm running.

I'm continuously amazing myself with what I can do. Not just the swimming, biking, and running, but my ability to juggle my work schedule, keep the house from falling apart, and regularly prepare healthy from-scratch meals and sleep 8 hours a night, because I have to do those things to stay healthy enough to train.

I'm feeling a bit like superwoman, albeit a tired superwoman these days.

One month and counting.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

boost of confidence

In between laps at master swim the other night, the coach came by and tapped me on the head. "What's your name?" he asked. "Because you are NOT the same person I saw swimming here over the summer."

Later on, we were doing breaststroke drills. I would love to learn to do the breaststroke comfortably, since I could see it being a valuable tri stroke (and I already quasi-breaststroke around buoys), but it's my nemesis. He gave me some tweaks and by the end of it, I was getting it down. He said, "Keep learning at this pace and you're going to have to give up that triathlon shit and just be a swimmer."

What's weird about triathlon, at least in my experience, is that at any given time I have one sport I feel great about, one I feel ok about, and one that worries me. As long as I've been training for this race, it's rotated pretty consistently and it's been every combination in the world. Right now I feel most confident about swimming, which rarely happens. (Only other time it was like that was when I was recovering from the flu and swimming was the only sport that did not send me into spasmodic coughing fits.) Running is ok, and I'm a bit nervous about the biking. But that'll change a few more times before the race, too.

36 days to Coz!!!!!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

I'm still here!

I'm just ridiculously busy and tired. Gee, I wonder why??

Work has been insane. I have a LOT going on at work and it's both mentally stressful and time-consuming, but I've made some progress in getting it under control and still carving out time for training. It's getting trickier, what with some very cold mornings and earlier sunsets (BOO!!) but so far, so good.

I surprised the crap out of myself by doing a 75-mile group ride that started at 8:30 AM last Saturday. It wasn't even 40 degrees. 50 is my threshold for comfortable biking, and that's in all-out winter gear. 19 miles in, at the first rest stop, I was THIS CLOSE to quitting. I was cold, and I HATE being cold. I was miserable. I was super slow because my muscles would not loosen up. But either way, I had to ride at least 19 more miles, so I kept going. I warmed up about 40 miles in. The sun came out and the rest of the ride wasn't bad, even though there were some evil hills at the end. It was a slow ride, but I conquered it. I did NOT give up.

Cold on the bike is turning out to be my worst enemy right now, right as I need to be doing my longest rides. This weekend is supposed to be warmer, though. I'm planning to bike my heart out.

Coz is going to feel like a freaking OVEN.

Master swim was on hiatus for a month while they put a dome over the outdoor pool. That month SUCKED for me. I had so much trouble motivating myself to swim that I was lucky to get in the pool once a week and I wanted to die of boredom most of the time that I was in there. 1.5 weeks back into it and I love swimming now. We've been doing mostly drills, but I think that's helping a ton. I have mad endurance now, but my form suffered during that month. A few things have clicked again, and the coach even said I've improved in just a few practices. At this point, I just want my swim to be as efficient and zen-like as possible. I feel more optimistic about the swim than the other two disciplines - how funny is that??

I did a trail half marathon 2 weeks ago. While it was fun and gorgeous, it was NOT smart. I ran it in my Five Fingers, which may also have not been smart. The combination of the hills and uneven terrain and the repeated tripping and snagging of feet (I actually fell three times) resulted in some awful foot pain. I had myself terrified that I had a stress fracture, but it got better, I'm able to run on it now (albeit with some discomfort, but it continues to improve in the aftermath) and I'm pretty sure I'm looking at extensor tendonitis instead. So now I have to run slowly, which I have to do anyway because I'm tired pretty much all the time.

Yeah, this Ironman training isn't easy at all. Go figure. :)

But....there are only 6.5 weeks left until the race. 3 of that is taper. I CAN DO THIS. I CAN. The training gets crazier, but the closer I get to the race, the more motivated I am to stick with it because it's almost over.

I have my bike transport all arranged. I even have my number. #2327. This is real, ya'll.



Monday, September 10, 2012

Whee - 70.3!!!!

One step closer to my goal....I am now a half ironman!!

I was supposed to do the Rev3 full race yesterday as my first IM. With only 2.5 months to rebuild run fitness from 0 to 26.2, of course I ended up nixing that plan and dropped down to the half rev. Even so, I was a bit nervous about having to do a 13.1 so soon post-injury. I had a plan for the race, but wasn't sure how it played out.

It played out well. Really well. The purpose of this race was not only to cover a brand new distance, but to test out everything that I have figured out for the IM so far and see what worked and what didn't. Mostly, everything worked!!

Good things:

Pacing:
I paced it exactly the way I wanted to. Swim was relaxed, bike was relaxed, run was comfy and strong. I got a bit fatigued on the bike and had to slow down, but there were a couple of complicating factors there. (More in a minute.) If I can get them under control, I can hopefully keep the bike strong.

Nutrition:
This I was worried about because I don't quite have it figured out. This was also where there was some glitches. I always have a gel after the swim, because swimming makes me OMG HUNGRY otherwise. I usually try to eat something solid every hour on a long ride and supplement with gatorade or coconut water. I wanted to try to get a bit more calories during the race because I wasn't only fueling the ride, but the run as well.

However, like I said, there were glitches. They had bananas at the first aid station (I THINK - I was busy looking for a porta-potty at that point) but no other "food" besides gels for the whole ride. I had misread the athlete guide and thought they would have bars, too. I did bring one stinger waffle with me for the ride, but eating it while riding didn't go so well. You know on Sesame Street where Cookie Monster is shoving the cookie into his face going NOMNOMNOM and there are cookie pieces flying everywhere? That was me trying to get this thing into my mouth. I made some birds very happy, I think. Sooo I had a gel for each of the other two hours I was on the bike, but it didn't feel substantial enough. One of them was chocolate, since that's all I could grab while moving, and I don't like chocolate gels. I love chocolate any other time, but it always feels too rich while I'm running/biking. I did drink about 40 oz of gatorade, so that probably helped.

They DID have food on the run but my stomach always turned a bit at the sight of it. I never felt SICK really, my stomach never hurt, but my stomach felt queasy. *I* wasn't nauseated but my stomach had that ick feeling, if that makes sense. It was never a big deal, I was just a little worried about bonking, being out there for so long with no solid food. I forced some pretzels down about 7 miles in, and I supplemented with pepsi when I could stomach it. (I was SO OVER Gatorade by that point.) I've never tried soda while training before (I know, I broke a cardinal rule, nothing new on race day!), and I almost never drink it anyway, but it tasted really, really good. They'll have it during Coz, so I'm pretty stoked about that.

Anyway, as off from my ideal as I was, I never felt underfueled. I guess eating well (in other words, being a bit of a pig) the week before was helpful.

Training

Thank God I've replicated some race conditions, namely the swim. I was so glad I had practiced in my wetsuit a few times. I was used to it enough where the things that bothered me when I broke it out a few weeks ago (tired shoulders and trouble breathing with the chest compression) were non-issues. The water was FREEZING. I don't care if it was 74 degrees, it felt FREEZING. No way would I have done that swim with no wetsuit. The other big swim thing was that it was choppy. Way choppy. I was super glad that I've done some practicing in a local lake where the boats come through and create some waves. Rev3 was definitely rougher, but I was used to waves enough to avoid a total freakout.

I was also happy that I've biked some hills. The race was waaay flat, but windy in parts, and wind, to me, feels very similar to a gradual uphill. You have to slow down and adjust accordingly and go by effort, not numbers.

Finally, I was glad I've done some bricks, including after longer rides. Toward the end of the ride, I was wondering how the heck I was going to run 13 miles afterward. As soon as my running shoes were on, though, I felt awesome and I was MOVING.


What didn't go well? Really, the only thing that wasn't as good as I had hoped was the bike. I've been battling this knee thing for a couple of weeks. I did a 70 mile sponsored ride up in Dayton, on unfamiliar roads. It was hillier than I thought it would be, and while I made it over the hills just fine (I even passed four people who had stopped to walk up a hill!), by the end of the ride my left knee felt sore on the muscle just above and to the inside. At the very end, it was giving me some sharp pains. The weird thing about it is that it ONLY hurts while riding. The next day, it'll hurt on stairs, but it never, ever bothers me while waking or running. After a day or so, all traces of pain go away completely until I try to ride again. I adjusted my cleats and I thought that was the culprit. I didn't notice anything for the first few miles of the ride yesterday, but then it kicked in again. It's not bad enough that I have to slow down, but it's annoying. I had my knee taped yesterday and I'm not sure that it did any good (although it left me with some nice funky tan lines!) I'm going to ask about it at the bike store. Anyway, it made the ride a little less pleasant, although it probably helped me keep my gearing easy, which is what needed to happen. There were only a couple of hills, and nothing like the hills I'm used to, so that helped.

The other not good thing on the bike was that I need a new seat. I've struggled with this for a while - if I'm upright the whole time, I'm fine. If I'm in aero too long, I'm hurting in a most unpleasant place, let's just say. I've tried different aero positions and it's not that. It's the seat. I was trying to stay in aero as much as possible yesterday and I was in pain by the end. Especially when I hit a surprise bump 45 miles in, came OFF the seat and slammed back down onto it when I was already hurting. Yeah, I swore a bit. I think the bike fatigue would not have bothered me so much had my crotch and knee not already been complaining.

I was SO GLAD to get off that seat and start running, let me tell you.


The rest of the race was great. The volunteers were awesome. I stopped at a potty break on the bike, and a volunteer caught my bike and held it for me while another one opened the door for me. I felt like a rock star! They were everywhere on the run, holding out various food/drink options and yelling out what they had. There were some awesome spectators who were cheering for EVERYONE. I never, ever hit a wall. I got tired on the bike and the run, but by the time I did, that segment was almost over anyway. I really had a good time.

My new seat is ready for me to pick it up at the bike shop, and I'll relay my knee woes to them as well. I'm hoping I can clear that up very, very soon.

Meanwhile, I feel really, really good about IMCoz. Taking this week kind of easy, then I have 10 weeks of training and I think it'll go well. Apparently  the magic formula for converting half time to full time is double, plus 1:20. That would put me at a 15 hour Ironman, which I would be THRILLED with. Thrilled.

Stats:

Swim: 48:21
T1: 4:57 (struggled with the wetsuit and knocked my helmet and glasses off my bike!)
Bike: 3:24:19
T2: 3:03
Run: 2:28:29

Race time: 6:49:09

Planned for 7 hours. Right on.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The things nobody ever told me about training for an Ironman

The part I knew going into this insanity is that it's a lot of running, biking, and swimming. I'm ok with that. It's a lot of hours and scheduling gets difficult. I'm more or less ok with that. I've learned some crazy awesome time management skills. However, I'm learning some surprising things about Ironman training as I go. Here are some of the latest unexpected surprises:

It makes you crazy. Literally.
I thought I had lost my mind until I found a thread on beginnertriathlete.com titled "Emotions while training for IM." It seems that this is a pretty normal phenomenon. I'm not making this comparison lightly, but I really do think it's akin to a mild case of bipolar disorder. Or a lasting case of PMS. The stress and fatigue of training can really get to a person's brain and sometimes I'm all over the place. Some days every cute animal picture on facebook will make me cry. I'll go from completely energized to a sobbing mess. One day, I just broke down in tears because all I could think was "I AM SO TIRED AND I CAN'T HANDLE ANYTHING ANYMORE!!" Now that I know it's normal, I'm coping with the mood roller coaster much much much better, and I'm recognizing that my mind gives me signals like my body does when I need to SLOW THE EFF DOWN and/or take a rest day. When I start getting weepy, if I can treat that like the niggle in my knee, things go better.

You want to eat ALL THE FOODS.
I'm familiar with crazy levels of training hunger from marathon training. This, though, is a whole other level. I have days where I get tired of eating. Read that again. I GET TIRED OF EATING. I eat a full meal and then it hits me an hour later and I'm like, really? I don't FEEL like making more food. Nothing even sounds good but I'm sooooo hungry! I go out to eat with my husband and I eat all my food and half of his. It can be hard, too, because it's so counter intuitive. I had my portion sizes all figured out and how to balance my diet and I've had to throw a lot out the window and just eat as much as I want to eat when I'm hungry, because what I USED to eat won't cut it and I'll experience it in the form of a major bonk on the bike the next day, or a mental breakdown like I described above. I feel like I eat all the freaking time anymore, and if I don't make SURE I eat all the freaking time, I'll get so hungry that no amount of food will make me feel better. Our grocery bills are getting insane.

You don't lose tons of weight.
Well, some people do. I've maintained and I'm ok with that. I've noticed a couple of differences, though: my upper body got more toned, my delts are insane (I may or may not stroke them when I'm alone) and my thighs, which have always been on the larger side for my size, are redonk now. All my jeans are tight. 

You get insane tan lines.
I have a normal shirt line, a trisuit line and a racerback tank top line. On my legs, I have varying colors for varying lengths of shorts. My feet are white. It's awesome.


You turn into a camel.
We have a water filter in our fridge. Husband says "WHY am I always filling this thing???" Whoops. I want water like I want food.


Your bodily functions change.
I've seen this on the bt forums too. I can fart like none other now, particularly after swimming. It's BAAAAAD. I went on a solo run after masters one night and thank GOD nobody else was out. It sounded like I was carrying a duck with me. And I pee more than I used to. I've never had to pee while running, not even during a marathon, until these days. And swimming?? Out of the pool, SPRINT to the locker room. Holy cow.

It's terrifying.
I knew that, but nothing can prepare a person for the fear. Some days I'm so pumped and I think I'm gonna KILL this 140.6 mile beast. Other days I'm pretty much convinced that there is no way in hell I'm going to make the cutoffs. I read other people's race stories and all I can think is, "That's their marathon time? I wonder what their training pace is? How much time am I going to have to finish if I get a flat tire?" There is no way to do a training day that is even close to the volume of an Ironman. There is no way to go in KNOWING that you can swim 2.4 AND bike 112 AND run 26.2 AND do it all within certain limits. It's insanely scary and I know that all I can do is train the best that my body, mind, and life will allow and leave it up to luck, stubbornness, and the gods of triathlon when the day comes.
 

It's doable.
Some days are a bit of an epic fail, but there are a lot of days where I stick to the training plan, do my job and do it well, and get a hot, healthy meal on the table between 2-3 workouts.


If you're single, you may not want to try dating anyone while training for an Ironman.
I just added this because I re-read the rest of my blog and laughed. So glad my husband's stuck with me. I'm not sure how I'd get any dates with my thunder thighs, tan lines, mood swings, crazy schedule, and propensity for pigouts and farting and nearly peeing on myself. I didn't even mention how often I smell like sweat and/or chlorine. Or how, on the weekend after a long run Saturday and a 4-5 hour bike ride on Sunday, I'm lying around in comfy clothes and my hair is a mess and we need to go somewhere and I groan "does that mean I have to put on a bra???" Yep. I wonder how he can stand my sexiness???