Ahhh, yes. The inevitable downtime following an Ironman that leads to reflective thought, philosophizing (yes, it’s a word. I looked it up.), and indulgence in my two favorite Cardinal Sins: Gluttony and Sloth (usually in that order – I like to sloth on a full belly.).
Interestingly, I was inspired to reflect, philosophize, and write the following PRIOR to Ironman NYC. It was July 21st, and I had Race Rehearsal #2 on the schedule for the day. My foot issues had started the week before, and I had stayed off of it as much as possible, but walking was still painful. On several occasions, my father-in-law helpfully pointed out that I was limping… but I was determined to get on my bike and ride, even though I knew a post-bike run wasn’t to be that day.
The P3 and I made it 6.4 miles before we turned around and headed home (only… 87.2 miles short of the goal for the day).
I sat on the deck – the house deck, not the pool deck – for a little while and progressed rather nicely through the Five Stages of Grief:
1. Denial and Isolation – “It really doesn’t hurt THAT bad… maybe I should get back on and try again. I’m here all alone and JW is out THERE! Riding!”
2. Anger – “Dammit, dammit, dammit!!!” *find something to kick*
3. Bargaining – “OK God… I KNOW I’ve been slacking on the church attendance lately… if you just let me do this ONE race… Just this one… ”
4. Depression – “WAAAAAHHHHAAA*hiccup*AAAAHHHH*hiccup*AAAAAHHHH!!!!”
5. Acceptance – (well, not exactly. But it was at this point that I pulled myself together and started writing).
Ironman really has a way of carrying over to everyday life (and I’m not just talking about the conversations I have with JW where “normal” people think we’re speaking in code when we refer to TSS, SRM’s, V-dots, FTP’s, VI’s, etc…. no, no. I mean everyday NORMAL people life). I think some people - JW, for instance – are less affected by the Lessons of Ironman than others. Not that they aren’t aware or are somehow ignorant, they’ve just already learned these lessons somewhere along the way (for instance, a lifetime of wrestling for JW) and are a little less affected by them later in life. They’re usually the ones that I find most irritating because the minute they take up the sport, they have some level of success. The rest of us, especially the non-athletes, are more likely to realize that, throughout the process of training and racing, we’ve been changed. Fundamentally, and likely permanently, transformed by the trial and error, the level of commitment, and the physical and mental challenge of tackling an Ironman.
So! I give you the following, written under the duress of a bum foot and fear of losing the ability to race Ironman NYC:
EVERYTHING I EVER NEEDED TO KNOW I LEARNED FROM IRONMAN
1. It’s important to have defined goals and a plan for reaching them. It’s also important to tell at least someone you know about these goals. This will keep you A) accountable; and B) at least a little bit realistic.
2. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. My favorite triathlon take home message has always been, “Control the things you can, let go of the things you can’t.” It’s the triathlete’s version of Keep Calm and Carry On. For me, this past season has been a major lesson in things not going according to plan – but on the upside, I got a blog post out of it!
3. Ask for help. An amazing coach once told me that being a good athlete involves building a great team of people around yourself. This isn’t true only for the professionals. It’s as applicable to elites and the most amateur of amateurs, like me. I couldn’t do this without my fantastic bike mechanics, swim coach, chiropractor, massage therapist, doctor(s!), tri coaches, and of course, husband and family. I think this holds true in all aspects of life. There will come a time when you will need help. Ask for it.
4. Find something you truly enjoy doing with your significant other and cultivate it. I would rather spend five hours riding and running with JW than going to dinner and a movie any day. Sharing a common interest means we understand and support the other’s needs and what it takes to pursue that interest. Amazingly, this understanding translates to other areas of our life together. And years from now when our boys are grown, we won’t be left sitting there staring at each other wondering, “now what?” as some couples do. I’m convinced we’ll be on a quest to swim/bike/run everywhere we possibly can… assuming my body holds up that long!
5. Appreciate your body and everything that it can do when all of its parts are in proper working order. Dont’ take health for granted. Treat your body with respect. When I was deep in this cycle of injury, I contentedly drowned my sorrows in a
fishbowl large glass of wine almost every night of the week. I was trying everything I could think of to rehabilitate my injury (or… injurIES), but nothing was working because I was continually self-medicating with that nightly dose of alcohol. Until – referring back to #3 – one of the amazing people on my “team” helped me realize the connection between what was going on with my back and my liver. YES…. liver (I know, it sounds crazy, but it’s true. That voodoo magic is a topic for a whole different post, though!). So my poor liver was already overworked trying to process lactic acid and stress hormones from training, and here I was, overloading it with more toxins. Lesson? NEVER forget that EVERYTHING is connected!
6. Learn to get by without relying on external stimuli. Put the iPod away, turn the TV and/or radio off. A seven hour workout isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds when you’re as prepared mentally as you are physically. The ability to be inside your own head for hours at a time builds focus and, yes, character!
7. You are capable of a lot more than you think you are – except when you’re not. When I started training for my first Ironman, I was close to terrified when faced with my first 3 hour/50 mile training ride. I couldn’t imagine going that far. But eventually, without really realizing it, that 50 mile ride became a 117 mile ride, and my 8-10 mile runs became an 18 mile run. I was still short of the 26.2 I’d be faced with on race day, but I had the confidence of knowing I had a nutrition and pacing plan that worked. Fast forward to this year, and I was sitting typing this instead of spending six hours in the saddle as I had planned. I spent the week prior icing my foot, taking Advil, and staying off of it as much as possible in hopes that I’d be able to get out there and nail my final race rehearsal before the big day. But whether I liked it or not, my foot wasn’t 100% – and that close to race day, an “o.k.” day of training that had the potential to cost me the ability to race seemed like a pretty poor trade-off. Recognize limitations and be smart!
8. Slow down and appreciate your surroundings. We spend so much time rushing from place to place and traveling in cars, buses, trains, etc, that we forget to slow down and take it all in. My long rides and runs have given me a renewed appreciation of nature and life in general. Living in busy suburban New Jersey, we are fortunate that we have a place to train in rural Pennsylvania. The rolling farmland, the beautiful views from the top of the mountain, the sound of the birds singing and the crickets chirping, the occasional glimpse of a wild fox or random turtle, and the smell of the wildflowers have all reminded me of the incredible world around us that we so often take for granted. Slow down and enjoy it.
9. There is always another way to do something, but that doesn’t necessarily make it better. Whether you train and race based on perceived exertion, heart rate, or pace and power, it’s important to know your own body and how it performs under various circumstances. I have been dabbling in power for the past two seasons, and while I’ve learned a LOT about using it to my advantage, there are times things don’t always go as planned (see #2!). My power meter freaked out during a race last year and was giving me numbers in the thousands that are likely impossible for Lance to achieve. I ended up racing on heart rate and perceived exertion and had a strong, steady ride that went great (well… until I crashed and ended up in the back of an ambulance… ). So, while a power meter or a GPS watch are excellent tools for training an racing, they don’t give you a free pass to ignore the signals your body is sending you. When the day comes that the batteries die mid-run/ride or the equipment decides it wants the day off, be prepared with Plan B. Sometimes it can work just as well – if not better! – than Plan A.
10. Keep things in perspective. I’ll be the first to admit that I am VERY wrapped up in this sport and in many ways have allowed it to identify who I am. I was beyond cranky when I couldn’t work out because of my foot, and I would have been just short of devastated if I hadn’t been able to race (a little dramatic, no?). But here’s the thing – three weeks before Ironman NYC, the night before the Race Rehearsal That Didn’t Happen, I lost my grandmother somewhat unexpectedly. It was a healthy reminder of what truly matters in life. This – triathlon, sports, hobbies – is all just a game. Keep things in perspective and remember that the people in your life are what matter most. Show appreciation for their support and really ask yourself if you take them for granted in any way. As we all know, there will be a day when, for one reason or another, they’ll no longer be there. Enjoy what you do and where it takes you, but always, always keep things in perspective.
So now I’m curious. If you’re a triathlete, what has triathlon taught YOU? I’d love to know!
It’s pretty obvious that the more time I spend immersed in triathlon, the more I realize there are a lot of tri adages out there.
“Never try anything new on race day.” “Control the things you can, let go of the things you can’t.” They all exist for a reason: They’re true. I can certainly confirm that, “It’s harder to get to the start line than the finish line” is true. I spent the entire season putting that one to the test. I started off 2012 with a wonky rib that stayed in a partially dislocated position – making swimming and running near impossible without some degree of pain –then moved on to a high hamstring strain, and threw in a nice solid case of sesamoiditis (it’s a foot thing) three weeks before race day just for good measure (on the upside, I realized what a good workout the elliptical can be). It was nothing short of a miracle in the form of a cortisone injection and a course of oral steroids that I was actually able to tackle an Ironman in the shape I was in. Even though this was my second Ironman, I had no idea what to expect, which essentially meant I was expecting nothing.
Making it to the start of the race simply meant I wanted to make it to the finish, and since crawling is allowed, I was totally prepared to do it if I had to.
Friday went significantly more smoothly than I had expected it to. JW and I somehow managed to fit obnoxious quantities of food into our bodies and remain vertical long enough to transport our bikes and gear bags to transition. We had to wait a while for the ferry to arrive, but were entertained by a friendly couple from Texas with bath loofahs attached to their gear bags (I was so confused. I thought for sure they were to scrub off the Hudson funk, but no… just identifiers to quickly locate their bags in a sea of identical bags. Unique, but I think I’ll stick to my hot pink zebra tape). The ferry ride itself was relaxing. When we finally arrived in transition, JW and I ran through our checklists, hopped the ferry back to our car, and promptly sat in rush hour traffic waiting to get home. So much for getting to bed as early as possible….
Saturday, 2:50a.m. Alarm goes off and JW is up. I figure there’s no point in trying to go back to sleep since the plan is to leave at 3:20, so I get up too. Folks, it takes me TEN minutes or less to get myself ready to get in the car and get moving to a race. I love JW to pieces, but for the life of me, I cannot figure out why it always takes him 15 minutes longer than he anticipates. Every time. So of course, we leave the house at 3:35a.m. and arrive to the parking lot just in time to see the 4a.m. ferry pull away from the dock at 4:03a.m. We ended up on the next ferry with a handful of athletes, a mass of spectators and a few volunteers. JW was unnervingly calm while I sat there wasting energy sweating over every minor detail I had zero control over. Would there be a pump available (seriously – did anyone SEE the lines for the TWO pumps at IMLou last year?)? Would I have enough time to get the plastic bags off my bike? There are at least a thousand people, the length of three football fields, and two massive tents between the Run Gear Bag and the Bike Gear Bag and I have crap to deposit in BOTH of them…. AND I STILL HAVE TO PEE!!!!! Luckily one of the volunteers riding our ferry was a good friend of ours and kept me distracted for the 40 minute ride up to transition so I didn’t A) Have a full on panic attack; or B) Throw JW overboard.
We stepped off the ferry and were greeted by none other than John Korff himself. JW and I were lucky enough to get to know him over the past few months, and let me tell you – the guy is a riot. He spotted us as we stepped into transition and there were hugs, European-style hello kisses, and high fives. There’s something about getting a hello-kiss from the race director right before the race….
Things continued to get better from there. I walked to my bike and had a Bart Stevens Finds Sunglasses on the Course Moment. There was a bike pump sitting RIGHT THERE. In front of my bike. Just… waiting for me. I asked around – it didn’t belong to anyone. So I seized the moment AND the bike pump and pumped my tires with the help of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – who happened to be racked next to me – because it was pitch black, neither of us could see the gauge, and neither of us were any match for that crappy pump. It took one of us to stabilize the pump and give frequent gauge readings while the other warmed up for the race via vigorous tire pumping. I continued down the checklist and realized I needed Body Glide, but didn’t want to cover the 300 yards to get to the bag where it was currently residing, so I moved on.
Two minutes later – I ran into JW who just happened to be holding… Body Glide. Perfect. He was uncharacteristically frazzled (which he will deny, but I have witnesses), so he handed off the Glide and was gone to do whatever was next on his list. I used the Glide (just under my arms! I forgot how chafed that spot gets in a sleeveless wetsuit and hadn’t put any there. These sort of things get overlooked when you spend all season NOT racing), then tossed it into my morning clothes bag and gave it to a volunteer. Ten minutes later JW and I meet up again and he wants his Glide. Oops. Luckily, we had our friend Robbie (Team ReserveAid member and writer of race report hilarity) there diffuse the situation by encouraging a few gentle backbends… some yogic breathing… maybe a Sun Salutation or two….
Just then the line to board the second ferry of the morning started moving. JW decided to hang back and take a nap on a picnic table or something…. The rest of us made our way onto the ferry where I spotted my new friend – The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – again. I so wish I had a picture of that tattoo… Anyway, JW finally joins the rest of us on the ferry five minutes later, and the first thing he says is, “Look what I found!” Body Glide. You’ve GOT to be kidding me. Bart Stevens Moment #2 (and he assures me he scraped the top layer off on a rock prior to usage. Just in case, I’ve been performing random skin checks in secret before getting anywhere close to him for the past week… ).
When the ferry finally docked at the barge we’d be jumping off, things moved very quickly. As the people ahead of me began jumping in the water, I saw John Korff standing in front of me again. Another high five from him as he gave Team ReserveAid a shout-out, and I barely had time to wonder how seemed to be in two places at once before I jumped in the water. It was shockingly salty. I was a little taken aback until I realized… BUOYANCY!!!! YES! Sighting was crazy easy with the GWB looming in the distance. Other than that, I really only have two thoughts about the swim:
- It was the aquatic equivalent of being on a people mover at the airport. You’re more or less moving at your normal pace, but you’re going almost twice as fast as usual. THAT is how strong that current is.
- Leslie Neilsen. Yes. Leslie Neilsen. Here: http://youtu.be/zqNigBNUWOs
I finished the swim in 58:42. That will never, ever, EVER happen again for me. I accept that.
As a total aside, wetsuit peeling RULES. My first experience being peeled. I found my ready and eager volunteer (she looked like she would tackle me if I didn’t choose her), flopped my butt down on the ground, and was dragged nearly ten feet as she and a friend yanked that thing off of me. So fun.
I moved along quickly and purposefully (yet another tri adage) through transition. When I went over and over IMLou in my head this past year, I knew there was easy free speed to be found in transition. I was prepared to MOVE. Unfortunately, my overly helpful volunteer was also prepared to MOVE. I dumped my bag and she helpfully started rounding things up and putting them away for me. It took me a full 7minutes and 2 seconds to finally get out of transition. I even bypassed the sunscreen peeps! 21 seconds SLOWER than IMLou. Ugh.
I had a super conservative plan in place for the bike. I didn’t have a current FTP, had missed my second RR as it was a week after the sesamoiditis hit, and had squeezed out one tentative, long-ish steady ride prior to the race with TWO insoles in my left bike shoe – I had cut out the part of the insoles around the ball of my foot to offset pressure and accommodate the angry sesamoid bones, and it had worked. So given all of that, I figured 110W was a solid, if slow, plan. I just needed to get my foot through the bike so I didn’t have to crawl ALL 26.2 miles.
As usual, it didn’t take long to notice everyone around me doing it wrong… CRUSHING themselves up the hills and coasting down them (and these were the perfect “hills” to pedal hard down). I yo-yo’d with a guy for a while – he passed me up the hills, I passed him down them – when he finally commented to me, “I’m from San Francisco – we know how to ride hills” to which I replied, “I have a power meter – I know how to ride steady,” and mentally patted myself on the back for thinking of a quick comeback for once in my life.
It was on the return of my first loop that I saw the pros heading the opposite direction on their second. I knew they’d be passing by soon. Things had thinned out a little and I was busy watching my watts… thinking about what I’d have for dinner the next day… wondering if my kids were missing me… and realizing I’d give anything for a tissue. I figured it was unlikely that a box of Kleenex would just appear at the crest of the next hill, which is when I started to debate whether or not that particular moment would be a good time to just blow a snot rocket (I’ve only recently discovered the convenience of the snot rocket – I’m still a little skittish about doing it in public, not to mention totally embarrassed to admit I’ve done it… which is odd considering I take no issue whatsoever in peeing my pants amongst my peers). So I did the obligatory scan of the area around me, all was clear, I settled into position, turned my head ever so slightly to the left, and blew – at the EXACT moment Jordan Rapp flew by me as if I were standing still. I’m not exactly sure how he appeared out of nowhere with the speed and silence of a Stealth Bomber….
It was around mile 70 that my foot went completely numb, then started to burn. I spent the next ~32 miles wondering if I was experiencing my first hot spot, or if it was just all of the other stuff I had going on with my foot. I also started to realize that, given the headwind and the low watts I was holding, I was likely NOT going to make it back in less than 7 hours. This was defeating. At the very least I had hoped to have a good bike, knowing I’d be walking a lot of the run. I pulled myself back inside my box a few times in those last 30ish miles, and was SO happy to roll back into transition. I was even happier when my volunteer told me she heard we had killer headwinds out there and the pros splits were a lot slower on the second loop. It’s always nice to know you’re not imagining things, especially after 7:05:27 on the bike (at least my VI was 1.02, and my NP was on target – 108W).
My foot more or less returned to normal (or whatever its current version of normal was at the time) as soon as I stepped off the bike. Sensation returned, and the hot spot was gone. I set off on my run by Angry Man Walking up the hill out of transition. Then I ran a little, testing out my foot. It felt good, so I kept going. I had only had one – ONE – training run in the past four weeks. It was the Wednesday before race day. It lasted all of 30 minutes, and I did it in 5:1 run/walk intervals. So when I found myself actually RUNNING during the marathon, I have to admit – I was a little stunned. I did have Advil twice during the race (once on the bike, and once in T2), which I normally wouldn’t do, but I figured I was moving so slowly that my kidneys wouldn’t mind…
I had planned to run/walk the whole 26.2, but what I didn’t realize is that’s what EVERYONE in the MOP would be doing. With the hills we were facing, walk up them, run down them seemed the only way to go, and that’s the way everyone was going. Add me to the list of people who have said that this run was BRUTAL. Aid stations were unevenly spaced, making staying on top of nutrition difficult, and it was HOT. Luckily for me, I had a lot familiar faces out there. Our local tri club and Liebs were volunteering and were amazing – I felt like royalty making my way through their aid stations (seriously – see the picture below. HOW am I so lucky to have all of these awesome people surrounding me???). Despite the hills and the heat, all was well and right with the world, and my foot was actually holding up. I could NOT believe it.
I ran up the hill just before special needs and saw a Team ReserveAid kit crouched near the ground. I didn’t know who it was immediately, but as I got closer I realized – it was Robbie, with whom I’d done backbends earlier that morning. Two paramedics were standing guard over him and told me, “He’s done.” I stayed with him for a few minutes. His eyes were glazed. He told me he didn’t want to quit. For the first time in my life, I understood what it meant to hurt for someone on a visceral level. I knew how much he’d invested in this day and how badly he wanted to finish. I hated seeing this happen – I wanted to help, but I didn’t know what to do, or what to say. So I just said, “Listen to these guys,” as I pointed at the EMT’s. “They know what they’re talking about.”
And at their insistence that they’d make sure he was o.k., I kept moving.
I was back to feeling a little defeated after that, but took from it what I could and realized I really needed to focus on my nutrition. I climbed what I thought was my final hill to the stairs at the GWB, and did my best to enjoy the moment crossing into the city. I was still thinking of Robbie when I almost ran headfirst into – believe it or not – John Korff standing astride his bike at the end of the bridge. He had been welcoming athletes into Manhattan, and we chatted for a brief second – he told me he had seen JW earlier and he’d looked strong. I came down the steps and into the city in a much, much happier place.
That lasted all of, well… maybe twelve minutes. That’s when the hills started AGAIN. And they just didn’t quit. There were at least four volunteers who cheered me on and told me, “This is your last hill!!!” After five or six of that “last hill,” right around mile 20, the wheels started to fall off. I was running less and walking more. There were no sponges, no ice, and the good times at the Tri Latino aid station were well behind me (they were SO fun). My foot hurt. My ankle hurt worse. I was entering the Dark Place that I’ve heard so many talk about, but had never experienced. It was time for me to pull out my One Thing. I thought of my kids – they had been spending the week with JW’s parents, and it was the longest I’ve been away from them since they’ve been born. I was so excited to see them again, and spend a week in Disney World with them. I thought of how much I was looking forward to that week in Disney – my One Thing – and almost started to cry. I was convinced I wasn’t going to be able to make it to Florida in my condition and I had ruined my kids’ vacation… I felt terrible. That was when the crying really threatened to start, which, if you’ve ever tried to run on what feels like a broken ankle after 13+ hours of forward motion, you’ll know that Pain + Running + Half Crying = Hyperventilating. I wanted SO badly to walk over to one of the park benches and just SIT DOWN. But at the same time, I wanted to get this thing over with. I remembered what a friend told us last year. There have been times when all she could think was, “Get me to The Voice.”
That’s all I could think for the last three miles…. Get me to The Voice.
When I finally heard the music (and yes, The Voice) I forced myself to pick up the pace to a modest jog. Until I stopped dead in my tracks a few yards before the finish line.
Standing right in front of me was Mike Reilly himself.
I don’t know why I found this so baffling, him standing there in finishing chute. It’s not like I haven’t seen him do it before – I just haven’t seen him do it in person. I just stared at him, blinked… pointed at him and said something incredibly stupid to the effect of, “It’s you!!! You’re HIM!”
High fives from Mike Freakin’ Reilly, and THEN I crossed the finish.
It took me 14:09:40 to finish.
If I said I didn’t care, that it was o.k., and I was just happy that I was able to race… well, that would only be a half-truth.
I got through IMNYC because I had EN execution on my side. I had mojo from everyone in the Haus who had told me their story of how they were able to race after they were sidelined by an injury. I stayed in my box. My day was about patience, discipline, and my One Thing. This day would not have happened for me without this Team.
If you have read JW’s Race Report, then you know what happened the day after the race (Cliff’s Notes: Piece of wax earplug stuck in his ear from the swim, doc takes half hour to dig it out, gives him Amoxicillin, and SURPRISE! Turns out he’s severely allergic and he up and almost died on me). This is my side of the story.
JW walked into the living room wearing nothing but his boxers and told me, “I think I’m having a reaction to this medication.” That comment alone is likely what saved his life. I’m not sure that I would have realized just how serious things were had he not said that. I watched him lie down on the hardwood to try to cool off. He told me he felt like his skin was on fire and he thought maybe he should just take a cold shower. I walked to the sink to get him a wet paper towel to put on his forehead, and when I turned around he was standing up, staggering toward the kitchen counter. I yelled at him to GET BACK DOWN ON THE FLOOR RIGHT NOW in the meanest voice I could come up with (he’s very stubborn, I was definitely surprised when he said, “ok” and laid back down immediately). I told him I was calling 911, picked up the phone, and dialed. The woman answered, “911, what’s your emergency?” and I’m thinking, HEY! Just like on TV! I told her that my husband had just taken an antibiotic and he was having an anaphylactic-like reaction. His face and lips were swelling. She told me the medics were already on their way. John was not getting any better by this point. I felt oddly calm and unattached – as if I were going down through my race day checklist. He’ll need clothes when he gets to the hospital. Check. He’ll need ID and his insurance card. Check. The doctor will want to know what medication he took. Check. I ran down the mental list, dropping everything in a bag for the paramedics to take with them as I stood over JW and fanned him with a folder that was lying on a counter.
A police officer arrived first and was little to no help, but somewhat comforting to have nearby. JW was going quickly downhill – I tried to find a pulse and couldn’t, and his breathing was labored – and I asked the officer if there was any way to get in touch with the ambulance and let them know they needed to show up STAT.
As I knelt over JW, feeling completely helpless and continuing to fan him, all I could think was, “there are three objects in the drawer above me… a pen, a pair of scissors, and an Exacto knife.” I was prepared for the worst in the event I needed to give him CPR and his throat had swollen shut. Luckily, the ambulance arrived in time and he was still conscious. I have absolutely no idea HOW, but he was even able to get himself up on the stretcher. The EMT’s looked as surprised as I was.
They rolled him into the ambulance and we sat in the driveway in our respective vehicles. I didn’t see or hear anything for several minutes. It felt like a lifetime. Finally, one of the EMT’s walked over to me and told me JW was doing a little better, and we left for the hospital.
There was no where to park outside of the ER, and I ended up having to park on the other side of the hospital – which, the day after an Ironman, might as well have been another continent. When I shuffled in, still in full compression gear, two nurses looked at me and one said, “Oh! You must be the wife! He’s MUCH better. Good sense of humor!” Oh great. I figured he must’ve asked the doctor for a prescription for, “Sex, 2x/day to speed recuperation.” Then the nurse pulled me aside and told me that his blood pressure had fallen to 80/33 and his pulse was undetectable, and it was a good thing I hadn’t waited to call 911….
It didn’t hit me until later that night. JW had a mandatory six hour stay in the ER, and I HAD to go home and try to get some rest. The lack of sleep the nights before and after the Ironman were catching up with me, and my adrenals were pretty much maxed out. In less than 48 hours, I had managed to use a year’s worth of cortisol and adrenaline and whatever other stress hormones my body is capable of producing. I walked in the door and looked at the spot where JW had been lying on the floor just hours earlier, and came very close to losing it.
Instead, I managed to eat a slice of pizza and take a nap.
There isn’t an ounce of doubt in my mind that I was able to handle this situation calmly and methodically thanks to training for and racing Ironman. It just DOES something to you. It’s not something I can explain, but I’m sure that anyone who’s been through an Ironman knows what I mean.
Which is why I think there’s truth in one final adage: If you can handle Ironman, you can handle just about anything.
I admit it. I am slow. Or at least slower than I’d like to be at this point in the game.
By now, most of you know that John and I are long gone. Life for us includes large, daily doses of swimming, biking, and running in a multitude of combinations, along with recurrent comments from friends and neighbors that we’re “nuts.”
I won’t argue with that, either.
I had reservations about whether or not I’d actually be able to pull it off again. Reservations about who would help us with JT and Luke while we train and travel to races. Reservations about asking our families to step in and provide that help (again). But by and large, I had reservations about whether or not my body would allow me to train for another Ironman.
It’s true what they say – getting to the start line IS harder than getting to the finish.
Dealing with injuries throughout this season has limited my training physically and brought me down a notch mentally (see above regarding tortoise status… ). But regardless of what I’m going through and what I’ve been through to train for Ironman #2, we all know it’s nothing compared to the physical, emotional, and financial burdens that our military men and women and their families have endured. Burdens that they’ve endured simply so people like me can continue to have the freedom to abuse their bodies on a regular basis doing something they love.
Burdens they endure so ALL of us can continue to live safely in a less than safe world.
This weekend, I will again attempt to cover 140.6 miles of swimming, biking and running in under seventeen hours. I would insert some comment here regarding how, “every time it starts to hurt and I start to complain about the pain/heat/whatever, I’ll just remember what our troops go through,” but the truth is, I’m good at complaining.
It’s what I do.
Which is why I’m complaining right now.
The men and women ReserveAid helps out on a daily basis? They aren’t the type to complain. That’s why we do it for them.
I am complaining because the men and women who volunteer themselves to protect their country simply don’t receive the recognition and support that they deserve. They leave their loved ones behind to fight for us, and it’s time we fought for them. It’s time to show them the gratitude they deserve, and to protect their families they way the protect ours.
Thanks to the support of our friends and family, the Central Jersey Tri Club, and amazing folks like you, we’re able to assist military families at a rate of about $70,000 per month. What ReserveAid accomplishes thanks to your generosity ranges from paying utility bills and making car or mortgage payments, to providing transportation for a family to visit their soldier in a far off military hospital. Ultimately, I am most proud of the fact that 98% of all donations go directly to helping our military families (I’m sorry to say that, no, you won’t be receiving a packet of return address labels, notepads, greeting cards, a calendar, or even so much as a ball point pen from ReserveAid – your money goes directly where it’s needed most!).
You likely know the drill from here:
Click here to DONATE NOW. Note that you are supporting Team ReserveAid, and The Macquarie Foundation will generously match your donation.
Or, send a donation directly to:
2515 McKinney Ave, 11th Floor
Dallas, TX 75201
At the very least, spread the word about what we’re doing, and think of me on August 11th as I swim the Hudson River, bike the Palisades Parkway, and run across the George Washington Bridge to the finish line in New York City.
Feel free to track me at www.ironmanlive.com.
Just remember that it’s going to take me a long time to get through this thing.
Slow and steady might not necessarily win the race… but it will get this tortoise across the finish line!
I had a score to settle with the Patriot Half course. Going in to Saturday’s race, it was Patriot Bike Course – 1, Jess – 0. I still can’t tell you exactly what happened last year that caused me to crash and ended with me leaving the race in an ambulance. In fact, I was apparently so concussed last year that I swore to JW after the race on Saturday that, “they changed the course because I did NOT see the spot where I wrecked. I looked for it both times and it wasn’t there.” He told me I was wrong. I argued. I told him to check his Garmin files from last year versus this year. They were identical.
Team John+Garmin Files – 1, Jess – 0 (I’m sensing a theme here).
Well. Come hell, high water, and/or a litany of injuries, I was determined to finish this race in any state other than on a stretcher. I will be the first to admit that it was probably a bad idea. I was undertrained, underprepared, and over the past several months my body has been broken in a multitude of ways.
By this point, almost everyone with ears has heard about my back issues that have all but halted my running. Add to that:
- Sesamoiditis as the result of my own idiocy/desire to be somewhat fashionable (ie – I wore heels).
- Sesamoiditis = No More NB Minimus. I had to find new running shoes, stat. I let JW talk me into getting a pair of the shoes he’s been wearing and loves, and consequently…
- …aggravated a high hammy strain trying to run in these crazy shoes (On Running Cloud Runners, just in case you’re curious – and the hammy strain? Yeah. I didn’t tell anyone about that. People start to look at you funny when you have a multitude of injuries yet remain intent on training for an Ironman). Put simply, I had a difficult time walking let alone running the week of the race.
So… Thursday morning before the race, I took out an old pair of Brooks shoes I had sitting in the closet, cleaned them up, threw them on and hopped on the treadmill with an ace bandage wrapped around my left thigh in hopes that this combination would hold me together long enough to enact my vengeance. Two very slow miles later, I hopped (hobbled) off, convinced this could actually work. Little did I know I had more than 13.1 miles of running with which to be concerned…
Thursday afternoon: I get a call from the local running store. The 110% Quad Sleeves they ordered for me are in. I picked them up, wore them around the house for about three hours, was sufficiently impressed, threw aside all sage advice about not trying anything new on race day and tossed the Quad Sleeves in my bag.
Friday: Kiss the kids goodbye, give the in-laws the number for the pizza place, drive from Jersey to Massachusetts. Stop once for food/facilities and realize my hammy hates me. Spend the rest of the day hanging out at packet pick up, help the RD set up, get some ReserveAid info out, meet and greet with a few teammates… and my hammy hates me even more. Go back to the hotel and sit on ice while eating the pasta that I actually remembered to bring along.
Race morning we were up around 4:45. I think. I was up at whatever time JW decided to roll out of bed before his multiple alarms went off. He wanted to leave around 5:15, but having done this with him enough times to know that JW Time = Time+15, I knew we’d be leaving around 5:30. So I didn’t rush. Pulled the Quad Sleeves on. Got dressed. Fixed my hair. Did my makeup (o.k. – not really… but I probably could have if I’d wanted to). Had my bagel with strawberry jam, Gatorade, and a spoonful of peanut butter. Ate my Powerbar Energy Bites in the car on the way to the race and got mad at myself for eating that spoonful of peanut butter (I do this EVERY time. I eat it, it doesn’t agree with me, and I hate myself until ~mile 10 on the bike).
We parked and pumped tires at the car, then rolled into transition. Several of our friends were already there – what a trip to see all of those Team ReserveAid kits in transition! I vaguely remember EVERYONE asking me if I was nervous. No. Definitely not. I think that’s one of the benefits of being somewhere safely in the middle of the pack. I’m not competing. I’m participating. Zero nerves (now, however, I realize they were asking if I was nervous because of how last year’s race ended for me).
I don’t think I’ve ever had such a low anxiety swim in my life. Ever. Not in the pool, not in open water….. Literally from the word go, I was calm and in my box. Unfortunately, after the fact I learned that my box was a LOT slower than I had expected. I have no one to blame but myself… I’ve been slacking on the swimming big time – if I get in the pool and I feel so much as a tiny little tweak of pain in my back or shoulder, I’m right back out again. So that would explain why every time I’d breath to the right I saw a girl granny stroking just about as fast as I was swimming freestyle. I think I might have to bump swimming up the priority scale a notch over the next few weeks.
I was COLD. Shaking, shivering, numb… couldn’t get my fingers to work, couldn’t get the wetsuit off (trust me – spend 53 minutes in a cold lake and that’s what happens).
BIKE: 3:10:30 (again, ouch)
NP: 118W (‘W’ as in WTH???)
THIS was the one area I was prepared for. I don’t have a current FTP thanks to everything that’s been going on with my body lately (most training has been low intensity and zero testing), but, after going over the data with JW and more or less extrapolating whatever (an ave NP ~145W for my recent 4hr rides) – I figured I could comfortably settle in around 140W and still be fresh for my first double digit run mileage in weeks, and he agreed (and he’s smart, so most of the time, I listen. MOST of the time). So… I had a plan and I was ready to do the one thing I KNEW I could do and had been going well for me. I had plenty of water, so there was no stopping at the aid station: 32oz Aerodrink between the bars, two 24 oz bottles in the X-Lab Sonic Wing and a 24 oz bottle of concentrated Infinit on the downtube. I had two salt sticks and a Powergel ready to go in my bento. My sleek carbon machine was loaded down in just about every way possible.
I ran out of transition to the bike mount, hopped on and BOOM. My quads seized up. I’ve never had this happen before. EVER. I forged on, had my gel, and waited for them to relax, still shivering from all the extra time I spent in the water. They never relaxed. At all. I ran through all of the possibilities in my head… Quad Sleeves? Can’t be. Compression is supposed to be a good thing, right? But then, they were the unknown variable… Cold, maybe? I’m a terrible swimmer (obviously), but the one thing I do have going for me is decent fore/aft balance. I don’t kick – especially in a wetsuit. So my legs were basically hanging out straight out behind me and cold for 53 minutes, and then I asked them to get to work. Maybe that was it? Hmmm. Maybe I should pull a Matty Reed and keep the wetsuit ON the next time? Fact is, I’ve been having great rides during training, and suddenly my legs crap out on me when it mattered most. Thanks, legs. Not much else to say about the bike other than I was pissed the entire way, contemplating giving triathlon up for good, drinking my Infinit and peed seven (SEVEN!!!!!) times.
Pulled in to T2 to find my wetsuit straightened out and draped over the rack exactly where I needed to put my bike. This confused me. Which flustered me. I think I said, “What the HELL?” rather loudly, and likely insulted the volunteer that was bored and meant well…. In the end it probably cost me all of ten seconds – which, given the race I was having, was NOT that big of a deal. I need to work on that overreacting thing.
This was the big unknown. My only game plan was cross my fingers, hope the Quad Sleeves did their job, walk the aid stations, focus on nailing my nutrition, and hope for something between a 10 and 10:30 pace. That’s more or less how it went. Around mile 5 I remembered what happens to me when I slack on the running – my IT Bands remind me that they’re there. My quads were still on fire from the bike, so I had the Shut Up Legs conversation (to which they replied by sticking their fingers in their ears and doing the, “la-la-la-la-la…. We can’t heaaaaaaar you!” thing), and I kept moving. Shockingly, my back and hamstring were both relatively cooperative. Nonetheless, I’ve never been so happy to see a finish line in my life.
JW sees me and tells me, “I was starting to get worried!” Wha….???? All I could do was blink, stare, and say, “did I really do THAT bad?” He said it was just my “history” with this course that had him worried when he didn’t see me earlier. He told me that he didn’t see me cross the finish line because he’d gone back to the car to get his cell, “just in case.” I was bummed because I wanted him to see the chick in the EN kit who was right behind me…. The chick I had seen on the bike and yelled, “GO EN!!!!” The chick who had TOTALLY paced me on the run. And whom I felt really, REALLY bad about passing around that final bend.
Luckily for me (and for JW), Coach P was there waiting for his wife and got video of BOTH of us as we came down the finishing chute….
Yep. That’s who that chick in the EN kit was. WHAT are the chances????
TOTAL TIME: 6:21:37 (*Looks like I still have a score to settle after all!)
Three month hiatus? SURE! No problem!
Blogging took a backseat for a little while while I got a few things figured out. Just a few things. I don’t have the mental capacity to figure out too many things at once. Rather than delve into detail, I will summarize:
- We no longer have an au pair. Boo.
- We DO have a fabulous babysitter who WILLINGLY appears on our doorstep at 5:30a.m. so we can train. YAY!
- I STILL have back issues. In a nutshell, the left side got all fixed up, and then WHAM, the right side popped. My ribs hate me. If they would stay where they belong, things would go much better. Boo, again.
- I have finally pulled the trigger on prolotherapy. More on that in a moment.
- I haven’t raced ONE SINGLE TIME yet this season. I had to pull out of the first two races on my schedule – Unite Half Marathon because I just wasn’t ready for the volume/distance after three months of Run Jail/Probation. And my rib had popped out at that point and running was sort of sucking. I was on the fence about doing Devilman Half Lite 50, but in short, my decision was made for me when it turned out I didn’t have help with the kiddos for that weekend – it was definitely for the best, as the rib thing had gone totally downhill by that point.
- I am now training with Endurance Nation. I think JW likes to give me the, “I told you so,” look. I love love LOVED Jen – she is awesome and super supportive/smart, and I would highly recommend her to anyone who is looking for a private coach – but in the end, life was/is just too up in the air and I didn’t really know if there would even BE an Ironman in my future this season. Many, many things have happened since, and I think the tides MAY have turned in my favor – at the very least, I am staying positive and continuing to train as if I WILL be racing on August 11, 2012!
So – that’s it in a nutshell without going into exhaustive detail. And now, allow me to skool you on some prolotherapy.
Here’s the deal – there’s this annoying little thing called a costovertebral joint. Everywhere your rib meets your vertebrae (spine), there is a costovertebral joint. And just like other joints, these get out of whack (see how much you’re learning already???). Mine get especially out of whack – always have. For some reason – maybe it the scoliosis (I swear we all have it), maybe it was the pregnancy hormones – it’s been a lot worse in the past few years. I used to go the chiropractor, have my rib popped back in place, and boom, good to go. These days they just will NOT stay put. Enter prolotherapy. The problem lies in the ligaments that keeps the ribs in place… mine are just too lax. And there’s nothing you can do to remedy that… except for maybe prolotherapy. I am going to a specialist who injects a dextrose solution directly into the ligaments, which initiates the inflammatory process and encourages the…. wait…. this is SUPER boring. OK – what it comes down to is about 60 shots in my back. I was a little sore for two days (except for the one spot that I think he may have hit a nerve because OMG I kind of wanted to die – that hurt for exactly one week and only when I moved. If I sat perfectly still I couldn’t feel a thing. Not helpful when you have kids, though). Luckily I responded well, and I’ll go back for Round 2 on May 30th. The prolo shots have a cumulative effect, so if Round 1 goes well, it’s likely that a few more sessions will really fix things up and the effect will likely be permanent. I can only pray that will be the case!
In the meantime, I saw fit to wear a pair of heels into the city (hey, I was meeting Chrissie – I wanted to look cute. And be tall. Because honestly – on magazine covers she looks like she’s seven feet tall. Of course, after the fact, JW pointed out to me that she’s probably standing next to Rinny, which would make most people look seven feet tall. Anyway, she had sensible flats on, and I was like… d’oh!). So I gave myself a nice little flare up of sesamoiditis. Dumb dumb dumb. I was 100% convinced that there was a 95% chance that my foot was broken. I actually even went for an x-ray (I was wrong. It was not broken. That will likely be the last time I try to attach a percentage to anything). My already low run volume was reduced even further thanks to my own stupidity and I’ve since decided to give away every pair of heels I own. Most are in excellent condition, because I never wear them anyway, so if you are a size 6.5, let me know and they are yours. I do NOT want to be tempted. My feet were not made for heels. BUT! Awesome night, and I actually got to hang out with the Champion. Pretty cool, right?
As of right now, I’m getting a lot of work in on the bike and in the pool, and running slow and steady (zone 1/2 only for the most part) when my body allows. It’s been frustrating, because I can really feel the changes that my core strengthening and stability work have done for my gait. I’ve been seeing a zone 1/2 pace up to a full minute faster than pre-PAP analysis. That’s pretty amazing, and gosh darn it I just want to let loose and see what I can do!
Team ReserveAid has been growing like crazy lately, too. I canNOT believe how many athletes we have headed to the Patriot Half AND IMNYC! INSANE! JW and I are super excited at how things are taking off, but at the same time trying to figure out where to go with all of this and how to keep track of all of it! I just put in an order for 187 (187!!!!!!) pieces with a local screenprinter – a combination of t-shirts, tech shirts, and hoodies. We also put in our fourth order for kits/cycling jerseys/shorts – and we can’t keep up! This is the second order in a row that we’ve had someone new come in at the last minute and ask to order several pieces. Champion System has been less than accommodating, but they’ve also been helpful in some respects, so I can’t really complain. Our local tri club – Central Jersey Tri – has also been super supportive of ReserveAid, which says a ton for a newly formed club, and as always, our parents have been there every step of the way cheering us on and helping us out with the kids….
We are blessed – and grateful – in many, many ways.
Sort of laughable considering I haven’t been focused enough to sit down and actually write a post lately, right? Well… I’ve found myself busier in the past month than I ever expected to be. So much going on lately… and I seem to spending every free minute working on my core stability.
WAIT! Go back… read the previous sentence again. Did I say core STRENGTH???? Did I????
Biggest Take Home Message at Pursuit Athletic Performance – Core STRENGTH does NOT equal Core STABILITY. Oh, I already HAD a strong core. Trainer John pointed that out on more than one occasion (I think there’s a special place for such comments reserved in the minds of women who have been through pregnancy and have experienced what THAT can do to your abdominal wall). So, why was I having so many issues when such an important part of my body was SO strong?
Because, #1) Despite strength, I wasn’t STABLE; and #2) Like most, my approach to “core work” was, for the most part, focused on my abdominals (which I now realize means it wasn’t really focused at all). My glutes were SO weak that they were almost non-existent (Wait. No… that was the dream where I had Gisele’s body, Brooklyn Decker’s face and Taylor Swift’s talent… scratch that part about my glutes being non-existent). My glutes were weak, but rather than non-existent, my rear end was reaching epic proportions and practically worthy of its own zip code. My lats – forget it. They were there, but they didn’t know what the heck they were supposed to be doing. I can’t blame them – they’ve spent the past year spectating. I gave them way too much time off and they got lazy. Believe me – now that I’ve asked them to get back in the game they are pissed at me. But Coach Al at Pursuit Athletic Performance tells me, “the lats are the second most important muscle in the body,” and since I’ve deemed Al to be a gifted genius, they MUST be important. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that during my most recent visit to see him, I spent the majority of two hours focused (there’s that word again) on my back. Lats, rhomboids, breaking up the little love affair my upper traps had going on with my ears… I think I walked out of there two inches taller.
The great news – I am OUT of Run Jail! I am starting the Return to Running program today (“Run Probation,” as JW says). Slow and steady, low volume at first. But I still have my work cut out for me. Especially with regard to swimming – as if I didn’t already have enough work to do in that area as it was. The good news is that now, once again, I know HOW my body is moving and WHY it’s wrong, and I know what I need to do to begin to correct it. Having a set of specific exercises to perform that target MY areas of weakness and instability is hugely motivating – this is not your general circuit training routine pulled from some women’s fitness magazine next to the “Top Ten Signs He’s Cheating on You,” or “Your Best Jeans Yet!” article. Just like I did while I was in Run Jail, I have to start out small… baby steps to build the muscle memory I need to get my body moving in the right way before I can get back in the pool.
Armed with all of this new knowledge, I have the Power of Focus…
Flip a switch, and you can light up a room. But FOCUS light…. and you can cut through metal.
It all started with one of JW’s fairly frequent and typical, “Would you think I was crazy if…. ” e-mails. Little did I know that this time, the “dot dot dot… ” would mean significant changes in MY life as well.
As usual, he had been on the Endurance Nation message boards and had come across something that had piqued his interest. There was a new post by Linda Patch describing her experience with run gait analysis. I have to admit, I was initially skeptical and didn’t take the time to read the post and watch the video JW had forwarded. Sure, I skimmed – and formed my own poorly thought-out response with a few pre-conceived ideas and a couple of somewhat intelligent sounding things I could muster up from my days as an occupational therapist – but JW, as JW often does, persisted. I finally (maybe somewhat begrudgingly) took the time to sit down and read Linda’s post a little more thoroughly… and THEN I watched her video analysis.
THAT was when it dawned on me.
The MAGIC PELVIS!!! HOW could I have forgotten about the MAGIC PELVIS?!?!
It was drilled into my brain for over two years while I was in therapy school – if the pelvis is off, everything is off. Start with the pelvis. The pelvis is *magic!* When I moved to NYC and my work became more and more focused on wheelchair seating and positioning (which isn’t all that unlike bike positioning, actually), I ALWAYS started by examining the position of my patient’s pelvis. Watching Linda’s video, hearing the commentary, seeing the angles drawn on the screen that indicated her pelvis wasn’t in the most optimal, neutral position… it all came back to me and I realized where I’ve been going wrong these many, many months.
I think I called JW that instant and said, “I WANT TO DO THIS!” Five minutes later I was on the phone, scheduling an analysis for both JW and myself (now he’s going to get all, “I told you so,” on me, but really. Any woman out there can sympathize with my position. Christmas preparation – gifts for kids, relatives, teachers, travel prep, parties, baking, cards – was in full swing AND I was in the middle of a multitude of tasks to prepare for the arrival of our au pair. There was no way I slowing down to watch some video JW had sent me. And that’s the honest truth. Except for the part about baking and cards.).
So – to get on with the important part of the story, I had my run analysis with Coach Al and Dr. Strecker of Pursuit Athletic Performance (PAP) a week ago today. I walked in the door knowing I was a broken mess. I knew if I kept trying, I’d eventually find SOMEONE who could help me figure out how to fix myself. After trying just about everything I could possibly think of to rehabilitate and/or reduce the ongoing mid-back, shoulder and neck problems I was having, Linda’s Endurance Nation post made me realize it was my movement that was dysfunctional. Figuring out HOW and WHY my movement was dysfunctional was where PAP enters the picture. After three and a half hours of the most thorough (and somewhat embarrassing… if you’re comfortable being videotaped in nothing but tight shorts and a sports bra right after holiday indulgence, let me know) evaluation of how I move (and don’t move), The Doc and The Coach had me figured out and gave me possibly the most eye-opening experience I’ve EVER had. Sure, sure, I know my glutes are weak and my pelvis is anteriorly rotated. BUT! To see it on video… to have the visual of my hip dropping, my lats taking the day off while my traps work overtime, and to combine that with the knowledge from the Functional Movement Screen – NOW my eyes are wide open.
I was immediately sentenced to at least four weeks of Run AND Swim Jail.
I got to work on my exercise program THAT NIGHT and I’m feeling significant changes already – after just one week. My upper body and my lower body are finally starting to realize that things tend to go much better if they actually work together. My triceps and hamstrings are breathing a sigh of relief now that I’ve taken a little of the load off of them. And every part of my body that is attached to my newly stretched and opened collarbone is aching in that deep, satisfying sort of way. Wow.
I can’t imagine a better way to start the new year than to tear myself down, rebuild, and come back better than ever. Thanks, JW, for asking me if I’d think you were crazy once again….
I’m slowly but surely clawing my way out of the pile of laundry covered in Pixie Dust from our trip to Disney World and that other pile hidden in my closet that I’m now referring to as The Gifts of Christmas That Presently Need Wrapping (I’m hoping if I ignore that pile long enough the Magic of Christmas will come along and take care of them for me… the laundry, on the other hand… well… I know better. Two kids who continue to lack the eye-hand coordination to successfully place food in their mouths combined with two adults who simultaneously train for Ironman accumulates more dirty laundry than I ever bargained for – with the added bonus that my house smells like a locker room. Yaaaaay!).
So what do I, in my infinite wisdom, choose to do when faced all of those piles? Pause for a moment and blog, of course!
I think I may have already mentioned that a while back I decided to add TRX to my strength training routine. Enter Trainer John. Leave it to this guy to find a new way to make me limp on a weekly basis (and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible – as in, he knows his stuff and he doesn’t let me slack off just because I had a little hour long run/bike workout earlier that day. No, no. I’m there to WORK!). Luckily for me his reputation preceded him and it was 100% accurate – he has a habit of being Mr. Motivation. Most recently, we were chatting (well – he was chatting. I was huffing, puffing, and spitting out random sentences between reps) and I mentioned that last year before IM Louisville, I didn’t tell anyone – ANYONE – that I was going to do an Ironman for the looooooongest time.
Because I knew they’d all tell me I was crazy – except for my one non-triathlete/honorary sister/friend – I did tell her. But only because she already knew I was crazy and her response was little more than an eye-roll and a shake of her head at learning how far gone I actually was. She, being one of my few non-triathlete friends, didn’t grasp the full meaning of what I was telling her – which was precisely why she was “safe” to tell. Way back then, I knew one – yes, ONE – person that had actually DONE an Ironman (and lived to tell the tale… remember, this was back when Ironman was still mysterious and possibly even dangerous in my mind). I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, but I did know everyone else – my triathlete friends in particular – would know what I had signed up for, what it meant… and they would likely have something to say about it.
And quite frankly, I didn’t want to hear it.
I didn’t want to be told that I was too inexperienced. Too slow. Too busy with young children. That I lacked the mental stability (ha!) necessary to overcome the highs and lows of Ironman training and, in particular, race day. I didn’t want to pretend to know the answers to the questions that would inevitably come: How are you going to handle Two-a-Days? Who will watch your kids when you’re doing your Race Rehearsals? Do you realize what a HUGE time commitment Ironman training is? WHAT ABOUT YOUR KIDS?!?! I just didn’t want to hear it. And so I didn’t tell anyone. If only they knew… if only they REALLY knew…. about the long training days that began before 5a.m., the accumulated fatigue, the sudden onset of training-related Restless Leg Syndrome that kept me up at night… the insatiable appetite, the MOUNTAINS of laundry, the Making of the Bottles (oh how I HATE the Making of the Bottles)… and the repeatedly subluxated rib that I stupidly refused to rest and eventually resulted in bone spurs and a herniated disc in my cervical spine. If only they knew.
So Trainer John says to me, “If you knew everyone would think you were crazy, then what made you do it?”
That question has been bugging me since he asked. I’m still not sure what the “right” answer is. All I can say is, I wanted it. When it comes to Ironman, you have to WANT it. I’m of the opinion that no one can motivate you, encourage you, PUSH you to do it. It IS too big of a commitment. Did I have a deep, burning desire to do an Ironman? No. It wasn’t exactly on my To Do List. As a matter of fact, there are a lot of things that are still on that list that I haven’t done – things that I sort of sat around and thought, “you know, one day I might like to __________.” I’m doubtful that I ever would have actually taken the first step toward doing a lot of those things – but now, because I’ve done an Ironman (and I’m on my way toward #2), apparently I’m superhuman because I feel like I could tackle anything. No, I didn’t necessarily plan to do an Ironman, but once I was registered, I did WANT it. I wasn’t going to let anything get in my way. Not injuries, not accidents, not trips to the ER and concussions. Nothing. No, I wasn’t the most experienced and I certainly wasn’t the fastest, but I DID finish and nothing – not even frequent stops in the name of staying hydrated – got in my way.
And no, I’m not telling what’s on my To Do List!
No, no… not me. JT. JT has pneumonia. Or had pneumonia. He’s currently on Day Five of his antibiotic and back to his normal five year old self and looking forward to Trick or Treating tomorrow and telling me he’s “bored” sitting inside “doing nothing (I will NOT allow him outside for fear of a relapse! Especially considering the random snowfall and unseasonably cold weather we’re having! NO! You WILL stay inside and sit on the couch and watch TV!!!).” It’s amazing how quickly kids can bounce back and resume normal life. I’ve taken care of two sick kids for the past two weeks, and though I’ve managed to stay 100% healthy throughout the ordeal, I’M the one left trying to figure out how to get back into the day to day swing of things.
I like structure. I LOVE routine. I hate chaos. The past two weeks, to me, have been chaos. Somehow, this has resulted in workouts that have been lackluster at best. I think that’s the hardest part of training for me – being a mom. I have yet to find the Steel Will and Emotional Stamina that working out while my mind is on my kids requires. My heart just isn’t in it. It’s not even Mom Guilt…. it’s just…. that feeling of being mentally drained. When everything is going as it should and there is order to my world, I love to put my head down and work. For me, order in my life is key to good workouts. I admit – I LIKE having control. When I don’t – or can’t – have control, it’s mentally exhausting for me. And right now, I am exhausted. It’s amazing how mental translates to physical – in both a positive and negative way. If the mental game is strong during training and racing, the performance is strong. If the mental game is lacking, so is the performance (yeah I know – not exactly a newsflash!). Wow, is my mental game lacking at the moment!
I know the Triathlete’s Mantra: Control the things you can and let go of the things you can’t.
So… the past few days I’ve just had to let go. There’s no shame in missing a few workouts in the off-season (is there?). I need to take care of my boys AND myself and get excited about what the future holds.
AND I am SO super excited about what the future holds! Why? Because I’ve managed to bring structure and order to it! Truth be told, I had my reservations regarding how JW and I would be able to swing another season of training for the same A Race. Having a friend live with us and help out this past season was the one and only way it was able to work, and after looking at the situation from every possible angle, I figured the best thing to do was to repeat the situation. But to do that, I’d have to have a complete stranger come live in my house (ummm… AND be responsible for my children). After a lot of thought and consideration, we decided to take the advice of our friends and look into a cultural exchange program – i.e., an au pair (so now it’s a complete stranger from a different country who is not a native speaker of English – which is tricky because there are times that I’m not so sure that our 3 year old speaks English. And occasionally JW isn’t quite up to par, either… ). I spent the better part of the two weeks that the boys were sick on my computer looking through profiles for the perfect match (it cracked me up when a friend said it sounded a lot like on-line dating). While there’s no such thing as “perfect,” per se, I AM very excited about finding the girl who will be coming to live with us this January, and I’m finding myself more and more excited about sharing our world with her. I would have said, “our culture,” but I just don’t think of Americans as having a “culture.” We have some unique traditions, sure, but culture??? It just sounds too…. cultured for my way of life! I’m just your average, normal, middle class American girl born and raised in rural PA and adjusting to life outside of NYC – yes, still adjusting. After…. ten years? I’ve lived here TEN years????? Wow… where did THAT time go? Anyway, I think the good news is that she’ll see the best of both American worlds while living with us – city/suburban life in NYC and NJ, and rural/country life when we spend our summer weekends in PA.
And of course we have groundhogs. Apparently groundhogs (and raccoons!) are interesting creatures in parts of the world where they don’t exist (well of course they are! If a kangaroo hopped through my backyard right now, the smile on my face wouldn’t fade for weeks!).
Tomorrow is Monday – a chance to start fresh and get back into the regular routine – and I am SO looking forward to it.
Wow! Has it really been over a month since I’ve updated this thing??? Geez! You’d think I was busy training for an Ironman or something! (I’m rolling my eyes at that comment, too… ).
The past month has more or less been an experiment in How To Fix My Neck and Shoulder. It’s been a calendar full of weekly visits for chiropractic adjustments, ART, massage therapy, physical therapy, some yoga and a little bit of TRX to get that whole business strengthened up and back in shape. I’m religiously stretching and strengthening at home. And just so there are no excuses, my foam roller and Theraball have taken up permanent residence in my living room (but then, there are generally no less than two bikes living in my dining room. Along with a bike stand. And pump. Normal people don’t keep their bikes in their dining room, am I right? I forget what it’s like to be “normal.”).
NO SWIMMING, though. None. Which figures, because that’s where I need the most work. Sure, sure, there’s time for that, but what I’m afraid of is the fact that I still have “bad” neck/shoulder days. I’m in a cycle of three or four really good days in a row followed by three or four bad days in a row. On the good days, I’m hungry to hit the pool and swim laps like nobody’s business… on the bad days, I spend entirely too much time self-diagnosing and searching for the best local shoulder docs (and spinal docs, and neuro docs…. maybe what I really need is a shrink!). So I called in a favor from a friend and super good guy, who happens to be a kick-ass P.T. who knows everyone who’s anyone in the local medical community. I WILL get this figured out and I will NOT be dealing with any neck and shoulder b.s. for another season!
(If you’re imagining me pounding my fist to the counter in finality after that last statement, you pretty much have it right. Two C-sections with eight Advils, dammit! I DO have a high pain tolerance!)
OK! On that note! I have a 10k coming up! I’m SO excited for this race. The cool thing about being new to all of this is that every race is an opportunity to PR. This particular race is small, and I placed 3rd in my age group last year. I don’t anticipate placing again this year (because – as we all know – you just never know who’ll decide to show up), but I DO want that PR!!!
And something I’ve been meaning to document here for the past two months – this really seems like it should be a separate post, but what the heck. I’m here and at the moment I’m lazy, so this will all be condensed into one post so that in the future when I attempt to reference it, I’ll never be able to find it. There. I’ve been warned. That said, now that I’ve really had some time to reflect, I need to make note of what worked and what didn’t at IMKY.
IMKY was more or less a “practice run” in the end. First Ironman, initial goal was just “to finish” and raise a buttload of money for ReserveAid while I was at it. Done and done. All along I knew there would be another Ironman in my future (little did I know it would be less than a year into the future from IMKY), and I knew I needed things to work. I needed to enjoy the experience. Which I did. A lot. And things worked. A lot. No, I wasn’t breaking any course records out there, but I had a GREAT day and a fantastic experience and I was smiling all day long. I said I wanted to race like Chrissie (yeah, who doesn’t?) – with a huge smile the whole day – and I did. But there’s always room for improvement – ALWAYS – no?
- My race day nutrition. Spot on. Not a single GI issue/cramp/anything all day.
- My swim – slow, but paced myself well. Went at MY pace (ie, slow!) and got out of the water feeling strong and ready to ride.
- My bike – held steady up the hills and bombed down them. FUN. Felt good coming out of T2 and ready to run.
- My run – I actually RAN. Jogged. Ran. Whatever. I was moving a LOT better than 90% of the people that were on the run course at the same time I was out there. And I FELT amazing. Even at mile 18 – I expected to be in a world of hurt by that point, but I wasn’t.
- Duh. Aid stations. Bike Balance. Fearlessness? I will not, not, NOT – repeat, NOT!!!! – pull over and stop at an aide station for water on the bike course at IMNYC! I’m already working on this and wondering what the big deal was (other than the whole concussion thing… If this makes no sense, see the previous post…. ).
- Swimming. Again, I’m slow. No brainer. But allow me to break this down into its components. Number One, Fix This Neck/Shoulder Thing. Number Two, Work Hard, Get Faster/More Efficient. Number Three, Listen to Coach Jen and Let the Stronger Swimmers Figure out How to Get Around ME.
- Transitions. I think I got a little TOO caught up in the moment and turned into a tri tourist in transition. Ooo! Sunscreen appliers! And volunteers to help people change! One is bringing me water! It’s like being in a restaurant! There’s a port-a-potty – I don’t really have to go, but what the heck… why not? I mean, it’s RIGHT THERE. My T2 time is downright embarrassing. I didn’t make it into the double digits, but I was awfully close. Easily a few minutes of free time to make up for next year, though.
- The Run. More running, less peeing. THREE stops? Really??? How necessary WAS that? Peeing is so much more mental for me than it is physiological. I need to get over that. I wasn’t so good at running and drinking, either. I think I COULD have jogged through aid stations, but I just couldn’t seem to effectively get that drink of water out of that paper cup without wearing most of it. I wish someone would have told me to fold the cup BEFORE the race. Now I know… again, that’s some easily bought time next year. I think I have it in me to pick up the pace a bit, too. Now that I have some experience and the knowledge of what it feels like, I can push a bit harder next time.