Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Ironman Race Recap

Im very sorry for the delay...I needed a mental break from Ironman, which is why this race report is a little late (plus I was waiting for my photos). It is also pretty long, but so is the race :)

The week leading up to Ironman was electric. Surprisingly, I was not nervous until dinner on Saturday night (the eve before the race). In true historic fashion, during the week of the race Jack decided to catch a cold, and would wake up off and on during the night for several nights. I also felt, and perhaps this was pre-race angst, a little achy and sore throat… oh no! I scrapped my last open swim and a small run to get rest, which proved to be the best move. By the weekend I was back to feeling 100%.

Wednesday night I packed my gear. As I looked at those 2 bags, I kept thinking this CAN’T be it for the full day of racing!!! Im proud to report I didn’t under or over pack… it was just right. Helpful tip: I made a list before race week containing all that I would need based on what was going in each bag… I was way more focused the weeks leading up to the race! I also sent the list to my brother and coach, just in case I forgot anything. Thursday night, pulled the car into our garage for the first time and packed it up as Jack was fast asleep. Friday morning, was bittersweet. It was SO HARD saying goodbye to John and Jack, I think I cried for about 5 miles. Silly I know, but I wasn’t going to see Jack until Monday afternoon, and that had me so heart broken. He was one of the main reasons why I took the Ironman challenge. I wanted to show him (and prove to myself), you can do anything, if you work hard and put your mind to it. By 8am I arrived at my Mom’s and my Mom, Dave and I put all the gear into one car and we were off to Madison!



We got there and checked into the hotel. We stayed at the Hilton, which is steps away from the finish line, transition and Ironman Village. Special thanks to Dan for offering his reservation to me and to Brian for making our stay there a top notch experience. We checked into registration and within the hour it was official, #537 was checked in and ready to race on Sunday! My Mom signed up to volunteer that afternoon, so Dave and I went to check out Observatory Hill. I wanted to see first-hand just what this hill was all about. Hill? More like 3 hills in one! I remember thinking this will be a beast come Sunday! We walked back and I proceeded to lay out my gear to pack into my transition bags. Dave was kind enough to look over it all and listen to me walk through it all. I read in my friend Ron’s blog that it is a good idea to have someone look over your gear. Great advice, it put my mind at ease that I had all I would need for the entire day. Friday evening was enjoyed at the Great Dane, minus any beer, it was fun and delicious. My brother discovered the Juicy Brewski, needless to say he is hooked!

Saturday am, Dave, Dan (a family friend and fellow Ironman triathlete), and I went for a 15 min swim. There are some who think this was way weird. But I followed Jen’s plan and it proved to be most helpful to get loosened up and plot out where I would start and what I would sight. This minimized my what if’s? and how am I’s? for the swim start. Awesome! We followed that up with a quick 10 min bike, just to make sure all is copasetic with the mechanicals on the bike.  I had strict orders no more than 90 mins on my feet that day. HARD to do, but I gave it my best. One thing I was NOT going to miss was watching my Mom sign up for 2012 Ironman! YEAH GO MOM- you have an amazing journey ahead of you:) SO PROUD OF HER!!!!

Saturday night was super special! Brian and team TFP arranged a dinner in a large suite at the top of the Hilton. It was so nice not to battle the large crowds to try to find a table for a large group the night before the race. One of the best parts about the dinner was the room that overlooked the swim course and bike transition area. Nearly all of my support crew was there which was AWESOME! I was able to chat with them about the race. It was so cool to see everyone’s expression when I told them about the swim, and how many Ironman hopefuls would be in the water starting all at once at 7am. The bike transition is quite a sight all of its own. Rows upon rows of bikes, very cool.

We ate, talked and laughed a PERFECT prerace dinner!  I handed out our ultra-cool support crew shirts and thanked everyone for their support throughout the entire year, and for the sacrifices they made to help me along the way and to be there the day of.  I have said it before and will continue to say it again and again; I am truly blessed with the best family and friends! THANK YOU everyone! After it was over, we wandered back down to our room and I attempted to be in bed before 9pm (ha!)

I finally fell asleep around 10pm; my mind was racing a bit, and missing my Jack. One of my very best friends, who did Ironman the previous year, came up to cheer me on. She and her boyfriend hit the Madison nightlife, she became very nostalgic and her sisterly love poured through 6 text messages at about 1am. I was very touched, and just slightly annoyed by the 4th alert – haha! I know her heart was in the right place ;) Thankfully it didn’t take too long for me to fall back asleep. 

Four am felt seconds away, and I did what I always do before each race… question why I chose a sport that requires you to get up at the butt crack of dawn to swim, bike and run! In reality, I LOVE it and know I’ve chosen wisely. I’ve had a wonderful year, and was about to cap it off with the ultimate race.

Another tidbit I got from my friend Ron’s race recap was to know there will be problems throughout the day. He said it is how we handle those problems that will make or break us. He went over all the problems he encountered and what he did to correct the problem… totally helpful to an Ironman Virgin! 

So here is Problem #1 – I woke up with a pulled muscle on the left side of my upper back into my neck. Lovely!  (Hindsight, I would recommend introducing massage much earlier into your overall Ironman training. I had only two sessions, I really could have used more time to get things worked out, instead it just aggravated underlying issues.)
I jumped into the shower and let the hot water beat down on the pull, and then slathered some biofreeze on it, and hoped it was just nerves. Dave, Ana, John and I all went down for breakfast. I had a $14 piece of toast and 4 sips of coffee…. Really, I had my oatmeal, banana and put my piece of toast on John’s plate, but got charged… and due to time and trying to keep calm, I just let go the charge… I didn’t want to mess with it or let it get under my skin.

Dave and I walked over to transition… I can’t tell you enough how HUGE it was to have a 3x IM finisher there, to help me avoid all the first timer mistakes. I didn’t have as much nervous energy knowing that Dave looked over my stuff, and helped me get through the pre-race drop offs and prep. We got body marked and headed back up to our rooms to grab our wetsuits and visit the bathroom one last time before heading down to the water.  Once we got back downstairs our race crew was all there!! A first in what just one of the many huge boosts I would get from them throughout the day! They looked so excited to see us, and some of them who were new to all of this looked in awe of the whole pre-race spectacle outside. We walked over to the helix and got into our wetsuits.

I had a surprise, a special swim suit that I would unveil to the crew – it was a Wonder Woman suit! Both they and I needed the laugh, as my nerves were getting more intense and I could tell they were also doing the same for the crew.  To someone who has never witnessed the dance one does to get into the wetsuit I sure looked funny! 5 mins later, I was in, zipped up and toasting what would be the first of MANY GU for the day with Dave. (GU and Ironman Perform is basically all I would consume the entire day- tasty!)

I went to each person in our crew and thanked them for coming and said goodbye. I was overcome by emotion and teared up when I said goodbye. It was so emotional! Since the day I signed up, the Ironman swim has been a source of worry for me. Not because I couldn’t swim the distance, but because of the crazy mass start. I guess all the work to get to this day and the anxiety over the swim came tumbling out. 

SWIM: Dave and I headed down the helix to the swim start. The air was buzzing with anticipation, first time spectators, first time Ironmen and seasoned athletes talking about their goals for the day. I soon forgot about my nerves and just focused on the moment.  Now, I have many “Favorite moments” during my day. But this first moment is something I will hold dear to me, forever. As Dave and I were approaching the timing mat, there was a little last min pep talk, but the thing I remember the most was just as we walked over the mat and put on our goggles we hugged. I’m going to sound corny but I love my brother, and I was never more proud to be his big sister than that moment. With just that hug, I knew we were both going to have a great day. We headed out to the where we were going to start. I was a few rows behind Dave. I rolled on my back and looked up at the clouds. Serene and peaceful, the sound of water bobbling around my ears, and calm came over me. I popped back up in time to hear the canon for the pros go off… it won’t be long now. FUN: a few mins before our gun went off I noticed that Emily and Stacie were in front of me. Super comforting, since it now felt like a normal Friday morning swim, only difference was the extra 2500 people! We chatted for a few and then just like that the gun went off and I was calm as could be. No freaking out... just kept my motto: You can't control what others do to you... but you can control how you react. I kept steady and controlled. My goggles did get knocked off and I rolled over and put them back on... and continued. I had a moment of panic when that happened, but I gained control of the situation and moved on. A few mins, after that I actually told myself that I was proud of how I reacted to that... I felt confident. I stayed wide at the buoys and pretty much about 20 yards off the line for the entire swim. I had open water for most of it... with the turns and the funnel of people heading toward the 1st buoy, being the only spots where I had contact. I did feel the muscle pull in my neck and back, as I kept breathing to my left to keep the buoys in sight. I was hopeful that the swim would loosen up the pull and I’d be okay for the rest of the day. Overall the swim was NOT bad, and my time was about 3 mins faster than I thought I'd do. I was very happy with the swim. This would be the best leg of the whole day! Figures the thing I was most freaked out about was the best part of the race day! I had so much fun getting my wetsuit yanked off by the volunteers, and then running up the helix in my wonder woman suit was just TOO MUCH FUN! I had so many cheers for me and my suit! I saw Kate at the bottom of the helix and gave her a high five, AWESOME to see her!! I knew just where my crew was at and I COULD NOT WAIT to see them! As I rounded the corner I heard the roar!!! I stopped to give everyone a hug and high five- again more tears… as I stopped and told my Mom … I did it, I did it!  I felt like an Ironman already!!! Just beyond my crew was Jen, I was so amped up I stopped and gave her a hug and thanked her for helping me get to the start line!!! I even think I almost kissed her on the cheek as well… I was so overcome with emotion of finishing the swim! :)



T1: Ever have someone BESIDES your mom help you get dressed? I had a super volunteer who helped me with all my things. I brought a towel, but because I was so excited about finishing the swim, I forgot to use it. My volunteer had my shorts held out for me to step into. For those of you who don’t know, you go sans underwear with bike shorts otherwise you face an enormous amount of chaffing.  So there I was still wet, naked from the waist down and getting into my shorts. Which promptly got stuck mid-thigh. My butt was hanging out and the volunteer, bless her heart, was behind me yanking up my shorts. Wow.  The rest was a snap, I had my running bra on under my swim suit already so I threw on my bike jersey, grabbed my helmet, nutrition and bike shoes and off I went. Ironman is so catered that my volunteer put all my stuff back into my bag. Thank you volunteers!

Bike: I got my bike and went down the other helix… I even yelled weeeeee!!!!!  My Mom and John got to see me out and it wouldn’t be until mile 21 until I saw them again. I noticed right away that my pulled muscle never did get any better, but I pressed on. Weather turned out to be quite a bit warmer than anticipated so pacing and nutrition would be key for the rest of the day. On the way out, there was a crash and someone down on the bike path, I couldn’t imagine someone’s day being over before it had a chance to begin. This was a good reminder to me that there were going to be people out there who are reckless, and who didn’t know the course. I had to remember to stay focused and be aware of what was going on around me. This was a little harder as my neck was stiff and turning left to look back was painful. I saw a few friends at the beginning, Karen and Stacie, we chatted for a few and then we were on our way.

I remembered a lot of the advice I got was don’t overcook yourself on the bike. I followed this during my ½ Ironman when the heat index was 115… and it worked so I didn’t want to change anything. I also remember everyone telling me I would will feel like everyone is passing me on the first loop, but I would get them on the second.  My plan was to stay in Zone 2 all day. I tried to stay in low to mid Zone 2 but found I was hovering around top Zone 2 and low zone 3 for the first 25 miles or so. I kept telling myself to stay in control…  I finally settled in and stayed in mid zone 2 until the hills, which it did elevate when climbing. I had fun on those hills. So much, I was looking forward to them the second time around. You see this is where the party is! TONS of people lining the hills Tour de France style, in costumes, with funny signs, music….
Some  funny signs…
  1. Do you believe you actually paid to do this?
  2. Of course it’s F’ing hard, it’s Ironman!
  3. Focused? (this was in front of a guys junk that was wearing only a speedo, so he looked naked!)
  4. Ironmen are honey badgers, Honey badger don’t give a @h!t

All of this, plus seeing my crew and coach out there helped make the second loop back to the hills fly by. On the second loop, I kept thinking, where are all these people I’m supposed to be passing?  I started to get concerned that I was going too slow but stuck to my plan. My HR still wanted to climb into the Zone 3 but I held back... I kept up on the nutrition and salt like clockwork, mile 40 I ate a 1/2 cliff bar, mile 80 another 1/2 cliff bar... kept doing body checks to make sure I was aware of what my body needed. Problem #2 hit:  Around mile 83 I began to feel a little full after the second half of cliff, so I put off the next GU until an hour later, and kept sipping perform. After the hills, I had a little reflux where liquid came back up but not full on throw up. I pulled the perform and liquid intake back to just water, and small sips of Perform here and there on the connector back to Madison. This actually didn’t seem like a huge problem to me at the time, I felt I had enough time to correct this before the run, but it would later become where Problem 2 caused Problem 3. I saw my crew several times on the bike. Mile 21, in Verona, where I stopped to say hi, give hugs and kisses and then again on the second loop on south beach hill (the last hill on the loops before heading back).  In Verona, I remember giving John a kiss and him telling me I was kicking arse. So I thought, maybe I’m not too far behind? I stopped at the bike special needs and pulled out the icy hot back patch I put in there just in case my back was bothering me. This was HUGE, since my neck was getting worse, by staying in aero. I put the patch on my neck and got some relief, and was on my way. The second loop felt harder than it should. Yes, it should be more difficult, but my speed cut down, and the wind picked up. (even though there wasn’t supposed to be much wind at all that day- this proved to be a change in the forecast along with the heat index nearing mid 90s) By the time I got back to the hills, the party pretty much moved onto the run course. Disappointing, since I was so looking forward to it… but here is another ‘best moment’ My Mom running alongside of me up the hill. She was so cute, yelling I love you, and then cheering on the crowd, waving her arms up and down yelling come on cheer for Cheryl! I yelled back I love u Mom, and then laughed for about another mile or so… she is so cute! I saw my dear friend Denise and her two little boys who really wanted to see me again, and I heard them cheer for me as I flew by them at the top of the hill. SO cute, and a reminder on how much I missed Jack.

video

On the connector, my back was hurting, my neck was hurting and I was feeling full and wondering if that would correct itself in time for the run. There is one more big hill that hits around mile 100 – thank you very much. This hill was a beast, I put my head down and powered through it even though I was in pain. Not too much longer and I would be running… a very welcomed thought at that moment. While I felt my bike time was slower than I know I’m capable of, I was proud of how I didn't let the oodles of people passing me get me down, and I stuck to my plan.



T2: I came in off the bike and made it to transition. Now I know for sure that I was further back than I originally thought I would be. There wasn’t much activity in transition so again I had a volunteer all to myself. I changed my top and bottoms and grabbed my race belt, put on my race shoes and took an Imodium, JUST in case, and I was off.

RUN: I saw my crew right out of the run chute. They were so excited as they thought they missed me due to traffic. Someone asked how I felt? All I could say was TIRED, but with a smile! The first 5 miles my legs felt heavy (as I expected) but then I got into my groove. Nutrition wise, I started from the first aide station with 1 water; 1 Perform. I did not want to get behind, since I pulled back on liquid the last part of the bike.  I started looking at my watch thinking ok, the bike time was not what I thought it would be, but I still can make my “worst case scenario” time. By mile 6 I felt pretty darn good.  A little tired, but I still had a lot of pep in the legs. I saw my brother around mile 6.5 and we hugged again and Dave said he was very proud of me, he was almost done, looked tired, and sad. I told him “Go get it!” and we were on our way. I wanted to ask him how he was doing in terms of place, but by the look on his face, I knew he thought his day was over. I said a little prayer and thanked God for my day and asked him to be with Dave… Little did Dave know, he was in 6th place, and on his way to qualifying for Kona! By mile 8 I was on my way to what would be the first of MANY bathroom stops. Not quite the same.  Problem #3: I felt like I had gas and kept thinking this would pass, but the jostling of the stomach and the surplus of calories I took in on the bike proved to be a bad combination. I was pissed. I had the internal hemorrhoid procedure a few weeks prior to the race to take care of this very problem. BUT it was not the hemorrhoid issue, there wasn’t any sign of blood… so it was purely a GI issue. It had me perplexed I followed my plan, and did my body checks every half hour, and when I felt full I pulled back! I felt like screaming WTF!!!!!! Every time I had Perform, it would aggravate it more. So I pulled back on the Perform. From miles 10-13 I worried about my stomach. I walked a little on the way to the turn around to see if it would settle things. By mile 12.5 I felt a little better and picked back up running, not as fast I would have liked, but at least running. Mile 13, the turnaround is VERY cruel, since you are lead right up to the finish line, only head right back out. It was here that I had the very BEST moment of the day… as I came into the turn, I saw my crew to the left, cheering.  I didn’t want them to know I was having issues, so I put on my best face and knew that just beyond them was special needs and I had an emergency stash of stomach medicine in there. I made the turn, and felt better knowing the next time I’m here would be to finish. I turned the corner and there was everyone with HUGE smiles, cheering and there was JACK! My husband arranged to have my sister, brother in law and nephew bring Jack up during my run. I cried like a little girl when I saw him, and I ran up to him and gave him kisses, and kissed John and told him I loved him (husband of the year!) It was then that I also found out my brother realized his dream of qualifying for Kona!!! How awesome… I found another level of energy to get it done- stomach issues or not! I was going to finish!! 

video

I stopped got my extra Imodium, pepto, and Rolaids. NONE of which seemed to help. My stomach was MAD…. Miles 13-15 were walk and run. I sipped on ice water for most of it until 18 when I switched to coke and water (I wish I would have tried this earlier). I started to feel much better and did mostly coke and ice for the remainder of the run. I did speed walk/run the back half on the bike trail. It was dark and you couldn’t see much. The port-a-potties were spaced out a little further than I was comfortable with. There were times when all I could do is just stand there and hope the moment passes until I could get to another bathroom. I would NOT crap my pants! I saw Dave and a bunch of our crew around mile 19… and that was a huge help. He was soo excited I couldn’t stop to tell him how I was struggling. I pressed on… running for as long as I could and then walking when the stomach felt like it was going to blow up. I recall the sinking feeling looking down at my watch realizing I wouldn’t make my goal time, and then again when I wouldn’t make it before 9pm. About mile 24 I felt good enough to run the rest of the way in without stopping. I felt awesome… my legs were strong. Damn it stomach!!!  I am disappointed that my run wasn't what I hoped it would be, but I am proud that I didn't give up and that I kept working through it. As I came onto the back side of the capital I heard Mike Riley shouting “You are an Ironman!” and then it hit me, I was going to be an Ironman. After the long day, and the few problems I had, I was going to do it… I was going to make it. I turned onto the last street before the chute with prob. one of the biggest smiles I’ve ever had glued to my face. I shook my fists and said FU stomach, I did it. I saw my family and stopped to give them all kisses they were SOOO excited and then they were like, what are you doing – GO and FINISH!!! I took my time and ran down the chute, high fiving everyone… and waited for the guy in front of me to have his moment… but he took too damn long, so I crossed just behind him at 14:11:34. Out of 2,449 people I finished at 1530, in my age group I was 72/118. Interesting fact: it was 9/11/11 and I crossed at 9:11pm. Weird.

video






While I missed my goal time by 40 mins… I learned a lot about myself through the journey leading up to Ironman. I gained even greater understanding and respect for the distance, and what can happen on race day. I fully respect  those who take on the challenge with great conviction and push themselves beyond  what they thought possible. Ironman is a tough distance, and takes great dedication, personal and family commitment and support. This race report would be remiss without a HUGE THANK YOU to all of you who followed along via the blog, or the GPS tracker on race day. Thank you to Troy for the awesome videos and to John for his stellar photography! Thank you to my family and friends for the love, encouragement and support. Thank you to my coaches for giving me the skills needed. Thank you mostly to my husband who supported me on my dream to become an Ironman, I know it wasn’t easy for you or Jack.

We are missing a bunch of people - Thank you to the ENTIRE 2011IM CREW!!!
You guys ROCK!


We stayed to watch the final people come in, and sadly one woman missed it by 50 seconds. I was told finish the first and race the rest, and I will do just that. I will return to Ironman one day. It will not be in the near future as I need time to focus on my family and perhaps add to the Atkins clan?
Good luck to you all in wherever life takes you. Feel free to drop me a line about your journey!

When one journey ends, another begins, it starts with the first step.




xxxxooo

Cheryl




















Thursday, September 1, 2011

9 days and counting

When I started this blog after signing up for the Wisconsin Ironman…I started with this quote:


The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.  -  Lao Tzu


For the past 243 days:
I’ve taken MANY steps... I've trained harder than I ever have before, experienced a journey like no other, and pushed beyond the limits of what I thought I was capable of physically, mentally and emotionally.

I have learned so much along the way, met some amazing people, and made some great friends. 

In 9 days, I will set out to swim 2.4 miles, ride 112 and run 26.2. In 9 days, I will join over 2,800 others who have the same goal of becoming an Ironman. In 9 days, I WILL hear Mike Reilly say “Cheryl Atkins YOU are an IRONMAN!!!"

This last week leading up to Ironman has been strange. The past month left me a little uneasy. Various things prevented me from getting my full workouts in… pulled muscles, poor planning, an outpatient procedure, etc.  I was left questioning my training and volume. Am I really ready for this? After a quick conversation with my coach and brother, I was reminded it is about the body of work that matters… and not whatever it was that got messed up, or missed due to circumstances beyond my control, doesn’t matter. It is the BODY of work I’ve put in the past 243 days (really past 2 years) that will make me an Ironman. Earlier in the week,  I found myself surfing the web looking for other’s race reports and other tips on Ironman Wisconsin. I was doubting my abilities. I was looking for that magical tip that is going to make the difference come race day. Then I went out for my run and something magical DID happen. It was like God popped into my head and told me exactly what I had to do… DUMP all the podcasts, kill the fulltime Ironman talk, stop the internet searches…. and TRUST. Trust that I’ve done all that I can up to this point. Trust it, trust my coach and trust the plan. My sense of calm came back, a feeling that has been missing for about a month. Now just 9 days out… I know what I need to do, trust. Let the day unfold and ENJOY what I have worked so hard for.

NOW onto the exciting stuff… HOW YOU CAN FOLLOW ME during the race: 

Race starts at 7am on 9-11-11.

I found this nifty little device that tracks you while you are racing. For Ironman events, they have the race course and elevation plotted out… so you will be able to see where I am at, how fast I’m going, and what hills I’ve just conquered or are coming up. Ironman Madison is a 2 loop course: 2 loops for the swim, bike and run! The device is not fully submersible so you will not be able to track me on the swim…







Go to the top right hand corner of the page. CLICK on TRACK your athlete and find me under Ironman Wisconsin.
TIP- this works anywhere you have cellphone coverage, and if you have a smartphone, iPad, or laptop. We found that the laptop offers the best interface when we were checking it out during Louisville IM.

http://ironmanlive.com/
On race day ironmanlive.com has a live feed, where you will be able to see people at key points in the race. Most importantly, they set it up so you can see everyone cross the finish line!

Because there are sooo many people racing Ironman, it is helpful to know what your athlete (ME!) is going to wear, what their helmet and bike look like, so you can pick me out…. So here it is. ALSO IMPORTANT MY BIB #537!!!

Bike

Bike if it is COLD
Run from front
Run from side


I thought I’d close with what may be my final post prior to IM. Here are my overall goals:

MOST importantly, is to stick to my plan, enjoy the day and FINISH with a smile.

Overall goals:
Execute solid nutrition and zones. Run a solid Zone2 all day. Keep big picture in mind, but focus on smaller increments throughout the day. Control what I can; don’t worry about what I cannot.
Enjoy the day… I’ve worked 2 years toward this very day… take it in and do my best.

Time estimates:
(MOST IMPORTANT is staying in Zone 2!)
Swim: 1:20:00   
Bike: 6:45:00 and under
Run: 4:45:00 
Total time: 13:30:00 and under 
(this time adds in transitions, and aide/support crew/bathroom stops)

I’ll see you at the finish line!


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Meltdown

My countdown widget on my home page reads 16 days until Ironman.   


Every time I look at that widget I get nervous and my stomach churns. This past weekend was the dress rehearsal, if you will. The last time I would make the trek up to Madison before the big day. Saturday, I swam in the Madison open water swim. This was also the USMS National open water championship, so it was roughly half swimmers and half triathletes. I did this race to get myself familiar with the course and hoped to calm my fears a little more about that blasted swim start! 

The plan for the day was to attack this just as if it was race day. So fuel like race day, swim like race day and ride like race day! I woke up before my Mom, Bro and Ana… I don’t like to be rushed and I didn’t sleep well - our room was TOO quiet! So I got up, showered and got dressed. The others started to wake up causally and get ready. I wandered down to the Starbucks in our hotel lobby to get 4 small coffees and some hot water for my oatmeal (a favorite pre-race meal of mine). NOT open for another 10 mins… no biggie. But the woman was behind the counter… surely she could fill a cup up with hot water for me… apparently no. “The machines need to warm up” UM, that the biggest bunch of BS… as I was looking right at the hot water spigot on the coffee machine. Having worked in a kitchen when I was in high school, I KNOW, boiling hot water comes out of there. LIAR LIAR PANTS ON FIRE!!!! So back up to the room I went empty handed, and a little peeved.  I ran into another athlete we had dinner with the night before and she mentioned the weather …. Thunderstorms. Just after she said that it thundered as if to confirm what she said AND crush any optimism I may have had that it would just blow over.

We got our stuff together and discussed the plan for after the swim (I honestly think we all thought it was going to be cancelled) and headed down to the car. We pulled into the Monona Convention Center and my stomach just churned. We walked over to the helix (a circular parking ramp… but helix sounds so much cooler!) and I visualized myself running up it after I finish my swim during Ironman. What a difference when there are about 1,000 people lined up on the helix – the sound on race day is so loud and fun!!! This morning it was quiet except for the rumble of thunder. We checked in and got our packets and were told they would make a decision about the start time at 8:30. By this time the wind had picked up and sent a few of the 10 x 10 tents tumbling over and the lighting came. So we headed back to the helix to stay out of the elements. People gathered and we all watched the weather and a few of the DUMBEST people I’ve ever seen continue to swim in the water with thunder and lighting.   

So the question came up:

Why can't you swim during a lightning storm? A strike on a lake doesn't kill all the fish in the lake.
"The best answer we found comes from Don MacGorman, a physicist at the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Okla. When Sciencenetlinks.com asked him why fish don't get fried by lightning, Don said it's probably because they're underwater.

"Basically lightning stays more on the surface of the water rather than penetrating it. That's because water is a reasonably good conductor, and a good conductor keeps most of the current on the surface," he said. So, when lightning hits the water, the current zips across the surface in all directions. And if you're swimming anywhere in the vicinity, it'll probably zap you. But below the surface, most of the electricity is neutralized, and the fish are generally spared. Some fish underwater near the strike are probably hurt or killed by electricity that penetrates to some extent...

The National Weather Service sends out these reminders:
• You SHOULD get out of the water right away.
• Outdoors is the worst place to be during a thunderstorm. Quickly move indoors or into a hard-topped vehicle and stay there until well after lightning stops.
• If you're outside, make yourself the lowest point in the area. Lightning hits the tallest object. Crouch if you are in an exposed area. Stay away from trees.
• Don't huddle in a group."
(answer courtesy of: http://faculty.deanza.edu/donahuemary/stories/storyReader$583)

There --- my public safety announcement is done.

At 8:30 someone came up to the helix with an update that the race director was going to wait another hour, until the next cell of bad weather passed through to make a call. So about 10 of us went to the Hilton and had another light breakfast. UM, I won’t be doing this at Ironman, my day is already off track- damn it! You can’t control Mother Nature, and at this point I just wanted the weather to clear up so we could swim. AND clear up it did, at 9:30- just 15mins after we got our food! Luckily I had some fruit, a piece of whole wheat toast and one egg for protein. NOT too terribly heavy, but certainly NOT what I would be eating come race day. Anyway, we got down there just as they were retrieving the buoys that escaped during the storm and reset them. The elites went off at 9:30. We entered the water just after the elites. As we waited in the water more and more people piled into the front, nervous chatter filled the air. I saw Jen, my coach, we talked a little and then the horn went off and it was go time. I was nervous but my main goal was to remain calm, and swim the course. I got hit a few times and run into – but nothing too terrible. I took a breath each stroke until I made it around the full loop and then converted over to every 3rd alternating sides, which is way more natural for me.  1 hour and 25 mins later, I was done. I was about 10 mins longer than what I wanted to be, but the current was a little strong and I found myself getting pushed out and having to swim back to the buoy line over and over again. I added some extra distance, but I felt I executed the chop on the back half well. We’ll see how it goes when we add about 2,100 more people to the mix. That is not a joke people. There are 2,800 people competing in Ironman this year. Oh my heavens! 


My family did awesome! Dave took 1st in his age group and 5th overall, Ana took 2nd, Mom took 3rd and I was 11th in my Age group. I’m not going to lie; I was a little disappointed in my performance. They all wanted to wait for the awards, and I couldn’t really blame them… they did awesome and deserved to be recognized for their effort! Hindsight, I should have brought my own car and head out on my bike right away. So long story short. I didn’t get out onto the bike until 1:30. I was a little unsure about navigating the connector to the loops on the bike course (the course is like a lollipop- the connector is the stick) so I waited for some fellow athletes my brother trains with to follow them out. At this point I was still optimistic that I could get my full ride in. It would be SUPER close, but maybe, I could squeak it out?!

By 4pm I stopped at the half way point to refuel… and ran into the group I started with. They were very uneasy about my intentions to finish the whole course … truth be told I was too. Not because I didn’t feel I had the fitness to do so, but safety wise- it was not smart. There are some parts where you are going downhill so fast that you are doing about 35-40 mph with sharp turns… you really need to be on your game, and have ample light. When I went down the last section of hill before I stopped, it was very shady and I was having a hard time seeing the road. NOT GOOD, and unsafe. So I called it. Texted Jen, and told her my plan to ride one loop with the connector out and back. I want to be sure I actually get to the start line, and home to my little boy!!! 

After I made my decision the sky started to darken up, and more storms were heading in. AND that is when my darkest training moment hit. I don’t know what came over me. I felt like a failure, my fueling was off, and the ride felt way harder than it should have been. I was struggling to keep positive thoughts in my head. All the negativity and self-doubt crept in. Thoughts like “what were you thinking, that you could do this?,  I’m tired, the swim today was awful, and my legs are trashed, I’ve run out of time, I miss my family, my son thinks his daycare teacher is his mommy, I suck as a Mom and a wife, I failed my coach. YES, this was dark moment AND the FIRST time in my training where the words I can’t do this entered my mind. And as the rain chased me back to the hotel, I held back the tears. I felt awful, the one thing my coach said in our one on one just a few weeks ago, was just give me the next few weeks, don’t miss any of the big stuff because we’ve run out of wiggle room.  Now, I realize I couldn’t help the fact the race was delayed. But I could have made sure I got out right after, and I failed on that. On my way home, I called my brother and he talked me off the ledge, and I felt a little better. But just as soon as I hung up the tears flowed. It could have been PMS related or the fact I was so overtired. I got home, and kissed my son and hubbie put my feet up and texted back and forth with Jen… and she ended her conversation with me by saying: “Ironman training is not easy.”   
She is so right, I vowed to start fresh the next day as there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about what happened on Sat. In the end I did the 2.4 mile swim plus 65 miles of hill work, certainly better than nothing at all.

Sunday I slept in, got out at about 9am and was nervous about the run. The last run I had was filled with trips to every port-a-potty along my route. I am having some crazy GI issues that I had to get checked out on Wednesday. (ALERT: TMI COMING)  I was getting blood in my stool during long runs. It turns out that it was internal hemorrhoids from when I had Jack. The prep for this test was AWEFUL! I swear I felt like I was dying. I had to drink 2 liters of this liquid that is just plain gross, and then follow it up with another liter the morning of the procedure. OH, the best part is I had to fast from Monday evening until Wed afternoon. NOT FUN! I used to suffer from migraines, and guess what, I got one from being so dehydrated. Wednesday am, was filled with so much fun… vomit, diarrhea, cold and hot sweats. The last time I can remember feeling like this it at least followed one heck of good time the night before! Anyway, my AWESOME Mom drove me to the hospital and called ahead to let them know I was coming and the condition I was in. Once we arrived , no questions just whisked in back, IV was put in STAT. It took a good half hour until I was feeling better. As they were getting ready to put me under, I asked if I could have a copy of the video to put up on my facebook page, to show all my FB friends what I did that day. Luckily for all of you, I only got pics, which I will spare you all from seeing.  

I am on a small break- no working out until Sat, (only a light swim) and Im not allowed to do any running or biking until Tues. This whole ordeal was prob. another reason for Saturday’s darkness- afraid of the procedure and the time lost during recovery.  But I can now feel confident that during the run in Ironman I will not have the issues I was having before, and that my friends is an AWESOME thing!!

OH! Back to my run from last Sunday, it was a beautiful run. I actually didn’t have to stop (figures!!) along the way, a cool breeze every so often, and 17.40 miles done in a solid zone 2!!! Now that is JUST what I needed after Sat, and right before my scary procedure. 

I know there are dark moments, we get through them and move on.  And that’s just what I did. 

Now for a small break, and back to the Ironman taper…. 16 days!!! 

Stay tuned next week I will post information on how you can follow me on race day, bib information, etc.








Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Coming up for air.


Holy Smokes, it’s been a super busy time since my last blog. I apologize… you will see why I didn’t have a moment to spare to blog…. Here it goes….

Racine ½ Ironman

Can you say heat index of 110??! At one point I felt like my arms were going to burst into flames!
I got to the race the day before and racked my bike, picked up my packet. John and Jack were there, and Jack did well for the most part… but got cranky toward the end. There was a long line to check in, and more than a few people were disappointed with the lack of organization prior to us getting into line.
Here’s a pic of my bike and the sunrise over the swim on race day:




Race morning:
I had a nice quiet ride by myself up to Racine. Found a parking spot and headed down to transition. The sun was just rising and the swim course looked very peaceful.

Once in transition, I set up my gear, gave it a once over and started down to the swim start (about a mile down the beach) The lines for the port-a-potties were long, and I went to the vending area, only 2 people in line, plus no port-a-potty! Yeah! While walking I had the pleasure of chatting with a guy who’s done Ironman Wisconsin for 10 years now… and has been to Kona. It was fun, he asked me what I’ve been doing to prepare for Ironman, and offered a piece of advice which has been rattling in my brain ever since. He said "Don’t overcook yourself on the bike, wait until the second loop to pick up speed."  He then told me every race he has a mantra and for his first Ironman his mantra was: “Hey Asshole, you have a marathon to run after this!” I LOVE IT!!! Lots of nervous people chatting, and it was weird but I didn’t feel nervous at all. This was not my A race, this was just another training day in my opinion. My goal was to run a solid race, stay on my nutrition on the bike and in my zones. That’s all. I chatted a bit with some fellow athletes that my brother trains with and just next to us was Craig Alexander (2x Ironman Champion)! In NO other sport will you ever have a professional athlete preparing right next to you! Too cool!!!  My wave did not go off until 8:16 so I got into my wetsuit about a 40 mins prior, first time with this suit, as I had to send my brand new one back due to several seams splitting. I got in and the water was pretty cold, but after a few strokes the water felt like heaven… trust me all during the run I thought about how nice and cool that water was!!! I remained in the water until just before my start… just to keep cool in the wetsuit. 

Swim: My wave was up and I lined up in the front just to the left. The horn sounded and we were off. The swim was about 100yds out to the first buoy and then a right down a mile and then another right –back to shore. My goal- remain calm, keep my breath under control and just focus on a solid swim. I did just that. Buoy after buoy... they just ticked by. At one point there was a couple of large waves that left me grabbing for air instead of water. Glad that didn’t last too long and we were back to normal. I will say that since Lake Michigan is such a large body of water, it is harder to sight as the up and down of the waves can leave you a little disoriented. But always having the shore along your right was very grounding. One thing I did really hate was the boats and their exhaust… it just hovered on the surface of the water, which made it difficult to breath. But once we got out it wasn’t bad as the boats were more spread out. Coming into the shore, my brother suggested that I take my wetsuit off in the water, since the run back to transition was long and part of it in the sand. It is supposed to be easier to take off when it’s wet. Well, that wasn’t really the case with me… just short of the exit (and outside the photographers view) I plopped down in the water to get the rest of my suit off around my ankles. I just couldn’t do it standing up. I can only imagine what everyone was thinking… although, it couldn’t of been that bad of a choice as I noticed a few others doing the same thing.

Into T1- I flew. No wetsuit to take off, I threw on my helmet, shoes, number…grabbed my bike and nutrition and I was off… but not before I gave John a huge smile for the camera. This is fun!!!

photo courtesy of John Atkins


I mounted my bike and to get out of transition you need to climb a hill. Last year that hill seemed huge and daunting… but after doing the Horribly Hilly Hundred and Galena… this hill was nothing! My Mom said I went up it like the energizer bunny. Hop hop hop! And off I went. I was very very careful about the heat and fueling. So careful, I felt like I was passed by 300 people, most of which I will later pass on the run, while they walk. My coach and brother couldn’t stress enough the importance of holding back and proper nutrition. My brothers words rang through my ears… it will be a DEATH march out there if you’re not careful, and for many it was. I also kept the gentlemans' words in my head that I walked to the swim start with. I thought about what my mantra … what would it be? I came up with “Settle down Beavis, DON’T be a Butthead!!!” Over and over I said that as I watched my heart rate very carefully. I KNOW I could have went much harder. My average on the bike was 17.5MPH… I had more in me, but I did NOT want to be part of the DEATH march. I also kept hearing about how bumpy the course was, and really it wasn’t as bad – perhaps because large sections were repaved? It was only those last 5 miles when the lady bits were tender did the bumps become an issue… but I told myself 5 miles, just finish strong. And I did just that. Along the bike route I made sure to thank all the volunteers and spectators… it was HUGE that they were out there in that heat. I also got a surprise, when my brother popped onto the sidelines about 30 miles in… how great was that!?  A HUGE boost as he shouted that I looked great! I came into transition and flashed another huge smile for John, my Mom and Aunt!!! I felt great and was ready to tackle that run.
photo courtesy of John Atkins


Heading out on the run!!! photo courtesy of John Atkins


T2- EASY. Stopped at the port a potty and off I went. 

Run: It. was. HOT.  And just as my brother said… 70% of the people were walking. NOT me. I nailed my nutrition on the bike, and didn’t overwork it. One change from my orig. plan I walked each and every aide station on the run to make sure I got a full cup of Perform and water. Toward the end the aide stations seemed to come too fast as I was getting full from all the liquid. I passed many, overheard many conversations of people saying they didn’t take enough nutrition and overdid the bike.  I felt pretty good. Took sponges and dumped ice down my shirt to stay cool. 
This guy didn't follow his plan... Love my sponges?
Each mile ticked by fast, and the people who live on the run course were AWESOME—they had hoses set up so we could cool off as we passed by. Thank you so much to every one of you…. It saved many out there! I came in before the second loop and had a little GI issue and had to make a few unscheduled stops at the bathrooms along the way… booo to that. But all in all it was a VERY solid race, executed well.  I listened to my coach and raced the day for the conditions- NOT the time. I finished 6 hours and 3 mins.  I did not walk (except for the aide stations) and I finished with a smile—I did it. 

My AWESOME support group- PLUS Ana, who was watching Jack at home :)
I love the guy grabbing his hamstring... hmm someone needs salt!

The week after Racine, we moved into our new house. I LOVE OUR NEW HOUSE. I love everything about it. I love that I can turn out of my subdivision and be in farm country. In fact I just finished my 2nd 100 mile ride out there… just awesome. I love that we can see the storms coming in from our front porch and that Jack has a playroom and room to run and play. I love that we sometimes can’t find each other – and that I have a counter to get ready on in the morning. (little things) We are not all the way unpacked and there are still boxes and stuff lying about … I’ll tackle those come 9-12-11. Until then, I am pounding out the last bit of Ironman training, and enjoying my family and new digs when Im not training. We are blessed.



Training continues for Ironman. I am officially 1 month out from Ironman, and I feel really good about it actually. I logged in another 100 mile ride, several long swims and runs PLUS the solid performance in Racine! 
I KNOW I can do this… it is getting exciting now with the light at the end of the tunnel getting brighter every day. Plans are being made for our support crew as I pull through the last remaining weeks of endurance training. As my brother said… the hay is in the barn. Meaning, it’s all but done, you’ve put the time in now it’s just time to race. I’ve been training and building fitness and endurance for 2 years now. It’s been a great road discovering what I am made of – how far I can push, and all the lessons learned along the way. Juggling a full time job, husband, my son, an unplanned move and training should leave me with a master’s degree in organization and time management! I owe a HUGE thank you to my family, friends and coworkers and bosses for helping me out and supporting me and allowing me to be flexible with my time when things got to be too much. Word of advice to anyone thinking of doing an Ironman… make sure you have a wonderful support  group- you won’t be able to do it without them. 
Also, get a great athletic coaching group surrounding you… I couldn’t of made it this far without 
I’ve been asked by several what I plan to do after Ironman… and I tell them… I need to first FINISH Ironman, and then I will think about after. I’ve heard from some others it’s hard to remain focused this close to the race… but I am finding it to be the opposite… I'm more focused than ever. Each ride, swim or run I am thinking about the race, thinking about what I’ve done, where I started and why I am doing this.  For the remaining weeks I will focus on rest, nailing my zones, eating well and not stressing.  

It’s almost go time.