Monday, August 31, 2009

Ironman Canada... A Little Hurdle in the Journey

Try as we might, we simply cannot control for all things with our lives. We can prepare our best, we can cover all of our bases... we can 'expect the unexpected' but until the unexpected happens, we have to just push on assuming all is good and as planned. And when situations do arise that are less than what we had hoped for, the question becomes, What will you DO about it? How will you react? It is in this that truly makes us who we are and also allows us to be constantly learning, growing and improving.

I have had so many amazingly supportive friends who have already contacted me asking 'what happened?' in IM Canada. While I am the last person to come up with excuses, sometimes it's not so much an 'excuse' but a 'shit happens' situation. I went into my first Ironman as prepared as I could possibly be, extremely relaxed, and amped at the totally new challenge I was about to face. Confident, yet realistic. Additionally Derick was there, which is a nice rarity with us, as I usually solo it to races or meet my parents there. We were ready for an awesome trip to Penticton, BC with some time in Chelan, Washington; not only to do this race but to enjoy the beauty of a new trip and the WINERIES! Oh, the wineries!

Well, the wineries were not to be. I started feeling crummy on Wednesday afternoon, but with simply a strong headache, I thought nothing of it. The headache moved into Thursday, but still... just the travel. No big deal. Thursday we arrived to Penticton and after a short bike and swim, we went for dinner, some 6 hours since having eaten and I could not force myself to eat my delectable meal of salmon, rice and veggies. I may lose my appetite when tapering (simply due to less activity), but I can ALWAYS EAT! Long story short, Friday was no better, and I realized then that I was definitely not 'well'. The headache and lack of appetite turned into nausea, slight fever, body aches and again a SEVERE inability to eat. I tried to force things down on Friday and Saturday, realizing that if I did get better, at least I would be stocked up nutritionally. I went to bed on Saturday night with a fever of 100.5, after gagging down a dinner of ... rice.

I was just so damn determined to do this race. By Sunday, I was fully aware that it was likely not in the cards to finish, but damned if I was not going to swim. I know I can get through the swim! I was raised in water! I started the morning very, very relaxed. As I got into the swim, I found myself not feeling 'strong' but also not feeling awful; definitely a bit weak. It was beautiful! I did not even position myself next to the stronger swimmers, because I knew that I should not and could not push that hard... I simply put it on cruise control and tried to enjoy it, strong and steady. I came out and hopped onto the bike.

The big question here was, could I stomach food? I got out there and was doing alright with gels and some Gu Chomps. However, by mile 65-70, I was forcing it in and my stomach was reacting badly. I came through one aid station and stopped to go potty... could not go... I could not 'rid' my stomach of anything, which made it all worse. So, I carried on... stopped again at the special needs bags and debated quitting. I had this retching pain in my stomach, up under my ribs. I just thought that this HAD to work itself out! So, I climbed back aboard the bike and kept plugging away. Oddly enough, at about mile 90, I started to feel good (the climb at Yellow Lake) and was passing people. Yes, it was happening! A turnaround! However, it was very short lived. I finally descended into Penticton, and I was having to sit up on my bars because the TT position hurt too badly. Upon dismounting into T2, it hurt my stomach to run. I jogged in, grabbed my bike-run bag and spent about 5 minutes in the tent. I was so far already! But, I knew I probably did not have much more in me. But QUIT? I just could not do it. I slowly ventured out on the run.

Derick saw me between miles 1 and 2, and as he said, my belly up by my ribs was sticking out. Every step hurt, but again I thought maybe it will go away. I was resigned to a walk by mile 3 and up through mile 6, it was mostly a brisk walk, as any attempt at even a slow jog and the pain got worse. Any gel consumption and it got worse. I finally stopped and got into the ambulance, was taken to medical and spent about 2 hours there. They had to give me IV's to rehydrate and gave me magnesium to help calm the stomach. I finally saw Derick at about 6:00, when we went got out of there.

And there stands my official first Ironman. Well, I will not really call this my official 'first one' since I did not finish it. I wanted so badly to finish it, and I could have yes walked for another 21 miles, but my biggest worry was that there was something seriously wrong in my stomach and I could be making it worse. I was already questioning how 'tough' I was to start today, or how 'stupid and stubborn' I was. There is a big difference between being tough and being stupid. Luckily, since I came out of this in one piece, I think I can say I was the former. We had planned to stay in Canada until Tuesday or Wednesday, however for fear that I may need to see a doctor, we headed back to Washington on Monday. It was not until really today (Thursday) that I started to truly feel 'normal' again, and I am able to eat fairly regularly, without any nausea.

All in all, yes, it sucked. And I did get very sad when I was packing my bike back up, it seemed the 'emotion' kind of hit me. But, what here was GOOD? Well, I did have my first IM experience. I experienced the HYPE (oh, the hype! it really is bigger than any other race!), and I have now actually ridden 112 miles... my longest ride before this race was 100 miles. I have seen the course, which was by far the most beautiful consecutive 112 miles I have ever seen, and I know the climbs (I loved the climbs!). I got to spend a week with my husband in a beautiful area that was new for both of us (whom, by the way, could not have been more supportive). I have always wondered how truly slow I might be in an IM bike... well, now I know on a pretty bad day with a few stops, I was just over 6 hrs... so on a good day, it cannot be THAT bad! I really have a lot to be thankful for. I got to the start line healthy (well, physically speaking) and I know I was prepared to put up a great effort. My body had other things in mind, and I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason. At the moment, I am not quite sure what that reason is... but, I will figure things out and move forward. Life really is so short. This is just one little, tiny hurdle to jump over. I guess it's these unexpecteds that keep things interesting and keep us on our toes.

Thanks for reading, and thank you again to all those who showed your support and concern. It truly means so much to me, and it makes this journey all the more fun to know that there are those of you out there who care.

Monday, August 24, 2009

3 Cosas Massage

I just finished up with my FINAL massage before Canada!

Just a little shout out here to Cecilia Llanos, who has been helping me out immensely this season. She opened her own business awhile back, 3 Cosas , which is Massage, Yoga and Mental Skills training. Cecilia is attentive and always hits those areas that I need working on... for me, that is often my upper back and my quads. I have had scoliosis since I was young, and while it has not limited my physical activity, I frequently get huge knots in my back right where the curvature is (near my shoulder blade). Yoga and pilates help, but this summer I have been lacking the energy to do much of that, so massage has been a great supplement to my regimen to keep me moving comfortably. The higher cycling volume this year has contributed to also very knotted, fatigued quads, so she is great at working on this as well. The added riding in my aero bars this summer too has made the back problem even worse; I have to hope that 112 miles on Sunday will not cause me pain, but all I can do is try to shift position as much as possible. The hillier course will be good for this.

So, if you are in Austin and looking for a great massage therapist, check out Cecilia; additionally, her rates are very reasonable. Never a bad time in this economy. :) While it is easy to overlook getting regular massages, I think it is very important, especially when you are training more than you have in the past. They can get to things that we cannot do via simple stretching. And of course, it just feels good, too.

Friday, August 21, 2009

78745: Keeping Austin Weird, One Neighborhood at a Time...

If you know Austin, you know Austin's motto (see title). In our new little 'hood, the neighbors are doing their best to uphold the Austin lifestyle...

I was making dinner last night at about 8:00 when went outside to do something... I cannot recall exactly what, but I saw this HUGE turtle moving quickly into our neighbors yard across the street. I freaked out and yelled to Derick to come see, and I then called up Courtney who lives across the street to 'come quick there is this big ass turtle that is walking right up to their house!' I heard her say something about 'oh that's Hank', but by this point I was in her yard and then she and her husband Mark (and daughter Freya) had all come outside already. What exactly was I talking about?
Come to find out his name is TANK. He lives about 3 houses down from us, near the end of the street and his owners also have 20 chickens, a few dogs, a parakeet and a baby turtle that can be held in your hand. He likes bananas, as you can see here; when Tank's dad Brian told us this, I ran inside so that I could feed Tank. Derick was very worried that he may run away, so he picked Tank up to carry him back home; but, he did not get too far as he was very heavy and his reaction to fear is to pee. Right when Derick picked him up, Tanks's dad showed up (and proceeded to pee on Brian, not Derick).So, this was the excitement for the night for us. I have to say that my life has been rather boring this week, really. Starting to rest for Canada but blah, blah blah... training gets quite boring to hear about. I have been taking advantage of a pretty quiet week, as work has been minimal and training has scaled back, to get in some naps when I so feel the need. We take off next Wednesday, fly to Seattle then drive from Seattle to Penticton. We'll stay overnight in Chelan, WA, which is supposed to be beautiful. Quite an adventure ahead of me; but for all of my friends doing the Leadville 100 Trail Run tomorrow morning, I have to say that their task seems much more daunting than does mine! Puts things into perspective... on that note, good luck to Cindy, Jack and Joseph in Leadville! Um, what kind of advice do you say for a 100 mile trail race? I guess, 'just keep on running...', kind of like Forest.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

'Recovery Smoothie' a-la Derick

I finished up my 12 mile 'long' run today around 10 am (so nice that 12 miles is 'long'!). I walked into the house, and Derick has been Mr. Motivated this week. He had done his run at 6:30 with Gilbert, which is something I cannot recall ever happening... that is, he finishing a run on a Sunday morning before I started mine. Anyhoo, I walk into the house a bit after 10 and he is cookin' up a big breakfast. He says to me, "I have a recovery smoothie in the fridge for you!" Nothing sounds better after a long time in 85-degrees with 80% humidity! I am imagining a nice big blend of blueberries, mango, yogurt, and who knows what else. So thirst quenching! I open the fridge to see a pitcher of orange drink with mangos floating in it. Smoothie? I look at him and I said, "Hmm... does this smoothie have champagne in it?" He just smiled. Ah well, it was Simply Orange OJ with extra calcium and fresh mangos. What's a little champagne going to hurt you? :) After a few very big gulps of water, I moved on to my recovery smoothie.

Oh, and breakfast included redskin potatoes, eggs scrambled with bell peppers, onion, and fresh sausage, fresh and very tasty mango and applewood smoked bacon! If that ain't a recovery meal, I don't know what is. That is after we went to the new Black Sheep Lodge, a small pub off of Lamar which is rather close to our house, upon Jack and Stacy's recommendation (Saturday night). We tried their burger, as it was ranked in the Texas Monthly's '50 Best Burgers in Texas' (#27, to be exact). So after a huge burger on Saturday night, then a breakfast with both bacon and sausage, I have to say I am at my quota of meat for a couple of days. Which is all good, Derick's birthday is tomorrow (guess how old? YOUNGER THAN ME!) and I have a veggie-based recipe in the works. Unfortunately, Sugar Mama's bakery on 1st street is closed on Mondays, so I'll have to find a good backup for his cake...

And finally, I finished the weekend off with a nice 30-min pilates class at Pure Austin gym. If you have not tried Pilates, I highly recommend it. However, it ALL depends upon the quality of the instructor. Ramsay Wall is AWESOME. She is enthusiastic, knowledgable and she keeps the class moving. It's fun to do a session whereby your HR does not rise and you are not pouring sweat; but, you come out of there just feeling stronger; I do it mostly for my scoliosis, which causes upper back pain, especially after a lot of cycling or a long run. So... try something new, do a Pilates class! But, ask recommendations on good instructors.

On that note...I hope ya'll enjoyed the weekend. Oh and by the way, here in Austin, the hot-streak continues...check it out:

The National Weather Service reports that Austin, Texas broke its all-time monthly heat record in July. Records in Austin date back to 1854. San Antonio also had its hottest month since records began there in 1885. San Antonio also broke its record for the number of 100-degree days in a month.
(reported on Monday, August 10th, 2009)

Um, when you are a big fan of cold weather, and an even bigger fan of skiing, this is not great news. This is why we are sucking it up and making the best of it; why not train for triathlon all the time, since there is sure as hell no other cold-weather outdoor activities calling your name, tempting you away from the training regimen? In all honesty, I figured that if I am going to take the insane jump of doing an Ironman, better to do it now while we live here and we are not tempted by other things to be doing (such as downhill skiing, xc skiing, mountain biking, ...essentially, playing in the mountains). And, on THAT note, I cannot imagine how Canada will not at least SEEM cool to me! But, if it is warm, I have to say bring it on, because I sure have had the heat training!

Happy Sunday evening, and Happy Birthday Derick. :)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Know your limits. And drink a cold beer.

I am through the longest weekend that I'll do leading up to Canada. I have to say, the volume is not terribly impressive and definitely not ideal, but it is all that I a) have time for and b) feel that I can physically do in these conditions in Austin. I consider myself fairly good at handling the heat, but when you are out in it for about 9 hours in 2 days, that is just plain tough. I kicked things off on Friday with a 5000 meter swim. That is the longest swim of the summer for me! :) I swim on my own and usually do about 4000-4500 3x/week. On Friday, I went to a local 50-meter pool and did my typical 1000 'warmup and think about what kind of set I'll do today' easy. After 900, I figured I should just swim a straight 3000-3800; that being, at least 3000 and if I am feeling particularly ambitious, 3800 just to simulate the 'real' distance of race day. So, I chatted with my friend Peg (owner of Farm to Market grocery here in South Austin, a regular at any south Austin pool between 9 and 11 am) and then said, "Alright Peg, I am not coming up for air for at least 45 more minutes." She looked at me like I was crazy. Then I told her what I was doing. She made an interesting comment. She said, "You know, I think the reason that I have never wanted to race anything (triathlons, running, etc) is because I don't want to win, but I don't want to lose either." Think about it... I think this is something we can all relate to on some level.

Anyhoo, away I went, for 53:15 and 3800 meters! Not spectacular but on tired legs, I was pleased with myself. That kicked off my weekend. Ya-hoo! Saturday was an early one, as I met a friend for a 100 mile ride to Johnson City. Again; this was my 3rd ride of 100 miles and while I was considering 110, I just could not do it. It was the hardest one (in terms of power) that I have done, and of course it was another 100+ degree day in Austin. I also had NOT yet run off of a ride of over 90 miles. So, today was the day. Shockingly, Derick threw his running shoes on and headed out with me. We were off, 4 miles around our house, and Derick told me something I needed to hear: I go out too fast! We finished this in about 6:42 pace, though at the end, I was a bit shaky and my legs were cramping. No doubt I was highly lacking in sodium, but I finished it and have to say, the feeling kind of freaked me out. Limits? I knew there was no way that at 1:00 in the afternoon, I could possibly run more than this in this weather. I could have maybe gone to a treadmill, but I really just wanted to get this workout in the bag.

We relaxed Saturday afternoon, watched TV and polished off some P Terrys cheeseburgers, fries ($5.50 for a double cheeseburger and fries!) and a nice cold beer for an early evening. Seriously; after water, gels, and coke, the beer was MUCH needed and as I say, everything in moderation.

Sunday was an early morning, up for toast and coffee and out the door by 7:15 for what was meant to be 20-22 miles of running. I did 45 minutes on my own, and then met up with Derick, James and James-Brad at Jack and Adams for their 14 miles. I NEVER run with others, but today I figured it may be a good way to knock out ~2.5 hours more quickly than solo-ing it. First 30 minutes with them, I could tell I felt very mediocre. I took a gel at about 1 hr 15 min into the run; which I thought made me feel better, but then we hit some hills and I fell back a bit. By 1 hr 50 minutes, we hit another much larger hill and I was walking. I took my second gel and then realized again that whole LIMITS thing again, damnit. I was just toast. We made many frequent stops for water, but Derick and James went ahead while myself and Brad finished up the last 30 minutes or so together, at a very very modest pace. I did end up doing 2.5 hours, though I have no idea how many miles it was which is likely a good thing... thus officially ended my biggest trainign weekend ever, at about 8.5 hours.

Again, probably not ideal. I am sure that ideally heading into an Ironman, I would have liked to have done a ride of 115+ miles and a run the next day of 24+ miles, but it just was not in the cards. I was completely wiped out on Sunday, got a great meal in me and took a much needed nap. But I think that between Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I did all that I could do and I also walked that fine line of 'enough but not too much'. In these conditions in Austin, you have to be VERY cautious of this line.

And on that note, onward! Time to bring it all down a notch and get rested up. Especially if you are dealing with extreme conditions training, know your limits and don't be afraid to back it off. Finishing is a good thing. This is what I am going to be telling myself going forward, too!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Steelhead 70.3 & Swimming with Turtles

I am still in Indiana, at my parents cabin, savoring the last few hours here. This place is true heaven; it is tucked in the hills of Southern Indiana, on about 100 acres, surrounded by forest, with a small private lake right off the deck. I was able to wrap in a few days visit here with a race this weekend, which makes for a mildly stressful (race) but in turn very relaxing trip away from Austin. Not to mention, I have had about 5 days out of the heat. Additionally, I get to swim in their lake every day. The water is the clearest they have seen it in 6 years, and I can stand on their deck and see anywhere from 3-5 turtles at one time floating on the surface! Luckily, none are snapping.

I opted to do Steelhead 70.3 about 3 weeks ago. My mom said "Find a race in Michigan to do!" Little did she know, I would do just that! I had no idea that this race was putting up a pro prize purse this year, and seeing that it was 4 weeks out from IM Canada, I figured it would be a great little tune-up. I tried some things I'll do in Canada, including 1) Zipp 808 clinchers (courtesy of Zoot team) which worked great, and 2) supplies in a cut open water bottle on my bike frame for a flat. Much to my surprise, all stayed in tact and the setup seemed to work well. I did not have the time to figure out my nutrition setup yet (ie: using a bento box, likely) so on that, I will have to wing it in Canada.

I arrived in Thursday to Indianapolis, spent a night here at 'the cabin' and then Friday my mom and I drove up to Benton Harbor. Beautiful drive! Indiana is so green and the weather so cool right now, actually made me miss Indiana. The logistics seemed a bit whacky when we arrived, as I did packet pickup, then back to the college for a meeting at 4, then to dinner then at about 7:00 we checked out where we would go in the morning (the transition area). It was a very pretty setting (I am still shocked that Lake Michigan is actually a 'lake', looked very much like an ocean to me) and despite being pretty tired by 8:00 pm from the hectic-nes of the day, I slept well for the 3:45 AM wake up call.

We headed out the door at about 5:00 to the race, all checked out of our hotel and ready to go. Arrived early, set up my transition area in the dark; noticed that when I spun my rear wheel, it stopped. Hmm... not good. I found a mechanic who fixed it, but I also noticed when racing every time I stood, I heard a 'swoosh, swoosh' so I need to get that figured out before Canada. We were off promptly at 7:02, 2 minutes behind the men.

Swim: The swim was what I call 'bouncy'. We did not go too far out in the ocean (sorry, um... 'lake') but there were big rolling waves. I would sight and either see a big swell, or perhaps catch a glimpse of the buoy. So, you needed to sight frequently or you could end up getting pushed into the shore. I felt alright; though this swim felt long (one straight line). I was just off the back of the lead pack, ended with a 25-something which was OK. I mostly swam on my own. I tend to always do this. I like my space; though, the drafting would have been nice. :)

Bike: T1 was a transition, rather long run to the bike but I got there and headed out as quickly as I could. I believe I was told I was in 5th place. Unfortnately, I would not come back in in 5th place. :) I felt rather strong for the first 25 miles, but I could tell that it was not coming easy. I was passed by a few women out there, all of whom looked stronger than I felt, but I tried to stay positive. The course was nice, yet the roads were rather bumpy (chip-seal-ey) and the last 10-15 miles, we faced a pretty strong headwind. However, I felt bad for all those racers after us, because a storm was blowing in so they likely felt more of this than we did! Needless to say, the last 10 miles of the bike, all I could think about was "I cannot WAIT to be running." I came off the bike in probably 8th or 9th place, so I had my work cut out for me if I wanted to finish within the top 5.

Run: I entered our LONG transition area, threw on my new Zoot racing shoes, grabbed some gels and was out of there. I passed 2 women within the first couple of miles, so that felt good. I was checking my watch every so often, running anywhere between 6:10 and 6:25 miles. Not bad, but not scorching fast. But it was OK, I could not see many women in sight so I knew all I could do was stick the pace where I felt good and grind away. I felt a sharp pain in my lower right leg, it hurt every time my foot landed, starting at about mile 3. Pretty odd, but I just tried to ignore it; definitely something I had not felt before. Almost felt like an anterior tendon near my ankle. The run course was nice, it was a mix of roads, neighborhoods and even a cool little running path through the woods. Michael Lovato was out there telling us where we were, so at halfway through, he told me I was closing in on 5th place. That was nice to hear. The next time I saw him, I had about 4 miles left, and he told me that I was 2:00-2:20 down from Amanda, his wife; but finished it with "Keep it up!" Talk about class. I did not think I could catch her, as I know she is a great runner but with about 1 mile to go I saw what I thought was her up ahead. I tried to mentally do the "Only 1 mile, all you've got!" and just give it whatever I had left. I was able to push hard that last mile and run my way into 4th place, which considering the hideous bike I had, I was pleased with. Big props to the other women out there racing; I sure had to work my ass off for that finish today!

All in all, a solid race, beautiful day and nice setting. I was very excited to hear that I had posted the fastest pro womens run split by 4 minutes! However, looking at the bike splits, I still have a ways to go. It is tough to work so hard at one discipline (for me, the bike) and still see little progress. But, you know this is the sport; we all have our strengths and weaknesses. I am willing to accept this, and when racing, try to gain as much time as I can on the swim and the run and then on the bike, try to minimize my losses. While I often bike like there is no run in a 1/2 IM (or shorter), I am just not as strong as the other women. That is OK, my focus in Canada is to ride within myself. This is a huge challenge that lies ahead of me. I am sure the nerves will start to surface these next few weeks, and I'll put in one more BIG ride. But, I need to simply get out there, race smart and enjoy the process. 'Cause if I am not enjoying it, it is a LONG time to be in misery! The toughest part will be staying positive and strong, (especially mentally) on the bike. I think this is where we all struggle most in triathlon, not beating ourselves up from our weakest discipline; especially during the race.

I want to give a big thanks to those who have helped me out so much this summer and season thus far: Jamie and Andrea at Hill Country Running, Cecilia at 3 Cosas massage, AJ Zelinski and his crew at Advanced Rehabilitation, Zoot Ultra team (including Suunto, Gu, Nutrafig, Zipp, Alcis, and Orbea) and of course Jack and Adams bike shop in Austin. You all help me so much and it is very much appreciated. And of course, my husband Derick, who is aways nothing but supportive; even when I get stressed and slightly crazy. :)

Thanks for reading. Another day of chillaxin' in Indiana, then back to Hot Austin for the final push to Canada!