Monday, September 29, 2008

Some Good News on a Gloomy Monday

I had a good day Sunday. A good, long run (11miles and hills), a quiet Waterfall Glen (most runners tapering for Chicago Marathon--yeah!), and the bikers that were out were much more courteous than most. The weather was really nice--cool and a bit cloudy, but perfect for running.

After, I did some much needed stretching, core work and a short swim. Came home and did a bunch of cooking (if you really want to call it that). I made sloppy joes, sweet potatoes, green beans, and brownies. I finally got to sit down about 5:00--I was really tired and my right glute/hip/hamstring/quad was sore.

I was in a state of shock when I went to sleep--the Bears won! They DID NOT BLOW THE LEAD in the last couple of minutes. Although they did try really, really, hard. Now, if the White Sox can win today and tomorrow, sports fans in Chicago will be on cloud nine!

I woke up a little bit late--long story, forgot to set the alarm, although I usually wake up before it goes off. My butt was really sore/tight. Decided that today would be a swim only workout. Made it through 2200 meters and felt better after. May have to skip that run tomorrow--see how I feel.

So, when I got home and was helping my daughter with her school work, I decided to check my e-mail. This is what I received:

Endurance Sports, Ultramax Events and USA Triathlon would like to congratulate you on your qualifying efforts at the Spirit of Racing Triathlon on July 19, 2008. Your top placing finish has earned you the opportunity to race in the 2008 Las Vegas or 2009 Oklahoma City Championship (your choice). You will race against the nation's best long course age group athletes.

WOW! I had to read it several times, and called my husband and had him check it out to make sure I wasn't seeing things! (Yea, I know it's really not that big of a deal, but after my abysmal showing at Louisville, this was a real boost!). No way I can make the 2008 race, but I'm really hoping we can do the 2009 race in Oklahoma City. Like so many people, money is really tight for us right now, and I'm not sure how much I can spend on racing next year. My daughter and husband are going to a gymnastic meet in Miami in January. I need to stay home with my son. Boy, would I like to be in Miami in January--swimming and running outside--how awesome would that be?!

Now I have a goal for my 2009 season. My plan was to concentrate more on the half iron distance, and this fits in just perfect! Even if it turns out we can't go, I at least have a goal and a plan.

It seems so often that when things look really bad, all I have to do is wait about a day and things get better. Of course, it works the opposite also, but I'm trying to dwell on the positive here. So while I considered this triathlon season to be pretty much a bust, I guess it wasn't a total loss. The training I put in did count for something. Lord willing, next year at this time I'll be planning a trip to Oklahoma City for a really big race!

I hope everyone had a good weekend. This is running race season, so go, runners, go! The Chicago Marathon is less than two weeks away, and there are lots of other marathons in the next two months. Good luck to everyone out there racing.

Although I'm not training for anything, I still like to keep tract of my workouts. Week totals:

Swim: 5x for 8,500 meters

Bike: 2 trainer rides: 3.5 hours; 52 miles; 1 road ride: 52 miles; total 104 miles

Run: 2 treadmill runs: 11 miles; 1 road run: 11 miles; total: 22 miles

Strength/Core/Stretch: 4 sessions; 233 minutes (3.8 hours)

Total time: 18 hours, 32 minutes

Calories burned: 8,237

Until next time--God bless!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Week of Ups and Downs

Actually, mostly ups. It doesn't seem like almost a week since I last posted. Time really flies're crazy busy AND having fun (mostly)!

Had a good week training-wise. Although I can't really call it training, because this is supposed to be my off-season, should be cutting back, taking it easy, recovering, resting.....yeah, right! That's probably not going to happen.

I was speaking to a friend at the pool the other day. He's a long distance triathlete. He's surprised I've been able to keep up with the amount of training that I have. I told him that this is me--it's who I am and what I love to do. I don't have to be training for something to do the work. I love what I do. While it's a little harder during the school year, I'm still very motivated. See, this is why I should have a coach. I really don't know how much I should be doing now. As I said, my number one goal for the "off-season" is to lose some weight. I may not be going about it the right way. But I'm not really sure.

Yesterday I went for a late swim (4:00--way past my normal workout time). I rode on my trainer for 1.5 hours in the early a.m. Went to Lifetime after dropping off Peanut at practice.

I met a nice man named Frank in the pool. As he was leaving, he was asking me some questions about my workout. He is an ultra-marathoner. He's done 35 marathons, and now he's doing trail runs. He's almost 61, so we're pretty close in age. We chatted for a while, and he brought up some good points.

Lately I've been reading blogs of several local newly-professional triathletes. I'm so amazed at the times they are able to accomplish. Of course, I know I can't compare myself to them. As Frank pointed out, these "kids" in their 20's and 30's probably competed at a high level in high school and/or college. They have so much more going for them than we did when we were their age. Heck, I was in high school before Title IX! I swam on the YMCA swim team, but that's about all that was available for girls back then. I did take ice skating lessons--another sport acceptable for little girls in the 1960's.

Also, most people in their 50's and 60's, no matter how great shape we're in, can't do what a 28 or even 38 year old can. I know, there are exceptions to every rule. I can name several women and men in their 50's and older who can keep up with some of the best younger age groupers. But really, that IS the exception to the rule!

And we all know that recovery time is much different when you're over 40. I have friends who are just over 30 or 40, and boy is it fun to hear them talk about how hard it is to recover compared to just a few years ago. You think it's bad now, people, wait until you hit 50! YOW!

Frank also mentioned that long hours of intense training at this stage of his life doesn't really make him better. I can totally relate. I really have to listen to my body. That's why a "one size fits all" training plan is not really good for me. I always have to "tweak" them for myself. Again, a good reason to have a coach.

My husband and I were talking about coaching. Now, I'm sure there are some terrific coaches in their 20's and 30's out there. But I would feel much more comfortable with a woman who is closer to me in age. Late 40's at least, maybe with a couple kids whose been competing/coaching for a couple decades or so. If I can ever afford it, that's who I'll be looking for.

Staying at home and homeschooling my daughter makes life a little lonely during the week. And since I train alone, I spend a lot of time by myself. So please be patient with me if I see you and want to talk. I know, I can go on sometimes, so if you're in a hurry or short on time, I really won't be offended if you say so. I get it!

I went for a ride this morning. It was a beautiful day and I felt really good. Had a great ride and even met a friend on the way home. Got to ride together for about 11 miles. Did 52 miles. Was thinking about 60, but I did ride pretty hard yesterday and would like to run long tomorrow, so I settled on the 52. Did some core/strength/stretching after, and an easy 1000 meter swim.

That's enough rambling. When I'm not at the computer, I think of some great things to write about. Then when I have the time--poof--gone from my brain!

One more thing--I watched "Grey's Anatomy" while I rode on my trainer yesterday. (I recorded it the night before because I knew I needed something to entertain me on the ride.) There was a scene when a doctor was explaining to another that we learn through our failures and mistakes. Of course, I immediately applied that to my Louisville experience. Still can't get that "race" out of my head. It's true, I know, but still so hard to deal with....

Hope everyone had a great week and enjoys their weekend and upcoming week.

Until next time--God bless!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

What a Difference a Weekend Makes!

Wow, what a great weekend, in every possible way. The weather was fantastic here--felt like summer all over again. And after the torrential downpour of last weekend, it was a very welcome sight.

I already miss summer: Cycling, running and swimming outside, racing, no school for the kids, great weather, etc. Yeah, I really need to live somewhere warm. It would be great for my joints (and the rest of my body, too)!

I've been having really bad headaches for the last three weeks. Don't know if they're from the RA, allergies, hormones, stress, weather change, etc. Could be all combined. Friday night I went to bed late with a terrible headache. I stayed up until midnight reading a book my son is reading for school. One of those books that you can't put down and have to finish ASAP.

I slept in on Saturday until 7:30. My daughter wasn't feeling well, and skipped practice Friday night and Saturday afternoon, so I was pretty flexible with my workout schedule. When I put my bike in the car, I really wasn't sure what I was going to do. About 9:00 I decided to drive to Lifetime and ride from there. I ended up having a really good 50 mile ride. The roads weren't too crowded, the weather was perfect, and I ran into a couple rest stops for a ride being sponsored by a local church to raise money for a food pantry. If I had know about it, I would have participated. I was running out of water with 13 miles to go (I know, I DO make this a habit), and the lady at the stop was very nice and filled my bottle with cold water. There are really nice people in this world!

When I got back to the fitness center, I did some stretching and core work, and a very easy 1000 meter swim. As usual, I didn't bring enough food, and I was really hungry. By the time I got home, it was almost 3:00. Of course, by this time I wasn't hungry. But I did eat later, hopefully it was enough.

I've worked really hard the last 10 days on my eating. Writing everything down, tracking calories in and calories burned during my workouts. But, as usual, I still can't lose a pound. I have decided that my main goal over the off season is to get rid of the 10 pounds I've gained while training over the last two years. I've tried almost everything, and I don't have the money to pay anyone else for help. I've invested a lot of money and time and no one has been able to help.

So, today was a great day. I woke up feeling rested and relaxed. Decided to go to Waterfall Glen for a run, after dropping my son off at church. I had four hours to get everything done. When I started, I wasn't sure how far I would run. I found a new parking lot, and it was crowded but I did get a spot. The main lot is always packed on the weekends, and I always end up parking outside on the street somewhere.

After I started running, I decided I would do the full loop (9.5) miles. I felt really good, and added an extra half mile to make it an even ten. There were lots of people on the trail, many doing their long runs for the Chicago Marathon. I spoke to a man on a bike who was riding while his girlfriend was running. She was doing a 20 mile run, and her goal is to qualify for Boston. She looked really strong with only 2 miles to go. I complemented him on his support--he said he'll run the last seven miles of the race with her. What a guy!

I love running on the path, but now that I run on the weekend, there are soooo many more people, and some of them think that they own the path. I almost got run down by bikes on more than one occasion. The trail is pretty hilly, and when they're coming down a hill I'm running up--well, it gets pretty scary. They forget that they need to stay on the right side of the road. On more than one occasion I had to run off the path to avoid being hit. It also happens with runners. You know, those really young, really fast, really fit guys who only wear shorts, no tops, and are all young enough to be my kids. They run four or five abreast, and I guess they expect me to move because I'm going the other way, am slower, and older! Hey, wait a minute, shouldn't us older runners get some respect out here!

No worries. I didn't let that stuff bother me. The weather was perfect and I had a great run. Makes me think more about running a half marathon. If anyone knows of one close to home, please let me know. I can only find one in Mattoon, IL which is a three hour drive. Too far!

After my run I drove to Lifetime, did some stretching, strengh, core work and a short 500 meter swim. Was short on time! Four hourse goes so fast when you're doing something you really love!

One more thing I'd like to share: When I workout, I SWEAT. I mean, I really sweat, big time. Even when it's not hot, like today, I sweat ALOT! When I run on a treadmill, it is really gross. I have to clean the machines on either side of me because I manage to get them as wet as mine. My shoes AND socks are soaked if I run for more than an hour. I tell you this, because we all know that when we sweat, we chafe. Yes--big time, mega chafing going on here. I've used a lot of stuff--body glide, vaseline, aquaphor, chamois butt'r to name a few. They all work for a little while, but eventually my sweat wins and I get terrible chafing.

Well, I think I found a product that really works for me. It's called "Mission Anti-Friction Cream". It feels different from anything I've ever used. It's a bit pricey, but I think it's really worth it. I put it everywhere today, and I'm chafe free! If anyone's looking for an answer to the chafing problem, I would definitely recommend this! (I also used it in Louisville, and found I had very little chafing, even in that horrible heat and for such a long time!)

I sent my heart rate monitor to Polar after Louisville and got it back last week. They fixed it up really nice--new battery, I think they replaced the face (it was really scratched up and now it looks good as new), as well as the big red button. It was great having it back this week.

The weekly numbers look like this:

Swim: 6X = 10,000 meters

Bike: 1x trainer = 24 miles
1x road = 50 miles

Run: 3x = 22.5 miles

Strength/Core: 4x = 225 minutes

Total time: 17:22

Calories burned: 7,350

Hope everyone had a great weekend. Have a great week.

Until next time--God bless!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Random Thoughts

After a very wet, nasty weekend, it's been a great week weather wise here in the Chicagoland area. Cool nights, warm(er), sunny days. Great for training outdoors, if you can do it. With my kids back in school, it's much harder to get outside during the week. This weekend looks great though and I hope to get outside to both bike and run! YEAH!

I find myself tired lately. Don't know it it's the RA kicking in--the change of weather can play havoc with my symptoms; could also be having the kids back in school; or could it be all the training I did over the last 10 months catching up with my body? Mmmmm. Don't know for sure, but I'm trying to get more rest, not work out as hard, and sleep more. I find the older I get, the more I do, the more sleep I actually need. It's good to listen to your body.

I love the internet, and I particularly like being able to watch TV shows that I missed over the past 15 or so years. Before kids, and when my kids were younger, I watched very little TV. Not much for going to the movies either. No time, and when I did have time, I would much rather read. Now that the kids are older and more independent, and my eyesight has made reading harder, I find I enjoy TV, movies and the computer very attractive.

I just finished watching all four seasons of "Lost" on the internet. It took a while because each episode has about 10 zillion commercials, but hey, it's "free" so you put up with that kind of stuff. I'm definitely hooked, and looking forward to season five starting in February.

I'm really not much for reality TV, although I must admit that for the first time my family got me hooked on "Dancing With the Stars", and I even watched most of the later part of "American Idol." Usually, I think "they" get the winners wrong, but I had no complaints this time around.

One show that I have promised myself I won't watch this season is "The Biggest Loser". There are so many ways this show is not realistic. Having battled with weight issues all my life, educated myself on nutrition and exercise, I believe this show is so wrong for the average obese person who really wants to change their lifestyle and lose weight and keep it off.

Just a couple points: not many people can (or want to) leave their homes and loved ones for such an extended period of time (how long they've never really told us); not many people can devote 8 hours (or so they say) to working out every day. And how many of us can live pretty much isolated from the real world with only the "right" foods at our fingertips? I know they do spend time being tempted by stuff, but let's be real, most of us live that way every day. Also, when you are as obese as these people are, how many doctors would recommend the running, jumping, pounding that the trainers make these people do? True, most of them are young, but many do get injured during the course of the show.

Also, and this is the thing that kills me--I don't understand how ANYONE, NO MATTER HOW MUCH THEY WEIGH AND STARVE THEMSELVES AND EXERCISE NON-STOP FOR A WEEK, can lose over 20 lbs. in one week! If they are working as hard as they say, they really need to eat. When you don't eat, no matter how fat you are, you can really mess up your metabolism.

Also we have to remember that this is a contest to win a LOT OF MONEY! Games are played, people are used, friendships are made and broken, feelings are hurt, emotions are toyed with. That's a lot to go through for a prize. Plus, on national TV in front of millions of people? I don't think so!

OK, there are about a dozen other issues I have with this show, but I'll step off my soapbox now. I know many people think it's great and inspiring. I think it's great for the network and advertisers. They are the real "winners" on this show.

Also, I would like to see how well all the contestants have done in keeping the weight off. I know there are several who have struggled. Let's have a show tracking their process and their life when they go home and leave the "ranch". We see when they go home for the last whatever amount of time it is (again, they never really say) that most of them really struggle. All of a sudden they hit "plateaus" or gain or lose only a pound or two per week. HA! Now that is real life!

Hope everyone has had a good week. I've had a couple good treadmill runs, a couple trainer rides, good strength training and core work, and swimming almost daily. I was looking around for a half-marathon near home, but can't find any. I guess that's for the best, as my knee(s) are still gimpy (probably more RA and OA than anything else).

Have a great weekend--get outside and enjoy if you can.

Until next time--God bless!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Calm After the Very Wet Storm

All you who live in the Chicagoland area know that this was a very wet weekend. We set records for the amount of rain that fell from Friday through Monday. There are still people in Indiana without power, and many of the roads in and around our suburbs are flooded. One school district closed yesterday due to street flooding.

Thank goodness only a few flooded basements. Not us. Those of you who are flooded, I feel for you. Ours flooded in January when we had an unusual amount of rainfall for that time of year and our 10 year old sump pump decided to stop working.

Anyway...spent all weekend indoors training. I know I may be a little unusual, but I really don't mind running on the treadmill. I do it a lot in the winter for several reasons: I usually run pretty early, and it's dark outside. I'm limited by time, so it's quickest to do all my stuff in one place (at the fitness center). I need to run on a soft surface as often as possible. In the summer, the paths are great, but when it's cold, they're too hard. And did I say that in my old age I hate running in the cold? (Cold usually means under 40 degrees--I know, I'm a wimp!)

I did give in and put my bike on the trainer for a 2:20 ride on Sunday. It wasn't too bad. I was watching an interesting DVD that made the time fly by. I rode in the afternoon, so I didn't get to swim after. That always means I'm a little sore/stiff the next day. Had a good swim on Monday and two soaks in the hot tub--felt much better.

Today I ran on the treadmill again. Short on time, so no swim. Stiff again! Drat--need to make time for a short swim every day!

Went to see my rheumatologist today. Her arm was in a sling. She tore her biceps tendon--OUCH! After 4 months, she decided she needed to have it surgically repaired. She's miserable, and not sure the surgery was worth the pain. It's only been 2.5 weeks. She calls physical therapy "torture".

Needless to say, she really didn't feel very sorry for me when I told her my Louisville story. While she admires what I'm able to do, she thinks an ironman borders on true insanity. She made a point of telling me that she knows NO ONE who could even swim 2.4 miles in a river. And ride 112 miles on a bike--do people really do that? She thinks it's incredible that I do what I do with my disease and at my age. It was good to see her, and gave me an even better perspective of how blessed I am. She injured her knee pretty bad about two years ago, so in some ways she's worse off than I am. Again, thank you God!

Nothing else really exciting happening in my life. Except that I spoke with my friend who lives in Austin, TX--she's incredible! Her first ironman will be in Florida in November and I know she will ROCK! You go, girl! I LUV U!

The weather should be nice here the rest of the week. My knee is still a little sore, but for now I'm just going to deal with it. Maybe when my daughter is done with her P.T., I'll have it looked at. I'm hoping to ride and run outside this weekend. Probably one more inside run on the treadmill and bike on the trainer until then.

Hope everyone is having a good week.

Until next time--God bless!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Seems Like We're Never Satisfied

It's been an OK week. I've been "working out", which is so much easier than "training". One to two or so hours per day feels like a cake walk. My goals for next year are still up in the air--don't want to share until I'm a little more sure about what I want to do!

I've had the chance to speak with several friends who completed Ironman Wisconsin. You know, it's really funny how hard we can be on ourselves. For me, I would have just been happy to finish in Louisville. For them, a much different story. I do not mean to criticize or judge. They all had times I would have LOVED--hey, just crossing that finish line would have been good for me. But their expectations were so much higher. I can totally understand that we all set goals for ourselves, and when we don't reach those goals, we are disappointed. But we also have to keep the sport of triathlon in perspective.

Most of us are "triathletes" because we enjoy the sport. We're not making a living at it, the love and acceptance of our family and friends do not depend on how well or often we compete, and many of us are just happy that we are blessed physically (and financially) to be able to participate in this sport. Think about it: Do you have anyone in your life, who for some reason, CAN'T physically swim, run or bike? I know I do. In fact, that was me in 2002.

When I was suffering before being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, I didn't know if I would be able to swim, bike or run EVER AGAIN! This is something I thank God for every day. It is a blessing to be where I am with my physical limitations and at my age. In fact, I am probably a better athlete at 53 than I was at 33, when I did my first race. I will see my rheumatologist next week, and when I tell her what I did this summer, she will be AMAZED! She believes I should be the poster patient for the medication I'm taking!

Anyway, the bottom line here is that I am truly blessed with all I have in my life. Do I wish I had done things differently in Louisville? Of course. Do I still think about not finishing every day? Of course. But, Lord willing, there will be other races. If not, then I am totally thankful for the experience. PTL!

Yesterday my friend took me out for lunch. She is so proud of all that I've done, and her love and care means the world to me. She was with me when I could barely walk, and has been there to support all my accomplishments. Thank you, Gail! You're the best! I thank God for friends like you every day!

So, if anyone out there is having a tough day, hang in there. Things will probably get better, and if you really think about it, things could be a lot worse!

Until next time--God bless!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Manic Monday......

....not in the sense that I'm a crazy maniac (OK, some would probably disagree). But more in the sense that I have many feelings going through my head at this time.

I. I'm so happy for all the competitors and those I know who completed Ironman Wisconsin yesterday. Nick, Kevin, Adrienne, Molly and Jo Ann, you guys are all so awesome. Congratulations on a great day, great time, and great finish. I know it was the first for two of you, and you did a terrific job!

II. I spoke with a friend today at the pool who is an experienced IM er. He's qualified and completed Hawaii more than once. He was so excited to see me, thinking I was an ironman. When I told him the story, he was still so very happy for me and for the experience I had. He still considers me a winner, and was so sweet and encouraging. Thanks, Tom! You are awesome and you ROCK!

III. I just received a card in the mail from a really good friend who lives out of state. She's training for her first ironman in Florida in November. She phoned me before the race and was so encouraging and supportive. Her card came at such a great time. It's a rainy Monday here, I'm still feeling a little down, and I couldn't sleep last night. When do you think the nightmares/dreams about the race will end? I'm told it may take a while. OK. It is what it is.

Her card was so encouraging it made me cry. I'm a BIG WINNER in her book. She's proud of me! Leigh Ann, you are the best and I can't say enough how much it means to me that you sent a card in the mail!

IV. I'm so happy for two other friends who completed milestones in their tri careers. I think I mentioned them in an earlier post. Mike, you are an IRONMAN! Elizabeth, you are an Aquaman and will soon be an Ironman in Florida. You are both great inspirations to me! Keep up the great work!

V. Received a phone call from Snoopy yesterday. It was great to hear from you, girl. I really appreciate you taking the time to check on me personally. Hang in there, I'm in your corner!

Yesterday I spent most of the afternoon/evening glued to the computer following the race. Very tiring and exhausting. A little sad for me too, considering one week ago....

I went to the fitness center yesterday and spent an hour on the treadmill. I covered five miles walking, slogging (my term for a slow jog), with a little running thrown in for good measure. Kept the heart rate very low. Although, I'm not exactly sure how low because my heart rate monitor pooped out on me in Louisville on the marathon course. HA! HA! I sent it to Polar to be fixed.
Seems like when it rains......

Anyway, had a good 2500 meter swim today. As I told a friend, I may be a little down, but I am far from out!

Thanks again for all your thoughts, prayers, encouragement and friendship. Hope everyone has a great week.

Until next time--God bless!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Eliminate the Negative....Accentuate the Positive

I've had a couple more days to try to pull myself together since my last post. I admit, it's not really getting much easier. I was able to speak over the phone with one friend, via e-mail with another, and I was nearly in tears both times. Elizabeth and Gail were encouraging and congratulatory, regardless of the outcome. Thanks, ladies, you're the best.

Since hardly a minute goes by when I'm not thinking about the race, I decided to dwell on the positives that came from that day, and all the days leading up to it. Here's a list:

Negative: I calculated my training miles and hours, and here's the totals--since January 1, 2008 I: Swam 296,050 meters; biked 3,949 miles (many of them done on the trainer); ran 641 miles. Total training hours: 613.75. That's a lot of training to do and not finish the "A" race of the year.

Positive: That's a lot of training, PERIOD! While I didn't get to my goal weight (another negative), I know that my body can endure a lot of training, without being injured. OK, my knee still isn't perfect, but I think it will be much better in the next week or so.

Positive: Even though I didn't finish, I feel really good physically today. I swam four days this week, and today rode 22.5 miles, spent over an hour doing strength and core work, and swam 1000 meters. Considering I raced for over 14 hours less than six days ago, that's pretty darn good!

Negative: Something I forgot to mention. When we arrived home on Monday, we parked the car in the driveway. An hour later, it took several tries to get it started. Bottom line was it spent the next two days (and over $500) in the shop getting a new fuel pump.

Positive: We made it to and from Louisville without any problems. Thank God it didn't breakdown in Louisville, or on the way home.

(Several years ago we went to Appleton, WI for a half marathon. On the way there, the transmission died. We had to leave the car there for three days, drive home in a Ford Focus, and my husband had to drive back to pick it up. I drive a 1996 Town & Country with over 186,000 miles. These cars are notorious for transmission problems. We're on our fourth one. I KNOW, but we can't afford a new car! )

Another positive: It wasn't the transmission--YEAH!

Negative: The pictures from the race are posted. No picture of me crossing the finish line.

Positive: There are some decent pictures. I think I'll get one or two, just to remember the day. After all, it really wasn't a total loss. I did 5/6 of the race! (I know, but I'm trying to focus on the positives here, OK?)

Negative: Very bad last race of the season.

Positive: I did three other races--one sprint, two half iron distances. I won my age group in the sprint and one of the halfs, and did very respectable (PR) in the other half. Remember, Karen, accentuate the positive!

Negative....oh, forget it. I'm way to blessed to be thinking so much negative stuff now. My family loves me just the way I am. My Savior and Lord is ALWAYS in my corner. My friends will continue to be my friends and support me, not matter how bad or good of a triathlete I am.

So, enough of that. When I actually see you, don't be afraid to approach me. I promise I'll try not to start balling the minute you start talking. After all, it was ONLY A RACE!

Once again, good luck to all the competitors at Ironman Wisconsin tomorrow. Looks like you'll have good weather. Can't wait to hear all your stories.

Until next time--God bless!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Blessings Arising from the Bad

It's been several days since my DNF, and I'm starting to feel a little more like myself. I won't lie--it has been a tough several days, and I know it will be tough for quite a while. I've only spoken in person to one friend who followed my training. As usual, Kevin was supportive and encouraging. He's going to do great in Wisconsin on Sunday!

I've had several comments on my blog post--thanks for all for the encouragement. It is very much appreciated.

I've also done a lot of thinking, and I BELIEVE I know what really went wrong: I did not BELIEVE I could do the race! I know that sounds very simple, but for me, it's very complicated. I did the training, and physically I knew I was capable. I think the main issue for me was that I was afraid to fail. I can honestly say I have never been so nervous/scared/terrified before any event in my life, until Friday morning. Getting married, having two kids, numerous surgeries, being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, losing loved ones--all stressful life situations. BUT NEVER WAS I AFRAID like I was when I arrived at the packet pick-up and athlete briefing on Friday. This was really going to happen, and I was really going to attempt to complete an ironman triathlon! Was I crazy, nuts, insane, loco, lost my mind, what the heck was I thinking?

As you can imagine, I drove my family crazy. I couldn't eat much on Friday or Saturday. My stomach was in knots, I wanted to go home, what if I don't finish, what will people say? My knee hurt. What if I couldn't run after the bike? How will I feel about myself if I fail? Eight gazillion reasons I gave myself to worry. And worry I did. My husband kept telling me I always get crazy before races. In fact, he believes the crazier I get, the better I do. But I knew this was different. This wasn't just nervousness, this was pure, unadulterated TERROR! When I think about it now, I realize I was making myself crazy for nothing. But at the time, it didn't feel that way.

I truly believe that this is the reason I wasn't able to stick with my nutrition plan. It started Friday afternoon, and by race start it was already too late. Of course, the heat and hills on the bike didn't help, but I really think I was ready (physically) for that part.

Even though I said I wasn't going to, I've done a bit of second guessing my decision to stop. Emotionally, I really wish I could have continued. Realistically, I'm really glad I stopped when I did. It was the right thing for me to do for my body.

When I started the race, I was so terrified that I vowed if I got through this, I would never do an ironman again. When I stopped on the course, I vowed I would never do THIS ironman again. After several days of thinking, I vowed that I WILL do Louisville again. And when I do, I plan to finish. Not in 2009, but possibly 2010. I won't be as scared because I know what to expect. It's hard to fail, but the learning experience is very valuable. (I hate saying those words.)

Now the hardest part will be facing all the people who knew my goal, and have to tell them that I didn't get there. But I will tell them that I didn't QUIT. True, I didn't finish, but I will try again.

Now, I feel good physically. I was tired for a couple days, but I got in the pool yesterday and swam an easy 1000 meters. Today was an even better 1500, and I plan to ride a little bit on the weekend. Running will probably wait another week or so.

I know several people competing in Madison on Sunday. To Kevin, Nick, Molly, Jo Ann, Adrienne and Amanda, may you have the race and day of your lives. Most of you have done this before, so you're veterans. (Although I hear it's still pretty scary, no matter how many you've done!) To all you first timers, don't be like me. Relax, know you've put in all the hard work, and enjoy the entire experience. So many people gave me the same advice, and if I'd taken it, well........

And to my friend Elizabeth, you're going to do great! This weekend will be a great preview of what to expect in Florida!

Enough rambling for now. More thoughts next time.

Until next time--God bless!

Monday, September 1, 2008

It Was a Very Tough Day

Unfortunately, I don't have good news. You're all familiar with the initials DNF? Well, for me, yesterday, they meant the Dreaded Nutrition Factor. Going into this race, in fact, when I was thinking of signing up, my husband's main concern was nutrition/hydration. He knew I could do the training, and mentally and physically, I am a strong person. But he was really concerned about the heat factor for me. I have a really hard time with nutrition particularly in the heat.

I really thought I had it figured out. But there were so many things that happened the last few days before the race. First, I was really nervous. My knee was killing me. I was really concerned about the bike course, and the heat was going to be an issue. I was so nervous, I couldn't eat the way I should have Saturday. Hardly any dinner. The morning was worse. I had a hard time choking down my breakfast. Before the race was crazy. It was a time trial start, and by the time I got in line, I was in the last group of 50 to start the race. I ran out of water, and just couldn't eat. So when I started the swim, I was already in trouble--hungry and thirsty.

I actually had a good swim. I love the time trial start, and while the water was very warm (I think 83 degrees), it was relatively calm and not very crowded. I got into a good rhythm early, and kept an even pace and good sighting. I swam close to the buoys, and I was sure the day was off to a good start.

Ironman transitions are amazing. The volunteers are great. It's like you have your own personal valet (as my husband puts it) to help you change, or whatever you need. I changed, went to the bathroom, got sunscreen, and was on my way. I should have eaten before I got on the bike, but I forgot. Very typical! I also attached my shoes to my pedals, and I didn't practice with these shoes getting them on. I had to stop and take the second shoe off and start over. Not a great start!

I planned to start slow on the bike, which I did. All in all, it was a great course. There were some challenging parts, but if I had been at my best, I think I could have ridden it in 7 hours or less. But when I started, I had a stitch in my side. I can honestly say I don't ever remember having this on my bike. I think it finally went away about mile 35 or so, but I couldn't eat or drink much, which was the beginning of the end. It took me just over 8 hours! TERRIBLE!

The course had a 30 mile loop that we did twice--there were some really tough parts. By the second time, I was really struggling--it was really hot, I was dizzy, and just couldn't eat. When I saw my husband and kids the second time, the course was pretty empty. I stopped and told him I was in trouble and not feeling great. But I knew the last 30 or so miles would be easier. But then I realized that I was actually going to have to hustle to make the bike cutoff! Never in my wildest dreams did I EVAR think that would happen. But, I was determined to do it and at least try the run. I didn't come this far to not even try!

The last part of the bike was a little tough because the 2nd to last aid station ran out of drinking water. One of the volunteers decided to just pour freezing cold water on my head, neck and shoulders--before she asked me. OMG--I almost went into shock. Had to stop a couple minutes and regulate my breathing. YIKES!

By the time I got to the last rest stop (10 miles to go) I was really in trouble. I knew the run was going to be tough, but I knew I had to at least try. The last part of the bike was easier. The riders around me were happy we were going to make the cutoff!

Again, personal valet in the transition, grabbed all my stuff (food), hat, sunscreen, peed (very little--another hint of dehydration) and started. When I started the run, my clock said 10:04 for my race time. That meant I had about 7 hours to finish. If I was able to run/walk at a 15 min. pace, I would make it. Remember, they don't close the course officially until 17 hours from the time the last swimmer starts, but that was only about 3-4 minutes after I started. Plus, I really wanted to be an "official Ironman finisher".

The run started out OK. I ran the first mile, then the stitch came back. Couldn't eat, only drink. Decided to walk a while. Got worse. My friend Gary was on his second loop and walked with me a while. Many people I saw had tough days. Lots of walking on the marathon course. Both first and second loops.

I saw Gary again when he was almost done. He encouraged me and said he's come back and watch me cross the finish line. I felt soooo bad when I had to call him later and tell him not to come--I wouldn't be there!

At about 9 miles, I realized it was pretty much over. I had developed a huge blister on my right foot (NEVER had that before!). Now I couldn't even swallow the water, and I started to get cold. It was still about 87 degrees. Not good. Plus, I knew I could never walk the last 13 miles and be done by midnight. So I made the decision to walk to the turn around, and call it a day. It was a very fact-based, unemotional decision. I knew it would be tough, but it was the right thing to do.

One of the volunteers at the aid station at 12 miles had a phone. I called my husband, who was at mile 14, and we walked until we saw each other. It was dark, we were 1 mile from the finish line, and I could hear all the celebrating. It was hard, but again, I was so sick, I knew I really didn't have a choice.

My good friend Jo Ann had called my cell phone twice. She had been tracking me and knew I was in trouble. I was able to call her when I was finishing up and she was great. She agreed that I made the right decision. Thanks so much, Jo. I love you!

And really, I was OK. I talked with one participant and he told me I was doing the right thing. Get yourself together, figure out what you want to do, and if you want to do another race in the future, you will.

Last night, I told my husband and mom, maybe my body is not meant for Ironman distance. I'm definitely not planning for one next year. I'm going to stick with half distances.

Driving home, I had the "meltdown". I saw a couple other cars with bikes from the race, and I kind of lost it. I'm tired, my foot is killing me, I did everything I could. I did all the training, the sacrifice of time, family, money, and the wear and tear on my 53 year old arthritic body. And with all that, this is the first triathlon I started and didn't finish. No finishers medal (which my husband had to tell me were really cute). No t-shirt, no mylar blanket. Just swim, bike and run splits, and a big DNF after my name. That really STINKS!

There were 24 women signed up for my age group. 16 started, 11 finished. One didn't make the swim cutoff, two didn't make the bike cutoff and one didn't finish the bike. One other lady finished the bike and not the run. It was a tough day all around. The average bike time was much slower than I expected, even from the younger and more experienced racers. Of course the pros, elites, all those crazy fast people, it didn't bother them.

There were several bad accidents. Plus I saw about six ambulances carrying bikers off the course with problems--mostly heat related. Then there was the occasional athlete laying on the side of the road, under a tree, with their bike on the ground. There were times that really looked like a good idea.

To those of you experienced IMers, this is probably not out of the ordinary. Not everyone who starts a race finishes. People have bad days. The weather can affect people in different ways. Injuries happen. Which reminds me--I didn't not finish because of my knee. It was a little sore on the bike, probably from the hills, but it really felt good on the run (or for me, walk). It's tired and a little sore today, but all in all, I think it's going to be OK! PTL!

My quads were cramping on the bike when I tried to get out of the saddle the second half of the course. Again, a first for me. So, I stayed in my saddle pretty much the whole rest of the way. I stopped at almost every rest stop, except the first. According to my cyclometer, I spent about 40 minutes stopped. In the end, though, I think it was worth it, or I may not have finished the bike.

So, the bottom line is that I am not officially an Ironman. My husband still believes in me, and still thinks that I will want to go back and conquer the Louisville course. I don't know--maybe in two, three years. Now I know what's involved, and I'm glad I had the experience. It was a good learning experience, but I REALLY WANTED TO FINISH! Believe me, if there was any way I thought I could physically do it in 17 hours, I would have. But at my age, comes wisdom. There will be other days and other races. Better to stop then continue and really have long term problems.

So to everyone out there who is an Ironman, I applaud you. I have always had great respect for what you do, but even more so now. You are all amazing! And to all of you who conquered the course yesterday for the first and second times, a HUGE CONGRATULATIONS! YOU ARE AMAZING IRONMEN AND IRONWOMEN!

There's still more to share, but enough for now. Can't wait to read everyone's stories.

To those who are racing in Madison next weekend--good luck and God bless! May you have great weather, great attitudes, and great races!

Until next time--God bless!