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Wednesday, September 10, 2014


The morning after. Do we look as tired as we feel?
In the past several weeks since I've become an Ironman, I've been struggling with the right adjective in response to people's questions. The first question everyone asks is "How was it?" Except my BFF Heather. She wanted to know how many times I peed and if I pooped my pants. God, I love that girl!
So, how was it? It sucked but it was incredible. It was nearly 17 hours of the craziest mind game ever.  It was the toughest thing I've ever done both physically and mentally. The second question I get is "Will you do another one?" And this answer has changed many times. If you asked me the week after the Ironman, I would have quickly answered without hesitation "not only NO. But HELL NO!" In fact, Freddy, on the ride home from the IM, was already planning how much time he could shave off his next one and I had to hold myself back from kicking him in the head. I didn't want to think about walking to the kitchen-let alone signing up for another.  Today, when asked, I will shrug and answer "Yeah, probably".  And truth is, I probably will. My friends who have two-legged kids laugh and tell me that it sounds a lot like child-birth. Once you forget the pain, you'll be expecting another. I don't quite think I'll ever forget the pain, but I know myself well enough to know that I will more than likely pull the trigger again.

Enjoying some compression boots. These are Heaven!!

When Freddy and I met with Coach Marco and his wife Hannah a few days after the race, they asked us what surprised us most. I thought this was a great question and one I really had to think about. And after much thought, I've decided there are a lot of things that surprised me. First, I was shocked at how many people were walking their bikes on the course. I guess I assumed that when you get to this level, you don't walk your bike. I was proud that it didn't even enter my mind to walk it. Second, I was surprised that my stomach just flat-out stopped working about half-way through the run. I was so focused all day on getting as much fluid as I possibly could, but somehow still ended up with cotton-mouth. I couldn't chew, my typical go-to's like Gu Chomps and pretzels were just not going down. Instead, I was grabbing every orange, banana and Coke I could find. I think the thing that surprised me most was how the "carnage" screwed with my mind. I have seen my fair share of carnage during races-the worst being at the Grandma's marathon in 2006. It was the hottest, most humid day in their 30 year race history. There were 200 + people in the med tents. Grown men dropped to the ground, sobbing and writhing in pain but it didn't affect me. I just kept going. Ironman was different somehow. Each person I saw along the side of the road affected me in a different way. Some invoked envy because I wanted to go home, some I felt sorry for, others I wanted to pull up and yell "come on! You can't stop now!" 

We seemed to be able to crash anywhere, at anytime. And so did our baby girl, Zena!
I was back in the gym the Tuesday after Ironman and feel this really helped speed along my recovery. I was really no more sore than I would be after a marathon, and my body felt fine after a couple days, but the fatigue factor was HUGE. It took me a good 2 weeks before I was feeling human again. I was exhausted. Mentally, I couldn't focus on anything and in fact, walked around for a good while with the deer in the headlights look going on! Physically, I had to keep going because I've got New York Marathon in less than 2 months, so I really couldn't stop! Another strange thing that happened to both me and Freddy was that we had no appetite whatsoever until Wednesday after race. Which is odd. After a marathon, the next day, I eat like I haven't eaten in months. After Ironman, both of us just couldn't eat. And then by Wednesday, within an hour of each other, it was like a light-switch went on. If food wasn't nailed down, it was in our bellies. And this continued for quite a while (in fact, I've been joking that I'm eating more now than I was during training for IM).

I think the thing that has amazed me most is the response we have gotten both during the race and post-race from our friends and family. Even our marathon friends have said to me "I just didn't get how huge this was until I saw you". When I crossed the finish line on Aug. 3 and Claire handed me my phone, I had 30 texts and hundreds of Facebook notifications. It has taken me weeks to go through all of them and I've loved watching the threads of my friends from that day! I am completely and utterly over-whelmed with the love from our friends and family. Even now, every Saturday on my run with Runners Edge, someone will pass me and hum "I am Ironman" by Black Sabbath; will give me a high-five; hug me and say they hope that they can get some inspiration from me 'cause they are in a funk; and on and on. It's super flattering, but at the same time overwhelming. I'm still the same me. I just have a new title after my name. And I hope that I've proven that if you set your mind to it, you can accomplish anything. My favorite quote ever is by John Bingham, aka, The Penguin. "The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start." Every one of us has it within to do something incredible. Maybe it's not an Ironman. Maybe it's a 5K or maybe it's taking a leap of faith. Whatever it is, life is short. Just do it!!
Our celebratory dinner at our friends Bruce & Marcy's! They made a welcome sign for us on the door that said "The Actual Boulder Ironman Finish"

Our friends were absolutely amazing during this process. Dan and Jill sent us daily cards the week of the race with cute pictures and motivational sayings, along with much-needed encouragement along the course; Nicole, who would be out of town, sent a lovely card with words of inspiration from our friend Ironman Vince, who passed away a couple months before; Laura, where do I begin? Laura gave up many, many days to play sherpa to us while we biked around Colorado, e-mailed, called, texted, completely took over our cheering section because it was way too much for me to handle; Nancy, in addition to also just being all-around awesome, made us a complete dinner (I mean, appetizer, main course, dessert and margs along with all the pre-chopped sides) the night after the race so we wouldn't need to cook; Heather and Julie sent us a delicious and gorgeous fruit basket which came in quite handy since we were too tired to make anything; Claire and Sue drove all the way from Arizona, just to be with us, even though we warned them we wouldn't be any fun, wouldn't cook or clean for them, couldn't entertain them, they helped us pack all our bags and were such a welcome sight along the course; my mom, dad, sisters and aunt, who also spent a very long day on the course, after not seeing us for months because we were too busy training to do anything; all my teammates who trained with us and encouraged us every single day; everyone who texted, called, e-mailed, sent cards, cheered for us in person or from afar, you all got us through an amazing time. And for this, we are forever grateful. They say you find out who your friends are when the going gets tough. Well, I think Freddy and I have hit the jackpot!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

26.2. It's not a marathon-it's a means to an end.

That's my family-on the right in the pink & white stripes!

I have been told and read about how the "marathon" portion of the Ironman is not a marathon at all, but rather, the last leg of a very long day. This was absolutely the case for me.

As I headed out of T2 and onto the Boulder Creek Bike trail, entering a wall of sound coming from the massive crowd of spectators, I felt like I had just completed the part of "pin the tail on the donkey" where you are blindfolded and spun around and around, trying to find your target. Even though I knew this trail like the back of my hand, I could not get my bearings. I had decided since this was not really a marathon, I wouldn't totally treat it like a marathon, but instead take things as they came. I knew that walking would be inevitable and I know my body well enough to know that I reach a point where if I walk too much, my body stiffens and I cannot run anymore.
And my fam again on the left with the pink & white!

So I took off on a run. I knew I was faster than I should be, but I couldn't slow down. Between the crowds, the downhill and the adrenaline, my legs just would not listen to my mind. Then I saw Coach Marco, screaming like he'd won the lottery telling me that I looked amazing, that he was so proud of me, that I was going to be an Ironman. Then he said "Kiki, you cannot keep this pace up! You need to slow down!". To which I yelled over my shoulder "I know!". That's all I could get out so I hoped he didn't worry about me. If there's one thing I knew for sure, it's that I would finish this bitch. Even if I had to crawl. I had come way too far to not finish!

I think I must have only been about 3 miles into my run when I started hating life. I was pissed, I was tired, I wanted real food and I was just plain over this whole thing. I have hit plenty of walls in my marathons but this was different. Every wall I had hit before I could quickly re-group and play tricks with my mind to get over it. This was horrible. It took everything I had in me to keep going. About this time, I saw my friend Jill who popped out of her chair and started running alongside me. She was talking and talking and then asked me what mile she was at. I remember looking blankly at her and saying very rudely something along the lines of "I can't answer these questions right now". I don't remember what else was said-only that I couldn't believe she expected me to know where I was. The gall!

Pretty soon up the road I saw my Where's Waldo cheering group who were screaming at the top of their lungs, flashing pictures, smiling and telling me everything they should have told me, i.e. you look great, you're amazing, stay strong. I remember yelling to one of them "the next time I even talk about doing this shit again, talk me out of it!". It was at this point my stomach started revolting in a big way. I hit every porta potty for the next several miles and I couldn't get any food in me. The only thing that tasted even kind of good was Coke. I wasn't thrilled about this but I prayed that this would pass and was thankful that the Coke would at the very least give me some calories, sugar and caffeine.

Then the carnage stared in earnest. I couldn't go very far without seeing someone laying in the grass, delirious, hugging their loved ones, crying hysterically because their day was over. I saw one girl who couldn't even stand up or focus who was being taken off the course literally kicking and screaming trying to convince the poor volunteer that she could make it. The first person I saw broke my heart. The second person I saw on the ground I was envious of. I thought "they are so lucky. They can go home and go to bed." Yep, that's how messed up I was! The third person I saw lit a fire in my belly and I decided I would finish this for them. I realized that they would give ANYTHING to just be in a bad head-spot. I owed it to them to finish this. So with my mind made up, I carried on.

Nearing my first turn-around spot, I saw my friends Frank and Ashely. Frank was on Ironman #4 (I think) and this was Ashley's first. Frank was laying in the grass and Ashley was hovering over him. I had to keep moving, but I yelled "is everything ok?" Frank smiled and said "I'm fine." Pretty soon, Ashley left his side and started running with me.  She told me Frank was not doing well, and that most of our group had gotten pretty sick on the bike and were really struggling. Ashley and I ran a bit together but started to leap-frog each other. We did this for several miles before we got smart and actually asked each other what our goals were. We discovered that we had the exact same goal: run when we can, walk when we need to and get to the finish line with time to spare. So we decided then and there that we were in this together. And thank God for her! I'm convinced I'd be belly up in the Boulder Creek without her!

Ashley and I used to run in the same pace group on Saturdays but she had gotten much faster than I so had moved up pace groups. So, being able to have 6 hours with her to catch up was great! We continued to see so many members of our fan club along the course: our Runners Edge of the Rockies family with so many people I didn't even see them all, Coach David cheering us on and taking photos, Melissa and Jeannene (who had walked the trail the night before to write chalk messages for us), Clair and Sue, my family, our fellow teammates who continued to gut out this bitch of a race. We came upon one aid station and saw our friend Donna, whom I grabbed and hugged yelling "I need a hug!" and without objection, she hugged me like her life depended on it.

At one part of the run, I decided instead of being miserable, I was going to try and make people laugh. So I decided that the next person who asked me how I was feeling, I would respond with "well, I wouldn't trust a fart right about now" (because truth being told, I wouldn't!). Well, lucky for her, that person was Sue. When I responded to her, she looked mortified and quickly changed the subject. So, then I had to think of a new game.

I was getting a bit worried because I hadn't seen Freddy all day. I knew he was strong and would make it, but it would have really eased my mind to see him and know he was ok. Right about then, I saw Ashely hugging someone and chatting away and it was Freddy! He gave me a kiss and said "We are going to be Ironmen!" to which I teared up. I couldn't think of it. I needed to focus on getting my weary body to the end. Then I would celebrate!

The course had a great design that had several out-and-backs. Which on a typical marathon, I hate. But for this, I absolutely loved! It meant we were never alone and had many opportunities to cheer on our teammates. It also provided easy access for our fan club, so we got to see them at different times and places.

We walked every aid station and started experimenting with food as Ashely was also finding it hard to eat as much as we should. For months, all we heard about was this magical chicken broth that is offered after dark. So we were thrilled when we approached our first aid station that was offering the brew. We took a sip and spit it out. It tasted awful! I thought everyone had lost their marbles. It was the most disgusting thing I have ever tried! So much for that theory of trying replace our electrolytes!

One aid station sponsored by Newton, had Craig Alexander, 3 time Ironman Kona champion, and all-around bad ass, cheering us on with his kids. By the time Ashley and I got there, that poor family had been out forever, so they started throwing a football. Still pretty cool to see this legend out there supporting us!

As the night wore on, Ashley and I continued to carefully monitor our pace to make sure we could still walk when we needed while giving us a cushion for the finish. We met a lot of people along the way-especially once the sun set. That's when you see the true grit of this sport, in my humble opinion. The thing with Ironman is, everyone is hurting. Everyone is miserable. But it is the friendliest and most encouraging group of people you'll ever meet. Everyone you pass or who passes you gives you some sort of encouragement. A "you've got this" or "great job" or "let's get this done" goes a long way when coming from someone struggling alongside you.

We had about 3 miles left when I couldn't feel my legs anymore. I honestly couldn't feel them-they were like rubber and I knew they would give out. I told Ashley I wasn't sure I could run anymore as I felt I was going to fall. Then we saw Frank, Ian, and Lehiwa who had come back to cheer us on. Frank started yelling to run and I convinced myself to just run until we couldn't see him anymore. As we approached our final aid station, a volunteer with a mega-phone was yelling "welcome to your last aid station, your last hill, your last turn around before you become an Ironman!". Our friend Michelle was working this one and kept asking me what color I was wearing. Much like I did with Jill, I just looked at her and thought she was nuts. I couldn't remember my name, much less what I was wearing! But apparently, my fan club tracking me out of state needed to know so they could watch me come in on their computers.

Ashley and I were joined by another friend Ashely who was all showered, cute, clean and full of energy and gave us a play by play of the next miles into the chute. She was awesome. And somehow I managed to run again. She stayed with us until the last 1/4 of a mile. She said we were to get all the glory.

Ashley and I had these grand plans of what we would do at the finish line. I said my goal was to have no-one else coming in with us so we could get all the attention. She wanted to dance, so we agreed that twerking would be awesome.

Pretty soon we were on the street. We had two more turns to make before heading home. We could see the lights, we could hear the deafening crowd and we couldn't believe this was finally happening.

The second I realized it was Mike Reilley announcing our new title
As we made the final turn into the finishing chute, the sight was mind-boggling. People as far as we could see, rows and rows of bleachers, piled on top of each other, people banging on the signs along the fences, screaming like they were seeing their favorite rock band, we were now running on a red carpet with the M-dot logo all over it. The lights were blinding. I remember screaming at the top of my lungs. Nothing hurt anymore. I wanted to take it all in but my legs wouldn't stop. I saw someone dancing at the finish line but the lights were too bright to make anything out-all I could see was a silhouette. I looked to my left and saw my family, screaming like their lives depended on it. Then I looked at the figure at the finish line again and thought I was going to die. It was Mike Reilly, the voice of Ironman. I screamed and didn't know if I should hug him or high-five him. He proudly proclaimed "YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!" to which I high-fived him and screamed again. Every triathletes' dream is to be called an Ironman by Mike Reilly. A lucky few get to get a high five from him as well. Ironman is full of traditions. One of the traditions is that the last hour of the race (from 11pm-12am) is a huge party. Mike Reilly comes down from his booth and welcomes all the athletes to the finish line. Since Ashley and I brought in the party, we got this treat. And it made it all worth it.
Best moment of my life. EVER.

Ashley and I gave each other a hug once we crossed and I remember a very nice man grabbing me. It was my personal escort, or catcher. The finish line volunteers are sometimes called "catchers" because so many people will collapse at the finish. They are there to catch the fallen. They are also there to assess you and make sure you don't need medical attention. My volunteer was awesome. He hugged me and told me how amazing I was, that I was an Ironman and he whisked me over to the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. I remember my catcher saying something about "female" and "winner" but I couldn't comprehend what he was saying. In my stupor I thought he told me I was the female winner. She had a huge smile on her face and said excitedly "you guys are awesome! Are you best friends who decided to do this together?" I looked at Ashely and we kind of giggled, shrugged our shoulders and said "yeah". This woman put the medal around my neck, patted me on the back, and told me how proud she was of me. Well, I found out later that this was the #2 female finisher of the race that day. Another Ironman tradition is that the men's and women's podium finishers come back in the last hour of the race to present the medals to the finishers. Another huge treat!

My catcher continued to keep a strong but at the same time gentle grip on me as we winding our way through the finish area. He kept me talking and didn't make me work for a thing. He had my t-shirt and hat given to me by another volunteer, he walked me over to the photo booth and when we approached the end of the gate, he said "you look great. It doesn't appear you need any medical attention-are you feeling ok?" I was feeling great. I thanked him and went on my way to get my family.

I saw my peeps at the fence-anxiously awaiting me. I hobbled over, grabbed my friend Kathy and lost it. I was sobbing but there were no tears coming out (I'm pretty sure I was dehydrated). I grabbed everyone I could and wouldn't let go. Freddy was waiting for me by the med tents and grabbed me-we held on for an eternity. He kept saying "we did it! We are Ironmen!"

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

112 miles......Chuck Norris never rode 112 miles....

As I pedaled my way out of T1, getting loud cheers from the small crowd, I focused on my new tasks at hand. Don't eat or drink too much these first 10 minutes. Allow my body to switch from "laying down" to being more upright. Let my legs get used to this new feeling. My last big swim to bike transition was about a month before, during the Boulder Peak, and it took my legs about 10 miles to not feel like Gumby. Today, I was happy that during the swim I focused on getting blood flow to my legs early so I wouldn't have this problem. I felt great! I again kept super calm and just focused on having a great ride, being alert, getting no flats, and taking things a mile at a time.

Before I knew it, I was about 8 miles in and saw my fan club! They had made these great shirts to go with their "Where's Waldo" theme and I could see them for what seemed like miles!  Merrill, Jill, Laura, Nancy, Rebecca, Chris & Avi (God, I hope I'm not forgetting anyone!!) were screaming their hearts out, ringing their cowbells, jumping up and down and gave me the boost I needed to keep going. As I rode by, I reflected on how lucky I am to be riding on the course I knew backwards and forwards, being cheered on by my dear friends. As I turned the corner to St. Vrain Road, I knew I was coming up on my first aid station and an opportunity to see my friend Daniella. Once she realized it was me, she also cheered and gave me another boost. This was awesome! I'll knock these miles out in no time, I thought!

The first part of the ride is gorgeous as we roll through the foothills near Boulder, riding through farms and the rolling hills. I love it. Then I turned East. Ugh. I was just about 40 miles in and enjoying the day when I hit my first wall. I panicked. This is not good. I cannot hit a wall at mile 40 of the bike. I was trying to work my way out of my funk when I looked up and saw a familiar silhouette. Could it be? Was it really she? Yes! It was my "oldest" friend Julie! We've been friends since we were 2 and she surprised me by coming out to cheer me on! I held back tears as I screamed at her. She was exactly where I needed her. I immediately got out of my funk and was ready to tackle the plains! A few miles down, my fan club appeared again!  But alas, my spirits weren't lifted for long. A couple more miles down, I got into my funk again. So, I decided to find my happy place. I tried going to Maui, Ireland, scuba-diving, bed, Iowa, nothing worked. I ended up finding my happy place in high school,  at Ground Zero, dancing on the box with my BFF's Heather and Jill. Um, what? I hated Ground Zero! But if this was my happy place for the day, then so be it! So I played a game with myself and thought of every song we danced to, what we wore, the crazy boys we danced with, etc. Unfortunately, the only songs I could think of were "Electric Avenue" and "Safety Dance". So those two songs became my soundtrack for the next hour.

As in the swim, I broke up the bike not only into half, but also into the time cut-offs. I had to be at mile 56 (special needs) by 1:30pm, I had to be at mile 86 (going under I-25) by 3:30pm and I had to be completely off the course by 5:30pm. I'm a slow enough cyclists that I knew I would have no time to dilly-dally on this course. You can stop and get off your bike at any time, but the clock does not stop until you cross the finish line. Knowing this, I would allow myself to stop once-at special needs, which was exactly half-way through.

I pulled into special needs, shouting out my number for my bag. The volunteer couldn't find it. No worries. Luckily, I didn't pack anything in my bag I couldn't do without except sunblock. A volunteer found some left over, sprayed me down, and I was on my way as I saw my friend Molly roll in. I yelled that I was proud of her, she looked great and I'd see her soon, and I continued on my way, looking ahead to the giant hill in front of me. About halfway up the hill, I saw two girls who looked like they were naked, only covered by large signs. The first girl's sign said "Ironmen are sexy". A little ways up was her "naked" friend with a sign saying "But not as sexy as Ironwomen". They were hysterical. They were screaming at the top of their lungs and were making me crack up. I wanted to hang out with them all day! And just like that, I was in the plains.

Pretty soon, I saw two more crazy women dancing and cheering. It was Lisa and Tina from my running group! I had no idea they would be out there!  Lisa yelled that I looked awesome (I paid my friends to tell me that) and that they would see me in a few miles. To which I groaned as I'd assumed she meant she'd see me on the run, which was still about 50 miles away. A couple miles down the road, there they were again! And again, she said "we'll see you in a couple miles!" And they continued to leap-frog me every few miles for what I'm guessing was a good 20 miles! It was awesome!

Even with the encouragement from Lisa and Tina, I was soon dragging again. I was tired, I was sick of eating bananas, and I just wanted off the bike. Once again, I looked up and saw a new set of fan club members-Natasha, Krista, Sara, Drew and my youngest cheerleader for the day, Jonah! Once again, I was not expecting them to be out there and once again, had to choke back tears for all the love I was feeling. Apparently, this was Jonah's first time watching so many bikes go by and he loved it! He was clapping like a pro!

After passing them, I headed west and was thankful to be heading in the direction towards home. I was beginning to see more and more people struggling and bailing completely off the bike. It broke my heart to know that for some, their day was over.

Pretty soon, off in the distance, I saw the most beautiful sight I'd ever seen. I-25! And there was no sign of a sag wagon behind me! And here it came. The ugly cry. I bawled. I knew I was home free after I went under the interstate. There were a bunch of spectators under the bridge and I felt re-born. I allowed myself to get all my tears out for a short time. I didn't want to waste any energy! And then I had a mild panic attack. Oh shit! I still had to run a marathon after this ride! In all my compartmentalizing, I had completely forgot about the marathon! I guess that's good and bad. I learned I'm very good about compartmentalizing, but the thought of doing a marathon made me want to vomit.

As I pulled into the last aid station at around mile 90, I saw a volunteer look at her watch. She clapped her hands and yelled "yeah, you've still got time to squeeze this out!". WTF?? I wanted to kick her in the head. I know she didn't mean it as bad as it sounded, but it pissed me off. Enough to lite a fire in my belly for the run ahead.

Laura, Jonah & Sara. The greatest cheerleaders ever!
Mile 92'ish, I saw my trusty fan club again and this time, Jonah was holding a great sign. It made me smile all over again.

Aga holding some random guy's bike while he answered a call of nature. I think this bike looks pretty good on her!

Mile 96'ish, I saw two people standing next to each other off in the distance. I knew one was my Julie, but who was the other? As I approached, I saw it was my friend Aga! She and Julie were standing next to each other for an hour but didn't realize they were both waiting for the same person until I came by!

I knew I had 3 monster climbs left before I descended into Boulder. The race called them "the 3 sisters". After riding them on my training ride, I renamed them "the 3 bitches". They weren't awful, but at the end of a long ride, they are not a very welcome sight. At the turn for the 3 bitches was my fan club again! As I passed them and made the turn for the climb and could hear them screaming behind me. There were two very fit guys in front of me on very fancy tri bikes and they were struggling. So much so, they decided to zig zag up the hill. Not good as I knew I was strong enough to take a straight line up the climb. So, I quickly thought of how I could get their attention (i.e. move out of my way so I could power up) without being a total bitch. So I yelled "you got this boys-this is the worst of the 3!". They both looked back at me and responded in stereo "3!!!????" and with that, they quickly got out of my way while I scooted right on up without a problem. Aside from all my cheerleaders, this was the best part of my day!

The closer I got to Boulder High School, sight of T2, I allowed myself to start thinking ahead to the run. The night before, at the athlete party, one of the elites said that after he rode his bike, he had the privilege of running a marathon. I thought he was high. But I kept repeating this to myself "I get the privilege of running a marathon".

I rolled under the arch and into T2. And I saw more running friends, Karen and Kandy, cheering me on. I could hear the thunderous cheers coming from the bike path below (where the run would take place) and I got excited. Maybe this run would be fun, after all!

After passing off my bike to a volunteer, I walked through transition as my feet were on fire, saw only a handful of bags left on the track and knew that while I was cutting my time very close, I had made it! I walked with my bag into the changing tent and was greeted by another very friendly volunteer who walked me over to a chair and started unpacking my bag, laying everything out neatly for me. The lady across from me did not look good. She had a bad day on the bike and was calling it a day. I looked at her and wanted to shake her-she had come so far! But I decided to leave her be and focus on my volunteer. I asked her what time it was. She told me "5:10". Whew! I had 20 minutes to spare! I knew I could walk a 6 hour marathon, so I was fine with that! She was so sweet that I didn't want to leave, but I was SO close to the end of my journey, I thanked her and headed out the tent. I had the privilege of running a marathon next. Oh goody!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

2.4 miles. Or, just keep swimming.....

2:00am. Race morning. Freddy was not thrilled with waking up so early, but bless his heart, he knew he would have a mad woman on his hands if we were not on the first bus (which left Boulder High School at 4:00am) so he agreed to keep me happy and calm. We made our race day breakfast which consisted of coffee for me, OJ for Freddy, scrambled eggs, bacon, and a sweet potato. After experimenting with a lot of food, we found this was our breakfast of champions.

We got to Boulder around 3:45, headed to special needs and got on the bus with about 50 of our closest friends. We took the back of the bus because that's where all the cool kids sit and were entertained the entire ride. The guy behind us made a remark that his wife said he could have kids or do an Ironman. He proudly exclaimed "I decided I'd rather have an Ironman medal", to which Freddy and I lost it. We thought it was about the funniest thing ever, because we routinely use similar comments when asked about kids. Although about 5 miles into the run, I thought maybe having a kid would be easier...But I digress.
Those poor people who sleep in just don't know what they miss!

It was pitch black when we arrived at the reservoir but we were greeted by the happiest volunteers ever! They directed us where to go, wished us a great day, and had us laughing. I found my body marker guy and he was awesome. He was so patient with me, even when I couldn't remember how old I was. I finally told him to write that I was 70 so I had a shot at winning this thing. There was another body marker yelling "guaranteed Ironman finisher, right here!". The volunteers were amazing!

We were lucky and were on the same bike rack as most of our friends so were thrilled when we got to the bike racks and saw so many friendly faces. We exchanged a lot of hugs and talked about the day. Overwhelmingly, the feeling in the air was "this is just another training day with a medal at the end". The calm was refreshing. None of us were rattled (or if we were, we were pretty good at fooling everyone else). My friend Joann and I talked about how we were going to compartmentalize everything. When swimming, we would only focus on the swim, when on the bike, we would focus only on the bike, and so on. I was also going to split each sport in half-counting the miles up on the first half and counting down on the second half.

About 6:00, we all scattered and headed towards the warm-up area. I did one lap and called it good. I really just wanted to be alone and away from all the nerves.

6:20, the cannon went off for the elite athletes. 6:30, the cannon for all us regular Joe's. Ironman recently implemented a wave swim start which I think is brilliant, but apparently some of the hard-core Ironmen think is kind of pansy. In the wave start, you line up according to your swim time and the volunteers at the end of the ramp slowly wave you into the water. I placed myself into the 1:35-1:45 swim time wave and patiently awaited my turn, soaking everything in. As I made my way to the boat ramp, I saw my mom, Aunt, and sister. They were such a welcome sight! My favorite band, U2, was rocking in the speakers and my family was jumping and waving like crazy. It was awesome. Pretty soon, the volunteers told us to have a great swim, have fun, and enjoy the day and we were off!

Hey! Can you see me? I'm the one in the pink cap! I'm pretty sure I was hanging out by the medics. You know, just in case!           

The swim was so peaceful. I'm sure this was not the case for the faster swimmers, but me and my peeps were ubber calm and there was very little punching, kicking, pulling, jockeying, at all. I think the biggest thing about the swim is to remain calm. You have to be totally ok with being climbed over, punched, kicked, held, etc. If you are calm in the water, you will do just fine. I'm swimming along to the first turn when I realize I am completely in sync with this dude next to me. We were matching every stroke, kick, breath, everything. It kind of creeped me out-especially when at one point we were close enough to almost lock lips and I got a whiff of his breakfast. I'm not sure what he had in addition to his garlic, but I'd venture a bet that he is protected from vampires. With that, I decided to swim a bit harder to lose him.

Before I knew it, I was at the half-way point. And I felt great. I thought of nothing other than the swim. I enjoyed the calmness of the water, knowing that I didn't need to stop at all, even when I saw others near me that did. I just soaked in (no pun intended) every second. There was not one point during the swim that I didn't see a kayaker or rescue boat. I made the second turn and could see the finish arch! I reeled myself in and focused again on just keeping steady. Pretty soon, I could hear cheers and music coming from the beach. I knew this was the time to kick a little faster to get blood flowing to my legs. I swam until I literally touched a volunteer, who helped me out of the water.

I walked up the boat ramp and saw a huge party! It was everything I had in me to not just hang out for a while! Kanye West's "Stronger" was blaring and there was a drum line drumming along to it. I think Kanye West is an ass-hat, but that song is one of my favorites and got me through many, many training miles!
All those little dots are swimmers! The swim at an Ironman is one of the most amazing things you will ever witness. Ever!

I turned right onto the grass and was gently grabbed by two women "the strippers"-no, not those strippers, the wet suit strippers. They said, "stand steady and then sit". I was so confused, I had to ask them again what I was supposed to do. I've never had a stripper before-this was uncharted territory for me! In a flash, they had my wetsuit off and I was heading towards the changing tent.

I got to the changing tent and was greeted by a very nice woman who started asking me all these questions. I remember looking around me and seeing every woman next to me shaking uncontrollably. I remember holding out my own hands to see if I was shaking as badly as they were and luckily, I wasn't (or maybe I was and I couldn't tell!). My poor volunteer was super-chatty and I just didn't feel like talking. I was on a mission. And super focused at my next task of the day. The beast of all beasts for me. The long ride.

I got out of the tent, headed towards the sun block volunteers, ran by my family exclaiming "that didn't kill me! I'm still alive!" and headed towards my bike. Luckily, there were volunteers leading into the bike racks that would tell you which way you needed to go. With 2500 bikes, they were a God send! I grabbed my bike, saw Claire and Sue (Freddy's dad and his wife who traveled all the way from Arizona just to cheer us on), took a deep breath, and headed up the ramp to the bike mount arch......

Monday, August 11, 2014

The final countdown....

We awoke Friday morning to a mild case of nervous stomach. Race weekend was here! We could not believe how quickly the time had come for us to put our 8 months of training to the test!

Friday morning was athlete check-in at the Athlete's Village in Boulder. I liked the sound of that: "Athlete's Village". This wasn't your average fitness expo. We were athletes! As we walked up to the athletes village, we could feel the excitement in the air. I was excited, Freddy was a little freaked out....

I only signed up for this whole thing for the backpack and I couldn't wait any longer so we headed straight to check-in. After reviewing our waivers, being asked if we would like a Red Bull (seriously-we all thought it was a little funny to ask a bunch of Ironman hopefuls if they want a Red Bull), we were handed our caps and chips. 

Friday night, we headed back up to Boulder with Freddy's dad Claire, and his wife Sue, for dinner and the opening ceremonies. After a lovely dinner, we went back to the Athlete's Village for the festivities. We were thrilled to see most of our dear friends and training partners!  During the ceremony we heard from a few elites, the race director and the voice of Ironman, Mike Riley. Videos were shown from some of the more epic Ironman battles, pumping us up for Sunday. It was a gorgeous evening in athletes village, steps away from T2 and the marathon course we would be running in just a few short hours!

The Race Director welcoming all to the Big Day!

The voice of Ironman-Mike Riley! 

Our awesome "Island of misfit toys". There are no other friends we would have rather taken this journey with than these guys!

Saturday morning was spent preparing all of our bags. We were given a total of 5 at check-in: Morning clothes, Bike Bag, Bike Special Needs, Run Bag, Run Special Needs. It's a long day and a lot to think about so all week we had placed items we think we needed into a box (thanks for that tip, Chris DeCroce!) as well as worked off a check-list to be sure we didn't miss a thing. 

This is a lot of stuff! Luckily, Claire and Sue were doing all the supervising!

Part of my finished product! Packing for a marathon is so much easier!!

Once our bags were ready to go, we again headed up to Boulder with our bags, bikes and everything we needed for Sunday. The great thing about Ironman is checking everything in the day before-it's kind of a freeing feeling to not have to worry about all your stuff on race day! We headed to T2 to drop off our run gear first and we loved the sight we saw: 
Lovely line o' bags in T2! Cannot wait to run through here!

From there, we headed up to the reservoir and the sight of T1. The swim course was already set up so we got a great view of our big swim the next day. Oddly enough, Freddy and I both looked at it and went "ok. No biggie". Which was crazy. I remember two years ago when we did the Half Ironman, the swim course looked impossible. If you like bikes, even a little bit, an Ironman is where you want to be. The sea of bike porn is amazing. Freddy and I gawked at some lovely tri bikes before heading home to call it a day.

Just one rack in the massive sea of bikes!
Freddy looking ubber-confident with his work.

Putting the finishing touches on T1. GULP!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Single Digits. Almost.

Can someone stop the clock, please? Seriously! We are down to just over one week to go until IM Boulder and the freaking out has begun in earnest!

I cannot believe we are this close. After seven months of training, we are about to receive a new title. We are excited, nervous, anxious and ready to get the show on the road. This morning, we had our last long OWS (open water swim) at Grant Ranch. Neither of us wanted to get up at the crack of dawn again but knowing after next week we can sleep in (well, for maybe a week. Then it's back to training for NYC) got us out the door. It was a good thing we went. The view was beautiful!

Freddy got in about 2 miles and I did just over 1.5 miles before we had to head home. The pace was nice and easy and we felt great after the swim.  During the swim we both reflected on how far we have come and how excited we are to see all our friends and family on August 3. We have worked so hard to get to this point-just training for an Ironman is a huge accomplishment that we don't take lightly. 

We will be unplugging completely next week to turn off all "noise". I, especially, get incredibly anxious before races and need to be in my bubble so if you text and hear silence from me, please do not be offended! If you have not joined our "Where's Waldo fan club" on Facebook, please do so. My dear friend Laura Chartrand has set up a great page for you to get all your scoop on the big day: where to meet up, best places to cheer, how much tequila to put in my margarita, etc. Please join the group and feel free to contact Laura with any questions. She is my right hand girl and I'm so lucky to have her!  You can join the group here.

Freddy and I have also purchased a cool gps gadget we will be wearing on race day. This will allow you to see where we are at any point on the course. The best part? It's free to our fans! Visit My Athlete for more info. If you have an Apple or Droid smart phone, you will need to download their free app, type in Ironman Boulder (they don't have that event live yet) and our names. I'm not sure if you need our bib #'s, but if you do, I am bib #150 and Freddy is #149. No smart phone? No problem! Ironman Boulder will have a live feed set up on several places along the race course (typically swim start, half way on the bike, a couple places on the run and of course, the finish line) you can view here.

We are incredibly blessed to be participating in the inaugural Ironman Boulder with so many friends and even more blessed with our support system. We honestly could not have gotten through this without you! Thank you all, so much, for believing in us, cheering us on, pushing us when we needed pushed and supporting us every stroke, pedal and stride along the way!  Let's get this done!

I leave you with a video that makes me tear up everytime. If you wonder why we do this crazy stuff-this is it.... enjoy! 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Village people

Hannah, me, Molly, Melissa & Freddy before our run along Boulder Creek
I don't subscribe to the whole "it takes a village" to raise a child BS. But in the case of training for an Ironman, nothing could be more true! It is, in fact, taking me an entire army to get ready for August 3!

While most people enjoyed a nice, relaxing long 4th of July weekend, Freddy and I were experiencing our toughest training weekend yet. Friday morning we awoke early to head to Boulder to run 3 hours on the Ironman route (which is on the Boulder Creek Trail). I had done this route many times with Runners Edge, know it like the back of my hand and since I've done so many marathons, a 3 hour run is kind of not a big deal to me. Freddy, on the other hand, was pretty nervous. He had never run that far before and had never run the Boulder Creek Trail. We got really excited when Coach Marco gave us a special treat-he invited his wife Hannah and said he'd be out there on his bike cracking the whip on us! Giddy-up!                                                  

Hannah and Freddy took off like bullets while me and my girls trotted along at a nice, comfy pace. All the while, Coach Marco shuttled between us, Hannah and Freddy to offer encouragement, advice and every now and then, a squirt from his water bottle.  The IM route does a modified 13 mile out and back, so we were able to run the entire route to see what we are in for. The trail is great-very shaded (although by the time I'm running, it will be dark), pretty and cool as it runs along the creek so there are plenty of places to take a little dip for some relief as Freddy found rather quickly!  Another bonus is you can get an awesome contact high from all the Boulder Hippies lining the route. I'm sure this will come in handy around mile 130.

Totally worth all that effort!
Me and my girls enjoying some girl talk!
Don't ask me what he is doing. 
Our reward at the end-a Rocky Mountain Ice Bath!

We thought we'd try Freddy's trick. It hurt......
After 3 hours, Freddy logged around 18 miles and me and my girls came in just shy of 15. Freddy was thrilled to have this milestone behind him and I was thrilled to have some great company! But I was dreading what was to come.....

Sunday was a big day. The monster of all demons for me. The dreaded "entire IM bike course" training day. I did a century bike ride a few years ago and hated it. I also swore I would never do one again. So, don't ask me why I thought riding 112 miles in an Ironman is a good idea. 

We met up with our group bright and early at 6:00am on Sunday morning to begin our journey. Luckily, my girls were there with me and we decided we would hang together. We also were able to rope my dear friend Laura into being our sag wagon for the day, providing us food, water, encouragement and direction. I'm not sure she entirely knew what she was getting herself into!

We took off and were greeted with a nasty cross-wind on Hwy 36. UGH. I hate wind. It totally blows. No problem. This is all good training. Around mile 35, we came across signs saying "road closed ahead". Odd, but whatever. We are on bikes. We're good to go. More signs warning us to turn around. Surely they aren't talking about us. Then we saw it. The orange fencing and on the other side, no road. It had collapsed into the river below! WTF?? We all looked at each other going "how are they going to have this road fixed in 3 weeks? This is crap!". After pondering our situation for several minutes we decided to call Laura who informed us we were way too far north and missed our turn. After figuring out where to go, we all turned around in silence. A detour did not make us happy. But no one complained. We just continued on course. 

We all had maps but quickly designated Lehiwa as our trusty guide. I was too anxious about the ride to focus on anything but pedaling. She did awesome and made sure we were on track. She also knew of detours for bathrooms! About 60 miles in, we were low on water, burning up and pedaling to get to Laura when all of a sudden this man with no shirt on and Richard Simmons shorts started running towards us in the grass. We pretended not to see him but pretty soon he started flailing his arms saying "ladies, we have treats for you one block ahead! Come on over!". Then we saw it: an oasis in the plains. The most beautiful sight we'd seen that day. There was a tent with about 6 people, all of whom had ice-cold rags in their hands that they quickly put around our necks. Others grabbed our bikes and water bottles and started to re-fill them with ice cold water. They had candy, food, sunblock, anything we wanted. Turns out they were just some nice folks knowing there would be a ton of people training that route and they wanted to help. It was awesome!

As we pedaled through the corn fields, we encountered horrendous heat, head winds (that mysteriously switched direction every time we turned), hills and more hills. Having Laura on the course was a life-saver. If she wasn't out there, I truly don't think any of us would have made it. 

Close to the end of our ride and about 10 hours into our day, Dan, Frank and Ian came out to cheer us in. Frank had even bought us some goodies to eat for the final stretch. We asked for rides back to the cars, but they never acknowledged our inquiry. Jerks. Finally, after 8 hours of pedaling, 11 hours out on the course, and 115 miles, we arrived at Boulder High School-site of T2 and our start/finish spot for the day. After literally one minute of celebrating, Frank grabbed our shoes and pushed us onto the Boulder Creek Trail. We still had a run to do. So, Ashley, Molly and I headed out on our short 20 minute run. And it felt great. 

Sunday was a huge day for me. It proved I can do anything I set my mind to. It eased my fears, ever so much, about August 3. I learned a lot and know that race day it will all come together. And I cannot wait!
My Iron Village: Melissa, Molly, Laura, Lehiwa & Ashley. You ladies are the best and I cannot wait to cross that finish line with you!!