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.


  1. Oh Cheryl!! YOU ate an athlete!! Not one good athlete comes out of a trng program without one of those holy s*#t what am I doing moments. One important lesson I know- make sure you know how to work yourself back to positive metal attitude after you catch yourself in a mental rut. Being able to do so can jump you out of the pit quickly and that makes a difference if the craptastic moment pops up mid-race.
    So glad you're recovering now, can't wait to see you strong on 9/11!!!

  2. Yes, the IM training is so hard, but you are making lemonade out of lemons sometimes this training cycle! Hang in there - you WILL do fine at the IM! :))