Monthly Archives: July 2010

7/30/10 Psychological Warfare

Friday.  I know, I know, where’s the blog?  Been away, been busy, been thinkun’.  I’ve been writing in my head convinced if I just mull a little more something really profound, deep and clear will come tumbling out of my fingers.  Alas, no.  Just more muddle as I struggle to figure it all out.

Spent a week in Lake Placid.  Went up to cheer for Ironman.  On the way my doctor called me in the car to tell my my test results were back and she could tell I had been “compliant.”  That was her word.  She didn’t say “wow, you are doing fantastic!”  She said I was compliant.  Okay I’ll bite at any semblance of improvement.

I’ll try to summarize.  My Iron and Vitamin D have risen to “Low Normal.”  Okay they are  both the lowest number in the allowable range but they are in the allowable range.  I have had very slow improvement but the numbers are going up.  She swears if I just keep being “compliant” the numbers will keep going up.  I tested negative for Celiac Disease (yeah!)

My Antibodies are going down and that is the good news.  I want those to go down every time I get tested.  That means my body is realizing there are no more enemies to fight.

My TSH is too high but she gave me more medicine to control that.  Very minor adjustment and that should be at level in a week or so.

So all good news.  I’m trying to think of a time in my life when anyone has called me compliant… nope… can’t think of one.

I soon arrived at Lake Placid to watch my friends and teammates battle through their first Ironman.  It was to be a super training weekend for me.  Didn’t really turn out that way.  I did get my old road bike supped up at the bike shop there but I didn’t get to use it on the mountain.  Turns out an old friend was there doing her first Ironman and needed my help to get ready.   I thought it was hysterical that everyone thought I was so organized.  I didn’t want to tell them that the fancy shoe organizer with all my triathlon stuff stays on my wall at home and I just fold it up and bring it with me.  Insta- triathlon.  I don’t do much thinking about my packing.  I just don’t unpack.

In a way it was a really good exercise for me to walk my friend through her Ironman prep.  It was a like a rehearsal and I already have my checklists started for what I need to bring, buy and must not forget.  I think that was good for me.  Made it real.

I did run 15 miles on Saturday until my knee went out.  The sad part was I was actually feeling okay.  I had enough energy to keep going and I could have walked another five easily but I thought what was the point?  If my knee was out, it was out and walking five more miles wouldn’t prove anything and it might hurt something. (Top of to-do list, knee strengthening exercises.)

Sunday was race day.  Up at the crack of stupid (ala Sunshine) and got my friend breakfast and sherpa’d her up to the race start.  I started to see all of my teammates and everyone was so excited.  I remember that feeling well.   Anxiety, anxiety, anxiety.  I honestly don’t know if knowing everyone there helps or hurts.  I do know one thing.  Facebook (which was not in my vocabulary two years ago) is totally nauseating.  I was getting stress reading everyone’s posts to everyone else and I wasn’t even doing the race!  Thank God I didn’t have to deal with that two years ago!  Memo to self — shut down facebook next week….

I rode out to a spot on the bike course and stood there for about six hours cheering.  Amazingly I was not bored or lonely one bit.  I was really mesmerized by the variety of biking skills and styles.  Some people happy, some people pissed, some people in desperate need of some bike coaching.  I had to bite my lip many times to not tell people to drop their heels and loosen their elbows.  I figured they are on mile 100 and they don’t really need any advice at this point.  I was well aware that there were going to be several people who were not going to make the cutoff.  This Ironman was hard work and not for the weak.

Then I cut over to the run course and started walking and cheering.  My number one observation on the run course was “oh, it really sucks for everyone, not just me.”  Of course there were the few freaks of nature who looked like they were just starting a 5k but pretty much everyone else looked how I remembered feeling — like you were in a bad accident that wasn’t coming to an end soon.  Some line I heard from long ago in my past popped in my head “It never gets easier, you just get faster.”

Interspersed with my cheering I had a couple of hours to visit and torture my coach with my neurosis while we cheered on the team.  Canada is driving me and everyone else nuts.  Can I do it?  Should I do it?  Is it even feasible?  I run numbers through my head all day long.  Then I think about my run at Tupper and the debacle at Rhode Island.  No way, I can’t do it.  Then I think well you’ve done a lot of training, you did a hundred mile bike, you’ve done a lot of long runs.  Some guy in an Elvis costume is doing Lake Placid Ironman and cracking Elvis jokes at midnight, and you can’t do it?  You have done two Olympics and two Half IM’s.  Yeah there has been no sign of any good result anywhere but who knows?  One thing my coach said is I had to make a decision and if I was going to do it I had to make the commitment and do it.  I agree.

Left hand, pain.  Right hand, determination.  Left hand, fear of failure.  Right hand, something to prove.  Left hand, fear of right hand.  Right hand, paper covers rock.  I know what I have to say but I’m afraid to say it.   Deep breath.  Exhale.

I am going to race Ironman Canada.

Pick self up off floor.

See saying I’m going to race it just means I’m racing myself.  It doesn’t really mean I think I’m going to beat anyone.  But I’m going to try to go for a time.  Sounds impossible and sounds ridiculous considering I’m going there in worse shape with worse races under my belt and still not feeling 100%.  But I have a plan.  I’m going to out-race my training.  What? You can’t do that!! (I know you can’t do that because it is the list of pearls of wisdom our coach sent out.)  But I’m going to try anyway.  And if I don’t make my goal that’s okay but I’m shooting for that.  This is a little of shoot for the stars and land on the moon (or is it shoot for the moon and land on the stars? hmmm)

What does out-race my training mean?  I do realize that I can only swim, bike and run so fast.  But all those little cracks in between can be filled up with a super-smooth race plan. It means that I’m going to do every little thing in my power to maximize my race.  Starting yesterday.  I will leave no detail undone.  I took a lot of notes up at Lake Placid and watched little things where seconds could be shaved.  I know my own races and where I could have done better.  When it comes down to race day, there will be little I can do if I feel sick and exhausted so I better make sure I am not feeling sick or exhausted. I’m going to be  picky about my lists.  I’m already eating whole foods and doing my meditation and pilates.  Strengthen my knees, stretch my muscles, take my vitamins.  Sleep.  No parties, no alcohol, no cigarettes and no heroin.  Everything I do will be focussed in the next 4 weeks toward delivering the healthiest mind and body to that start line that I can.  And during the race, maintain focus and execute smoothly.

The number one place where I think most of the first timers waste time is in fear.  I was guilty of it in 2008.  (2007 I got my bravado knocked out of me so I never even got to the doubting part of the race.)  In 2008 when I got onto the run, I was already at my end.  Everything hurt.  I was waaaayyyyy past my expected bike time.  I was filled with doubt.  Doubt, doubt, doubt.  It was at mile 4 when I saw that I wasn’t doing too badly and that little voice chimed in and told me I must abandon all doubt.  And I did.  Something clicked.  It was hard as hell but from mile 4 on I never even considered quitting.

I’m calling this psychological efficiency.  When we swim, bike or run, we are always trying to smooth our strokes to make us more efficient.  We aim to stop fighting against friction and gravity and move through and with the forces of nature.  In the water we try to make ourselves streamlined through the water and shave off a fraction of friction to give us a whopping 2 minutes off.  On the bike we try to go aero  and cut through the wind by maximizing our body position and pedal speed.  On the run we try to lean into gravity and let the pull work with us and not against us.  All forces going in the same direction.  My mind has to do the same thing.  When I spend time doubting myself, that’s psychological friction.  It’s energy going into the wrong direction.  It’s the same as swimming with my head up.  I need to align myself.  Head down and swim.

So rule number 1 is from this moment forward is No Doubt.  This is hard. I’m scared.  I’m afraid I’m going to fail.  I feel like I’m on that stupid balance beam thing up at camp and I’m going to fall on my ass.  But I need to suck in my gut (all control comes from the powerhouse) look up and not down (looking down will cause me to lose balance) and employ constant forward motion and focus.

Constant forward motion is going to be my mantra through the race.  I’ve been coming up with a lot of notes on how I will shave seconds off here and there by being the smarter athlete.  I am going to out psych my own psych-out.

I told my other coach that my big fear is that it is going to hurt and I don’t know when to call Uncle.  I know I should have bailed out of Rhode Island.  That was stupid.  I caused myself more harm than good.   His comment was to know the difference between your A race and your B races.  Maybe I should have bailed in Rhode Island because it put a damper on my training.  But Canada is it.  The end.  (Thank GOD!)  So there is no reason to not push through the pain.  But then he asked me “so what is going to keep you going?  What’s going to prevent you from saying ‘forget it, I already am an Ironman, I don’t have to prove anything.’?”  My answer to him was “because I have to prove that nobody has taken anything from me.”  (Why do I feel like saying that line from Dirty Dancing?  “nobody puts Baby in a corner?”)

This morning I was having coffee with my friend and was telling her the story.  I told her that yeah maybe I have something to prove.  I have an Ironman medal pre-surgery but I don’t have one post-surgery.  It’s my comeback.  She says “yeah, and that medal was pre-50.  Now you’re over 50 so you have to have an over-50 Ironman.”  Geesh thanks….


And now for the new song in my life.  My friend Princess Fish who rocked out an 11:30 Ironman turned me onto this song by Alicia Keys.

Cause I am a Superwoman
Yes I am, yes she is
Still when I’m a mess, I still put on a vest
With an S on my chest
Oh yes, I’m a Superwoman

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7/19/10 Playing with Fire

Monday.  Definitely feeling better.  Well at least I don’t feel sick anymore.  Now my nausea is just mental.  I really didn’t get much done last week in any arena of my life — workouts, work, or fun.  I rested a lot and I do feel some energy coming back.

Sunday was a great day at the NYC triathlon cheering.  I got up early and ran to the swim start.  That didn’t stink.  It was only a couple of miles.  At least I could run a little.  Everyone seemed in good spirits and there was all the usual nervous energy in abundance.  I was secretly hoping that cheering for NYC triathlon would give me a little inspiration to face some of my own challenges looming in the near future.

The Hudson river current was in force for swim portion of the race and we were able to walk alongside our friends as they finished in record times.  Nothing beats a current-assisted swim.  Everyone looked like professional swimmers and were out of the water in no time.  As they got on their bikes, I headed out with my friend Anne and her dog to scope out a good spot in the park for viewing.  We found a great spot on a hill in the shade where we could sit down until we saw people we knew.  Very soon there was no sitting — it was one friend or teammate after another running up in the heat.  We were cheering for everyone.  I was in awe.  There was no way I could do this.  I felt the same way cheering for Rev 3 half ironman.  There is no way.  This takes guts and strength and athleticism that frankly I just don’t have.

My friend Mo did an amazing job.  She did what I love best.  She had a goal.  She made a plan.  She executed the plan and met the goal.  There is something so satisfying about watching someone do what they set out to do.  Same feeling as cheering for your team to make the goal or beat the bad guy.  When you cheer and root for someone and they do it, you can’t help but feel a sense of satisfaction.  It’s interesting that I would feel satisfied because I had nothing to do with the end result, I was just cheering but nonetheless I felt a completeness.

I joke with my friends all the time about how I hate it when people say “you inspire me.”  I’ve had a lot of arguments about this with different friends.  I don’t take it as a compliment.  I usually take it as a backhanded compliment.  Why would I inspire you more than the other 20 people on my team?  Because I’m old? Because I’m fat? Because I’m the least likely to finish?  Thanks for that.  The only time “you inspire me” is acceptable is when it is followed with an action.  “You inspired me to sign up for a race.”  Okay that’s good.  “You inspired me to get to the gym this morning.”  Okay I’ll take that.  I’ll even take outright competition as I’ve had people actually say to me “I finished by telling myself ‘if she can do it I can do it.'”  Okay that’s a little insulting but at least there was an action and if I did inspire you to get your butt over the finish line, okay.  But to just put a patronizing hand on my back and say “you’re amazing” because you walked 13 miles.  Or that 31 year old who hollered “Oh My God you’re 51? That’s amazing!!”  That’s not a compliment if the premise is you seem the least likely to succeed.  I live for the day when someone says “You scare me.”  That would be sooo awesome.  Hasn’t happened.

I’m being particularly sensitive because I have Canada hanging over my head.  I don’t want anyone to say “you’re amazing” but I do need some encouragement.  I truly don’t think I can do this.  I’ve pulled a lot of rabbits out of my hat over the years but in the back of my mind I think I always believed somewhere that this was possible.    I see all of my friends training for Lake Placid and I can go down the list and check them off, yep, she’s ready, she’s ready, he’s ready, they are all ready.  Me?  I’m not ready.  I’m not ready to go into battle one more time.

I think about my triathlons this year like playing with my kitchen stove.  St. Anthony’s was like putting my hand to open flame for a few seconds to see if it was hot and then being asking me how it felt.  “Hmm that’s kind of hot — it kind of hurt.”  Okay, let’s do Rev 3.  Put your hand to the open flame again and hold it for a few seconds longer.  “Ouch, seriously, that hurts.”  Okay, okay.  Tupper Lake, this won’t hurt.  Just put both of your hands to the flame for a few seconds.  “Cripes!!  That sure did hurt and I have a blister now.”  Okay fine, fine.  Just one more thing, we are just going to try this.  Rhode Island, put both of your hands to the flame and don’t move them until I say so.  “Heyyyy what are you trying to do? Burn me alive?”  I’m not an idiot.  I know IM Canada is going to have something to do with me sitting on the stove and putting my ass on fire.  Gee I can’t imagine why I wouldn’t want to do that…..

So watching the NYC Triathlon did not inspire me.  Everyone looked like they were in pain and it was hurting.  I don’t feel like hurting.

Ironically when I watch videos from the race or read race reports it doesn’t SOUND or LOOK terrible.  It looks like a beautiful course and there is no one part that I feel looks painful.  Ohhh wait a minute, yes there is one part that looks really painful — the run.  Am I back here again?  Loathing the run?  Yep.  My run, my eternal flame.

I looked up on the website how many people would be in my category (women 50-55), there are 120!  And they are mostly Canadian.  That’s a lot.  I thought there might be 4 or 5.  But 120?

When I say to my friends I’m thinking of pulling out, I don’t get anyone saying “Oh God no, you should do it. C’mon get tough.”  I get sad nods saying “I know it’s okay.”  That just gets me pissed off.  NO it is NOT OKAY.  I’m mad and upset that I’m not further along.  I deserve to feel stronger.  A line from something the coaches send out haunts me “you can not race better than you trained.”  I’m screwed.  Really?  I was hoping for a race day miracle, like all of a sudden my muscles would say “OHHH, you want to do THATTT again, why didn’t you say so?”  Not going to happen I guess.

My other friend says “you’ve done it already, you have the Ironman medal, you don’t have to prove anything.”  Well yes, yes I do, I have more to prove now than ever.  I have to prove that I can still do it.  I have to prove that I haven’t been knocked down.  I have to prove that nothing has been taken from me.

After much thinking about my dilemma this is where I stand.  I know me.  I know the good and bad parts of me.  I’ve already paid for the race.  I’ve already paid for my plane and my room.  I am not going to waste all that money.  I know I can go and just do the swim and the bike.  But again, I know me.  I know that I will not just DNF without being forced to.  So I know this already.  I know me.  I know I am going to be caught up in the throes of it and even if I’m close to the cutoff I will have to put my sneakers on.  Darn it.  I know me.  Why am I this way?  Why can’t I just go and cheer and go visit the wineries?  What is wrong with that?  What is wrong with me?

So all of this talking about stoves got me to thinking about my Grandmother who I adored.  She was a no fuss no muss kind of farm woman.   If people wonder where I get my puritan work ethic — look no further than my grandmother. She lived next door to us in the original farmhouse from 1850 that my great grandparents settled and I used to visit her every day.   (She mowed her own lawn until she was 80!)  The house had a huge old stove in the kitchen.  Below is a picture of the actual stove as it has now been donated to the Canton Historical Society (Canton Hysterical Society — sorry old inside joke). Now that was a serious stove.  It had a big chimney attached to it and it used to burn actual wood.  (And no that’s not my grandmother).  My Grandmother had a newer stove by the time I was a kid but that old stove stayed in the kitchen and I used to play with it all the time.

My family were all farmers back then.  They had cows and horse and chickens and planted their own fruits and vegetables and lived off the land.  They didn’t do sports for fun and fitness.  They plowed the field.  They tended the farm.  They didn’t have worries about things like splits and time cutoffs.  They worried about droughts and frosts and getting the hay into the barn.  I realize that all of my worries must seem really petty compared to the other bigger problems people have out there.  Okay so it’s going to hurt.  You’ll get through it some how.

And I can just hear my grandmother saying “You want something to complain about Colonel?”  (I have no idea why she called me Colonel but she used to always call me Colonel.)  “I can give you something to really complain about.”  Reaching for the broom.   “No Grandma I’m not complaining.”

Okay, okay.  Where are the matches? And my bike pump.


Grandma’s stove at the Hysterical Society.  (No that’s not Grandma..)

Now for the totally freaky part.  This is a picture of my grandmother and grandfather on the porch of their house.   I believe the little baby is my Dad so this picture is from about 1918-19.  Do I look like my grandmother or what? Genetics?  Ya think?

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7/15/20 Doctor’s Orders

Thursday.  I’m declaring today reminder day to make all doctor appointments.  I have a list of them I’ve been putting off.  TODAY I make all of them.  I need annual okays from Primary Care, Dentist, Gyno, Heart doc, Lung doc, need to get my mammogram and it’s time for my followup with my hairdresser too.  My surgeon and my endo see me all the time.  Time to share the love.

Today I had my check up with my Endo Dr. Fine.  I love Dr. Fine.  She’s young, she listens, she doesn’t think I’m crazy.  She’s cutting edge and confident. She works with me not against me.  It’s okay to be a Vegan.  She doesn’t do things just because everyone else says to do it.  There is a shortage of Thyrogen out there right now so instead of making me go through a procedure that would be difficult without it.  I get to wait six months (I don’t want this procedure anyway so it gives me six months to figure a way out of it).  Meanwhile I will have to go through a few other procedures but they will all wait until after Ironman.  (Why do you want to do an Ironman you ask?  Well, one reason is the longer it takes me to do an Ironman the longer before I have to go through procedures again! Just kidding, just kidding.)

I won’t have all of my tests back until 1 week.  Some of the tests come back the next day but she makes me wait the week until all the tests are back and then we discuss everything at once.  You don’t want to talk about your vitamin levels until you know what your TSH and T4 and Antibodies are.   I already prepped her that I am going through an anemic phase right now and it is through NO FAULT of my own.  I have been taking my pills I’m just going through a weird cycle and it should be over soon. By the weekend I should be feeling fine.  Just a cycle, nothing more.  I’m a little worried though that if the numbers come back too low she is going to start testing me for some other things which I really don’t think will be necessary.  There is no way I’m coming back Vitamin D deficient.  I have taken so much Vitamin D and so much sunshine there is no way that I don’t have enough.  If I come back deficient she has to start testing me for some conditions as to why I’m not absorbing.  I feel like a kid who didn’t study for the midterm and is holding her breath to see if she passed.

I have to have an ultrasound as soon as I get back from Canada.  This is very easy and painless.  Just want to make sure they don’t see anything obvious growing in my throat.  After that I will have to go on that freaky diet again for two weeks and then some injections and tests.  If those come back okay — she is going to let me lay low (yeah!!).  If they don’t come back okay, I have to go through another round of the diet, injections, test and one more round of radiation (boo!!).  But that won’t be for six months.  She’s flex with how we go about things.  She doesn’t think every patient has to be treated the same way.

I like my doctor because when I tell her that it hurts to eat breakfast before a race she doesn’t think I’m crazy, she nods her head and says “yes, the Iron you take can be painful to your stomach” and suggests a third version I can try.    She also reminds me to start cooking in my cast iron pan and to put citrus with my spinach so the vitamin C will help absorb the Iron.  She tells me it is okay to eat Tofu.  When I talk about Monsanto and the soy beans she’s one step ahead of me and tells me “well then you can’t eat the wheat or the blueberries either because Monsanto controls those too.  Eat your Tofu.  Every day.  The Japanese eat Tofu 3 times a day and have the lowest rate of breast cancer.”  Wow, that’s kind of radical.   I like her.  She’s no baloney (and I’m not giving up bread yet.)

She’s read Born to Run and when I walk in with my toe shoes she says “Oh how do you like the Vibram 5 fingers?” When I showed her the recipes from the Thrive Diet (I’m trying to learn to make some drinkable breakfasts) she’s heard of it and reminds me that it would be good to add some seeds like Chia seeds and hemp to my morning shake.  She’s ahead on the alternative foods curve.

She’s surprised that I’m racing so much already.  I tell her I needed the goal to keep sane.  She gets that.  “My husband is a runner, I get it.”  (Dare I tell her that I am not a runner?  Nah, I’ll just keep quiet.)  I tell her I haven’t had a single good result yet this year and they are getting worse not better.  She nods and tells me it takes a full year before people start to feel really back to normal and that soon I should start feeling the old endurance come back.  “Do ya think it will be back by August 29th?”  I ask.  She laughs but doesn’t offer an answer.  Oh well, too late, I’m already doing it.  I do understand 100% that I am not back at full throttle yet and I’m okay with it as long as she is okay with it.  She’s okay with it as long as I’m okay with it.  So we’re all okay.

I like her because there is no right or wrong.  If you are happy and feeling okay, that’s right.

I stopped at Fairway after my appointment and picked up everything I need to start making my Thrive power foods.  I’m going to give the hemp shakes another try.  Maybe with some berries.  I’m going to start experimenting now with making my own and seeing what I can keep down.  I’ve never found a recipe that I like but maybe now I can use the Odawalla Almond Mondo as my guide.

Had a bike practice this morning.  Was hard for me because I’m in the throws of a anemic shut down.  I’m exhausted.  I need to give my body a couple of days of modified workouts.  I can do that because I’m an experienced athlete now and I can decide what is too much for me right now and that the world is not going to stop spinning if I just do what my body feels okay with.  I need to rest and recover from putting my body through some overuse and abuse.  I need to sleep today.  I’m okay with that.  When I wake up I’m either going to be 100 years older or just very well rested.

I’m still up in the air about Canada.  I don’t know if I can finish it.  But then again there are lots of reasons people can’t finish Ironman.  Right now my sights are on getting on the plane.  If I can make the flight there that is one part done.  I’m 99% sure I can make the flight.

Taking the day off today to sleep.  Everybody else can just wait.


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7/12/10 Providence

Tuesday.  Whoops, guess I am a little bit of a slacker since my last post was about Tupper Lake Half Ironman and this post is about Rhode Island half Ironman.  Either I’m not posting enough or I’m racing too much….  You can decide.

I am going to approach this report a little differently.  First I’m going to talk about all the good things that happened.

  1. I got to meet Karen Smyers.
  2. I did not cry.
  3. I had two great friends there to cheer for me and peel me off the ground at the end.
  4. Fellow competitors pulled me through and were great.
  5. I got to meet Karen Smyers.

To be fair I have to underline that I went into this race as a training day NOT as a race.  Repeat, this was supposed to be a training day.   That said, I think we all know that is baloney because once the gun goes off you are racing. You can’t help it.  You look at the time, you worry about how you are doing.  This is why I wanted to do this race in the first place.  I knew I needed more pressure from somewhere.  I needed something to be not so kind and understanding.  Something to push me to work even harder.  I let Tupper Lake be all about the emotion of my one year out, blah, de blah and I’m okay with that.  It was a door I had to walk through — emotions that I had to process.  I get that.  But now that was all over and I needed to work even harder.  I needed the pressure of a long workout where I couldn’t back out.  Nothing better than a point to point half Ironman for no escape route!

I thought of this training day as one of the elements required to turn a lump of coal into a diamond.  Coal needs a lot of high heat and high pressure to become transformed and I figured Rhode Island might provide the necessary ingredients to help continue the transformation I started in October.  The three races I have done this year have been very hard for me.  I feel weaker in every discipline including discipline itself.   My idea was to add a little more pressure to my natural lumpiness and end up a more brilliant gem in the end.  Yeah, nice idea….  Nature takes a long time to turn a lump of coal into something brilliant — why I thought it was going to happen in a year is beyond me.  (Even writing that I have to think, how can a year NOT be enough time?)

I was lucky enough to spend the week out at my brother’s house near the race start (another advantage to doing this race is I have familial accommodations very near by).  I figured I would use it as a training week.  My own version of camp.  I asked my friend the Mermaid Queen to come out with me and help me swim and hang out.  I didn’t do any super crazy workouts during the week.  Wednesday easy 90 run/walk and a short swim.  Thursday easy peasy spin on bike plus short swim.  Friday 1 hour run/plus short swim.  Just enough to keep the muscles going and to work a little on my ocean water swimming.

I was really tired all week and I forgot some of my vitamins so we made an emergency run to the store to stock up.  Not sure it helped.  I was feeling systemically weak but I was also trying to convince myself that I would suddenly be brilliant on Sunday.  I actually thought I felt okay on Saturday and though I didn’t sleep that many hours I really did feel rested.

The general idea of the race is you start in Narragansett, RI with the 1.2 mile swim.  Then you ride your bike 56 miles to Providence.  And then you finish with a 13 mile run in Providence.  The logistics require you go drive to Providence and drop off your run gear the day before so it will be there when you get off your bike during the race.  You then drive back to Narragansett and drop off your bike.  Major pain in the buttola.  Many athletes stay in Providence and do the reverse commute.   For me, Saturday was drive to Providence, register and leave off run bag.  Back home to pack my other transition bags.  I did a very half-hearted packing job.  I didn’t have a single gel with me.  I just brought my Infinit.  I figured I could just get gels on the course.  I apologized to my bike for not taking it in for a tune up.  It’s just a training day,  it’s just a training day I kept saying.

Race morning.  Of course I miscalculated how long it would take to get to the race. It was one road with 1,500 athletes and families trying to get to the beach.  My friends G&D were driving me and I think I gave them a little heart attack when I yelped when I saw a cyclist ride by with the name “SMYERS” printed across her butt.  Oh My God!!  I think that was Karen Smyers!!  I didn’t know she racing.  She is my number one inspiration for getting through the last year.  She is a professional triathlete known for overcoming several obstacles including a bike crash that left her with broken bones and punctured lung as well as having the same Thyroid condition I had.

As it turns out my bike rack was right next to her bike rack — only about 20 bikes separated us.  I thought it would be bad form to go up to her as she was getting prepared to race but then I thought, how often does an opportunity like this come up?  I swallowed my pride and went up to her and excusing myself said “I just had to let you know that you were my number one inspiration for getting through this past year.  I had the same diagnosis and treatment as you and I looked to you to be my role model to get through it.”   She was so nice and thanked me for telling her.  I told her “Two weeks ago was my one year anniversary and I did a half Ironman and today I’m doing a second and you were my inspiration to get through it all.”  She looked at me with a little concern.  For a fleeting second,  I thought she was raising her hand to my head to take my temperature, instead she asked with true concern “how are you feeling?”  I told her pretty good, just not as strong yet but I still look to her as my role model.  (Of course I thought it was funny noting she is soooo tiny as I said that.)  She said “that’s exactly how I got through it, I had a role model I looked to and I just kept going.”  Then I decided that I should probably leave her alone since we both had to start our race and it really wasn’t cool to bother someone right before the race.   She could have been a real jerk about it but she wasn’t.   It was only a minute but it was a huge moment for me.  It was a sign!!  (Wait a minute, my pink cap at IMLP was a sign too, right?  Better not read too much into these signs…)

I went back to my transition station thinking “I can’t believe I met Karen Smyers.  I can’t believe I actually talked to her.  Face to face.”  It’s not often you get to meet someone who had such a big influence.  When I first got diagnosed I was really devastated.  But when read about Karen Smyers and how she went back to racing and made it into the Triathlon Hall of Fame after having the exact same surgery and treatment that I had, I was so hopeful.  I read everything I could about her.  Every interview, every article.  If she could do it, I would try.

My wave went off third.  Right after Karen’s.  She was probably half way to Providence by the time I got out of the water.  I can’t really explain what happened during my swim.  It was an ocean swim, out to sea and back.  On the way out I kept sighting every 8 strokes.  And by the end of 8 strokes I had drifted so far off course it wasn’t even funny.  I would shuffle my way back in.  Then the tide would take me out again.  I just couldn’t stay close to the buoys.  At one point I thought “I think you are actually supposed to have some muscles to swim, this isn’t working.”  I tried everything but out to sea I went.

On the way back I felt it was taking a really long time.  I usually feel that about 3/4 way through the swim and that’s when I know I’m going to end up at 48 minutes or so.  Unfortunately I had just started the return and had a long fight back.  Two other gals from my wave were fighting me the entire time.  I spent too much time trying to get away from them.   I should have been meaner and kicked back but I just couldn’t do that (particularly since I wasn’t sure it wasn’t actually my fault and not theirs).  My wetsuit felt fine (which frankly amazes me every time), I was practicing all the things we worked on earlier in the week — not crossing my arms, head down — I just was going nowhere.  Even the last little bit to get into shore seemed to take forever.   When I got out of the water my watch said 58 minutes.  I almost had a heart attack.  I think that was my longest swim ever!!  Extra kick in the pants when I later read one gal’s report and she said it was a “nice swim.”  I guess I am just weak…  I did laugh though to see one of the gals from my wave’s time was exactly the same as mine.  So we were duking it out from the beginning.

Coach Mermaid Queen was there cheering when I got out of the water.  I felt bad that I didn’t swim better but I couldn’t really feel bad because I didn’t know what I did wrong!  They had three baby pools to run through to clean off your feet and wetsuit strippers which is always a very nice touch.  I had two gals who had my wetsuit off before I could even get my butt on the ground and then they both grabbed my arms and I was up and into transition in one second.  That could have easily been 5 minutes that day.

On the bike and immediately I was aware I had no zip.  I had a big breakfast trying desperately to eat 800 calories but I fell short.  I didn’t have my Odawalla protein drink with me and for now on that will not be an acceptable omission from any training day or race.   I didn’t kill myself in the swim so that wasn’t it.   I just couldn’t get going.  I had driven the course the day before and was convinced it was flat.  Now it just seemed a constant little uphill and then more hills and hills.  They were all little hills but where were the flats?  I was drinking my Infinit formula and just trying to keep a good cadence going.  I concentrated on nothing less than 90 rpm and found myself living in my small chain ring.  Ugh… that’s not a good sign. I shifted between my big chainring and my small chainring more than I have ever done in any other ride.  I was also aware of the non-stop parade of other competitors passing me like I was standing still. I thought I felt headwind but then I thought maybe I was imagining it.  Can we start over please?

Other interesting note was the number of penalties being handed out for people drafting (staying too close behind a rider) or blocking (riding next to another rider and making it hard for other people to pass).   They were passing out penalties right and left right out of the gate.  They had told us 3 penalties and you would be disqualified.  I hugged the side of the road to stay out of everyone’s way and just kept pedaling.  I am pretty sure I have never seen so many penalties being handed out but then again I am usually starting 45 minutes behind all of these guys and not before them.

After mile 30 there were some real downhills but too late.  But by then I was really starting to fade.  Something wasn’t right but I couldn’t put my finger on it.  I was taking in all my calories but I just felt weak, weak, weak.  Oh no, was it happening again?  Was I slipping backwards?  I’m just weak.  I can’t work any harder.

Mile 40 my stomach starts to spasm.  Cramps.  It hurts.  I’m exhausted and tired.  I want to quit.  I have never wanted to quit a bike ride so badly.  I could have pulled over to the side of the road and just laid down and gone to sleep.  This was that old, terrible, exhausted feeling.  I’m screwed.  I have to quit.  I can’t do this.  Get me out of here.  You can’t quit.  Karen Smyers is here.  You can’t quit on the day you meet Karen Smyers!!!  I have to quit.  I can’t even pedal.

Then we hit a hill.  A real hill.  Not the beast or anything.  Maybe like State Line hill.  Nothing terrible but now it’s late in the race and I passed tired 10 miles earlier.  I start climbing.  Oh no.  I see two guys walking their bikes up the hill.  Don’t look, don’t look.  If you look at them it is the kiss of death.  You’ll think you can get off your bike too.  I  have to get off.  I’m exhausted.  I can’t pedal.  You have done hundreds of bigger hills than this.  This is not a big hill.  Then all of a sudden this booming voice comes into my ears “YOU WILL NOT STOP PEDALING.  YOU WILL GET UP THIS HILL!”  I look up and there is some crazy lunatic guy dressed in red, white and blue with red, white and blue face paint on screaming like a drill master.  “DO NOT STOP, I SWEAR TO YOU YOU CAN SEE PROVIDENCE AT THE TOP OF THIS HILL.”   Then a guy is riding right behind me going “come on, kill this hill, come on, you can do this, come on.”  Then the gal in front of me starts yelling “we have this, we have this.”  It’s not even that big of a hill (or maybe it was, but I felt it shouldn’t have felt that hard) but we were all grunting and encouraging one another.  Oh God, I will have to dig down into my soul to find this one.  But it’s that crazy guy’s voice that is pulling me up the hill.  Okay, okay, I can do this. I gulp as I pass the two guys walking their bikes.

I get to the top and of course painted-face man lied.  Not even close to seeing Providence.  But it wasn’t hilly any more.  Now my stomach is spasming.  I want to puke but there is nothing to puke.  It’s just cramping.  Okay, once you get to Providence you can DNF.  Just get to Providence.  If you stop here, no telling how or when you will get home.  Besides your friends are waiting for you in Providence you have to get there and you will just go out to lunch and call it a day.  The roads become really choppy and I think downright dangerous in some spots.  I barely missed some spots that would have easily caught my wheel and sent me spinning.  I was surprised I did not see more casualties but then again there had been plenty of time for an ambulance to sweep in and remove them before I even got there.

Then my other voice chimed in.  What the heck are you talking about?  You are going to get off this bike, slap the biggest Natascha Badmann smile on your face and put your running shoes on.  I don’t care how sick or tired you feel.  You go until you fall over or pass out.  Now shut up and pedal.  Oh God, oh God, okay I will just put on my running shoes.  Slap a smile… Yeah… How do I smile?

When I finally made it to T2 (bike to run transition) it was almost 4 hours.  The longest bike ride in any of my half Ironmans.  I have to go back and look but it might have been longer than my Disney half when I had 3 flats during the bike…  It was a nightmare.  And  now the nightmare was getting worse.  Where were the clouds and thunderstorms they had predicted?  All I see is blue skies and sun….  It’s hot already….  I’m screwed.  I search the skies for a sign of a cloud but there are only a few white puffy ones far away from the sun.  “It’s just you and me kiddo” I hear the sun say with a sneer.

I take my water bottle (only has powder no water yet because I dropped it off yesterday) and head towards the only official looking guy I see.  He is standing near the run exit and I say, “I don’t feel well, I think I need to stop.  Where do I turn in my number?”  He tells me he is not sure and to ask the guy at the next table it is just up the road a bit.  He points in a direction I don’t want to go.  I don’t know what to do but my feet move anyway and now I’m on the official run course and everyone is cheering.  I start running to get away from everyone.  It feels like little gnomes are punching me in the stomach.  Please just let me out of here.  My feet are continuing on without the permission of my head.

I get to the first water station.  Finally some water.  I can’t drink.  I can’t eat.  Just take water with you.  Pour water on your head, start now.  It’s hot.  I take sponges and put them in my shirt. I can’t even take a sip of water my stomach hurts.

All I can think is when do I duck out?  Mile 1?  Mile 6?  What do I do?  I can’t do this.  I can’t do this.  I am exhausted.  I can’t get any nutrition or hydration in.  My stomach hurts.  I am M.I.S.E.R.A.B.L.E.  And then I hit the three tier hill.  You must be kidding me.  It’s a ridiculous hill in three sections.  Very steep.  Similar to Hook Mountain Suicide Hill.  Nobody is running it.  Two really fast fit guys pass me.  All of a sudden one turns around and looks me square in the face.  “You can do this.  Keep going.”  I am a little taken aback why he would say anything to me.  I think I might have been mumbling or stumbling or something.  Then I said out loud to nobody “what mile can I get out of here?”  Some guy is right in my ear saying ” you can get out at the end, c’mon just keep going you can do this.”  But I knew I couldn’t.  I still couldn’t take a sip of anything.  Little gnomes having their punching practice.

Then I see this Austrian or German guy who I ran into the day before.  He had been wearing a Rev 3 hat so I stopped and talked to him about the race.  I had told him how hard I thought Rev 3 it was.  He had agreed.  Now he sees me and yells to me “You, I know you!  Rev 3!  C’mon you can do this!!”  I’m walking and must be looking very pathetic.  How do I escape?

Then the most bizarre thing happens.  At mile 4 my stomach stops cramping.  Just like that.  The spasms just stop.  The gnomes put down the boxing gloves.  It’s a miracle.   Poof.  I can finally take a sip of my drink.  Oh my God.  It just stopped.  It had been spasming and cramping since mile 40 of the bike and then it just stopped.  I drank some more.  It’s okay.  I can’t believe it.  I try to run.  Err – nope contraction — Stomach cramp.  Okay, okay, I was just testing the boundaries.  I can do a fast walk/slide but I can’t do anything to jostle.  But if I can drink and eat, I can walk.  I keep experimenting.  I tried to eat a gu.  Couldn’t do it.    Immediate spasms.  Okay water seems okay.  I take a banana.  No problem.  That goes down.  Okay, okay, let’s work with this.  Walk as fast as you can.  See if you can slip in a jog here and there.  Ice, ice and more ice at every water station.  It’s so hot.  Half a banana.  Just eat the bananas.  I stop and let them pour water down my back, over my head, down my shirt at every stop.  They give me sponges. They give me bananas.  Every single volunteer is so nice.  It’s mile 5 and I don’t think I am going to die any more.  Now I don’t have an excuse.  Now I HAVE to keep going because I am not in miserable pain but I’m exhausted at this point.  Okay God, if they will give me enough time I will walk to the finish.  It’s not what I want but if I am being honest it’s what I can do — so I have to, right?  As long as the little gnomes don’t punch my stomach, I can crawl.

Every one is so nice.  Saying encouraging things even though all I can do is walk.  I must look pathetic.  The heat is unbearable.  I’m too far in to quit.  I can’t quit at this point.  My friend Gerry comes out to find me.  I tell him to go find out what the cut off is.  I don’t want to keep going if I won’t make the cutoff.   He comes back telling me I have plenty of time.  Okay.  I’m walking this and stopping for a full ice bath at every station but I’m going to do it. Not what I had planned at all.  On top of this I had to endure a woman running past me saying “Oh my God, you’re 51?  You are AMAZING!  I hope I can be doing this at 51!”  I wanted to smack her.  Since when is 51 old?  She runs past me with a 31 emblazoned on her calf.  Where’s my cane?  I want to smack her.  51 is not AMAZING, it is not INSPIRING.  You just worry about your own race you whipper snapper you.  Three different people tell me I’m an inspiration to them.  Ten people ask me if this is my first half Ironman.  I must look pathetic.  I HATE when people tell me I inspire them because it means I look unlikely to be able to do it.  I hate that.

They say on the website  “Amica Ironman 70.3 Rhode Island, with more than 1,200 competitors at the start line, saw pleasant conditions at the start and water temperature at 69.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Finishers were greeted with
sunny skies and temperatures in the low to mid 80s.”  Mid 80’s my foot.  I looked up the temperature from weather underground and it said the high temperature in Providence was 90. I wish I could say it was humid too, but really it wasn’t.  But there was just no shade until you went under overpasses.  The three tier hill did have shade, but otherwise there was a lot of sun.

I want to say one thing about the support for this race.  Every single aide station was stocked to the full with food, coke, pretzels, gels, cookies, potato chips (I couldn’t even eat a single potato chip — that’s how much my stomach hurt!).  Every station was stocked with tons of water and ice right up until the end.  If you wanted an entire gallon of water on your head they would do it.  I was putting a cup of ice down my back and one down my shirt and one on my head every station.  Even after 8 hours they had ice and sponges and I never heard the words “sorry we are out of that” once from anyone.  The last aide station I hit had just as many people as it had when I started and just as much food, ice, and water and more important — cheering.  That was truly impressive.  As a back of the packer we are often left without the ice or sponges and even, I’m sorry to say, water.  But not this race.  They had everything.  And every single volunteer was smiling and encouraging.  It really helped.

I finally finished in what I think is my longest half Ironman to date just shy of 9 hours.  I am the LAST woman in my age group to finish (I think there were six who didn’t finish….).   Un-freakin-believable.  This?  This was the race where I meet Karen Smyers and this is what I do?  I thought Tupper Lake was bad, this was, was, a lump of coal in my stocking.  This wasn’t even a really hard course — I should have smoked that bike course.  It wasn’t even close to a Rev 3 course (though the 3 tier hill was pretty bad).   I know it was a training day but I’m not exactly sure what I just trained for. Refereeing Gnome boxing? Ice packing?

So right now I have to do a lot of thinking.  I’m not sure if I should do Ironman Canada.  I’m not sure I am physically strong enough.  I am sure if I had another six months of training I could do it, but right now, I’m not sure.  Based on the times in Providence I wouldn’t make the cutoff.  Even my times from Tupper would make it very close.   I haven’t had a single good race yet this year.  If anything it started off bad with St. A’s and has been going downhill since.   One might say “oh, c’mon, you just did a half Ironman two weeks ago.”  To which I respond “yeah but that stunk, and I’m going to have to do double that distance in one day in six weeks so I should be able to to do two mediocre half ironmans two weeks apart.”  I really feel I should have been able to do this.  Well mayyyybe there were extenuating circumstances.

I’m not ready to throw in the towel quite yet.   I woke up Monday morning to find I got a serious surprise attack of my period ten days early.  I’m thinking that might have had something to do with all the cramping and fatigue.  I’m a little concerned as to why that would happen but at least it gives me a reason.  Today my leg muscles are tight which actually makes me happy.  I figure if my butt hurts it actually got a workout.  I’m going to keep on going but where I will end up remains to be seen.

I have a big and important doctor’s appointment on Thursday where I will get everything tested upside down and twice.  This will be a very important day.  It’s my 3 month check up.  A lot of blodd to draw.  All my counts of everything will be tested and we will see if the antibodies are going down. I will see if I am still anemic and if my Vitamin D levels are finally normal (how could they NOT be with all the vitamin D I have been injesting and the amount of sun I get?)  We will also be discussing the dates for my hopefully final round of radiocative iodine treatment which is due now but they will hold off until after Ironman.

I have my own Lake Placid training camp in two weeks where I will test my mettle yet again. I will reevaluate then.  Or I can just go and muddle through Canada anyway.  After all, it’s paid for and what if there is some miracle and I pull it out?  Worst case I just get a nice vacation in the Canadian mountains.  Then I can just retire.  Ah, retirement, doesn’t that sound grand?  Tai Chi, Tennis, Yoga, Lunches, Shopping…. It sounds like a dream…. And then maybe the Gobi Desert.


My training camp headquarters for the week.

Me and my swim coach the Mermaid Queen.

Karen Smyers and rainbows and I STILL don’t have a good race…. er training day.

My morning rock meditation seat.

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