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 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.