Monday, August 11, 2014

IMLP 2014 - Part 1

2012 – DNF; 2013 –DNF; 2014 – DNS…….
I remember the date not because it was the day I made the decision not to show up at the start line, but because it was the same day we lost Lucy – my little sheltie princess I adored. It was Tuesday, February 25th. I had knee surgery in October and was doing better for a while, but then reinjured it in early January.  Nevertheless, I kept going.  I was feeling really great otherwise, was eating healthy, was at my lowest weigh in ten years, and loved my new bike and especially my power meter.  A few weeks earlier I had gotten a promotion – it came with A LOT of hours and considerable stress but it was a great career opportunity. That morning I was at the end of a strength session with my "trainer" and I couldn't gracefully get up off the floor. He looked at me and said "Deb, what are you doing?"  He wasn't referring to the one-legged dance that got me up off the floor. "Take the year off. Focus on the new job and give yourself time to heal." This wasn’t the first time I was hearing "stop" but I had refused to listen. I drove back to my building on campus to get ready for work.  I put the car in park and it finally sunk in – I was done; my third attempt wasn't even going to be an attempt.  In the middle of my sobbing, my new boss pulled in to the parking lot. WTF? I pulled it together and slipped down the back stairs to the locker room, totally focused on work and not looking back……for months!

It wasn't a conscious effort to forget.  The new job just lent itself to the option of being totally consumed. I stopped working out – totally; not even one walk around the block. I stopped being on FB – that's where all my tri-friends were. I stopped going to tri club meetings, stopped watching the videos, stopped reading the list serve and stopped worrying about what I was eating.  The only thing I did was work.  By June I was in the worst shape I'd been in four years. I'd gained……ok, I'm not even going to say how much it is so embarrassing!  It was at about that time that my coach dumped me. LOL – she didn't really "dump" me - I mean after all, I hadn’t been doing her workouts for months.  She had asked me if I wanted to continue but I waited nearly two-weeks to reply and she missed the email.  One day I didn't get my automated workout reminder email. The same day I realized that I hadn't gotten any list serve emails in a couple of days. While I wasn't actively looking for them, I clearly knew they were there – like a safety net of sorts.  I freaked out!  It was the wake-up call I needed. (Of course, she probably knew that – they always know!)

I slowly started to get in the water and to get on my bike – not so much to train, but because I wasn't going to Lake Placid, even as a spectator, in the shape I was in! And I had to go to Lake Placid because the house was rented and it wasn't like we could get our money back.  And I had never officially withdrawn; therefore I was getting my [VERY EXPENSIVE] swag! So I tried to getting used to the fact that I would be on the side lines – probably for good. This would be a good time to go make peace with it all and move on with other goals.

The Wednesday before IM I got in the car and headed north. I thought it would be hard once I got there but something unexpected happened on the way there.  I started reliving 2013 in my head and every bit of it made me smile. IT WAS A GREAT DAY! Despite the lack of a finish line experience, there was absolutely nothing to be sad about. I was good.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

IMLP Race Report - Part 4 "My After"

My After
As we passed the jumps I saw BL and KW at the top of the hill. L, my driver, pulled over so I could let them know what was happening. They were waiting to run me in. I told them they were going to let me run the oval and cross the finish and asked if my mom was there. They said yes.  L dropped me at the Main Street and 73 corner and let me walk to the oval. Unfortunately she was going back to pick up several other athletes.

I saw two of the T2 coaches walking toward me. They had not seen that I was dropped off and so I had to explain that I was done. I told them that I was going to the oval. On the way there I met the DJ who liked my singing.

I stopped at the entrance of the oval to wait until the other "official" runners had passed through. In the meantime a staff member came over to me and thanked me for understanding - but why wouldn't I? We know going into this that we have 17 hours. My time was up. I had a great day overall and was amazed that I got as far as I did. As I stood there, I realized that I did not want to go over the finish line after all. If I had completed all 140.6 miles, maybe. But I had gotten a ride "home." I explained that I had changed my mind and gave him my chip.

On the spectator side, just inside the oval, I found my mom, waiting for me to come in. At first she looked at me and asked why I wasn't on the other side of the fence. She got a little choked up, I got a little choked up, but I didn't want to go there. She told me I did great and that she was proud.  We made plans to meet back at the house and I was going to find ML.

As I made my way through the spectators, people started to congratulate me. At first I didn't quite know how to respond. I started to get a little rattled. At one point I found myself getting a angry. "Can't you see that I don't have a @(*#!@ medal around my neck!?" But I just kept looking for my friends. The music got even louder. The crowd kept getting louder. But soon all I could hear was Mike Reilly's voice. "Mary Sue you are an IRONMAN." "John Smith you are an IRONMAN." That was suppose to be me - my heart was sinking and I had to get out of there.

I decided to go up to the team tent to see if the coaches were still there. Maybe they could call someone for me. I met up with CG on my way out. She offered to walk with me. I said she didn't have to. She said "yes I do!" It was right about then that I heard Mike say "and Deborah Armstrong is coming in." Clearly they had sent my name to the announcer before I changed my mind. This was a little disconcerting to the friends and family who were watching the live feed on their computer. Apparently a man stepped right in front of the camera as Mike said my name. Rumor has it that a family member in Nashville could be heard in Lake Placid swearing at the guy to get out of the way - hahaha! And my sister had posted on FB "My sister is an IRONMAN."

I'm not sure how I found the others- maybe I met them along the way or maybe they were at the tent. They tried to reach ML and finally connected. She was on her way. When I saw her coming up Mirror Lake Drive, they helped me up and, you guessed it....I lost it. All I could say was "I worked so hard. I worked so hard." But I didn't stay in that place long - I really did have a great day. I accomplished so many of my goals; I stayed in the moment and enjoyed it all. I kept moving. I didn't give up. I made that bike cut off and that alone was a miracle!

We went back to the house and there was a lot of awkward silence. Two athletes - one made it, one didn't. I don't think anyone really knew what to say. My focus at that point was blueberry pie! Funny how a couple of hours earlier I couldn't eat anything.

Looking at the large number of text and FB messages on my phone, I knew I had better get a quick note out to those that had been watching online before heading to bed. This was my post:

"Here's the short version - after getting through every other cut off by the skin of my teeth (except the swim) I got pulled at mile 21 because I was not going to make the midnight cut off. For those of you who were watching the live feed, they said my name because they offered to let me cross the finish line anyway, but I thought better of that once I got there. Thank you all again for all your support. There were a lot of great positives about the day. More on that later. And no, I will not be signing up again tomorrow. Time for a break!"

That was at about 2:00 a.m. By 9:00 a.m. I was officially registered for IMLP 2014!

Next up....Why?

IMLP Race Report - Part 3 "The Run"

River Road, Lake Placid

The Run

I had only 6 ½ hours until midnight and only 6 hours until I hit hour 17 – the required finishing time. That meant that I would have to run a PR for the marathon. Not likely, but, "No matter, I'm going to keep moving." The two miles went pretty well. I ate my first shot-block at mile one as I planned to do for each mile – more of a mental countdown than nutrition related really. I knew that would be the only one I would eat. Perform at the aid station. I knew that would be the last perform I would be drinking. My body was so done with both. I drank water only at the next station.

I love, love, love River Road. As beautiful as the bike course is, this is my favorite part of event; especially the horse farm opposite the mountains. I had waited all day to get there. I saw several T2 teammates on this stretch. When they saw me, there was a slight look of surprise quickly followed by relief. Their little "celebration" that I had made it was what I used as energy to keep going.

Near the 6+ mile turn around I started to feel a little foggy – "DAMN! I have to get something to go down." I took a gel, but that too was the last I could do. I hit the coke at the next station.

Up the hill in front of the ski jumps there was a DJ. He was playing the song "I Can Only Imagine" that plays in the Hoyt video. I started singing loud. He would find me later near the finish to tell me who he was and that he had loved my singing and that I knew all the words.

I don't really recall how much I was actually running at this point but I did walk the hill into town. PC and BL met me near the start of the out and back to run with me. Little did I know at the time that they were trying to push me to make the ½ way cut off by 9:00 p.m. I stopped at my special needs bag deciding it was time for the pepto chews. I took one look at the Pringles and my second lap of nutrition and through them back in the bag. By now they had the chicken broth out and I was rotating back and forth between that and coke. I was having a good time, talking with my friends and taking in the crowds. Tara Costa ran by us and PC yelled hello – she turned and waved. This was the only part of the course that I had not done in training and it seemed like it took forever to get to the turn around. On the way back I saw Matt Long. I pointed to him and yelled "You are my hero!" He yelled back "I love you too!" I laughed. Then BL turned to look at me and said "If you have enough energy to talk you are not running fast enough, now let's go!" I chuckled a little at her under my breath and then got serious. I finally got what they were doing.

I don't remember seeing the club and T2 people either time that I passed but I know I heard them. (I'm guessing I was causing the second stroke as they collectively held their breath to see if I had made it through.) PC and BL let me go on my own at the corner of Park and waited. I saw a man doing something on the road – removing the "second lap" arrow tape I think. He looked up at me. Sensing that he was going to stop me, I asked if I'd made it. He said "sorry." Turns out I was about 30-60 seconds too late. But then another staff member came up behind him and said "Yes – you're the last one." And they let me go. Truth be told, there was a little piece of me that would have been okay with being done. I mean, I had been out there now for nearly 15 hours. I had told PC that even if I made the cut-off there was no way I could finish by midnight. He said "Don't worry about that right now! You're the one that said this is the place of miracles." "No matter, I keep going."

The spectators and volunteers had been awesome all day long but let me tell you, the ones that stay until after dark are beyond awesome. Many of them told me they'd be right there when I got back. I saw a couple of my teammates again and knew they were on their way to the oval with plenty of time. Somewhere along the way a "final competitor" vehicle (an ATV type of vehicle) started following me. He pulled up alongside of me at one point and asked if his presence was bothering me. "Hell no, it's kind of comforting knowing you're there." I was really thinking of him as my personal bear chaser really – it is damn dark out there! Not long after that I actually passed another athlete. After the turn around I saw him being picked up by ambulance. He had clearly given it everything he had.

My watch had died at mile 18 so I had no idea what time it was but I was starting to feel a little guilty for keeping these people out there. They were packing up the aid stations but every one of them still had left out one or two of everything and offered to get me whatever I wanted. I tried some pretzels at one point but spit them out. Coke and then broth. Coke and then broth. At one point I though about the fact that I could in fact be "that person" on the video. The last finisher - how cool would that be!

The man on the ATV would pull up every once in a while to ask me how I was doing or to tell me that I was doing great and he wasn't going to leave me. Two different times a volunteer, biking back to town, rode next to me to encourage me. One was a little lost for words but finally said "you are what this is all about – never quitting, never giving up." No pressure right! Mile 18...mile 19.... mile 20. Just feet before entering my favorite stripe of River Road I had to make a pit stop. There was some whispering in the rest area near by. As I approached, a woman stepped out of her truck and told me she had to pull me off the course. I wasn't questioning, but she went through the entire reasoning; "we have a strict midnight cut-off;" "you're still five miles away;" blah; blah; blah. I looked at her and said "how did you get this job? " "They always send a girl" she said. The man on the ATV shook my hand and commended me on my efforts. He had to tell me who he was because I hadn't actually ever seen his face. I wish I remembered his name. I climbed into the truck.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

IMLP Race Report Part 2 "The Bike"

The Bike
I nearly ended my day running to get my bag and slipping on the wet wood platform, but stayed upright. I grabbed my bag and was off to the changing tent.  There were no more than ten women – lots of volunteers and seats to be had. My volunteer and all the volunteers all day long, was awesome. She dumped the bag and started packing up my wetsuit and swim gear. I choose the sleeved jersey; arm warmers and calf sleeves (remind me to skip that next time!) We struggled a little with the sunglasses as I had backed two pair (you know in case one broke – paranoid!) and I needed to change the lens given the misty and cloudy weather.  I put voltarin on my knees, stashed my #3 and #4 bags of nutrition in the jersey, grabbed my helmet and shoes and was out the door.

Last year a volunteer was ready with my bike, this time I had to yell my number so it took a little bit. I put my shoes on as she ran for the bike. I took a moment to let one blast of air out both tires given the wet roads. The mount line was starting to get a little crowded and mostly with men – meaning those a little less timid on the hair pin turn and steep descent just out of the gate. So I stood for a couple of seconds to wait for a clearing. Some volunteer said "way to have patience!" It was way more about fear of crashing than patience!

In my opinion, the worst part of the course is the first climb right after the ski jumps. It goes F-O-R-E-V-E-R. Turns out I'd get a break right in the middle….yep, flat tire, mile 4. Son of a !(*@#!@!. Right then I figured it was over. I needed EVERY MINUTE to make the cut off and here I had to stop and change a tire. "No matter, I will keep moving forward… stay in the moment. Now shut up and change the tire – you've got this."  As I took the cap off the valve I realized that I had not closed it after letting air out in transition and the cap had PROBABLY let the rest of the air out in the first couple of miles. PROBABLY……big descent ahead, 40 mph..hmmmmmm. Not taking the chance! I changed it and reached for the CO2 and inflator. Now I should say here that dozens of people had asked if I had everything I needed as they rode by. Each time I said I was good and they carried on.  So again, I reached for the CO2. GONE. I had none. I pulled out the other tube, checked the pocket.  Nothing.  GONE.  What?!  That sent me right back to "I'm done."  I prayed that race support would come but it was so early in the race. Before long one of the men tossed me a cartridge but no one wanted to toss their inflator because they couldn't do without it later if they had a flat. And no one wanted to stop and waste all that time. No one that is until Mandy – a total stranger with a big heart! (Coincidentally my coach knew her and noted the reference in her race report to this "woman looking miserable" that she stopped to help – yep that was me. I was so glad to be able to connect with her and thank her for stopping.)  Now I was back to "No matter, I'll keep moving forward. No way am I giving up at mile 4!"

My next lap (5 miles) was a 26 mph average. I flew down those hills, passing the people who were obviously on the course for the first time, white knuckling it -so grateful I had rode them in the rain during training! I stayed steady on the flats, careful to not overdue it. I ate and followed my nutrition plan – bag #1, one bottle of perform and one bottle of water gone before the turn around.  

Starting up the cherries I felt my back for the first time. "Shut up and ride, Shut up and ride, Shut up and ride." I don't know if it was my mind or the Tylenol I had taken at the turn around, but I kept moving. I was so glad that I had figured out that my friends had chalked the hills the day before because it gave me something to look forward to. When I got there, it was hard to see what they had written because of the rain. But it didn't really matter what it said, it was that it was there. Cool friends!  I also was told about another surprise that I should be looking for at the campground on 86….it was like Christmas.
At about mile 50 Andy Potts passed me. Yep – about 62 miles ahead of me – holy crap! I got to the next set of spectators, acted like I was out of breath and said "I tried to hold him but I just couldn't keep up."  They laughed.  Next was the sign that said "Caution, gay guy ahead, singing and dancing."  And oh ya there was – in a speedo and bowtie- I laughed.  Next was the group that had clearly practiced a variety of chants so they could choose the appropriate one for the oncoming cyclist.  I got "Shut-up legs! Shut-up legs!"  I heard someone else get something like "Beer at the finish! Beer at the finish!"  And finally, I hit the campground. There it was; a campaign-like sign posted in the ground with a full color picture of me and some awesome encouraging words.  Two women (sisters) who were at a training weekend I attended and that I hardly know, went to all that trouble. It was soooooo touching!  I looked at the cyclists around me and said "Hey! That's me! How cool is that?"

It was awesome to pass the spot where I had to stop the prior year, so much so that I made it my one pit stop. Mirror Lake Drive was incredible and there were tons of club members and T2 people yelling and screaming for me. Of course, above all the other voices I heard my coach. "GO HARD, GO HARD, GO HARD!!"  
Around the corner I stopped at special needs knowing that I wanted the CO2 cartridge and extra tube that I had in my bag. I also grabbed the extra water bottle so that I could fill it at the aid stations since the water bottles they were giving were not secure in my cages especially on the bumpy shoulders. One of my teammates, JE was my volunteer. She pulled things out one at a time asking if I want this or that. Finally she pulled out a small make-up compact. I wish I had a camera to get a picture of the look on her face. Knowing what she was thinking, I quickly explained that I had thrown that in because it had a mirror, which I would need if I had to fuss with contacts. I'm not sure she believed me but it was a good laugh, then and now. I grabbed the extra salt tabs, Tylenol and tums too. Then off for the next 56 miles.

Now, I had my Garmin on and was watching the lap splits some of the time, but for the most part I had no idea what time it was. Knowing my coach, the "go hard" had me a little concerned. On my way back out of town I saw MM. "What time is it?" I yelled. "12:55," she yelled back.  I had four hours and thirty-five minutes.  I knew I hit the course at about 8:05. That meant it had taken 4:50 for the first lap – but there was the flat. "No matter – I'll keep moving forward."  With that I focused most of the next 30 miles on nutrition, cadence and a steady effort. 
At the turn around I knew I still had a chance but I was starting to hurt and losing some energy. I was having a hard time getting myself to drink warm perform and eat those damn chews. Bonk bars were still appealing but I didn't want too much solid food in case I got to the run. I took more Tylenol and a couple of salt tablets. I had not finished my #3 bag but pitched it in favor of #4 where I knew there was some caffeine. I went for the gel in #4 just as I remembered that, in order to force myself not to do too much caffeine until the run, I had replace it with a non-caffeine variety. Screw that – aid station ahead. "ROCTANE PLEASE!"  It was the only thing I dropped at an aid station. But, behold the volunteer!! He ran after me until he could hand it off again. That and my Powerbar coke blasts did the trick. I was good until I hit the bottom of the bears.

Then came my one and only dark moment all day. And even then, it was fleeting because it was followed immediately by the one best "places of miracles" moment.  It was the very same general spot that I had seen the deer on my breakfast ride two years earlier after breaking my toe. It was the same general spot that I became aware of all the butterflies I had seen on my difficult training camp ride. I hadn't paid too much attention to my watch beyond knowing that I was still in the game. As I came around the corner to see the River Road intersection I looked; six miles, 25 minutes and three significant hills. I let the emotions take over and the tears started to fall. "I just want the chance to run" I thought. "I just want to run." Right then the sun came out very briefly and the only butterfly I had seen all day, a swallowtail, flew over my front tire.  GOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!  No caffeine can do that!  Up the bears, up the little bitch (our nickname for that Northwood hill) and around the corner onto Mirror Lake Drive. I heard a few random people yell "you're going to make it!" I saw people already on the run turn around. I heard the club and T2 people screaming. (I swear I gave them all near strokes at least twice that day!) I looked for ML but couldn't find her, hence the look of confusion on my face that people referenced later.  She was around the corner past the crowds. I saw her and starting sobbing. "I made it, I made it!"  After a brief acknowledgment through her own tears, she started yelling instructions. "How bad do you want this? You have to get in and out of that transition and start running! Go!"  
When I got to the dismount line, I don't think the volunteers could decide whether I was crying because I made it or because I didn't.  I had finished with FOUR minutes to spare!  Once my shoes were off I realized two things. One, my toes were cramped up in little balls and two, wow did I have to go to the bathroom!

P.S. So what happened to the CO2 and inflator that I had double checked were on my bike before racking on Saturday?  It never turned up later so sadly I am left with the conclusion that someone took it from my pack. Note to self!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Everything I hoped for.....well almost. IMLP Race Report - Part 1

Race Prep and the Swim

I was nowhere near the happy-go-lucky girl that I was last year on race morning.  Of all the parts of the day, the thing I was most nervous about was lining up for the new swim start.  I did not want to be stressed or rushed and I didn't see any way around that with the new entry.

Most of the house was empty on Saturday morning. (They went for a swim – that took FOUR hours. Later I realized they were out chalking the bike hills J) So I had a lot of quiet time and floor space to triple check my gear. I had taken time before leaving home on Tuesday to label 2-quart Ziplocs with the same labels my gear bags would have; warm clothes; bike; special needs bike; run, special needs run. I added another one for things that would go to transition after body marking – mostly nutrition  because didn't want it to sit out in the sun all day on Saturday.  I wrote everything I needed on the front with permanent marker and check the items off as they went into the bag.  On Saturday I dumped them one by one and did the same as items went into my gear bags.  I couldn't decide on sleeves or no sleeves for the bike jersey so I packed both. Same for my RSN – both short and long sleeve running tops. I went to my bike and checked on the tubes and CO2 that I always keep in my seat pack – check.  I filled my bottles, put them in the refrigerator and made a big sign reminding me to get them in the morning.  I set out all my breakfast food – coffee, GF oatmeal, banana and almond butter.  Check, check, check.

At about 11:30 a.m. BL and I packed up the bags and the bikes (twice because, thank goodness, we realized that his bike would not clear the carport before trying to drive under it!) and headed to town.  We lucked out and got a parking spot near the oval. We even had police officer stop traffic for us so I could parallel. I racked my road-bike-without-arrow-bars Ruby into her spot. It was right next to a $5K+ bike that belonged to a woman who looked like she had been doing this since she was five and had no problem telling me that I was doing it wrong (?)  "Stay in your own business!" I thought – meaning ME stay in MY own business – I am doing my race, no one else's.  Later, when I was hanging my bags next to hers I learned that she had a Lake Placid DNF too.

The house was still quiet when we returned.  I had my planned lunch – turkey sandwich on GF low fiber bread and GF pretzels - and then went upstairs to review my race plan and try to nap. Later BL asked about the race plan. Reviewing it with him was a great exercise for me. Calm, slow and steady, positive, stay in the moment…..those were repeated objectives throughout the whole day.

Once we arrived at 4:30 a.m. and got marked, I went into transition and pumped my tires, stocked my nutrition and headed with my swim bag to the team tent.  I had almost an hour before 6:30 rolled around.  My first trip to the bathrooms had no line and the second time I snuck in the side and cut – again no waiting.

I was desperate for music to distract me and was bumming that I had not thought to bring my headphones. I sat and stared, a few tears streaming down my face from the nerves. Then I remembered that my aqua iPod was in with my swim gear – booya! I put on my favorite playlist, sang and waited for the warm-up area to open.

With a mass-start, you can be in the water, relaxed or warming up, swim to shore and get to the bathroom or the tent if you forgot something or your goggles broke.  With this start I assumed people would be lined up on shore hours before the cannon.  In order to be up front (where I needed to be to maximize my chances of making the bike cut-off) I figured I was s@&# out of luck if I broke my goggles, needed to go to the bathroom, wanted to dump my pre-race drink bottle, etc. As it turns out, athletes were not allowing to line up in their seed area until the warm up area closed. That meant everyone lined up at the same time – total relief!  I had a throw away bottle and an extra pair of goggles in my wetsuit that I checked at the eye glass table.  I swam from the warm up area right to my spot ten minutes before the start – totally relaxed and without issue.

The swim itself was uneventful. I got right on the cable and stayed there the entire two laps. This start made it easy to get on the cable so, of course everyone wanted to be there. I got clocked in the head a couple of times and a few nails in the face from some woman who was doing backstroke (!) It was a little tough at the buoys because some people were swimming just inside the line between them but then moved out to go around them on the proper side. I had drafting options most of the way. I finished in 1:14.03. One minute faster than last year.  I saw ML on the side line, already chocked up – going to be a LONG day for her! Off to transition!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Syracuse 70.3 Race Report

But those who have patience and trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:31
I'm not a very religious person but this quote, displayed on a church marque during last years IMLP,  has stayed with me all year. It was just after the start of the climb into Wilmington and where I first started to feel my back. I thought it was meant to give me hope to get through the bike and then I'd be ok on the run. Little did I know at that point that I was going to have to be patient for a year. When I reference the quote, there doesn't seem to be a version that has the word patience in it, but I swear it was there - I don't know, maybe I made that part up. Nevertheless, I hoping that it is a part of the miracle I am relying on for July 28th.
I spent a long weekend in LP at the beginning of June with a group of women I didn't know - many training for Syr. 70.3.  I hate biking with a group - you'd think that it would be the group part that makes biking fun, but for me it's just frustrating. I am slow as a turtle and ALWAYS last. This time was no different, and because it was a training, a staff member stayed back with me - nice, but totally embarrassing. My personal trainer once said to me that it I were sitting at a table with a group of triathletes, I would see every one at the table as an athlete except for me. He was right. I tried hard to put myself at the table all weekend. It was the butterflies that helped. I saw hundreds of swallowtails (my favorite) on the course ride that day. At one point I put them together with the patience part of the quote - you know the cocoon thing; it's got to be rather frustrating for that damn catapillar to struggle to get out of there. But when she is often referred to as a miracle - right?!  When I went into town that night the woman in my favorite LP store raved about the "beautiful butterfly tatoo" I have on my back. No one had mentioned that tatoo in years - in fact I often forget that I have it. That was also when I saw the plaque that read "don't believe in miracles, rely on them." That confirmed for me that I was suppose to be paying attention.
So what does this have to do with Syracuse 70.3 race? I was so frustrated about that race the day after. The swim was clean and I was on my own almost the entire way, but it took F-O-R-E-V-E-R!  I looked at my watch when I stood up and thought - WTH?? The slowest of my three Syr 70.3 swim times. And I was exhausted! I didn't even attempt to run the 1/4 mile to transition.  Turns out, the swim was 1.4 not 1.2 miles as it was suppose to be. I know that is only a few 100 yards but when that's not what you are expecting you feel it. Also turns out I was fourth in my age group. Some good things come with turning 50 - smaller age groups! :)
I was nervous about the bike, especially the climbs. I kept myself upright as much as possible and made it to the top of Sweet Road in my usual time. I love that the hill on 80, that I had to WALK my first year, didn't make me feel like my heart wanted to pound right out of my chest - progress!  My nutrition was ok. Aid stations uneventful. No bathroom stops - that's a first!  Still I was feeling tired and, while not struggling, just couldn't get into a rhythm. My feet were cramping like crazy and I kept taking one side then the other out of the clips on Apula Rd. in prep for the run. When I dismounted I looked at ML who was waiting there for me to come in and said "I have never been so fucking glad to be off this bike!" Clearly I wasn't thinking about the dozens of other people standing there but they seemed to get a good laugh out of it.  Results - a bike time that was the slowest of my three Syracuse races. So frustrating knowing how far I have come to think that this effort was worse than my first nearly two years ago.
So, did I mention it was hot? I used the half bottle of water that I had left on my bike to dump over my head and down my tri shorts before heading out on the run. Couldn't wait to see my coach to tell her that "I didn't have to make a bathroom stop" (right Beth?) and then filled my fuel belt bottles at the aid station. Even though my swim and bike had not been PRs, I could still have an overall PR with a good run split and relatively easy based on how I had been running. I guess I hadn't really realized on the bike how incredibly oppressive the heat was, but it didn't take long to feel it on the run. When I got to the hill past aid station 2, EVERYONE was walking. It was like that most of the rest of the way. I kept dumping water over my head and grabbing ice. The first loop was the longest 6.5 miles I'd ever done - bye, bye PR. As I headed out on the second loop the rain began. I was so thrilled. The next two miles were much more of what I had been hoping. And just when it was picking up for me - boom! Thunder and lightening and they called the race. I was a little more than a mile from the turn-around. Those that had made it there and finished were offical. But I didn't take a ride back. I finished a couple of miles short and got my medal but also another big DNF. So frustrating!
This was suppose to be a HUGE PR race for me. Disney was supposed to be a HUGE PR race for me. Mountain Goat was suppose to be a PR race for me!  My running has improved by as much as 3 -4 minutes a mile in training but no one would know that but my coach. All three races were a struggle. And in large part it was because all three were so hot and humid. One of the pros at Syracuse indicated the run was worse than running in the lava field at Kona. 
So what now? Patience - still time to get out of that cocoon to "run and not grow weary."

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Very Long Race Report for a Very Short Race - Ironman Lake Placid 2012

I wasn’t going to write a race report – thinking I didn’t have a race. But I did, it just didn’t turn out the way I had planned.

The days leading up to the event where great – I felt a little like a rock star (and ML would tell you I acted like one) My best friend flew in from Detroit and one of my newest friends came up from Syracuse to be with me and my family at the house we rented. I wasn’t allowed to do much except sit with my feet up and hydrate. I wasn’t nervous, but it was obvious that I wasn’t focusing on much other than the race losing my wallet one night and the car and house keys several times!

On Saturday I received a package from one of my Disney Diva friends loaded with goodies for after the race. Saturday night my coach and her family joined us for a big pasta dinner. That was when the shirts were presented. ML had taken various pictures from my collage and put them on t-shirts with “Team Deborah” at the top…….everyone had a different picture or caption that was an important part of my journey. Very cool!

I slept well considering, awaking up at 3:30 just before the alarm went off. My morning routine was exactly at it had been for all my long training days. Everyone else was up by the time we left for transition. I went to body marking and then I added my nutrition to my bike and gear bags making sure everything was in place – I thought of all those nameless people in the race videos I watched hundreds of times – now I was one of them. I went to the T2 team tent to get ready for the swim. One last trip to the porta-potty had me a little freaked out because the line was so long and I didn’t have much time. About ten people back in the line I was headed for there was a mom and her four children. She wasn’t paying attention. I slipped in the line. Yes, I cut in front of four small children – I am not proud of it, but they didn’t have to be at the start line in a few minutes.

I entered the water and scanned for the perfect spot – ha! I located my family and friends on the shoreline and swam over to wave. They got some great pictures. I looked around the crowd of 2500 other athletes and thousands of spectators. I looked at the spot where I had stood one year earlier, on the shore watching from the outside. I thought of everything that it had taken to get from that spot to the water I was now treading. I thought of all the times I had almost given up. Nothing has ever felt quite as good as that moment. I was going to have a great day. I started my watch 2 mins early.

I started in the middle – behind the thick front line of risk takers and the heavy curve of the apprehensive lining the shore. When the cannon went off I lowered my head and swam very relaxed into the crowd. I never felt the “washing machine” effect and I was rarely hit with the exception of one good whack in the head. And surprisingly I found myself right on the cable. I was stuck however. In retrospect BJ was probably right advising me to go right to the flags for the start. Starting behind that line made it very difficult to pass people. Once I got around a group, another one was right there again. Despite never really getting a long strong stroke pattern I went 37 mins for the first lap. About 2 minutes slower than I had hoped for a 1:10 finish.

I tried to yell to my family at the start of the second loop but that was fruitless. I choose to swim wide on the second loop hoping I could gain some ground. Thank God for the guy next to me! Because we were wide I wasn’t paying attention to the buoys and was about to shoot right past the turn around to the next yellow buoy – he saw me going in the wrong direction and yelled “the red one, the red one!” Finally the crowd was breaking up a bit and I had my own space closer to the buoys on the way back to shore. 1:15:35…17 minutes to get on the bike. I HAD to be on the course by 8:30 because every minute on the bike was going to matter.

Luckily I had a seat and a volunteer in the changing tent. T1 - 10:51 and I was on the bike four minutes ahead of schedule. I also had space at the mount line and easily got around the switch-back without incident. My family was yelling and waving as I went down Colden (well, the ones who realized I had changed from blue to pink – the others missed me.) That first climb is like the Syr. 70.3 prison hill – my least favorite part of the course, but I felt good. Eat. Drink. Off to Keene. I was amazed that I barely touched my brakes for most of the descent. It was obvious which athletes had not ever been on the course before – they were very hesitant. Who can blame them - that stretch is scary! I was very happy to see the bridge and the sign for 9N – just 3 months earlier I had ridden the course with a friend and had a picture from that very spot. That seemed like a lifetime ago and I was certain that my brakes were not at all hot the way they were that day – progress.

The next 15-20 miles were flat. Eat. Drink. Grab water at the aid station. Try not to think about the tight turn around. I was right where I wanted to be time wise. It was fun to see people I knew on the out and back. The weather was perfect. I was having a great day. You know how they say if you don’t like the weather in central NY just wait five minutes and it will change. That was one of the first things I learned in triathlon; whether you are feeling great or you’re in a dark place, just wait and it will change. And with that right turn to Wilmington it all changed.

I had felt this pain in my lower right back a few times recently. I’d stand and stretch or get off the bike and use the bathroom and I’d be fine. So I figured, wait five minutes and it will change. But it didn’t. The added pressure from climbing was making it worse. When I hit a short flat or a downhill it would let up enough to hope. By “cherry #3” I was in tears. Every time someone would ride by I would turn my head so they couldn’t tell. Finally I hit Hazelton Road and a few miles with no hills. I thought I’d stop at the aid station and stretch and hit the porta-potty hoping it would help. But instead I just kept going, afraid I wouldn’t continue if I got off. It was starting to get hot in the sun and when the next bout of pain started I pulled over across the road in the shade, tried to stretch and not let people see the tears. I wished I had put Tylenol in my special needs bag or bento. I thought if I could get just a couple more miles I’d have a chance to recoup on the second descent into Keene and the flat into Ausable. That would get me to the last 20 miles and maybe the pain will stop. But then it hit me – there was the “prison” hill to get through before the descent. Ok then, just get back to Lake Placid and then reevaluate.

Eat. Drink.... Drink? I was on bottle four and had a full bottle before the swim – nearly 120 oz and I had not gone to the bathroom; that can’t be good. There was less than six miles to go to get back to Lake Placid and suck the energy from the crowd to go again when I saw an aid station. I pulled over, got off the bike, handed it to the volunteer and sat on the pavement and sobbed. I was done. Seven months of training hundreds of hours, 4:30 am mornings, two broken toes, several meltdowns, thousands of dollars and it all ended at mile 50 on the bike – not even half way. Once I started to compose myself the volunteer asked what was wrong. I told him and they called for medical.

I tried one last time to go to the bathroom before agreeing to their assistance– nothing. And with that I was off to the med tent. I knew my friend Ginny would be there. She had done Lake Placid 3 times before getting to the finish and she would know exactly how I felt. I asked for her the minute we got there. I watched as her hands covered her face and she mouthed the words “oh no.” She gave me a big hug – no “its okay” no “everything will be fine.” Instead she said “you will not give up – you have to come back and do it again.”

It has not been easy – one minute I am fine and the next I’m a mess. I try to focus on three things;

#1 - One of the last pieces of advice I got before heading to Lake Placid was that if it didn’t go as planned it was not the end of the world – “be grateful you were able to be out there at all, plenty of people have much bigger problems.” That helped me to put things in perspective and make the right decision.

#2 – As hard as it was for me to be at the finish line as a spectator, I was able to watch my friends and my teammates finish for one of the first times ever. (Reality for a back-of-the-packer!) I knew how hard they had worked and it was a thrill to see their dances and expressions as they heard Mike Reilly call them “Ironman.”

#3 – And this is the most important - not for one second have I second guessed my decision. At that moment, on that day, it was impossible for me to continue. I have no doubt that was the reality…..but Impossible is Temporary :)

P.S. The jury is still out but the pain was either my kidney’s shutting down from the inability to absorb the liquid I was drinking or a kidney stone. TBD.