Thursday, August 30, 2007

Do it again

Here's some song lyrics:

Oh my God, what have I done? (Do it again)
All I wanted was a little fun (Do it again)
Got a brain like bubble gum (Do it again)
Blowing up my cranium (Do it again)

- The Chemical Brothers - Do it again

This is how I feel! The further away from Sunday I get, the more I want to do it again.

But not in 2008. I've got a lot to do first - and I think it would make a pretty fun summer in '08 to focus on sprints and being as fast as I could be. But in '09, I'm thinking Coeur d'Alene. I like the timing of the race - late June, so you have the rest of the summer off if you want it. I think the family will like that.

I'm also going to convince my hubby to start swimming. He's back into cycling, he's started running and has discovered it's actually fun - now it's time to convince him that big muscular guys can too swim, and all he needs is some lessons and practice.

I'm not sure he's going to want to do an Ironman in '09 with me - I'm also not sure that's a great idea, given that our kids will be six and nine and still need us around a lot - but getting him more into it lets us share something that for a long time has been only mine.

I haven't done any exercise yet since coming home, but I am eating fairly healthfully. I've watched my morning weight drop a pound a day since coming back, too. And this morning I woke up without feeling any soreness in my muscles. I'm going to take a few days more off and resume working out next week.

I'm also working on some additional thoughts about my training and the course that I hope could be helpful to folks (Jessi and Jess!) who plan to do IMC next year.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Ironman Canada Race Report

I swam. I biked. I ran. I finished. My numbers look like this:

Swim: 1:28:34
T1: 9:00
Bike: 7:45:25
T2: 11:00
Run: 5:43:19

Pre-Race: The night before/morning of

After checking my special-needs bags once more and mixing my Carbo Pro/Gleukos solution (which was a little tough, because I'd gotten a new container so I wouldn't have issues at the border with bringing a large container of an unknown white powdery substance to anothe country, but the new container didn't include a scoop! So I had to guess at how much to put in), I took two Tylenol PM and went to sleep.

It was 7:30 p.m. The Tylenol PM made me groggy, but I didn't actually fall asleep until maybe 9 p.m. Exactly as I'd visualized, though, I woke up just a few minutes before my alarm was to go off. I turned off the clock and procrastinated, cuddled up in John's arms.

At 4:50, I got out of bed. I wasn't tired at all anymore, nor was I freaking out. I also wasn't the least bit hungry, but I knew I needed to eat. I hopped in the shower, then got dressed. John left to go pick up some coffee for me, and I sat at the desk eating my bagel, turkey, and cheddar cheese. I also planned on eating a Pop-Tart, but it was all I could do to finish the reasonable food, so I threw the Pop-Tarts in my dry-clothes bag and figured I'd bring it with me.

Pre-race goofiness

The plan was to walk the mile to the transition area from our hotel, but given that my shoulder had been bothering me and I needed to carry five full water bottles, I didn't want to do that anymore. I asked John to drive me and Danielle, and he drove us as close as we could get. Roads were blocked off everywhere; it was dumb of me to think we could drive all the way up. But it was better than nothing.

We dropped off our bike and run special-needs bags and got in a humongous line for body-marking. Luckily for us, a volunteer who wasn't assigned to body-marking got an extra marker and came halfway down the line to near where we were standing and started marking people. We joked about how we lost our chance for a podium start - if we'd stayed with the regular lines, the body-markers were having people stand on a little stool to get marked. So we didn't get a podium start or finish. But we didn't wait in a huge line for very long, either.

We then headed to our bikes. I started putting my water bottles on the bike and realized I made a mistake: the bottle that was supposed to be in my bike special-needs bag was still with me. There was no way I could make it back to the drop off and find my bag, so I went with plan B: instead of carrying two Gleukos-Carbo Pro bottles and one bottle of plain water, I would carry only Gleukos-Carbo Pro bottles and just have plain water in my aero bottle. I was annoyed at my mistake, but I let it go immediately.

I put the Clif Nectar and Mojo bars I wanted for the bike in my little food box thing (still in their wrappers, but the wrappers open). I dropped off the clear plastic jacket I wanted for the bike in case it rained in my swim-to-bike bag and was done.

Danielle came over and we headed for the Porta-Potty line. It was huge, of course, so she got the brilliant idea to go over to the finishers' area and use those instead. Perfect - we got to walk for about three minutes, then all the Porta-Potties were empty. No waiting in line!

We then got our wetsuits on, got our caps, goggles and earplugs out and put our dry stuff away. We dropped off the dry clothes bags and headed down to the beach. It was 6:40 a.m. - our timing was just perfect. We left the hotel at 5:30 and had exactly the right amount of time to get our stuff done, but not so much that we had time to freak out or anything.

We stood on the beach and watched the pros take off at 6:45. The water looked a little more choppy than Lake Sammamish, but not bad. Around 6:55, Danielle gave me huge hug and disappeared. I looked for her again, but I have no idea where she went. She told me later she thought I wanted to be alone to collect my thoughts.

Honestly, I had no thoughts to collect. I think the best piece of advice I got - and I got it over and over again, from so many different people - was to stay in the moment. I looked at my watch. I knew in less than five minutes I'd be swimming. I walked into the water up to my calves. I wanted to go deeper to get used to the water - it felt perfect, though, cool but not cold - but people were so spread out and I didn't want to be in the middle of the crowd. There were also a ton of people still standing on the beach behind me.

The Swim
I was a bit startled when the cannon went off. There was no countdown, and my watch already said 7 a.m. The water was shallow for a ways out, so I followed the lead of the athletes in front of me and walked through the water until it was about waist-deep.

From the very first stroke, I couldn't put my face in the water. I coughed and choked and started doing sidestroke - a nice sidestroke with a long glide, but still. I knew I couldn't do sidestroke the entire way and have a successful day (though I almost certainly could have completed the swim that with tired legs and a sore neck from not using both sides of my body evenly). So I tried again: I put my face in the water and immediately breathed in. Obviously that didn't work.

By now the current the other swimmers were creating had helped to pull me along enough so I could see buoy #20 - the last buoy you pass on the way back to shore. I wasn't even to #1 yet. I prayed that they didn't go in order, but instead were randomly numbered. (Nope, they went in order.)

I tried yet again to swim, and still couldn't put my face in the water. I did a lifeguard's crawl stroke with my head out of the water, but felt ridiculous - no one else was swimming like that. Plus, that would hurt my neck, too - which wouldn't contribute to a great bike ride. I looked over at another girl who was struggling. "I don't think I can do this," I told her. "I don't think I can either," she said.

Then I saw a guy grab on to a kayak, and the kayaker raised a red flag. I guess that means he was done. I thought, huh. Why don't I swim near the kayakers - on the inside of the buoys - instead of the outside where I am. So I started to swim sideways across the remaining swimmers towards the kayaks...and in doing that, somehow remembered how to swim and put my face in the water, forced myself to breathe out, and started going.

When I was at the first buoy, I checked my watch. Drat! I'd failed to press "start" twice, so it was still waiting for me to start it. But I saw the time: 7:10. 10 minutes to get to the first buoy. I did some quick math: if there are 20 buoys and it takes 10 minutes to get to each, that's 200 minutes, which is more than 3 hours. I won't make the swim cutoff.

Now that I was actually swimming (still to the left of the buoys rather than inside), I decided I'd check my pace periodically between buoys, assuming they were evenly spaced. Well, they must have been - it actually took me about three or four minutes between each. So that time works out to be a lot better. I knew with that pace I'd make it.

However, hanging back and then panicking put me in the weird position of needing to pass A LOT of people. But by now everything had changed: I was calm, comfortable, and in a rhythm. I swam between people, over someone's legs, around people, and pretty much whatever I had to fo to get to open space and go my pace. I touched a lot of feet and hands, and for that I'm sorry, but I know I didn't hurt anyone, which is more than I can say for the person who punched me in the nose. I'm sure it wasn't intentional, but it hurt for a bit.

I also go kicked a few times; that must be what people instinctively do or are taught to do when someone touches their feet. Trust me, I didn't want to touch any feet - it just happens.

When I got to the first turn, I was startled by the sight of the scuba diver watching me. I mean, I knew they'd be there, but they looked so funny just lying on the bottom of the lake, looking up!
It was longer than I thought it would be to the second turnaround, but by the time I got there, I was happy because I knew I'd finish - I'd checked my watch, and saw that I was still on pace to do about 1:30, given that the second turn is more than halfway back.

My wetsuit had never given me a problem with chafing throughout my training, this season or last. But for some reason, today it decided to chafe my neck. I kind of stopped partway through to try to fix it, but I didn't. I wondered if it was chafing because I was only unilaterally breathing on the right (where it chafed) and not bilaterally breathing.

I actually started bilateral breathing on the way back, but decided I was happier just breathing on one side, so I went back to that.

I wasn't sure when I should stop swimming; people ahead of me seemed to be standing and wading through waist-deep water. But I know it's faster to swim in that than try to run, so I kept swimming until absolutely everyone around me was standing, then I stood too. I walked, though, to get out of the water - I wasn't sure if I'd be dizzy or what. As it was, I wasn't - but it gave me a chance to get my wetsuit down to my waist. I kept my pink cap on longer than I usually do so I could be identified in pictures more easily.

The wetsuit peelers had a harder time getting my wetsuit off then I expected - I must have not unzipped it all the way. But it was all good, and I got my cap, goggles and earplugs off. Someone handed me my swim-to-bike bag and I ran to the changing tent.

It was chaos in the change tent - tons of people in there. I found a spot and opened my bag on a chair. I found my towel and tried to dry off some, then got my bike clothes on. As I was dressing, next to me was a woman who had had a double mastectomy. I was in awe of her for a whole bunch of reasons - surviving cancer, attempting the Ironman, and not being ashamed about her body.

I managed to get dressed fairly easily, though I had to remove my jersey the first time I put it on and try again - it was all twisted around me - and then I calmly put all my stuff in the bag and asked a volunteer to put sunscreen on me. She did, then took my bag, and I was off to retrieve my bike.

The Bike

Initially I went the wrong way to get my bike, but some volunteers directed me the right way. I managed to get my bike with its two bottles behind my saddle under the bike rack and started running with it to the mounting area. As soon as I got there and swung my leg over my bike, I knocked both bottles out. A zillion people were watching, so I quickly picked them up and replaced them and said out loud, "Let's hope that's the only time today I do that!" (And it was.)

I took off on Main Street and got passed, passed, passed, which I expected and it didn't bother me much. I saw a woman I know from the Pro Club and marveled at her speed, and then Sister Madonna Buder passed me, too! She is 77 years old. I was like, wow. I suck. But I just said to myself, I'm going to ride my ride. I'll likely be seeing a lot of these people passing me now later on during the run.

Once you get out of town, you're on the road that goes around a lake - the lake you run the length of later. There are a couple of short little hills, but I felt great and just did them. I found that I was able to stay in the aerobars much longer than I do when I ride at home - which leads me to believe I need to find places to ride that are less urban so I can stay in there and practice more. In the city, I just want to be closer to my brakes. The first "climb," McLean Creek Road, was no big deal at all. And I knew that once it was over, I had a long flat section and a steep downhill as a reward. That's the thing about this course: every hard part has a great reward...except one, and I'll get to that later.

So I'm playing tag with a handful of people, and it's near impossible to stay three bike lengths apart and still ride the pace I wanted to go. So that was tough, and it felt like the course marshalls on the motorcycles were always near me. They didn't say anything specifically to me, but they did to a guy who was passing - who threw a little fit. I was like, dude - you just gave them a reason to give you a penalty next time they see you. If all they're going to do is talk, nod and smile.

The course really is largely downhill for the first 40 miles, and it felt good - downhill or flat. On the flats, I kept the bike in an easy gear and spun fast, on the downhills, I put it in the big ring and just turned the pedals. I stayed aero for most of this part, with the occasional stretch or shoulder shrug.

I stopped for a potty break around mile 20. I had had to go since T1, but not too bad, and I knew I'd be making a few stops at least so I wanted to wait. A volunteer held my bike while I took care of business. So cool - no worrying about dumping my aero bottle!

I had been drinking the plain water in my aero bottle, plus sipping my Gleukos-Carbo Pro mix. But I actually felt like eating, so I was also munching on pieces of Clif Mojo and Nectar bars. At each aid station - about 10 miles between each - I took a bottle of water, poured it into my aero bottle, and tossed the empty bottle. The volunteers made these handoffs work so well - I had no issue whatsoever with handoffs.

Maybe 25 miles in I saw my car pass me by. "Hey, that's my car!" I said to no one in particular. My car pulled over up ahead and John, Charlie (Danielle's husband) and Gabriel jumped out, but John didn't grab the camera at first and I flew by. He got a picture of my back.

The next time I saw them, I asked, "Where's Danielle?" John told me she was about 40 minutes back. Okay, good - she's not going to catch me anytime soon. I wanted her to catch me, and in fact, expected it, but I didn't want her to catch me until Yellow Lake. That way, we could finish the downhill part together and run together. Since you can't draft, I didn't want to ride near her for the full ride - she rides faster anyway, and I didn't want to even look like we were cheating.

All smiles early on

John and the kids drove ahead me a handful of times, each time getting out of the car and taking pictures. In Osoyoos, the course turns and you begin the climb up to Richter Pass. I thought the timing mat for the 40-mile mark would be right here at the turn; it wasn't, so I checked my speedometer. Average speed to here was 17.8. (Note: if you look online, it will say something like 15 something. That's because the mile 40 timing mat is actually at mile 43 - 3 miles into the Richter climb. And the official time includes my time spent in the potty.)

I started climbing very calmly, keeping my heart rate and power output fairly low. Even still, I was passing people immediately. That was kind of weird - people who had passed me earlier were now slowing down. When I saw John on Richter Pass, I motioned like mad to the woman just in front of me, that I was about to pass. I wanted to say, "Take pictures of HER!" It was Sister Madonna again. John didn't get my frantic motioning, but he did take a bunch of pictures of me, and you can see in them that I'm passing her. Sure, passing a 77-year-old isn't much of a victory, but man, she's hard-core, and I'm proud to share a course with her.

Check out how hard-core Sister Madonna is!

So the first section of Richter was easy. I said to the guy next to me, "Where's the hill?" He laughed and said, "Just around that corner." I was ready for it. Each stair-step was shorter than the last, though possibly steeper. Either way, it didn't matter - no section of it was as hard as Lakemont. And though I definitely can't say that I could spin the entire way up, I wasn't having to mash the pedals to make it happen.

The rollers begin immediately after Richter - you get a nice downhill, then you're climbing again. I got two of them over with when I saw a sign that read, "Nine bitches (rollers) ahead." Hmm. I thought there were seven, and I already did two of them? Oh well, whatever.

I can see why people don't love the rollers because it's hard to get a rhythm. It kind of was - some of them required my easiest gear to ascend, and they all deserved hard gears to descend. But this is where it got weird: sometimes, when the road looked downhill, I was struggling to keep going at 11 or 12 mph. I figured maybe this is what people call a false flat and I was really going uphill.

But once I got back to town and got some perspective, I've learned that the wind picked up when I was around mile 60 and was harsh. You pass a farm or something called "Windy Valley" on the way, and I was like, "Yeah, it is windy." But I wasn't sure how to equate wind with my lack of performance. I still felt good - little pains were coming and going, like a pain in the top of my right foot (the same place I had a cortisone shot to fix, and it was fixed...until now, when I suspect it's un-fixed) and a pain in my left hamstring. And of course the usual shoulder, neck, and back tiredness that comes from both climbing and living in aerobars. Nothing was a big deal, though.

It seemed like forever to get to Keremeos, where you turn to do this out-and-back part. Danielle and I had not driven this part, since it seemed relatively flat anyway and we were more eager to preview the hills. Well, it got me worried right away. I was going 17-18 mph and I felt like it was all downhill. I didn't realize then that it was a tailwind pushing me ahead.

I knew Danielle was gaining on me, and I needed to stay focused to keep ahead. I got to the turnaround and got my special-needs bag. There wasn't much in it that I wanted; just a couple of Clif Nectar Bars. A volunteer was walking around with a box of stuff other cyclists had discarded from their bags and offering it to us. I didn't want anything, but I added my leftover stuff to her pile. I used the Porta-Potty again, then got back on the bike to head out of the out-and-back.

About a mile away, I saw Danielle. I figured I'd see her on the out-and-back, but not this soon. "You're almost catching me!" I yelled, and kept going. Seeing her kind of got my behind back in gear - and realizing the out-and-back really was close to flat, it was just the now-headwind keeping me down. I was happy when it was over. This was the part that just sucked, and had no fun downhill reward.

But by now, I was tired. And I knew that soon I'd start the climb to Yellow Lake. I couldn't remember what the exact mileage was of the lake, so at mile 84, when I was feeling kind of tired and low, I took some advice from the great Gordo Byrn and told myself I was going to quit, but not yet. I was going to quit in 7 miles, at 91. I thought maybe Yellow Lake was there.

Somewhere around here a guy on a mountain bike in board shorts and sneakers passed me. I thought it was cool, actually, but some spectators made some nasty comments about him. I was just thinking, see ya on the downhill, dude. And I did. There was also a man on a really old road bike with toe-clips. Hard-core.

Yellow Lake wasn't at mile 91, but I'd been climbing, so I knew it had to be fairly soon. Plus there were spectators lining the road cheering me on, and that sort of takes the pain away. Not as much as it did on Richter Pass, where there was less pain, but some. At mile 91, my new bargain was, "I'll quit at mile 95." And of course, by mile 95, I was flying downhill, passing tons of people and just enjoying standing up, stretching my legs, and going FAST.

But something happened at mile 100 - I was trying to shift of something, and I got my chain stuck by the small ring, between the smallest ring and the bike frame. It was totally stuck, and I didn't know how to fix it. Not 30 seconds after I pulled over, the bike mechanics showed up! In another 20 seconds they had fixed my problem, and I got back on the bike and continued to fly the rest of the way into town. There were some flat parts where I actually had to work (in other words, pedal), but mostly I just flew. It was a tiny bit discouraging to see all the runners going out - and some even coming back in! - but I just told myself, whatever. Race my race.

A volunteer took my bike and another handed me my bike-to-run bag and I ran into the change tent. The chaos of the morning was gone, and a volunteer quickly approached me and asked if I wanted help. I said sure and she helped sort my geat and find what I was going to wear. I had my shoes and socks off when I heard a screen and Danielle, arms open for a hug, came running in. PERFECT!!! We told the volunteer how we hoped it would work out this way: I'd swim faster, she'd bike faster, and we'd run together. Well, here it was - without either of us jeopardizing our races to be with each other, it just happened. Lucky us!

We dressed in our semi-matching outfits: me in a black tri top and the pink camo GymGirl from SkirtSports, Danielle in a pink tank top with the zebra-print GymGirl. And of course we had pink headbands and pink visors. Danielle decided not to wear her fuel belt, so I decided not to wear mine either. I took the food from the pocket and stuffed it into the two pockets in the GymGirl and the third pocket in "cleavage alley" of the tri top. Perfect! We both went to the Porta-Potty and took off.

The Run

Immediately when we started running, I felt some new pains - my inner quads on both legs. It sort of felt like the muscle was detached from the rest of my leg and was just hanging there. It didn't feel jiggly - it felt tight and separated. I'm not sure how else to describe it. It wasn't pleasant.

But it was runnable. We waved to everyone and learned something: even though we were both running in our regular running clothes, they seem to attract a ton of attention during an Ironman! Plus, it was so cool to hear people yelling our names, which were printed on our bibs. I kept thinking they were people we knew, but nope. Just people who can read. And yell.

Again, happy early on...sensing a theme here...

So the run was pretty cool out of town and the beginning of the lake road. Danielle was entertaining, singing and laughing. I didn't want to talk much for the first few miles; I was just trying to get into the rhythm of the run. I timed our miles, and they were just over 12 minutes, including walk breaks during the aid stations.

I had no desire whatsoever to eat. I knew I needed to, but I just didn't want to. I carried a little baggie filled with Sour Patch Kids, which I kind of munched on in order to make me thirsty in order to make me drink. I did drink water at every aid station, but by mile 4 I was realizing my lack of desire to eat would turn this run into a disaster if I didn't make myself have calories. So thereafter I took a cup of Gatorade - it was warm out, so drinking wasn't too annoying - and a cup of water.

We started seeing people we knew coming back the other way. It was fun to look at those athletes and guess what their finishing times would be - they were so impressive. And we kept on running. We each stopped at Porta-Potties a couple of times - which we deemed a good thing since it obviously meant we were hydrated.

But eventually, running got harder. We walked a hill somewhere in the first half, and it felt a lot better than running. And I started asking Danielle what she would think if I wanted to walk.
At first she said no way, we were going to run. It's funny how quickly goals you make when you're home and cozy and comfortable can get thrown out at the first sign of adversity. Run the marathon? WHATEVER.

It was all I could do to push on to the halfway point. The promise of interesting things in my special-needs bag kept me going.

But of course, when I got there, nothing looked interesting. I took my Terry bolero and put it on; it wasn't quite cool enough to need it, but I didn't want to tie it around my waist. I told Danielle I was going to walk back up the hill we descended to get to the special-needs station, and then when we got to the top, I said I just didn't want to run at all.

It was here that I had a little bit of a breakdown: I really just wanted to cry. I had no reason to cry. I just wanted to. Danielle said, "Here! Have some Princess Gummies!" and handed me some Disney Princess fruit snacks. The absurdity of Princess Gummies fixing my breakdown was enough to make me laugh, which brought me back to the present task of completing this marathon.

I really did want to walk, though. But apparently, I walk very fast. I started walking and Danielle had to jog to keep up with me. I'm not sure how exactly that works, since I'm actually shorter than her, but I've always been a fast walker and I wanted to get done enough that I wasn't going to go at a leisurely pace - or even a comfortable pace. My walk hurt - in fact, walking hurt my legs and right foot more than running - but when I ran, I got all this tightness just under my rib cage and despite my heart rate being low, I felt like I couldn't breathe.

Danielle said something technical (she is a triathlon coach and has a degree in exercise physiology, after all) that I boiled down to this: all systems related to breathing were sore and tired, too - not just legs and arms and shoulders and neck and back. When I ran, that part of me felt all tight and painful. But when I walked, I felt happy. Well, happy enough - Danielle's constant chatter and singing definitely made it fun, as much as I wanted the race to be over.

We stopped at every aid station, and when it got dark, discovered that chicken broth really is a great alternative to Gatorade. I also tried eating - I had some grapes and a couple pieces of cookie - but mostly I had no interest in food. I didn't have any gastrointestinal issues, though - my IronStomach plan worked, and I was happy with the outcome. In fact: when we were back on Main Street, a guy had a box full of donut holes from Tim Horton's. He offered them to us, and even though we know we're not supposed to take outside food, we each had one. Danielle said it would be impolite not to. And I thought it was funny.

After dark, Danielle wore a plastic light-up necklace, and people started talking about how she looked like Christmas. I got two purple glow sticks from a course marshall person and played with them to entertain myself. My walk/Danielle's jog was faster than most other walkers - and a lot of joggers - out there. So I didn't really feel like running would be that useful.

But when we hit mile 24, 2.2 miles from the finish, I said I'd do it - I'd push through and run to the finish line. We stopped once more at the final aid station, fueled up, and took off. I didn't like running much, but I soon saw my family just before the 25 mile mark, and that was a good boost, then we were on Lakeshore Drive and little kids were holding out their hands for us to slap and it just felt fun, even as it hurt. Running away from the finish line was annoying, but the turnaround point came quicker than I thought it would, and suddenly even though I said we weren't going to speed up, the homing-pigeon instinct took over and we did. I pulled out my lip gloss, one item saved from run special needs, and shared it with Danielle so we'd look pretty in our pictures.

Just before mile 25...almost there!

I thought our families were going to run across the line with us, but they didn't. Instead, steps from the line, Danielle pushed me ahead so I'd "break the tape" and cross ahead of her. I didn't really want to do that - we should have crossed fully together - but it was too close to the finish to react.

When I heard my name announced and felt the tape, I didn't feel some great joy or sense of accomplishment. I actually felt embarrassed - all this fanfare, and for what? Because I spent 15 hours swimming, biking, and running? Oh my goodness.

All done!

The Aftermath

I expected to feel something special, I really did. But at the time, I didn't. I took a happy picture with Danielle and right away our families found us. All I wanted to do was get home. I missed the fireworks and all that - I was hungry for real food, finally, and I wanted to just be done with everything.

Immediately after, and even yesterday, I didn't feel all that good about it. Doing an Ironman is a selfish venture. At one point on the run, Danielle and I passed a whole group of guys in matching yellow shirts with some web site address on it. I can't remember now what it was exactly (you know, lost brain cells as a result of endurance athletics), but when I asked the guys about it, they said they were doing the Ironman to raise money for children's wings of hospitals. One of them asked me why I was doing the Ironman. I answered truthfully, "Lord only knows."

Honestly, the race itself was fun at moments, but mostly it wasn't that much fun. I wasn't bored, but I wasn't elated like Danielle, or ready to sign up again, like other friends I know. It took a lot of time and training, and the outcome was that I get to wear a t-shirt around Penticton all the next day that says I finished. So did a few thousand others. And that's cool, but is it really worth it?

It's so expensive - all the equipment, sure, but also the entry fee, the hotel, the travel, the pictures, the dining out while in the race town for a week, the supplies - it costs a small fortune to become an Ironman. And it was also costly to my family: everyone had to move stuff around in their lives to accommodate me, and it was definitely rough in other ways on the people closest to me.

I'm not embarrassed about my finish time. Sure, it was slower than I wanted it to be, but mostly I wanted to finish the race happy, and that I pretty much did. I didn't crawl across the finish line; I ran. Did I "leave it all out there on the course?" No, probably not. But I'm not sure that's appropriate for me either - after all, I have a husband and two kids and a demanding job and school starting for my second-grader next week. I don't have the luxury of time to recuperate - I have to be ready to go NOW, no limping around or sleeping extra or whatever. My family has given up enough already for me just to do this.

I'm left asking this question: Did it prove something that I didn't already know in my heart?

I'd like to say I knew I could do it before I did it. At times that was true, but I also had my moments of doubt before the race and during. Many moments of doubt. Other people believed in me a whole lot more than I did, and for that I thank you and appreciate you.

But I am the type of person who, if you tell me the stove is hot so I shouldn't touch it, I immediately touch it to be sure.

Completing the Ironman is proof that I can complete an Ironman. Maybe it symbolizes more; it is definitely about physical and mental endurance, the ability to keep going when everything in you says to stop.

So yes: I proved that I could do it. And perhaps what that means is that many more people who don't think they could do it can. So many blog readers and friends have called me an inspiration. I have trouble seeing that - after all, I think about all my mistakes and missteps along this journey - but I guess when I look back to what I came from, who I was just three and a half years ago - it is fairly amazing.

What's Next?
Focusing on my family. Moving closer to work. Losing a few pounds. Exercising for exercise, not training. Reconnecting with non-triathlete, non-runner friends (I miss you!).

I'm not sure I'm going to get depressed without an immediate race goal ahead of me. I'm kind of looking forward to the downtime.

Again, thank you all for your support. I couldn't have done it without you. And I really do mean YOU - everyone who read this, offered advice, sent good wishes, thought of me, or cared in the least. THAT definitely means a lot.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

I am an Ironman

And I'm too tired to say more. :-) Except: thank you for all your support throughout this journey. When I started to falter, I thought about you and how you believe in me.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


It's 5 a.m. and I've been awake for about half an hour, just lying in bed and thinking about the day. I get up before the alarm and take a quick shower; I'm not bothering to dry my hair for obvious reasons. I put on my heart-rate monitor strap and a ton of BodyGlide under it, my blue swimsuit, black sweatpants, and a dark pink Lululemon sweatshirt that Aleks gave me, plus warm socks. Also, I'm wearing my pink heart-rate monitor watch.

I eat a bagel with turkey and cheddar, a bottle of water, and one Pop-Tart (because race day is a great excuse for a Pop-Tart). I check my bags one last time, then put on my pink Crocs and head downstairs to meet Danielle.

It's 5:30 and she's perky and ready to go. Carrying our dry clothes bag and both special needs bags, we walk the mile down the road to the transition area. She's cheery and goofy and I'm trying to be, but inside I have a tummyache and I'm nervous. We arrive at the transition area and go straight to bodymarking - 2199 for me, 2407 for her.

I then pay a visit to my bike. The tires are pumped up and I add three water bottles to the cages: two bottles of Gleukos with Carbo Pro, one bottle of water. I also pour a fourth bottle of water into the aero bottle. I partially unwrap each of the bars (Clif Nectar and Mojo) in my little pink Bento box thing and am done.

I then visit my swim-to-bike bag and deposit the clear plastic rain jacket I got today when I saw the percent chance of rain was 85. Maybe I won't wear it, but just in case, I will likely be glad to have it.

With that, I'm done. I go to the Porta-Potty. When I'm done, I get back in line and prepare to go again. I do this until 6:30, when I put on my wetsuit and head down to the water, depositing my dry-clothes bag where it belongs. I've got my cap, goggles (de-fogged already) and earplugs in my hand, and my shoes are in the dry-clothes bag. It's time.

Except...I need one more Porta-Potty stop before I pull up my wetsuit all the day.

At 6:45 I watch the pros take off. Then I get in the water. It feels just like Lake Sammamish. I say goodbye to Danielle; we need to seed ourselves differently for the swim, but I hope to see her many times the rest of the day.

At 7, the cannon startles me. I head deeper into the water slowly, then start to swim when the water is past my waist. At first it's annoying to swim among all those people; but I fall into a groove and pretty soon I'm more or less swimming alone. Or at least it feels that way.

My mind wanders and plays song lyrics over and over. It seems like a long time before I reach the first turn, but then the second is immediately after and I know I'm more than halfway done. The beach gets larger and larger as I continue back, and soon I can hear the announcer and the spectators.

I get out of the water with a whole bunch of other people, and I run up to the wetsuit strippers (though they like to call them "peelers" now). Before I know what's happening, I'm on the ground and my wetsuit is off my legs, and the strippers are helping me up and pointing me in the direction of my bag. I call out "2199!" and a helpful volunteer hands me my bag and I run to the change tent.

I dry off a little, but mostly I try not to hop around like an idiot while putting bike shorts, bra, and jersey on. It's cool, so I put on the bolero and carry my full-finger gloves. Socks, bike shoes, helmet and sunglasses and I'm ready to go potty and retrieve my bike.

Main Street is lined with spectators and I smile at them all, feeling so happy to be out of the water. I drink some water from my aero bottle. Now I'm off on the course and every 15 minutes I have to drink an eighth of my Gleukos bottle - every half-hour a quarter. I feel good at the first climb, up McLean Creek Road, and the first descent feels great. Then it's flat and downhill slightly for a long way. I start to get bored on this part, but I play a fun game called "Guess the fruit tree?" and smile at everyone who passes me.

Osoyoos is just ahead, and Richter Pass. I'm excited for it because it's different - and even though it will be hard, the downhill will be awesome and totally worth it. And it is hard - it's four Lakemonts, back-to-back, with some breaks, but 6.8 miles later it's done and I'm on the rollers. I count them - one through seven - and as I'm descending play another fun game: how far up the next roller will I coast before I need to pedal?

Then it's fairly flat to the out-and-back section. I stop to retrieve my special-needs bag and get my bottle of Gleukos; I also go potty here. I'm feeling pretty good. Could be done, but could keep going.

The incline to Yellow Lake is definitely something I feel more on a bike than in a car, but it's okay. The promise of the descent keeps me going - and when I see the lake, I know there's only one little uphill section left. I push through and let myself coast for bit, spinning my legs out and feeling some recovery. My mind turns towards the run.

I roll into town to the same huge crowds as before. Lots of people are out running now, but I pay them no attention. This is my race. A volunteer takes my bike from me and I run to get my bike-to-run bag. It will feel so nice to have dry clothes!

I hit the changing tent and strip as quickly as possible, then pull on my run outfit. I strap on my Fuel Belt and I'm on the run!

I start out jogging. I love the parts through town; I wave at people calling my name and keep a huge smile on my face. I'm watching my time, though, to make sure I'm not running fast. I know sometimes when I am so happy to be off the bike I start out fast on the run and can't tell because my legs are so heavy, and I want to be running 11 to 12 minute miles here - no faster.

Once I hit the road out of town, it gets harder to run. I walk aid stations and take in water and whatever looks good for food, but then I pick back up with my jog at the end of the aid station. It's rough going on the way out, especially seeing all these athletes on their way back, but I'm going to be an Ironman today regardless of whether I do it in 9 or 16:59.

At the turnaround, I retrieve my second bolero and my running gloves. I'm a half-marathon away from my title. My steps get a tiny bit lighter, even as the sky is getting darker.

Along the run, I talk to whoever is around me. I feel really happy and connected to people. I try to lift their spirits, knowing that lifting theirs will lift mine too.

The last few miles back into town are incredible. I want to be done and I want them to be over. But I want them to last forever, too. Plus, I love glowsticks.

As I come down the finish chute, the darkness completely lit up, I hear the words I've been working towards for a year.

And I burst into tears. John, Gabriel, and Camille are right there - John hugs me and kisses me and the kids jump all over me and I practically collapse...but right then, nothing hurts at all.

It's 5:49 p.m. on Ironman Eve. I'm headed to bed very, very soon. Thank you, readers, for all your good thoughts and warm wishes - it means a ton to me, it really does.

Good morning!

Seems like a lot of people are checking up on me. :-) It's very sweet - it's awesome to know how many people out there care!

So anyway, I don't have much to say. I rode my bike last night and I had some pain in the back of my shoulder - I think I'm going to risk a light massage today to see if I can get rid of that. Otherwise, my bags are packed, my bike is ready to go, and I'm off to eat breakfast then check in my bike and bags.

Oh, the weather forecast turned. It now says the high will be 67 degrees at 5 p.m. and it will rain all morning and most of the afternoon. It should be nicer for the run. 50% humidity, winds 5-10 mph.

Sounds like a typical Seattle day, huh. I think I know how to bike and run in that!

So, if you want to, you can look up my splits all day tomorrow on I'm number 2199.

Friday, August 24, 2007

So, where's Yellow Lake?

Now that it's race weekend, I was feeling kind of sorry that I hadn't come up here to ride the bike course.

Well, today Danielle and I drove it, and here's how it went: the longer we drove, the more confident we felt. Seriously. The first part really is downhill or flat, the first "climb" isn't much of one, and Richter Pass? Stairsteps of Lakemont, if that.

But we'd heard Yellow Lake was really the tough part. So after Richter, there were a bunch of rollers - each about 1/3 to 1/2 mile up and about the same down. I actually think this part will be fun - like a rollercoaster!

I started asking Danielle where the Yellow Lake climb began. She wasn't sure. We went over another hill, then suddenly we were at a large lake. "What lake is this?" I asked. Danielle said, "Trout Lake. No, wait, Trout Lake is on the other side. It's Yellow Lake."

I said, "It can't be. We didn't climb yet." She said, "We did, up that little hill back there."

I started laughing. "No, Yellow Lake must be further ahead...even though we're starting to go downhill now..."

We got to the north end of the lake and looked back. There was a sign that read, "Yellow Lake."

We laughed our heads off the entire way DOWNHILL back to town.

A long journey

It took us nearly two hours to leave home yesterday - we had to run a whole bunch of errands first - but finally arrived here in Penticton at about 4 p.m. Six hours in the car with two kids = NO FUN AT ALL. And I do love a road trip.

Anyway, I freaked out twice since we entered Canada: Once when driving just past the border. We actually came in on the bike course, and the description and elevation profile on the map I have calls it a gentle downhill. Well, it looked more like a menacing uphill to me! Not steep uphill, but I'm-going-12-mph-uphill-and-at-this-pace-won't-make-the-bike-cutoff uphill.

The second time was in my hotel room. I don't know why, I just started crying.

I think the reason this is so meaningful is not in the race itself. It's much more meaningful that I did well in school, or work hard at my job, or raise a healthy, happy family or maintain a solid marriage. And I think about incidents that have happened in my life: the seizures my husband has had in the middle of the night (he's diabetic and sometimes has severe hypoglycemia) or the times my son was hospitalized with croup or the time my car got stuck in the snow with three kids in it, and I know my reactions to those events are the evidence of how tough I am.

Ironman is one day - but it's one day that will give me a relentless physical and mental challenge. There will be no break, and the test is pretty much pass/fail. There's value in failing gracefully, of course, but failure has a high cost if I ever want to attempt this again.

If I succeed, it's something to look back on when things in life get difficult. If I did THIS, what else can I do? How much smaller does the world get, because stuff I didn't think could happen can?

Today I'm going to focus on enjoying the build up. I can't train any more physically. All I can do is get in the right state of mind.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The plan: Non-food, non-clothing stuff

I think I've already got all this together, but just to be sure:

Night before: Tylenol PM, so I can go to sleep very early. It makes me tired.

Swim stuff:
Goggles (two pairs just in case)
De-fog stuff

Lip balm
Extra pair of contact lenses

Bike special needs:
Sport Legs
Extra tube
CO2 cartridge

Bike to run:
Sport Legs
Reflective dots and stuff (I'll probably do something fun with these beforehand)
Lip balm
Extra pair of contact lenses

Run Special Needs:
Sport Legs
Lip balm

I'm not going to put sentimental stuff, like photos or notes, in my bags. I've got that all in my head. :-) I'm also not doing band-aids or stuff like that; I'll be able to get that, I think, if I need it.

I think that's it. I'm packed, my house is fairly clean, and I'm ready. It's time for bed - we're leaving first thing in the morning!

Banish the thought

I went out today for one last bike ride here in Redmond before IMC. I only kind of had a plan for where I was going to ride; definitely south on West Lake Sammamish Parkway, but then maybe back north through Bellevue, or through Issaquah and back north around the other side of the lake, or maybe continue south and do the Lakemont climb.

I was only three or four miles out when I started writing a blog entry in my head. I do this a lot. I usually forget them before I return to the computer.

This one I remember, though, and it started like this: "DNF: Did not make the bike cutoff."

And seriously, I entertained the thought and was writing it all out in my head when I sat up out of my aerobars and pretty much yelled, "JESSICA! SHUT UP!"

I spoke so loudly I startled myself. And then I started thinking about all the good rides, the speed I really can go, the way I feel in a race and how that differs from a random ride around the lake or whatever. I forced myself to stop looking at my speed and my power, and just ride. Check out the lake, the houses, the cars, the whatever. I forced myself to be where I was, right then - not in my head stressing about not finishing.

And my legs, fresh during this taper, took over. When I got close to the decision point - right turn to head west to go back through Bellevue - my bike stayed straight. I skipped the easiest way back. I realized, though, there was another right I could take further up.

My bike chose to stay right instead of turning left to go back through Issaquah. I skipped the second-easiest way back.

At the next intersection, it would have been easier to stay right and take my last chance for an easy return. but instead, my bike went to the left and got into a lane of traffic stopped at a light. It was headed up Lakemont.

I asked myself, "What does doing Lakemont today get me? Does it help me? Does it hurt?"

I decided physically, it does nothing. It's a two-mile climb. It's steep, and you can't spin for a lot of it (it's a grind), but it's do-able.

Mentally, does it count?

My bike wanted me to find out, so I did.

And it was fine. It wasn't easy - it never is - but I imagined how I'd feel if I had six miles of this climb instead of just two. My lower back would hurt. I'd squirm a lot in my seat. But I'd get it done.

And Richter Pass on the IMC course - it's six miles, but it's a spin. I think I've got that.

It got hot going up Lakemont. But when I turned at the top to go down 164th - one of my favorite descents around here - I laughed out loud. It's amazing how a different perspective can color facts. It was probably in the low 70s. Up Lakemont, it was HOT and I was sweaty and the sun was beating down on me. Down 164th, it was cool and breezy and a fabulous day.

What goes up, must come down. For all the uphill on this tough IMC course, there's downhill on which to recover and fly.

I'm going to do it. And I'm going to banish any thought that tells me otherwise. When I'm sick of climbing, I'm going to laugh and remember that the opposite of climbing is flying, and nothing is more fun.

Sunday is going to be amazing.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The plan: My schedule

There's a lot to do once I get to Canada! So I'm writing down the timeline: what I need to do each day to both rest and enjoy the entire experience.

Wednesday, August 22: Shop and pack.

Thursday, August 23:
8 a.m.: Leave Seattle.
2 p.m.: Arrive Penticton. Check into hotel.
2:30 p.m.: Go to registration (if we get there early enough; it closes at 3)
6 p.m.: See if kids want to run the 1K event. If not, get dinner and go to bed early.

Friday, August 24:
8 a.m.: Watch the "Underpants Run" to make the kids laugh.
9 a.m.: Registration if I didn't do it on Thursday; walk around Athlete Village
Noon: Drive bike course
6 p.m.: Mandatory athlete meeting

Saturday, August 25:
9 a.m.: Check in bike and bags
4:30 p.m.: Watch parade with family

Sunday, August 26:
5:30 a.m.: Athlete check-in
7:00 a.m.: Race start!!!

More to say

I like my lists, but today I feel like there's more that I want to write about.

I woke up at 4:58 a.m. - despite not going to bed until past 11. (Such a dumb reason, too - I was listening to something on satellite radio in my car - last week's DJ set by Paul Van Dyk for Sirius - and I knew the very last record he played was a remix of Depeche Mode's "Precious" and it was really good and I wanted to hear it again.)

It was fairly easy to get out of bed and get to the Pro Club to run with the girls. Nancy, Sarah, Shona, and Su met up for an hour and 15 minutes or so of road and trail running.

It was my last training run with the girls before IMC. When we were done and stretching, all I could think about was how much I wanted a shower, but how much I didn't want that moment to end. I just wanted to stay and chit-chat and not move on to the next part of my day. Because moving on means moving closer to the time that I leave for Canada, which means moving closer to the time I race. And I'm scared. I know I said I wasn't going to post about feeling nervous any longer, but I can't help it. I do. I am.

And all the things people say you feel during a taper - like you didn't train enough, like you want to go out and ride hills for three hours to prove you can, whatever - is how I feel. Except I keep saying, "But I DIDN'T train hard enough! I DIDN'T put in the time I should have!"

I haven't filled in my training log for a few weeks because I'm afraid to know what the actual percentage of my training I completed is. I'm guessing it's around 75%. Maybe.

I haven't stepped on the scale in weeks because I don't weigh what I wanted to by now.

But less than a week from now, it will all be over. I know I need to stay in the moment and enjoy it.

I went through childbirth twice. I only remember the good parts - like how cute my babies were, and how relieved I felt when it was over. I know intellectually that Ironman will be like that: I will only remember how amazing and wonderful it was.

But fear isn't intellectual.

Anyway, I'm number 2199. I expect to do the following times:

Swim: 1:30 to 1:45 - so you can check on me at 8:30 a.m. to 8:45 a.m.
Bike: 8:00 or so - so I should finish it between 4:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.
Run: 5:00 or so - so maybe 9:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.?

The bike is pretty much worst-case scenario; there's not a lot of room for error when the course closes at 5:30 p.m. And the run is optimistic. I hope I feel well enough to run 12-minute miles.

We'll see!

The plan: Clothing

I'm definitely not planning to improve my standing in this race by saving time in transition.

Usually, even on my half-Ironman races, I transition pretty quickly. But for this race, I know a few things are going to happen:

-- I am going to have to use the potty in transition
-- I am going to be sweaty and salty and gross after the bike
-- The morning and the evening will be cold; the middle of the day will likely be pretty warm

Check this out, though - doesn't this forecast ROCK?

So anyway, to be comfortable and happy, I'm going to change clothing nearly completely between each leg.

Here's what I'm going to wear:

  • My favorite pink sports bra (I bought this for $5 at Old Navy three years ago. Freaking STEAL! Too bad they don't make the same clothing for more than two weeks.)
  • black swim suit bottom
  • my favorite Lucy sweatpants
  • a warm sweatshirt
  • heartrate monitor strap and watch - with LOTS of BodyGlide
  • gloves - seriously, my hands get really cold.
  • warm socks
  • Crocs (not flip-flops; see "warm socks" above)

  • full wetsuit over the bra and swim suit bottom
  • my big goggles (I use open-water mask-style goggles because I find I have better visibility, which helps me panic less)
  • whatever cap they give me (not wearing my nylon cap under, because I'll be too warm, I think)

  • black BikeGirl skirt
  • pink bike jersey
  • pink old Navy sports bra; ditch the swim suit bottom
  • white and pink socks
  • fingerless gloves (yes I want my gloves!)
  • purple and gray bike shoes
  • pink and black bike helmet
  • Rudy Project sunglasses - either clear or gray lenses, depending on how sunny it is. Likely start out with clear and carry the gray.
  • if it's below 55 degrees (I'll guess based on the day before): black Terry bolero

  • black tri top from
  • pink camo GymGirl from (sensing a theme? They don't sponsor me, I just love their stuff)
  • beige underwear (sorry for the TMI, but this is my checklist!)
  • new socks! Cute ones with pink hearts that I've worn in tons of races
  • pink visor OR pink baseball cap - baseball cap if I'm hot. I know that seems counterintuitive, but if I'm hot, I'll put water or ice inside my cap to cool my head. Otherwise the visor will be enough.
  • keep the Rudy Project glasses if it's sunny
  • my older Asics Gel-Kayanos*

* Okay, I'm not wearing the running shoes I planned to wear for the race. I am currently running in a pair of Asics Gel-Kinseis, but I've had random problems with them - sometimes they cut into my heels, sometimes I feel weird pain in my feet, so I've looked over my Gel-Kayanos and decided they have a full marathon left in them. Plus they match better with the rest of my running stuff! They're pink; the Kinseis are teal.

Run special needs bag:
  • another black Terry bolero (because I'm thinking I won't want the bike bolero at the beginning of the run, but halfway through it will be dark and will be getting cold)
  • running gloves

I'll have John carry a sweatshirt for me to put on at the finish line in case I'm cold.

I think that's it. Tomorrow: All the stuff that isn't clothing or food that I need to put in my transition area and special needs bags.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The plan: Nutrition

Okay, so for the rest of this week, I'm going to write down my IMC plans. This is in part because I can answer the questions, "What are you going to eat?" "What are you going to wear?" "What are you going to carry on your bike?" and probably a bunch of others, but I keep forgetting stuff, because I haven't written it down. So today, we're going to talk about food!

Pre-race: Wake up as late as possible. Drink 12 ounces of coffee with Splenda and either whole milk or half-and-half (depending on where I get this coffee). Eat a full bagel with turkey breast and cheese - or try my best to. I know it's hard to eat a lot pre-race. Drink some water, but doesn't have to be a lot. I will have hydrated all week prior!

Pre-swim: 1 chocolate GU and a couple sips of water.

Post-swim: Nothing for a little while - at least until I'm a couple miles out of town and my heart rate is below 150.

Bike: I will carry four bottles on the bike: My aerobottle will contain plain water only. On the downtube, I'll carry a bottle of Gleukos (fruit punch flavor) with two scoops of Carbo-Pro (approx. 360 calories per bottle). Behind my saddle I'll carry two more bottles: one of plain water and another of the Gleukos-Carbo Pro stuff. Just the Gleukos-Carbo Pro is enough to get me through 56 miles pretty happily - however, the bike special needs station, where I can pick up stuff I leave for myself, isn't halfway - it's about two-thirds in. So I'll need to eat some food, too. I'm going to carry a Cherry-Pomegranate Clif Nectar Bar, a Dark Chocolate Walnut Clif Nectar Bar, and a Clif Mojo Bar. I'll also throw a couple of GU packets into the pockets in my shorts in case I need a quick jolt. I plan to eat when I feel like it; the liquid calories are actually enough for me if I don't happen to feel like real food. But I will, I always want at least half a bar at some point.

I'll refill the aerobottle with plain water at water stations; I'm carrying the extra bottle of water in case something happens and I dump my aerobottle (it's happened before - you get a flat or fall or something, that bottle is going down). My goal will be to drink about half of the Gleukos bottle each hour; given my track record, it's unlikely I'll actually do it, but if I'm trying to, I believe I'll get enough calories.

My special needs bag will have a Smuckers "Uncrustable" peanut butter and jelly sandwich, the same three bars I'm carrying on the bike, a couple of GUs, and two more bottles of the Gleukos/Carbo-Pro stuff. If it's not too hot, I'm also going to put a bag of Peanut M&Ms in there. Yum.

Run: I am going to wear my fuel belt. I've gotten the advice to not wear anything around my waist, in case my stomach rebels and I can't stand having anything around me. I tried carrying a hand-held bottle, though, and it hurt my shoulder and back. I've got a belt that's really adjustable, so I can wear it on my waist or hips if my tummy hurts - and I'm also not averse to dumping it if necessary.

In my fuel belt I'll have two bottles with water only. I don't like to drink calories when I run; I will if I feel I have to, but I get so thirsty that I don't like constantly sipping something sugary. So I'll carry with me GU and Jelly Belly Sport Beans (two of each) and plan to eat every three or four miles, depending on my speed. If I'm running 12 minute miles or better, I can go every four miles - but if I'm walking or running slower, I'll need to eat every three.

My run special needs bag will have two more GUs, two more Sport Beans and another peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And also, if I need a change of page, Clif Shot Blocks (Pina Colada or Margarita).

So, overall, here's my shopping list:

Four packets Gleukos (check)
Carbo-Pro (check)
10 GUs (check)
6 Jelly Belly Sport Beans (I have orange and lemon-lime; need to pick up blue and red)
3 Clif Mojo Bars (check)
3 Clif Nectar Bars - Cherry-Pomegranate (must get)
3 Clif Nectar Bars - Dark Chocolate Walnut (must get)
Smuckers Uncrustables (must get)
M&Ms (must get)
Clif Shot Blocks (must get)

So there you have it. Tomorrow, let's talk about Ironman fashion!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Danskin volunteer report

Nah, I didn't race today. Man, I wanted to - sort of. I wanted to because I love the Danskin, but sort of because the weather was nasty and they shortened the swim, so my time this year wouldn't have been comparable to the previous years.

Anyway, John, the kids and I worked the mile 1 water station, and it was a blast! (Even in the downpour.) It was also a ton of work! The middle part of the race saw a zillion people coming at once, so we could barely keep up with the demand for water. I'm not sure who exactly watched my kids during the time where I was completely bent over the table laying out cups and pouring water, but they were fine - and good helpers, too.

It really brought home for me the necessity of having great volunteers to work at races I do. I think I'm pretty nice to volunteers, saying "thank you" and calling out in advance what I need - but I'm going to do a better job than ever next week at the Ironman.

And in general, I love the feeling of being at a triathlon and watching people meet goals they never thought they'd even have. I was there, at Danskin, three years ago. I wouldn't have imagined doing an Ironman then. Now I've got barely a week left until I do. Amazing, huh?

I wrote in more detail about the kids and our experience on my Disney blog - check it out if you want to see how adorable my kids are handing out water!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Nerves are normal?

I know I have to respect the distance.

So I'm hoping nerves are normal. I so appreciate all that you readers and friends are saying - comments and in personal emails - but I still keep going between two feelings:

2) Shut the hell up, Jessica. It's just a race. You're doing this VOLUNTARILY and FOR FUN.

The thing is, it's just one day. Which is both a good thing and a tough one. It's good because - no matter what - it's over in 17 hours from when I start. Finish or DNF, it's done.

And it's tough because my family has sacrificed for me. I've sacrificed. My friends, my job, my relatives have all supported me. Everyone is invested in me completing this thing (especially me) and I just don't feel like completing is a given!

I loved Wendy's comments about what failure is - and as a mom, I totally relate (read my Disney blog post about my son's failed swimming test to know I really do).

But I only get one day to try to succeed. Because even though I already cleared my DNF plan with my husband (sign up to try again next year), I don't want to do that. I trained this year. I did things wrong and some things right this year, and I want to prove that despite the messed up summer, something good can come out of this difficult season and I can accomplish a goal of mine, inspire others, and learn something more about myself.

I'm not asking you, my readers, to necessarily say nice things (though I appreciate them) or whatever. I just want to be honest about how I feel nine days before going into this thing. For the rest of my time before I step foot in the water August 26, I'm going to work on my mental game: positive thinking, visualization, creating a plan for what I'll do when it gets tough.

So this is my last post about my anxiety. I've said it all. Now it's time to fix that last thing before the race.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Something about an Ironman

Okay, so it's like a week and a half away.

Every time I think about the word "Ironman," I get nervous.

I can swim. I can bike. I can run. I can even do them all in the same day.

But I'm worried about this race. I'm worried about the fact that I only have one weekend left to not do this race before I do this race.

I guess one of the problems is, I can't visualize the entire thing. Maybe that will be easier when I get there and drive the course, read and memorize the participant guide, etc. But right now, I just think: line up with 3000 other athletes and get in water. Get out of water 1.5 hours later. Someone strips my wetsuit? How does that work? What am I wearing for the swim anyway, and will I be getting naked in front of a volunteer as I change into my bike gear?

How will my head respond when I'm biking? What happens when I get bored or tired? Should I keep the PowerMeter I've been borrowing on the bike? Does it slow me down because I get depressed at my lack of power? Or should I just ignore that data and go off heart rate and RPE? Are the hills really hills? Am I a hill climber? Will my knees hurt?

Will I eat enough? Drink enough? Have enough salt? WILL I MAKE THE BIKE CUTOFF? How will I feel if I don't?

Should I wear the same top for the bike and the run? The new tri top I bought is a little big - it works okay for running, but when I'm in my aero bars, um, there's a nice little show there.

What if my legs hurt when I start the run? What if it's hot and I'm sticky and salty and unhappy? What if my tummy hurts or I get a sidestitch? What if my feet are sore and muscles have no juice?

I want to wear my pink camo running skirt for the run. But if it gets cold later in the evening, I don't have a top to match it (a long-sleeve top).

Okay, maybe clothing is nothing to stress about. Food? Reflective tape? Getting passed and passed and passed on the bike?

I will pass people back on the run, though. I did at Pacific Crest when I paced myself on the bike, and I likely will again if I pace properly.

Can't I just run away to Mexico for the Ironman week? Why did I tell anyone I was doing this? I feel like if I fail, everyone knows - and I have to own up to it and I'll be so ashamed.

I feel fat and I don't feel like eating properly. Not eating properly will contribute to a worse race. The idea that I might have a worse race makes me want to eat poorly. Lots of vicious cycles here.

Just three more work days until we leave for Canada. I wonder what the next stage of preparing for this race is? I've gone through confidence in my training to anxiety. Next is...any ideas?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Oh my goodness, when I saw all the comments this morning, I realized last night I was making a big deal out of something that probably really isn't a big deal, and says more about my own issues (and the anonymous commenter's assumed age) than anything else.

Sure, the anonymous commenter is probably a kid (meaning, 20 or under) and to him/her, 32 might seem middle-aged.

Regardless, though, I'd be excited to see Wes or DeeDee dancing on a tabletop - and I wouldn't think they were too old for it, or too WHATEVER for it. I'm not too old or fat or parental for a little fun! (Especially since I always wear shorts under my miniskirts - preferably skirts with built-in shorts, like little girl clothes - I may dance on a tabletop, but I don't need the world to see my undies!)

But anyway, the point is, as much as I celebrate my lack of inhibition, I do feel a little weird about my own behavior sometimes. I blogged about this on my Disney blog, but to reiterate, it's like since I became a mother, I've felt like I'm supposed to live up to some ideal of what a mother is. This extends to everything: like how I should dress, what car I should drive, what hair colors are acceptable, what I do for fun with other adults.

The thing is, I'm NOT that. Ask my kids: they'll tell you I love them for sure, but that I'm not like storybook or even their friends' mothers. I don't wear sweater sets and khakis. I can't play Candyland for hours on end.

(I do enjoy my kids - especially when we're doing something physical - even something like bowling, which we did last night with my grandparents. Seriously, watching Camille's face when she got a spare - all by herself, plus the gutter-bumpers - was a humongous joy.)

And now that my kids are big enough to leave with a babysitter (and John and I have always had his parents to watch the kids for an evening or overnight), I want to go out and enjoy my life as an adult! I like music, I like to dance, and hey - so does my husband. So why shouldn't we go out until 4 in the morning - or later - if our kids are safe and we're having fun?

So I'm plagued by the idea that I'm not the perfect mom who bakes cookies and builds stuff with Legos. At the same time, I rebel against being a "soccer mom" - my goodness, if my pink hair isn't any indication of that rebellion, I don't know what is.

So when someone random calls me "middle aged," I'm sensitive. I still feel young, and I don't want to be stereotyped by what someone else thinks a 32-year-old mother ought to be or not be.

But in my defense yesterday, I inadvertently succumbed to those same stereotypes: like at some point, I might be middle-aged and not dance on tabletops.

Well, we'll see. Maybe my interests will change; most likely they will. But until then, no matter what my chronological age, I'm all about pink hair, dancing, and my kids. Even if they play soccer!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I am NOT middle-aged

Someone anonymously commented on yesterday's post that it must have been middle-aged women dancing in Vegas weekend.

WHATEVER!!! Not only am I not middle-aged by any stretch of the imagination, I am at the best age possible: I still have youth on my side in terms of physical appearance and the way my body feels and responds to exercise, but I also have life experience, financial means and everything settled - my marriage, my kids, my friends, my career, my social life. I can dance on platforms and tabletops just as well as any other hot chick on a platform or tabletop, and I can stay out all night if I feel like it.

So I don't know why I feel the need to respond to that comment - maybe it was made in jest, maybe even by someone who knows me and is teasing - but the fact is, it's dead wrong and whoever said it, if serious, is an idiot. I challenge that person to feel this great at my age - 32, by the way.

Oh, and I turned off anonymous comments. If you don't have the balls to tell me who you are when you call me middle-aged, you don't get to call me middle-aged.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Vegas, baby

Oh wow. Las Vegas is such a crazy place.

Some quick highlights - I'm still tired from the weekend. And no, I haven't exercised in four days, unless you count dancing until dawn.

-- We won at blackjack, craps, and poker
-- We lost at blackjack, craps, and poker (came home more or less even)
-- We went to the major clubs (Jet, Tangerine, Pure, Empire Ballroom)
-- We paid bouncers $50 to bypass the massive lines at Jet and Pure
-- We paid $50 to $60 cover charges just to get in these places!
-- We paid $15 for a vodka-Red Bull and $10 for a bottle of water (yes, really)
-- We danced to decent music - but honestly, for the supposed exclusivity of these clubs, the music should have been better. I'd rather go out in Seattle and see the house DJs at Last Support Club spin
-- We had a wonderful time together. I've got a pretty cool, pretty fun husband. :-)

I've got some stuff to say about Ironman Canada - most notably, I'm finding myself freaking out periodically now. I went from feeling fine and ready to near panic. Is this normal? It's LESS THAN TWO WEEKS AWAY!!!!!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Eight laps, done

I got an eight-lap, 1 hour 40 minute swim done this morning!

Eight laps is between 2.4 and 3 miles, depending on who measures and how precisely I come to the buoys. Based on my swim time, I do believe that it's longer than the Ironman swim.

And I feel awesome! Part of it is that I don't have to swim this distance again until race day, but part is also just that I got decent exercise at a low heart rate and kept my brain entertained and not trying to convince me to swim less.

In fact: the plan had only been to swim seven laps. But with six done, Danielle and I decided one more would be good since we'd always held eight as the ultimate distance we were driving toward.

So it's a great day. Tomorrow I go to Las Vegas for a little weekend getaway - without the kids! - and it's all real taper from here to IMC!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Another three-hour run, done

And I feel even better than last time!

I am so glad, though, that I've seen my last pre-5 a.m. wake up until IMC. I only plan to see the early side of 5 a.m. if I'm still awake then this weekend in Las Vegas (before I begin my party taper, of course).

I met Nancy and Danielle at 5 a.m. to begin our run; it's totally dark now until about 5:40, so it's time to get out the flashing lights and reflective vests again. Blah. But running felt good - I ate an entire bagel and cream cheese plus half a cup of coffee between like 4:35 a.m. and 5 a.m., so was running on pretty much a full stomach.

They were done after the first hour, but that's when I planned to meet Wendy for the remainder of the run. Wendy and I did a route with two steep uphill sections then a long, not very steep hill for 3 miles. I took a GU at around 1:45, not so much because I felt like I needed it, but because time tells me I need it. And I felt completely perfect until about 2:35; that's when I started to feel like maybe I'd been running for a long time and maybe stopping would feel nice.

But I didn't *need* to stop - I just started feeling more tired. So in theory, I should have had another GU - but I didn't want to because we were almost done and I had a plan to get a Java Jane at my favorite coffee shop, Victor's in Redmond. A Java Jane has espresso, chocolate, caramel, and probably other delicious unhealthy things in it, plus chocolate whipped cream. YUM.

So the run was great, and here at work I feel completely normal, like I barely worked out. My legs are very slightly tired - not even something I'd notice otherwise - and the rest of me is perfect.

I'm definitely ready for a marathon run!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Just like riding a bicycle

I did say Saturday's ride was a confidence builder...but at the same time, it didn't help me confirm I can go the distance in the allotted time.

Today I decided to go on the Monday ride. Usually I lead it, but for August, I'm not leading rides officially so I can taper and choose not to ride if I don't feel like it.

The leader designed a new route we'd never done before - and it included two fairly short but steep climbs. I started out worrying they'd have to drop me; I felt slow, my bottom hurt from riding Saturday and I seemed to have no power.

But then, once I completed the first climb (Inglewood, the first one I did Saturday), I perked up. I felt better and faster and nothing hurt anymore and for the rest of the ride, I just RODE. And I remembered how it felt to ride without worrying about pace or speed or whatever and just enjoy a decent day (it's gray, of course, but not raining) out on the bike. I felt joyful both uphill and downhill - and remembered what Danielle said this morning when I told her I was worried about the bike cutoff for Ironman: "You're one of the strongest cyclists I know! You're letting stuff just get to your head!"

And she's right. After all, riding a just like riding a bicycle.

A confidence builder

On Saturday, I planned the last crazy ride of the Ironman season, before I begin my taper.

It included the following hills:

Ames Lake
Duthie Hill via 40th and Issaquah-Fall City Rd (note that there's more climbing than shown on the map)
Zoo Hill

The total climbing for the entire route was around 5,000 feet. Is that a lot? It sure felt like a lot.

Anyway, I had a fall early on, just about 8 miles in. Danielle and I had stopped at a bathroom and we were just getting ready to ride again and as usual, I was talking. She turned to listen and kind of stopped her bike in front of mine - and I couldn't clip out fast enough on the side my bike was leaning towards. So I fell and hit my hip, elbow and wrist - only the wrist hurt after a few minutes, but it still hurts today. (But I can type, so it can't be that bad.)

I won't lie: the hills hurt (except Ames Lake; that one isn't too bad). I almost broke out in tears on Montreux - for some reason, that feels like the hardest hill around to me, and I did take a little rest by circling around a side street before continuing up. I didn't stop the bike, though.

And again, on Zoo Hill I was close to tears when I fell again - I was going something like 3.8 mph at the very steepest part - a 20% grade. Last time I did it, it was very early in the morning, so I didn't have a problem taking the lane. But it's a super-tight switchback and there had been a number of cars in both directions; I was afraid to take the lane. So instead, I stayed to the right - and due to the unevenish pavement, ended up needing to go pretty much straight up a bump. Maybe on a mountain bike I would have been able to do it, but with my regular-double gearing on this bike I just couldn't turn the pedals at all, and fell over. I was able to unclip and catch myself, but I got off the bike completely, sat on the guardrail, and just tried to pull myself together. My heart rate OFF the bike was 170; I could feel it thumping in my chest.

I realized I needed to move. If a car came around the corner really tightly, he wouldn't see me until he hit my bike, or me. But the road was too steep for me in my weakened state to start pedaling again. I walked the bike up the road a few feet, then got back on.

The rest of that climb was better: the road straightens out, and the only issue you have is that you can see these hills cascading up. But there are short flat or even downhill sections between each rise, so I kept telling myself, "Just focus on the next part, then you get a rest. Don't look all the way up."

And it worked. But at the top - Danielle was already there, on the phone - I heard barking. Oh, no! At the house right at the top of the hill, in the driveway, were two loose dogs. I freaked, said to Danielle, "I can't stop! I'm still going to ride!" and I rode a few hundred feet further, hoping the dogs would stay in their yard. They did.

After that we were done with the major climbing and had a three-mile descent. Somewhere along the way I regained my happiness - and even got completely elated. I did it! I didn't quit, I didn't talk myself out of some of the climbing, and I still felt okay! In fact - the pain I'd been feeling in my knees when I was climbing went away. I didn't even feel it on the little climbs we had after all the big ones to get to our friend's house for a party (our hubbies and kids were already there - so we had good incentive to finish, but also good incentive to quit early, which we didn't).

So I feel like I've gained a lot of confidence that I can do the Ironman distance and hills. The question that remains is, can I do them fast enough? I'm extremely worried about not making the bike cutoff. If anything goes wrong, that's it for me - I'm thinking it might take me a full eight hours to do the bike, maybe more, and I know it will take 1.5 hours for the swim. So that's 9.5 hours optimistically, without transition times, and I only have 10.5. There's no room for error.

So...any Ironman Canada veterans out there - what can you tell me about the course? A co-worker of mine said he was able to spin, not grind, on the climbs. Is that true, or is he crazy-strong? (Actually, he is crazy-strong...but I think he knows my ability and I'm not sure he'd mislead me.)

I suppose in a sense it's good to worry: you've got to respect the distance. I wonder if I'm in over my head, though...or underestimating my ability.

Oh, and because it's Monday, I will write about today's workout: six laps in the lake, 1 hour 13 minutes. I hate swimming, but it was totally fine and I definitely feel confident about being able to go that distance in the required time limit.

Friday, August 03, 2007

I did all my swimming this week!

Yay! This morning was rainy and yucky and I didn't go to bed early enough, but I still dragged myself out the door to swim 5 laps - nearly 2 miles - in the lake. And though I wasn't really excited to be there, I'm super-excited that it's done!