Sunday, July 31, 2011

From a near DNF to first in AG...what a day.

What a lesson I learned on Saturday. Holy Doodly!

Saturday was the long course (1/2 IM distance) race in Bozeman, MT. I was attracted to this course for a number of reasons:
  • It is hilly. Very effing hilly. The bike portion and the run portion. Great training for IMC!
  • Did I mention that the run course was hilly. HILLY. As in, when I returned to the hotel room after driving the course the evening before the race, my eyes were as big as saucers and my Dad asked me, "What's wrong?"
  • It was going to HOT. As in plus 30 degrees Celsius. Again, perfect for IMC.
Here's how it all went down...

Swim: 35:14 , T1: 1:08
First woman out of the water! Can you believe it? I was in T1 and grabbing my bike about to head out when I heard the announcer say, "And here comes the first woman out of the and so." I was like, "Wait a second. What am I? Chopped liver?" LOL -- I headed out and found afterwards from my Dad that he went over and corrected the announcer. Hahaha! Gotta love parents eh?

Anyways, the swim was my fastest yet -- and it included three loops of the little lake. Getting out and running along the beach for each lap. I caught excellent drafts I think from the same two guys every single lap. Hahahahah!! Thanks gentlemen! AWESOME STUFF!

Bike: 3:17:59, T2: 1:20
Hilly beyond belief -- to give you an idea of how hilly this bike course was, my time at Stony Plain was 2:31...the guy who WON the entire race did the ride 5 minutes slower than that time. In 2:36. This course is no joke. They said it was "Montana Made" and they were not kidding.

Things were really going well -- I felt solid and strong until the last 10 miles of the bike. My belly started to hurt. Gas cramps. I had to sit up and try to burp. Nothing worked. I would pound my chest, trying to burp, but the pain kept increasing. I had a very difficult time staying in aero as the pain intensified.

Run....dum, dum, DUM, DUM!!! Must read to find out whole story!! MUAHAHAHAH!
As soon as I dismounted my bike something was horribly wrong with my insides. I couldn't run my bike into transition -- I could barely walk. The pain was brutal. Knifing. Splintering. I was grimacing and moaning involuntarily. It was terrible. It hurt so much to rack my bike and then bend over to put my running shoes on.

My Dad told me that I was the first female in -- that the other woman who had beat me in was on a relay, but looking at the results, I think there was another woman ahead of me but whoopty-do this didn't mean anything to me. In fact, I don't want to hear how many minutes someone is ahead of me or I'm ahead of -- I don't like it. It makes me take the focus of myself and race out of fear rather than love. You know what I mean? Perhaps one day, I will be a mature enough athlete to handle that kind of info, but right now I find it more beneficial to just tune it out and ignore it -- pretend the person is speaking a foreign language I cannot understand.
(Yes I could have simply said, pretend it is Greek to me, but I suffer from major cliche overuse and am trying to better myself people!! LOL!)

You may be asking yourself, if you felt that bad, why on earth did you put your running shoes on?

Well, I knew it was extremely bad gas cramps -- I've never had them this bad IN MY LIFE, but I just knew that was what it was. I thought, hey, I'll walk and maybe it will sort itself out. Because in iron distance races, things have a funny way of sorting themselves out IF you give them a chance. I gamely tried some kind of jog but from the very first up and down motion, the pain knifed me throughout my right side and literally took my breath away. I couldn't smile, I couldn't talk, I was fricking MOANING. And walking really, really slowly. Eventually, other people finished the bike portion and started running by me.

Most asked if I was OK -- I couldn't even respond at first. Talking hurt my belly. Moving hurt my belly, simply BEING hurt my belly. Some athletes tried to offer advice -- breathe through your nose, exhale through your mouth, whatever. Nothing worked. I was 1/4 of the way around the lake and tried to squat -- I was trying anything. The pain ratcheted up even higher to 9.999999 out of 10. If it got to 10 I think I would have passed out.

I continued moving forward very, very slowly. I clutched at my side, stopping every once in a while. Finally, I made it to the first aid station....I was in so much pain by this point that I said to the guy manning the aid station (with his wife or girl friend) "I'm going to call it a day -- I am in so much pain, I can't even walk."

He never said a word, but grabbed a chair and put it in the shade underneath a tree, set me down on it, and put a cold towel around my neck. He then gave me cup after cup of Heed and water. I couldn't even sit properly on the chair, I hurt so much. My belly was bloated out like I was pregnant and I had to sit on the very edge of the chair and then arch my back to get some modicum of relief.

I kept pounding my chest and burped a little bit now and again, but the pain was relentless.

The worst part was I could see my Dad looking frantically for me....he saw me come into T2 and knew I had to run around the lake and then run right by him to exit the rest of the run course. And I hadn't run by him yet. And the lake was very, very, very small....

A really nice man named Terry came by and asked me if I had done anything new nutrition-wise. I thought it was the super-concentrated solution of Nuun I had, but I had taken a lot of water with it, so I was mystified. Little did I know that ALL of my gas and bloating in ALL my other races stemmed from Nuun. (More on this later...) I always suffered through the pain because I thought it was normal. But on Saturday, the pain would not be relieved. It would not be ignored.

I told the aid station volunteers that all I needed was a good BAROOF and I would be golden. They never said anything. LOL -- I'm not sure if they didn't know what I meant, or even worse, were so alarmed at the possibility of me BAROOFING all over the place that they didn't want to be near it. LOL. Either way, as anyone who knows me will attest, when I think I've said something funny, I'll repeat at least twice to get maximum hilarity out of it. Ummm...yup. You guessed it. The crickets chirped. Every single time.

Minutes passed, and more and more and more people ran by me as I sat on the chair at the aid station. I had a brief moment where my voice clogged with emotion and I almost cried. Intuitively, I told myself, "No, Julie. You've been down that road before." Meaning last year in North Carolina....It was weird, as soon as I said that to myself, the change in my brain was instant: I became emotionally detached from the race and was able to think objectively. If my situation meant I would have to DNF, then so be it. After drinking more and more water and Heed, I was able to stand up and yell to my Dad who came over hurriedly.

I had improved sufficiently to talk and to actually stand I explained what was going on to him. My poor Dad was so worried -- he wanted me to call it a day. He said many of the same things that had rushed through my head in that brief moment when I was about to cry in self-pity: "too much time has passed in the race don't need to hurt's getting late, there is no point in pushing need to stop."

Now to be fair all of these thoughts and concerns were coming from two very different places. From me, it was springing from negativity, from fear, from self-doubt. From my Dad, it was from love and true concern. However, I KNOW my body. And as I stood there talking with my Dad, I started to burp a little more. Then I said, "I'm going to walk around this tree and see if I can move."

I could.

Then, I said, "I'm going to try jogging around this tree."

I couldn't.

The pain was still there, but the intensity had gone down a notch. Hmmmmmm. I started vocalizing this to my Dad. He was still worried about me. And I had an honest *out* for this race. If I was going to DNF, I had my Dad as proof, I had an excuse. But there was the faintest glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel...

Like I told my Dad, I was in too much pain to move, so instead of handing my chip in, I might as well sit at the aid station and see what happened. Maybe I would feel better and then go home. Maybe, just maybe I might feel better and be able to run!

More time passed. And more runners. I had tuned them out though and was focusing on myself only. I was aware of the racers, but there was no emotional response from me. Gradually I started to feel better...I did a little jog around the tree!! OH MY GAWD! There was pain, but it was.....dare I say it....dare I even think it...manageable?

I started to do little test jogs up and down the path. I told my Dad, "I'm going to jog to the porta potties and see how I feel." As I ran to the porta-potties, a race official yelled, "You're going the wrong way!" I replied, "I might be turning in my chip! I'm going to use the washroom and see how I feel."

And no. No BAROOF happened. In fact nothing of significance happened in the loo. I jogged back to my Dad and then commented -- my legs feel fresh. I think I might run! He looked doubtful but held his tongue.

I started jogging back and forth along the path again. I said to my Dad, "You know, I can use this as an awesome training day for Ironman Canada. I could just do the run as a training run and see how it goes. I'll go to the next aid station and see."

Again the doubtful look, but he relented and said, "You don't want to get stuck way out there and start suffering." I said, "I know, I know, I'll be smart."

I started jogging back and forth again. The aid station guy said, "If you decide to go on, let me know ok?" And I said, "Ok!" I looked at my watch, and it said 11:55am. So, doing the math, the race started 5 minutes late (at 7:05am) due to the dunderheads who wouldn't stop *warming up.* That makes it 11:00:41 when I got through T2. So....54:19 passed as I sat around and tried standing, then jogging back and forth. I thought to myself, "Well it is only noon! I could run for 2 hours and have a good training day and be done by 2:00pm. The course doesn't close until 5:30pm"

I jogged back down the path and as I came back towards my Dad and the aid station guy, I impulsively said, "I'm going!" and kept on trucking! I didn't give anyone a chance to say anything. LOL! The other volunteer directing us runners started cheering for me like crazy and that was so nice and motivating!

The first 2 miles felt terrible. I started cramping in my OTHER side, but it was nowhere near the level of pain it had been before. I kept on truckin'. I could see runners ahead of me. Little specks of colour in the shimmering sun and heat waves. I thought to myself, "Maybe I can catch one?"

As I had completely re-aligned my goals from racing to win the race, to running a training run, I decided to walk every single aid station and get a lot of fluids into me. After all, for a quality training session, proper hydration is important! And, I wanted to ensure that those cramps would not return.

Right after the first aid station, the hills started. The heat was relentless, but oddly enough for the first time in my life, the heat wasn't a factor for me. There was a woman running ahead of me and I started to close the gap. I was about to pass her, when I had to pee. So I suddenly went off in some bushes -- I know I startled the lady as I was right behind her and then I disappeared. LOL.

Did my business and she had pulled away. Big surprise. I started to feel negative again and came very close to quitting right then and there. But for one question I asked myself: Would you quit if this was a training day? And the answer was no. I felt crappy, but not that crappy. So, I made the decision to move forward and that was that. No more debate or questioning. Time to move forward and get in a good training day.

After that, I was on fire. I felt incredible. I still had a bit of cramping but I was feeling strong and steady. The heat was beating down hard, but it was OK -- it wasn't bothering me at all! I started to pass a couple of people -- they were walking up the hills. I was running the hills! Me! I was RUNNING hills! :) :)

There were a couple of hills that I walked portions of, but to my surprise, when I started running again, my legs were like, "FINALLY! YAY! We can run again!!" This was a brand new feeling for me.

I walked every aid station, had to go hike down another ditch to pee, and then started passing more people. And more people. This was amazing! The last few miles of the run were the miles where I finally started feeling the heat. At the next aid station, I put ice in my hat, and whoo baby did that ever feel good. In fact, I felt so great, I started thinking about why I felt so awesome...then I sort of became aware that ice was on my head. LOL -- RACE BRAIN!!! I'm all there, but not really! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!

I passed more people and reached the 2nd last aid station. Saw a guy way ahead of me and he was hurting -- you could tell he was in major pain mode. I kept ticking things over and grew closer and closer. Then I passed him too!! Next was the final turn into the recreation area and another loop around the like. I saw my Dad and smiled and I could tell he was totally frigging gob-smacked to see me running strong. LMAO!!!!

I churned my little old behind around that lake and finished in an astonishing 6:47:41. (LMAO!!!!) The girl who won first female overall was 5:47:19. Could I have won overall had I not suffered? Maybe. Muahahahahah -- it is fuel for my fire. And in this case, this comparison to another person motivates me. :D

You read this far... here was my run time (LOL) : 2:51:58

After hugging my Dad, I went back and thanked the volunteers at the aid station who put up with me...and then I found the dude Terry who had offered me advice. Thanked him too.

The biggest surprise came when I returned later that afternoon for the awards. They had a raffle draw and I had a ticket, so I thought, what the heck? I was stunned when I saw I had actually won my age group!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And just in case you did not register how truly surprised I was.......


They called me up on the podium and I needed help to get up on the white plastic thingy. Hee-hee!! I got a mug!! YAHOOOO!!!!! Hahahahahah!!

Lessons learned:

  • Half IM and IM distance races are strange creatures -- when things are bleak you can keep going on and things might turn around....NEVER, EVER, EVER GIVE UP.
  • Emotions have NO ROLE to play during a race. They cloud my judgement -- I find it best to race objectively and leave the tears and overwhelming feelings for the finish line.
  • I am very pleased that I was able to separate my emotions from my decision-making skills. This is a huge triumph for me! :) :)
One last note...After the awards, I spotted the aid station volunteer who was so kind to me, and went over and told him that I won my AG. That it was because of him....when I said I was quitting, he never said a word. He just sat me down and brought me water. That was the best thing he could have done. And I told him so. :)

And the brutal bloating and cramping? Turns out Nuun has an artificial sweetener called sorbitol in it. (Thanks to my uber-coach Sara for helping me figure this out!) I have an intolerance to soribtol. Who knew? Garbage guts actually has something that she can't eat/ingest. Bye Nuun!

Thanks for reading this far, if you did, I will make you a coffee if you ever come and visit me. Hee-hee! :)

Race hard, pull apart those demons, and shake hands with the devil in your head. ;)

Big thank you as always to my amazing coach Sara who called me repeatedly, and emailed me repeatedly all the while in preparation for her own 1/2 IM race in Calgary today. I blush that I was such a diva -- I had no IDEA she was racing, otherwise I never would have bugged her! EEP!! And in truly stunning fashion.. she came in 2nd OVERALL FEMALE in Calgary today. Missed first by 6 seconds!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My God, my coach is such a stud. :) :) :) :)

THANKS TO MY AWESOME DAD!!! Thanks for putting up with me!! :) :) :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My Ironman Athlete

Stuart destroying the hills!!

My best friend's husband completed his very first Ironman this year in Coeur D'Alene!!! His time?


Gutting it out on the run...his first marathon to boot!

That's right! He did amazing and I am so very proud of him!!! Here are his splits:

Swim: 1:04:04
Bike: 6:10:42
Run: 4:36:30

What makes Stuart's story even more impressive is that he had never done a triathlon before. That's right. You read correctly. Ironman Coeur D'Alene was his VERY FIRST TRIATHLON. He trained about 7-9 hours a week all the while maintaining a 50-60 hour work week. Plus on call work. Did I mention that Stuart is a doctor?

This was the first time I acted in an advisory capacity to help someone not only finish but excel at his very first iron distance race. Stuart did all the work and then some. He researched things on the internet, experimented with nutrition, and leaned down. Once in a while he would fire off an email to me and I would respond ASAP. I know what it's like going through your first IM -- all the questions, the concerns, and the excitement/stress/anxiety. This is why I am so proud of you Stuart! You not only FINISHED --- YOU FRIGGING ROCKED IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Congratulations Stuart!!! CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Great White North 1/2 Iron Race Report

I WENT SUB-5!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 4:58:54 read the clock and I am pretty sure I ended up 12th female overall...99% sure anyways...but if I am in error, just know that it is an honest mistake! :)

I DO know that I came in 9th in my age group. But my big goal was to get under 5 hours. I knew I had a shot at it if I really blitzed the bike. I thought that if I just went as hard on the bike as I could, I should be able to do a 2 hour, 1/2 marathon no problem, even if I suffered. Of course, I want to go 4:30 for these races and then even less, so my coach is helping me to reach my goals step by step.

Do you know that Sara Gross is the best coach ever? It's true.

Hi! I gave birth 6 months ago and I run 1:22 for
13.1 miles in a half Ironman.

Okay here are the deets...

Pre Race Deets or The Case of the Leech
The day before the race I swam in the lake and then took off my wetsuit and rinsed it in the shallows. When I emerged I saw a piece of dirt on my calf that wouldn't dislodge when I swiped at it. I KNEW THEN. LEECH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If I had been alone with Mike or another family member I would have had the luxury of having a full-on freak out. When I was in Australia last year, there was a huge bug crawling on my bed and I ran screaming to the nearest coach's hubby. LOL. I have no shame. I will run to a guy every time. Hahahahahaah!

Except this time.

This time, there were a bunch of other athletes milling around and I had to be the calm, cool one all by myself. My Mom was there and she said, "Gee, that looks like a leech." I gave her a grimace, but apparently my look didn't convey that I knew it was a leech -- I fooled my Momma into thinking I was so cool and calm. I picked at the thing on leg and I couldn't gain purchase.

I couldn't even feel it -- and I watched it morph and move all around my calf trying to get away from my prying fingers. It slithered into a skinny line and then curled into a ball. OMG, it was so gross, but I was on a mission. If I was going to rip a chunk of my own flesh to get rid of this thing I was going to do it! Hahaha!

Fortunately, I got it on my finger....and then it wouldn't come off!! AAARRGGHH!!!! It was at this moment that I lost it. I think I squealed and then started to frantically wipe my finger on the grass. It came off. SHUDDER.

Funny thing though, this little kid came running up to me once he figured out I had a leech on me and he wanted to see it! LOL!!!

Hey Julie, I really like your calf.

Morning of Race
Met up with fellow MRT athlete and very dear friend, Tessa. Who proceeded to cuss me out for a full 15 minutes about why I always hide away in my motel room and take off right after races instead of hanging out and attending the award dinners. LOL!! Seriously, I have never heard her swear so much in her life. Hahahahaha!!

You see, I have an inner hermit. I LOVE being by myself. I also love spending time with friends -- when I am forced (haha!) to go out, I really enjoy myself. But for some reason, given a choice (or the chance) I'll opt to veg by myself rather than hang out with people. Tessa made a good case, so I promised her I would hang with her at the awards dinner after the race. And she knew she had me there, because once I promise something, I HAVE to do it. :)

As all of us athletes stood in line waiting to cross the mats to get onto the beach I regaled everyone with my leech story and a number of what in
  • What if, you spit in your goggle and then go to rinse it out, but the leech gets in there and then it gets in your eye?
  • Or, what if, you turn to breathe, but at that same moment someone splashes the leech into your mouth?
  • Or what if, the leech sticks on your face somewhere and you don't feel it and you don't even know it's there....And the race goes on and on and you get onto the run portion and notice that people keep looking at you. And then you begin to notice something on your face out of the corner of your eye...
By now, I was really warming up to all the different scenarios that could play out and every time my friend Richelle shuddered, it was like extra motivation for me to continue. And I did... LOL.

The Swim -- 35:46 (1:48/100m!!!!!!!!)
I remember from this race in a previous year that the buoy turns can get really congested. And if there is one thing I HATE, it is being forced to stop swimming from the sheer mass of upright bodies at the buoy turns. This year I aimed wide and had a good swim.

I caught a couple of good drafts but unfortunately had too much clean water for big parts of the swim. Still, I drafted when I could! :)

The thing with me and swimming is that I might not be very speedy (yet), but I can keep going and going and going. So, the swim felt effortless to me. (This is also probably due to my nice taper -- thank you Coach Sara!) Even when I would do some surges, I felt really great and not exhausted like I have in the past. LOL.

Out of the swim and the wetsuit strippers had a hard time getting my wetsuit over my hips and bum. Some women fixate on their weight, their boobs, their fixation is my bum. I don't know why, but it's a funny thing. I find bums odd -- like why would someone think a bum looks good? Bums are bums! I remember I watched this show a long time ago, and it showed a number of close-up body photographs. You had to guess which part of the body the pic was from. It was so weird how boob cleavage resemebled butt cleavage! Seriously!!

Anyway, my bum plays an important role later on....LOL!!

The Bike -- 2:31:38 (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

I don't know what the transition times are....because I am pretty confident that I actually broke 2:30 for the bike according to my watch anyways. Heh-heh! In fact, during the last kms of the bike I looked at my watch and thought, "If I really push as much as I can, I can break 2:30!"

I never look at my watch to gauge speed/distance like that either....this was a first. I only wear the watch to help guide nutritional choices. However, this time, I used it to push myself even harder. The thing is, I had the fitness to do that on the bike. I'm not there on the run yet.... Hahahaha!! The run is usually about survival for me, but the bike this time was so neato.

In fact, I was cursing myself that I hadn't asked my coach about proper gearing choices. I was spinning out in my hardest gear for too much of the race. I needed harder gears! But who knew I was actually getting stronger? LOL!!! This will be rectified shortly -- I've talked with my uber coach and Gord (my bike guru) and I am moving on to another cassette now. YAY! I am finally climbing the ladder. Hahahahahaha!!

The bike went by so fast it was awesome. I kept saying to myself, "Push, push, PUSH!" I couldn't believe it when I saw the sign for 45km.I was thinking, "Already? Wow, this is going by fast!"

I was grunting and grimacing away, but I was not consciously doing so...I would sort of come out of the bubble and then realize I was grunting and grimacing, but I was so divorced from what my face was doing...I just went back into the bubble and kept saying to myself, "PUSH, PUSH, PUSH!!!!"

The Run -- 1:51: 31 (Hey, I am excited to start working on knocking the time off that kind of run!! Hee-hee!!)
Felt terrible and wobbly and out of breath for the first 4 or 5 km. I always feel like that at the beginning, so I knew it would pass. There was the teeniest of inclines throughout the course and my quads just about went on a cramping/Charley-horse extravaganza, so I made sure to take it even more easy on those parts.

Ran out of salt pills -- was not prepared to go through as many as I did, so that was a good lesson. Around 15km or so, I got this familiar light-headed, woozy feeling that I get in hot IM races. Wish I had brought more salt pills!

Ahh well, I kept nipping at my gels and took water at every aid station and just hung in there.

There was a guy that was running a similar pace to me out there -- we kept passing each other...At one point, he was behind me on a windy section and I heard him tell a friend, "I'm just drafting!" LOL! I turned around and asked him, "Are you saying I have a fat ass?" Hahaha!

As he passed me he said, "I'm married with 4 kids, but I gotta say..." Then there was some kind of bum compliment. LMAO!!!!!!!!! I was like, "Hell ya! I'll take any kind of compliment about my bum ANYWHERE, ANYTIME." LOL!!!

You know how fun it is at these long distance endurance races, when your fellow athletes start acting silly? Hahahahahaha!!

Well, the final 4km, then 3km were pretty brutal. The quad cramps were on the very cusp of taking over and rendering me one big spasm (Not one big spazz -- I'm already a spazz), and I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. Just get to the finish and then I can lay in bed all day! Hahahah!

Right before the finish line this girl in my AG blew by me and beat me by 5 seconds. LOL. I was going at TOP SPEED though. Hahahahah -- If you can call what I was doing top speed, but seriously I was giving it everything I had -- hahahah -- I didn't have that extra oomph that I have on the bike, but I am excited to train more and then get it! :) :)

The Aftermath
I was so excited that I broke 5 hours I went around to all the girls who had passed me and I was shaking their hands and telling them congratulations and that they looked so awesome out there. I know I am a dork but I couldn't help myself! Hahahah!

I could barely walk I was so stiff and sore. I had to ask a volunteer to bend over and pick up my helmet and my bike shoes. There was no way I could bend over. Then it took me like 30 minutes to walk with my bike the 50m out of transition -- LOL. Well not really, but I was going so slow. Then I heard this volunteer behind me say, "You've got 2 penalty laps to do!"

I turned around and I almost passed out.

And then he broke up laughing!!!!!!

BRUTAL!!! LMAO!!!!!!!!!!!! I said, "That's cruel and unusual punishment!!!" LOL!!!

I was so excited, I went back to our sleaze-bag motel (oh yeah, I KNOW how to pick them!) and actually TURNED ON my cell phone and called my coach. Hahahahah -- I think she was more surprised that I actually used my cell phone than anything else though. LOL!!

Good times!!!

Congrats to my fellow MRT athletes and friends out there who had phenomenal races out there on Sunday:

Tessa -- YOU ROCKED IT!!!!! And as usual looked HAWT doing so! :)
Kendall -- I saw you, but you didn't see me! Hee-hee!! Congrats on your smokin' time! WOW!
Patty -- You looked really solid on the run when I saw you!
Amber -- You are such a stud there is nothing I can say but you are excellent. How you pulled off a PB after puking from the flu for 12 hours beforehand is beyond me!
Lisa -- Two flats and you STILL got a running PB!!! YAY!!!! Congrats!!!
Richelle -- Thanks for listening to my leech stories and congratulations on a great race -- can't believe you managed to crank that race out considering what you've recently gone through!