Wednesday, July 29, 2015

the post mortem :: IMCDA

After ironman.

I expended so much energy to make it to that finish line that by the time I was done, I was numb. I was excited in the immediate aftermath, but by the next day, I didn't know what to feel. I wanted so badly to be on cloud 9, and I wasn't. I've learned now that the typical 'runner's high' isn't always applicable for an ironman race. Since then, it's slowly come on a little more. But like any huge event, once it was here, it was over "so fast" (sort of) and then there was nothing left to do other than to sort through the emotions and feelings of the experience.

So where does that leave me, with regard to ironman?

I am incredibly proud of myself for the day that I endured. In no way am I trying to be all humble braggy with "look how much I overcame to be an ironman!" because I didn't want to. It's true, I fought through a lot. I pushed my body for 17 hours on a sliver of the nutrition I'd planned, and anyone who is an endurance athlete knows all too well how brutal that is. I had to overrule every natural instinct to stop and save my body. But I wanted to quit. I was sad, I was bleak. I think I said repeatedly "It wasn't supposed to be like this". And it wasn't.

Everyone says an ironman isn't supposed to be easy. I agree. Like the quote from A League of Their Own, "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard... is what makes it great". But, it was never supposed to be THAT hard. I was truly heartbroken that all the months of diligent training I had done was being wasted.  I know that's not true. Had I not trained so smart and so hard, I probably wouldn't have been able to keep going. However, I couldn't help but think to myself how unfair it was. Maybe that is a childish sentiment, and it was sure useless to me. I know so many people didn't get to finish the race at all. I did. But I felt so much disappointment that my body was so unable to race well. Everyone battled the same conditions and so many athletes were still able to accomplish stellar performances. I was envious of that.

For my first ironman, I truly did want to enjoy the experience. For the majority of the race, I didn't. I didn't want to wish it away, but eventually, I was. I wanted to stay in the present, but the miles ahead couldn't be ignored. Had it not been my first ironman, I may not have finished. But somewhere inside, I could NOT live with the idea of not finishing, for as long as that choice was mine. There were plenty of miles where I didn't care, I didn't care if I couldn't finish because I had so many legitimate reasons not to continue. But, I couldn't not finish. Not unless they pulled me off the course.

And of course, I am also competitive. Even if it was my first race, and I didn't plan on having any major time goals, I still had certain loose ideas of what I was capable of. I wanted to do justice to all my training. Erin had done an incredible job of coaching me, and I wanted to show it off. I wanted to race to the best of my abilities. I wanted all the miles I had ridden and run in the snow, rain, or heat to pay off. It was so difficult for me to let go of that. Endurance races are always a gamble-you never know how it will turn out, and very few races ever turn out to be unicorns and puppies and rainbows. But, I never really expected it to turn out like this.

So no, I am not done with ironman. It will be a while before I can take on the distance again, because of family and life. Everyone sacrifices so much to get an ironman to her start line, and then to the finish. In the time I have been with Jordan, we have each done an ironman. It takes it's toll, and NO finish line is worth the risk of our relationship, if he's not on board with it. That, and I really need him to forget the experience we had in CDA before I can try again! But, I know I'm not done. Similar to my first marathon, when I finished, I knew I wasn't done, but I knew I didn't want to experience that again for a while. Still, I eventually came back, and have since run marathons that I know reflect what I am capable of. I want that for ironman. It's not really about the time, it never is. I want to be able to race to my potential. And someday, I will.

I am so incredibly proud of the day I had at ironman for what it taught me. I've wanted to quit races before, when my goal pace goes out the window. When I knew I wouldn't PR, qualify for Boston, or any other goal. I've given up plenty of times, and half-assed my way to the finish line.  At ironman, I had to dig deeper than I ever have before. When there was nothing left physically or mentally to pull from, it was sheer willpower that kept me going.  I got to experience things at ironman that I never expected. The darkness of the course after sunset. The raw emotion of trying to push your body when it's done. The finish line in the last hour... the last minutes. I had always wanted to go back at midnight (or 11pm, in this case) to see that. But I got to live it. I never, ever planned for that... but I can't deny it was pretty incredible to be on this side of it.

And someday, Lord (and family) willing, I'll make it there again.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

the run :: IMCDA

 My first thought was to wish Jordan had been along the 'run-out' chute because there were some actual smiles here. I don't remember exactly where I finally saw him again-but I wish he hadn't missed the smiles I managed as I ran out.
Oh Hey! No more bike 

As I headed out the chute, I heard some yells. For the most part, I hadn't been registering cheers but I looked and saw my dad and Lori!! These pictures basically cover all the emotions that I went through as I realized it was them, and make me laugh a little.

They hugged me tight (even covered in sweat!) gave me more encouraging words, and assured me they'd been there throughout the day. I was so grateful to have a moment of words with them, and know they were proud of me. I was determined to fight to the finish, even if the race wasn't what I wanted. I ran on a little further and at a gap in the fence... BEN! I immediately teared up again, stopped and hugged him so tightly and told him I made it home. I could tell he was giving me his 'tough kid' smile though he was definitely concerned about his mama throughout the day.

After that, I made it out onto the run course feeling a little lighter from the hugs from family. My legs were aching so badly from all the previous cramps. I managed to run, though there was no 'holding myself back' it was just 'hey, this is running... sort of... right?' I took a turn heading toward the library and passed the pack of Spokane Swifts women! They were cheering so loud and it lifted me a little more. I was so happy to see them even if I didn't show a TON of emotion. My entire 'run' was saved by the people who carried me and stayed beside me. Just past them were Nick and Sonia, and then Sara, Brandon and the Alphonse head! Sara ran next to me for a few steps, and sent me on my way.

Still early enough to be smiling

With Sara, and Alphonse! Brandon opted not to run with us

I made my way along Sanders Beach and through the neighborhoods-I picked up my sister for a few yards and she encouraged me along with her 'this is Mordor' sign (or was it Welcome to Mordor? I don't remember!). I made sure to get watered down with every garden hose, mister, random stranger with a spray bottle. My Hokas were sponges immediately. At the first aid station I slowed to a walk, grabbed coke and a few orange slices. I sucked the juice out of the oranges, drank a few sips of coke and got loaded up with ice. I did this at every aid station for the first half of the run. Coke, orange slices, ice and water. It was all I could handle. Then I would shuffle on. I saw familiar faces on the course, and when they would cheer or wave or pause to hug me, I would melt down. My emotions walked a tightrope on the run course, and I was struggling to keep myself together. Out along the familiar route to Bennett Bay, I kept up my pattern of shuffle walk shuffle some more. I saw my friend Merissa who was struggling with GI issues on her run and we hugged. My sister and Jordan came out on the moped and caught up to me around Bennett Bay at miles 6-7, and as I worked up the hill I spotted a neon hat I recognized from Instagram! I caught up to see the front of it, and it was penguins! I know this hat! Though it was definitely a "I know you from instagram, I don't remember your name though!" It was Rosanne, who went on to finish an amazing ironman. I pulled the same convo with her friend/spectator Mac ('hi, I know you from insta, but who are you'). I felt so rude, but honestly, I barely knew my name anymore.

I made the turnaround-steadily back up and over Bennett Bay, and my sister hopped off the moped to 'run/walk' with me while reading me comments from facebook. She was posting for me all day and it was so uplifting to hear everything people were saying and feel so much support from people. I was amazed by the amount of people who were rooting so hard for me. It kept me going. Eventually Amanda dropped off, and I kept moving. After an aid station around mile 9, the nausea was back. Nooooo. My legs were still aching from cramps, and I hesitated to put any more coke and oranges in. I continued sipping my ice water bottle, and dousing my head. I made it up the hill by the resort, and down the other side, with nausea growing.  I chewed into my rolaids and tried to get a few down. The jostling of even a slow shuffle jog was too much for my stomach, and my legs. So by 10 miles, I was walking. Power walking, but walking. I wouldn't run much more after that. My body and mind were so exhausted, and with the sporadic crowd/athlete support, I was getting lonely. But exactly when I need it, friends appeared! Alyssa showed up again, with Jessie! Then Buffy and Julie! I have run with these women for years (since high school with Buffy) so having them alongside me was awesome. I was still a pessimistic mess, but it was so helpful... and I was speed walking as hard as I could as they had to jog to keep up. Buffy stuck with me for a little while, trying to talk me out of the dark place by telling me how great I was doing.  I passed the amazing guys at the BASE electrolyte salt booth in the neighborhoods. There was one guy there, who's name escapes me, that kept encouraging me all through the run. He was watching for me and assuring me I would make it in. He later found me at the finish line and gave me a hug.
Super gorgeous strugglebus

I got through town, feeling more and more nauseous. I saw Jordan, Levi (my brother in law) and my nephews shortly before halfway! They were so cute but I couldn't muster a smile really. Sara found me around special needs, and I sat down to change my soaking socks and cried on the curb. I was so sick, I couldn't stand... I had the volunteer tie my shoes for me, and then dragged myself up and walked on, in tears. I've spectated in town and it is usually so crowded. As I made my way down Lakeshore and to the turnaround to head back out it was empty. Dead. The Team Blaze folks shoved more ice in my top and encouraged me along. Catherine from the Swifts walked along the empty sidewalks talking to me and I cried. It felt so impossible. I couldn't fathom going back out of town again. My mom showed up on the course and I hugged her. I could hear Mike Reilly calling ironman finishers a block over and I was nowhere near done. I was feeling so sick, and so defeated. There is no sugar coating it. I was in a hole. I wanted to quit so badly, but I also had this underlying sense of pride at how hard I was really fighting when I had nothing to give. 'I am doing this. I don't even know how but I am doing it.'
Ben, Mac and Wylie had these rad shirts on course

I headed back through the neighborhoods, and saw my friend Bobby along Sanders. I cried again, and he hugged me as he went on to become an ironman. I kept walking. I passed the BASE tent again, and was assured by them that I WOULD be an ironman, keep taking the salts. I kept walking. I made it up the hill by the resort, and through the aid station, and then I stopped. My entire body was rebelling, and I just knew I needed to stop for a minute (or several). As soon as I sat down on the curb, a medic was on me. Asking how I felt, what I needed, was I done? He gave me a cup of iced broth. I took a sip and tossed it aside. My sister drove by at this moment, stopped, parked and sat beside me. I said I felt like throwing up, and a medic dragged the trash can over. I wasn't sure at that point if I just felt sick or really was. I grabbed the trash can and threw up 5 or 6 times, every fluid I hadn't sweated out came back up. My entire body was cramping with the effort and I could hear my sister sounding so dismayed. Athletes walking by were yelling and encouraging me to get it over and get moving again. Eventually it stopped, and I looked right at my sister and said "I can't do this anymore. I can't." and she asked if I was sure. I got up, and without any idea how, I started walking anyway. The medic who had been calling for an ambulance stopped me, took my BP (normal) and let me continue. I started to 'run'. For the first time I felt better. I saw Heather's husband Andy, and then Heather who stopped to make me smile for a picture and encourage me along!
Pretending I didn't just puke my guts up! This is so fun!

I ran a little over a mile and then I began to shuffle/walk again. The immediate relief from throwing up was replaced with emptiness in my body. I started feeling foggy. I made it to Bennett Bay and it took me an eternity to make it to the turnaround. It was so close, yet as I walked up the hill, my vision was blurring, and I couldn't really feel my body anymore. I sat down. On the side of the hill. I was so disoriented and fatigued. A volunteer got me up and walked next to me for a bit, and then sat me down again. I was really struggling to focus on the task at hand and even open my eyes. I lost a good amount of time here again with medics trying to force a few calories into me (2 pretzels that tasted like sand, and a sip of coke). This is when the guy from the bike saw me and reminded me of my words. 'Go become an ironman. Get up. You said you would! Mike Reilly is waiting.'
And in least flattering pictures ever... 

I got up again. A truck passed me and yelled that I had to RUN to make the turnaround cutoff. I tried. I couldn't run. My friends Danielle and Rob drove by at this moment, with Greg and Natalie. Danielle and Natalie jumped out and walked me to the turnaround. I was giving my glowstick necklace. I was panicking about making the turnaround (I did, by 12 minutes per 9:30 cutoff). They walked with me in the dark for a bit. My head was so lost, I was so confused, and I was wavering back and forth between DOING IT and being done. I kept asking if I would make it. I had 6+ miles back to town. The girls from before showed up. They took turns walking around me, with their own glowsticks. I just struggled to keep pushing forward. I told them I just wanted to go home. I kept asking where Jordan was, I hadn't seen him since the half way point in town. Alyssa texted him and told him he needed to be out there-and he was, in record time. One of the girls took his car, and was leapfrogging us. They kept walking around me in the dark, and I focused every bit of energy on the next landmark. Jordan walked next to me and encouraged me. Without those friends circling, and without Jordan, I wouldn't have finished in time. There's no doubt.

He kept up positive talk to me, and kept assuring me I would make it. I kept trying to do math on the fly... don't do math on the fly. I was doing it backward, thinking I had extra minutes based on my swim start. I had less minutes. I didn't know and they didn't tell me. I could sense that Jordan was trying to coax me to move faster, without telling me I was in danger of a cutoff, but I was convinced I had the time. My pace had picked up since Jordan joined me. We made it back to the BASE tent one last time and they encouraged me along. I made it through the neighborhoods. I was sucking on ice chips. By now I had ditched the bottle with my sister (and my HR monitor. I was pulling everything off I could) and had even given someone else my watch because it was too much.

I have never focused so hard on forward progress in my life. My legs were cramping, my feet ached so badly from cramps. We came out of the last corner of the neighborhood and the other girls had long since left to be at the finish line. Nick came out to find us while Erin and Sonia waited. At this point, unknown to me, everyone was stalking their trackers hard, worrying I wouldn't make it in. I kept walking, and mumbling random thoughts to people. Nick went back to the finish, and I made it to the corner of Sherman. Jordan had been telling me EVERYONE was waiting, and that the stands were full, and it was bright and loud and I just had to get there. I told him I couldn't run. I knew my legs wouldn't do it and falling on Sherman would mean the end of my race. He left me at the corner and went to the finish line. I tried to run. I shuffled along for a block, then walked as my legs cramped. I wanted so badly to run down Sherman and I couldn't. I had been dreaming about running this stretch for YEARS and I couldn't run it.

Merissa's husband Nate came out onto Sherman around 4th (he had finished much earlier that day) and told me I had 45 seconds (I had a bit more) to make it to the finish. He told me I HAD to run. I was so confused, and suddenly terrified. I started running-which was a painful awkward shuffle. Everyone who said the pain would vanish as I hit Sherman was wrong. It took every bit of strength to make sure I didn't fall down on the road.
Nate inducing panic and making me run

And then I was to the finishing stretch. And it was incredible. It was so loud, and there were so many people in the stands, and I tried to high five people, I tried to see. Suddenly Mike Reilly was next to me! I barely heard my name, and I heard 'you are an ironman!' though I didn't register the rest of it until I watched the videos later to hear the full finish, "Monica Eskebacker (not quite) you did it Monica!! You! Are! YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!". I managed to put my arms up, and smile. And I was over the line with 47 seconds to spare.
Lights, noise, people!


Run split: 6:41:26  Garmin Moving Time: 5:57

Official Finish Time: 16:59:13

The aftermath: 
I immediately fell into some volunteers, who put my medal around my neck, and then I insisted on sitting down. I did, and they pulled me back up saying I needed to walk to be okay. I got my finisher picture and then made it to the edge to hug my people.
when you try not to look tired, and instead look crazy

Erin was in the finish area with me, and Merissa, her husband, and Matt. Emily, my lifelong friend, called to me from the side and I was so happy to hug her. Jordan looked completely relieved it was over. My dad and Lori were there, my mom, Ben, all the girls who had walked with me.
Super Blurry with Erin 

Hugging Emily!!

Relief (Jordan too)

The volunteers told me there was nothing left in the medical tent, not even broth, and no IVs. So I exited, and while everyone told me to walk, I laid down in the grass. This was a terrible mistake. My calves, shins, and feet began to cramp and it was the worst pain I've experienced. Including child birth, honestly. I was crying, and screaming for people to help me. I begged them to rub my legs, do anything. I couldn't move. Jordan tried to help, and my sister. Eventually a medic came over and offered no help. I know it wasn't their fault, but shutting down the med tent when the last finishers probably need the most help was beyond frustrating at that point. They gave me a cup of gatorade, but I just laid there in pain. Sonia eventually talked me into breathing slowly and it helped me to relax. But as soon as one wave of cramps subsided, another started. Eventually they abated enough that I was able to sit up a little more, drink some gatorade, and be fed chips. I was so scared to try to stand up, and on top of that, get into a car. My family and friends began to dissipate.
Dad and Amanda!

Ben, in his Team Monica shirt

I was so sad afterward that I got no pictures with anyone who was there at the end. They supported me TO THE END and I was such a mess I couldn't get the pictures I'd waited all day, and all year for. Jordan got his car right down to the resort, and we got me loaded in. My mom took Ben home, and Jordan took me right to the ER. He tried to put me in a wheel chair, but standing seemed easier, and we shuffled me inside to check in before he parked. It was nearly midnight. I got checked in, and my sister showed up. I managed to change into dry shorts and my finisher top while Jordan did the paperwork. I went through admit with a nurse, who weighed me. I had lost 10 lbs since that morning. I was gobsmacked. 10 lbs?! I was put into a bed, and given an IV and anti-nausea medication and a nice warm blanket. They did blood work, and we waited. Once we knew all was well, I sent my sister home to get some rest. I tried to chat, and look through ALL the messages on my phone, but eventually I fell asleep. Jordan fell asleep in the chair next to me with his head on the bed. Once my IV was done and bloodwork was back (my electrolytes were low, but right on the edge of the normal range-so at least I know I was somehow keeping it balanced). We were discharged and made it home around 3am.

Over 24 hours after our day had started it was finally over. I did it. I am an ironman.
Worth it. Ish.

Monday, July 13, 2015

the bike :: IMCDA

disclaimer: from here on out, the race recaps will get pretty real. and by real, I mean a lot out there happened that I'm not really proud of. hindsight: could I have done it better? different? I don't know, and I'll never know. The day is done, I handled everything it threw at me how I did, even if it was often times with pessimistic, panicky dark hole despair. 

Once I was on my bike I was pretty overjoyed. I certainly felt a little wobbly from the swim, and I knew it would take a few miles to get my bearings. I rode easy out of transition, trying to listen for family members, and checking my watch for my heart rate-which was sky high after the swim! I trusted it would come down some, though it would remain higher than the norm for any bike ride for me.
just getting onto the bike course! 

The nutrition plan: My bike was stocked with 3 bottles of Osmo Active, and 3 bonk breakers in my bento box, plus a bag of licorice in my pocket. This was my standard training fare for every long ride I did, and it worked very well for me every time. I never battled GI issues, I never bonked when I used it steadily. My plan with the new forecast was to get the bonk breakers down early (there were an additional few in my SN bag) and then switch to more licorice, and add GU chomps from aid stations if I needed a change of flavor. I would also sip away at my aero bottle of Osmo and then refill it from my rear cages, swapping those out with water bottles. I also had 3 more Osmo Active bottles waiting at special needs, and a total of 5 single serving packets to be mixed on the fly. I carried BASE electrolyte salt as well, shoved in my top. I typically wait 60 minutes to start eating, and for race day with a swim beforehand, I planned to start eating at 30 minutes into the ride. I began drinking immediately.

The first small loop was effortless. I've ridden (and run) out over Bennett Bay to Higgins point more times than I can count. I kept a close eye on my watts and was hovering well under target to keep it easy at first. I don't display speed on my watch so I wasn't aware until after the race what I rode for any particular section. I just settled in, pedaled away, and watched everyone fly by me. I hollered at a few friends as they blew past me, and just rode on. I started my eating, and worked on hydrating. I came through town, apparently early because I had to yell to get my family's attention as I went past heading for the highway! I grabbed a water bottle on the second aid station, wrapped my cooling towel around my neck and splashed a bunch of water on myself. I wasn't super warm, but I was being proactive. I tucked the remainder of the bottle into my back pocket and headed up over the no pass zone and out to the big loop.
Still having fun!! photo credit: Nick Weiler

Off to the highway!

Climbing Mica for the first time was definitely warming up. Without wind (because climbing) I was dripping sweat-of course I drip sweat just looking at a warm forecast so that's not saying too much. I carried on with my eating, drinking, and taking licks of the BASE salt. Everything was right on schedule. The volunteers were amazing at every station, and I was cheerful and chatty with other cyclists. I had one minor snafu grabbing a water at an aid station to find the protective cap hadn't been removed or even cracked. As soon as I grabbed it, the woman ahead of me decided she needed to stop. Abruptly. Right in my path. I braked and unclipped quick with a minor panicked curse word, and the guy behind me had the same reaction. But we all moved on quickly and safely. I spotted a Coeur Fleet Foxes top, creepily stared at the athlete (and her bike) a bit and realized it was Ashley! We chatted a bit as we rode, made the turn around just past Setters and headed back to town. I had to stop for a second as the new water bottle flipped upside down in my rear cage (?!) and I discovered that waters would have to be in my pockets, not my cages.
Climb climb climb! And still smiling!

On the way back into town, I was taking advantage of the fact that we had more downhill than up, and it was free speed. I was watching miles tick by on my garmin and feeling decent. That quickly changed. I had tried, sort of, to pee on the bike but I didn't REALLY have to go... which unnerved me. I never don't have to pee. Half my spring training was spent seeing if I could make it further between restrooms. I was drinking a lot, but not too much, to avoid the slosh and overdoing it. Why didn't I have to pee? I carried on, and then the nausea began. I had finished one bonk breaker, and allowed myself a reprieve of 'just have licorice' before the next bonk breaker. The nausea was so intense I was filled with panic. I wish I could say I kept positive but the major thought was 'I am in trouble. I have so far to go, and I can't keep my food down' as I started experiencing acid reflux, food, and stomach bile creeping up my throat repeatedly. I sat up, only took a few drinks of water for a few miles, and tried to take deep breaths and tell myself it would pass.
trying to calm the nausea

 I came through town with tears in my eyes (which my family and friends saw, despite my sunglasses) and a head full of fear. Not what you want in an Ironman. I hit halfway around 3:26 on my watch, and well under watts. I focused on getting to special needs where I had rolaids waiting for me. I stopped once at a porta-potty though I didn't have to go badly-I just wanted to see if I could determine my hydration levels.

"don't cry don't cry, oh crap I'm crying"

Around the special needs turnaround, I made a command decision to ditch my nutrition plan (NOT what you should do mid-race, but I felt I had no choice. Vomiting on the bike wasn't what I wanted to do, so I knew I had to revamp). I grabbed my bottles (still slushy!) got doused with water, sprayed with new sunblock (no sunburn anywhere on me! Major win!) grabbed my rolaids and a few gels and chomps. I've eaten these most of my endurance training career, and decided they might be easier to get down. Calories were calories at this point. I felt renewed. I had a plan. It would be okay. I rode back into town shoving a couple chomps down (barely chewed, chase with water as quick as possible). I had gels in my tank top with the ice they dumped in which made them cooler too. I never took a full gel at once, just small 'nips' at intervals. I continued working through my Osmo and water and began to tackle the big loop. Just one more out and back.
headed toward special needs, trying to figure out my plan of action

And shit. hit. the. fan. I slowly climbed the hill in the heat, feeling worse and worse. The rolaids had knocked the nausea out for a bit, but then it came back just as hard. And then the cramping began. I have never experienced cramping in racing or training. In hindsight, I don't think I would/could have done anything differently. I was drinking a lot, as much as I could without chugging bottles recklessly, and taking my salt at regular intervals. But it happened anyway. Fast, and intense, and I wound up unclipping from my bike and getting off in the road. If I hadn't, I would have crashed it. As it was, I still immediately cramped so badly I was in tears and another athlete stopped to help me hold my bike as I crumpled to the asphalt (which was a pleasant 147 at this point). He waited a few minutes encouraging me to take repeated hits of salt until I felt like I could at least move forward. I walked my bike a bit, until my legs calmed down enough that I could get back on safely. I rode on to the next aid station, stopped to grab a water and mix a new Osmo and I cramped again. A volunteer grabbed my bike and another put me into a chair in the shade. There were SO MANY athletes in chairs, on the ground, oh, and the aid station was out of water. They had dirty ice water they poured over us, and I was given a gatorade while a medic took all my stats (I could still spell my last name so I had to be somewhat coherent). My BP was high, and my HR wasn't coming down quickly but he kept asking what I wanted to do. I truly didn't know. My body was rebelling against me, despite my plan. I must have sat there for nearly a half hour before he felt I could continue, though he was reluctant to let me go. I even asked around for a cell phone to call Jordan, who was out ahead of me on the highway, waiting for me to ride by. The volunteer's phone was dead though. I got up, got back on the bike and continued with the 'please stop if it happens again' warning.

A few miles further I found Jordan and JJ. I stopped for a second, informed them of my condition, asked what my swim time was because I was dying to know, and then kept riding on. While I was making solid progress overall, my body only got worse from there, and I can't imagine the stress Jordan felt every time I got back on the bike. I made it to the next aid station (WITH WATER!!) proposed marriage to ALL the volunteers, got new water, new gatorade (any calories) and continued with my salt. I turned around, headed back toward town still doing my best to get in fluids and any calories I could. I found myself chatting with more athletes, including a guy who knew it was my first IM and I told him "Mike Reilly is going to call me an effing ironman, I am GOING to get there" (this guy would call me out later on the run with this reminder).

I passed another aid station, stopped for a water and BAM cramping again! My legs wouldn't hold me (if it sounds dramatic, it probably was. I was a staggering cramping mess). My friend Alyssa happened to be here at this moment, amazingly, and she did everything she could to perk me up and get me back on my bike. I was so defeated at this point, but continued to ride. The nausea was so intense, and now I had a pain in my back that in my delirious mind seemed like a kidney problem. I wasn't peeing, despite all the fluids, I was nauseous, and I was hurting. My body and mind were so bleak. Even if I made it back to town and off this bike, how... how would I continue. Shortly before the last climb I found Jordan and JJ one more time. I got off the bike, paced back and forth telling him my body felt wrong. A race official stopped to check on me, with an athlete already in his truck, and several bikes in the bed. He assured me it was okay that I wasn't peeing, but made me sit in the shade for a bit. I was pacing, bending over with my hands on my knees and when people asked what they could do, or what I needed, I just mumbled 'I don't know' but I got back on the bike yet again. One more climb, and then the descent into town, a mere 8 miles stood between me and transition. Just. Go.
Holding onto my focus, a little

I made the last climb, shockingly passing other people. When I was riding and my legs weren't cramping, or were at least moving with cramps, my riding was so strong. It was so frustrating to be fighting my body and mind so hard. I crested the hill, struggling hard to keep moving. My hands were weak and tingling, how would I hold on to descend this final, scary descent? I had to. "Just get home to Ben" became my mantra as I headed for the descent. I didn't brake nearly as much as usual, I just let it roll-new max speed 44.3! I made the descent, and knowing I had very few miles left, I just pushed my body. The cramps were hovering in all my muscles, and I passed a guy dry heaving on the side of the highway and had to fight the urge to start gagging myself. I followed a man through the "no pass zone" on the bridge, and as we headed down the on-ramp for the last mile to transition, he admitted defeat that he couldn't finish a run in 7 hours. Well damnit, we have to try right? That's what I told him, and then I dropped myself back into aero, down the empty NW Blvd, saw my sister (who cheered without realizing it was even me) and made the turn into the park. Thank. God. I have never felt so relieved. I grabbed my Garmin off the quick release and dropped it into my bra top, grabbed my remaining ice water bottle (smart!) and saw a few friendly faces of Ronnie and Kellee! I barely registered her but managed a smile as they took my bike away. She told me later she knew once I made it off the bike I would make it. I was so relieved I had made it home, and even though the run felt unsurmountable, I was ready to try.

I grabbed my T2 bag, headed into the tent, and right for a chair with a fan. Again, a medic snagged me, checked my HR and put icy towels on my groin to help cool me quickly. She helped me get my shoes changed, told me I looked strong. I mumbled at her that 'running is USUALLY my thing' and she assured me I could do it, that I would be an ironman that day. I didn't grab my nutrition from my bag, as I knew I wouldn't be able to eat it (and it had melted into a puddle anyway) but grabbed my 24 oz thermal bottle, which I had never intended to carry, but it was sort of a security blanket. I came out of the tent, heard so many friends cheering for me and was so relieved to see their friendly faces as I started the run.
Headed out to run with my freaking polar bottle that I HAD to carry

Actual Bike Split: 8:40:34  Moving Time per Garmin: 7:32:59.

This just goes to show how much time I gave up with the medics and the 'nausea stops'. It was a tough pill to swallow because I KNOW I had a strong bike in me. I'm sure I could have done things differently, but at the time, I did everything I could to keep moving forward. Even when quitting seemed like the only thing I could do, I continued on.

Actual nutrition: 1 bonk breaker plus a bite of a second, 4-5 pieces of licorice, 1 pkg chomps, 1 GU Roctane lemonade gel. 5ish bottles Osmo Active, 4-5 bottles water, 1 bottle Gatorade.

T2 time: 8:17

Thursday, July 9, 2015

the swim :: IMCDA

When I signed up for IMCDA last year, the swim was the most intimidating part. I had never swum further than an olympic distance triathlon in my life. My first swim of the training cycle was about 1300 yards, and I was DYING.

Fast forward through months of chlorine, late night swims (uh 8pm late) and long lunch sets, and skin peeling off my face. My times improved on shorter intervals, my endurance grew, and my confidence with it. Pull sets became my favorites. My arms got stronger. My first OWS for CDA was mid-May, in a mid-50s lake. My 1:30 finish goal slowly edged down.  So that said, here's the swim. Which ended up being the BEST part of my day.

IMCDA morning:

The alarm went off at 2:45 (!!) and after a night of decent, albeit slightly fitful sleep, I got right up and got the coffee pot running. I immediately started putting together my pre-race breakfast. Two slices of bread covered in nutella and banana slices, coffee, and water. I started drinking on my Osmo PreLoad. Jordan and I worked on getting everything ready to go. Bottles from the fridge and freezer, nutrition in ziplock bags ready to go onto my bike, and into my transition bags. I showered, braided my hair, and finally donned my Coeur Ambassador Team kit! I was as organized as possible, even though I somehow misplaced a couple things (Osmo singles, car keys-both in my pocket) and had panic hunts for them.
The amazing Coeur kit! 

With the earlier start time, we had a little less time to get ready in the morning, but fortunately we were quick and efficient, and got out the door in a very timely fashion, with my calm entact. On the drive down, I sipped on my knock-off Ensure nutritional drink.

We got to the dike road by City Park transition, and I jumped out with all my special needs backs and backpack of goods plus bike pump while Jordan went to park, and would bring my swim gear over to meet me. I got into transition, mounted my Garmin 910XT onto the quick release (already turned on), loaded my bento box, and proceeded to pump up my tires. The front, perfect... the back tire? Flat as a pancake. I had deflated both the day before due to temps. Panic ensued. I debated changing it myself, but in my nervous (and now teary) state, I grabbed it off the rack and ran to the tech tent. After waiting 10-ish minutes (the tech was awesome, but took his sweet time while I sweated and leered at him). As soon as my bike was on the stand for a change, I ran back to the rack, threw my SN bags over the fence to Jordan who reminded me to calm down, and he went with Nick and Sonia to turn in bags. I gave Erin a freaked teary hug, ran back, and retrieved my bike. Whew! I racked her again, double checked everything, took a deep breath, and handled my gear bags.
From Triathlete Magazine's pictures of IMCDA (can you spot me waiting desperately for my bike!?)

Finally, I made it OUT of transition and to body marking (I didn't exactly get this done in the right order, obviously). I got marked quickly, and then we walked to the bathroom. I was 100 kinds of frazzled, seeing different friends, wanting to take pictures, and Jordan kept me focused on what NEEDED to be done. Bathroom, bathroom again, wetsuit on, ALL the body glide, take part of my gu, deep breaths, walk toward the beach. We managed to snag someone last minute to take our pre-race picture and then I gave him a big hug, got a few final (much needed) words of encouragement, tried NOT to cry over these words, and I headed into the village to the beach.
There really aren't words for how much he did to get me to this moment, and through the next 17 hours. xo

On the beach I found a few familiar faces, and ERIN! She was looking about as emotional as I felt, and we got into the lake which felt perfect, and did some warm up swimming. It was so surreal to be on this side of the swim start. Staring at the buoys out across the lake, all the boats and other volunteers in the water waiting around the perimeter. It was my. day. I had some butterflies, and nerves, but the dominating feeling was peace and calm. I was so ready, and so excited. I hugged my different friends, but when we started creeping toward the swim arch, I found myself alone, which was perfect.

IMCDA has the rolling start, and getting into the water wasn't crowded or too stressful.  I chose to swim without a watch, because I have about one speed in the water... so being able to look at a watch would do nothing to change the swim for me, other than to potentially add stress. I did glance at the time of day on the clock as I got in, so I would have a loose idea of where I was. I trotted into the water, and began to swim.
Found on my phone-my sister took these-presumably I'm in here somewhere!

At no point did I feel panic, or anxiety over the open water. I settled comfortably into my bilateral breathing (when I am anxious in open water, I will breathe only to the right every stroke until I feel calm) and just swam away, sighting occasionally. The buoys cruised by fairly quickly. I got caught up a few times between people (always men!) who would block my progress and as I'm not super aggressive, I tended to just settle behind them until there was clear water to move forward. The turns were a little crowded, but overall, the first loop flew by! I reminded myself of Sonia's advice "don't wish away the day" and I truly enjoyed the swim. On the way back to the beach for loop one I just watched Tubbs Hill go by until the resort dock, the hotel, and the stairs came into view. Then I would hear the music, the crowds, Mike Reilly every time I breathed and I got more and more excited. One loop done and I was feeling amazing!! I waited until my hands were grazing sand before I stood up and slogged to the swim out arch to turn and run back in. I glanced at the clock on my way back into the water which gave me some fun mental math to do for the beginning of loop 2. My math got me a number around 38, and my first lap was 38:25 (1:59/100).

Loop 2 was more crowded for me, and I would end up spending more time behind people. I would get trapped in groups, and find myself swimming further from the buoys and having to circle back in. My first loop was much tighter, and it shows in the swim time. I know the second loop is always slower and I expected it. Perhaps I could have been more aggressive, or found ways through packs of people but I didn't, and I truly enjoyed my entire swim so I am happy with how I executed it. I felt like I got knocked around a little more the second time, and drank a lot more lake. The buoys seemed to come a little slower on the turn and the way back to shore, but that was probably because I was veering off course a little more. I was laughing to myself during the swim with how many times I was accidentally waaaay too personal with some neoprene butts out there. Finally I saw the number on an orange buoy and realized I had two left to swim, and then the push to shore. As with the first lap, I was still feeling good, but maybe sighting too much (hurry up shore!!) and finally I reached where I could stand. My second lap slowed significantly for 43:51 (2:16/100).

I popped up, pushed my goggles up my head and started grabbing for my wetsuit zipper pull. I heard nothing but noise, and my name a few times (sister? friend? hello!) and apparently was one of the names announced as I made my way up the beach, but I didn't catch it. It was a buzzing sound but I was giddy and smiling the whole way in. I hit the transition area, spotted two strippers and ran over and hit the ground. They pulled my suit right off, handed it to me and wished me luck. I was beaming the whole time!!  I easily spotted my transition bag with all the pink duct tape on it and it was off to the change tent. As I turned to head to the tent, I spotted my friend Bobby and said hello! I KNEW we were near the same speed. His swim was faster than mine but it was a delight to see him in transition. I heard Jordan and JJ yelling from the fence and I smiled and waved back. Sadly, Jordan remembers this as the last time I smiled at him the entire day.

I found a chair close to the end of the change tent, waved a volunteer over and while she mostly watched me, I did solicit her help on a few things. She sprayed me down with my Neutrogena kids wet sunblock (I didn't want to rub in lotion and have slippery hands, so I chose my own spray on). I got my arm coolers on, managed to shove snacks into my droopy wet pockets, dried myself off a little with a towel, shoes on, helmet on, cooling towel shoved into my back pocket for later, and it was all on for the bike! I left her my bag full of gear and ran out to the bikes. The volunteers were everywhere pointing me to my bike, though I remembered which trees were end of my row. I ran foward, ducked under the gap in the bar, a volunteer lifted my saddle off, and I ran up the outside of the tent to the 'Bike Out'.
Still smiling!! Off to ride 112 miles! 

why yes, my full pockets do make me look like a babboon butt! Also spotted: Sara and Brandon with the infamous Alphonse head on the left side!! 

I was only half hearing. I heard my family screaming, I saw Sara and Brandon with the Alphonse head! A few other cheers of my name and I was on the saddle, clipping in and heading out for the 112 mi bike ride, still beaming! (for now...)

Swim Time: 1:22:16 (2:07/100) 

T1 time: 6:40

Gear: Coeur Team Kit; Roka Maverick elite wetsuit; Roka X1 goggles in dark amber/gold mirror; so much body glide. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Before Ironman

Clearly I failed to post a lot of training updates. Or blog updates. Or life updates. That ish gets BUSY! Before I get to recapping what was the hardest day of my life... maybe it's not necessary, but I feel like defending myself. My training was as good as I could have dreamed. Coach Erin trained me so well and I was incredibly prepared to complete 140.6 last Sunday. I was ready. The thing about a race, ANY RACE is you can't predict the outcome. Or the day. I knew it would be very warm. I adjusted my plan accordingly and I was fully prepared. Unfortunately, despite my best intentions, it didn't go according to ANY plan I made. But we'll get to that.

The week leading up to IMCDA was awesome! Here's everything that happened leading up to the race that isn't the actual race:

Race check in and the coveted Ironman backpack! I smiled SO HARD all day long over this. I still haven't cut off my wristband (is that normal?)

check in! 

packet pick up! 

still rocking this for a few more days

Hydrating with EVERYTHING. Nuun, Osmo Active, Coconut water, water, less coffee than usual. Also began testing and using BASE electrolyte salt thanks to the recommendation of... well... everyone. Not to mention these guys were amazing on the run course helping cheer me along and promising me I'd make it home.
All race weekend prep should involve cheesin' with Wylie

Sitting in the NormaTec compression boots listening to the Athlete Briefing with Ashley, who I was so happy to meet (sorry we didn't get to visit more later in the weekend Ashley! I will mail you a t-shirt!)
You can only wear these so long when it's 100 out, and you are overly hydrated. SO MUCH SWEAT and have to pee

FINALLY meeting Erin! (and Nick and Sonia, who were amazing!) I was so happy to finally meet my friend/coach, so that we are no longer 'fake friends' from the internets. After months of chatting daily about training, and life, it felt like we'd already known each other all along. We continue to be twinsies so, I'm convinced we're sisters from another mother, as she says.

Just... what... am I doing...?

Ironkids race for Ben!! It was SO WARM this day too, and I got butterflies listening to Mike Reilly
call out 'you are an ironkid' and thinking of HOW BADLY I wanted to hear him call my name as an ironman the next day. (spoiler alert. He does.)

So warm... but look at that smooth stride

Ben! You are an ironkid!

Shake out runs and rides that felt fabulous and warm. Gear bag prep. My sister giving me race day nails. My boyfriend rubbing my feet and talking me through the race day, helping me prep my bags and bottles and nutrition. Making sure I slept, and was ready race day. He is the calm to my chronic worry.
Race nails!

Bike check! Leaving little Bessie (I don't know how I landed on that name when so many badass ones crossed my mind, but it's what stuck-when we would try to fly down the descents on Mica Bay and I would find myself saying 'easy Bessie' to myself-so there you have it) all tucked in for the night.
Bike check with fabulous Erin!

I was amazed race weekend at how peaceful I felt, really. Of course I had jitters, nerves, and couldn't eat as well as I'd have liked, but overall, I was calm, and ready, and excited.

And at the end of Saturday night, after a few episodes of "Friends" I tried to get some sleep for the 2:45 alarm clock the next day.