Sunday, April 6, 2014

BAM! Back to reality and allergy season..

I will try and keep this post light but it has been really difficult to get back home post IM with jet lag and allergy season included. After a 27 hour trip home, with one 2 hour delay in Phoenix, we finally made it home Tuesday night. Our Aussie friend Tristan had picked us up to take us to the airport Tuesday AM in Melbourne. Another random act of kindness from a great guy-thank you Tristan! Tristan, you see spent a year racing 52 Marathons all over the world in 52 weeks. He has written a book Run Like Crazy, which I highly recommend. It is about his experiences during that year. I am already 2/3 into the book and guaranteed to keep you wanting to read more and more!

The flight home was uneventful, sans Phoenix delay. Virgin Australia is an amazing airline. On the 14 hour trip from Melbourne to Los Angeles, we were fed 3 meals, had snacks available during non meal times. Dozens of movies available at our own private TV screen at each seat and this was all in Coach! I had used a bunch of frequent flyer miles and basically our trip was "free" so that made the enjoyment of the flight that much more. The flight attendants were pleasant, service great. Can't say enough about V.A.!

When we landed in ABQ, our daughter Heather picked us up. A sight for sore eyes for these weary travelers..We arrived home to our lovely abode in the Foothills of ABQ to a nice large clean house, no dirty laundry and plenty of food to hold up in our house for a few days to recover. We fell into bed at 9:00 and managed to sleep all night, even with the time change of 7 hours (minus one day-compliments of the International Dateline). At 6:00 the next AM, I awoke a bit confused as to where I was exactly but knew one thing...Finally I get to take a bath in a real bathtub! The apartment in Melbourne had a bath but it was a kid's bath or something, was so small I could take a bath but I was basically hugging my knees it was that small. I looked out the window to the huge mountains in our backyard and realized how different the landscape was to our view of the ocean in Port Melbourne! Ahhh, I was home..

Wednesday was spent walking around in my Jammies all day and basically in a jet lag fog. As the day wore on, my allergies started to kick up and I missed the ocean air..Sleep has been a bit of a challenge but not much. I woke up twice in the middle of the night wide awake, acutely aware it was daytime in Melbourne. I was wondering if my "mates" were out training or resting or eating. Finally sleep has gotten normal and I am back on schedule rest wise. This makes life feel a bit better. I am still hungry all the time and not sure why. The race was 2 weeks ago so doubt if the calories I burned at the race are still being replaced at this point. Trying to stick to healthy options. H went and got a bunch of fruit to snack on but I still find myself scrounging around for anything chocolate in the pantry, granola will have to do..:)

We ventured out to get our bikes put together and picked them up yesterday. We talked to our local bike mechanic Randy at Hawk's Tricycle at length. Telling the story about Melbourne and the Kona slot still doesn't seem real to me. Randy found Mrs. Venge's "problem" I had been having in Australia the last 2 months (loose crank-wow, the bike shops down there couldn't find this??). Randy has graciously offered to come with us to Kona as our personal bike mechanic. After my bike experience afar, I am almost ready to buy his ticket to go with us-ha!

We had lunch with Heidi, Jess and our 2 Grandkids yesterday. Nothing but a dose of grandkids to perk me up! It was a joy to see our family again. Tonight is Heather and Josh's birthday party, so more family time. This is enough of a boost to my overwhelmed soul!

It is Sunday now and I am feeling a bit more grounded. After living in less than 1000 ft. spaces the last 4 months (Tucson and Melbourne), I am overwhelmed with all the "stuff" we own and the upkeep of a larger home. Do I really need all this stuff? I am really re-evaluating my habit of buying stuff when I know I can survive and even thrive on so much less. Is this a result of growing older? Am I ready to pack it in and move to the old folks home already? Ha ha..nah, not for this Ironman, but it really makes me question my priorities. The most important thing in life are the people..my husband, family, friends and adventures. All the rest is superfluous really.

Do I feel like a different person now that I have reached the Holy Grail of Ironman Triathlon? Sort of.. in the way I feel like all the pressure is off to do my very best, get that PR and place in my AG. Going to Kona and the Championships is just icing on the cake. I don't at this point even care how I do, I just want to finish in time to get the Finisher's Medal. Having my whole family in Hawaii and possibly some friends is the proverbial carrot at the end of the stick now. All the rest is just added benefit. I had lunch with Carol, my long time triathlon friend (she has been to Kona twice) who told me Enjoy every minute of Kona, go to everything, soak it all in. Yup, this is my plan so far!

Tomorrow we are venturing out to ride our bikes..my first exercise in over 2 weeks. I guess I will see if my Red Blood cells are coming back to adjust to the altitude yet. Biking at high altitude is a great test for this. We also may take a hike up to the mountains today in our backyard. Sundays are my favorite day of the week and this is a very magical place for me..always brings me joy to envelop myself here:




Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Part Three...Post Race..The End (but not really)

I woke up Monday morning fully expecting to realize this had been a very long complicated Ironman dream and the race had not really taken place yet. Nope it happened, I pinched myself and H said, Yes indeed you won!

Wow, it still didn't really hit me..even now I don't think I fully comprehend the accomplishment. It was early Monday AM and we still had to get to St. Kilda to gather our transition bags, bikes and special needs bags. There was only a 2 hour window to do so. Then we had to take our s*#*t home (2.5 miles) and get back in time for the Kona "Rolldown". It's a big deal and if you aren't there to pick up your Kona slot, they immediately give it to the next place Finisher in your AG, etc. Exhausted, we took a taxi down, got our stuff. My hand was starting to hurt by now, the lidocaine had worn off around the stitches. Carrying bags was not the best therapy for this but I had to. We called, tried to hail and called again for a "Maxi Taxi" to pick us up with our bikes in St. Kilda. The taxis were so busy, no one showed up, plus I think they hate taking bikes into their precious cabs(I'm not bitter or anything, but the taxis here are abysmal). I was getting really anxious after waiting forever. It was starting to rain. I told H, f%#+k this! I am riding my bike home!. So off we went in our street clothes, a mere few hours after IM, sore legs and all, bags in tow. By now, the rain has started to pour. Oh great, now I will have pneumonia again.. We finally made it home drenched, quickly changed our clothes and took a taxi back to St. Kilda.

We made it!

There were a hundred athletes there, waiting to get their coveted slot, including our TEAM member teammates, who we sat with. Again Mike Reilly was there to ceremoniously hand each person their Kona certificate:

Finally they got to the "older athletes" and I picked up my slot!! It was very exciting, hula dancers to greet us afterwards.

Then they took my money of course on the spot and I was in! Several TEAM members got Kona slots too. This is Jody, a dear sweet amazing Aussie friend and an athlete who is also Kona bound:

I was in a daze, completely out of it from post race lack of rest, still not really comprehending the whole experience. Yes I really was going to Kona, I have the receipt to prove it!

Monday afternoon, we met our TEAM mates for drinks before the Awards Ceremony. It was so nice to see everyone without bike helmets, bike clothes and finally I could hang with them to chat. Both coaches were there. Michael had qualified for Kona last year, Xavier and Jody on Sunday. We laughed and told stories, honestly my Aussie friends are hilarious! Even the teammates not qualified had killer times like 9-10 hours for IMM. H and I are very lucky to have trained with such seriously talented athletes. Yet there is a down to earth feeling about the TEAM. They are not full of themselves as some might be tempted to be when you are just that good. I can't say enough about how we were included in everything. Although we couldn't exactly hang with these folks training, I still felt a part of..I honestly think this was a once in a life experience, these last 2 months, one of those things that fell into place just by a series of events and abundance of the most generous Aussies ever. Facebook has opened up a whole new family of friends for me and it warms my heart. I am excited to see how all these amazing folks do in their future endeavors either in sports or in life. Many of them are the same age as our kids and yet, we never were made to feel "old".

My coaches, Michael and Xavier
 

More TEAM mates..

After the get together, we all cruised down to the Convention Center in South Melbourne to the awards ceremony. Following some entertainment, there was Mike Reilly to introduce the winners of the age groups and Pros. They asked all the winners to sit up front. I still felt stunned and almost didn't believe this was really happening. The woman in 2nd place in my AG sat next to me. She was the one I had met at the race. I congratulated her. 2nd place in your first IM ain't so bad! She was very sweet and gracious..As they went through the younger age groups I sat thinking wow, am I really going up to that stage to get a first place award? I felt nervous, excited. My coaches and TEAM mates were there to cheer for us. My coach Xavier got his award first. Getting 1st place in the 35-39 AG with a smokin' time of 8:45 time is unbelievable! Some of the winning times, even in the older AGs were shockingly fast! If I were in the women 65-69 AG, I would have gotten 3rd place-really?? Label me lucky!

Then it happened. They called my name. I hugged Mike Reilly and stood incredibly astounded, proud, emotional, happy..amazed!

I almost slept with it on the first night...

I must admit, one of the proudest moments of my life!

My fellow TEAM mates who received awards, Xavier and Jody
Of course my best friend and partner in life, who missed the podium by one place! So proud of my husband!

We will all be on Kona together..how exciting and unexpected for me. Plus my coach Michael, of course is competing. I am thrilled to have my Aussie teammates there. Our whole family is coming too, all 15 of us. My 60th birthday celebration and Ironman World Championships in October. It's a party!

Wow! What a way to bring in this new decade of life..My parents both died in their 60s after long illnesses, I am doing this to honor them and to say, aging is a matter of choice! At least so far for me..

Today is day 6 after Ironman Melbourne. We did nothing, I mean absolutely nothing the first 3 days after the race, eating a bunch and resting our tired bones. Wednesday night we treated ourselves with dinner on the Tramcar Restaurant, which is highly rated here. We ate a luxurious meal as the old antique Tram took us around town. What a treat this was. The food was great, H and I just relaxed, reliving "The Day". What a difference from previous post race feelings of discouragement and disappointment in myself! I finally feel rested, we packed our bikes yesterday and will begin packing the rest today..After meeting several friends here for meals, drinks, or coffee over these last few days in Melbourne, we head back to the US on Tuesday. I am very sad to leave, but excited to see our family and friends back home..

Saying goodbye to Melbourne and the "mates" we have met here is really difficult. My heart is warmed by all the love and generosity we have experienced here. From total strangers who gave us lifts to places, to a guy who didn't even know me that lent me his aerobars, for the many many TEAM mates, who showed us we can indeed be those "real athletes", for friend Tristan-our "Run Like Crazy" runner/author, Blog mate Alison and many more-I am truly grateful!!

 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Part Two..the Race..

 

The Swim:

Mike Reilly, the voice of Ironman (basically commentates nearly every Ironman competition in the US, including Hawaii and apparently in Melbourne too) started us all out with a ten second warning then the sound of the horn blared-we (2,000 of us) were off on the swim! I felt great but soon I realized crap my goggles are leaking, which doesn't feel so good when pure salt water is flooding your eyes. I was still in waist deep waters so I just stood up. As I watched all the swimmers pull away from me, I tried to adjust my goggles..back in the water a few strokes and crap still leaking! This went on for what seemed like 5 minutes. I could not figure out wtf was going on with my goggles. I pulled them tight, tried to readjust, nothing worked. This was weird because in the warmup swim the goggle fit was fine. I had worn these goggles a dozen times in practice swims. Ok, relax it's a long day out here. Just find the problem and fix it.. No-go..I managed to get the goggles to where they were only leaking on one side minimally and just swam the whole 2.4 miles with salt water in my right eye. Not recommended except maybe in a race...I stopped every few hundred meters to try and tighten, adjust, to will the darn things to stop leaking. By now I was in deep water...nope, not happening. I think I kicked too hard trying to tread water because at one point I felt my timing chip slipping off my left leg..oh great! Readjusting the strap, I looked up and a race lifeguard in a kayak asked me if I needed assistance. I just said no thanks and carried on. So, I just swam..it seemed like I was really far behind the crowd of swimmers by now but don't think I really was...I finally started passing a bunch of people but was also being pulled along with the massive draft that you can only get from 2,000 other swimmers in the water. I did my best to relax with saline soaked eyes and not wear myself out. It's a long day out there. No sense in pushing here..I was quite ready to exit the water when I pulled myself up to shore. The clock said 1:39. I couldn't for the life of me do the math because this was the Pro start time, 15 minutes before us? I thought I had a 1:17 swim but really it ended up being 1 hour, 21 minutes. I had taken about 3 good gulps of sea water, not on purpose but I thought that would probably hold me sodium wise for awhile. As I exited the water, there was a big crowd of spectators cheering. I felt pumped to be finally out of the water. I heard my name called and smiled, having no clue who it was. I just hoped my reading contact had stayed in my right eye so I could see through the race, surprisingly it did!

Transition 1: I was trying my best to speed through but I can't seem to do anything to shorten my IM transition times. I didn't change clothes, only threw on a bike shirt. The volunteer, who was trying to be helpful I know, dumped my bag of bike stuff in front of me. Oh no, I had things put in a specific order according to what to put on when, etc. The second time I told her please don't do that, she finally backed off. I am sure she thought I was one bitchy athlete, her trying to help and all...oh well out of there in 10 minutes. I had all my stuff, nutrition, was fully clothed and went off to find my bike. As I ran out to the bike I met up with with the woman I had met before the race in my AG. She said hello and took off before me..again my thoughts were that maybe she would make a rookie mistake and go out too hard on the bike..

The Bike: I started the bike warming up. I mean warming up my body, which was pretty chilled from the water and cool temps. I didn't push too hard the first hour or so, which is good because after 30 miles, I realized my rear brake was rubbing..oh crap I knew I should have had the bike shop loosen those brakes! We had gotten our bikes tuned up the week before. Afterwards, my gut told me to take it back in to adjust the brakes and fix the wierd clattering I heard when shifting to the bike chain ring..did I listen to my gut? Hell, no...I thought the magic bike elf was gonna come in and fix it overnight I suppose...geez! Of course these issues came back to haunt me. I was thirsty from the get-go on the bike. I assume this is probably from all the damn salt water I had consumed but I tried to follow "the Plan" of nutrition I had set out to implement. I didn't take in much until after one hour on the bike, then started electrolyte drinks and gels, like clockwork. I just carried on the first loop, it was kinda easy just like Coach had said. Very little wind going out, small headwind coming back into town. We did this loop twice. There was a cloud cover that kept the day cool, almost chilled at times. I wondered if I would regret the decision to not throw on the jacket the volunteer had dumped on the ground for me. I had arm warmers on but honestly I didn't fully warm up until the 2nd loop. As I was going out on that first loop, the Pro athletes were coming in to head out on their 2nd loop. Ok, new goal-get done with first loop before Pros passed me, finishing their bike leg. I almost made it! With about 15 miles to go on my first loop, I heard the swoosh, swoosh, swoosh of the cyclists and there they were, motorcycle escort in front, passing me like I was standing still. I had no idea how fast I was going (sans bike GPS) but I think I did the first loop at a decent pace for me. Halfway through each loop, there was a tunnel, which was pretty cool actually. The blast of warm air the first time was a welcome and surprising benefit. I know lots of people dread those tunnels, since it is a wheeeee..downhill, but I liked it! After the tunnel, there is a bit of an uphill for about a half mile, just enough to keep the doldrums away on a very long day on the bike. I tried to get out of the saddle about every 15 minutes, a trick I learned from a bike coach. It saved my ass literally for about the first 85 miles..Right after the first tunnel in and out, I spotted a Bike Mechanic truck just beyond an Aid station. I thought I was seeing a mirage! I stopped suddenly and said help please? The noise in the big chain ring was getting progressively worse and I knew my chain was rubbing against something important. He looked at it and said I just wasn't pushing the gear in hard enough when I changed gears...hmmm, I've never had to do that before! But it seemed to work when he did it. This went ok for awhile then it would start rubbing again..and this people, is Ironman..expect the unexpected! I can keep the risk of crap happening to a minimum but honestly there is always s#*%t that happens in a long race like this!

Lesson: Listen to my gut when it comes to pre race bike tune ups and adjustments, especially when I am out of my home town and away from the LBS that I know really well. I feel lucky because I finally figured out if I was in one certain gear in the back, I could eliminate the clattering noise up front.. Oh well, if nothing else, this kept me occupied for a few hours. At the end of the first loop we headed back into Frankston before heading out again. I REALLY had to pee and I didn't want to pee on myself because it was way too cold! However every time it saw a porta potty on the bike course, there was a line of athletes waiting. Oh hell no, I am not wasting time waiting in a friggin' porta potty line so I did what every respectable Grandma would do. I squatted behind a truck at one of the aid stations. I am sure it was a scary sight for all the cars racing by on the other side of the freeway across from the bike course lane, but I was really hoping the small piece of cardboard I found to hold up in front of me was hiding the worst of it. Besides, at that point I thought who cares, I will never see these people again! Plus the volunteer told me all the guys had been doing it all day, what's one old lady going to hurt. It's amazing how the mind rationalizes even the most odd behavior after being in a race for 8 hours! After the 2nd loop turnaround I saw my husband! I yelled Hartley! not knowing if he heard me but grateful I knew he was still in the game. As a matter of fact I saw him twice on the bike, he wasn't that far behind me so thought we may cruise in together on the bike but alas, he was having his own challenges out there.

112 miles is a long bike ride...The last 30 miles or so took FOREVER it seemed. Again Coach was right on, the wind picked up and yes, it was a headwind. All I could think about were the 2 women I had passed in my age group on the first loop. Yes indeed, the first timer had gone too hard out on the bike. Those women did not look happy..Miss Fancy Tri Bike was literally a mile back from me, or so I thought at one point at a turn around. My whole goal here was to get far enough ahead of any of the real runners in my age group so they couldn't catch me on the run. Then I started slowly thinking what if there is no one in my AG ahead of me? I wouldn't even let my mind go there yet.. I remembered all those races, short or long when some fast ass woman in my AG passed me on the bike. In those moments, I always felt defeated oh there goes one of THOSE women! the real athletes who are faster than me! During the bike Sunday, I had satisfying thoughts of hey maybe those other women are thinking that about me-is that possible? Ha, take that decade in my 50s! Maybe turning 60 isn't such a hard thing!

My ass was about to fall off and then I had to ride some more in the headwind. It was nothing like the wind we had in Geelong last month, not even close but was annoying, I was tired and in ass pain. I knew it would pass, I just needed to get on the friggin' run! I had no idea what time it was, I think I asked someone along the way, and I realized I was probably not going to break 7 hours on the bike leg, which kind of disappointed me however I knew there was a whole marathon ahead to make up for it. This is why I love endurance sports. There are so many points at which the tide can change..

After what seemed like hours, I finished the last 5k on the bike and just like magic, someone took my bike from me and I headed into the changing tent.

Bike time: 7:07 not great, not bad just OK..

T-2: At transition I had to dig around for my T-2 bag, which was hanging on a hook. Holy crap, I think I am the first one in here in my AG! Still wouldn't let my mind go there. Not yet..T-2 was much smoother, still a gawdawful slow time of 7 minutes something but by then, I let the volunteers dump whatever they wanted seeing as how they were taking off my disgusting socks and helping me change shoes...whatever, I didn't care, just wanted to start running! In my flurry of yes, I'll take that, not this (I brought way too many what ifs?), I forgot my electrolyte tabs for the run. Uh-oh..I might have to resort to the dreaded Gatorade, a dirty word in my Nutritionist's mind.

The Run: Oh man, I was glad to be out running! The sun was finally out, the clouds dissipating. It was turning into a gorgeous day out there. As I made my way out of Frankston, the cheers of local people was an encouraging incentive to keep going. Actually, I felt great. All those many many bricks we have done off the bike (run directly after biking ) were paying off. My legs felt strong. The only thing that hurt was my neck. I scanned my body for other pains. Back-nope, ass-sorta, feet-nope, brain-only a little fuzzy..I did wear a Garmin GPS on the run. I set it to start and took off like it was any other training day. I ran for 4 minutes, GPS alarm buzzed, then walked for 10 seconds, then jog for 50 seconds, GPS buzzed I started running again, repeat. I did this a total of 66 times. The running part I kept between 11:00-11:30/ min. mile. The walk and jog maybe averaged 13-14 min/mile. When I felt the urge to run faster (it is a race you know), I fought it because I remembered what Michael had said don't run faster than you did on you longest runs. OK Coach, you got it,..and I stuck to the plan til the very last run down the finishing chute.

The run was point to point-Frankston to Melbourne (St. Kilda), along the ocean:

If I am going to run a marathon after swimming and biking all day, this is the prettiest place I can imagine doing so. The views of the ocean along the course were absolutely stunning!

We ran out of Frankston onto a street which had a slight tilt to it, "camber" is what they call it here. In order to avoid running on the tilt, I ran towards the middle of the bike path. The road was open and cars whizzing by, some had their windows rolled down and folks cheering. While running along the streets of the towns during some of my walking portions, the folks along the road would cheer, trying to be helpful I am sure keep running, don't slow down, etc. I think I kept mumbling that I was using the run/walk method to explain my slow downs but finally I gave up and let them tell me to keep running-just blocked it out of my mind. I was hoping running on this slanted pavement would not screw up my legs. After a few miles, my feet started to burn. Uh-oh, this might be a long day, I thought. I stopped to take off both shoes, readjust my socks and put the shoes on a bit tighter. It worked! I hate stopping during the run. It feels like time lost. When I sat down to fix something, it was kinda hard to stand back up again, my legs were so stiff. I had Vaselined my feet up really good in transition to keep the dreaded blisters away that can develop on a long day on your feet. The adjustment seemed to work and I had no problems with my feet after that. I had grabbed an extra pair of running socks, just in case my feet went south and carried the socks in my hand pretty much the whole time. This ended up being a good decision come the end of the run..somewhere in there I stopped to pee in the bushes again. OK, I am still hydrated, I was glad to realize this.

Nutrition was key on my run. So why the hell did I not remember to bring my Shotz electrolyte tabs? I had bought a new nutrition running belt at the Expo (a big No-NO to wear anything new on race day). I had worn it twice in short runs and seemed fine. Plus, how could I resist the sticker sale price of $20, bottles included? The bottles were adjustable and it was really cool how I got to move them around if one part of my waist got sore. In 2 bottles, I had all the Shotz gels I needed for the whole run. The 3rd bottle had 1 electrolyte tab in it, which I diluted in 8 oz. of water. I took a squirt along with a cup of water at each aid station, every 2k or so, a slug of gel every half hour. This went along fine until I ran out of the electrolytes tab solution. Damn! Why did I forget this important part of my race plan?? Oh well, another lesson in Ironman adjustment. I began to take in just water at the Aid Stations. I was kind of afraid of taking in all that water without the 'lytes" attached to it. I was sweating profusely even though I was cold. Finally I gave in and started with the dreaded Gatorade just to get some sodium in my body to help with all the water. I felt fine, had a bit of gas but otherwise my stomach was fine. No pains, no diarrhea-nothing. I got a bit hungry actually at times, I think at the run special needs I wolfed down a Shotz bar which helped to curb that hunger feeling. I would say other than forgetting the tabs, I nailed the nutrition in IM...finally.. With the help of Darryl, it all came together for once. I had practiced ALOT for this race with the gels, bars and drink in training. It worked!

I finally, finally got to the beach part of the run. This was about halfway through the run, where my special needs bag was. Thank goodness, I am cold. Since my brain was going a bit fuzzy by now, I prayed I had left a jacket in the SN bag as well. Still had the arm warmers on but the sun was slowly declining and temps going down. I got to Special Needs, ripped open my bag and alas the much needed jacket was there-yippee! Finally, overpacking paid off...As I rounded the dock to get to the running path along the sea, there was a pretty big crowd of people and an announcer on a loud microphone who announced my name and said something about the 60-64 category. People cheered louder. How nice, I thought...I looked up to see my image running along on a huge Jumbotron on the corner..I winced...don't especially like to see myself and my slow ass running but the encouragement was nice. Then I heard the announcer tell the guy behind me kiddingly And you sir are NOT winning your age category! Wait a minute...did he just say that? Did this mean he had said I was winning MY age category? I started to think yes I think that is what he said about me? Right at that moment, I started to believe!

I felt like crying.,was I really in first place? Did I really have a chance to go to Kona? I was overwhelmed by the thought and just started picking up my pace. I was sure the 2nd place lady was right behind me, ready to pass at any moment....wait, wait-don't run any faster than your longest training run..stick to your race plan..This became really, really difficult to do, since I felt so motivated to go, go, go!! If I really was winning I needed to open the gap between me and the imaginary woman behind me. But I resisted the urge to run faster. I surely didn't want to "blow up" and have to start walking for real. I carried on but now my thoughts went something like I can win this thing, I am a winner, I deserve this..and on and on. I intentionally tried to bring up every person's image who had encouraged me on Facebook. I thought about my kids, who I was sure were following me at home, especially if I was in first place. I thought of my mom. Please help me Mom, I really want this. I knew she would be so proud of me if I got first place..I thought of my dad who taught me my big first long word: perseverance. I remembered it like It was yesterday. This went on for miles and miles, imagining all my friends/family cheering for me. The run along the beach was no less than spectacular. The ocean surf sound, the sunset, the birds singing and cheering for me. I coudn't imagine a more perfect run day. I really wished I had a camera to capture this moment-me, the ocean and spectacular sunset. A few times I passed people walking on the course and said wow how 'bout that sunset? The crowds of people were no more. It was pretty much me, myself and I having these great conversations about the day, the sunset, the possibility I may be going to Kona. I thought if not me, than who? I deserve this, I have trained so hard the last 5 months, I do deserve this. The last half of an Ironman marathon takes forever. Time wise I was on a pretty good pace for me. I was doing the marathon in PR time. Run, walk, jog, stick to the plan...at one point on the road part I had talked with a course marshal who recognized my TEAM Tri top and knew I was part of "Xavier's Team". She told me he had finished the race in 8:45 and won his age group. I whooped for him. Great job buddy! I asked her about Michael and she didn't know his time or how he was..I asked her if she knew who my husband was and if she had seen him. She said no but she would bike back to check on him and tell him where I was, then get back to me. I was kinda worried since he hadn't caught me and I knew he wasn't that far back on the bike. I really wanted to share these moments with him..she took off saying she would check on him. I never saw her again. In the back of my mind I continued to be concerned about him the whole rest of the run.

It started getting dark, really dark. Glow stick on my race belt, I carried on cautiously in the dark. The running path was not lit, which surprised me. This is effing dangerous, I thought to myself. I have been known to trip and fall on some surfaces if I don't pick up my feet the right way so I was super careful along the unlit portion of the run. This kept me focused for quite awhile, ever knowing the phantom woman in my age group was running me down. I began to wish/pray that someone-my coaches, teammates, anyone would come along and tell me I could relax a bit, that I was indeed winning and didn't need to worry. That never happened so I kept running..I was so looking forward to seeing my friend Alison, who I knew was at the 32k Aid Station along the course. This kept me going for several miles...knowing I would see a familiar face. At the 32k mark, she wasn't there. I thought ok she probably had to go or something. It was pretty late and all... Then the next aid station came and there Alison was!! With a wild cheering section of Aid station workers, she announced that I was her friend from New Mexico in the US...and the cheers got louder. I got a much needed hug from her and that kept me going for the moment. Thank you Alison!! Then I realized I had forgot to ask her if I was ahead of my competition then started to doubt I was. She probably didn't want to discourage me with negative info. My mind was playing tricks on me at times. I couldn't figure out miles to kilometers, even though I had a friggin' watch on to tell me. All I knew was at the point I had 5k to go, I started to relax a bit and thought holy s*%#t, I think I am really gonna win this thing!! The crowds of spectators got bigger as I got closer to St. Kilda. Someone had said you could hear Mike Reilly from several miles away from the finish but I didn't hear him at all until I was very close..the cheers were so motivating that last couple of miles. Go Debra! They would say (had my proper name on the front of my number belt). That was so cool...I was so close..I started to see the sides of the race chute.

With about 100 meters to go, Bam!! I tripped over one of the metal feet holding the the chute gates and went down. I never saw it coming so went down pretty hard, skidding my hands and knees to try and stop the fall. Oh..my..gawd.. SERIOUSLY??? I felt so stoopid!! Someone asked if I was OK, I said I thought so and pulled myself up. Quickly surveying my body, I looked down and was bleeding from both my knees, my hands and I had what looked like a pretty good gash in my right hand. I still had the pair of extra socks on me and quickly wiped my knees and applied pressure on the hand gash to try and stop the bleeding at least until I crossed the line. I was somewhat dazed and confused from being at the end of the race, from falling..all of it. But I thought and maybe said out loud there is no effing way I am not getting to the finish line! I will crawl if I have to! The adrenalin kicked in and I sprinted to Mike Reilly's voice and at last I saw the Finish Line. People were cheering and banging on the sides of the finishers' chutes. I heard my Coach, Michael yell my name and cheer-I smiled at him..I was so relieved, happy to be finally, finally done! When I crossed the line, I heard it, I heard Mike say over the loud speaker Debra Wess, the winner of the 60-64 age group-you are an Ironman! It was official. I screamed and jumped up and down. Yeessss!!! I cried, I couldn't believe it. After all these years of blood sweat and tears, I finally did it. I won my age group at an Ironman! I tried to look up to the cameras, which I knew were filming the Finish Line and tried to motion to the kids, who I knew were watching in the US. I have no idea if they saw that. Oh..my..gosh, I am finally done and I am going to Kona!!! Run time: 5:34

You can see my knee and hand wounds...lol!

Total time: 14 hours, 20 minutes. First place out of 5 women.

Back to earth, I immediately told someone I needed medical help and showed them the gash in my hand. They put me in a wheelchair and took me to the medical tent, where several people looked at my hand and said what I already knew..you need sutures in that hand..oh fudge, this is not how I saw my celebration of my age group win, not the way I imagined sharing that moment. I told anyone who would listen that I won my age group, I was going to Kona but they were more concerned about my physical well being, for which I was grateful. After taking my vital signs (my temp was pretty low, are you cold?-well, yes..), I was taken to a bed in the medical tent where a medical student told me she was the one doing the stitching. Hmmm, a medical student who obviously looks like it's her first time stitching someone up is doing the sutures in my hand... After asking some questions, (I use to be a nurse so wanted to know exactly what they were doing) I finally gave up control. I could not insult this poor medical student by asking for a plastic surgeon, after all this was my right hand! After what seemed to be a long slow, medical teaching experience process with a doctor instructing her, I had 4 stitches in my right hand. I was really hungry, thirsty at this point. I told them if they didn't let me eat, they were going to have another problem on their hands, my low blood sugar. Finally they brought me some Gatorade. Oh how I longed for pizza right then! I was practically I tears because I didn't know where Hartley was. I kept asking of they could find my husband. Well, no they had no idea..I begged them to find my phone from my morning bag, which was in a tent right outside the door..no, they couldn't do that..I wanted to cry..After about an hour, they finally let me go. Stitches and bandaid on hand, I finally got my drop bag and saw H in the food tent. We hugged and he said YOU ARE GOING TO KONA!

Right then, I got it. I really, really had reached my long term goal/dream and even more. I won my age group, had beat my competition by an hour and I was going to the Ironman World Championships...

HOLY S%#*T!!!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Pre Race and it's all coming together...Part One

What can I say, where do I start? I am still right in the middle of a dream that I am sure I will wake up from soon, right? After all these years of training and racing, trying to do well in the age groups I have been in, (3 to be exact), I finally completed the impossible. I won my friggin' age group!! Anyone who knows about, or races in Ironman Triathlons dreams at the start that they will win their AG and/or qualify for Kona, the Ironman World Championships, held yearly in Hawaii. Anyone who says I really don't care to go to Hawaii anyway (which I have said many times) is lying! The only way to get in is to win the "lottery system" (you have to pay bucks to get your name in) or win your age group in an IM qualifying race. Some of the younger age groups get more of these slots but for us older folks, since our age groups tend to thin out, there is usually only one slot to go to Kona per race. So winning is the only way. "Kona" was my dream of course, as it is everyone's Ironman dream but it always seemed way too far fetched to actually do it. Just to place in the top three would have thrilled me!

This was a lucky time of year for me. I am still 59, but in triathlon, you race in your age group according to your age on Dec 31st of that year(my BD is in Sept). So I was probably the youngest in my AG. To be honest when I saw the competitor list a couple of weeks ago and saw five women, I was so disappointed. When we got to Melbourne back in January, Coach Michael asked me what my goal for IM Melbourne was. I said I wanted to place in my AG, in Australia that means the top three. I was like crap! I will have to beat 2 women to do that! I was so disappointed that I would have to now really race and not just sit back and have a sure thing. All the IM races I have done, I have been in the middle or lower third of the pack in my previous age groups. So a podium finish would have been fine for me! Honestly Kona was not on my radar. Whenever H would bring up the possibility, I got mad and told him to hush that is way too much pressure for me to be under! In the days leading up to the race, we had met with Michael to discuss our "race plan". My takeaway from that:

  1. Don't go full out on the swim
  2. When you are stressed, smile. It works.
  3. Nutrition is key
  4. The first loop on the bike will feel kind of easy, 2nd loop not so much! Oh, and the wind will get stronger on the 2nd loop (headwind).
  5. Don't race with my Garmin on the bike, makes me too obsessed (who, me?)-ha! So go by feel on the bike, just above comfort level. Plus one less piece of electronics to keep track of in an already equipment intensive sport..
  6. Don't run any faster on the marathon than you have done in your long training runs.

This advice and probably more that I don't recall kept me in the game Sunday. My other Coach Xavier told me 2 things:

  1. Race your plan
  2. Stick to Nutrition plan

Now all of these thoughts were with me the whole day Sunday. I have had other coaches who have taught me well (Mark Mico, Eric Lujan, Adam from Trisport Coaching, Mark Allen online, Beginner Triathlete online-have had many mentors). My friend from Santa Fe Carol, who told me many years ago than I could do an Ironman if I put the training in then proceeded to show me how qualifying for Ironman Hawaii is done (she has been twice). I pulled from every bit of experience and knowledge I had learned for the last 5 Ironman races and it all came together for me on Sunday.

I had a great Melbourne massage therapist Toby Glennon, who helped in the weeks leading up to the race. He managed to keep my body in working order, I never felt really sore training and stayed healthy for the most part. Getting to the start line at my age, or any age for that matter is a feat. It takes a village...

My nutrition guy Darryl, the inventor of Shotz Nutrition, consulted with me in the weeks and days leading up to the race. I had a nutrition plan, had been training with "The Plan" and his products during the previous weeks and had it dialed in come race day. I did have a few hiccups along the way (no pun intended) such as forgetting all my electrolyte tabs for the run-woops!! I must've been ok without because my stomach was perfect the whole day. More about that later.

My swim coach here, Craig from Aqua Shop was amazing. The couple of lessons I took from him were invaluable. The wetsuit I bought from his shop when my other one broke , was perfect. He sent me messages of support before the race. An amazing athlete and person, Craig is one of the nicest mates I have met in Melbourne. He is the King when it comes to swimming!

Also, I received so many messages, texts, emails, phone calls from family, dear friends old and new, wishing me luck, praying for me, sending me positive vibes. I thought of each and every person who was pulling for me, especially on the run. It kept my feet light, made my will strong and the incentive to win even stronger. I reread Ironwoman Krista's race report from IMAZ last November over again. She is truly an example of dreaming big and setting that dream into motion as she took hours off her IM time to place in her AG this past November. Thank you Krista!

My kids left me video messages of support. The grandkids know what Ironman is, they were there at IMAZ 2012. I am thrilled by the fact that they see what Grandma and Grandpa are doing and achieving. Just knowing that we may be inspiring them to do/be great things in their lives, that is the biggest payoff I can imagine!!

The things I thought were against me;

  1. being sick the week before, still having the annoying hacky cough to prove it.
  2. potential weather disasters be it wind, rough seas, rain, cold or heat. We had trained in it all but it is SO much easier to swim in calm, non jelly fish infested waters. And way more fun!
  3. Potentially having my stomach go south ie; having to stop at every porta potty along the run, which can turn an IM race day marathon into pure hell for me.

Turns out, none of this happened. Race morning in Franskton was absolutely beautiful. A little on the cold side (started out in the 50s which is a tad cold in the AM but no torturous heat later in the day), I'll take it over heat any day. The sea was as calm as I had ever seen Port Phillip Bay. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I realized yes, I would most likely not be swimming in rough waters...Yessss!

The night before the race we tried to go to bed early, like 8:00 PM. Then I woke up at 11:15 PM and never went back to sleep. I laid very quiet forever, hoping just laying there would suffice. I got online and started messaging my daughter Becca, who helped me immensely take it all in stride. I knew even if I had no sleep, I could do the race, I had slept well the night before. So when the alarm went off at 4:30 AM, I was already in the shower. I know, why a shower before I jump into salt water? I started doing this a few years ago when a fellow triathlete said she did it to warm her muscles up and it helped her be race ready fresh. So after showering, we ate, got caffeined up and headed for the start line. H had scored a lovely hotel room just a 10 minute walk from the race start in Franskton. As the sea of people started collecting in transition, I met one of the ladies in my age group. She told me it was her first Ironman (note to self, she will probably go too hard out on the bike-I only know cause I have done it). The other women were not there but one of the bikes was the most expensive Specialized triathlon bike there is I think, with the fancy water container inside the frame..all very state of the art. Oh great this is my competition I thought. Oh well, maybe I can come in right behind her...ok, the final prerace competitive thoughts were washed from my brain at that moment as I commenced to donning my wetsuit. I felt awake, positive and calm. I was aware of some nervousness, the anticipation kind of energy which is not always a bad thing, got me psyched up for the day. We met our TEAM group and coaches before the swim, got a little warmup instruction and into the water I went. It felt a bit cold, mostly from the air temp but otherwise I felt fine. I adjusted my mask for the new swim cap (the ugly race cap you have to wear) and popped in my ear plugs. From that point on, I just nodded to folks who said anything to me. Grandma Debi was completely deaf with earplugs, however it did prevent me from getting water in my ears or dizzy. I went to the area of the mass start where Michael had told us to place ourselves and there was my husband! We hugged, said our good lucks, kisses and then bang! We were off on the swim!

 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

I am racing naked...

Naked is a strange athlete term...racing with no electronic devices..GPS's. I've decided, after speaking to Coach Michael that perhaps all the worry and stress I conjure up if I am not riding fast enough on the bike in my mind, would be counter productive. So no swim Garmin, no bike Garmin. I may wear my run watch, haven't decided yet. It helps me "do the plan" of run/slow run every 4 minutes. I think I ran without any time keepers the last IM I did and ended up one minute off my PR. So maybe wouldn't be a bad thing...hmmm..decisions..decisions..leaving the bike Garmin home takes a huge weight off my shoulders..it is a very expensive piece of equipment to put in others' hands to transport to the finish line..

2 days to go...the training is done, the outfits decided on (comfort over beauty won). I feel a bit of fleeting nervousness but mostly anxious about my body being sore in different spots.. Which is typical Taper symptoms. The goal now is to eat healthy, rest a lot and try and stay calm..

I didn't sleep well last night but did the night before. So good sleep every other night will have to do. The respiratory infection symptoms are mostly gone, except for the occasional annoying cough. Yes, I will be that person hacking on the bike/run...it's really not that bad and I am so much better today, it's amazing. 

This past week hasn't been big in the training department. "Just enough to keep your body from going into shutdown mode" Coach Michael says....A few times this week I felt like how the hell am I going to do an Ironman on Sunday? I feel weak, heavy, bloated...Again these are normal thoughts in the week prior to the race. I just had to go back and figure out how many miles we have trained in the last 4 months. The hours and hours of preparation have to have been doing something, right? 
Since December 1st we have:

Swam: 72,768 yards 
Biked: 1850 miles
Ran: 290 miles

These are estimates, I am sure we have laid down more yardage/miles, I don't always have my GPS on, especially in the many, many bricks we have done (run off the bike). This we have been doing almost every time we biked since here in Australia. I feel ready for the garranteed feeling of heavy legs as I embark upon the marathon. If all goes well, all these bricks will help minimize the pain of shifting gears from bike to run on Sunday. 

Monday night we swam with the Jelly Fish of Elwood Beach. We got to the practice site and met our coach. There were 5 of us plus Michael, the coach. He gave us the plan "swim out to that bouy, then stop and wait for the rest." OK, the water was rough, not as rough as some swims but I was diving into swells much of the 300 or so yards to the bouy. I started to notice what I thought to be pieces of trash, plastic bags below me. Wow, a lot of trash in this bay today. It was only an occasional "bag" so I didn't think much of it, or I was in denial.. I noticed people were stopped halfway out and talking. Maybe someone was having trouble? Anyway got to the bouy and H said to me "Did you see all the Jelly Fish?" All of a sudden, those trash bags had new meaning. Wtf?? OK, I can swim with an occasional. Jelly Fish, I'm a big girl. Gotta be prepared for anything race day, right? Toughen up Debi! Michael gave us our next set wihich was to swim horizontal to the shore, (we were pretty far out there) about 250 yards to the next bouy. Then I saw them, dozens and dozens of Jelly Fish swimming quite near the surface. I tried not to freak out. I closed my eyes but then looked up and I was not headed for the bouy but out to sea. So had to keep my eyes open at least a bit. It was discussed at the stop that these Jelly Fish stings were not that bad, maybe a little zing for a bit. Still, that was not so reassuring as I made my way to the next bouy. The waves were now rolling in from my right side, I was trying to breathe on my left to avoid swallowing sea water, trying to stay calm because of all the JF and in my mind say F#%*k this! We turned around and swam back to the 1st bouy, where Coach tells us we are doing this loop 2 more times. My rational mind overcame my toughness and I said "I'm out!" Hartley wanted to stay, I said that was fine, have fun with these fishies! I started to swim with the current back to the beach and the Jelly Fish multiplied. It seemed like they were in schools, like dozens bunched together. I shortened my stroke to try and avoid them. All of a sudden I batted something hard. It felt like very strong rubber that I was catching with my stroke. "Holy F#%*k-I just smacked a Jelly Fish!" To say I was creeped out, is an understatement. My heart was racing and I have never swam a few hundred yards so fast in my life! As I got very close to shore the Jellies were gone, just like that. I guess they are deeper water JF. I took a huge sigh of relief and coasted into shore. If this had been a race, I would have sucked it up but since it wasn't and I didn't have to, I opted out early. H and one other guy stayed out with the Coach for another 30 minutes. Wow, my husband is tough! He ended up with 2 stings, that really weren't that bad, he said. 
You decide, would you swim with hundreds of these suckers? I think most people would say "Hell no!"

I digress..we checked in at the Registration at Ironman Village yesterday. H and I had a plan-to buy Ironman Melbourne bike race shorts and tops. We found those and much, much more. Sticker shock was abundant! Now I have to finish the race you see, because of all the IMM stuff I bought and well, it will be incentive since I wouldn't wear the stuff if I don't do the race...it's a rule...well, my personal rule anyway..when I am out on the run course, tempted to walk, I'll remember the mucho bucks I spent on. Ironman gear at the Expo. "Keep going, I bought all that stuff to wear so go!" Financial incentive is always a plus..

After said shopping experience we took our many bags of race paraphernalia, shopping goodies and new mid size backpacks they gave to registrants of the race and took a bus home. We rested a bit and them met with Coach Michael to discuss "The Plan" for race day. Michael is so awesome. He answered every question, gave us suggestions for race effort and encouragement. We really got lucky finding him as a young mentor here in Australia. Now I have a plan, if only I can remember it! In the blurrriness and excitement of race day, it is really hard to remember these things especially since my aging memory isn't so great to begin with. Good thing they have people of the course telling us where to go! The run is from point to point-Frankston to St. Kilda:

Not much elevation there and the run is along the beautiful shore of Port Phillip. Not a bad place to get it done! Last night we did our last 40 minute run. It felt pretty easy, backache still there. Last night I wasn't feeling so great so went to bed early. This morning I feel much better, the aches seem to be resolving, as expected.

We are spending the night Saturday in Frankston, where the swim and bike will be plus both transitions. The Finish Line in St. Kilda is in a huge park area, which will apparently be swarmed with spectators to cheer us in. Here is us at the Finish Line (well, not really yet but this is our goal):
No cameras waiting for us on Sunday! There is however, a webcam on the Ironman.com website that shows each and everyone who crosses this Finish Line. Right down to Midnight, the cutoff time for the race. Hopefully, I will be in way before that! Unfortunately for our kids, when I want to finish (around 13:30 hours) it's about 9:00 PM local time, which is 4:00 AM New Mexico time and maybe 6:00 AM for my friends in the East? At any rate, I am really planning on doing well and getting a PR. I will race the plan, implement the nutrition schedule and see how it all falls into place. Anything can happen race day but I have had 2 of my slowest hardest races in Australia (IMWA '09 &. Geelong 70.3 last month).Third time is a charm, right? 

Today we are relaxing, then going to turn our bikes in to be transfered to Franskton and meeting some of our Aussie T.E.A.M. members for dinner. We head to Frankston tomorrow for final gear check in. Will survey the transition area and that's it. Sunday AM we will jump into the ocean and have a fun day! The Race Day weather forecast (there are many different forecasts depending on what weather site I go to) I am choosing to look at says:
Cloudy. Highs in the mid 60s and lows in the low 50s.
But I know better..anything is possible weather wise here on the ocean so bring it!