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 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.