Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tattoos are forever ... Iron fitness not so much

Maintaining your fitness is like blowing into a balloon that has a hole in it.

I read this on a forum the other day and it fits for how I feel at the moment.

I quite honestly took a solid month off from training after the Ironman. In the beginning, I was on vacation for about 10 days. During that time I didn't do anything but walk. I felt a remote urge to jog a bit but I was committed to just spending time with my kids and husband so I fought that urge.

Then when I got home I have done a little biking and a little running and very little swimming. I've done 2 pool workouts and one ows since the race. But I felt fine during everything. I mean I wasn't working hard at anything so of course I felt fine.

I've run into a lot of people who say they took lots of time off after an Ironman. Several people I knew who did Ironman Florida and Ironman Cozumel in 2012 took 3-6 months off after the race. So I was feeling okay about not working out too much. But at the same time it takes a lot of work to get to that level of fitness so I didn't want to lose all that fitness.

What's holding me back ... just get out there silly
There are two things so far that I just really don't want to do yet. First is the 5:30 am swim class. I can't tell you how many days I've shut the alarm off at 5:00 am and just thought ... nope not today. Clearly, the Ironman race hanging over my head was what pushed me to go to that group.  The second thing is the bike trainer in the garage. Oh boy do I hate that thing. I did do a one hour trainer session last week and it was miserable. But triathletes cannot exist on the long ride alone so I decided to go to a spin class.

Also my friend Mikey (who does not read this blog I don't think) has told me that I'll podium if I spin at his gym. At least I think that's what he said. I'm kidding he didn't say that. Although many people who podium at local races do spin at his gym. Podium finishes are still a distant fantasy for me.

Ahh spinning ...
So the spinning class could be said to have made me honest about where I was fitness-wise. Yikes the first 10 minutes I was huffing and puffing like a lifelong smoker. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot! I was seriously saying to myself --- "um a month ago you biked 8 hours in an Ironman you can do this." How did this happen?

Well duh!, it happened because I have been clearly positioned in slackertown and sadly that Iron-fitness is not forever. Turns out it's not even guaranteed for a month if you don't work on it. Now that is a Bummer.

What's next? 
I keep saying that this what's next thing is coming next. But it's taking longer to figure out what I'm doing than I would have thought. I do think I want to do another Iron distance event in 2014.Wait - do I. Yes - No. See the problem?

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Monday, July 29, 2013

Now and Forever

I don't really feel like an Ironman.

In fact, there are days when I can't believe I finished that race. Isn't that ridiculous?

It was just over one month ago. But most of the time it feels like a dream. I tell the story. I know that I did it but honestly it feels like a dream.

And that's why ... dum, dum, dum.

Yes ... I went ahead and got the tatoo
For whatever reason the Ironman tattoo can be a heated subject among some triathletes. I say, don't hang out with those triathletes. If I want a tattoo of whatever on my body that's my business. If you want a tattoo of whatever on your body you go ahead ... I have no opinion. Unless you happen to be my kid and then I might have an opinion because they are permanent so some thought should go into this process. A boyfriend or girlfriends initials or name ... sorry probably not ever a good idea.

I did try to think of something that wasn't the m from the ironman logo. We in the triathlon circle call that the m-dot. But at the end of the day that's the race I did. And even if it is a corporate logo - this symbol is symbolic of this distance to me and that's really all that matters.
the m-dot
I also cleared this tattoo with my husband. He was totally supportive and after listening to me waffle about the design for a month he declared the final design very anticlimactic.

It's my only tattoo ... so far
Don't get me wrong I love tattoos but I've never been able to commit to the idea of one image or symbol on my body. Plus I've met a lot of old guys who sort of regret getting tattoos when they were younger. I do think it's a good idea to listen to  your elders ;-)

But here's how I feel about this. When I'm old and shriveled up and the tattoo is all wrinkly with my old lady skin I will be more than happy to explain to you that when I was 39 years old I moved myself under my own power for 140.6 miles non-stop.  What's more if I happen to be unlucky enough to be completely demented in my old age hopefully some nurse will recognize the logo and know that at one time I was just slightly badass. Not because I have a tattoo but because of what I did before I got it. I hope that this will give me the street cred in the nursing home for an extra glass of chardonnay with my stewed green beans.
tee hee it's so small and simple. I swear the whole thing took maybe 3 minutes.

Last tidbit about the design
It's small and colorless. I could be all artsy and say that Ironman is a part of me so I didn't color it in because I want me to show through. I know ... barf, that's stupid. Or I could say the truth which is that I tend to like simple graphic tattoo designs that are black on skin (which is true). Also, I was a little afraid of the pain (also true but I did go through natural child births so I'm pretty sure I could tough it out). Also I can admit that I couldn't decide what would go inside because I don't really want to have to explain it. So I thought about putting the french flag colors (I still might do this but I feel like I would want to match my shoes and socks with the colors ... is that dumb?), I considered working it into an Eiffel Tower (rejected because the race was in Nice not Paris where the tower is), I thought about putting the date or the mileage in miles or even kilometers and I just couldn't make up my mind. So in the end with my swimming pool being closed for 2 weeks and the bay being off limits due to a creepy algae bloom I just went and did it and kept it simple. 

So far I love it.
Remember how I said I feel like the race itself was a dream? Well this is my daily reminder. So far I love it. I put it on the inside of my leg instead of the outside because it's easier for me to see. So I see it all the time and it reminds me of what I did, what I can do, and to get myself back out there and get to work. 
See if it was red white and blue inside could I still wear pink socks? I'm not sure.
So for now that's it ... So do you have an Ironman tattoo or will you get one after you complete the race?

Next up ... what's next. I'm trying to pick another long race for next year. Contenders are Ironman Lake Placid, Ironman Wisconsin (will the Minnesotans tag along ... eh), Ironman Mont-Tremblant depending on the date and Ironman Florida. Opinions are welcome because one of the main criteria of this is that I don't want to do this one alone.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Julia Childs ... I am not

In my month of slackerdom since the Ironman I've been trying to figure out what to do with myself.

A while back there was a fun movie. Julia & Julia. It was based on a blog where a young writer and gourmand documented her year of cooking her way through the cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

I have this cookbook. And to be honest one of the things that really took a hit during my Ironman training was my cooking of meals for my family.

Don't get me wrong I still cooked dinner for my family 5/7 nights a week (which puts me about 4 nights ahead of many people I know). But it was more like assembly than cooking. Lots of chicken breasts and broccoli kind of meals. To keep up we did about 3 nights of dream dinners a week. And of course, there was a lot of pasta.

So in my quest to be a better wife/mom I pulled out the Mastering the Art of French Cooking and tried to find something to make for my family. Sadly, to be honest other than a roast chicken ... I found ... not much. I may have to look again because after all they did make a whole movie out of this book.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Big words today - Telogen Effluvium

As it turns out Ironman racing and training creates hair challenges for me

A few days after the race I began to notice something kind of unsettling. The first thing I noticed the next day. My hair was very very dry and stiff at the ends.

I thought it was because I had used my step-daughter's homemade shampoo so the next day in the  next city I bought a regular shampoo/conditioner to use. It was better, but a few days later in another city I noticed that my hair brush full of my hair.

I knew it was my hair because my daughter's hair was braided into a super complicated set of pigtails and so she wasn't actually brushing her hair. My son has short hair that is quite honestly never brushed. So the only option was me.

Now, I'm not a particularly vain person but I am a girl and while I don't have the greatest head of hair on the planet I was a little alarmed to see this. I also don't have a ton of hair so I want to keep what I have.

So, I did what any modern girl would do ...

Ah the modern age of self-diagnosis
I googled it. Of course, this is not always the best thing to do unless you want to convince yourself that you're dying of cancer. Side question why do all symptoms on WebMD seem to be related to fatal conditions? Luckily, I knew I wasn't dying so I didn't panic. But at the top of the list was iron-deficiency and thyroid disorder. I had to admit that both of these were possible given the stress I'd put myself through in the race.

So, I told my husband that I thought I might have gotten myself a little iron-deficient after the race. To his credit, he didn't freak out. But between the two of us we made sure I had iron-rich foods during the rest of the trip, spinach, meat, shellfish, pate, stuff like that. And as soon as I got home I added an iron supplement to my daily vitamin.

I didn't rule out the thyroid stuff but I didn't think that was it. My thyroid got out of wack after I had one of my kiddos so I'm familiar with those symptoms and I didn't really feel that.

I made a doctor's appointment the first day I was home. First available for this non-emergency ... two days away.

And more helpful anecdotal information
I also put my question to girls I know who've done Ironman - they had nothing to help but agreed I should take Iron.

And of course, I put my question online in the Women's forum on Yup...

At first it wasn't that helpful but then actually a woman posted that she had a similar thing happen in college - she was a collegiate swimmer with fine thin hair. Just like me!!! She was the first to suggest that perhaps mine wasn't falling out but breaking. Sure enough I do have a bunch of short hairs at the top from the breaks versus bald spots which would be falling out. Her breakage was caused by stress (not like anxiety really but physical stress to her body and hair). The advice, condition more, eat more, don't wear ponytails etc. I had to admit this sounded like what I was having but I was still going to see my doctor.

Actual Doctors Visit
Then I visited my doctor when I got back. I got a lot of attention in the office because of the race. That was fun.

They listened attentively to my symptoms.

They nodded appreciatively at my decision to take a multivitamin and iron.

They looked at my scalp and hair and skin. And they were -- not concerned at all. My doctor said actually, "You look great, fit and healthy." But to be honest he's pretty bald so I won't take hair tips from him even though he's very smart. My Nurse practitioner on the other hand has great hair. And she wasn't concerned either.

To humor me they did check my iron levels but they said if I was supplementing they would be fine since I had been in for a check up immediately prior to the race so they had my iron levels from then and nothing was out of wack. Sure enough the little blob sunk right down from iron levels.

So finally (this all took maybe 7 minutes) they had another fancy diagnosis. Stress both on my body and my hair.

Basically - my hair isn't falling out. It's breaking. Which is better news medically because it hasn't stopped growing. They suspect 3 things.

First, my hair was already stressed out before the race from spending a lot of time in ponytails, covered in sweat, under a hat and submerged in chlorinated water. Also, I highlight my hair which is not a process that is known to strengthen hair :-)

Second, my hair was pulled tightly back for more than 15 hours on race day and under a swim cap, then a bike helmet and lastly a visor for the run. It was wet this entire time with salt water and sweat. Again, this list would not be under any beauticians guide to how to best treat your hair for healthy hair.

Lastly, as a result of the recovery from the race my body would have indeed pulled all available protein resources to help my muscles recover. Hair and skin regeneration would have been pretty  low on the list.

More lastly, the nurse practitioner suggested that homemade shampoo might not be the best thing for my hair. A wise woman that one ... with good hair too.  She suggested instead picking up some Moroccan oils and hair conditioning masques (which I've done).

So, not iron deficient. That's good. Thyroid looks good that's also good. Diagnosis stress (officially Telogen Effluvium)  or pulling on your hair makes your hair thin out.

Plan of recovery, don't worry and don't put my hair in a ponytail very often for a while.

It's all good although I admit I'm a little nervous to go to my hair dresser because she was already lecturing me about just swimming. When she sees this she might fire me as a client ... :-)

And with that I declare myself recovered from the Ironman in all ways except mentally. I still cannot get up for 5:30 swim practice. I can get up at 5 just not go to the pool because ... I don't wanna. Next up ... what's next for Amy ... stay tuned.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Post-Ironman not quite blues but maybe blahs

Shortly after Ironman France a friend asked if I had the post-Ironman blues.

I said no. It was/is true. I was on vacation having a great time.

Now I'm home. Still relaxing. It's summer. I have to admit my daily life is sort of a perpetual vacation.

Self-diagnosis by me (not a doctor - don't even play one on tv) I've got not blues but maybe blahs.

My kids are in day camp and I'm just kind of hanging around. I've been watching the Tour de France (which I do love) and not getting much of anything done. For example, cleaning the Guinea Pig cage was a pretty massive achievement last week. Yes - pathetic. 

I enjoyed the structure of training for Ironman. I guess don't really want to train much yet. This is shown by the fact that I haven't made it to the pool to swim. Also my hair is still breaking off like crazy from the stress of IM France and I'm pretty sure chlorine or a swim cap is not the best answer for that.

I'm not really itching to race. My husband actually registered me for the Rome Marathon. I'm going to return the favor by registering him for the 5k :-).

I asked for a discount code for Escape to Miami but haven't registered because while I love that race I'm not feeling like I want to race yet. Sadly, I'm also not really enjoying relaxing. In fact I might be a little cranky.

I'm just letting it ride for the moment because I know that even after 70.3s it takes me 3-4 weeks to get my mojo back (unless there is a 140.6 looming).

So whine whine whine ... okay moving on now.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Ironman France Race Report

Try as I might to keep this simple it will be very long. I'll try to keep a similar form to shorter race reports because even though it's a pretty epic distance in the end it's just a triathlon.

Ironman France June 23rd Finish Time 15hours 20 minutes

Pre-Race Night and Race Morning
The last thing to do was check my bike between 6-7 pm. I had been on my own the whole day resting while my family went to Monaco and Eze to play. My husband came back to go with me for moral support to check my bike.

Funny story. I have the new profile design aeroHC bottle. It's great. It's also not for sale in Europe yet. I know this because in the 2-days before the race people were stopping me and asking in whatever language they spoke, "what is that? where did you get it?" People who asked included random racers, the bike mechanics in the shop that checked the bike and they guys working the Cervelo booth (who ran out of their booth as I walked by to ask me). This little bottle got some major attention. Anyway were I might normally leave the empty bottle on the night before I was nervous it would walk away so I kept it with me until race time and even thought about what I would do if it was stolen before I got to it. I covered it with a towel during the swim. Bizarre,  right? 

That's me racking my bike the night before. The have a schedule and my group of numbers 100-600 was the last group. My aero bottle is safely hidden in my bag over my shoulder. I was going to leave it on the bike but when another racer noticed it and asked about it ... I got skittish and just kept it with me. All the bikes were covered by those yellow PowerBar rain covers. I hadn't picked mine up so Marc had to go run through the expo and get mine. He got two and I brought the extra home ... why ... I have no idea.
Back to the boring details. I slept okay the night before.

Different from shorter distances where what you eat the night and morning of a race isn't critical when you're going to race for over 12 hours those foods and those calories will come into play. In fact starting from before I left I was pretty intensely focused on what I was eating. When I'm busy I tend not to eat and also I wasn't exercising (taper) so I wasn't hungry. It took a very academic approach to make sure I was eating my meals.

My coach,  my doctor and my husband were all wanting me to make sure I got sufficient calories in the 3-4 days before the race. It seemed nutty when I packed but actually worked out very well that I brought a significant amount of the food I ate with me to from the states. I had packed about 15 Luna Bars and 10 packs of mac-n-cheese for me and the kids in case we had trouble finding food that they would eat. I don't eat mac-n-cheese but the Luna bars were my saving grace on the travel day because I didn't have to stress about airport food. Also in the days before the race I was adding one after every meal to make sure I was getting extra or at least sufficient calories.

I'm trying to remember if I talked about this before the race or not. Why was I so stressed  about eating before the race? Well a full-sized person carries about 2000 calories of convertible energy in their muscles and liver. Apparently,  I'm not quite full-sized at 110 pounds on race day (the estimate is based on somebody at 150-160 lbs). During the race I was expected to burn between 5000 - 7000 calories. The most you can replenish while exercising is around 200-225 calories an hour. So (15*225) = 3375 that's the max of what I could take in during the race. If I have the full glucose stores of 2000 + 3375 that puts me at 5375.  As I learned at St. A's if you run out of glucose stores your body stops moving forward pretty dramatically. And it was my goal to avoid that at all costs.

Which means - 2 dinners  the night before one early and one right before bed. I brought the Luna bars with me from the states and the oatmeal (dry, packed in my bike box) but I bought the pasta, and sauce and eggs in France. I made pasta like before every race just made extra and ate two servings. The only difference is that where at home I cook and season my own meat to add to the sauce I could not find chopped meat in Nice so I used premade Barilla Bolinnaise sauce. Which was fine.

Have pedialyte will travel. This is powder I brought from home and added to botttled water. I drank and cooked with only bottled water before the race. France has good water but with only 3-days to adjust I was overly cautious.
Then I had 2 alarms - one at 3 and one at 4:15. At 3 the plan was eat a Luna bar and drink some pedialyte. The point of this early snack is just to try to digest more calories before the race. Then at 4:15 a double serving of oatmeal, hard boiled egg, banana, coffee and more pedialyte. That was the plan. But I was really nervous and my stomach was edgy so it worked out into half a Luna bar and about 3/4 of the oatmeal.

Then it was out the door with my husband to the start of the race. It was about a 10 minute walk in the dark to transition. I did have a panic attack half-way there that I hadn't packed socks in my bag ... false alarm a quick check revealed I did pack socks.

My husband stayed by my side until I lost him after I came out of transition and headed to the beach.

This is the racers heading down to the swim. My hubby never saw me and I didn't see him but we must have come close because I recognize one of guys standing by the wall. I stood by him for a while before I went to sit down on the rocks.
THE SWIM 2.4 miles / 3.8 kilometers - 1h28minutes
It was very cloudy and I said a little prayer that it didn't rain. I'm not terribly religious but I was doing my share of praying working up to this race. Going up and down the mountains in the rain was my worst possible situation.

The swim is organized in corrals by time so i found 1:25+ and stayed there. It was all the way to the left of the group of swimmers. I did a quick warm up in the water and then sat on the rocks to rest since it was going to be a long day.

All around me were people discussing in every possible language about the swim course. The point of question do we go between the two buoys in the middle or do we have to swim to the left. Nobody knew and there was no announcement but I didn't worry since I knew there would be thousands of people in front of me to follow.

Before long enough competitors had gathered on the beach so that I was in the middle of the pack so I stood up and walked to the back. I didn't want to get caught up in a crush of people going in. When I stood the man next to me said to me, " You have beautiful perfect feet."  Um okay, nice to meet you,  weird french foot fetish man.

There was allegedly a pro-start 5 minutes before the mass start. My husband says he saw it. I didn't. There wasn't a cannon or anything so when the first and only cannon was for the whole group I was a little surprised.
In the back I found 2 American girls from California and Oregon prepping to start also. I hung with them and chatted a bit. Then the canon went off and the racers plunged into the water. It was maybe 20 whole seconds till I was in the water.  I did my now-famous Nice-beach slide-flop into the water and I was off. I concentrated on really starting slow. Really Really Slow.

I had no trouble finding clear water. In fact I was alone enough that I was looking for arms and feet to be sure I was on track. The buoys were so far out that they were hard to see from in the water unless you sighted from the top of a wave.

The water was very calm but there were very gentle rollers. Eventually I got to the first buoy then the next and turned right. Between these two buoys I met a pink jellyfish. Seriously - this is very funny. Here in the tropics where I live the waters are infested seasonally with jellyfish and I hardly ever get stung. Everyone I  swim with gets stung and I'm always the lucky one. Then I fly 5000 miles to swim in the Mediterranean Sea and meet a giant pink blob of Jellyfish. What are the odds?  I began to turn to rotate and I saw the pink. The water is very clear and I was wearing new goggles so I could really see it.  It was about the size of a cantelope. I tried to move my hand away but I still got my two small fingers on my right hand. Hurt a lot but not so much that I stopped. I swam along thinking ... Really a jellyfish ... Here? But whatever.

I swam toward shore in a group. We could see the tents onshore and eventually the swim turn-around arch. Then we were all redirected by a helper on a surfboard because we were all going the wrong way. We needed to go around a buoy to the left. Oops. Okay off we swam.

Then toward the arch on shore. At this point I started feeling queasy. I think the salt water in my mouth and the rolling waves was a hard combo for me. You can hear the roar of the waves over the rocks as you approach the shore it is a bizarre noise not at all like the sound of waves breaking on sand. There is a screaching from the rocks rubbing together I think.

I swam right up onto the rocks just like I had practiced. When suddenly out of nowhere a strong volunteer pulled me by my up onto the mats. I walked a few steps and then gagged and threw up about a cup of sea water. Gross, I know. I wondered if my day was already over but then I realized that having tossed my cookies I felt much better so I plunged right back in. During the turnaround I heard the announcer say it was one hour into the race. Since my head was already muddled from the swim I was suddenly worried.  I figured that there must have been a current and since I was focused on going slowly to keep my endurance up that I had gone too slow.
I'm in there somewhere.

I had forgotten that the first loop is significantly longer than the second so I swam the second loop thinking I was on pace for a 2hr swim. That made me sad and so I focused on enjoying the swim. I said to myself,  "I'm actually doing my Ironman swim right now". After I rounded the last buoy I paused to throw up a little in the water. It's so gross. I totally need to do a better job of swimming with my mouth closed. Or now I realize I may have just been seasick. Apparently that happens to some people in long swims even in lakes. (that would have been good to know before the race). Anyway, right after that I realized I was almost finished and for the first time of the day I realized I was actually going to complete this swim. I was elated. It may sound silly but I was never actually confident even after all my swim training that I could do this whole swim.

But I did! And when I came out - again with the help of a strong volunteer who sort of flung me up the beach. I think he was so used to the bigger guys that my smallness caught him by surprise. Or maybe I was the only one surprised by him flinging me up the beach. I took a few steps under the bridge turned around saw 1:30 on the clock and I was surprise, shocked and thrilled.


Sadly there is no photo of me in my euphoric state running out of the swim. Bummer.

T1 - 11:34
I ran up the ramp, turned and ran up more ramp and I was in transition. I grabbed my bag and headed into the girls only tent!

I hadn't seen him yet but he saw me. Those brave enough to swim and bike in their tri shorts just changed outside the tent. Not me ... full change from the waste down :-)
Where I spent forever getting ready. Not sure what took so long. There are no helpers in the tent - just us girls. So take your own wetsuit off - put on bike shorts with lots of lube. Put on arm warmers, gloves, helmet, glasses, socks and shoes oh and sunscreen.

Then I headed out and heard my husband shout my name!
This is what took so long - posing for the photo. Just kidding.

Oh yes! Seeing family during the race is such a lift.

My age group clearly had lots of fast swimmers :-)
He took my picture and off I went.
I'm on my way! I think my hubby did a pretty good job documenting the morning - don't you. It's not really his thing so I'm especially impressed.
 THE BIKE - 112 miles / 180 kilometers 7:57:20 
Okay I'm not going to bore you with almost 8 hours of details. For a lot of reasons including I would be lying if I said I remembered it all.

The bike was of course the section of this ride that I worked hardest on trying to prepare for. This route is known as being a very challenging course because there is about 1800 meters of climbing. Do the math ... Thats 6000 feet. Since I live in a totally flat state training for this took some thinking. Most of my trainer sessions in the garage were on very high resistance and one a week I did a trainer session on the Computrainer. The really, really, really good news is that it worked. While I didn't set any speed records I was prepared for the climbing sections of this course. I just pedaled and pedaled and climbed my way up. My gearing was appropriate and I never felt I couldn't do it.

It is also the most beautiful bike course I've ever ridden.  You go through small mountain villages, past fields of lavender and through I think two kind of forest areas. I saw goats and horses along the way.

Now onto things I didn't expect and/or wasn't prepared for. It was cold and windy as we went up. I was freezing and also really happy that I didn't have any  deep aero wheels because even without I was being blown around a little bit. More experienced local riders around me actually had jackets on that they took off farther into the course when it was warmer.

The roads up and down tended to be around the outside of the mountains so the vistas were beautiful overlooks of mountain valleys. Also they were curvy and the most protection we had from going over the edge and plummeting into the valley was a stone wall about 2 feet high. At points not even that. Descending was something I had no way to prepare for and I was honestly not very good at it at all. I probably could have taken at least a half hour probably closer to an hour off my time if I was not such a chicken and could descend worth a crap.

That being said about 40k into the race I passed an accident so severe that a helicopter was on the scene. I found out later that the man died. We also passed several abandoned mangled bikes which was good for perspective. See if you crash on the course and need medical attention what happens is that they take you away and leave your bike on the course. I assume somebody comes along and gets it but I don't know. So the whole day on the bike course was filled with emergency sirens and motorcycles zooming by to get to the scene of the accident. If you think too much about it - it will definitely rattle you. From that point on I was fine descending slowly at my pace and using caution. There were lots of times where I was honestly scared. Others like hairpin turns I just didn't know how to navigate quickly. So I just did the best I could.

There aren't many women in this race so one fun thing is that as I went through the small villages and past volunteers there were lots of shouts for "ah voila une femme! Allez  les femmes!" Look - a woman- go women! It was fun.

Also fun is that there were local cyclists out riding on the same route (putting me to shame just flying up and down the mountain). They loved it when I was passing men going up the mountain and would cheer me and tease the men. That was also fun. At one point we went past a group which could have been the actual Lotto team prepping for the Tour de France which was coming to Nice just days after the Ironman. It could also have just been guys wearing those jerseys. Who knows.  But all through about a 6 mile climb they would leapfrog me cheering me on and ridiculing the guys I was passing which was hysterical. Of course at the summit the 50 or so guys I had passed going up just immediately zoomed passed me in about 5 minutes. Oh well.

So there were no porta potties on the course - just stop and pee in the wilderness. Also special needs was on an incline. I had this vision of stopping to stretch and eat my snickers and go to the bathroom in special needs. No such luck. Stop, fill the bottles with help from two volunteers. Inquire about bathroom - told nope. And then off I went. It was on a hill (hellooooooo who planned that?).  So I got one of those fancy push starts like the do in the Tour de France. I climbed on the bike and the guy ran with me till I could go. That was way fun.

My high point was when I reached the top of the Col d'Ecre. It meant that I had completed most of the climbing. At that point I was confident I would finish.

That confidence faced as I realized how slowly I was descending.  One was so scary I was totally in the middle of the road just praying that there wasn't a strong breeze. So I lost a lot of time there.

As the afternoon went on I had only one moment of darkness. At around 80 miles in I became sure that I wouldn’t make the cutoff even after all this work. My butt hut, my toes were cramping and I needed to pee. Luckily I realized this feeling for what it was (a dark spot and a calorie shortage)  and pulled over to pee, stretch - reapply chamois creme and stretch my toes.  I also ate a GU and refilled my aero bottle.

After that I felt much better and I just tried to pick up the pace and try to make the cutoff. As it turned out I wasn't as close as I thought I was but it was good that I went ahead and pushed.
what in the world is in my mouth? I had gum at the start so this must be at the beginning I have no idea what that is. Clearly I did not see the photographer because I would have kept my mouth shut like a lady :-)

As I got closer I was trying to figure out how close I was. My Garmin wasn't reliable for total mileage because several times it had lost the satelite in the mountains. So it only showed around 100 miles even at the finish. Every 10 kilometers they had painted the remaining kilometers in the road so I was zooming along trying to do the math and figure out my remaining time. It was fairly funny since my mind was all muddled and math isn't my strong point anyway.

I knew I was close - when I passed the airport. Then I finished. I wanted to kiss the guy at the dismount line - but I didn't. He congratulated me (and all the riders) with "you have completed something very hard" it was true and I admit that I'm proud of myself.

T2 - 12:39 
Different from US races there is no bike hand-off in France. Just a gigantic regular old transition. Maybe I took a nap I'm not sure what took so long.  I did see my family which was AWESOME!

Seriously all I did was change my pants and shoes ... How could that take 12 minutes?
I got to give my family a kiss. I'll admit making it through the bike was a true high!
Ready to Run!
THE MARATHON - 26.2 Miles / 43 kilometers 5 hours 29 minutes
that's me on the right. I'm either just starting or have just finished my first loop - who knows?

It still seems crazy even though I've done it. I felt really pretty good when I started and if I hadn't had to stop to pee my first mile would have been like 10:30 pace. My intention was to stay below a 12min/mile pace for the race. My mantra was just keep moving forward. Run, jog walk with purpose just keep going.

The course naturally broke itself into 3 mile sections because it was a 6 mile loop.  I would think - just get there to the turnaround and then walk a bit or take a Gu or whatever. Then just make it to the wristband. It wasn't bad at all.

After each loop you got a "chouchou" which is like a hair scrunchy. You wore it on your arm or wrist. Green first loop, yellow second loop, red third loop then finish line. I celebrated each of these chouchous like mini finish lines. They each felt like a victory. I saw my family at all but one loop. Which for my family is amazing support and dedication to my race.

After the second or maybe third loop my watch battery died.  I handed off my watch and my hat to my husband on the sidelines.
This is me just starting - I can tell because I have no chouchous on my wrist. I was thrilled to be starting the marathon ... or rather just thrilled to be off the bike!

The Ironman marathon seems totally different than a stand-alone marathon. I know obvious statement but it just was. I could tell from the start that it was mentally and physically different. Physically  the fatigue is so great at the start that it's different. Also my stomach was very sensitive from the start. And of course my brain was mush. Luckily my marathon fueling is pretty automatic. I took coke and water at the rest stops and later crackers and I gu'd about every 45 minutes.

Also as a result of the 4 loops from the start I could see those who were on their final loops. A lot of runners were having a very hard time. On each loop there were people throwing up and people stopped in the medic tent. I saw one person just collapse and sit down leaning on a light pole. The medics came and put him on a stretcher and to be honest he didn't look good he might have been unconscious.  I didn't want to be that guy. So I was careful to keep,drinking water and taking my Gu even though I didn't feel hungry. The salty crackers were much better.

I was amazed that I was able to keep jogging- shuffling as long as I did. When the sun went down the moon rose and it was pink! It was incredibly beautiful.

This is the end of my second loop because I already have the green chouchou. I love this picture because that's my son Jack's hand reaching out to give me "five. You can see the sun is setting but it doesn't get dark until after 9. I'm about to get me second chouchou. You can also tell that the course was a lot less crowded than when I started. Welcome to the back of the pack :-)

Also, we ran by two beach restaurants one called the Florida Beach and another the Miami Beach. Those cracked me up each time.

Like with all long races I made friends along the way and we cheered each other on. Of course, with no watch I did panic toward the end that I was maybe only doing a 16  or even a 20 minute mile and I wouldn't make it. But it was just my crazy brain - I made it with 40 minutes to spare!

The finish line. Oh my goodness. There is nothing like it. First where I had been turning left for another loop I got to go right under the sign for finish line. Then I saw my family which was amazing.

My kids wanted to run with me but in the US you get disqualified for that so I didn't do it. There is a horrible video my husband and step-daughter each took of me rejecting my kids. I won't share that with you - in fact I have to remember to try and delete all copies of that video. Hopefully they will recover from this rejection by their crazy mom.

It might have been okay but who knows. At the time I was like - hey I may only do this once I want it to be official.

Then into the chute with cheerleaders and crazy cheering on each side. I was insanely emotional. Happy and tears in my eyes and trying to smile but not really able. It makes for a funny photo.
Here are the cute cheerleaders. I'm totally screwing up the photo for the guy behind me. Sorry. Notice how I'm losing the battle to smile.
Trying to smile a little more. I was really happy - really.
I think I'm clapping for myself while I mess up that other guys photo.
Don't worry I didn't steal these photos - well not really. I pre-ordered them so apparently I have to wait for a link to really download them. So I did grab them today for here but of course I bought them. Even if I look like crap I have to have them!

And then it was done.

I did not go to the medic tent :-) I did get my finishers shirt. They only had xs which luckily fits because I would have been very sad. They also had a place to engrave your medal but you needed 13 euros cash. Um hello ... I didn't just do a 140 mile race with extra euros in my pocket are you serious?

I also got some food. My coach had told my husband directly to make sure he had something for me to eat after. But I knew that in my husband's mind that meant go straight to a restaurant. So I made sure to eat in the athlete tent. Chicken, pizza and soup. They also had beer but I wasn't ready yet.Then I found my family. I talked my way in to have my husband help with my bike and bags. Then we chilled for a few minutes to see the fireworks at 10:30. That's when the race ends. The kids really loved it.

That's my step-daughter on the right. And that's one totally exhausted Amy on the left. That's my soup cup between us.

And lastly we did the long slow walk back to the apartment. We stopped at a restaurant near the apartment for dinner. Everything was closing - it almost 11 on a Sunday night.

So funny story as I'm asking if a restaurant is open another patron sees the medal and he thinks I won the race. He was a little drunk. I tried to straighten him out that I just finished - not won. But he didn't get it. He took his photo with me and everything. Other more sober patrons were chuckling. But luckily with all the hubbub the restaurant happily agreed to stay open and feed me and another couple bought me a drink. It was nice.

Back in the apartment my hubby had a mini bottle of the champagne (Roderer Pink) that we had served at our wedding to celebrate my accomplishment. It was very nice. Also he bought it before so clearly he was more confident than I was that I could finish. That felt good too.

I then took 2 ibuprofen and fell asleep. zzzzzzz.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Ironman math

There is a phenomenon that perhaps happens only to me but leading up to yesterday's race and even during the race every time I added up my potential times I was not going to make the cutoffs.

So yesterday during the swim I came out at the turnaround  of the swim the announcer said it had been one hour. So I jumped in and did the second lap convinced I was somehow swimming so slow that I'd miss the cutoff. The second loop is much shorter result 1:30 just like planned.

Then during the bike as my watch inched toward 8 hours I began to get nervous about missing the cutoff. My Garmin didn't have a true reading because I think of the mountains making it hard to update. Every 10 kilometers they have an update for how long to go but of course it's in kilometers. So I'm trying to do the conversion in my head of how far I have to go and how long to do it. I was totally convinced I was going to miss it. It was very stressful and I almost kissed the guy at the dismount line when I did make the cutoff. I was totally confused when Marc told me I had more time than I thought.

Then onto the run. When I started I was fairly confident that I could make it. Then of course I began to slow down a bit and I was trying to recalculate. On each lap you get an arm band. when you had three bands you go to the finishers chute but you can also easily tell how many laps a competitor has done along he route by counting their arm bands. I kept seeing so many people falling apart on the last lap. Sitting, puking, barely walking whatever. So i was afraid my last loop would be much slower. Then my watch battery died so I didn't even know how slow I was going. I was very stressed that I just keep going. I was so relieved when I saw at the last turnaround that I had over an hour for the last 3 miles but then a few minutes later I began to get really nervous that maybe I was walking a 20 minute mile and I just jogged as much as I could. I was so thrilled to cross the finish line in time.

It is crazy to be so stressed when looking back I did have some more time. Not a lot but about 40 minutes. But that's what my mind did during the race.

This is my wetsuit hanging to dry outside before it goes in the bike box. As a side note the Mediterranean Sea leftover on my wersuit smells like stinky fish... Yuck!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Coming Soon - Ironman France Race Report

I'm finally home from my vacation. Interestingly I had I thought posted an interim blog post about my immediate thoughts while I was on vacation.

But I see now that it never posted. Hmmmm ... the mysteries of the blogger app and international wifi.

Oh well. I'll put together a post soon. In the meantime here is a photo of me practice swimming in the Mediterranean  Sea to keep you happy while you wait :-)
yup ... I look fabulous. I know. You're welcome.

The water was pretty cold but both of my kids did eventually brave the water for a few minutes. The waves come in and out pretty strongly right at the shoreline which scared them a bit (rightly so). So I helped them get past that so they could swim around. It's also imediately about 5 feet deep so it's not really a kid-friendly wading beach.
Here's my daughter getting in. That's my son behind her and my husband over his shoulder. I think the camera lens is playing a perspective trick here because my daughter is still standing which means that was probably only 3 or 4 feet from shore.  But in this pic you can see how the rocks slant steeply getting into the water. They were pretty excited that they actually went in. Of course, my daughter was in and out. My son stayed in until he got smacked by a wave and pulled out a little bit and thereby scared the crap out of himself before he got out. That was about 2 minutes. Luckily there were triathletes bobbing all over in their wetsuits and one of them just flung him up onto the rocks :-)

Random Pre-race Stuff

I arrived in Nice at around 5 pm on Thursday the 20th. Pre-Ironman nerves were in full effect and since I was supposed to be there around 1pm I was a wreck. Our connecting flight was delayed in London for about 3.5  hours. I ditched my family at the hotel and ran over to check in. I managed the check in well even though I think I mangled my race number in French pretty seriously we worked it out. Then I came back and put my bike together and then I felt much less stressed.

I was admittedly a little nervous about my bike being assembled correctly since ummm I was using the little travel tool :-) So I put it on the to do list to have it checked by the mechanics. My husband agreed that was a top notch idea.

Over the next 2 days I did two practice swims thereby perfecting my wobble off the rocky ledge known as the "beach" and the crabwalk scramble needed to get out of the water onto the rocky "beach."
notice the rocks and how you can't see where the water meets land. that's because the last 5 feet or so are pretty steep. To get in the water you sort of slide down the rock hill and then flop into the water. Also the water rushing in and out over the rocks makes a crazy rushing sound almost like a roar/screech. You can hear it while you're swimming when you get close and it's a little eerie.
 On both practice swim days there was a boat floating in the water giving out hot tea. I think it was supposed to be like the Kona coffee boat but I'm not a tea drinker so the first day I declined. Then I saw they were giving away a free arm band so while I'm not into tea I am into free stuff so I swam out there and choked down a swallow of tea and got my free thingie. :-)

My fellow Floridian racer David also took me on a ride of the bike course. Well some of it. We eventually got lost due to my superior navigation skills. In my defense I was navigating based on a Garmin 800 bike computer route. Ahem ... not ideal. So we saw most of it. Enough that I wasn't super scared of the course.
This is the only photo I took of the bike course preview. It was a spectacularly beautiful course which you cannot tell from this non-fabulous photo.
And that's all I'll give you for the preview. Next up the actual race report. Although I am hoping to find the one I thought I'd posted to share my first thoughts but we'll see if I can actually find that.