Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A few things...

In the past few days, I've done a few interesting things, tried a few new endeavors, and generally had too few time to get everything done. Okay - the last point was grammatically incorrect, but you, errr, get the point.

Highlights? Why of course...

- I saw both "Harry Potter (is it 6...?)" and "Public Enemies" (a film about John Dillinger). For someone who rarely goes to the cinema, two movies in seven days has got to be a record. But the company - Nathaniel for the first, and Dave and Meredith for the second - made it great. Although, I'm sure that Nate would have preferred PE to HP...but he was a great sport. And I love him

- Eating fantastic food at Mama Testas with Dave and Mer, and the seeing the SAME place on "Throwdown with Bobby Flay". FYI - Mama Testas won the throwdown and I promised Nathaniel a 'fish taco' date in the near future. And I've got a feeling (especially after Harry Potter) that he'll hol me to it.

-I did power meter pieces on the trainer. I was a sweaty mess and it hurt. Hello and welcome back to training! But it felt GREAT.

- There's a spider that has taken up residence and built a beautiful web between our cactus and bougainvillea. It's a big one - and I can see its pincers or fangs. But not too big so that I don't want it there... But I'm happy that its outside and no in.

- I've done MORE OPEN WATER OCEAN SWIMMING than pool swimming this week. Without saying - THIS IS A RECORD FOR ME! Something like five miles in the great wide open ocean - nearly all of it in the company of tri studs Eileen and Reid Swanson. I was so afraid to be left on my own that I practically hugged Eileen's feet the entire time. But we survived, and I love The Cove now more than ever.

- The wildlife encounters while swimming in said open water have been, errr, interesting. The pod of dolphins on the first day and numerous Garibaldi fish were great. During Wednesday's swim, I saw a giant ray of some sort, several schools of fish, a sand shark or two...but....the topper had to be the seal.

-Eileen, Reid, and I made friends with a seal! The little guy popped up (literally) in the middle of no where. We were between the 1/2 mile buoy and about 1/3 a mile away from the La Jolla shores when suddenly Eileen stopped swimming and we found ourselves face-to-face with the seal. He (or she...) seemed more curious than anything else - and we took turns looking at each other above and then below the surface. Super cute! And it wasn't until Reid commented, "Don't they have teeth?" and the seal moved about 12 inches away that we panicked. But all was well and eventually he/she swam away and the three of us were left on our own... But I still wondered - what else was in there...?

- Because you know that you're never alone in the water - wild life is abundant. And the fact that Discovery Channel is advertising "SHARK WEEK" doesn't help. In fact, I turn away every time I see a swimmer alone...relaxing...

- I've done two "speed" running workouts in the past few days: nope, NOT fast. But just getting the leg turnover is good for me.

-Yelling at the computer and hitting "REFRESH" while spectating IM Lake Placid - It was wonderful seeing so many people compete in and finish their Ironman. How fantastic, how truly wonderful!

-One hour into my two hour bike ride, I decide that either I didn't like my bike shorts OR my saddle. As the shorts are easier to replace, I figured it was them...and NOT the saddle. But in order to complete the 120 minute workout, I "rewarded" myself with a glass (or two) of wine. And yes, it was worth it.

-Listening to the stories of the 70 and 80-year old members of the La Jolla Swim Club are touching - and watching them swim (all 6-10 of them), just fantastic. I want to be like that when I grow up - flowered bathing cap and flippers included.

- Watching in AWE the big surf that hit the coast last weekend. It was incredible: 10 foot waves, and they seemed even BIGGER - up to 12-15 feet at times. I almost stopped to watch during my run. Almost...

- I tried a new gym and realized that the one I've been going to all along is perfect for me. Plenty of functional strength equipment, not a big crowd, and a great space to practice said functional strength. The newer one...not so much. Being the ONLY girl wasn't the issue: rude people were. Lesson learned!

-Tabbitha and Anabelle are getting along sort of...? They've bumped noses twice this past week, but its always been right before they've been fed. And then they go back to their 'usual' ways - Anabelle chases Tabbs, and Tabbitha lashes back. I'm convinced that one of these days, they'll be friends...

-Alba Body Lotion is wonderful, smells like tropical coconuts, and makes me crave a Pina Colada. But I haven't given in...yet.

-I'm excited to see what the rest of the week has in store: a climb up Palomar with Charis and The Tour of the Buoys OW swim race, among other things. YEA!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A lit fire!

Sometimes you just need a little fire lit under your rear to get going. I think we all experience this in life from time to time, at one point or another. For some reason or another we let things slide, or momentarily loose focus on one thing in order to pursue another.

And that's great. That's fine. That's a big part of what life is about. And trust me when I say this: we need to let things go, need to back off, need to give yourself a break.

For the most part, this can be extremely beneficial - because when push comes to shove, when the really important stuff comes around, we're ready. We're prepared. We've had our mental and/or physical break. And on!

We all know how I feel about open water swimming.

Okay - quick fix: we all know how I feel about open water swimming in the ocean.

It's taken me quite a while to even be willing to consider stepping foot in the Big Wide Ocean in a non-race situation.

Obviously there are a few exceptions - like if I saw someone in distress or who needed help. Then all bets are off. And watch how fast I can throw off my shoes and wriggle out of my shorts in order to run headlong into the surf... (Now if only I could get my Ironman transitions down that fast).

Slowly but surely, I'm getting increasingly comfortable with the idea of open water ocean swimming. Mostly because the water looks so beautiful, extremely inviting, and I see (literally) hundreds (if not thousands) of people in the water on a daily basis along the beautiful California coast.

A few weeks ago, I surprised myself when I commented to Nathaniel, "You know - I think surfing or paddle boarding sounds really really neat. I see so many people in the water on a daily basis - and they're all okay! I think I may take surfing lessons one of these days..."

I think his jaw is still on the floor.

After all - we all know how I feel about Unmentionables (with really big teeth).

But after reading Jen's post on Open Water swimming, it got me thinking... In order to better prepare for Ironman Hawaii, I really NEED to get more comfortable swimming long distances in the open water (and without a wetsuit). There IS a difference - and after my first OW swim race in Louisiana last year, I can truly attest to that.)

The practice and experience that I gained from two measly swims in Florida and Louisiana had a very profound affect on how I've positioned myself and the race tactics I've employed in my first three triathlon races of the season. (Set myself at the front, go out HARD (Ironman being the exception), find feet to draft off, use new goggles, sight every 5-10 strokes, work hard to stay in the pack - because hanging on for a little longer is better for my speed in the long term than swimming solo...etc)

But its one thing to practice in a race...and different to go out on your own and just swim.

Jen's post was awesome: she highlighted some of the benefits of Open Water swimming AND Masters Swimming and why BOTH should be used to gain swim speed throughout the triathlon season.

So when friend and fellow blogger Eileen Swanson sent me a message, letting me know she would be "in the area and would I perhaps be interested in a swim at The Cove...?"

Without hesitation I replied: YES!

And I realize this was only my second-ever time swimming a non-race open ocean water swim...but I had a blast. It was really reassuring to discover that a top notch swimmer such as Eileen harbors the same fears that I do. But she doesn't let that hold her back from doing something she truly loves - open water swimming.

And perhaps I spent so much effort just trying to stay in her draft that i didn't really think about anything else.

But we spent a total of 90 minutes swimming, treading water and chatting, enjoying the sights and sounds, and just having a blast earlier today. It was awesome - absolutely fantastic. I didn't even freak out when I saw something move about 100 feet away and heard myself comment, "Oh look! A fin!"

Although Reid and Eileen looked a little less settled than I was.

But...I was so used to seeing the rounded movements of dolphins off the coast - that I just instinctively knew that a pod of dolphins was close by.

It was a pretty surreal moment: treading water, bobbing up and down in the rollers breaking 1/2 mile away on the beach, and seeing four or five dolphins just a short distance away.

Eileen quickly exclaimed, "Oh look! Let's go swim towards them!"

Reid and I looked at each other and he broke the news gently, "Um...they're pretty fast. And I don't think we could swim that fast to catch the time we reach them, they would be gone."

Well - maybe for him and myself, but I'm sure Eileen could have bridged the gap pretty quickly.

I had such a good time today - relaxing and just enjoying the beauty and tranquility of The Cove and open water that I agreed to go back tomorrow. Plus, my new challenge will be to stay on Eileen's feet for a tad more than five minutes...

So thanks to Jen for lighting my open water fire and being so supportive of me -- even when I was terrified and absolutely refused to get in the water. And for Eileen, Reid, Shannon, and Stephen - for supporting me the two times that I swam out of The Cove.

The fire is lit and I can't wait for tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


One of the challenges that I've faced in my return to training is, well, how I feel. Rationally I know that I've recently completed an Ironman and therefore can't be in too bad of shape. Or out of shape (what have you). For Pete's Sake, I spent how many months working on my aerobic engine, power, and endurance. It can't be all that bad, right?

But on a different level, I feel...slow, (dare I say...?) fat, and slightly encumbered. Sort of like I've been outside in the cold for a really really (really) long time, and my cheeks have frozen so that speaking and forming words is tough. You have to think and be deliberate when communicating (while snot and ice melt all over your jacket).

Aaahhhh....the memories of winters in Minnesota. And to think - I spent how many hours, skiing and frolicking in the snow? Now, well, now after living in North Carolina, Florida and California, my cold weather tolerance has, um, slightly decreased. Anything below 68 and I'm in arm warmers and toe covers. (*wimp* snigger. Kindly keep your remarks to yourself. I realize the absolute absurdity of my statement).

But in my return to training, I've been feeling, well, off.

And yes, I'm still excited about training, happy that I'm steadily gaining back my fitness and know that in the long term - the time off and long recovery were ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. But its still tough.

Because for the past few days, when the intensity has kicked up, I've been forced to listen to (and then deal with) the inner-dialogue of myself.

For example:
Self 1 - Running at a 5K pace? Ha ha ha - that's a good joke! Just back down...its only 2 or 3 minutes.

Self 2 - Unacceptable! It's going to be hard - DO NOT settle! Fast - work those legs, focus on turnover, GO! No one said it was going to be easy.

Self 1 - You don't do *fast*. Remember that IM-thing? Steady...strong...solid. Note - the fast is not part of the deal.

Self 2 - NOT LISTENING. La la la la la! Go fast now - because if you don't, you never will. GO!

More often than not, Self 2 wins out, and I push the pace, up the intensity, bring on the power. But there are other times where the task at hand seems just a tad overwhelming.

Today at the pool was no exception.

Post-CDA swimming has been interesting. For some reason, its taken me a bit longer to get comfortable swimming with Carlsbad Masters. Last week during my first week back, I swam in a slower lane - but still felt slightly out of sorts. This week, I've made myself return to my regular lane...but its been challenging.

In the past, making my lane's base pace wasn't usually much of a problem (and yes, there were always exceptions). But more often than not, I volunteered to lead - and didn't think too much of it. By the time my wheels fell off, the workout was usually coming to a close - and the guys who really wanted to sprint and have the fastest split for the day, would simply take off and drop my sorry butt (but I would try to stay on their feet...)

And while I realize that Rome wasn't built in a day, and my swimming and overall fitness will take some time to re-build (the point being, that it WILL return) - I still catch myself in the battle between Self 1 and Self 2.

Today, I had the perfect External Motivator in the form of my lane mate, urging me on. And while I partially believe he said what he did because he didn't want to lead the final 400, I was still grateful for his support and kind words. Because in the end - they made all the difference.

For example:
Marit (out of breath, slightly panting)- Okay, final 400. I don't think I can hold base pace. Who wants to lead it?

Jeff (totally calm, serious) - I think you can do it. In fact, I think you can hold a 1:xx pace.

Marit (slight pause, brows furrowed) - You know what? Okay. I think I can do that. No, I KNOW I can do that.

Jeff (totally calm, serious) - Well okay then. On the bottom, let's go.

In the end, I was exactly one second off the base pace Jeff predicted. And yes it hurt, and absolutely I felt like my lats were about to explode. But I did it, I made it happen.

Would I have 'gone for it' had Jeff not made his pledge of support? Not really sure about that one - undoubtedly after starting the piece I would have pushed hard and picked up the tempo throughout. But Jeff's words of encouragement and belief in me, made all the difference.

I guess that's the take home message: support from friends, family, loved ones, and training partners can make all the difference. So - be sure to hug your family members, thank your lane mates (do NOT pee in the pool! At least not in your lane.), and give your training partners their full due. I know that I would not be the same athlete without their support.

Thanks guys - for believing in me today, when I didn't. You made all the difference

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Back to life, back to...reality?

Not that I ever really liked that song, but its a start. And its all that I could think of while slogging through the last 3-5 minutes of my transition run today. I think even the mailman felt sorry for me; you know its bad when he gives you a sympathetic glance and inquires about your health.

Hello summer training in Southern California!

Back to the reality of our lives, I guess.

Not that I'm complaining: far from it.

Nathaniel has checked into his new squadron (The Gunfighters!) and because of his affiliation, I am now a "Gunfighter Gal". Ha ha. You think I'm joking - but I'm not. And the handy tea towel that I was given at the first spouse's meeting last night confirms that fact. But I know The Hubby is very happy to be out of flight school and back in the fleet.

Even though one of the women turned to me and delightfully shrieked, "So YOU GUYS are the boot!" (For all those non-military types, "the boot" is reserved for the newest and generally youngest person at the squadron. FYI - not exactly a term of endearment).

I just stood a little taller (all 5'4 of me) and replied, "Yeah, for a Captain with seven years and two ground combat tours, I'm sure that term really applies to us."

What else could I do? Some people (read: spouses) get really caught up in the drama and hierarchy of the military. Which is why I've kept myself at a distance for the most part. Luckily, most of the women seemed pretty nice and down to earth - and I only had to answer a few questions about what type of helicopter Nathaniel flies. (The squadron that we're now with contains both the Yankee (Huey) and Cobra. 2/3 of the pilots fly Cobras, and most of the women asking that question were Cobra wives.)

As for me? Well, I'm just happy that he's happy. And the new squadron seems to be really good (thus far).

In even better news (because this is my blog!), I'm happy to report that I'm back to "normal" training (whatever that means). Not as long or as hard as full-blown-IM training; but plenty to keep me on my toes. Yes, the distance is (mostly) there, but I've got some good intensity to keep me honest.

Oh, um and also help me gain speed (which I'm severely lacking since my first round of IM training).

And let me be the first to say that after taking a good chunk of time off and away from The Sport, getting back into it hasn't been the easiest thing. Uh - yeah (total understatement). I spent my first week or so swimming in a slower Master's lane, spinning on the trainer while watching the tour, and just going on "easy" runs.

Jen's instructions to me read: smell the flowers!

Yeah. Those kind of workouts. Super easy, fun, and meant to get my body used to moving again.

Last week we re-introduced two-workouts per days and this week...well...let's just say that there's both higher distance and more intensity. Which, while making my palms slightly sweaty with anticipation, also makes me happy.

And I also really appreciate the extra time I get to spend with Nathaniel and friends. I can't begin to explain how much easier it is to be sociable on the weekend when my only Saturday workout involved swimming for 75 minutes versus biking for 7 hours.

Yes, biking that long tends to put a damper on breakfast date plans. And beach plans. And staying-awake-long-enough-to-carry-on-a-decent-conversation-plans. Which is why I'm grateful for the time now - because in a few weeks I know things will be different. And I'm okay with that, excited even.

So that's where I stand. Back to the reality of life, I guess. Or something like that. YEA! Let's just hope I can keep the excitement on as the training becomes tougher, the hours longer, and the fatigue greater. Let's find out together, shall we...?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Ironman Coeur d'Alene RR, part 4

Well, it’s been a few weeks since my first Ironman, and while my finish was super emotional and my journey (at times, seeming) epic – I can’t say that I feel any different. I’m still the same old me, with the exception that I know what it feels like to go 140.6 miles and then STOP.

Yes, you read correctly – simply stop.

I didn’t believe it when friends warned me of the Ironman “phenomenon”, as they referred to it. “You’ll run and run and run, cross that finish line, and then suddenly not be able to run any more.”

Sure enough, they were right.

I remember crossing the finish line, seeing my parents and friends (Molly and her box of cupcakes! I swear, it was the ONLY time I have EVER declined baked goods. The idea of consuming a cupcake…well…just couldn’t stomach it. Not yet, anyway), and then suddenly saying, “I need to go to the medical tent. And I need to go now.”

After spending 30 (or was it 45 minutes?) trying to get warm, sipping chicken broth, and talking with Kerrie, I gingerly made my way from the FINISH area to transition. The two block walk took about 20 minutes. I am so not kidding. My hamstrings were done, ready to cramp at a moment’s notice. My quads felt like…well….they didn’t really feel. It would be another 72 hours until I could actually bend my legs enough to walk up or down stairs.

At the transition, a wonderful volunteer lent me his cell phone and I promptly called Nathaniel. He and my parents had been frantically searching for me at the Medical tent – but unfortunately my information failed to be processed – and they had no idea of my whereabouts. I assured them that I was okay and not going anywhere fast. They were at my side within five minutes, my Dad carefully pushing my bike and Nathaniel – who gave me his green jacket – running ahead to get the car. Walking 5 or 7 blocks seemed nearly impossible, and I gave the three concrete steps that I had to climb the finger as I (somehow) made my way up.

Even food and drink – seemed to make me feel sick. Back at the hotel my parents had gotten wine and snack-like food, but nothing seemed “good”. I knew I had to eat – but a recovery bar, a few strawberries and blueberries, and half a glass of red wine was all I could handle. Later I had a few pretzels and peanut butter – but it was just wrong.

And for just about the first time ever, I did NOT take an ice bath after a super-hard effort. One, the idea of lowering myself into the tub seemed impossible and two, I had been pretty chilled for the last 90 minutes or so of my race AND during the long walk to and from transition (so basically the past few hours). The hot shower felt absolutely fantastic – and I knew my legs were shot, ice bath or not.

Talking with Jen was great – we re-hashed the race; from her perspective and then my own. She confirmed that I had in fact finished second in my age group, and when asked if I wanted to know how close I was to first, I responded with, “Don’t tell me if its less than a minute.”


“Jen? You are fucking kidding me, right? Oh good lord! I had no idea – not a clue!”

But hey – I have no regrets. Absolutely none. For my first Ironman, I set out to be smart, steady, strong, solid – and I feel (for the most part) that I did just that. No, it certainly wasn’t easy and I would most certainly agree that the race is JUST as much of a mental challenge as it is as a physical one. But I have no regrets. And honestly – after thinking a lot about it – I would do nothing differently.

Even kissing Nathaniel – all worth it. And yes, later on I got a chance to put my Pine-tree-shaped Finisher’s Medal around his neck. He promptly turned red and took it off. But I wanted him to have it – it was just as much his as it was mine. Without his love, understanding, patience, and support – I wouldn’t have gotten through the race the way I did.

If it’s anything that I’ve learned, Ironman is as much about Family Support (AND Friend support – yea!) as it is about yourself and your training. Show me any married Ironman, and I’ll show you a family that pretty much needs to be on board. (And YES – before signing up for Kona and IM St. George I had conversations FIRST with Nathaniel and then Jen.)

Later that evening – with my compression socks on and Mom, Dad, and Nathaniel all asleep in the hotel – Molly brought herself AND her magical box of cupcakes over. It was super to catch up with her at the Breakfast Room and eat THE BEST CUPCAKE IN THE WORLD. I chose the Hostess-lookalike. And I wasn’t disappointed. I would have asked for another, but it seemed wrong… I was very touched that Molly would drive so far out of her way to offer congratulations and a cupcake. And it was a lot of fun to hear her perspective and swap race stories. THANKS MOLLY!

And the rest, they say, is history.

The next morning, I checked my bike and gear bag back in with TriBike Transport, and then had a DELICIOUS breakfast at IHOP with Mom and Deirdre, while Dad and Nathaniel returned the rental car. And if you want “odd” in terms of breakfast food – this is what I had:

Healthy (it said so on the menu!) Whole Grain Pancakes with sliced bananas on the top, with a side of egg substitute. And then (before you roll your eyes), I ordered a side of: hash browns, sausage links, regular eggs, and bacon. It was delicious. All of it. Even the pecan-nut pancakes that the waitress brought by mistake… I ate some of them too.

Later I was able to pick up my award, but unfortunately due to time constrictions (Nathaniel was flying to Seattle and was going to meet us while we drove to Seattle, at the ferry to Bainbridge Island), we had to get on the road. And while the awards ceremony would have been nice to see, I wasn’t all that thrilled with the $20 non-athlete entry fee the M Dot corporation was charging. Oh well. I think Dad and Nate managed to grab a plate of ham or something on the way out – so there you go.

And then the cruise. I’ll post pictures – I promise.

But before I forget – other thoughts and observations from Ironman Coer d’Alene. Enjoy!

-I never realized my legs could swell up so much. It was ugly, and I had NO visible ankle(s) for a few days. Yes, I LIVED in my compression socks – but it was pretty bad. Even elevation – didn’t help. Nathaniel and I enjoyed schlepping around Seattle and parts of Bainbridge Island – but I was always in long pants. Because really – who wants to be seen with major cankles, right? I spent enough time in high school with cankles – no need to relive those “happy” memories.

-It was WONDERFUL meeting fellow bloggers. This online community is great, and I’m looking forward to seeing Deirdre, Meredith, Dave, Molly, Tasha, Rob, Angelina (and Shaun!), Ian, and anyone else that I may have forgotten again. THANK YOU ALL for making my first Ironman so special.

-The night before the race was spent with my parents, Nathaniel, and Angelina and Shaun at their hotel. It was SUPER to meet them and relax a bit before the race. The boys had lots to talk about, as both Nathaniel and Shaun are in their respective country’s military, and Dad and Shaun both teach history and foreign policy (in Shaun’s case – military strategy) at University, and Nathaniel LOVES to read and write about US foreign policy and military affairs… While Angelina, Mom, and myself chatted about other things. Just an all around lovely evening, and I’m looking forward to seeing Angelina and Shaun again at some point.

-It was a bit of a shock for me to go from IM training and racing to…zero training and cruise. Yes, I had a few days to explore Bainbridge Island and relax with my folks, Nathaniel, Chris (our WONDERFUL host) and Charlie – her carrot eating dog – but it was still tough. My morning walks increased from forty minutes on the first day to well over ninety plus by the end. The island was beautiful and I fell in love with its forests and trails. But I missed the training…

-Even though my stomach didn’t feel all that great immediately following the race, I woke up RAVENOUSLY HUNGRY at 3:00 am Saturday. I went for the FIRST THING I COULD THINK OF – Power bars. Yeah, it’s gross and wrong – but I was so hungry and not thinking straight that I ate three (yes THREE) recovery bars in under two minutes. Luckily that seemed to do the trick and I soon fell asleep again…but it was not good. Not good at all.

-Body glide is wonderful. The only spot I had chafing was under my arm where my running top seam rubbed. And the back of my neck? NO wetsuit bite. Wonderful, absolutely fantastic.

-I’m not a big fan of the M Dot brand…but I was deeply touched by the Ironman necklace that Mom gave me after the race. It was the one thing that I would have bought for myself, but she beat me to it. I will treasure it forever – thanks Mom!

-I would have to say: Undoubtedly, the training IS WAY harder than the race.

-Ignorance IS bliss. Especially for the last ten miles of the run. But at least I know what to expect a little bit better than before my race. And now I know how to prepare – so at least that counts for something.

-Nathaniel compared my 6-hour-bike-ride-that-really-felt-like-90-minutes to completing an Instrument Scan flight. Yeah – he spends 2 hours in the helicopter flying off the instruments – but it feels like a mere ten minutes. My body, though, would have to disagree. It felt every bit of the 10:49 that I was out there. Trust me!

-Speaking of body… I was so sore…everywhere…and in parts that I NEVER thought I would be sore. Even putting my hands on my hips – ouch. Tender doesn’t even begin to describe it.

-A few days of no training was great. Heck, even a week I could deal with. But…on June 30 (and well into our cruise), I called Jen and cried Uncle. I missed structure, I missed the joy of training, I missed feeling productive. But she managed to talk some sense into me…and instead Nathaniel and I found ourselves doing a lot of hikes.

-Did I mention that we hiked – a lot?

-I never fully appreciated how much I loved beer samplers until visiting LOTS of different places.

-And peanut butter cups. Nope, I can’t forget about those.

-If I never see another gel again, that’s okay with me. But before too long I know I’ll be consuming them on a regular basis. But still….blech.

-Same thing for bars. Even the recovery bars (as yummy tasting as they are!)

-If I had to do it all over again…I would. Without question or pause for thought.

-CDA was a fantastic first Ironman! The crowd support, town, venue, course, friends, and family who came all made it wonderful. I thought a little about how I missed Arizona, but was no longer sad about it. After everything I’ve been though, I totally accept the fact that RIGHT NOW I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. I thought about that during my race…that THIS is where I’m supposed to be. And it makes me happy.


(And to return to regular blogging. Pictures from the cruise are forthcoming. As soon as I can figure out this new camera…hhhmmmm….did you know that I’m mechanically challenged?)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ironman Coeur d'Alene RR, part 3


I ran under the BIKE IN banner and yelled, “Which way?”

I had little time to think about my legs or stomach as the awesome volunteers pointed me in the correct direction – past the cheering spectators on the left, around the bike transition zone on the right, and then onto the basketball court that had become the ‘holding place’ for our T2 bike-to-run gear bags. Coming upon rows and rows and rows of gear bags, I made the mental note to attach a GIANT balloon to mine in the future.

Dorky as it would have looked to see The Roadrunner billowing in the wind, I would have known exactly where my bag was.

I yelled, “2059!” and again, someone escorted me and helped to find my bag. I hoped over a few rows and sorted through five or six bags before I found the right one. And before I could stop to gather my thoughts, I found my feet and “sprinted” towards the tent.

“In here!” two women cried as I made a bee-line towards the Men’s Changing Tent. Yeah – I’ve realized that after spending 7+ hours of racing, my uptake isn’t quite as quick as it normally is. Nice.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Rob book it into his tent. Good, I noted to myself, he’s off the bike, safe and sound…

In spite of the outside gloom, it took my eyes a few seconds to adjust to the dark tent. I quickly chose a seat on the far left towards the entrance and dumped out my bag. The volunteer that seated herself next to me was extremely patient and helpful as I began changing.

You can’t lose an Ironman in transition, You can’t lose an Ironman in transition – I reminded myself as I began changing from my bike gear to run gear.

In order to mentally tackle the marathon hurdle, I had decided that a complete wardrobe change was in order. Glancing across the folding chairs, I noticed the gal decked in pick bike attire was doing the same. Funny, I though, I’m going from blue shorts and a blue top on the bike to blue shorts and a white top for the run.

I noticed a few other girls in transition as well, but tried to keep the focus on ME.

For a millisecond I contemplated not taking off my bike short due to modesty – but scratched the idea. I apologized to the volunteer and quickly said, “I’m so sorry, but I’m doing a complete change – could you please hand me my running shorts?”

I don’t think my bike shorts ever came off so quick – but hey, you do what you gotta do. Very quickly I replaced my bike top with my run top and then changed from wet socks to dry socks. And then I remembered my heart rate monitor strap. While my hr had been instrumental on the bike, Jen and I had decided that I should not use it for the run. I knew it would be high at times – but I had done so many long runs and my pace had been basically the same…I figured my body would just know what to do. So OFF with the hr strap, to be seen only after the race was completed.

Next up – the volunteer asked if I wanted to use any of, “These things…?”

She held up one (of many) plastic bags with my Biore Facial Clensing Cloths (yes! And they also work for removing the remnants of dried throw up from your arms and shoulders! Double yea!), and then another tampon-filled baggie, and yet another baggie filled with Midol and ibuprofen.

My cramps didn’t feel too bad – and I didn’t want to take any more time than absolutely necessary. I knew that I hadn’t packed anything for my Run Special Needs, but still it didn’t seem absolutely necessary. Besides, I had already had enough of “new things” via the dried cranberries – who knows what weird side effect the Midol could have prompted? Knowing my luck, I would probably throw up more.

“Just the gels, please! And hat – thanks!” I commented while double knotting my shoes. Again – in the days leading up to the race I had opted to tie my own shoes instead of using lace locks (even though I had purchased the lace locks and had used them on my race flats). I figured that because I didn’t run with them during my long runs, I wouldn’t bother with them in the race. Besides….

No one loses an Ironman in transition…take your time…you have plenty of time…just relax.

After tying my shoes, I stood up, adjusted my race belt towards the front, made sure I had ALL of the gels and salt for the run (a grand total of 8 gels and Nuun canister filled with salt tablets. I wanted to have plenty of gels on hand – figuring that as the miles ticked off, some would be more palatable than others. NO more chocolate, please! A first time in my life saying that!), favorite hat and sunglasses, thanked my volunteer profusely, and ran out of the tent.

The salt made a funny noise in the canister, and it reminded me of a Moroccan band as I headed towards the RUN OUT banner.

The time read a little over 7:11, and I KNEW that if I ran a sub 3:49 marathon, I could break 11 hours…Sub 3:39 and I would be under 10:50. But I pushed the thought out of my head. I didn’t want to be greedy, didn’t know how my body/stomach/legs/mind would respond…and instead, set out to run my second marathon ever. I made a mental note of the time and started my watch right as my timing chip beeped.

THE RUN (3:38:16)

Relax! Relax, relax, relax, relax, relax! I told myself as my legs turned over.

Heading out of transition my legs felt pretty…darned…okay…? But my stomach – ugh. That was another story. I tried to ignore the bloat and how jiggley it felt, and instead focused on what was GOOD. Legs are great! Hooray for those legs! Posture and back – aokay! Thank you core work and core sessions! Arms are swining and well, for being down in my aerobars for 112 miles, give or take quite a few up hills, my neck feels downright perky.

Then I had a conversation with my stomach. I don’t think I spoke aloud – but you never can be sure. Here’s the deal. I know that you’re cramped and upset. And in hindsight, I will NEVER force you to digest dried cranberries and undercooked oatmeal again. In fact, we’ll probably do something different for Kona. Hooray. But listen up – we’re here, right now and I’m going to run, whether you like it or not. You can work with me here, or just do your own thing. But I’m going to run; I’m going to make this happen. Mind over matter…if I don’t mind…then it doesn’t matter…

I knew from past experience that it could take up to 20 or 30 minutes for my stomach to settle. I had done plenty of runs before Arizona and then in my lead up to CDA, where it felt a bit “off” for the first few miles. Just be patient, I told myself, and it will work out.

Energy-wise, I felt great. I knew that most, if not all of the 1400 kcal of Carbopro 1200 I consumed had gone down, and the gels were more absorbed as the bike leg continued. I just needed to get through the first few miles of the run…

Easy… I cautioned myself. I passed the first aid station, filled with screaming volunteer and more food and drink than I could imagine. “Just water!” I yelled while being handed a cup. It went down well and I continued running.

The Ironman Shuffle – I called it. Not super fast, not really pretty – just what you would expect a “run” to look like after spending 2.4 mile of swimming and 112 miles on the bike.

Suddenly I heard, “GO MARIT!”

I glanced to my left and saw Deirdre and…Angelina! I slowed in my tracks, nearly stopped and yelled to Angelina “Are you okay? Oh my gosh!”

“KEEP GOING!” yelled Deirdre. “She’s fine! GO – RUN – KEEP GOING!”

“Not enough calories on the bike…” yelled Angelina.

I waved, but heeded Deirdre’s advice. She sounded serious – like she was about to kick my butt if I stopped for too long. Thanks Deirdre!

Very shortly, I heard light foot steps behind me and was passed by Rob. “Hey Rob! GREAT job!” I shouted as he strode by. His gait looked easy, his run light. I wanted to emulate his form, to match him stride-for-stride – but he was just too strong.

“Hey Cutie Petutie!” he called as he passed. If he said anything else, it was lost in the cheering of the crowds. Simply put – he looked awesome. And I kept my eyes pinned on his back, taking note of the white compression calf socks, and yellow shoes.

As we got further away from transition, the crowds thinned out, and the trees overhead provided shelter from the grey clouds overhead. The lake looked choppy, but beautiful to my left, and I was just so happy, so inspired to be running my first Ironman. Stomach ailments be damned – I was going to make this work. Easy – I reminded myself. If you run a 10-minute mile for the first few miles, it’s fine. Remember Jen’s words – 3:45 marathon is GREAT. Be smart…and make it happen.

Before I realized it, I was rounding a quick corner and coming up to the timing mat at mile run. I thanked the volunteers, heard my chip BEEP as I went over the mat, though about all my family and friends who could see my split update on Ironman Live, and promptly choked up. Again.

But seeing my first mile split – right around 8:10, brought me back to reality. It FELT easy, it felt light. And in spite of some stomach discomfort, all was well.

Heading back towards the transition zone and crowds in town, I first passed the Special Needs bag and then the cheering…increased. I figured, though – it was for the first place woman. I had seen Tyler Stewart running strongly towards the turn-around shortly after I had passed the mat, and knew the pass would be inevitable.

The crowd noise became deafening and just after I passed the 15-mile sign, the bike escort and THEN Tyler Stewart passed. I saw Heather Fuhr a mere 100 meters beyond and wondered how well all the pro woman knew each other… Very quickly though, I forced my mind back to my own race. I had missed my second mile split, but it didn’t bother me. I figured I was running smart, easy, and doing what worked for me.

The crowds in downtown Coeur d’Alene were wonderful, and I couldn’t stop grinning. And then I heard my name again. “GO MARIT!!! LOOK CUPCAKES!”

It was Molly and Dave’s Meredith. Molly was holding a giant pink box of cupcakes and I was very tempted to make a bee-line her direction. Had they been holding a beer sampler, I’m sure the urge would have been just too much. Instead I waved and heard something about, “Kate says HI” – but I wasn’t too sure.

Two blocks down, I heard my Mom before I saw her. Her cheers brought a smile to my face – but before I could pick her out of the crowd, I locked eyes with Nathaniel. I had thought about this moment during my training runs – what would I do when I saw Nathaniel? Would I stop before the finish and give him a hug? And the answer was always a resounding YES!

“Hi sweetheart!” I called as I ran towards him. Without thinking, I gave him a giant smooch.

“You were tenth out of the water,” he said just after I pulled away.

“Oh. Okay. That doesn’t matter now – because it’s 6 and a half hours later. But thanks! I LOVE YOU!” I yelled. And then took off running again.

It was only after the fact that I thought about how gross that probably was. There I was – sweaty, salty, having GI issues on the bike – laying a Big One on my super clean, but adorably supportive and handsome hubby. Hopefully he didn’t have to wipe his lips off too much…

After leaving the cheering of town, I turned towards the residential streets and figured that it was time to deal with the stomach cramps. I wondered if they weren’t bathroom-related, and figured I would make a port-o-potty call just in case. The racer-within lamented peeing on a toilet – just pee on yourself while running…you do it all the time.

Yes, the practical side of me responded. But… First thing, you don’t know IF you need to just pee or do anything else and Second…you’re wearing running shorts that will stick to your leg if they get super wet. Do you really want to run another 23 miles with wet, pee-filled shorts? It won’t kill you to stop…just do it when the pink girl and that other girl ahead stop.

There must have been something in the air because as soon as I thought it, Pink Girl and another gal who had left the transition a little ahead of me ducked into the two nearest port-o-potties.

Good, I thought, then they won’t see me pass!

Half a block down and on the other side of the road, I finally got relief. It took me 2:00 of constant peeing – but it felt great. I safely passed the gas that had been causing me so many cramps and breathed a sigh of relief that it was JUST gas and not anything else. At least I could rest easy that I didn’t have to hold in diarrhea or anything super icky (but that I’ve heard horror stories about…).

As gross as it was, it felt pretty sweet sitting on the pot. I recalled one of the Lake Henshaw bike rides that I had done with Charisa – and remembered one such similar feeling while sitting on The John in one of the convenience stores at the base of Palomar Mountain. I suppose one never realizes how great a toilet seat feels until one has either been deprived of said seat for so long OR has been riding one’s bike for an inordinate amount of miles.

Quick as I could, I pulled up my shorts and exited the port-o-potty. I grimaced and tried not to think about the one hundred and twenty seconds lost to Mother Nature, but there was nothing I could do about it now. Then again, I thought resolutely to myself, I would probably lose more time down the road if I didn’t stop. At some point, everyone pees. And then some.

About half a block later, I noticed not two, but three girls running ahead. Pinky, and the same Gal from transition, but another had joined. She was wearing an Atlanta Sports Factory kit – I recognized it as the same one Amy Kloner races in. Okay – I thought. Can’t tell the age of Newby, but it doesn’t really matter. All I can do is run my own race….

So I just kept going. Just kept going…

Step after step, stride after stride…mile after mile.

Passing the “motivational mile” was the last time I let myself think about friends and family until the end. The previous day in the Athlete’s Village, my Mom and I had made inspirational signs – and while I never noticed my own, I instantly saw the bright colors of Moms. It made me cry all over again.

Enough! I thought. There is NO WAY you can get through the marathon by weeping every damn mile! Thank everyone and think of them at the end…

At the aid station just before turning onto Coeur d’Alene Drive, I saw Terra Castro. I remembered cheering for her during Oceanside, and then having her turn around and encouraging me right back. After the race I had the pleasure of chatting with her for a bit – and she was just as friendly as she appears on her blog. It was neat to finally meet her back in April. I could tell today, though, that she wasn’t having the easiest day out there – but she bravely yelled to me while passing the other direction, “Let’s do this thing girl!”

Her words gave me courage. Yeah, it will probably hurt – but we all have to deal with it. Let’s do this thing!

So I kept running – out finally onto Coeur d’Alene drive, a few more miles before hitting the turn-around half way up the hill.

I made sure to take my gels – every 40 to 45 minutes, while constantly reassessing myself, my stomach, and my outlook. So far the legs were moving well – I stopped watching my mile splits, figuring that I was going to run what I was going to run. And while I didn’t feel fast – the pace felt steady, strong, solid, and consistent (just like training). I took plenty of time, though, to enjoy the scenery.

The lake was beautiful, framed perfectly by sloping green mountains. The wind had calmed since the morning. Well, either that, or this particular part of the lake was just more sheltered. Although, I could still feel quite a bit of headwind…excellent! A tailwind towards the end, just when I need it, I thought.

The closer I got to the turn around, the more I noticed age group women running back towards me. In past races, I’ve always counted and tried to figure out where I was. But this race was different. Part of me didn’t really care, just because I still had 18 miles to go (THAT puts things in perspective!), but also because this was unlike any other race I had ever done. It was so much within myself – no one else really mattered. If they passed me – okay. Either I would pass them back or not. But if I ran too fast or too much beyond my means, I would most definitely pay for it during the second loop.

I recalled Jen’s words, “Easy on the first half. The race really starts on the second loop. IF you feel good – the go. But just be smart. Be smart.”

And that’s when I noticed how many people I was…passing? It didn’t hit me at first during my run, just because I was so focused on my gut and getting my legs under me. But now that I was moving, I began to notice a lot of people jogging along or – in some cases – walking. I wondered how many of these people were the same ones who blew by me in the first few hours of the bike, and were just now paying for their blazing bike split.

Maybe there was something to this pacing thing….

I knew I could pretty much hold a heart rate of 140-160 all day. It was just a matter of execution (and my body holding up – let’s not get too carried away. I was, after all, somewhere between miles 6 and 10. A LONG way to go).

Gradually I saw a few more women trickle past, and soon came upon the final aid station at the bottom of the hill (before the turn). Then I heard someone loud from behind, rapidly approaching. I knew it was a gal – based on the foot strikes. But she was breathing pretty heavily, and I knew that whoever it was, they were working awful hard.

And then the pass. I thought it was Kerrie, but I didn’t want to call her name on the off chance that I was wrong. I recognized the Erin Baker’s Breakfast Cookie kit, but didn’t realize she was so…petite (well – duh! The girl is a FAST runner!). I guess everyone always seems so tall to me (being a spry 5’4 myself) – but Kerrie seemed about my height, which was a welcomed surprise.

“Kerrie…?” I asked, timidly – not wanting to insult the girl if it wasn’t.

She turned back and nodded her head at me, and tried to say something. But I didn’t catch the words, because 1) her pace was super fast and 2) her voice came out in a whisper.

I called after her, “GREAT JOB!” and watched her fight on. I was so happy to see her out there running hard on the course that I didn’t even mind that she had passed me. I figured I would try to keep her in my sights as long as possible, but if not – oh well.

As I ran up the hill, I noticed some very excited spectators at the top, all sporting Viking Helmets. They cheered for me as I rounded the timing mat and I cheered them back. I was happy – one more mat crossed and I had set my sights on another girl just a few meters ahead. I had already left Pinky and the other Gal from transition behind, but the girl ahead was new.

At the bottom of the hill, I noticed Kate Major, one of the local Southern California professionals, running up. She was in the second pro overall position and while I cheered her on, I thought it would be pretty neat if I could stay ahead of her for the rest of the run. Then again, she was already on mile 20, while I was somewhere past 8. Still, I felt great about the run that I was having and focused on the next girl just up the road.

She had passed me late into the bike, and seemed to be working pretty hard as she trucked along. I had made a mental note of her brown and orange kit and just kept riding. Right before I made the re-pass somewhere between miles 8 and 9, I read her name on the back of her race number. I wondered if she was the same girl who had raced at Oceanside…? She was in my age group, so it was a possibility…

I thought briefly about opening my mouth and chatting – but she seemed intently focused on running. And then I had to do it, I just had to do it. Whether curiosity had gotten the better of me, or I just needed a little interaction, I opened my big fat mouth.

“Are you so-and-so from Oceanside? You look familiar?”

“No!” came the curt response. “I’m so-and-so!”

“Oh –“ I faltered. “Sorry, I guess I got you mixed up.” I tried to say something positive, because I could tell she was having a rough moment, but didn’t really know what to do. I tried to reassure her, but got a pretty negative vibe – or at least what I interpreted as a negative force-field emanating from her person. I figured, if I was having a tough go-at-it, I would do the same thing… So I just kept running, speeding up slightly lest she noticed that we were in the same age group.

On the one hand it felt GOOD passing someone in my division and I drew a little satisfaction from the fact that she was having a tough time. But she looked so strong – both on the bike and while running – and I did my best to stay ahead of her for as long as possible. I thought about her behind me for the next few miles, but when she didn’t pass, my thoughts moved elsewhere. I refused to turn around and look, figuring I would be able to time the gap after passing the turn-around at mile 14.

Just keep running, just keep running. This is easy…this is like practice…just keep running. Smile. Make yourself look happy – because your body will believe it. Smile…just keep running.

A few more twists and turns along Coeur d’Alene drive and I suddenly noticed a solitary figure up ahead. Rob – who I had gone back and forth with on the bike and then who had looked so strong – was walking on the path next to the paved trail. “Are you okay?” I called as I passed.

“Stomach…” he managed to mumble. He was clutching his side, not looking great, but still not defeated.

“Do you need anything? Salts? Gels??” I asked, showing him my stash.

He just shook his head and continued walking.

Later, he would bravely begin running and pass me, only to be forced to walk again. It was hard for me to see – just because I read Rob’s blog and know how much training and hard work he had devoted to this race. Each time I saw him though, he would always tell me ‘good job’ and ‘keep going’. The last time I would pass him was somewhere around mile 16, but I had a chance to glimpse him running towards the final turn-around shortly after I had gone over it. When he was running, he looked great. And I was so happy after the race when I heard that he had finished under the 11-hour mark.

Past the motivational digital marker (mile 22 or 23 for those second loop folks. Lucky Bastards!), and I told myself that NEXT time around, I would let myself read the messages flashing across the screen. For now, I needed to keep my head down, focus on my form, and run up the slight hill (still) on Coeur d’Alene Drive. At least I had a tailwind!

Somewhere towards the top I saw Ludi – she looked like she was in pain, but toughing it out. “Go Girl!” she yelled as I ran the other way. I was so relieved to see her – wanted to hug her, to sit her down and tell her all about my day – but I knew that there was still much work to be done. I was 10 or 11 miles into my marathon and still had a ways to go.

While running through the residential area, my new focus turned towards hitting the town itself. I knew the crowd support would be incredible, and I pressed on, making sure to stick to my nutrition. Each mile I ran through the aid stations – grabbing water at the very first opportunity and the a second cup if it was available. My gut was responding well, and the gels were staying down without too much effort. I had continued to take two salt tablets every 75 minutes or so, assuming that I would continue to sweat.

But instead of warming up, the temperature continued to drop. I wasn’t cold – not really – just aware that it wasn’t getting any warmer. So perhaps I don’t need any more salt…we’ll see, I thought to myself. We’ll see. Just keep assessing….keep feeling….keep running.

Right before turning into town, I passed another girl who had biked past me somewhere around mile 40. She was looking really great – strong form, good cadence – everything that I wanted to emulate. And I told her so. “You are looking so strong! Your form is beautiful and your cadence is awesome! I wish I could do that! My coach would be really happy!” And I meant every word.

I think she was as starved for conversation as I was. We exchanged a few pleasantries and then I was on my way, surging ahead as I turned down the long blocks into town.

The crowd support was awesome and I knew it would be even better at the finish. I blocked out all emotions as I ran down towards the transition area, past the blocks and blocks of spectators. So…there’s the CDA brew pub… I noted. But I still kept running.

And leave it to me – the girl who followed her heart rate and then perceived exertion all day – to miss the one run split that I cared about. I had wanted to get my half marathon time, as I was curious about what sort of pace I was holding. Thus far, it had felt attainable for the entire marathon – but a lot could change in 13.1 miles.

Then – as if in slow motion – I saw my parents and Nathaniel, their faces standing out sharply against that of the crowd.

“One more loop!” I yelled, exuberant. “Just one more and I’ll see you then!”

They cheered and I kept going.

A second glance at the race clock positioned near the exit of T2 confirmed that I was on pace to break 11 hours. IF I ran the sub 3:39, I could go under 10:50…but there was still a lot of running left to go. I was too out of it to really do the math – I suppose I could have quickly calculated my pace and distance at that point. Then again – I SHOULD have just looked at my watch the minute that I ran past that clock – that would have given me the half marathon split that I wanted.

Oh well – At 9+ hours into my Ironman, my mental capacity was (ahem) diminished. Hindsight is 20-20.

The next few miles were a blur – passing the 14 mile turn around point, noting where the girls who I had already passed where, cheering for Kerrie as she looked tough and determined, passing the Run Special Needs and wishing for arm warmers but deciding that NO, even if they were there, I would NOT stop – and then seeing the 15 mile marker and deciding that 11 more miles of running seemed doable.

For the briefest of moments, I flashed back to one of my long runs – I recalled that from our front door, out to the Coastal Highway, and then down to one of the Steak Houses in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, it was exactly 11.1 miles. Hhhhmmmmm…..I wondered. Steak sounded nice. Better yet – knowing that I had covered that distance and the return trip without a problem…. It was very surreal. There I was, surrounded by thousands of cheering spectators, having just passed mile 15 of my first Ironman, and I was thinking of my long run and steak.


Out of town one more time and I forced myself to NOT think about the finish – not yet. I knew that my imagination wouldn’t do it justice. I still had a long way to go, and I wanted to experience every bit of this race.

I’m supposed to be exactly here…right now…right in this moment. This is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. What would the point be of fast forwarding to the finish, when its always been about The Journey?

My smile became forced as I ran through the streets. My quads had decided that they had had enough. And sure enough, between miles 16-18, the stabbing sensation grew. It was a familiar pain; one that I had experienced during the Carlsbad Half Marathon back in January. At that time, break down in my quadriceps muscle was due to super light race flats – that my body just wasn’t ready to race a half marathon in.

Today I had made no such error – and was wearing my (newer), but trusty long run training shoes. They had gotten me through my longest run of 22 miles pretty much unscathed, and I was confident they could get me through a marathon. Adding the swim and bike and the built-up fatigue, well, that was another story.

Even though I continued to pass people left and right, I noticed that I was talking less and less. My focus turned inward. Mind over matter mind over matter. This doesn’t matter. I’m going to run, I’m going to keep running. Mind over matter. I can do this! I will do this! I’m doing GREAT, I’m doing awesome! I am kicking my first Ironman in the butt. And painful legs be damned – THIS IS IRONMAN. This is what They talk about when they talk about Ironman Pain. Dude – what do you expect?? You are at mile 18 of your first Ironman! Okay – you’re at 2:30 right now – just ONE MORE HOUR. You are doing awesome. All this is, is a run down the coast and back! And how many times have you done that? How many times? Lots. This is no problem. Just keep running. Your pace is great. Your body is great. Your legs hurt, but welcome to Ironman.

I just kept repeating the mantra to myself, over and over again. I know I passed Ludi the other way at some point – but don’t recall exactly when. My focus was now solely on myself.

Right after turning onto Lake Coeur d’Alene drive (for the FINAL time of the day), I noticed my friends in the Viking-clad helmets. But I also noticed something in addition: one of them was wearing the same brown and orange jersey of the gal whom I had passed on the last lap. As I passed them, I overheard one of them say, “Start the clock – she’s in the same age group!”

But I kept going, kept running, determined to NOT let anyone who had their own entourage giving them splits, pass ME on the course. So for the rest of the race, whenever I saw someone with that same brown and orange team kit, I made an effort to quicken my stride and pass my quarry.

One aid station to another – I ran not only for the water, but more importantly, for the cheers, the support, and the knowledge that I was one mile closer to The End. And away from Viking girl, stalking me from behind.

I tried to focus on the beauty of it all, on the fact that I was out there, DOING my Ironman. I noted the chicken broth that had been brought out to the aid stations. That, along with coke was starting to sound better and better. But I knew that once I started on flat coke, I wouldn’t be able to stop. And as good as chicken broth sounded, running and drinking said (HOT) broth seemed (nearly) impossible.

Heading back towards me was Kerrie, and I knew the final turnaround was close. I could see the base of the hill and I wished her luck as she trucked along in the other direction. As I ran up the hill, I shortened my stride and pumped my arms – just like Bob Mitera had yelled at me to do during Oceanside – and fixated on the timing mat at the top.

As much as it hurt going up, I knew it would hurt tenfold going down. The quads would feel as though they were being repeatedly stabbed, but I gamely ran on. I glanced at my watch as I rounded the mat, making a mental note of the time and determined to out run Viking Girl if it came down to it. Each step down the steep hill was pain, and I shortened my stride and focused on finding happy thoughts.

Like seeing how far ahead of Viking Girl I was. Thirty seconds passed, and then a minute. I perked up – maybe she wasn’t as close as I thought. Two minutes went by and the pain in my quads – while never leaving, eased a little as the slope turned slightly upwards along the lake. A full three minutes and thirty seconds later, I caught a glimpse of her heading the other way. She looked about as bad as I felt – but I put on a brave face, waving at her and calling “good job!” as I went by.

So pointed to me and kept moving – perhaps the pain etched on my face had lifted her mood. Or maybe the fact that we were between 5 and 6 miles from the finish. Who knows?

On the way back I saw a lot MORE people – many of them walking or jogging slowly. It was nearly impossible to tell who was on lap 1 or lap 2, so I stopped counting. I saw a guy wearing an Erin Baker’s kit just ahead, and I decided to try and stay with him. He seemed to be holding a solid pace and I found myself staring at the back of his jersey as we weaved our way through the crowded path.

One aid station to another…one mile after another. And then he stopped. I tried to say something as I passed, but it came out more like a grunt.

Suddenly the Ford Motivational Mile Screen at mile 23 (or was it 22?) passed, and I ran over the mat that would read my chip and trigger the digital message. As corny as it sounds, I had written “MAKE PEACE” to myself the day before the race. To my dismay, I didn’t see the message flash across the board. Well, either that or I was just too out of it to comprehend.

But it didn’t matter: I had made peace with the pain, made peace with my race, made peace that my quads were going to feel like they were being sliced open with every step I took. It just didn’t matter – I had three (or four) more miles to go. If I needed, to, I would will my way to the finish.

Just 5k. Just a measly 5k.

Up the last small slope and I made my final turn towards the residential streets and off Lake Coeur d’Alene Drive (hallelujah!). Each step I took was bringing me closer to the end – I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.

I passed one family out grilling on their lawn, and suddenly my mouth started watering. Screw the steak, I could have used the entire cow at that point. With just under 3 miles to go, I realized I was getting hungry for real food and was grateful that I had 25 minutes or so to run. I tried to make a joke about beer samplers and burgers, and was extremely tempted when they offered me one (hamburger).

I knew I couldn’t out run the spunky kids in the front yard and figured all the protein, amass of veggies, thick bun, all washed down with a cold, frothy beer would make me sick. So I politely declined, and just kept going.

But I did note the fading light, and at this time, removed my sunglasses from my eyes and propped them over the top of my hat. Just keep going, just keep going.

I was literally running from one block to another, one aid station to another. With two miles to go, someone running the other way yelled my name and I think I yelled back – but I couldn’t be sure. I also saw Ludi, walking determinedly along. “GO GIRL – You’re ALMOST THERE! Keep going!”

Her shouts echoed around the silent foot strikes of Ironman athletes running their own race. I was haunted by her face – hollow but resolute. And I realized that mine probably looked something similar. Except my quads felt like they were about to explode.

Mind over matter, mind over matter. Just keep going – just keep going. To the next aide station. To the port-o-potties that you stopped in…and then up a small hill and then you’re almost done. Just keep going.

I’m not really sure how I survived the next mile and a half. Pure will, I suppose. I had come so far and wasn’t about to stop with less than 12 minutes of running. One step after another – I watched people running in the opposite direction and was grateful that I had such a short distance left. I knew they were all running their own race, though.

The weather was taking a turn for the worse, though – and in the last mile I thought I felt a few rain drops fall. But I couldn’t be sure. The temperature had most definitely dropped and I would have LOVED arm warmers. More and more often, I would see athletes bundled up in space blankets or warm running gear. But I don’t need that, I’m almost there – I reminded myself.

One more quick turn to my right and I saw what I had been waiting for, for the entire second loop. I headed to the LEFT, towards the RUN FINISH chute, and prepared to make the final left turn onto Sherman Avenue.

I thought I would prepare myself for the emotions and feelings when I saw the finish line, but looking back – nothing could get me ready for the emotions I felt.

The crowd support was awesome, and the cheering from people lining both sides of the street for nearly half a mile was incredible. And at the very end, off in the distance and draped with a cloudy grey sky, was the finish chute and arena.

“Oh my God-“ I exclaimed, “There it is.”

This time I know for a fact that I spoke aloud.

I let the emotion of the day finally wash over me. I could feel the warm tears splash my cheeks as I ran down that hill. Though my legs were on fire with pain, nothing could dampen my spirit. Even though it lasted only the briefest of moments, I will remember it forever. The past year seemed to fast forward and I remembered the tough times…which made the GREAT times (like now) seem all the better. All the more real – and I was grateful. And at peace. And happy (but in pain!)

I thought about Nathaniel and couldn’t wait to put the finisher’s medal around his neck. And I remembered my parents who, as I had lost my entry fee to Ironman Arizona, had not only paid for my CDA entry, but had supported me along the way. And Jen…I could not have been running this last block – could not have raced the past 140.5 miles without her excellent guidance, friendship, support, and coaching. And to the many many many others – you all know who you are. Thank you.

The cheering increased the closer I got to the finish line, and before I knew it I could see the final clock.

It read 10:48 and I knew I would be in under 10:50. I could feel my quads – on pain with the effort – but no longer cared. I slowed to enjoy the moment, to soak it all in. The few guys that sprinted by me towards the end – didn’t even matter.

I knew that I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

At the finish line of my first Ironman.

I didn’t hear Mike Reiley announce my name or say that I was an Ironman. Instead, I wiped away the tears, lifted my arms for a quick wave, and grinned as much as I could. The grey Ironman carpet seemed welcoming under my feet and lead me those final few meters to the race finish.

And the rest, as they say – is history.

At 10:49:25, I crossed the line and became an Ironman.

Stay tuned to concluding thoughts and my wrap up (yes, there is more). And as always – thanks.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ironman Coeur d'Alene RR, part 2

THE BIKE (5:55)

The cheers and yells were deafening as I carefully threw my leg over the bike seat and set off on my 112 mile ride. I had to focus to keep my heart rate down as I pedaled away from T1, but the crowd support was such that I wanted to go hard, wanted to be fast. But I didn’t.

And that was essentially how I rode the bike during my first Ironman.





Nothing fancy and absolutely NO CHASING of anyone – no matter the gender or age group when they passed. But it was hard, very challenging for me. I wanted to go, I so wanted to time trial and blow by everyone, and I was feeling GREAT. But I knew that any (more) moments of stupidity (remember the eating of dried cranberries and how my stomach just felt ‘off’ after breakfast…?), and I would surely not have the race I was capable of.

So instead, I swallowed my pride, focused on my heart rate, and figured I would race my own race.

I knew going into the race that one of the bigger challenges for me, would be letting the throngs of bikers blow by me in the first few hours of the race. And they did not disappoint.

While leaving the town and twisting through the streets on the way out to Higgins Point on Coeur d’Alene Drive, I found myself sitting upright, out of my aero bars. First, it allowed the masses (and some packs – shame on them!) of people to pass. But more importantly, I needed to settle my heart rate. It was still higher than what I wanted, peaking in the mid 160s. Jen and Jerome had warned me that I would be a tad high at the onset of the bike, due mostly to adrenaline. But I wanted it down – in the upper 140s and low 150s (upper zone 2 and low zone 3) like I had planned, and practiced (over and over and over again).

After a few minutes is was still higher than I wanted, but I figured I would just go with whatever my body had to offer. I was feeling great, and my perceived exertion was on par with that of a recovery ride. It felt easy, light, and effortless. Unfortunately, my heart rate wasn’t cooperating. Oh well, I figured – it will settle, probably within the first 45 minutes or so. Just keep the effort light…

Keep the effort light….

Let them pass…

Still, more and more and MORE people passed. And I moved as far over to the right as I could – and just let them go by.

Yet every instinct, every bit of me wanted to go – especially when the girls started zooming by.

But I was more afraid of blowing up later on, more afraid of the damage I could possibly do down the line, than charging forward.

Within the first few miles on the bike, my race had turned into an exercise of self-control.

Very quickly I came upon the first hill – a quick ½ mile and 6% climb – on Lake Coeur d’Alene Drive. Shifting into my small ring and 25th gear on the rear cog (is that technically the lowest gear or highest? I can never tell. Oh well), I spun up. Looking around, I noticed even MORE people charging up the hill; it would have been easy to do because of ALL the spectators and bagpipers at the top. The mood was festive, air charged with energy. But I kept it light, simple, easy. And while I spun up the hill, I recalled all of my Palomar climbs. If I could climb THAT Mountain, I could surely do this.

And then I remembered my great friend Shannon, who was willing to climb Palomar with me on very little training and right after earning her PhD. Hell, if SHE could suffer up that thing in order to spend time with me before moving up to Berkley, then the least I could do would be to think of her during these comparatively lesser climbs.

But thinking of Shannon, made me think of Meredith – and my thoughts were with them quite a bit during my day. I also remembered Jen – the friend and coach – who helped me achieve my goals and was there for me thick and thin. And then I thought about Elizabeth, and even though we didn’t have the years we thought we would last season, her thoughtful words and card when things were really tough meant the world.

And…before I could think of too many other people who helped me along the way, I started chocking up. The emotions of it all – what I was currently doing (my FIRST Ironman, and I survived the swim!) all the way back to when times were tough last year, and then coming full circle into the person I am – were just too much. Cresting the top of the first hill on the bike course, I could feel the tears at the corners of my eyes. More alarming though, was the fact that breathing was becoming difficult.

Too many emotions can be a bad thing, I guess.

I used the downhill to coast and gather my thoughts. I would carry the love and support of my family and friends with me throughout the day – but just at the right time. Bawling my eyes out before even the first Higgins Point turnaround barely 10 miles into the bike ride surely wasn’t a good plan. Besides, if Jen were here she would probably shake some sense into me and yell, “Toughen up, Butter cup!”

Reaching the Higgins Point turnaround afforded me my first glimpse of the bike special needs bags. There they were – stacked and waiting for us on the second loop. I thought momentarily of how I DIDN’T pack anything in mine, and wondered if I had made a mistake. Oh well – I had two spare Co2 cartridges, a pre-stretched and pre-glued spare tubular, two valve extenders, my inflator, and two tire levers. Hopefully they would suffice.

Instead, I distracted myself with an overall assessment – something that I would continue to do every few minutes on the bike. How are the legs? Arms? Neck? Everything feeling good? Okay – great! How about that stomach? Not so good…hhhhmmmm… will settle, just give it time. Okay – how’s the heart rate? Sticking to the zone? It’s still a tad high – but you’ve only been on the bike for 30 minutes – give it a few more minutes to settle into the upper 140s. Okay – now that it’s been exactly 30 minutes, time to start taking in the nutrition. Two or three sips of CarboPro 1200. Okay – great job! Yeah! Stomach still isn’t great – have some water.

But even after passing back through town and making my way out towards Lake Hayden, my stomach failed to settle. In fact, it started feeling…worse. I looked down and noticed that it seemed a bit bloated. It had been awful ever since I ate my concoction of oatmeal, Greek yogurt and hastily added cranberries. Something wasn’t right – and I suspected my last minute dried fruit was the culprit.

Sure enough, a few minutes later and just before hitting the 20 mile mark on the bike (just over an hour in), I threw up a big amount of water-Carbopro 1200-gel- and…the last remains of dried cranberries, which were now the pleasant color of brown. I know – because half of it was stuck to my arm. Lovely.

Better out than in – I though grimly to myself. On the one hand I was happy that my body was at least doing SOMETHING to settle the stomach. On the other, I was terrified that I had ruined my race by doing something so stupid. But, I figured there was NOTHING AT THAT POINT that I could do to change what had already been done. All I could do was continue to eat and drink – like I had practiced.

I waited a few minutes and then at 1:05 took in another gel, figuring I had thrown up most of the first and that I NEEDED to get some calories into my system. There was NO WAY I could get through another 90+ miles of biking AND run a marathon with an uncooperative digestive tract. So I gingerly sipped water and alternated sucking down the gel…It took about 5 or 6 minutes to finish that sucker off, but I was rewarded with no immediate throwing up.

Hooray for the small victories!

That’s it, I told my stomach. You’re doing great – just hang in there! It’s okay to feel icky. I’m going to keep biking, keep going at this pace. You can feel as gross as you want – just please please please continue to digest and process my food. I don’t care how bloated and distended you get – just absorb the nutrients. Hang in there! You can do it!!

Somewhere during this stretch I passed the 25/81 mile sign on the bike course. Looking down at my heart rate, I was rewarded with a steady ‘148’ – and my body (except for the stomach – but it was mostly processing the food, so I wasn’t about to get too picky) felt great.

“This is where the race starts on the second loop.”

I know for a fact that I said those words aloud, because one guy passing me gave me a funny look, and sort of shook his head. Oops. Too late for modesty at this point, right? There I was, bloated tummy, willing my way forward in my first Ironman. What would YOU have done?

Shortly thereafter I hit the hillier section of the course. Later I discovered that there was in excess of 6,000+ feet gained during the entire bike portion – but the hills themselves didn’t seem too bad. Nothing was really long or steep – just a consistent grind. The tricky part, though – were the 90 degree turns or sharp twists at the bottom, conveniently located to slow your speed and stop any coasting up to the next hill.

I turned it into a game: descend fast, downshift in preparation of the next turn, slow, watch an overzealous rider overshoot the turn and end up in the ditch or driveway, sit up, make the turn, and slowly spin up the hill. It was constant. Descend, shift, slow, sit up, turn, climb – spinning all the way up.

Never have I been so grateful to have driven the course. That was a lifesaver - something that I would strongly recommend to any future CDA-people out there.

It was an interesting game – how much thinking there was. I was constantly reassessing my stomach, watching for warning signs from the rest of my body, and trying to remain upbeat. I was grateful for my preparation – the long rides through Southern California, the local hills, and Jen’s workouts – had done the trick. It was just a matter of ME – being smart, staying up beat, and assessing my nutrition.

During one of the out and back portions I saw Ludi’s blue Mark Allen Online Elite Team race helmet and yelled her name. It made me happy to see her out on the course, and I was grateful that she had gotten through what was undoubtedly a tough swim.

The minutes seemed to melt into 15 minutes segments, and before I knew it I was chomping on another chocolate gel – 2:00 into the ride. About five minutes later, the dried cranberries decided to strike again, and I was left with a combination of chocolate gel and chunks of brown partially digested and dried fruit on my other shoulder. It tasted sour and bitter, and I tried washing it down with a little water. I figured that I had gotten most of the gel in, as only a little came back up – but I made a mental note to continue to monitor my stomach. (As if I wasn't already!)

If I don’t mind…then it won’t matter. As long as I’m getting some calories in, I can deal with the discomfort. It WILL go down, it WILL get better. Mind over matter…If I don’t mind than it won’t matter….

Luckily the conditions were nearly ideal for someone with stomach issues. The heat really wasn’t much of a factor (if at all) and I wasn’t as thirsty as I had thought I would be. In fact, after 40 miles, I had barely consumed one full bottle of water. I knew that I would need to continue to push fluids – but I would be smart about it.

The hills became less and less frequent and while passing an aide station somewhere around the 42 mile mark, I made an effort to thank the volunteers. They were great – cheering everyone as we rode past. I stuck to my own nutrition and thought briefly about grabbing a bottle of water. No need – not yet anyways. Perhaps on the second loop, when my stomach was more settled.

At this point there were still quite a bit of cat-and-mouse-like games going on between me and other riders. I would pass someone on a downhill and then they would re-pass on the ups. And vice versa. I made an effort to call people out by their names and offer encouragement to anyone that I could. I really didn’t care if they looked back or said anything – it made ME feel better. And it reminded me of riding with friends.

I generally tried to stay positive – during training AND while racing. Some days it’s easier than others. But I figure an upbeat attitude is half the battle in most cases.

The road really began to flatten out as we turned back towards Coeur d’Alene. I could see other riders off in the distance through the long stretches of road. I was passed by a few women – but the pair that passed sounded as though they were working really hard. I figured I would reel them in later, and if not – oh well. There was nothing I could do, save stick to my plan.

After crossing the I-90 Bridge, I thought about my hotel room – just a block away. I could see the Comfort Inn that we were staying at and inwardly laughed at myself for waning to trade IHOP for the race. There is no other place I would rather be at, I told myself.

I am exactly where I am supposed to be, I thought. There is no sense in thinking about the past or what’s going to happen a few hours from now. I am supposed to be right here, right now. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world….

Cruising into town, I pulled myself out of aero and prepared to make the sharp right turn away from transition onto Northwest Blvd. Suddenly, I saw a familiar figure in blue striding towards the barricades on the right side of the street.

“Hi Dad!” I yelled and I rode by.

It was as though time stood still. I first recognized the blue jacket – a staple of my Dad’s since I was a little girl. His features stood out clearly and I was flooded with happiness at the sight of him. I would have given anything to stop and give him a giant hug, but all too quickly the moment passed. I could hear my Mom yelling from somewhere off in the distance, but I was already around the corner and focused on the road ahead.

Again – emotions started getting to me, and I had to bite my lip in order to stop myself from tearing up. Seeing my family – my Dad – and knowing that Nathaniel and my Mom were close at hand were enough to send me soaring, icky stomach and all.

I heard my name shouted a few more times while riding through town, and tried to smile or carefully wave at anyone I could. The speed I was doing on the bike prevented me from really slowing and getting a good look – but just knowing that friends were there made all the difference to me.

Back through the residential areas and then onto Lake Coeur d’Alene Drive, up the mini-6% hill, past the bag pipers (still going!) and then past special needs. I saw several people pull over and grab their bags – munching on sandwiches or adding gels or other food items to their back pockets. None for me – I thought as I kept to the middle of the road and away from the volunteers. A bit further up the road I saw a few guys on their “natural break”, and actually envied them for a bit. How easy would THAT be – just pull over, whip it out, and pee?

Then again, they've got other issues to deal with. Like being a guy. Um - yeah. Not so much. Enough said.

But again – sticking to my heart rate and nutritional plan – I pressed on. Every few minutes, I would reassess. Stomach was very gradually getting better. The bloating was going down and I know I was getting the calories in that I needed. The Carbopro 1200 was still great – I was taking it every hour on the thirty minute mark, and I was very careful with the gels. As long as I diluted them with enough water – everything was fine. Salt didn’t seem to be too much of a factor – but at the 3:15 mark, I took two salt tabs. With the CarboPro and gels combined, I was ingesting approximately 350 mg salt per hour – but I just wanted to be on the safe side. I doubled my salt intake and continued to assess.

I didn’t feel as though I was cramping – but I knew that down the line my body would most likely need the extra salt and electrolytes that came with it.

One more pass through town – hearing my name twice and not able to respond in time – and I was making my way up towards Lake Hayden. I was interested to see how my body would respond to the second round of hills. Already I was beginning to pass more people, and my heart rate was remaining steady in the upper zone 2, low zone 3 limits that Jen and I had discussed. If anything, I was actually feeling – stronger?

No….that couldn’t be. Could it?

Past the high school where I had set out to ride with Deirdre a few days earlier…and then up a short hill past the golf course onto Lake Hayden. I just kept going – one pedal stroke after another. My body felt good – strong and steady. The bike shorts were great and so far my feet felt good in the shoes. My stomach was much more settled, but still didn’t feel great. I figured that it never WOULD feel good while I was tucked in aero…so in that weird way, I looked forward to the run and being able to stand upright and stretch it out.

And then I passed the 25/81 sign. Yes, the race has officially begun, I told myself. Only this time I was actually the one passing people. One of the girls I recognized from the first loop was just ahead, and I tried to offer her some words of encouragement as I went by. But she looked tired, spent. And I was reminded of what could have been, had I decided to “race” the first 40 or 50 miles.

Half-way up one of the false flat and seemingly never-ending climbs (you know the ones – you climb, then it sort 0f levels out, and then you climb some more and the hill levels out and then you see MORE hill. First lap – not so bad. Second lap – just plain annoying. But at that point, it’s not like I’m going to stop, right?), I hear a rider coming up to pass me on my left.

“Marit…?” he asks. And immediately I recognize a friendly face.

“Rob!” I yell. “Great job!! How are you?”

“Good – really good. Are you getting enough fluids? Remember to eat and drink!” He calls as he passes by.

“Yeah – thanks! Hang in there, you’re looking great!” I respond.

Immediately I feel my mood lifted. I knew that Rob was coached by Elizabeth, and she would surely have told him to be smart on the course. I watched him climb the rest of the hill, sitting upright and turning over his legs – making it look easy. And I realized I was pretty much doing the same thing. Sitting upright, turning over my legs…but probably NOT making it look quite that easy.

Seeing Rob really helped to validate my own ride, in a weird way. I knew that I wasn’t the only one out there sticking to my heart rate, going easy on the hills. For the next several miles, I kept Rob in my sights – never intentionally hanging with him, but following my heart rate. It was comical, almost. I would see him hit the bottom of a hill, immediately sit up, spin, shift, and carry on like it was any casual ride.

And then, thirty seconds later, I would do the same thing myself.

Somewhere around the 4 or 4:30 mark my stomach started feeling better. I was no longer throwing up and I was able to get more and more water in. The hills were becoming less and less challenging and I could feel my body responding. My heart rate actually started dropping, which I attributed to built-up fatigue. At my next timed swig of Carbo Pro, I made sure to take in an extra gulp or two (100 or 200) calories of liquid and water.


Everything stayed down – and while my stomach was never fully comfortable, at least it was cooperating.

That’s it! I told myself. You’re doing great! Just hang in there! Hit the 90 mile mark and then you can start to go faster, if you want! Yes yes yes! That’s it!

And lucky for me – at this point I realized that I kind-of-needed-to-but-didn’t-want-to-pull-over and pee. I had seen one woman relieving herself while riding, and countless guys. But try as I might, my body just didn’t seem to want to cooperate.

One of the only remaining symptoms from last year’s bike crash: some of the nerve damage still remains and peeing on the bike takes extra special concentration and focus. I knew that I needed to go, but was afraid of pushing so hard for fear that something unintentional might explode elsewhere. Lovely! In addition to cramps, bloating, and general discomfort, the dried cranberries which I had consumed some 7 hours earlier, had now played havoc in my lower GI system. And I wasn’t sure if I was just gassy or really needed to use a port-o-potty. Hhhhmmmmmm.

Not something I was willing to risk (yet) with blue shorts. Um, yeah. Not so much.

But I pushed that happy thought out of my mind and went back to focusing on my race, sticking to my heart rate zones, taking it easy on the hills, and constantly reassessing my mental and physical state.

Rob and I continued to go back and forth – offering encouragement anytime one passed the other. It was great just seeing a friendly face, even though we had never officially met (hello bloggers – we DO exist!). Additionally, I kept getting a kick out of seeing him bike up the rollers – because we pretty much sat up, shifted into the easy gear (well, at least I did), and spun.

Somewhere around the 5 hour mark, I started calculating how much longer I would be on the bike. With just under 20 miles left, I thought that getting in less than 6 hours was a possibility. But I wasn’t going to be disappointed if it didn’t happen. I knew the variables – course, hills, wind (and the winds continued to pick up as the day progressed), bike mechanical, and my mental/physical state – could drastically alter. In the back of my mind though, I thought I could do it. I believed in myself – and in the end, that’s a BIG part of what made it work (for me).

I took in another gel and two salt tabs, put my head down and rode. My heart rate was still in my upper zone 2, low zone 3 – although I continued to regard it less and less. I was feeling good, almost too good. I was passing more and more people – notably a few girls in my age group and other women who had (perhaps) been a bit overzealous in the beginning. Or maybe it was just me – perhaps I was the one who had taken things too easy.

Before the thought could run away in my head, I reminded myself that I still had 15 miles to bike and a MARATHON to run. Is there any such thing as “too easy”?


In the last ten miles, I realized a few things about my bike. First – I LOVE the fit. Robert Driskell’s bike analysis and fit at Competition Sports in Gulfport Mississippi was wonderful. Second – I LOVE my saddle. Third – I LOVE the bike shorts (thank you Courtenay!). Fourth – 10 miles was the LIMIT. I was NOT interested in biking any more than 112 miles.

I was still comfortable, yes. But I was beginning to do the bike-seat-squirm. You know the one? Where you wiggle your pelvis back and forth a bit, trying to establish the “most comfortable” position. Which is really a big joke – because after 105 miles, no bike seat and no bike short will be totally comfortable. A few times I tried to stand up and stretch my legs – but the legs were fine. It was my seat that needed the relief.

The bumps that I hit going over the I-90 Bridge were, um, unpleasant. And I caught myself looking wistfully over towards the hotel. Just a marathon and THEN I would be there…

Generally though, and especially in the last hour, I felt as though I had been getting stronger and stronger. My pace – which I rarely glanced at throughout the race, just because I didn’t want to fall into the trap of holding XX mph for the duration – was slowly creeping upwards. I felt comfortable bridging the gap to small clusters of athletes up the road, passing them, and then putting the next bunch in my sights.

One final turn past the transition zone up towards the highway 95 turn around, and I knew I was almost there. I saw a flash of pink on the other side of the road, and recognized a girl who had blown by me very early on – before the Point Higgins turn around. The pink outfit was a bit easy to spot…sort of like a pink bike saddle in transition, I suppose.

It was at this point that I started thinking about peeing on the bike (again). I tried to relax and make myself go without anything unexpected occurring – but it just didn’t work. I really did need to pee – which made me happy to a certain extent. I knew that my body was processing liquids and that I had been getting enough fluid in my system. But I just didn’t want to take the time to actually DO it. Oh well – in an Ironman, what do you expect?

And really, I would much rather have to use the bathroom than not. (To a certain extent!)

Rounding the turn, I sat up and generally coasted down the slight hill towards the transition. I kept the gearing light, cadence high, and mentally prepared myself for the marathon ahead. Moreover though, I was grateful for the ride that I had accomplished. I had been smart, had stuck to my plan, and did NOT let my heart rate sky rocket (even though I was really tempted early on). Better yet – NO bike mechanical issues! Yea! Even more important though, when things got tough with my stomach, I had remained upbeat and mostly positive. It seemed pretty incredible, actually – that nearly six hours had passed. Yet it only felt like one or two.

I kept to the right and made the final turn towards the transition. I could see the bike catchers awaiting my bike and I carefully slipped my feet out of my shoes. Nope – didn’t do the fancy ITU-style flying dismount. Yeah – at this point I didn’t trust my legs to make the clearance over my rear water bottle cages. Instead I coasted in, applied the brakes, stopped, breathed a sigh of relief, managed to swing my right leg over the saddle, and stepped away from the bike. Yea!

I heard my name shouted from somewhere in the crowd, and I thought that I recognized Molly and her box of cupcakes – but I couldn’t be sure. I waved, smiled, and yelled, “Just a marathon to go! Yea!”

I pushed my bike towards the catchers and ran under the BIKE IN banner.

Just a transition and marathon to go…