Thursday, May 17, 2012

Girlie, Tough Ain't Enough

Off the bike, quick transition into my running gear and I head out for round three. Starting the run at Ironman never feels great but I take stock and my legs feel good, I feel strong and I am still going tough. The streets are lined with spectators and the energy is amazing. I am getting lots of shouts out for my unicorn kit and I feel like all my preparation and hard work has paid off. I held strong on the swim and the bike and now all that is left is to run the marathon....

Bamo Whamo, not two miles later I am not able to focus my eyes, I am experiencing severe dizziness and I am listing left and right. Of course this is just as I come across my super awesome cheering squad and I have a complete mental breakdown. I am not sure what is going on, but I want to cry. Where is the tough girl from 2 miles ago? Has she completely vacated the premises. I go over to me hearty and try to hang onto him, but for some reason he is keeping me at arms distance and barely patting my back. Are you telling me I am not super sexy and hot and you don't love the smell of me right now? Even in my disoriented haze I recognized the lack of physical attraction he was experiencing. Ever the voice of reason he tells me to slam calories. I respond that I have been doing nothing but all day, I really need to learn to listen to him! I take stock of my current condition and instinct takes over. Perhaps it is dehydration? Skin turgor good, no tenting. Mucous membranes, remain moist. Urination has happened at least twice on the bike (oh, that's why he doesn't want to have me touch him!). I have to pee again. Dehydration ruled out. So dizzy though and doesn't that patch of grass look like a great place to have a nap?
I feel like I am drunk. Maybe that last water bottle on the bike was spiked? Why else am I having to concentrate so hard to run straight (oh yes, I am back to attempting to run). Maybe it's a salt thing. I have been taking in electrolytes and salt but I'll try some more. I am pretty caked in salt from the wind whipping the sweat off my body. Okay, how long before I know if that worked? It's pretty hot out here maybe it's the heat, but I already have ice in my hat and my top and that isn't making me any less dizzy or foggy headed. Yes a rational person at this point would consider calories, but I had been taking in WAY more calories than normal the whole bike ride. I couldn't believe my diesel engine was burning that hot. You know what they say, hindsight is 20/20.

This continued for until mile 4 when I found myself off the side of the road almost running into a lamp post. Whoops! Switch from attempting to race to attempting to survive. Walk now and regroup. Look at that, I am walking a straight line. Don't think I could touch the tip of my nose though but I am making forward progress without detours to the left and right. My stomach is flat, I am taking in calories and I seem to be absorbing them but not it is just a matter of making the finish line. I don't have a watch but I know that I can walk the whole thing in just over 6 hours and I have until midnight so I will finish at this rate. I wish I could say that I tried to fight when I saw the race moving away from me, but alas the only fighting I was doing was to keep my eyes open.

Along the way I made some friends and we formed a little walking club. Just like the kind you see at the malls:) We chatted and we walked and we passed people who were jogging and then walking. I named one guy the Hare because he would pass us only to be passed again when he was sauntering along and we were briskly walking. During this time I got a full can of coke from a little boy at an aid station. He actually chased me down with it, I must have looked really desperate. I hugged him (yes, he let me touch him. in all fairness he probably isn't as aware of what we do out there as me hearty is:)) I carried the can of coke and nursed it for about 3 miles. Somewhere at the end of my second of three laps of the run course I finally came around. I wasn't dizzy, I felt good and my legs were still ready to run. Thus, I started to run and I felt fabulous. I was running how I spent months training to run. I was passing people who had been running and were now walking. People who had seen me casually walking for almost 2 laps were yelling 'you go girl' now that I was FINALLY running. I was loving it, of course I was no longer really 'in' the race but I still had a finish line to get to. The best part was when I went by my own personal cheering squad and they did a rendition of 'She's Got Legs' for me. That lifted me up and carried me for miles!

I ended up taking one more walking break before the finish when the dizzies returned but I ran the last few miles to the finish. People are saying it was the hardest Ironman conditions ever and I can say that the athletes that were doing the walk of shame with me were not off the couchers, these people were the real deal and we were all fighting the battle. I proved I was tough out there but I didn't recognize a full blown bonk. First time ever I haven't slammed a red bull heading out onto the run course, and the LAST time ever! It's true, the stuff may taste nasty but it does give you wings and lots of sugar:)  Sometimes, tough ain't enough, you've also go to fight smart and when your brain isn't working, listen to your husband!

PS: The volunteers and spectators at this event were amazing. Special thanks to the boy who chased me down with a FULL can of coke- you saved me, the ladies who zipped me through both transitions and were so encouraging but most of all to the Team Super Awesome support crew for being out there ALL day for me! You guys rocked-literally!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Happy Winds Day

Once on the bike the reason for those swells in the lake became apparent immediately. It was windy out there. Super windy with cross winds for the first few miles that were blowing people all over the road. I knew it was bad when I saw people stopped on the side of the road with fear in their eyes within the first 3 miles. Somehow I managed to convince myself that as soon as we left the town of Hurricane, we would leave the wind.

Starting the bike course

I don't really know what to say other than it was windy the whole 112 miles. Sure it would change up and be a headwind, or a cross wind, or both and sometimes even a tail wind  but there was never a time it wasn't blowing. As Winnie the Pooh would say, it was a winds day. There were many piglets out there who weren't very happy and were getting blown away but I found it fun. I mean I didn't sign up to do this race to be shown that I was soft and weak. I wanted an answer to how tough I was.

Many a time during the long ride (cause I was out there a LONG time) I would hear guys complaining. They would say things like 'I'm tired of fighting the wind and getting blown around'. I couldn't resist saying to one grouchy guy 'It's windy over there? I heard it was going to get windy today and I've been waiting for it to show up.' At least he laughed and lightened up a little.

Part of my Super Awesome cheering squad- notice that some are napping

I felt strong throughout the bike course and was holding back on the climbs. I passed several guys who had gone by me in the first lap and even passed a few of them who were walking up a hill. I also lapped a few riders who were on their first lap. I kept taking in calories and took in at least 1.5 times what I normally would for this distance. I was super psyched when we got a tailwind on the massive over 10 miles downhill, but seeing how far we got to ride downhill showed how much climbing we had done. It was a fairly straight downhill where you could really maximize your speed and there was no chance of a log suddenly appearing or a 3 foot drop so I let er rip. It was  blast to fly by big guys who were limiting their speed and sitting up. The little time I lost taking the last climb up the wall 'easy' was made up almost instantly on the descent. I finished the bike feeling strong and happy. I got an answer to my question if I was tough enough, the answer was blowing in the wind on a winds day. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hills on the Swim

When I decided to to return to Ironman racing after a six year hiatus it was with a few stipulations. I didn't want to do a race I had already done and I wanted to do a tough race in a scenic environment. Oh, and it also still had to be open for registration. This landed me on Ironman St George in Utah. This race would only be occurring for it's third time and it already had a reputation of being a difficult course and race. Woohoo, sign me up. With this race being tough it meant that the field would be smaller, more like when I started out in this sport, and it would have more experienced athletes racing.

Race morning dawned bright and early (who am I kidding, it hadn't even dawned yet the moon was shining brightly). Morning preparations went super smoothly and before I knew it, it was time to don the super flattering giant rubber suit and head to the water.

Pure excitement:)

I headed down to the swim start with my triathlon hero Jason and we entered the water about 15 minutes before the start of the race. We got a little warm up and then selected our starting position. We were on the front line on the right and using our aqua jogging skills to keep warm. The crowd kept getting pushed forward by what I thought was a bit of current. The kayakers were having to work to keep everyone back on the line and just before the start gun went off the entire field was drifting forward about 25 metres. We were fighting to stay back but it was requiring huge effort. Didn't think anything of it and when the cannon sounded we were off. Immediately, I thought to myself this is the best Ironman swim start I have ever had. I have never lined up at the front before but have been feeling very confident in my swim abilities and the work I have put in. (my first Ironman for example I waiting on the beach until everyone was swimming and away from shore before plunging in- I ended up passing lots of people). Just like the time I started dead last this time I had a clean start without anyone hitting me. We were cooking along and I felt relaxed and smooth. Several times I though to myself, 'wow, this is an amazing swim, I feel so smooth and I am getting a great draft'. Best swim I've ever had, just keep enjoying it and living in the moment! Then I reached the first left turn buoy, about 1000 metres into the swim.

As I made the turn I thought like everyone else probably did, 'who's the jerk driving the power boat out here'. The swells were pretty big and coming at us from the side. Nothing crazy, just like a boat had driven past. I looked up and saw no boat and saw that the swells were not going away. 400 metres swimming with the swells coming at us from the left saw people getting tossed around pretty good. It was still not too bad and you could see the buoys that were marking the course. The rocking side to side was nothing I haven't experienced in a ocean swim. I did notice a few other swimmers were starting to stop and tread water and was concerned that they weren't feeling very comfortable out there. I also realized at this point that the next left turn would have us going directly into the swells. Since the swells had just started out at this buoy line I was able to convince myself that they would end as abruptly as they started and we would be back to smooth lake water.

found this online, the pros had a 15 min start on us, apparently it was worse when we got there

I was wrong. We swam the whole way back, over 1 mile directly into the swells. Big giant swells that were pummeling people. I was getting very worried for the swimmers around me and we seemed to develop an unspoken buddy system out there. There were times when I couldn't see another swimmer anywhere and then wham, we'd be slammed into each other. It was so ridiculous that I was laughing. I know that many people were very scared out there, but I was having fun. I mean, I wanted tough and mother nature was finding a way to deliver. I remember thinking, I heard this was a hilly course but I've never swam uphill before, this is awesome. Bring it on. Test me, let's see what I am made of. I also reminded myself to keep swimming and stay relaxed, the more relaxed I could stay the less energy I was burning and the safer I was. I stopped a few times and asked swimmers who were stopped if they were okay and they all told me they were, they were just trying to sight. It really was mayhem. Buoys were being blown away and at one point I saw a buoy that was way off to my right in the middle of nowhere, luckily it wasn't a turn buoy so I could stay on the buoy line.

sometimes it felt like we were swimming into this!
Finally I got to the final turn buoy and made the turn. Now the water was pushing me. Unlike the swells in the ocean though there was no rhythm to the action. There were no lulls between waves and you couldn't predict when another big swell was coming. I kept thinking in my head, thank you coach for all the head up drills you make us do, now I see the point. I also was thanking him for the times he makes us swim with minimal breathes because I knew I could miss a breath and survive. It was also nice that it was clean lake water that we were swallowing instead of salt water. Mentally, I was doing what I had trained to do, I was having fun, staying in the present and keeping a good attitude. Oh, and I was passing tons of people body surfing into the finish chute. So fun!

yes, it was a lake!

My 13th Ironman swim is my most memorable by far, it was the roughest open water swim I have ever done and it was in a lake, go figure! How many people can say that they literally were swimming uphill?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Icing the Cake

Back in November when I made the decision to throw myself into another Ironman I came up with a plan. A kind of recipe for success. I listed the key ingredients and the portions of each. I mapped out how long it would take to bake the fitness. My favorite cake recipe is for a cake called a wacky cake. You throw all the ingredients into the cake pan and mix it up and the end result is a delicious moist chocolate cake. (which also happens to be vegan). This is the first cake I ever learned to make, probably because my mom wanted to limit the amount of dishes I would create, and I still love it. It is a real simple recipe and my recipe for this race was pretty simple too. I followed it exactly along the way adding a little dash of this and that as I was processing. Now all the baking has been done. The cake has come out of the oven and it is a wacky cake. Chocolate, moist and happiness in a pan. This cake is perfect just the way it is but tomorrow I get to ice the cake and I can't wait.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

She's Got Legs

I have had and always will have cellulite on my legs. I first remember noticing it when I was in the back seat of the car in my figure skating dress on my way one of my many sessions on the ice for the week. I looked down and saw dimples on the side of my legs. Having recently overheard my older and much wiser cousin swooning over some boys dimples I proudly said to my mom something like 'did you know I have dimples on my legs'. She probably replied something like 'I'm sorry but it's just your genetics'. Still naively, I was 9 years old I was pretty happy to have dimples. I should probably mention that I wasn't a chubby kid, I was rather skinny actually. Flash forward to my teenage years and I remember sitting on the floor of the dining room talking on the phone. I was on the floor of the dining room because that is as far as the phone cord would let me get away from the rest of the family to talk on the phone. (yes, our phones still had cords, and we even had a party line but that's a story for another time). So there I was with sitting on the floor with my legs stuck out straight in front of me. I squeezed my legs and the dimples were there. Now, by this time I realized that dimples on the legs were not the coveted or the cute kind. I said to the boy I was talking to (I know it was a boy because otherwise I wouldn't have been pulling the phone cord to full extension to get out of ear shot of my little brother) that I was fat. I knew what fat looked like. I also noted about this time that I had a road map leading to nowhere on the sides of my legs. Yup, I had totally lucked out in the genetic pool and gotten spider veins on top of the cellulite. No wonder I have never won the lottery, I totally used up all my luck on the genetic lottery. Cellulite, spider veins, the need for extensive orthodontic work, near sightedness and stick straight hair (hey, it was the 80's and straight hair did not equate with BIG hair. luckily, I did have lots of hair so with the help of a perm I was golden). Now I was far from fat, I had grown over 4 inches in a year and had not even gained 10 pounds during that time. The boys at school actually made fun of my legs with nobby knees calling them chicken legs. In my mind though, I had fat legs, the evidence was there anytime I pinched them! In my 20's I still was not having a love affair with my legs. Come spring the pasty white palour I had gotten during the liquid sunshine pacific northwest winter made the roadmap ever more evident. Luckily for me my mom had sound advice when I headed off to nursing school. She told me to wear support hose for every clinical session and everyday in my career. Two good things came of this, I did not evolve into varicose veins and I learned about compression long before the endurace sports world started using it. When I moved to Hawaii I learned that tanned legs helped hide blue and purple lines but the dimples were still there. I still wished that I could get rid of the cellulite, I knew girls who were much bigger than me who didn't have any of it! I wasn't a lover of my legs but all that changed one day, rather one night. The day started the same as every other day did for me. I woke up at 4:30 to get a start on it, 4:30 pm and catch the 5:30 ferry into work. I arrived at work at 6:20pm for my shift that started at 7. I had enough time to shower after my bike ride up the big hill and get caffeinated for the excitement that was sure to come. At the time I worked in the trauma ICU so we were guaranteed an adrenalin rush every night (I'm not an adrenalin junkie at all though;)) Anyways, that night we admitted a young woman in her early 20's. She was a beautiful girl with gorgeous hair,eyes and smile but she was told by her family that she was fat and they were having trouble marrying her off. Now she was not fat at all, and trust me I knew fat back then (there was no way she could have lost the remote control in her fat and we had retrieved one out of a guys fat folds not long ago. He was thrilled and said 'that is where that was, I though I lost it'. he wasn't mortified at all that he had lost his remote control between the folds of his fat!)So in order for her family to find her a match to marry this young woman had been in a few days earlier to have the fat sucked out of her. Let's not try to pretend that it is a glamorous procedure. Liposuction is poking holes into you and sucking the fat out with a vacuum, probably not a Dyson though. The day after she had extensive fat sucking done on her legs and lower abdomen this girl began to feel ill. She developed a fever and was very nauseated. She was airlifted to our facility (being a level 3 trauma center we got airlifted all the super cool stuff, and we go some seriously cool stuff!). By the time she arrived with us she had lost consciousness and was fighting for her life. She had developed infection in the holes where the fat was sucked out of, the infection commonly known as flesh eating bacteria. Now this young woman who just wanted to get rid of a little 'excess' fat was about to lose a lot more weight than she bargained for. The flesh eating bacteria moves rapidly and does not respond to simple antiobiotic treatment. We had to cut away the flesh that it was eating and get ahead of it. To this girl that meant cutting her leg off at the hip and taking out a portion of her abdominal wall. Goodbye six pack abs. One night a few shifts later as I was up to my elbow inside this girl packing her wound where her leg was once attached to her body I had an epiphany. Now in my 40's when I look down at my legs, I still see the cellulite at times but instead of seeing a negative I see a picture of a young girl laying in a hospital bed without her leg. I see the extra layer on my legs as fuel that gets me trhough all the crazy endurance activites that I decide to do. I will always have cellulite I have accepted that fact, if a 9 year old stick girl who figure skates hours at a time and is skin and bones had it and thought it was cute the least I can do is embrace it and when you see the dimples on my legs hear like I now do ZZ top singing 'She's got legs she knows how to use them'!