Book Update:

I am currently writing Tri Me: A Working Mom's Road from Last Picked in Gym Class to Iron Distance Triathlon Finisher.
The book proposal is complete, and several chapters are finished!
For some of the thoughts, dialogue and anecdotes that will be included in the book, read my blog below.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

After the iron

Things were pretty quiet after the race, internally.
I seem to have found more patience. I can sit quietly. I can wait until a piece of software opens up on my computer without impatiently switching to some other task. I'm not so short with the kids at the end of a long day.

I had a big party to celebrate, and it was a ton of fun. I haven't laughed so hard or hugged so much in a long time.
Then everyone left and I got sad. Fortunately I have a husband who did this, too, and he completely understood what I was going through. He said he was surprised I hadn't had my breakdown right after the race, but he figured out that, in my mind, the race wasn't the end for me. The party was the end. The last thing.
The final chapter in the most dramatic and exciting thing I'll do in my life for awhile.

The why

I've written before on why I personally felt driven to do this.
But I'm not the only one. There were hundreds of other people next to me on the beach that morning, toeing the line.
Have you ever seen a family with kids walking along in a big group, and there is a big tree stump or rock in their path? Everyone goes around, with the exception of one or two of the kids, who climb up on the rock and leap off. After a second, they catch up and it's just one big group again.
It's easier to go around the rock.
It's more fun to jump off.
It makes a scene, it slows down the group, and it's a little vain. But it's also how you find out what you're made of. You can't find out if you always walk around the obstacles. Sometimes you have to seek them out.

What's next

I really wouldn't mind keeping my lean, mean physique.
I always planned to give up iron distance after this, at least until the kids grow up. But I never plan to give up triathlon. Sprints and Olympics are certainly fair game, and maybe a half-iron will still make it on my race schedule from time to time.
David and I are racing something called Triple-T in May. It's a festival of triathlon, with a super-sprint on Friday, two Olympics on Saturday, and a half-iron on Sunday. It's hilly, too. Really hilly.
So I'm taking a few weeks to just work out when I feel like it.
Then I'm doing the Columbus Marathon.
Then Triple-T in the spring.
And I'd like to write a book.
But no more iron distance. I miss the kids too much on weekends.

The thanks

People who train with me know I have a tattoo of a wolf on my lower back. (This sport doesn't leave a whole lot to the imagination, that's for sure.)
When I chose the wolf, at age 21, it was because of a favorite Kipling verse I was first acquainted with at Camp Wyandot, the Camp Fire summer camp that saw me through my teen years.

It goes like this:
Now here is the law of the jungle
As old and as true as the sky
And the wolf that shall keep it may prosper
And the wolf that shall break it must die

As the creeper that girdles the tree trunk,
the law runneth forward and back.
The strength of the pack is the wolf
And the strength of the wolf is the pack.

I thought I understood this verse pretty well. Well enough to have a symbol of it marked on my skin forever.
But I didn't really get it until this year.
I didn't really understand all that those last two lines were trying to tell me.
Now I am much more grateful for the pack: My training buddies, my family, my friends, and most of all my husband.

David, thanks for the strength to be the wolf.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

First Rev3 Full Iron – Unabridged

The day before.

Things were interesting at Cedar Point. Stuff was a bit farther away than I imagined when looking at the map, and they were pretty serious about no biking in the park. We had the RV, which was securely in its spot, awning extended, plugged into the electric, windshield cover on, and not going anywhere. Fortunately there was a 24-hour courtesy shuttle and I had a couple good friends willing to haul me around: Mark and his wife Julie, and Margaret and her boyfriend Evan.
Saturday morning began with a practice swim, hosted by the race company at the site of the real swim. I came around the corner from the campground to the beach, and the size and sound of the breaking waves, I must admit, was pretty intimidating.
That was nothing compared to getting out there in Lake Erie. The waves didn’t look all that bad from shore, but when I started out toward the practice buoy, a half mile away, the swells were astounding. I’ve never swum in the ocean, so I don’t know what that’s like, but this was crazy. It was a little fun, too. Most of the time I couldn’t see the buoy at all, because of the waves around me, so I was using the sun and the roller coasters behind me to keep my bearings. The strangest thing was, after about 10 minutes, I couldn’t see anyone else. Every few minutes I would happen to lift my head as I was being lifted up on top of a wave, and I’d catch sight of the buoy before falling back down into a trough, so I knew I was going the right way. I really didn’t see another soul out there for a long time, and it started getting creepy. They had lifeguards on shore, but I knew they couldn’t see me. They did have a list of people who had gotten in the water, and were checking people off as they came back out. But I still felt like that scene in Castaway where the Tom Hanks character is lying on a shred of his raft, and they zoom out and all you can see for miles is water and nothing else.
I did eventually make the turn at the buoy and head back to the beach, where I started seeing other swim cap-covered heads around me. Then I started mentally revising my expected swim finish time.
The practice swim was great for socializing, if not for building confidence about the swim. I met a few people from the race staff, saw Margaret from the Tri Group, saw Amy and Abbie from, and later spied Bob’s wheelchair on the beach and found him, too. I met some new folks, as well. One guy had completed Ironman Louisville a couple weekends before, and was doing the full Sunday. He said he felt fine.

After the swim, we had breakfast as a family: David, the kids, and my niece Madison, who came along to help with the kids and hopefully have a little fun, too.

At 10 a.m., Margaret and Evan were nice enough to swing by the campground and drive us all down to the race expo and Transition Area, which was at the other end of Cedar Point in the big parking lot. We picked up our race numbers (441!) and all the other things we would need, plus whatever free stuff they were giving away.

After that, the rest of my family headed into Cedar Point with my complimentary tickets, and a couple other people’s complimentary tickets. (We were at an information booth at the expo, waiting to ask where to buy the fourth ticket we needed, when we ran into a guy who was at the same booth asking what to do with his extra tickets. He gave one to us, no questions asked. I love triathletes.)

Margaret, Evan, and Margaret’s friend Dave headed out in a car to drive the bike course, since Margaret and Dave hadn’t seen it before. The race company was out on the roads, sweeping and putting out cones and signs.

By the time we made it back to Cedar Point, Mark had arrived from Columbus and was willing to pick me up and take me to the 2 p.m. race meeting with my bike, even though I made him a few minutes late. Since I was so excited about the race, I had already read the Athlete Guide three or four times and didn’t really learn anything new from the race talk, but it was nice seeing Eric, the Race Director, and it was good to know nothing was a surprise. He said they were confident the winds would change and the swim would be more calm than it had been that morning.

Mark and I put our race number stickers on our bikes and checked our bikes into the Transition Area. The bike racks had little signs with our names on them, and our race numbers. Mark had bought plastic sheeting to cover his bike in case of rain. It was already sprinkling, and he graciously covered my bike, too, which was far superior to the Kroger bags I had planned to stick over my shoes. I saw a really old-school metal frame road bike with downtube shifters in the Full Distance section. I figured whoever it belonged to was probably a pretty strong rider and would pass me at some point, no matter how much my carbon-fiber bike cost.

Mark and Julie and I walked around the Transition Area getting our bearings, and then headed back “home” to get our bags organized for the morning. Mark was planning to catch the Ohio State football game. I was planning on some quiet time to myself.

Since the family was still in the park riding kiddie rides, I was able to sort out my race gear in peace. Of course, I already had it sorted it out in labeled bags, with a checklist on yellow paper in each bag. It was just a matter of filling a couple water bottles and putting things into the official race bags, which I would later hang from pegs in the Transition Area.

After that, I went for a run down the jogging trail along the beach. It was pleasant, and as I headed south I realized I’d be passing the swim start. Once I made it that far, I decided to just go ahead on to the Transition Area and take one more look at it, running through from the beach to the bags, through the changing tent, and to my bike.

I ran back north to the camper, and took a shower. By then it was really pouring. I did my best to prep dinner for David, and was ready with towels and dry clothes when my two soaked and shivering kids arrived at the door.

Dinner was low-fiber, high protein. Salmon burgers, and pasta salad with spinach, white potatoes and cheese. I was planning to eat an energy bar later that night to top off my sugar reserves, but I ended up hitting the bed just after the kids did, around 8:30 p.m. David and Madison went back to the park to ride some grown-up rides. I barely remember hearing them return.

I slept pretty well, although I was up at 2 a.m. checking the alarms, and again at 4:15, which kind of nullified the need for the 4:30 alarm. I received a text from Jeremy and Judith on their honeymoon in Ireland, wishing me the best in my race!


Breakfast was a disaster. I usually have steel cut oats, and I was too tired to make them the night before to heat up, so I figured I better make them in the microwave instead of on the stove, to save time. That meant using water instead of milk, so I wouldn’t boil over the milk in the microwave. Well, they tasted like garbage made with water, and I hadn’t packed any syrup to mask the flavor, so I took a couple bites and threw the rest out. I also made some green tea, which I had taken one sip of when I knocked the whole cup over and spilled it all. At least I was outside when I did that.

Mark and Julie picked up David and I at 5 a.m.and drove us to the Transition Area. (Mark’s hotel was next to the campground, and Julie is a saint.) FYI, for those who don’t know, Mark is someone I know through work at The Salvation Army. He is the chairman of our board. He’s also the person who introduced me to the triathlon group that swims at the quarry and bikes on Three Creeks.

Setting up

There was really nothing I needed to do at Transition except hang up my two Swim-to-Bike bag and Bike-to-Run bag on the pegs, pump up my tires, put my drink bottles on my bike, and drop off my Special Needs bags. These are bags they make available to you at the halfway point on the bike and run courses. In my bike bag, I had a spare tube, in case I had already had a flat tire at that point. In my run bag I had a long-sleeved shirt, some chocolate-covered Espresso beans, Tums, some skin lubricant, and some Chex mix.

I took the plastic off my bike, and then sat down in the camping chair David had brought along. Matt Dixon from the quarry group came past, and we chatted. He was experienced at the distance, and had some ambitious time goals for his marathon. David was great and held on to the bike pump and all the miscellaneous stuff I had with me. I was eating my energy bar from the night before and drinking Gatorade. Shortly we were surrounded by people we knew from

BeginnerTria, including Amy and Abbie. We just sat around and talked and joked. I wasn’t even really thinking about the race much, just enjoying the company and keeping my head clear.

At 6:30 or so, we started putting on our wetsuits to head down to the beach. Once we got close, Amy and Abbie were not in a big hurry to get in the crowd of racers, but I was getting nervous and wanted to be in the group. I headed to the outside edge of the left side of the horde, like I had planned, and we watched the pros take off into the water at 6:55.

Ten minutes later, David had found me in the crowd, and I was standing next to the lady with the starting siren. I was looking around me and could hardly see another woman. It was a sea of men. I asked David if it looked like I was about halfway back in the pack, since that was my plan. He said I was at least halfway back, if not farther.

The swim

The siren went off, and we were off, too, running into the water, and then trudging through several yards of shallows and past the breaking waves. The waves were nothing compared to the day before, and there was a lot less contact in the water than I had thought. The first 10 minutes were a little stressful, because it was hard to find a place to take a stroke, with bodies all around. I had a few people grab my legs, and I got a good kick to the arm, but it didn’t really hurt much with a wetsuit on. I didn’t get kicked in the face, which was my biggest fear. I tried to stay on the outside and get to some clear water, which I managed to do. After that, the swim was really unremarkable. I tried to appreciate that I was really here, really doing it, after all this time. But there was a lot to think about, and I had to sight quite a bit to make sure I was going straight, and that I wasn’t running into anyone. The swim course was two squares next to each other. So we swam out, made two right turns, and swam back to the beach. Then we ran out, ran across a timing chip, and got back in the water to swim another square.
On the beach between squares, I heard a familiar voice calling me, and looked over to see Mark on my right shoulder! What were the chances?! I also saw David on the beach taking photos. We got back in, and I swam a strong second half, really focused on the catch and pull of my stroke. On the last section, I went through my planned Transition in my head, and started kicking my legs some to get them ready. I swam through the shallows and stood up, walking out of the water as planned. When I hit the sand, I started a light jog, and spotted David. I waved at him and he turned to the people around him. All at once, about two dozen people started singing Happy Birthday to me! It was awesome! Once I was up at Transition, David told me my total swim time was 1:17. I had been visualizing 1:21, so I was doing better than I had hoped, and I didn’t feel tired at all.


I ran into Transition, grabbed my Swim-to-Bike bag, and ran into the changing tent. I had been expecting a sea of chaos in there, but there were maybe six or seven other women in there, plus volunteer helpers. I stood in front of a folding chair and used it to sort out my stuff. I took out my checklist and went straight down it. There was an older lady standing there, a race volunteer, offering to help me with anything, so instead of putting my wet stuff in the bag, I handed it to her and had her do it. I gave her my wetsuit, which I had taken off right outside the tent where there was a big barrel I could hold onto to step out of it faster. Then I turned on my bike Garmin/watch so it could find the satellites. I changed my sports bra, washing off quickly. Doing a full distance race affords me some luxuries, like a changing tent where you can actually change and not violate the USAT rules about nudity. Special Needs bags are also something only available in iron distance races.
Bike jersey on. Clif bar in pocket. Bandana on. Helmet on. Shades on. Sunscreen on arms and legs. Socks on. Grab Garmin. I asked the lady if she was putting my bag back on the peg and she said yes, so I headed out. I clipped the Garmin (David’s, actually, which I was borrowing) onto my bike and ran to the mount line. Saw David at the fence. I got my pedals/shoes in the correct position and hopped on as I always do, getting my feet into my shoes while I was rolling. I felt great, and not at all cold as I was worried I might feel. It was overcast and probably about 65 degrees.


The bike is the thing I had practiced most, riding the Cedar Point course twice over the summer. I was able to visualize it really well in my mind because of that, so there weren’t any surprises. The wind was like it had been on my training rides, but it seemed stronger today. Plus there was the portion out of, and back into, Cedar Point, which I had never ridden before. We went out Cedar Point Road, which is lined with homes on one side, and sand dunes on the other. The road surface was bumpy. Residents were out watching, and I said good morning to them. I passed Bob on his handcycle. I passed a few other people. Then we headed through Huron and out into the cornfields. After about 20 miles, things were fairly sorted out. The faster people had already passed me, and the slower people were already behind me. Mark came up behind me, and we passed each other a few times, and he ended up ahead of me. He was averaging a slightly faster speed, but I forced myself to let him go and race my race. There were aid stations every 10 miles or so, and I planned to stop at 40 miles and 80 miles, just as I had on my last big training ride.

The big course is kind of like an upside-down lollipop, and you go around the circle part twice. On my first time around I was on the straight stretch when I heard a motorcycle behind me. I was at Mile 35, and the leader of the pro male field was already on his second loop. He was absolutely flying. (I later saw a video of him passing one of those police speed trailers, which clocked him at 27mph.)

After that, I pretty much passed and was passed by the same three or four men. One of them had a little cheering section of two people, who kept getting in their car and moving to different places. They started cheering for me, too, because they knew if they saw me, their person was coming soon. I stopped at Mile 40, got off the bike, used the bathroom, ate a banana, refilled my bottles and got back on my way. After that was the tough section (rough roads, headwind, gradual climb) that proved to be just as tough as I had remembered. I knew it would only be worse the second time around, and I tried to conserve my legs by shifting gears a lot. On the way out of that section, there were two race volunteers standing on top of the bridge with a two-way radio. They were giving our race numbers to the folks up ahead, who would have our Special Needs bags ready. I didn’t need anything out of mine, so I didn’t stop.

When I started coming back west, our course came together with the bike course for the half-iron distance race. I was passing the people who were at the back of the pack on the half distance. We were all struggling into the wind, but I was passing them easily, and the rest of the pro field started to pass all of us. I thought I was taking it easy on the bike, but seeing my speed in comparison to the half participants, I thought maybe I should back off a little more. On the other hand, I really wanted to do a 6 hour-30 minute bike split. And it was going to be close. It wasn’t worth chasing that specific goal if it would cost me on the run, but I was still doing the math in my head to see if I could make it without pushing too hard.

I turned for the second loop, and saw Mark on the out-and-back section. He was just a few minutes in front of me.

I hit “my” aid station again. Same routine.

Then it was time for the tough part of the course again. It was worse this time, of course. It was a little windier and my legs were more tired and I was more worried about saving myself for the run. I got through that, but knew the way back up the lollipop stick, such as it was, was not going to be easy. Miles 90 to 100 were not too bad. There was a lot of tailwind on that part, but instead of going 21 or 22 mph or so, like I should be going in a tailwind, it was more like 19 or 20.

Miles 100 to 112 were brutal. It was mostly a headwind heading northwest. I passed Sawmill Creek Resort, my home base for my two training rides up here. I turned onto Cedar Point Road and just slogged along into the wind, along the rough road. Most of the people who had been standing outside their houses were gone now. It was already afternoon. There was no one behind me. There was no one really ahead of me, either, that I could see. After a few miles of this (being able to see the roller coasters and practically smell Transition, but still not being there) I was getting sick of it. I was putting my focus on the road conditions, as I had practiced. There were rumble strips and potholes and jagged lines in the asphalt. I caught up to another cyclist who was going really slow and realized with a sort of respectful horror that this lady was part of the HALF iron race, and she was still out here. So she was at more than seven hours, and she hadn’t started the run yet. I gave her a few words of encouragement, and pressed on. When I came into transition, I felt I had done a good job of eating and drinking on the bike, but my legs were a lot worse than I had hoped for. The bike took me 6 hours and 37 minutes. That was about 12 minutes more than I was shooting for. And I felt better after my 120-mile training ride in August than I did today. A lot better.


My flying dismount went fine, but my first few steps on the ground were not encouraging. My legs felt trashed. I handed off my bike to a volunteer (having a bike catcher made me feel like a rock star!!) and headed to my Bike-to-Run bag.

In the women’s changing tent, there were even fewer people. In fact, there was only one other racer in there. I had my own volunteer again, and we made conversation while I went through my checklist. She had some questions about triathlon, and I was handing off the items I was done with as we talked. Helmet and bandana off. Fresh coat of sunscreen. Exchange yellow jersey for my even brighter yellow shirt. Change socks. Running hat on. Drink water. Running shoes on. Thank volunteer. I stopped on my way out of the tent to stretch my hamstrings some.

I headed out of the tent, stopped at the bathroom, then saw the Race Director and went over to say hi. He called my name when he saw me, and gave me a high five. My legs were feeling a bit better by now, and I ran across the timing mat and out onto the run course.


The run is the most social part of the event. On the swim of course you can’t talk. On the bike, you can only talk for 15 seconds at a time, since being too close for more time than that is a rule violation for drafting. The run is the only time you can really get a break from your thoughts and just BS with people.

On the way out the causeway (the major road into Cedar Point, that leads to the main entry gate) I talked to a guy named Jim and a guy named J.R. I enjoyed the view of water on both sides of the road, and enjoyed the wind.

After four miles, we entered downtown Sandusky. The first section there was along the water, through some parks and past some fountains and a skate park. It was nice. People were talking, commenting on each other’s shirts, etc.

For the next few miles, we were weaving back and forth through some retail, some industrial and some residential areas. I met the owner of a Pickerington tattoo shop, and another guy with really big, curly blond hair who had barely trained for the race. The tattoo guy was doing a run/walk strategy and would walk for a certain amount of time at each mile marker. Since I was stopping at most of the aid stations to make sure I was getting what my body needed, we usually ended up running together for a few minutes each mile. After a while, I think he fell back, or he could have passed me while I was making a bathroom stop, and maybe I never caught up.

At Mile 10, things started getting difficult. This was past anything I had ever done before, and my body was letting me know. Mentally, I was starting to struggle, too. For one thing, we could see the mile markers for the second loop. So I would pass Mile 10, and then a minute later I would pass the sign for Mile 23, which did not apply to me, but taunted me.

On my way over the causeway bridge the second time, my mental plan called for picking up an imaginary friend – one of my training buddies who wasn’t really there. I picked up Hutch, and the idea was that I would picture myself running with him just like in training, and I would feel strong and pick up the pace. As it turned out, I ended up pleading with an imaginary Hutch to please stay with me even though I was slowing down. I was alternately trying to stay tough with good running form, and then lapsing into total begging for mercy. I walked some. It was rough. Fortunately no one was around to hear me arguing with someone who wasn’t there.

I knew I would see David and Madison and the kids at Mile 13 in the park, and I wanted to look strong, so I started running again. I was planning on taking a little time at the turnaround to get some sports drink, use the bathroom (again) and rummage through my special needs bag. I saw David and he took photos and told me the kids were up ahead. I could see them easily in their bright shirts that matched mine. Nora was excited and cheered for me and was yelling, “Go Mom! Go Mom!” Michael was complaining that the stuff I wrote on duct tape on his shirt was coming off and it wasn’t working. I thought that was funny because he said it as if I was going to stop and fix it. I smiled at them and at Madi, and headed deeper into the park. I passed the place where folks turn right to go down the finish chute.

Not me.
Not yet.

Matt Dixon from our training group would already be in there, for sure. He had passed me looking really strong on the run, finishing his second loop when I was finishing my first.

The aid station had neither sports drink nor port-a-potties, so that plan was sort of foiled.

I headed to Special Needs and they had my bag ready. I was looking forward to my Espresso beans, but they were melted into a puddle in the corner of a Ziplok. I ate some anyway. I was trying to decide whether to grab my longsleeve shirt, and asked the time of day. The volunteers said it was 5:50 p.m. and should be cooling off soon. I took the shirt. Stupidly, I did not take the Tums and I did not take the skin lubricant. They were small and would have fit into this little plastic bag I had pinned on my hat. But I did not take them. I was feeling bad now, and honestly I wasn’t even being very pleasant to the volunteers, which is horrible. My mental plan was to stay in the moment and not think about the rest of the marathon, but when you are steps from the Finish Line, it’s really difficult not to think about it. I walked out of Special Needs and David was there. I had hoped he wouldn’t see me walking, but there it was. He asked how I was doing, and I can’t remember if I was honest, or if I gave him a thumbs up and a smile. I started running again as I approached the kids, and gave them high fives. The energy from that lasted me until I got to the overflow parking lot, where I saw Margaret and Evan again. They were cheering like crazy, so I had to keep running. I could see up ahead that there was a turn behind the hill, and they wouldn’t be able to see me after that, so I decided I would keep running until then. After I was around the corner, I started walking. I saw Amy at some point in there, as she was finishing up her race. I saw Abbie, who was behind me, finishing her first loop. Then the joke was on me, because Margaret and Evan had gotten in their car and were heading out the main road, so they totally saw me walking anyway. But they cheered, all the same.

I had tied my longsleeve shirt around my neck so I’d have it when it got cold, but it was really annoying, swinging around like that. I decided I’d rather be hot than annoyed, so I stopped in the grass to put it on. I wanted my yellow shirt on the outside, so I took it off and put the longsleeve on first. Some of the cars leaving Cedar Point started hooting and hollering, and someone yelled, “Yeah! Take it OFF!” which I thought was pretty funny. I started feeling a little better, thinking how I did probably look pretty decent even after all this. I got my shirt situation settled, and headed across the bridge and back into Sandusky.

That’s when things really started to go bad.

At the first aid station after the bridge I hit the head again. I had been having intermittent stomach issues, and figured I would eventually have nothing left to give to the potty gods, but in fact it was not letting up. When I emerged, a race volunteer handed me a cup of water and a cup of grapes and said, “Well, it’s a nice evening to walk through Sandusky.” I furrowed my brow and said, “No, I’ll be RUNNING through Sandusky.”

Everytime I would pay my respects to the potty gods, I would emerge looking drained and haggard, and some nice volunteer would suggest pretzels or a banana or grapes. For some reason I kept taking them, and then about three minutes later when I would start to run, all that crap would start jostling around and send me into another round of stomach cramps, which would force me to walk, or stop at the next potty, or both. Why I didn’t recognize this vicious cycle at about Mile 5, I’ll never know. Even if I had, who knows if I could have done the whole marathon without any food? Maybe I could have. But it was getting pretty late in the day (sunset) to have only eaten a couple Clif bars and some sports drink.

At Mile 19, I decided I had just had enough of this. I was sick of it. I was sick of walking, sick of cramps, sick of still being in Sandusky.

A lady pulled up next to me in a car and said, “What’s going on down here tonight?” I said, “There’s a big triathlon today.” And she said, “Oh, that’s coming all the way over here from Cedar Point?” I looked at my Garmin and said, “Yeah, Mile 19 baby! That’s right!” She smiled and drove off, probably thinking I was nuts.

It was really getting dark now, both outside, and in my mind. I started shutting off the stimuli. I was moving along at a shuffle-run, now, and I determined that I was only stopping for emergencies and that was it. No more stupid walking. No more stupid checking out all the food at aid stations. No more eating. As it turned out, I really didn’t do anymore talking either.

Every once in a while, folks would cheer for me, and I would manage a little thumbs up. A Sandusky officer gave me an encouraging shout and asked which lap I was on. I held up two fingers, unable or unwilling to speak. He was happy. Maybe for me, and maybe for himself since he wouldn’t have to be out there longer if I had another loop left.

At the aid stations, if I heard someone shout “Water!” I would point at them, grab the cup, squeeze the top into a spout, and drink a couple gulps without stopping or speaking. I felt sad about not thanking the volunteers. They were having a long day, too.

I got a sharp, sharp pain in a tendon near my knee and instead of walking, I pressed on it for a second, and then started cursing at myself, saying I didn’t care about my F*ing knee and I wasn’t going to listen to any of this anymore. That’s the point when I think my mind really started to separate from my body.

There was still light in the sky, but the sun was definitely down now. It was hard to read the mile markers, and things were starting to get a bit sketchy in downtown Sandusky. I heard a lady on her front porch saying, “How far? No thank you. I don’t think I’d even make it to the bike part.” Then I heard a little kid say, “Well I would!” Kids are always so optimistic about their abilities. It reminded me of my kids. I thought about whether or not they would be at the finish line, or whether they would already be in bed.

At the next aid station, my mind could not convince my stomach to remain calm, and I was back in the bathroom. But I came out of there running, ignoring the water and food.

At the next mile, I finally relented and took a glow necklace offered by a volunteer. I had resisted the offer before, saying I was planning to finish before dark. The volunteers had smiled at each other, obviously able to do the math and knowing I was not going to have a daylight finish.

I still did not speak.

Thus began the final section back to the park from Sandusky.

It was really, truly dark now. I could see runners and walkers coming toward me, who were just a few miles into their second loop. I felt so sad seeing them. What a long battle they had ahead in the dark. But I couldn’t muster a word for them. Even when someone spoke to me, it was jarring and took me out of the virtual trance I was in.

Still clinging to my plan, which I was about an hour behind on, I allowed myself the final luxury of imaginary friends. At Mile 22, I decided I would pick up imaginary Nicole. I was straining and straining to see that mile marker, to get there. She was cheerful as always, talking a lot. Mostly I was ignoring her, which is pretty funny because she wasn’t even really there. I couldn’t even keep up my end of a conversation in my head.

At Mile 23, imaginary Doc was waiting. I saw him waiting up there ahead, next to the mile marker. Thank goodness I finally made it there, so he and Nicole could talk to each other and leave me alone, right? It was comforting, though, conjuring memories of training swims and rides together. Hearing familiar voices.

In real life, I was actually passing a few people, because most of the folks still out on the course had been reduced to a walk, and I was managing a modest run, not even slowing at the aid stations. I wanted to feel happy about it, but I just felt sad for the people I was passing.

At Mile 24, we picked up imaginary Hutch. That livened things up considerably in imaginary world. We all talked about the drinking and cigar smoking we would do when this was over. Cars coming out of the park seemed to be about half made up of racers or race spectators. My yellow shirt was REALLY REALLY bright, so they could see me. There was horn honking and cheering, and I really wanted to smile, but I was almost catatonic, so narrow was my focus on continuing to run.

At Mile 25, I let my imaginary friends go, and thought the nearness of the park would pull me the rest of the way in. To my surprise, I had to slow to a walk again for a minute. There couldn’t possibly have been anything left in my stomach, yet the cramps persisted. I found my way in the dark to the last of the race bathrooms and then re-emerged. I was greeted by the grim sight of a steady line of people headed west, just beginning their second loop. I wanted to cheer for them. I wanted to cry for them. They were so brave, heading out of that bright park into the darkness. But I was silent. Every ounce of me was focused only on moving forward.

At the overflow lot, where Margaret and Evan had been sitting before, I guess hours ago now, there was a racer heading out, accompanied by two friends who seemed to have already finished. I was almost mad at them, because pacing someone is against the rules. But then I heard the one woman shouting at the racer, “Come ON. Dammit! You have to quit quitting! You cannot quit! Just keep going!” And my heart ached for her. How could she start out again, heading away from the very place she wanted to be? But her other choice was to waste a whole day of pushing herself, maybe a whole summer of training, maybe a whole year.

And I thought about my summer. My whole summer. Now the leaves were crunching on the ground and all of those hours and all of that sweat was all for this moment. But I still had running to do.

I came into the main parking lot and past the RV. It was dark, which meant either the kids were asleep, or they were at the finish line.

At Mile 26, I heard a voice behind me reading my Tshirt. “Team Hohl. Is that Alice?”
“Yeah, who’s that?”
I turned my head and saw Bob sailing up behind me from the left in his racing chair.
They were the first words I had uttered in more than an hour.

It was good to break the silence, and the trance, because although Bob was heading around the Special Needs building for a second lap, I was heading to the finish. Now all of a sudden there wasn’t enough time to take it all in. I was swinging my head from side to side, staring hard at people who were standing along the finish chute, trying to make out faces.

I turned a corner and the bright lights were in my face.

I scanned the left side of the finish chute and saw a familiar face.
“Alice! Way to go!”
It was Eric, the race director. I veered off to the left and gave him a high five. Actually, I kind of missed, but I smiled a real smile – not the forced grimace-smile I had been putting on for the volunteers —for the first time in a long time.

I saw spaces where kids would run out and cross the line with their parents, but mine were not there. I realized it was probably past 9 p.m. by now, and if Michael had been grumpy about his shirt at 6 p.m., he surely couldn’t still be awake now.

A picture of me went up on the Jumbotron, and the announcer called out my name and congratulated me on finishing. David was there as I was running under the big sign with the time clock, and I was so relieved and happy to see him.
They held up the finish line tape for me to “break” and I ran through. Then I heard the announcer say that it was my 34th birthday, and he started singing a little.
David caught me and pointed out some more friends who were waiting on the sides. Tom from BT was there, and I’m sure he wasn’t waiting there just for me, but in that moment I believed he was. I thanked him. And next to him was another friend from BT whose screen name is SushiGirl. She congratulated me, too.

By then, someone from the race staff was coming over, and David asked if I wanted to sit down. I wasn’t sure, because my legs were still sort of moving automatically. But as we neared the folding chairs, they started looking really good. I sat down and everything kind of shut off again. David asked how I was, and a volunteer asked how I was. I didn’t say anything. They pressed me on the question, so I closed my eyes, as if to make my point that I wasn’t planning to answer. The subjective questions were too hard. How was I. How was I? How do I answer?

A more concrete question was posed: “How about we take you to the Medical Tent?” That was easy to answer. I nodded and let them put me in a wheelchair. Then it was onto the scale to be weighed again.
“How much did you weigh this morning?”
“What’s your race number?”
“What’s your name?”
“Alice Hohl. H.O.H.L.”
These were easy.

It appeared from the scale that I only lost one pound all day. How this was possible, with the stomach issues I had, I can’t fathom. Nonetheless, getting an IV was off the table, which was fine with me.
My blood pressure was low, 90 over 76 or something, but nothing panic-inducing.
My eyes stayed closed now.
The medical director came by again. I recognized his voice. He was talking near me, and I wanted to respond, but all I could come up with was, “Today is my birthday.”
He said his was the day before. My eyes flashed open. Poor guy. He returned my gaze, knowing what I was thinking about the 9/11 birthday. “Well, someone has to be born on that day,” I offered. He agreed.

David stayed with me and helped me fend off the offers of drink and chicken broth, the thought of which made my stomach hurt something fierce. After a while, things got better. After 30 minutes, Abbie came in, with Amy. Abbie had a bad blister she wanted them to look at, but seemed otherwise OK. The banter between the three of them pulled me out of my fog. I decided to sit up and try some broth after all.

After 40 minutes, David mentioned that the beds were starting to fill up with people who had been out there a good deal longer than me. I knew it would only get worse, so I stood up and trudged with tiny, creaky footsteps out of the tent and over to the food, which still did not sound good. We stopped at the bathroom, and then sat down next to a guy who looked really lonely, and started talking to him. He was friendly, and we had a good chat. I ate some chips and a cookie and even tried some sandwich.

We headed toward the RV, passing by the finish line on the way. As we neared the bright lights, you’ll never believe what song was coming on from the speakers. Eye of the Tiger. Yep. I got a huge smile on my face and asked David to take a video of the finish line with the song playing in it. The video ended up being of me, singing and dancing like a fool. I felt pretty marvelous after that. We started past the chute, but when I looked up at the screen, Bob’s picture was up there. I looked at David and he said it looked like he had just come through. I shouted after him, and David gave chase, but Bob’s support crew said they were hustling him to medical. Later he told me he heard me shouting, but wasn’t feeling well enough to stop.

So that’s the end. I’ll spare you details of my post-race shower. I slept like a log. I’m still in kind of a weird place mentally.
Maybe it will last.

I couldn't have done anything better, I don't think. A couple little things, but nothing big.

I asked Nora (5) for any advice she had the day before the race. She wisely said, "Do your best."
I think I did.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

First Rev3 Full Iron – Abridged

Well, I did it!
The swim was great.
The bike was windy and it took a lot out of me.
The run, instead of being my best marathon ever, was my worst marathon ever. Largely due to stomach cramping and a bit of lost focus around Mile 13. Things started to come around at Mile 19, and I finished it up at a slow run.
The finish was great: Lights, a big screen with my picture, the announcer calling out my name and saying that it was my birthday! It was dark and the kids were in bed already, but David was there, plus some tri friends who stuck around after they were done.
My total time was 13 hours and 32 minutes. So, better than my 14 hour goal, and not quite the 12:22 I thought maybe I was capable of.
I learned a lot about myself, particularly on the run. And I saw a lot of courageous people out there. When I was coming in the last couple miles to the finish, feeling like I was using every last ounce of energy in my body and all the effort my mind could muster, there were people just heading out for their second loop, who had 13 more miles to finish.
That’s guts.

(Full Race Report coming soon!)

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Waiting. Ready.

My taper week is going pretty great now.

This morning I had a sports massage, which was really nice. Last time I had one, I found I was somewhat sluggish for a day or two afterward, so I wanted to make sure I didn't do the second one too close to race day.

Later, after the kids were up, we went to the Gahanna YMCA and I had a good swim.
Being off work this week is giving me time to think. It also means I had the chance to take Nora to afternoon kindergarten today, which was a first for me.

Saturday night and Sunday night we camped out in the backyard in a tent, which was awesome. Monday morning, Doc came by to run with me, which was terrific. We did an hour on the bike path at a 9 min/mile pace.

The leaves are starting to turn already. It's hard to believe a whole summer has gone.

I've been visualizing my race and making notes about transition.

Last night I spent an hour cleaning every last bug off the bike and trying to smooth out any rough spots from my crash. I remember reading some short story in high school literature class about a sailboat race. The narrator didn't have the fastest boat or the best skills, but he spent hours cleaning all the barnacles off the bottom of the boat, and ended up winning. That's what I was thinking about when I was detailing the bike. Not about winning, of course, but about the impact of proper preparation.

My race wheels are on the bike, and I have one more ride tomorrow to make sure everything is in top shape, and that I didn't screw anything up by taking the bike apart and cleaning it.

I feel like a lioness up on high ground. Waiting. Ready.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Holy cow, this is actually FUN!

The past weeks have been pretty hard work, and I may have lost sight of how much fun this sport is.
Today was a "brick" workout (meaning two or more sports back-to-back) and I planned to do the workout with my training buddy Mark, who is also doing the full iron distance on the 12th.

For the last few weeks, workouts have been mostly very long, mostly hot, and mostly alone.

Last night, the temperature dropped 20 degrees or more. I awoke to a cool, strong wind.

At 6:30, Mark and I were both at Alum Creek beach, along with someone I was meeting for the first time, Bob Molsberry, who will be competing at Rev3 using a handcycle and a racing wheelchair. Watching this guy drag himself across the sand to swim with us was a good reminder of the ability we all have within to cope with adversity.

We swam for an hour and 15 minutes, and it was my first time in a wetsuit since the spring. It felt pretty good, and also served to remind me exactly which spots on the back of my neck I need to hit with skin lubricant to avoid ugly red stripes of chafing.

Bob headed home to ride his usual route, and Mark and I headed out on our bikes from the beach. It was cool, and with yesterday's rest day under my belt, I felt very strong. I was grateful for the wind, which would prepare me for next weekend. The plan was to do the first half easy and the second half harder. That was easy, since we had a tailwind for most of the first half. Coming back into the wind, I was surprised I was able to hold a pace of 17mph straight into a headwind. I think Mark and I both wanted to prove ourselves against the wind, because we were both restless and kept switching places to be in the front.

The last 5 to 10 minutes of the two hour ride was a climb up the levee at Alum Creek, from the bottom of the dam to the top, and back to the beach. It's about a half mile or 3/4 mile of climbing. It's not the steepest hill, but it is a hill that doesn't let up. When you start to near the top, the wind comes blowing over the crest of it into your face. I've ridden that hill a lot over the past three years. Today I was feeling great, and as I headed into it, I thought, "Bring it on!" I went as hard as I could to the base of it, then switched to the small chainring and kept pedaling on up. I was pushing as hard as I could while still staying in the aero position, because the wind was already starting to reach me and I thought sitting up would really slow me down. I made it to the top and felt great about it. We coasted into the beach and back to the cars to switch to running gear.

Now I may be comparable to Mark at swimming and cycling, but the man is an absolute machine when it comes to running.

So I walked up to him and asked if we should just dispense with the idea of running "together" since he is so much faster. As it turned out, he was trying to discipline himself to slow down his pace for this event, plus he didn't know the turns on the run course. So I figured I would do my best to keep up with him.

We ended up running for an hour at a pace that is normal for him and blisteringly fast for me. At one point we were running an 8:15 min/mile pace going uphill. Our overall average for the hour was 8:35 min/mile. When we were done, I was glad to stop running, but I felt AMAZING. Best of all, my data showed my heartrate had never really gotten out of control. We were talking most of the time, so it seems possible that I was at a normal heartrate and somehow just running really fast.
A guy parked across from me was finishing his run, and he is training for the half-Rev3, so we chatted a bit. I headed home, and for the first time in recent memory, arrived at the house not feeling completely wiped out.

I feel like a million bucks. I guess that's what rest will do for a person. And it was FUN!

I like going fast.
I miss going fast.
I am reminding myself not to go fast in the race until mile 20 of the marathon, should I happen to have something left at that point.

I am pumped up!


SWIM: 1h 15m (Est:) 4000.00 yards
1h 59m 20s 35.88 miles 18.04 Mi/hr
Avg HR: 104
Max HR: 167

1h 00m 02s 6.99 miles 08m 35s/Mi
Avg HR: 147
Max HR: 168

Friday, September 03, 2010

Taper Madness

Now is the time when the workouts get much shorter, I encounter the word "OFF" in my training schedule, and my mind is left to its own devices.

You would think that the hours of swimming, biking and running would leave me plenty of time to work through any anxiety and emotions surrounding this event. As it turns out, my mind is a different beast when my legs aren't moving. Without a few hours a day of burning off nervous energy, I am beset by what ironman veterans call "taper madness."

This is the time before the race when you are supposed to limit workout time, and consequently your stress level goes up, right when you are freaking out anyway.

This isn't a completely new experience to me. The closest thing I can compare it to is pregnancy. It, too, was a very stressful time of waiting, and all my methods of coping with stress (running hard, having a drink) were closed to me. Same thing here. The moodiness is similar, too, to be honest. The main difference is people are really understanding when you're pregnant. When you're training for a triathlon like this, mostly people are just sick of hearing about it.

Next Monday is Labor Day, and then I am taking the rest of the week off work. I wouldn't be able to concentrate too well, anyway, I fear. I have a few projects on my list, but mostly I just want to clear my head, double-check my lists, and walk through every step in my mind.

I like having pictures in my blog here. This one refers to tapering for a marathon, but it's the same thing, so I'm using it anyway. It makes me laugh.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Quick knee update: Includes joke by my doctor

(By quick, of course, I mean less than 2,000 words. Dennis, you know what I'm talking about.)

So 19 days ago I had a bike crash. Most of the wounds were superficial. Unfortunately the front wheel caught the grass and the bars flipped over and the back edge of the aero bars slammed into my knee. It took me a while to figure out why my knee was swollen and wouldn't bend right. Initially I thought it just hit against the ground. My doctor friend who was with me on the ride drained the inside of the knee that afternoon to help me get back to training faster, but it didn't help a lot. I quit running for a week, missed my second 3-hour run, missed a brick and a big ride, etc.

I finally figured out it was a blunt trauma to the kneecap, and that most of the damage and inflammation was in front of the kneecap. I did everything I could to get as much mobility back in it, walking the stairs at work every hour, etc. I started running again after nine days. I'm back up to 90 minutes of running, and have no pain when running, as long as I am warmed up from another workout first.

So yesterday I finally went to my regular doctor - my first time seeing someone other than my friend since it happened. He's a nice guy, if you are looking for a general practitioner on the north side of Columbus. I think he bears a slight resemblance to William H. Macy. (See photo at right.) No?

He says, "So what happened exactly?" (He knows about my training.)
I say, "Well, I was out riding with a doctor and an engineer..."
Doctor interrupts: "Well, that was your first mistake!"


Anyway, I told him it wasn't interfering with my training anymore, and I had good mobility in the joint, but there was this blob on my kneecap that wasn't going away, and it hurt like heck when I bumped it on anything, or when my kids knocked into me, or anything like that.

So he drained the blob, and it was gross, and I rescheduled the run I was planning to do after the doctor's appointment.

It feels a little weird right now, but I think it will ultimately get back to normal faster, and I won't have to worry about protecting it from getting kicked during the mass start on the swim.

He said I could let it go down on its own, but it would take a long time, and the body would basically reabsorb it one cell at a time. My knee is now nearly the same shape it used to be, but I can still feel some stuff/weirdness outside the kneecap.

Eleven days 'til race day!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Reality check weekend

I'll admit I underestimated this weekend's workout schedule.
We all spent the weekend at Indian Lake, where Mom and Dad were hosting a family reunion for Mom's side of the family.

Saturday I had a one-hour ride. I forgot to look up the purpose of this ride, so I headed out with my brother (see photo) and we rode it mostly easy with a few sections really pushing it. Then the party started, and I proceeded to eat a lot of stuff I don't normally eat. I'm talking about filling up a plate at the dessert table, and then going back for seconds -- of dessert.

Sunday was scheduled to be a big day, and luckily for me I didn't add up the total hours of straight exercise before it began. It ended up being almost eight hours in motion, counting the transitions and a water stop.
I decided in advance that I would move the whole three-sport workout block a bit later in the day, so that I could put myself through some heat, and also experience beginning my run in the late afternoon, as I will on race day. Normally my bikes and runs start at 6:30 a.m., so I haven't really gotten a lot of practice being out in the heat of the day, all day.

So I woke up Sunday, went to church with Mom and Dad, came home and ate breakfast. Before I actually sat down to eat, I went to pump up my tires and broke off part of the valve stem. That meant I needed to change the tube before starting my workout day. And it meant riding from Indian Lake to Columbus with no spare tube. I decided to eat breakfast first, then do a timed tire change to see how fast I am (while digesting my breakfast) and then head out for the swim.

It took me 12 minutes to change the tube, and that is with my easy wheels and my easy tires. Should I get a flat with my race wheels, it will take longer. But I'm not going to get a flat. No I am not. If I do, I will change it quickly and efficiently and get back on the road.

My brother was nice enough to offer to be my kayak escort for my 90-minute swim. Because it was a little later in the morning, and the air was warming up quickly compared to the water, we had some wind and a bit of chop.
Just what I was hoping for.

I haven't had many open water swims this year where I really had to battle waves, and I want to be ready for Lake Erie. (The photo on the right is from the morning before, when the water was much calmer.)

I did one lap around Tecumseh Island and Minnewauken Island together, and that put us at 50 minutes. One more lap around Tecumseh alone got me to 88 minutes and some seconds. Good enough for me. One family out in their lawn chairs did notice that Jim and I had come around twice and were asking Jim some questions. When I was breathing to his side, I saw him motioning and talking and popped up, in case he was talking to me. That's when I realized he was talking to the family, and they asked what I was training for. I told them and they wished me luck, which was cool.
Google Maps shows the distance I swam to be about 2.5 miles. So that's nice, but I was hoping for a better time. I did swim it with no wetsuit, so I'll be faster than that on race day, if conditions are similar. (My wetsuit is in San Francisco! Training buddy Nicole swam from Alcatraz wearing it!)

I climbed out of the water and went around the front of the house to my bike. I stopped inside the back door for my bottles of drink, my jersey, my heartrate monitor, and other odds and ends. My Clif bars, directions and notes written on index cards for all the major turns were already packed on the bike.

I said goodbye to everyone and set off. It was cool at first, since I was wet from the swim.

That didn't last long.

After an hour, all my cold drinks were warm, if not hot. But I was making good progress and having no problems with the navigation. No wrong turns. I stopped at the 35-mile mark in Raymond, Ohio, at the gas station and IGA that I passed up when I did the ride going the other direction several weeks ago. (See the first post on my training, back in June, entitled "UGH," which refers to that ride as my "worst ride ever.") I bought three 20-bottles of cold water, mixed up two fresh bottles of sports drink, poured my warm bottle of water on my head, and replaced it with cold.

One hour later, one bottle of sports drink was consumed and the other was disgustingly hot. Hot like a bottle of water you left in the car on a summer day, and reached for and took a sip before being unpleasantly reminded of just how hot it was in the car before you turned on the AC. The bottle of plain water was in my back center jersey pocket, and kind of a pain to remove and replace. Even though hot water sounded better than hot sports drink, I didn't bother to get it out. I kept trying to force myself to drink the hot sports drink, knowing I had a long run coming up. I made it through Marysville, and told myself I HAD to finish my second Clif bar before turning off Industrial Parkway to head into Dublin. I did manage that, but it was tough.

Once in Dublin, I really quit drinking anything. I still had an hour of riding, but it was in heavy traffic. That's really just an excuse, though. Actually I just couldn't bring myself to drink stuff that tasted hotter than my mouth and stomach. I took a salt tablet to make myself thirsty, and it did make me thirsty but I could still hardly choke anything down.

I did a good job of staying mentally alert, because the riding was difficult in the last hour. In the city, you have to watch for turning cars, people coming up beside you, broken glass in the road, debris, potholes, traffic lights, etc. It really makes you appreciate the cows and the cornfields!

I found a bit of a back route home, since my house is essentially off a freeway, and it really isn't safe to ride the last mile or so on the road that is most obvious. I ended up on the bike path for the last mile, and saw a nice family out for a ride with their daughter. I headed up the hill to the house, and as I was turning onto the court, David and the kids were heading out on a bike ride. (They had driven home from the lake in the car, of course.) They turned around and helped me get ready to run. I finished the bike in four hours and 23 minutes, about 45 minutes faster than the last time I did that ride in June. I am not counting in there the time I spent during the June ride lying in the grass near tears because of how terrible it was going. (My bike speedometer automatically stops the timer when the bike isn't moving.)

It was a pretty quick transition. I ran into the house to use the bathroom, but I was pretty speedy switching shoes, grabbing my Camelbak filled with water, and emptying my pockets of maps and water bottles. David said I stank. He usually doesn't comment, so I must have been pretty smelly. Later I figured out that I had some lake scum stuck in my top all day long from the swim. Nice.

When I started down the street, I felt like I was really plodding along. I didn't feel nice and quick like I felt off the bike last weekend after 120 miles. Today I had only done 71 miles, but it was about 10-15 degrees hotter. It seems like that makes all the difference. Still, when I looked at my watch, I was running my normal 9:30/mile pace. So that was comforting. I went down to the path and really had to battle some mental demons to avoid a walk break. I still felt very, very hot. I decided once I passed a certain landmark after a couple miles, I would give myself a reward. The bike path runs along a large creek (or small river). So I let myself go down to the edge and get some cool water on my skin. I washed it over my arms and legs, and that felt pretty good, but I was still hot. I scooped up water from the creek and threw it onto my shorts and shirt, and dipped my hat in it, too. That made a big difference. When I climbed back onto the path and started running again, I finally felt cool.

Until everything dried, about 15 minutes later.

The family I had seen when I was biking passed by again, going north.

I was still running the same pace, but feeling terrible. I had gone about 3.5 miles, and I felt like I was at mile 17 of the marathon. Not good. I told myself I could run as slow as I wanted, as long as I didn't walk. I was able to slow it down to about 10:15/mile, and that helped bring my heart rate down, as well. (Last week, I finally managed to get to the battery store and replace the battery in my heart rate monitor, which has been dead for two months.)

For a 90-minute run, the normal obvious time to turn around is 45 minutes. But this was a mental battle as well. I ran the first two or three miles at a faster pace, and I figured I wasn't going to suddenly speed up. So maybe I should turn around at 40 minutes. No, no. Then I would just be setting myself up to walk. I better turn around at 45 minutes, and if I'm not home after 90 minutes, that's my punishment for slowing down. Yes, but it's really hot and I feel terrible. OK, how about turning around at 44 minutes? I don't know. 42 seems like a good number. (Cue Eye of the Tiger lyrics in my head.)

This back-and-forth went on for a couple minutes. Sadly, I didn't recognize it and get it under control. But I did settle on 43 minutes. At 43 minutes, I gave myself another "creek bath" and turned around. The way back was not great, but at least I was heading home. I saw the same family AGAIN and stopped for a second to talk. They were out exploring, and they commented on my Camelbak. I complimented them on riding for such a long time, and went on my way. I looked at the mileage and imagined where I would be on the Ironman course. That was cool, until I realized I would only be in downtown Sandusky the FIRST TIME, and would still have to run the Causeway, see the finish, turn around, and go out again. Then it started to hit me how incredible hard this thing is going to be. It's going to take everything I have.

I reached my court at 88 minutes. I did not turn in. I ran another minute and a half down the street, bypassing my court. I turned around late to make sure I would have 90 minutes in before I reached home.

I did it.

I felt really terrible afterward, but my recovery (overall) from this workout has not been bad at all. Sunday night I couldn't eat a whole lot, and once I showered I just wanted to lie down. We had family dinner and I got the kids ready for bed and tucked in, and that was about all I had in me. I declared Monday a rest day from working out.

I expected to feel awful at work Monday, but in fact I felt pretty good. I would say this is the best my knee has felt since the crash. Walking down the stairs was very difficult Sunday night, but hardly noticeable Monday morning.

I guess that means I have a little more in me than that.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A return to the scene of the crash

Please forgive me for not having the presence of mind to take a photo of the spot where it happened.

My riding buddy Nicole and I did a very conservative ride today. She has a race Sunday and I am ... well, let's face it, I've been scared to get back on that bike trail. Sure, I had some meetings and conflicts, but mostly I was scared.

The weather and road conditions were perfect today, and we started later -- at 6:30 a.m. -- when the sun was really and truly [almost] up. There was another group going out at 6:15 to do the whole trail, but we stuck to our guns and decided to just make it a twosome.

The plan was to ride for 30 minutes and turn around and go back. Nicole needed to be at work at a certain time, and wanted time to get to the club and shower first. Right at 30 minutes we stopped, and I mentioned that I had been hoping to make it to the spot where I crashed. Nicole said, "Well then let's do it! Keep going!"

As it turned out, the crash scene was just around the next bend. We went past it, turned around, and came back through in the same direction I was going when it happened.

Being there helped me see what I did wrong.

Most of the bike trail is visually very skinny. The trees close in on the sides of the path, with just a few clearings. At this point in the trail, though, there is 30 or 40 feet of mowed grass on each side, and you can see all the way through the turn, even though it is a sharp one. That visual openness caused me to think the turn was not as sharp as it really was. It made me mentally take a break from paying attention to my cornering.

So ...
Another demon has been dispatched.

Time to move on.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The End Is Near

I feel like I can see the crazy old man standing on the street corner with the sign.
Especially this morning, when I had to get up at 4:30 a.m., and despite that, still didn't get my complete workouts in.

I feel like everything is apocalyptic and of paramount importance; while simultaneously feeling like my training is really done now, and it probably wouldn't hurt anything to eat junk food and have a beer. It's a very strange place to be, mentally. I'm starting to lose my resolve with diet and workouts, but then I sit around going over my list of things to pack for my race for the 18th time.

Here is an even more insane example: Although I do not seem to have time to mow the lawn, I have made it a priority to memorize all the lyrics to Eye of the Tiger, so that I don't end up with the same two lines running through my head for 14 hours during the race.

Really, people. Maybe I am the crazy old coot on the corner with the sign.

OK, so here was my morning:
4:30 a.m. [alarm]
4:50 a.m. leave the house. Turn on Eye of the Tiger in the truck. Make sure I am anticipating all the lyrics. (Go ahead, laugh.)
5:10 a.m. Arrive at office to pick up my Road ID and my Garmin 305, which I want to have for my run, but carelessly left at work yesterday.
5:25 a.m. Arrive at Ward YMCA, east of downtown. Park. Stretch.
5:30 a.m. Run for one hour, mostly in Bexley. Manage to avoid getting lost.
6:30 a.m. Arrive back at the Ward YMCA with plans to swim for 75 minutes.
6:31 a.m. Notice the sign on the door stating the pool is closed this week for maintenance.
6:45 a.m. Arrive at downtown YMCA
6:46 a.m. Pay $6 to park (!?*&%$*?!)
6:50 a.m. Change into swimsuit and shower
7 a.m. Begin swimming in pool that is only 20 yards long instead of 25 yards long.
7:20 a.m. Check the clock. Hmm. Not done yet.
7:25 a.m. Check the clock again. Dang.
7:30 a.m. Get out and get a kick board and get back in.
7:40 a.m. Give up on annoying short pool and get in whirlpool for 5 minutes
7:45 a.m. Shower and get ready for work.

So I only really swam 40 minutes instead of 75. Partly I had to finish up early because of all the time wasted driving and parking. Partly I lost my resolve.

I think I am starting to miss working out with other people.

Knee update: I shouldn't have sat around all day Monday. It really stiffened up without a workout that day, even though it was an intentional day off. Tuesday's bike ride was OK. Today's run was not great. I had a lot of pain and stiffness, but this was my longest run since the crash, and the first time I tried running first thing in the morning, instead of after a swim or bike session.