Tuesday, August 27, 2013

And some days...you just come unglued

I think it is interesting when I read other people's blogs...or their Facebook pages that their lives seem...well...without incident.  They seem to NEVER have a bad day...a bad moment...a bad workout...everything is just wine and roses.

You won't find that here.

This blog is about the good, the bad and the oh so very ugly..and today...it got ugly.

Training for an Ironman is about the physical side of pushing your body past what you THINK you can do. The physical side is so important: proper nutrition, reduction in weight, lean muscle and cardio strength...but the mental side of Ironman is something that a lot of people don't talk about and today I saw just how important it is.

It's Tuesday..and Tuesday means TRACK PRACTICE. 6am...every Tuesday like clockwork.  My coach asked me to be there earlier because...well...Im slow...and we need to log some miles....soo...I hit the track at 530am...walked a little and jogged a bit more.  By the time the team showed up at 600am, Im pretty warm and Ive logged a little more than 2 miles.

What I didn't know and neither did the rest of the team was that we were going to do a Mile Time Trail Test.  Run a mile all out...as fast as your legs can carry you.

Hmmmm not so much.

After a weekend that included a 70 mile hilly bike workout and a 15 mile run (my longest run to date), my legs have felt like lead.  On Monday, I did a solid spin class and swim workout so there isn't any recovery going on here.

With all this on my legs, I started to run with the group...but my mind said NO.  I usually understand that I am going to be the last finisher of the test and for some reason, today, I just couldn't handle it.  The tears flowed.  I was so emotional over this one silly mile that I left the track and ran the mile time trail on the road around the track.  Anything not to be the last finisher....

I cried the whole way.  I realize now this emotion leaving me was all the fear I have of NOT finishing another Ironman attempt.  All the concern, the time calculations, the training, the questions from friends of "Well...do you think you can do it this time..??" finally boiled over in a very public way.

I came back on to the track and showed Coach Sway my time.  It was 25 second SLOWER than my time trail a few months ago but I got it done.  I was embarrassed and ashamed..that I had let this emotion just come to the surface like this.

But if not here, then when? Isn't that what training is about? You get stronger.  You get tougher and you LEARN about yourself...your limitations...what you head tells your body to do...and NOT do.
Your belief in your ability is AS important as your physical training.  You have to believe in yourself and I need to drop the vision of the past of having my chip taken away in bike transition and calling it a day.  This is a different year.  This IS a different person running this race in 2013.  Stronger, more knowledgeable and better coached (dare I say) than in years past.

Am I scared? You bet.  Is it going to be close? You bet.  But if you don't take these chances in life and set that bar just beyond your comfortable reach, what kind of life is it???

67 days until Ironman

Sunday, August 18, 2013

DLF>DNF>>DNS....The Hammerhead Ocean Marathon

August 17, 2013
The Hammerhead Ocean Marathon
Jacksonville Beach FL

After a great ride with friends up to Jacksonville, a nice dinner and a nice night's sleep at a nearby hotel, I am standing waist deep in the waters off Jacksonville ready to start what should be a 2.5 mile swim race..

I'm calm...some of the other folks about to start this adventure are not.  Some are doing their first ocean swim, some are worried about the wildlife in the ocean while others are just plain nervous.  I search myself and can not understand WHY Im not nervous...WHY Im not worried..

Maybe I should have been.

I was raised in the water as a kid.  My parents adored the Bahama Islands and I had the privilege that, to date, I never take for granted, to spend summers in these Islands snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing and living on the water.  We had a boat and I learned to conserve fresh water, that fishing could be your dinner and bad storms you ran from for shelter...

Hmmmm....fast forward from my childhood to the present and you'll understand why the picture above put great fear in me.

Don't misunderstand. The race did not start with a storm like this...it ENDED like this...and I was determined NOT to let it end my day, my race and not let me finish.

The race began and I headed out into the water and made the turn at one of only 3 buoys on the course.  After 12 years of racing triathlon, you would think that I could swim in a straight line even if there are NO BUOYS on the course...but I simply can not.  It is one of my major problems in the water.  I need something to shoot for when I swim and without it, my swim line is all over the place.  After 15 minutes in the water, I am still at the back of the pack, after 20, only 3 people are around me, after 30 minutes, Im alone except for a lifeguard in a kayak who informed me I was headed out to sea.  My line was way off and I need to come closer to shore.  At 48 minutes, i see the second buoy which marks the 1.5 mile marker and I am losing mental focus.  This race is seeming very long.

I keep swimming..and the kayaker stays with me.  Im wearing a GPS, so I can keep track of the mileage and realize that this is going to be a long morning.  At the 2.46 mile mark, I stop my watch so I have an idea of what my swim time will be for the Ironman..the watch reads 1 hour and 52 minutes...well under the 2 hour and 20 minute swim cut off.

I keep swimming.

I note the water is getting darker...and it rains...the rain stops..but it keeps getting darker.  I pull my head from the water and look around and the picture above is what I see.  I panic.  I see the final buoy that is suppose to be 2.5 miles in the distance and I go as fast as I can.  Two kayakers are now next to me and I know Im dead last....they stop me within 100 yards of the buoy and discuss if I will be allowed to finish...I begged...I pled...I put my head down and kept swimming.

I touched the buoy, made the turn and swam towards shore.

As I stood up, the wind is blowing and lightning strikes in the distance.  I run for the timing mat as my team who has waited for me on the beach cheers.  As I touch the timing mat, they run for cover and the rain comes.

Yes, Im crazy...but I am also blessed in so many ways.  Why?? Because I have dear wonderful people on a Triathlon team that will stand in the rain and wait for a slow swimmer.  I also had a wonderful lifeguard named Jack in a kayak that kept me going when no one else was around.  Im also very blessed because I was able to swim the longest swim of my 12 years of training 24 hour AFTER doing a 14 mile run.  I ended up covering what is estimated by GPS and my mapping software 2.89 miles in 2 hours and 17 minutes...

Oh .. and my team and I didn't get hit by lightning...a blessing indeed.

Today, I am tired, sore and have about six small jellyfish stings that have welted up to remind me of my adventure.  Would I do it again...you bet...but maybe Ill order better weather next time...

DLF = Dead Last Finish is greater than DNF = Did Not Finish which is even greater than someone who Did Not Start.

76 days until Ironman

Sunday, August 11, 2013

It's not the mountain we conquer...

400AM...Saturday morning....

I hit the snooze....REALLY?? REALLY??? Ugh, I lay back in bed because I know this Saturday morning will be different than most that other folks will enjoy today.  First, and foremost, they are still asleep.  This isn't the crack of dawn...this is the crack of night...the middle of the night...at least it feels that way to me.

As I roll over to have that every morning conversation of if I am going to get up and get my workout done, my "fuzzy alarm clock" reminds me that today I don't get to sleep.  My Golden Retriever, Finnegan, is one my biggest cheerleaders...he gets me up and going even when I don't feel like it.

But today is a bit different than other workouts Ive done.  Today...Im going to attack a workout that has put fear in me for 12 years of triathlon.  I have avoided it like the plague.  When my teams have had to go out and do this workout, I would be sick, out of town or otherwise "busy"...but today is different.  Im not training for a sprint distance triathlon...this is Ironman training and you don't miss major workouts less than 90 days before Ironman.

My fear?? Hills.  I hate them.  I'm horrible at them.  Ever seen an 18 wheeler climb a serious grade of a hill?? If you have, you now know what  *I* look like going up hills....slow....painfully slow...and not gracefully at all.  

Today I faced a 78 mile bike workout.  Just the mileage alone made a chill go down my spine as I drank cup # 2 of coffee...but the hills...Ugh!.  Yes...we have some fairly decent climbs in the Metro Orlando area if you go look for them...they are out in the Clermont/Howey in the HIlls area of Central Florida and have names like "The Wall", Sugarloaf Mountain and the three sisters of  Buck Hill Road.

With much trepidation, I loaded up the car and hit the road at 5am for the 45 minute drive to Dewey Robbins Road.  I am one of the first to arrive.  I hate being rushed when setting up gear for a long workout so I take my time...and take a deep breath.

To say I am the slowest on the team in an understatement but I have a small group that rides with me that could not be more understanding.  They wait...and sometimes I wait for them when they have technical problems: like flat tires, dropped water bottles or broken bottle cages.  It's all about helping each other and Im blessed that they are patient with this workout.  It's August...its hot...and for 78 miles on a bike...were going to be on the road for awhile.

The toughest climbs came early...first Buck Hill Road was the warm up with "the 3 sisters"...three fairly difficult climbs right in a row.  I decided to call them the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost because by the third, I was praying for guidance and asking God why in the world I thought doing this was wise.

I made it though the first set at a slow pace,which meant I lost sight of my group...so I pulled over and looked at the map to make sure I had not missed the turn.  As I stood there in the early dawn, I thought about it...I could just find my way back to my car...but there was this push to move forward from somewhere in me.

I made the turn onto Sugarloaf Mountain Road with three men who looked like they belonged at this venue.  They smiled, said good morning and must have seen the look on my face.  One smiled back at me and said "Come on, it looks worse than it really is." REALLY??  As I looked up the road, I started to truly panic.  Im over my head, I thought to myself.  Im going to make a total ass of myself.  I almost cried...but I downshifted, put my head down and focused on nothing but the power on my pedals.  Each stroke, I told myself "You can do more than you think...you can do more than you think....you can do more than you think..." I didn't look up...I was almost afraid to look up to see that I had so much more to go.  Finally...in the glow of the rising sun, I saw my coach Trung Lively waiting at the top.  I pushed a little harder...and at the top of the hill, you get that relief of the flat road...and I caught my breath.

I turned and looked back...Oh God...I did it.  I didn't stop...I didn't hesitate...I did it!!! And as I made the corner, there were my teammates, once again, waiting for me and I was so incredibly grateful.

There were pictures and high fives as we left the hill and continued on our route.  We made 4 stops during this ride and I had some mental struggles along the way where the body and mind wanted to stop but between my teammates and my self discussion, I moved forward.  With 10 miles to go, we saw our Coaches Consuela and Trung in their car waiting for our arrival at the last set of hills.  At Dewey Robbins Road, the temperature had passed 93 degrees as we made the final two major climbs of the day.  As I made my way up the last, the tears came.  15 years ago, I could barely walk a 1/4 mile in my neighborhood...and today, I rode a bike 80 miles in the hills of Florida.  To the rest of the world, I am the slowest...and they may not believe that I have the ability to finish ANY race...but today...this day...I accomplished more than I ever thought possible. 

My sincerest thanks to Coach Trung and Coach Sway...this was a major day for me.

83 Days until Ironman

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Fear, Doubt and Inspiration

Less than 90 days...yup...crunch time has arrived for all of my teammates doing Ironman Florida.  It feels like yesterday when I signed on the dotted line and now we are in the midst of the Florida summer heat and this BHAG (Big, hairy Audacious Goal) as one of my teammates calls it, looms on the horizon.

I have been doubting myself A LOT lately.  As the miles get longer, I have been getting slower and I am terrified that I will not make the cut offs again.  I am certain, if the waters are relatively calm, that I can make the swim with time to spare but the bike cut off really puts fear in my heart.  As I do my long workouts, I have that math in my head....how many hours can I give myself to complete the run?  How much of the 26.2 miles can I truly run after 112 miles on the bike?  Can I walk fast enough ??  It's all very...well...daunting.

This has got to be one of the hardest things I have ever attempted in my life...

But I can't let fear hold me back.  This is the final push towards that November 2nd challenge and I have to stay focused.

What has helped is watching the strength and power of others around me on their journey to this Ironman.  One of my teammates had a terrible bike crash ....we are talking bloody face, road rash, bruises and muscle that screamed with pain.  She got up the next day and completed her bike workout.  She never cried after the accident...she was so calm and poised.  I would have been a mess.

I watched Ironman Lake Placid as so many racers stayed focused and finished their dream including a friend who had DNF'ed a previous Ironman.  He was determined...and it has inspired me to no end.

A former Team in Training Coach who served as support crew as one of his athletes completed the Badwater Ultra Marathon in Death Valley. 135 miles of running with an 8000+ foot climb up Mt. Whitney at the end.  No small feat...and so inspiring!!!

Diana Nyad...a 62 year old long distance swimmer stands on the shores of Key West as I write this blog waiting for the weather to clear and be just right to make ANOTHER attempt at completing the Cuba to Key West Swim.  I believe this is her 5th attempt....talk about guts.

So for me to be staring down the barrel of 140.6 miles seems minor compared to the inspiration around me.  So many people have done this..many with disabilities and obstacles much larger than a simple weight problem.  I must draw strength from these fine examples and move forward with my training.

88 days until Ironman