Thursday, August 25, 2011


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 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:$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.