Friday, March 14, 2014

Tapering is fun, tapering is fun....

I keep trying to say these things to myself. You would think after all these months of training I would welcome the extra days off 2 weeks before a big race like IM Melbourne. However, preferably on my terms, not the damn sickness fairy's one!

The head cold of Monday turned into paranoia on Tuesday as I felt sicker and the cough started sounded like the familial seal bark that only a true "Stites Clan" member can relate to. Even my sister Linda had it last week, in sympathy for her poor little sis Down Under I suppose.:) Tuesday I set out to find a local doctor, which made me nervous. I finally looked on my BCBS Plan from home and they actually have an Internet list of Docs on the "International Referral page". I had found about about this before we left the US, thank goodness my paranoia follows me everywhere, because I needed a doctor here after all..OK, random Dr. found in clinic in the middle of the city and all we had to to was get there. Given my not so stellar history of Tram riding to the CBD, H went with me, bless his Hart (pun intended) because by now, he too had succumbed to the dreaded Taper Germ. He was about as sick as I was. I was being too cautious I suppose, hitting the medical field so quickly. However, after my encounter with Pneumonia in the middle of training for a bike ride last year, I was not messing around this time. The Dr.'s office was friendly, efficient, doctor professional and I walked out with an prescription for antibiotics. It was painless. I had to pay out of pocket for the drug and it was far cheaper than the US. Go figure!  I am on day 4 of the Aussie version on the "Z-pack" so hopefully it's doing it's job..Today I feel much better energy wise, the hacky cough still present, but tolerable.

The most challenging part about being sick, away from home two weeks out from Ironman is well quite honestly, the depression.  My mind has been playing tricks on me, mostly because of being in shut down mode and feeling couped up and not in control of my destiny momentarily. I miss my own bed, I miss my family, home, and well honestly when I am sick, I still miss my Momma. So I can just talk to her anytime really, as she is always close to my heart. :) I am feeling much more positive today, not quite IronReady but as good as it can be when tapering off of heavy duty training starts happening. "Taper Blues" is actually a real name for something that really happens to athletes as they slow down the couple of weeks before an athletic event. I am in that way normal, as normal can be when we are preparing for such a big day! Anyone who says "Ironman is just a long training day" is wrong. I have said it myself, I think it helps to put it in perspective but when you have been training for months and months for One Big Day, where many variables can affect the outcome, when you have sacrificed time, money and energy to do this One Big Day, it is a big deal! Anyone who arrives at the starting line healthy, is able to face the elements, equipment variables, potential GI issues, other athletes, large supportive crowds and the satisfaction of completing something so long and laboriously challenging...well they are amazing!! I fully expect to be absolutely positive and ready to go come race I have in the previous 5 times I have stood in the water listening to the "Star-Spangled Banner" or the Australian anthem (I should know this by now, right?!) before that gun goes off on race morning. Past behavior is the best predictor of how we will react in any given situation. That's what Dr. Phil says anyways..:)

I have been doing nothing but rest for 3 days, per Coaches instructions. We have our main coach Michael and the head Coach Xavier looking out after us. I have never had such interactive pre-race coaching race before. I check in everyday with the Coach how I am feeling and he gives me instructions on the training to do. It's really amazing-I feel so taken care of and calmed by this hands-
on approach coming down the stretch. Thank you coaches!!! I ran into Coach X today at the massage therapists office and he reminded me this is so normal, this whole Taper Bug thing which I knew intellectually but when you hear it coming from a Kona athlete, it just sounds so much more reassuring! Better to take it slowly now, better to go into the race at 95% than at zero %..Right on Coach! I am following instructions to a T which is difficult now that I am feeling almost human again and the temptation to go "just a little longer" today was strong. But I didn't. Better 95% than zero...period..

We rode to our 3rd bike store today, which we found late in the game here, to have our bikes tuned up for the big day. This is a "Specialized dealer". Who better than to tune up Mr. And Mrs. Venge? I feel assured they seem to know what they are doing. I had my last aero bars fitting there and my sense is wow wish we found these guys sooner! It only took us many bucks later and stressful moments of bike mechanical issues to discover and learn I guess.

I took a little field trip to the local triathlon store yesterday per cab ride to save energy for shopping. I managed to score some discount Ironman Tri shorts and some arm warmers, just in case it is cool on race day. I lost one arm warmer one of our first rides here..never to be seen again..I asked for the "American discount" and I'll be darned if they didn't give it to me! Maybe the dude felt sorry
 for me, the hacky cough, hoarse voice and all. Hmmm, will have to remember that strategy! Ha!

Been eating as healthy as ever and still managed to gain 2 lbs. My wetsuit still fits, which is my only real concern at this point. Eating no dessert for a week has been rough when chocolate is my comfort food when sick. I wasn't even hungry for a couple of days there at all but now, I want to eat mainly out of boredom and well, comfort! Starting late March 23rd, all bets are off. I will be eating mucho
chocolates and carrot cake and anything decadent I can get my hands on...being it.

Soon the Ironman athletes will be descending on the area and it will be a bling fest around port Melbourne. I have met several folks online that I have or will meet that are here to race. How small our world has become..I can meet people across the globe either here or in the US and just like that, we are bonded! I never would have imagined such a thing even 10 years ago when I started all this
Ironman triathlon craziness!

I hear in the distance the buzzing of loud car engines as they are warming up for the Formula One Grand Prix this weekend, a mere week before IMM. The race track is around our Melbourne pool Club a couple of miles away so we will be hearing lots of "buzzing" in the next couple of days!

The weather on race day is predicted to be perfect (10 in advance). High in the 70s, no wind, nice cool evening temps..this is a joke right? I shouldn't even look. The weather forecast this far out is about as accurate as if I would be predicting the weather right now! As my Aussie friends remind me, this forecast could change many times before March 23rd! The weather since we have been mostly home bound the last few says has been, as if the cruel joke has already begun perfect-seas calm, no wind, temps in the 70-80. If only only I could capture this in a bottle for race day!!

So Team Wess is on the mend. The Taper Sick house will be the Ironhouse once again very soon!!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Home Stretch..Time to weed all our potential problems out of the way..

2 weeks from today, I will be at the starting line of the biggest race of my year. Ironman Melbourne was but a dream last April when we signed up and now here it is almost behind us. We have put in so many swim and run miles. Did literally hundreds of bike miles, many of which we "ran off the bike" for 20-40 minutes. This has become quite easy for me to do (we call them "bricks", learning to run right after bike ride to get our legs use to doing so in the race). It is all part of the great design to get us to the starting line in the best shape possible for the big day on March 23rd.

Last weekend we rode down the coast on Beach Road. We were suppose to do 6.5 hours but thought it would be "fun" (as blessed by our coach) to do the whole ride down to the tip of Phillip bay:


Yes folks, that is what 112 miles looks like (round trip). We almost made it to the end (Sorrento) but I pulled the plug at 66 miles for the turnaround. We did some pretty hefty short hills in there, something my legs are not quite use to after riding flat at sea level for over 5 weeks. The views, however were absolutely stunning on the narrow road up and down along the Coast. I was afraid to look too much at the scenery as I thought keeping my eyes on the road was more important at the time. Launching off a cliff with my bike was not in my riding plan that day! I was quite proud of Team Wess that day. We enjoyed much food after the epic bike adventure. For the last 2 weekends, I have been trying to perfect the art of taking proper calories and electrolytes during the bike where in IM, most of my calories will be consumed. Once on the run, well history shows it is impossible for me to eat solid food, only gels. I am working on getting the right amount of gels down to make up the over 200 calories an hour I should be ingesting in order to keep my energy up. This doesn't sound so hard, but in my hazy racing mind, I forget to eat, especially since I do not feel hungry most of the race. Once my tank runs dry, I can no longer play catch up on calories during the race. This will reflect on how I feel/perform. It is hard to force down all those calories and fluids, even in training rides so I am glad I am practicing! 

This past Saturday was our last "long ride". We met the Team in Williamstown, probably our last trip in a "maxi taxi" at dark o'clock to the other side of the bay to meet our young, energetic teammates. We took off in lovely weather, no wind per say (hey-there is always some wind on the coast), the temps cool but not cold with a cloudy sky. A perfect day for a long ride!  We kept up with the big kids for an hour or so, then as instructed by coaches set out to do loops of "strong effort" sets by ourselves. After a couple of those, we were at somewhat of loss where to go from there when one of our Team mates, whom we met several weeks ago found us. A sight for sore eyes! Tim escorted us into Geelong, then pointed us back in the direction of Melbourne. On the way into Port Melbourne,we got lost, yet again trying to find our way back. Google maps suck! by the way (I left my real map at home to conserve crap in my pockets) when it comes to bike directions. We landed on many a busy street, some without bike lanes before we started to recognize a familiar area. After trying to flag down a few "maxi Taxis" to no avail, we managed to make our way to a dock-and the "Punt" a small boat which takes people and bikes across the bay back to port Melbourne. We opted for this as we just didn't have the energy to fight with traffic any longer. I yelled at more than one driver, got yelled at because of my judgement errors at turns, it was enough for me to cry Uncle! Then we finally for the first time found a bike trail which took us along the Port (we have been trying to find this trail for weeks now) and at last we were home! 

I really looks so much easier on paper than it was!  We definitely slowed way down the last 2 hours but that's ok. We hit the first couple of hours hard, which what was mattered..

Other news, we passed our first "Melbourne Asia Pacific Championships" sign on what of our easier short rides this week:
This was pretty exciting and made it very real to me that yes indeed, we are really doing this thing!!

On the swim front, I think I mentioned I ripped my wetsuit a couple of weeks ago so after trying on a couple of suits, decided on buying the same model (Blue Seventy helix), only different newer model. The sizing seems different and my racing weight lower this time around-must be the sea level/ocean air/healthy Aussie food...I don't complain, know it will all come back after I am not training all hours of the day. But this put me in a wetsuit dilemma; should I buy the medium wetsuit, which may fill with water in places during Ironman swim? Or the size small, which is like stuffing a sausage to get on but more comfortable in the water? I know I wouldn't fit into the small if I was my normal weight...decisions, decisions! The Aqua Shop folks have been really nice in letting me try out the 2 wetsuits in the ocean, I took the small out for a real test run over the weekend. I decided to keep the size small, although difficult to put on, I think it will be a better option for the race in 2 weeks. I will keep my older, bigger wetsuit and get it repaired so I can wear when not at my "fighting weight". This means these last 2 weeks, I have to eat healthy or new wetsuit will not fit and I will be screwed!

I read about the poor people who lost their lives on the Malaysian jet that most likely went down in the ocean yesterday. How horrifying for the families of these people. In many cases more than one member of a family was affected, including a few children. It makes me sad and fearful. The Boeing 777-200 ER is not far off from the Boeing 777-300 ER we are flying home in a few weeks. I know this is not rational to worry, probably safety standard checks will be up now that a plane has gone down. I even had looked at Malaysia Air as a possibility for our flight to Australia. We opted for Virgin Australia, although they use similar jets as to the one that went down. Malaysia Airlines was ranked one of the top 5 best airlines in the world last year. It greatly saddens me that so many people were probably lost yesterday..I wonder what happened? Did those poor souls suffer before the crash? Lots of questions that no one apparently can answer yet. 

Speaking of travel, I booked our tickets home from LAX-ABQ this week. We were hesitating, thinking that extending our trip may be a possibility as we can't even imagine leaving this awesome place. Alas though, we do miss the kids, grand kids, friends and home. I think I am getting use to apartment living in our rather dated abode now, although lack of a "real bath" is still bugging me. The first thing I do on April 1st is take a bath in our large lovely bathtub!! I suppose I will be ready to come home once the race is over and we are settled down here to rest for 9 days before our return. We have met so many nice people/friends since we came to Melbourne. We met another man this week that we had been in contact with on Facebook before our trip. He had given us many tips on apartments, areas to stay while we are here. His name is Tristan. Oh and he just happened to have run 52 marathons in 52 weeks in 2010, including the Running with the Bulls and even wrote a book Run Like Crazy, about his adventure. We went for coffee with him one afternoon this week. He is an amazing guy, as fascinating and friendly as we imagined. He has offered to lend us his extra car for weeks now, who does that? I am not sure I would trust 2 "older" Americans with my car over here!  It was so generous of him though, I know he is sincere in the offer. I think H and I are just too nervous about the traffic here. The whole riding on the left side of the road in a large city freaks us out a bit. We may take him up on it at some point, who knows? We will have dinner with he and his wife next weeks hopefully. What a nice guy!

After deciding I'd like to venture out of our 5 mile square comfort zone, I took my first field trip on public transportation this week. What an adventure! It was a trip to Kmart..yes that's right...Kmart..I managed to use my "Miki" card to get on the wrong Tram, going to the wrong location. After departing the bus, walking around like a confused American, I finally got back on the tram and figured out where I really needed to go. As the tram pulled up to the Kmart (and Ikea I must add-not just any old Kmart mall), the driver announced anyone who wants to get off, push the button..huh. What button? The guy next to me at the door and I pushed every conceivable button we could see, only it was apparently the wrong button. The tram continued on..After some words with the Tram driver, who should've seen a stupid American a mile away (ha!), I got off at the next stop and took the tram going the other way! This time I had help from a tram worker. Had to push the red button...really hard! 90 minutes into my adventure, I arrived at the Kmart mall. It was actually quite nice and I got some good steals at K-town of "knock around" warmer clothing, as it has been cooler than I thought at times here. Oh, however yesterday it was in the 90s during our training run..of course!
Saturday I started to have a sore throat..oh crap no! is the battle cry for anyone 2 weeks out from an Ironman. People tend to get sick or injured during this training time period, probably as a result of letting our bodies start to slow down. I liken it to getting sick when someone goes on vacation from work. Everything just lets go, I suppose. This past week I "caught a Tram track" on my bike (much like a railroad track which I know to ride perpendicular across). I went down, my bike chain got stuck behind the gears and I had to walk my bike to the shop, 1.5 miles away. This is the 3rd time (the bike chain thing) it's happened. I was NOT a happy camper! Hopefully this is the final "fix". I obtained a couple of scrapes, a bruised ego but hey, I got the injury part of tapering done now! 

It started turning into a full on head cold sometime during my last long run yesterday. I shuffled along, not pushing it at all. With the high temps and said cold, I finished the run feeling pretty crappy. That's ok, get all that crappiness over before race day! 

Before the run yesterday, we did a 30 minute morning swim in the ocean and I managed to brush up against a creature with my hand. It stung a little, not even worth mentioning really but I did very clearly see what looked like something that had a "pink round head" attached to it. I really didn't hang around to get a better look at it. I did scream under water and got H's attention..this is the last thing I expected in the smooth, glassy ocean conditions. Good thing I didn't see the whole thing or I think I would have panicked and sprinted back to shore.. I knew there were jelly fish in the bay, just didn't know there were extra terrestrial ones!:

It certainly looked like this "Lion's Mane jellyfish" I found online after searching "Port Phillip Bay jelly fish". During the Ironman swim,  I am hoping all the faster swimmers will clear out those suckers before I am swimming around the pier!
I spoke to my coach last night and we talked about keeping training despite the head cold (taper mode now). It is important to keep my body focused on I am still training here mode so on race day, I am not totally in "la-la-la, it's my vacation now"-land. So today will take it easy if I have to, go for a brief spin on the bike,take it day by day. This AM I feel the head cold, nothing too much to handle. I am hoping it does not go into "Stites cough" mode. Anyone who has known me or the two daughters, knows the "Stites cough" is this deep, barking cough that apparently is passed on with genes. I have had this potential since childhood...the Cough sounds kind of like a crazy seal barking. So I am warding off this by taking Airborne, using Neti Pot (best invention ever) and lots of rest. And staying away from my Ironman friends cause H is starting to get the bug too..Arggghhh!

Let the taper begin!!