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!