Saturday, December 5, 2009

A good day that went to hell-but all is well..

Pre-Race: We got up at dark O'clock and were on the bus to the start by 4:15. It seems like it took the whole 2 hours to get ready, doing what I am not sure..But ready we were..

Swim: As I jumped in for my practice swim at 6:00 AM, the sun was already up. I felt strong and fast as I swam in the nice ocean water. I knew it would be a good day in the water for me. H & I said our goodbyes, we waded into the water waist deep with the 1400 or so other athletes and bang, we were off. The swim goes along a 1 mile jetty so there is not much sighting to do. At first, I did not get beat up too bad but as time went on, I felt myself get hit quite a bit, once in the eye. That kind of sucked. When I did raise my head to check out in front of me, alas it seemed I was in the front group. Push, push, and push I told myself. I sang songs in my head. I thought of the weird dreams I had had the night before. I tried to occupy my brain as I slugged it out. The never ending jetty finally came to an end and so did the sun in my eyes. As we rounded the jetty another slugfest ensued. I got on the feet of a faster swimmer and drafted for what seemed like about 15 minutes. The jetty again seemed like forever..Finally, finally we rounded the lst buoy and although the sun was in my eyes, I headed into shore. I had started my watch at the beginning and as I crawled out of the water I looked down and there it was, the elusive PR I had wanted all year-1:09! When I crossed the mat, the announcer said, Debi Wess, first out of the water in her age group! The thrill of that was indescribable..As I made my way into transition I really thought this could be the day all the stars would align and I would get a race PR. Feeling incredibly positive as I ran my bike out of transition, the announcer said, And it is Debi Wess from the United States of America, first women on the bike in her age group! Another fantastic moment in my career of triathlon. I was really psyched now and just took off. My legs were strangely sore, which confused me since I had not used them hardly for a week.

Bike: The bike is a 3 loop course that takes you away from the beach through the trees and is Y shaped. I rocked the first loop, pushing way beyond what I should have been doing. Wow, I thought, I am actually RACING an Ironman! A woman in my AG passed me. OK, so I will probably not WIN. Although I must admit I was wishing that she would get a flat or something. I played chicken with another woman, until I realized she was not even in my AG at all. As we headed back to town, I knew I was rocking the bike. The first loop took me about 2:10. I thought, OMG if I keep this up, I will PR the bike as well! Well, then is when things started to go downhill. The heat started coming on. Not just a little 80 degree heat but hotter and hotter until one guy said the temp on the bike course was 42 degrees centigrade-yes folks that is 107 degrees Fahrenheit! OK, I thought, I better a) stay hydrated and b) keep the salt tablets coming. Which I did. I drank and drank and took in electrolytes. I started to feel woozy, then I would take a salt pill and would feel better. I notice people on the side of the road, puking. This is not a good sign..The pros seemed unfazed as they whooshed by me probably on their 3rd lap by now. I made my way back to town and saw that my split was considerably slower-damn! Then things really got rough. The wind picked up, with probably 30 MPH gusts in some parts. I was sweating, I knew that was a good sign but I had not peed at all yet. I stopped a couple of times just to catch my breath. I was having trouble breathing-not sure why. And I felt better in aero-position although it was hard to stay there for any length of time at this point. As I rounded the last “Y” I started to feel dizzy. I tried eating, taking in more nutrition. I was dousing myself with water at every aid station. Oh and the flies were unreal. Each person that passed me had about 100 flies on their back. I had used bug spray but I guess the little critters have figured out how to get beyond that stuff because every time I stopped, they swarmed me. The poor volunteers were covered in flies. I felt sorry for them too. On the last stretch home, I have never felt so hot in my life. I made myself stop and pee-although little came out. I was starting to see double at times, not a good sign. The last road in had the worst headwind. It was brutal. I was starting to get really negative by now, vacillating between fuck this race and maybe I will feel better on the run. This was the first time I really thought I may quit. I was worried that I was doing some kind of permanent damage to my body in the heat, trying to remember what the signs of heat stroke were. I knew being chilled was one of them. I did not feel that at least. As I rounded the last turn in town, I was really low. I finally, finally got off the bike and much to my dismay, knew I had a marathon in front of me. I was really cranky by now, kind of short with the poor volunteers in the changing tent. Got the Injinji socks on the wrong feet. T-2 seemed like it took forever. I never saw anyone else in my AG. Maybe they had all DQd? Ambulances were going up and down the course on the bike, not a good sign! My stomach was completely and utterly shut down for the last lap of the bike-I could not take much in nutrition wise.

Run: Well, what can I say? I was ready to quit for at least the first 4 hours. I could not run, could only power walk. At least 75 % of the folks out there were walking, most of them on the second lap of the 3 lap course. I talked to myself, what would be the harm in quitting? I am not having fun, this is stupid, etc… then I thought about my One Thing, the One thing that would keep me going if I got in this place. Mine was a PR. OK, not doing that today. Had to switch my One Thing. I thought, hey I could not claim that first out of the water and PR on the swim if I did not finish the race..For some reason I believed that and kept going. I had bought an IMWA jacket-had to finish to wear that. Then I thought of all my kids that were watching at home. I could not quit and let them down. These things kept me plugging along, one footstep at a time. The run looked like the walking dead. I actually passed people walking! I was really low emotionally, pissed-there were flies everywhere! Millions of them! I was so pissed because the course is so beautiful and I could not enjoy it. The run is along the beach, where all the flies reside I guess. I tried to take in nutrition but my stomach was cramping. Finally after some Tums, things started to move. I finally after about 10 hours of racing-peed. I started to wonder where H was. I had seen him on the bike behind me so knew he was finishing that. I started to look for him in the crowd. If he had quit, then I was going to also. PLEASE let me see H in the crowd. I started wishing they would pull me off the course for medical reasons. All these crazy thoughts were in my head…After the first turnaround, where they gave you colored “scrunchies” to put on your arm to signify the lap you were one, I saw H headed for the turnaround. Not only was he running, he looked like a spring chicken! He said he felt great. I told him I was dying and begged him to catch up with me. He said he would. I kept walking, plugging along. Me and flies. The local people were out in force and cheering almost the whole course. The folks at the aid stations were fantastic. I stopped and got some more bug spray at one and told the woman I actually thought I was going insane from the flies. When I was heading back to the second turnaround, a woman stopped to talk to me. She was from here and it was here 2nd IM. She confirmed the brutal conditions. She walked with me for about 15 minutes. That helped me so much I wish I knew who she was-I would call her and thank her. It was about this time, the sun started thankfully going down. It started to cool off and amazingly, I started to feel better. The flies started going away-guess they only like scorching hot temperatures! I was taking in only coke and Infinite at this point, an occasional Powergel. I even ran for about 20 minutes..The second turnaround and scrunchie came, as did the glow sticks. I saw H again-he was gaining on me and finally he caught me about ¼ of the way into the 3rd loop. I almost cried. He was on his way for a PR. He was running this whole time. I told him not to walk with me-this was his day. But he insisted on walking the rest of the way with me. This is a true partner-not sure I would have done the same for him! We discussed our war stories of the hot bike..He saw way more casualties than I did. I wonder today how many folks DNFd because of the heat. H said he even passed a Pro woman on the bike course who was struggling. It got dark-there were still folks on the course cheering us on. God Bless them all! The last 4 miles seemed to take forever but we thought how cool it was going to be to finish together-I knew the kids would see that and that made me happy! I knew I could keep my “first out the water” status now. We passed Dave, the guy we had seen speak at the pre race dinner. He finished the first IM in 1978. He told us the conditions at this race were similar to Kona. OK, I never, never want to go to Kona! I also decided (I know we all say this) that this is my 4th and last Ironman. My body can’t take a beating like this again.

At last, H & I went down the chute, holding hands and heard the best sound in the world, Deb and Hartley Wess, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!

The bus driver that took us home said it was the hottest day of the year so far and by far the hottest race they had had in 6 years. OK, I did feel a little better about my performance hearing that.

Today, we are moving VERY slowly. I slept fitfully probably from all the caffeine I ingested. But I have the medal, the really cool finisher’s shirt and the finisher’s towel. I get to say I did Ironman Western Australia and I worked for every single second of that race..and I was FIRST out the water in my AG at a friggin’ Ironman!!

I have had much better races than this one-well most of them. But I really saw yesterday what the human will and power of thinking can achieve. I have never fought so hard for anything in my life. I have a sticker on my bike that says “Pain is temporary, quitting is forever” I repeated that constantly yesterday. If I can complete IMWA, in those conditions I can do anything!

6th out of 10 in my AG is not bad considering…I’ll take it!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Craig Alexander and me..

OK, I got to talk on the phone with the Hawaii champion from Australia. Well, me and 1500 other folks! At the carbo dinner last night, they got him on the phone from Sidney and he spoke to the audience. The next best thing to being there I suppose and those Aussies are quite proud of their triathlon star! If you do not know who he is, google him. He is right up there with the greatness of the sport!

The day started with my getting my "stuff" ready for the race. A little concerning we did not receive special needs bags. Not sure why-we are off to the race meeting this AM so will find out then I suppose. We took a cab into town yesterday to Woolworths (Woolies). I was standing outside waiting for H and who should I see? My friend Richard, whom I met on Facebook from Australia-he has been filling us in with details of the race since day one. I recognized him from his picture and said "Richard?" I think I scared him but once he knew who I was, we just laughed at such a coinicidence..He has really been a wealth of knowledge about the race and is a very positive person so was great to meet him. Off to the bike store where they have no idea how we should ship our bikes home after the race either, something we knew we would have to figure out once we got here..we will deal with that after the race I guess.

The "Parade of Nations" took place starting in the park downtown. It looked like only a few folks were going to be in it then all of a sudden there were about 300 athletes tha participated, representing 46 countries. We lined up behind the US flag, carried by a guy named Dave, from Milwaukee-I thought "oh how nice-he traveled so far" Well, I found out later, when he spoke to the crowd of 1500, that this was Dave Orlowski, the guy who finished 3rd in the 1st ever Ironman in Hawaii in 1978! Seriously? Well if I would have known that I would have at least gotten my picture with him or something! Tears were welling up in my eyes as we "marched" down Main Street in Busselton to Ironman Village. I had to pinch myself. Am I really here doing this? There were folks lined up on the street cheering for us! It was magical..We arrived at the "Event Marquee", where the "drum band" continued to play until we were let into the big tent for dinner. The place was huge! It was decorated with flags everywhere. The food was amazing. All different types of pasta, salad, fruit, rolls, dessert-it was all there. Although we don't drink, we could have even had beer if we wanted it (I guess the Aussies like their pre race beer). There was entertainement-not just some local group they got to come play, but a real singing act that sang and danced a bunch of internationally themed songs. It was good!

Then came the emcees, who were dressed in some kind of dwarf type costumes. I think it means something here but it looked pretty ridiculous to us! They introduced each of the 46 countried represented here and played their national anthem in part-there were some countries that had only one person and they still did that! The US has 82 participants, topped only by Singapore who had 100 athletes here! We stood and cheered when they called us and played our NA. Of course Australia had the most athletes and it was a booming sound when it came to announcing the Aussies! Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!

They got Craig on the phone sometime during the evening..that was cool. He told ME (and a few hundred others) good luck and have fun! We saw a 20 minute video from last year's race and those folks..well I am not sure they were having fun but it will be an experience. I already feel like I have died and gone to heaven here and am very blessed to be here.

Off we go to the athlete's meeting this AM and to bike check-in and try to correct our State. If not you can hear from Albuquerque, Alaska, you are an Ironman! Hopefully we fix this today..

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Registered and chilling...

Since I received a criticism after my last post for my literary skills, I hesitate to write this but will with this disclaimer: I do not claim to or ever will be a writer. I am posting on this blog for me, my family and friends who are hopefully tolerant of my writing skills (or lack there of). When I am tired and/or jetlagged, I do not make much sense-ever..

That said, we have officially been in Aussie Land for 5 days now. My body is starting to feel right again as it gets use to the "upside down" schedule the new land has us in. Last night I slept all night and woke up at 5:30 instead of 4:30. So slowly but surely..

Yesterday, we were invited to cycle with the local "Busso" triathletes at 5:30 AM. Of course we were up way before then and the sun arises here at 5:00 AM so we were bright-eyed and bushy tailed awake and riding by 6:00. We were lead along the bike course along with 9 other locals, who were friendly and nice as you can imagine..23 miles later we felt like rockstars with all the extra O2..The course is beautiful, along the beach and "forest" with wind at times..Apparently they have wind here too..not just in NM! We will be treated with some wind on race day it seems, if the weather gods have it right. That's OK-we can take it-bring it on!! The folks then invited us to coffee, where I was schooled in how to order a cup of coffee (a long black)..Our new found friends even invited us to come swim early today but alas we overslept!

I read a whole book yesterday, we rented a movie and generally just laid around after our early morning excursion..H cooked a fantastic "steak on the barbie" in our new home away from home. It was cold and started raining off and on yesterday  so was a good day just to rest.

Today, off we went to walk the 2.5 miles down the beach for our "organized swim". Well, things here at IMWA seem a little more relaxed. There were no Gator-Aid folks there to take your stuff so we just hopped on with an IM tour group and swam with them. The water is as clear as it gets. I was a little nervous when the first guy I saw get out said he was stung on the face by a jelly fish. There are NOT suppose to be jelly fish in this ocean! We managed to swim for about 25 min. No stings, the water temp is cool, but not cold. I felt FAST in the salt water....

After the swim, we ate lunch at "The Goose" Fantastic food, great view..Then off to the Expo. Seems they were not quite all together either as most of the booths were not even set up yet. Our biggest disappointment so far is the IMWA gear. Not only is the clothing pretty "cheap" looking, they have the iron-on kind of IMWA logos (you know the kind that washes off over time)-that is if you can actually see the logo beyond the "JAGGARD" label (clothing line I guess)..Bummer because we were planning to buy the store out on IMWA stuff but not that stuff at those prices ($150 for a cheap ass jersey). OK I can live with this issue. We will scout it out again on Sunday for finishers' stuff. Oh and apparently I am skinnier in Australia. When they weighed me today (they weigh all the athletes), I weighed 7 lbs lighter than in the US. Amazing!

The people here are so friendly and helpful-it is hard to describe. They laughed when we went and "got in line" for the registration a few minutes before it opened- we were FIRST! Only the crazy Americans, whose IM races sell out a year in advance were there to be FIRST! Quick check in..The only funny thing is I guess we did not put in our state on the application so the guy, never having heard of ABQ, put in the first state he could think of I guess...Alaska. So we are from Albuquerque, Alaska..Ha!! Also, we were given a "Safely Utility Knife" in our shwag bags. Really? I guess that is to cut down the competition? We will not make it past the first airline flight out of Perth but until then, at least I know I have a huge KNIFE if I need it!

Tomorrow, we will be in the "athlete parade" of nations. We will all be parading down mainstreet to the carbo loading dinner. How cool is that?

Chilling out the rest of today..Life is good in the Land of Oz..

Monday, November 30, 2009

Our Adventure Begins.

Our odyssey began on Thanksgiving Day, which was only about 4 days ago but feels like a million years ago right now. We had Thanksgiving lunch with Nana and Heather. After leaving ABQ late afternoon, bikes in hand we began with our epic travel day. I was pleasantly shocked when the SWA representative actually KNEW what our bike cases were and we seamlessly got our bags checked, yes even the one I had that weighed 51 lbs. Gawd-you really expect me to fit everything I want to bring on a 2 month trip in one 50 lb. suitcase? We got on the plane and alas we were off! When we got to LAX, not only did our bikes actually arrive with us, we found some kind soul to cart our ever so heavy bike bags and 4 others on a huge cart over to Air New Zealand (we gave him $20). I was so happy to see those bikes get checked in-we were at last a 10th of the way there. Then to top off a perfect day, Allison and Lane met us at the airport and we had our 4th Thanksgiving dinner with our 4th child. Wow are we ever lucky-seriously..all our girls and granddaughters are the most amazing adults-I am one proud mama!! OK, so bye bye to Lane and Ally..we got to our gate and at 9:15 PM on Thursday night we took off to make our way to our final destination, Perth, Australia. Now this is where it gets a little fuzzy for me. The crossing of the International Date Line thing is a mystery to me. I never did get it right but I do know it took 12 hours to fly to Auckland, New Zealand and somewhere between the 2 movies, 5 hours of sleep and 2 meals, we lost a day. Arriving at 7:30 AM SATURDAY in NZ, we did our best to sweet talk our way into the Air NZ lounge to spend the next 7 hours until our next plane left. No amount of money or good looks or begging could get us in. So we sat, and sat and sat for most of the day in the main area of the Auckland Airport. We did find a public shower which was not very busy this hour of the morning so after a quick shower with paper towel drying, I felt a bit refreshed. I managed to get a back massage, do about 4 crossword puzzles and perked up a bit when H got us some REAL coffee as we waited. I had tried to limit my caffeine up until this point and drank tons of water. The thigh high compression hose that was suggested REALLY helped with the ankle swelling all this air time could have given me. At around 2:30 PM, we left for Perth on another 7.5 hour flight. This time I watched another 2 movies, ate, more crosswords, got REALLY tired of traveling but was still very excited that we actually pulled this off and were able to leave the States without any emergencies or crisis. A miracle!! Finally, after 35 hours of traveling including the layovers, we arrived in Perth around 5:00 PM, Saturday. We went to baggage claim and wonder of wonders; there were our bikes-in one piece! I have heard horror stories of bikes getting lost, getting broken, etc so I figured if ours got here it would be amazing-it was! The customs folks are not too keen on Infinite drink powder that looks like drugs and is not in the original packaging but they let us through anyways. We hauled all our stuff out the airport door and to our amazement, it was summer!! And there are flies here..not just a few but A LOT of flies! That is the only downside I have seen of Australia so far. And bug spray seems to have handled that already.

Off on the shuttle we went with a couple who had just had their plane turn around after almost reaching a remote island and they had to try again tomorrow. I was so thankful we did not have THAT experience! I was quite loopy by this point. We got to the hotel in Perth and found a restaurant on the premises. H assured me this was the worst hotel we would be staying in. However it was close to the airport and the shuttle would pick us up the next day there to head to Busselton. It was a bed..that is all I needed after traveling so long. I almost fell asleep in my dinner so needless to say I slept OK that night, despite the horrendous jet lag. We awoke to a beautiful sunny Australian day the next day, hung out by the pool to set our circadian clocks and waited for our shuttle, which was to take us 3 hours to Busselton. They forgot to tell us we may be waiting and hour or two at the airport for other travelers. But it was fun, as we met another American, who is a professional and triathlon coach whose goal is to break 9 hours in this race. My goal is to get done with the BIKE in 9 hours-holy cow! Some other very sweet ladies got on the van and we were off! The chatty annoying bus driver made the trip go fast. He took us on our first glimpse of the bike course as we headed into Busselton. One word-FLAT. It is flat as a pancake and that is for real!! And beautiful, tree lined forest for part of the ride and ending up near the jetty on the beach for transition and finish line. As we drove into “Busso” we got really excited and happy. We made it all the way here! The bus driver found our hotel, which is more like the luxury Inn on the beach compared to the previous stay. We have a very nice 2 bedroom with kitchen modern “villa” right near the beach and bike path that we will be running on. It is so pretty here I can’t even describe it. I am posting pics on FB..The 50 inch TV isn’t bad either if you like anything on the 4 TV stations they get here. We were pretty exhausted when we got here, disoriented by the time change and HUNGRY. So the very sweet young lady who was at the front desk did what every hotel does (not really), She DROVE us to the grocery store and waited while we bought food…and brought us back! OK, now I know we are in for small town friendliness! The people here are happy, friendly, and helpful. One of the guys that works here came over this AM because we could not figure how the hell to get our bikes together-we looked like the 2 stooges as we searched in Internet for PICTURES OF BIKES so we could copy them…The guy phoned the best bike shop in town (well there are only two) and made us an appointment for us to bring them in. We managed to assemble them well enough to ride the 4 miles into town, on the LEFT side of the street. Now that makes for interesting bike adventures in a new town with plenty of roundabouts and traffic. We dropped our bikes off, took off to the store with our backpacks so we could fill them with food. We looked like vagabonds as we trudged to the “Woolworth’s” (yes I guess they do still exist in some parts of the world!); in our socks (we had forgotten our shoes). It may have made more sense for us to rent a car, but I think both of us are scared at this point to try the whole driving on the left thing even in this little town. The folks we ran into were the best-I had 3 people ask me if I was here for “the Ironman” and told me they were volunteering. There are 1500 volunteers from the community at this race! That must be half the population! You know you are in a small town when:

1. The guy in the bike store asks you to “watch his store” for a minute while he goes and test drives your bike.

2. The guy that works here invited us to go riding in the AM with a group of locals.

3. You can leave your hotel room unlocked because you just know no one will rip you off.

4. You see a very nice Cervelo P-3 sitting outside a barber shop-no lock, nothing..

5. EVERYONE says hi to you-that is EVERYONE!

We still have not figured out how to get a phone card, although we think we know where to do that.

So today we managed to get our bikes in order and ready to race, ran and walked about 7 miles in all and got some new food…heard people say words like “gooday mate” and “great bloke” and ran into great folks everywhere we went. I am still a bit foggy from the time change but getting clearer every day. The ocean is amazing here. I cannot wait to swim in it!

Tomorrow we will probably go on the ride, since they are riding part of the course, although 5:30 is awfully early to get going..The sun rises about then here and sets around 8:00. I have yet to see a cloud. The only thing I forgot is my charger for my camera battery-AGGhhhh! So $55 went for a new charger. I need my pictures of Team Wess’ adventure!