Tuesday, December 16, 2008

IMAZ Comment

I've started telling everyone I came in second at Ironman Arizona.

From Last.

Sometimes, it may be hard to hear that last part.

This makes me smile every time. I love a good funny.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Light Run/Walk

What a wonderful idea - getting exercise while enjoying the lights of the season. Anita & I decided to run the 4 mile loop. We got a late start, but caught up with the walkers while they were still on Willow Lawn Drive. We said our hello's & started our run....which lasted until we got to Cathy D's house, where I was mesmerized by football on the big screen and reminded that I was missing my Steelers (woohoo, go Big Ben).

The walkers caught up to us at Cathy's and when Sally found a monster in an upstairs bedroom, I knew we had to stay and protect these folks! OK, it was just a dog, but that was one biiiig dog. We didn't actually make a conscience decision to walk from then on out, but visiting with everyone was too much fun to want to run. We were very lucky that the weather was extremely mild and I never got cold while we were out.

We had some challenges trying to follow directions in the dark, but the lights we wore to protect us from traffic were almost bright enough to read by.

We caught the runners (OK, they were stopped and reading directions). And it was great to see them. We even beat them back to ASK (there may have been a small mileage difference, but it was definitely under 100%). We had serious motivation to make it back as there were instructions not to pee on the neighbors' lawns.

It was fun to follow the lights (instead of the directions) and great to catch up & enjoy a laugh with trigirls. The new space for ASK is lovely and will be very comforting to the families.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to a lovely evening and I hope next year's can be scheduled so that Annn cannn attend.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

IMAZ 08 Part II

On my way to pick up my bike, 6 volunteers slather sunscreen on me. 6. It pays to be alone in the changing tent. Except that they didn't get my face! Weird. I think what hurt most this week were my nose & lips. My nose got chapped from the 10 hours it ran & I wiped it on my arm or my sleeve (I think my nose ran faster than I did). Guess snot rockets aren't as disgusting as all that, but I tried it once & I can't manage it. I did get snotted on by a Pro. Not something I want to collect for memorabilia. But I managed not to heave afterward, unlike the last time. Sorry, didn't know I was going to get gross there, I would have issued a warning.

Anywhoo, I got my bike & headed out. Another fairly long run to the mount line, really want to know where this was deducted from the 140.6 miles. I had a very hard time getting my legs moving. I was so cold. I kept telling myself that if I pedaled faster, I'd warm up sooner, but it was difficult to pick up the blocks of ice that were my legs & feet. I did hear Coaches Mark & Blake in my head telling me to stay in an easy gear & spin.

The ride was fairly uneventful. Since it's a 3 loop course, I got passed by most or all people still in the race. I figured I was ahead of the people who quit in the swim or didn't make the cut off (like my kayaker said, I wasn't last), so I held onto that and tried to stay ahead of the people that started the bike behind me. I have no idea how successful I was, but I didn't finish the bike last.

I saw Brad, Tammy & Heidi coming back in as I was heading into what felt like a major headwind on the first lap. I think it was Heidi who yelled that coming back was much better than heading out, so I put my head down & tried to focus. Between the wind and the little hill, I was going as slow as 7.5 mph in the last bit of the 19 mile loop outward, but as soon as I hit the turn, I was up to 23 with little effort. That was great.

So the thing that cost me 14 minutes, which I promised to tell you in Part I, was that I had to pee. A lot. The desert air was as advertised, extremely dry, and I felt thirsty all day. The first rule of dehydration is if you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated, so I kept trying to avoid that. I'm now pretty sure that this rule isn't quite true in the desert. Wish I'd learned that lesson earlier. I probably stopped 5-8 times on the bike! What a buzzkill. With the drop in momentum, I think those stops killed my time. Not that I'm complaining - I own 17:14 and, if you want to get technical, it's about the only thing all day I did like a racehorse. It's just weird - on the 100 mile Eastern shore ride, I only peed once. Of course, Mark told me I wasn't drinking enough at the time. Guess I missed out on the happy medium thing.

On the 2nd loop, my family drove out about 10 miles & hooted & hollered at a water stop. It was great to see & hear them. I didn't stop & by the time they got the car turned around, I hit the turnaround & was heading back. They were impressed that my time on the 2nd lap was much-improved from the first lap - it helps when you're thawed out. The wind was also a lot different for the 2nd lap. Going out, there was very little wind, but heading back in, there was a headwind. Weird to be going downhill, but not picking up much speed. I stayed in aero & made it back before the 2nd cut off of the day - with 35 minutes to spare - my best result all day.

As I was crunching numbers on the 2nd loop, figuring I needed to have a better lap to make the 1st bike cutoff, I finally figured out that the cutoffs were getting tighter. Uh oh. 3:30pm for the beginning of the 3rd loop, but only 1 hour 45 minutes to make it back out to the turnaround and then only 1.5 hours to get off my bike! The wind on the 3rd lap out was pretty light, but extremely variable. I felt headwind & crosswind & figured I had tailwind, but never felt it. I just moved those pedals as fast as I could, changing gears regularly. I kept glancing at my watch and knew it was going to be close at the turn. I think I may have burned out a little getting there. With just a mile to go, my watch said 4:12....holy crap, 3 minutes to go a mile. Should be easily doable, but it is the steepest part of the course. I stood on the pedals. That's when I remembered my @#)&@()*# watch was fast. I made the turn with 7 minutes to spare, according to the great volunteers who were cheering me.

Let me pause a minute for the volunteers. There were people out on the bike course who were out there ALONE for 8 hours (OK, alone except for 2000+ bikers). Nothing really required for some of them to do - one even had no chair. Every time I went by - either going out or coming back - they had encouraging words. They were inspiring. I felt the most sorry for these folks (you may ask who else I felt sorry for - I'll give you a guess). The rest stop volunteers - holy cow - I can't imagine how sore they were the next day - after holding up their wares for bikers to grab. I know I came in a little hot on some of them and I'm afraid I may have been a little rough getting my nutrition from some of them. But they kept on holding it out there. One race complaint - they ran out of bananas at the start of my 2nd bike lap. Bananas were a huge part of my nutrition plan. They're loaded with good stuff, easily digestible and make you feel like you're eating real food. I had to replace this with a lot of gu on the bike, which isn't so easy to eat when you're pedaling for your life like I was. That's the one thing I wish was different
 about the race - I think this affected my 2nd lap of the run.

Funniest things I saw on the bike - 1) a racer riding a cruiser bike - he came in directly ahead of me on the bike, but he was miles ahead of me on the first lap, so I know I made up some ground. Until I realized I did have a better bike time than he did, I wasn't so amused. 
2) a water bottle still in the bottle cage. You could really get some great gear if you can get out on the first few miles of the bike course after everyone heads out. 3) a can of SKOAL smokeless tobacco. It was right in the middle of the road and really looked like a biker had dropped it as he was pulling out a pinch.

Favorite race bib name on the bike - "Agnitch". I don't think she's from around here.

I never saw Som or Melissa during their entire race. I thought sure I'd see Melissa as she was wearing a bright yellow race jersey with a skull & crossbones. Guess she just flashed by as she finished in 11 hours & change. What a superstar.

Not sure how much I made the final bike cut off by, I knew I was going to make it & that I had to hurry to get out on the run to make the next cut off. I had a great transition, even though I stopped to pee AGAIN. I took the time to roll my legs out, which was good since they were pretty tight. Changed my shorts, socks & shoes & grabbed some pretzels and water & I was off.
I had entered transition with a girl named Chris who asked me to wait for her to start the run. Wait? I don't think so. I hollered at her that I was sure she'd catch up (she had a runner's body) & off I went. We ended up run/walking most of the first lap together & crunching more Ironman Math. We figured that we had the 10:15pm cut off well in hand, but I was w
orried about midnight right off. She kept assuring me we had it in the bag, even if we did a fastwalk for the entire marathon. I knew something was off with this, but couldn't put my finger on it. The challenge with doing Ironman math during the Ironman is the battle with oxygen deprivation.

Anyway, we had interesting conversation. One of the first things she said to me was that she's a Christian. Hmmm. I have no problem with that, I just found it curious it was the first thing she told me. One of the first things I said to her in response was that I am gay. Well, at least that kept us walking fast. I explained to her that I never had a choice about being gay & we had a pretty nice conversation about it. She did not appear to believe that I was going to hell because of who I love. Of course, I don't much care what she thought since Anita is the best person on this planet - I don't worry about hell due to my love for her. I worry a little about her loving me as her taste in women will not be getting her into heaven! But I try to be good!

The next subject she mentioned was that she worked for the Department of Defense and thank goodness Obama couldn't cut that. Oh boy. I told her that in the interest of full disclosure, I'm a bleeding heart liberal and would have voted for Obama twice, except that as a bleeding heart liberal, I believe in one person one vote. That was another several mile conversation.

The best thing about my first lap was playing leapfrog with Tammy. It was great to see her for a few miles. I used her as my permission to walk, knowing full well that Tammy is fast. But she was struggling a little and walking some. So I was able to run to get to her and then walk. She'd start running, then walk for awhile and I'd be able to catch her again. This didn't last long as I said, Tammy is fast. But it was great to just have a friendly face that was more than a blur. She looked strong, even though she wasn't feeling great at that time in her race. I was dreading the 3rd lap when I knew I'd be pretty lonely on the course.

The run course was weird. About 8.7 mile loops that were mostly on concrete, but also included EVERY SINGLE OTHER surface you can imagine. We had grass, dirt, rubber, pavement, gravel & big rocks. We had brightly lit areas and intensely dark & cold areas. We had straight up hill and straight down hill. I did not care for the run course. Not at all. I feel it was unsafe in areas - I think it unconscionable that steep hills were in pitch black. I was fortunate to keep my footing in all these areas, but I feel certain that others were not so lucky.

Anyway, I lost Chris just after the first lap as I had to pee again and our agreement was that she would speedwalk as fast as she could until I caught up running. Well, I really wasn't feeling well at this point. A little woozy, a little heavy on my feet. I was getting afraid that I did not have the nutrition in me to make it another two laps. I saw my family & they were really worried that I wasn't going to make the cut off (good thing to worry about). Fortunately, I must have still looked pretty good, because that was all they were worried about. I ate a gu & some chicken broth & stopped to have my two biggest blisters cared for. How do you get blisters right on the balls of your feet? Very annoying.

Ironman chicken broth is the most important thing you can consume during an Ironman. In a 3 loop course, I learned which water stops had too hot broth, which had diluted broth & which ones were juuuust right.

I didn't get to run much in that second lap and it was all I could do to keep walking. Forget speed, though I didn't really forget it as I kept my eye on my watch. I just kept thinking - how can I not finish this blasted race I've been at for all this time and that I NEVER want to do again. Will I be able to let this dream go? Screw that, just hurry and you won't have these issues to deal with...but I knew that AT BEST, it was going to be close.

That 2nd lap was rough. I saw Jody in the beginning of it and she told me Heidi was about 10 minutes behind me, finishing her second lap. Heidi caught up to me with about 3 miles left in h
er race. She looked great & she was a great boost to my energy. I started to run. We were together for merely minutes, but it was really wonderful to spend just those few minutes with her.

I made that last interim cut off by about 20 minutes. That left me 2 hours +/- 5 minutes to run about 9 miles....Normally an easy task. But I couldn't run more than 300 yards at a time before I lost my breath & had to walk. It sucked yet it was OK. I had time to get used to the idea that I wasn't going to make it. I took inventory of my day. I tried to run. I ran. I walked. I peed (like a racehorse - the only thing I did fast all day). I took in nutrition. I kept going. I saw my family. Words can not express my gratitude for their support. They had a much harder day than I did. In the few minutes I saw them every 2 hours, I didn't get to really convey that I'd done the math. I knew the time. I was pushing as hard as I dared (they tried to push me a little harder as they knew I needed 12 minute miles in that last lap). I didn't get to convey that I was OK. Spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically. I wanted that damn cactus finisher's medal. I wanted the tattoo. Hell, I just wanted my frickin' name on the finishers list. Not to be. That blows.

David came about a mile out to finish the last bit with me, which was great. I think he was trying to get me to hit warp speed so we could go back in time. We were together when the clock struck 12. He pointed out to me that it was still only 11pm where he lives. I love my brother very much and that time we spent was very special to me.

Sean & Melissa joined us with about a 1/2 mile left. How sweet of them to come back to help support me in my rather lengthy finish. Fortunately, Melissa was able to get a full night's sleep between her Ironman finish & mine! Melissa even offered to loan me her finisher's medal.

17:14:19. The time it takes to reach the promised land. I had plenty of time to get used to the idea that I wasn't going to make the cut off. Somewhere in the dark, in the hills, I made my peace with it. Unfortunately, my family didn't know where I was at mentally. Based on my Brazil washout, Anita could only expect a couple hours of sobbing. But not this time. Whether I finished or "finished", I know I completed the proscribed course and I did my best. I'm proud of the accomplishment.

And here's the fun part. I don't know what special sauce the IMAZ race organizers were on at a few minutes after midnight on November 24th, but they gave me a finisher's medal, hat & shirt. Then they (the race organizers) gave me a beautiful bouquet of flowers!
I felt like I had won the race. And I think I did.
But I'm not doing this again. I thought it all day long. I thought it all year long. I suck at this. I mean suck at each of these sports individually. My best event in triathlon is transition & if you include peeing in that, then I suck at that too. So I got a little less sucky this year. I got a little faster. But it is pretty demoralizing to continually practice a sport you are not good at. No talent. None. I do not have the body structure for anything but changing clothes. I am at best 5'2". I have poor lung capacity and my heartrate never gets below 80.

I'm not making excuses. Not intending to anyway. I could have missed fewer workouts. I could have run my half mile repeats better. I could have had gait analysis done. I could have gotten a bike that may have given me a mph faster. I could have worn a sperm helmet (but on me, that really would have been ludicrous). I could have eaten better & gotten more sleep. Hell, I could have run on the 2nd lap until I collapsed. I chose none of these things.

Because it's reality. I've dealt with it. I suck at triathlon and I do not enjoy most workouts. It shows. I'm happy as long as we're all talking before a long ride or run or afterward, I love it. It's during that I struggle with. So, I'm officially retired from long distance triathlon. I may do some indoor biking & I may do some strength training at Maramarc. Or show at some TriGirl fundraising function, but I have a new triathlon challenge. I like to call it "golf". Drive - chip - putt BABY! I'm good at it and my physiology doesn't work against me.

I love you all and I wish you all the best. I have enjoyed chatting with you during workouts and I'll miss seeing you at swimming and chatting on the forum. I'll be supporting you from afar and don't be surprised to see me volunteering at one or two of your races. I'll be watching & cheering!

If you ever want to grab a cup of coffee or hit a little white ball around, shoot me an email!  Please keep in touch.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


So much to write, it's difficult to think where to begin.  Guess I'll begin at the end, jump to the start and end in the middle.  Yeah, that's it.

Players in the story:
  • Anita - IronSpouse/Sherpa Extraordinaire
  • David & Karen - Brother & sister-in-law and single day IronFan ticketholders currently living in Los Angeles
  • Mom - IronShy - wants her daughter to have no part of this sport, especially this distance. Was offered single day, complementary IronFan ticket and declined wholeheartedly. Very supportive, but phrase most often uttered in last 12 months is:  "this is your last one, right?"  Stayed on Ironmanlive.com for record 17:14:19 and could be heard from thousands of miles away when the live video feed cut off at midnight mountain time.
  • Heidi - Ironman & Trigirl - extra special supporter & Rockstar
  • Tammy & Brad - Ironmen & Trigirl/boy  (man this gender thing is confusing in Ironman)

  • Som - 60 year old, 6-time Ironman in 2008 alone.  I didn't even have the energy to ENTER that many races.
  • Sean - friend, bike mechanic & fiance to...
  • Melissa - multiple Ironman & new friend
  • Jody - newly crowned IronSherpa to Heidi (and all TriGirls at IMAZ 2008).  I hear she's available for rent at future Mdot races.  Please forward all payments in advance to Heidi.
  • Online Contingent following by internet & cell - Holy Crap, there are a lot of you.  Thank goodness.  Debbie, Ronda, Linda, Geoffrey, Joy, Patty and all the supportive Trigirls - I love you all, thought of you often and it helped keep me going (and going, etc.)

On the record, there were 7 cutoffs during the day. I only missed one (insert sad, wistful smile here).  The clock said 17:14 as I crossed the line. Now I know how Maxwell Smart felt: "Missed it by that much".  Don't get me wrong - I'm still proud and feel I accomplished a great deal. Hell, I took 1 hour, 24 minutes off my only other Iron Distance Race.  How many people do you know can say that?  And do you want to know what I spent 14 minutes doing?  Probably not, but you'll have to read on to find out (but, you've been warned).

The water was cold and crowded for the first 1/4.  I was amazed at the draft I got - I was practically doggy paddling (no Coach Annie, I did not bark), but the pack was pulling me forward.  I was paddling & not swimming because I was getting a little beat up and trying to save myself some hassle.  Not the way I planned it, but the "back" of the pre-race swim pack would have caused me to swim a couple of extra hundred yards.  After Brazil, I was having none of extra swim yards....and besides, I'd estimated where the back of the pack would end and tried to park there, but people kept stopping behind me.  I kept looking back to see more & more people line up - only good news was that Brad & Tammy were two of them, so we got to chat a moment before the gun.  (Told you I was going to tell this tale from the inside out).  Anyway, as I was doggy paddling and still getting beat on, I tried to keep Ironman Shawnie in my thoughts as she pushed people off her during IMFL.  It helped a bit, but I did not laught to myself as she did!  As a super-slow swimmer, I had some elbow room after the first 1/4, so there's the consolation prize - 30 minutes in I had some space.

Fun swim moments for me:  
  • race volunteer standing on a surfboard with a paddle - I told him I'd tell everyone back home that the swim was so bad, I thought I saw someone walking on water.  I almost started hollering, "I'm coming, Elizabeth" and grabbing my chest, but you'll only get that reference if you're as old as me.
  • taking a minute (while still swimming) to talk with my family.  They looked refreshed after their 3/4 to 1 mile hike to find me.  Aren't they lucky I'm slow so they didn't have to run to keep up?
  • Using my standard line on my own personal kayaker who was with me most of the way - "have you seen my car?"  This guy was great.  Hollered support, stayed far enough away not to be a nuisance.  I remember one thing he said was "let me know if you get too cold."  I probably stopped swimming at that.  I looked at him and asked "so, what can you do if I get too cold?"  He gestured to the back of his kayak.  "Thanks, but I ain't that cold."  Near the last turn for home at about 200 yards, I asked if he'd be joining me for the bike & run.  Unfortunately, he'd only brought his kayak.

I finally found a groove at the turnaround and swam back much faster than going out (in my mind anyway).  It was cold.  I mean colder than a mother-in-law's heart (any mother-in-law, no one I know specifically, it's a damn simile or a metaphor or an analogy or something.  Whatever, just get over it).  I got cramps in both calves, but was able to just calm down and work them out while continuing my progress.  

After the last turn toward the stairs, there were kayakers, surfers and swimmers everywhere.  It was weird.  I was wondering if I'd wandered into a water parade, but knew from the temperature that I wasn't in Miami.  Everyone was yelling at us to push it.  Yelling. At. Us.  Didn't care for the yelling.  Much prefer the supportive scream.  Last thing I heard before I was flung up onto dry land by two buff volunteers was my kayaker telling me I wasn't last.  Ok, cool, but I want to stay "not last", so I have to bolt.

I did not realize how long the run from the swim end to the changing tent was.  I mean, it was right there.  Like 15 feet away.  But no.  We had to run what felt like 1/2 mile carrying wetsuit, swim cap, goggles, earplugs, dropping stuff along the way and not caring.  Seeing Anita & David & Karen.  I've seen some video and I know they were cheering loudly, but I didn't hear or see them until I was right in front of them.  

 Then a great volunteer hands me my swim to bike bag to add to my load.  At this point, I'm wondering if this race may be more than 140.6 - perhaps they've trimmed some off the run to make up for it (no, they did not).  Perhaps this run is to allow you to feel your feet and hands again (no, I did not).  Perhaps Ironman is just cruel (yes, indeed).  After another 100 yards of parcel carrying, another volunteer takes all my stuff and I can really start running for the changing tent - she schleps all my stuff.  That'll make you feel like a rockstar, let me tell ya.  

One pretty daggone quick change & I run for the bike - only a couple of hundred yards to the timing mat, but then another 100 yards to the mount line - I ask you - DOES THIS COUNT ANYWHERE IN MY 140.6???  I want a recount.  Seriously.  Please?

OK, sorry, I have to stop here, I'm beat.  I have so much more to tell and thanks to my sherpa, lots of great pics & even a little video to share.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Last Long run before IMAZ

I took a mental health holiday from work on Friday - as in, if I didn't take off, my mental health might take a holiday.  I decided to take the opportunity to get in one of my weekend workouts on Friday so that I could have some actual weekend time off.  Upon waking Friday, I decided that I really wanted to get the 2.5 mile swim over with.  Packed my bags and decided to check the weather...Saturday's forecast was for constant rain with scattered thunderstorms and a 15-20 mph wind.  Hmmmm.  I immediately ate a bit more for breakfast, changed clothes, grabbed my ipod, packed some Gu (otherwise known as rocketfuel) and Propel in my camelback & started on my way.  

I planned to run from my house, across the Lee Bridge to Franklin St to the Downtown Y, then west on Franklin to Maramarc on Fitzhugh/Staples Mill, back to the Y, back to Maramarc and then home any way I saw fit.  

At the Eastern shore 100 mile ride, I counted presidential election signs (Obama won about 20 to 13).  I did the same thing on my 22 mile run (of course not double-counting when I backtracked on my course - that would be too much like Ohio in '04 or Florida in '00).  Obama won 104 to 26 to 1 (Ron Paul).  At one point the score was 7 to 0 to 1!  Yes, I ran through VCU, but most of the signs I saw were on Monument Avenue.  I expected to see a lot of McCain signs there, but didn't.  Let me be partisan for just a moment:  WOO HOO!  Score one for equality, intelligence, knowledge, the good guys and PEACE.  I'm not saying McCain isn't a good guy.  He is.  I just think he lost his way on the road to the election (by way of Wasilla and wanting to win too badly).

So perhaps the overwhelming victory in signage spurred me on to a great run where I felt good the entire time (pain yes, but not the "Hi Sweetheart, can you come get me" kind of pain I have often felt on long runs).

Perhaps it was running into indoor cycling & Ironman Carlton Hines in VCU land.  We both took a timeout from our day to catch up.  I had followed Carton's race at Ironman Louisville back in August, but hadn't seen him since.  It was great to get the details in person.  And it was really great to get his best wishes on my upcoming Ironman Arizona (IMAZ).  Carlton even dropped me an email later in the day to wish me luck.  I'm happy to say I beat the email home (though he may have had a long day of classes)!

Shit!  I just went back & checked when the email was received and I didn't really beat it home. To quote Anneurysm:  Fuckmuffins.

Perhaps I had such a good run because on my 2nd stop at the YMCA, a guy I had seen out running stopped me to tell me he thought I was fast.  I'm not fast.  Especially not on a long run day.  I don't run.  I don't jog.  I slog.  But I pretty constantly move forward and I'm happy with that.  He introduced himself (Richard) and asked if I was training for the marathon.  No, I don't think he was hitting on me - just stay with me, OK?  How cool is it that I got to say, "no, Ironman Arizona".  This gorgeous, muscle-man was blown away by little ol' me.  That was fun.

Perhaps it was then running into a good friend and former boss, Leslie.  She's just become a grandmother and I got to catch up a bit with her too, which I had really wanted to do.

All in all, a great run!  Probably because I had some breaks.  Probably because the breaks were unexpected bonus breaks and each then gave me something to think about as I continued on my way.  Perhaps it was knowing there was leftover steak in the fridge calling my name.  Perhaps it was because Anita was out of town 1/2 the day & couldn't come get my sorry ass.

Whatever the reason, I want to take every Friday off to do my long weekend workout!  But, I only have ONE LEFT!!!!  Holy Taper, Batman!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Jethro Throws a Triathlon - The actual race

Ok, mostly about the race anyway. I got as decent a night's rest as possible and had biscuits & butter for breakfast as that's as close as I could come to my regular breakfast at the B&B.

Race start, like all Iron distance races I know of is at 7. Jethro told us to be at bike to run transition at 5am to pick up our chips, etc.

I actually learned something from registration. We went to the transition area at 6:15. No race officials were there yet, but they were there no later than 6:30 - I hope no racers really showed up at 5am. We get our race numbers & chips and are told that they have a few swim caps, but if we have our own, that would be better. I brought my own. I get my run gear all set up in a little cubby of the bike racks (there is no numbering system on the racks, but there are only 17 or 18 iron distance racers).

A quick drive over to the water by 6:45 - cutting it pretty close to get the bike set up and wetsuit on, so I'm a little panicky. We look out at a beautiful sunrise over the lake. Just gorgeous. Ok, everything is going to be fine. Why aren't there any swim buoys on the lake? Oh, our swim director locked his keys in the car with the race bouys. Toto, I don't think we're at Ironman anymore.

More bonding with fellow racers. Lots more as the bouys don't get out there until 8am! Everyone's nutrition plan was already completely hosed by the time we got in the water. Oh well.

The 72 degree-advertised water was in the neigborhood of 58, I think - it's not like anyone actually had an official reading, but I KNOW it was colder than IMAZ and it was 61 there. I spent a lot less time in the water at Jethro's and I came out shaking. I actually could not control my arms to get a jacket on. One racer came out in worse shape than I did and can you guess what kind of medical support they had for a hypothermic triathlete? Can you? I don't think you can. Anita tells me they wrapped the guy in a carpet they had in the back of the race van. They didn't even have a blanket!!!

So here are some fun things about the swim itself. As we're waiting in the water for the start, there is some last minute instructions. He couldn't give these friggin' instructions in the hour we were waiting around? He had to wait until we were in the frigid water to mention things? Dumbass. Anyway, he wanted us to stay with the buoys between us & shore at all time because the water was about a foot deep in places and it's deepest right near the bouys. Hmmm. So we should swim into each other for two laps of the course. Perfect. The 18 of us discussed it and decided we'd stay as close to the bouys as possible, but we would keep them on our right at all times, thereby avoiding collisions. Righty Tighty. I'm guessing the water depth (or lack thereof) is one of the reasons I was in the water less - I was forced to walk i
n places I could not physically take a stroke, but it wasn't far - I managed to swim whenever the water was over 2 feet deep and even in some places where it wasn't quite that deep. It was the most boring swim ever, after the start. I could see the bottom most of the way - no, the water wasn't that clear, do you not remember me saying it wasn't deep? Keep up, people. Oh, sorry. Inside voice. I saw not a single fish. No one was near me to talk to after the first minute or two (not even the lonely kayaker). I told Anita it was the worst snorkeling trip I ever took - cold water and no life - not even plant life. The single item of note was a golf ball. So, enough about the swim.

In transition, I was fast. How fast you ask? How do I know, there were only 2 timing mats on the course - one at the bike start and one at the finish line. And not even those times were ever posted on the website. OK, I may still be a little bitter about this race. It's one of many, I suppose. I at least beat the hypothermic guy out of transition, though he passed me about mile 6 of the bike.

The bike. I think I already mentioned that most of it took place on Canadian Highway 1, a two lane where the speed limit is about 55mph (it was fast, OK). I was OK on the bike on this road. Drivers were generally pretty good, pretty respectful (did I mention this was in Canada, so that could account for this observation). About 20-25 miles of the 112 mile bike were on side roads. I think there was a policeman at the first turn, but I could be wrong about that. It could have just been a guy in a reflective vest.

I had a lot of alone time on the bike. Anita did everything she could to visit me often (she logged a lot of miles in our big, red rental truck), but it was 2 laps of a 56 mile course & she was trying to support Debbie in her 1/2 Iron as well. So, in my alone time, I tried to be fast. I tried to slip through the wind. I tried to find race port-a-johns (there was not a single bathroom set up by the race organizers). I tried to think of witicisms to tell my friends when I finished this godawful quest. So here's the best story I came up with to tell you. On the way out of "town" on the first lap of the bike, I passed a dead racoon lying just off the edge of the road. By the time I made it back: 1st attempt) it was nothing but a spine; 2nd) someone had cooked it up for dinner; 3rd) Davy Crockett was wearing it as a hat and finally, my favorite, 4th) someone had stuffed it and stuck a for sale sign on it.

I developed new and not interesting songs. Here's my favorite, sung to the tune of "99 bottles of beer on the wall":

99 miles to go on the bike,
99 miles to go.
You pedal, you pedal, you pedal some more
And there's still 99 fucking miles to go on the bike.

Race organization on the bike: Umm. there was some. Really. There were tables every 18 miles or so. These were normally manned by two teenage boys. They meant well, but it was a long day with little or no instruction for them and even fewer resources. Debbie reports she pulled up at one such stop and wanted gatorade. The kid took her water bottle and started measuring powder into it. Debbie was heard to exclaim, "IT'S A RACE, FOR PETE'S SAKE."

At this point, i don't remember many of my water stops. I was pretty well geared up on my bike, so I had pretty much everything I needed already with me (yes, except for a toilet). I do remember the very nice older couple at the turnaround. Halfway through my second lap, I stopped there to take a breather and I asked what they had to offer. They told me they had oranges. That sounded wonderful, so they handed me an orange to eat on the bike. Not orange slices. An entire orange. I'm not talented enough to steer, pedal, peel a
n orange & not get run over. So I peeled it while I stood there. I took one bite and found it waaayyyy to acidic on my stomach. After spending the time to peel it, I couldn't even eat the blasted thing.

One other thing I remember at a two teenager water stop. As I thanked them for volunteering, they mentioned they were paid volunteers. Ummm. Right. Great. At least that meant they'd most likely stick around. And it gave legitimacy to race expenses that were definitely spared elsewhere.

So about the toilet stops. Anita is amazing. Basically, every time she'd drive by me or to me, I'd holler that I needed a bathroom. Not having many bathrooms (and no scheduled stops) on the race, prevented me from going as much as I felt the need to; I think this helped my race time! Anita would drive ahead and find the next closest store (non-chain mini-marts were all there were). She'd buy some gas or a soda and ask if her friend could u
se the bathroom. Enter me, clomping around in my bike shoes. I love Anita.

I love this Canadian sign that was on the bike course.

When I finally got off the bike, someone had actually racked their bike right over my transition stuff. I was broiling mad. There were several bike racks (no numbering sequence, of course) and only a few competitors, so there's no way that screwing up my stuff was necessary. I racked my bike in a new spot & dragged all my transition stuff to the new place. There was not a soul in transition. Including no fans of any kind. Nobody. I took it as a great sign though - no one expected me in so "quickly". I found out later that was true. I also found out it was Debbie's bike. She'd racked her bike next to my stuff - the wind probably pushed it over. She wanted me to feel like I wasn't alone. Funny.

I felt great to start the run, but I must not have actually been great. In the first mile, I remember deciding that I didn't really need to eat anything more - I'd really eaten a lot on the bike, so I should be good for the run. So, now we know I was delusional. Fortunately, I did carry sports beans with me, but that's all I ate on the entire marathon. Sports beans, water and powerade for 26.2 miles. Moron.

Ran great for 6 miles. Walked the 2 water stops. I'm not sure I ever felt better running off a long bike. Really excited. Mile 6: IT band decides that it never wants to bend again. Naturally, I can bend it, but it hurts like a mother-, well, it hurts too much to run. I stop to stretch and that's when the mosquitoes descend. I had about 10 huge lumps on my neck in seconds. I abandoned the stretching and just did a fast walk to get away from the swarms. I think that's the last time I thought about stopping & stretching.

At this time, Anita passed out bug spray and glow sticks to all folks racing at dusk and later. The race "organizers" had nothing for anyone.

Long story short: I walked 20 miles. Debbie, Ronda & Anita took turns walking with me. It got dark. Pitch black dark. Anita got the rental truck and followed us as we walked the marathon. We passed the one sign that said "race in progress". Anita stopped the truck, picked up the sign and attached it to the truck - by that time I was the only "racer" out there. It sucked, but with the support of my loved ones, I finished. Debbie came up with the Ring of Fire - a yellow glow necklace. She used this to make sure I was staying on the shoulder of the road instead of weaving into the road in the last 2 miles of the race.

I was weaving so badly and feeling so poorly with .2 miles to go that they were trying to get me to eat something. There was a lone nutrigrain bar where the last water stop used to be. I think it was Ronda who yelled from the truck to make me eat it. I heard her say "Nutrigrain" and my stomach rebelled. I hollered "don't talk about nutrigr..." That's when I threw up. That's right. I puked with .2 miles left. Lovely. Way to finish strong, right?

Many friends and family have asked when I knew I would finish my first Iron distance race. It was right after I got sick. I suddenly felt a lot better and wondered why I had thrown up 5 or 10 miles earlier when I started feeling ill. For 140 miles, I knew that lots of things could interfere in accomplishing my goal. With .2 miles left, I knew I could crawl.

So, I walked across the line in a time of 18:37, a marathon time of right on 8:37! We practically had to measure it in dog years. One race guy waited for me to finish. He handed me a medal that didn't even say "triathlon" on it. It sure as hell didn't say "Iron" nor "finisher". It said "World Endurance Sports".

I thought I'd treasure the medal, but I don't. I treasure the memories and knowing that my friends and family love me a lot.

I treasure my Mom for bursting into tears when I called her to tell her I finished. That was really the first time I found out she was terrified of me participating in this sport. What a trooper.

I treasure Lisa for being so excited for me when we called her the next day. That was great.

I treasure thinking of Johnny Cash & "Ring of Fire" with Debbie. Debbie got sick after she finished her 1/2 Iron race - her first 1/2. Then, even though she didn't feel well, she came out and walked miles with me and when she wasn't walking, she drove or rode in the truck until I finished.

I treasure Ronda. I'm still a little upset about the Nutrigrain bar, but she meant well, and I did feel better afterward. I treasure her friendship & support.

I treasure all the other folks I didn't call that day, but that have been so supportive before & since. I thought of each of you during the race (there are a lot of you, so I'm glad I had a lot of time). I enjoyed listening to the songs each of you selected for me and have enjoyed those memories during runs since that day. I still have that Ipod mix saved on the computer.

Of course, I especially treasure Anita. Her unwavering love and support are critical to my every breath. I can't say enough so I'll stop there.

FYI, I haven't had a sportsbean or a nutrigrain bar since.

Jethro Throws a Triathlon - Prerace Dinner & Registration

Sorry this is soooo late, but since people still seem interested in last year's crazy race, I'll continue the story...trying to be brief...OK, less long-winded.

Prerace Dinner & Registration

Or, as we like to call it, "where would you like to go eat tonight".

When we get to the town for dinner at 5, we find the restaurant is "Under new ownership" and will open tomorrow. Tomorrow? The race is tomorrow. OK, there are restaurants around. We'll find something. Let's register and then we'll eat.

Registration is running late and won't be available until 7. I'm supposed to be in bed by 7. Ok, fine. We find some other racers and head on over to a hotel restaurant, which happens to be serving and Italian buffet with cook to order pasta. It was decent food and offered a beautiful view of the Harrison Lake (not to be confused with the lake we're swimming in). We met Luke, a professional, off-road triathlete and his Mom. Mom was running the 1/2 and Luke was there for support. They were both very nice and we had a great time with them. We even offered Luke a place to stay if he comes to Richmond for the Xterra again. 2007 at Richmond was his first top 10 finish.

So back to registration - not ready at 7. I'm not sure when it finally opened because what happened next was so appalling. We get into the room for registration and there's one guy sitting there with a laptop. I guess you could also call this the expo, since there were store nearby. No tri stores or running stores, mind you, but you could at least get some ice cream or a bumper sticker.

"The Guy" was our race "organizer" & director, Brent Kamenka. So we go up to "registration". He asks us our names. We give them to him. He says OK, thanks. That's it. That's registration. Naturally, we then had a few questions. Where are race numbers? Where are our timing chips? Where are our race shirts? Swim caps? Packets?

Come to the Bike to run transition at 5am and we'll give you your chips & numbers. WHAT!!!???? Oh, and we want to get everyone hoodies for the race, so we want to get everyone's sizes....yet they didn't ask for our sizes & when I volunteered mine, he didn't even write it down.

Not good.

Next - the actual race.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Jethro Throws a Triathlon - Arrival

So we arrive in the teeny, tiny town of Harrison Mills, British Columbia, not to be confused with the tourist destination, Harrison Hot Springs, which is 30 minutes down the road. The main business establishment in "town" is The Sasquatch Inn, above. Seriously. We bought a t-shirt to prove it.

Our tri'ing friends, Debbie & Ronda, are bargain-hunters. We've convinced these dear friends that Debbie running her first 1/2 on the same course where & while I'm running my first full Iron is a good idea. Debbie likes a deal, so they decided to stay at the Sasquatch inn for $30 a night. 30 Canadian dollars. The race is on Saturday morning. Their room is above a bar. A bar that has live music on Friday nights. But they splurge and for an extra $10, they don't have to share the bathroom and can actually get a 2nd, adjoining room. We tour their rooms and decide that we like our B&B with the tub in the bedroom. At least we have locks that work...for 10 times the price.

Anyway, we ask the bartender at the Sasquatch what he's heard about the triathlons the next day. Nothing. This is the man who knows everyone and everything. Uh Oh. But I'm sure everything is fine. Fine. No reason to panic.

We drive the bike course. It is not flat as advertised, but when is any course as advertised? OK, I feel pretty good about it, though Anita notices traffic is pretty steady on this two lane road, points out that there is no shoulder, just a ditch and beyond the ditch is either a mountainside or the ravine & on down to the lake. Hmmm.

We go to the gorgeous-looking lake that's supposed to average 70 degrees. I stick a toe in. Anita starts a bonfire on the beach in order to stop my shivering. The good news is we find several other folks who are running the race and discuss what we've heard & learned. We bond.

We learn which restaurant the pre-race dinner is in and where registration is. Excellent, since the website wasn't updated when we had internet access and we had no idea where to go.

Next: Dinner & registration

Jethro Throws a Triathlon - Prelude - The Decision

Told in hindsight, because I suck at iambic pentameter.

If you get "Ironstruck", you have only three choices: volunteer at the MDOT race the year before you plan on becoming an Ironman, work on your typing speed and pray you are quickest If there are any internet spots available, or race a non-MDOT Iron Distance race.

The volunteer thing wasn't such a necessity the year I decided to do Ironman. Or at least, that's what we thought. As I was desperately trying to type my application AND stay connected to active.com when IM Florida 2007 registration opened in November 2006, the race filled up. I was ignorant. I didn't really understand the "community fund" where for a mere $1000, I could buy my way into the race. I wish I had listened more closely to Shelley.

I was sad to miss out on the race that my friends were doing. But surely there was an Ironman race available for 2007. I looked. Hmmmm. Not a lot of choices. OK, here's one: Bigfoot. Weird name, but website looks good, no race cap, no time limit, entry fee in Canadian dollars (at the time, that was a good thing for a US citizen), beautiful area 1 hour west of Vancouver, Canada. That'd be a great vacation area after the race. I emailed the race organizer with questions and got a great & fast response. I signed up.

A year of training. A year of planning. A year of Ironman math (if I can finish the bike in 7 hours and I run 12 minute miles for the first 1/2 marathon, and the train leaves the station heading south at 2 mph...). I hate Ironman math. For me, it always comes out to 17:04. doh! A year of Google Earth, trying to prove that the Bigfoot website doesn't lie: the water is 70 degrees, crystal clear, the bike is 100% flat with no wind (as it is entirely within a valley between mountains), and the run is also flat. The volunteers are plentiful and will even pick wild blackberries to serve to the runners - never will you find a friendlier group of people.

This next sentence may astound you. People are not always forthright.

But, I was committed. I trained from December through August. I had a great training group. I didn't complete every planned exercise. Far from it. But I trained more than I ever had, by far. I went to Canada nervous, but as prepared as I was every going to be.