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Please help us in our quest to help those afflicted with Parkinson's Disease live better today!

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!