Sunday, September 4, 2016

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, Imoo

Funny how things work out.  Or, don't.

Ironman Wisconsin, affectionately known as Imoo, is next week Sunday. One short year ago, I volunteered at Imoo so I could sign up to race it this year.  I also volunteered at Ironman Arizona last November and then signed up to do a second Ironman in 2016.

Even though I had finished Imoo in 2012 and 2014, Ironman became something I loved and found it very hard to give up.  It's not just the race or the training.  I've met wonderful people, spent some time training in beautiful places and really grew to enjoy challenging myself physically and mentally.

I also really love the Wisconsin course.  The bike course, while difficult because of many, many, and I mean MANY hills, takes you though some breathtaking beautiful areas.  I may hate those hills while I'm riding them, they do just prove that Dane County really is God's Country.  The run is all through the University of Wisconsin campus....my old stomping ground.  The course runs past many of my old (dumpy) college apartments and my old dorm, up State Street and along the lake shore path.  I really love it.

Although I had been diagnosed with hip arthritis in my right hip while I was training for Imoo in 2014, I was able to cross the finish line that year.  I moved to shorter distance races in 2015 and still able to swim, bike and run without a lot of trouble.
Still, the call of Ironman was beckoning....

.
I knew my window for Ironman was closing rapidly and figured if I was going to really have to pull back from long course racing, I might as well go big (do two) in 2016 and then go home (and stick to shorter distances).  

At least that was the plan.

Enter 2016.  I was fine for my first tri of the year (TriUMah, the indoor tri at the University of Minnesota held every February.)  I was training and running in the spring when, boom:  everything seemed to come to screaming halt last March, when I went on that last, fateful 5 mile run.

Happy finish 2014
As I blogged about earlier, after that run, I developed really bad knee and shin pain.  I saw a hip doc at Tria, who, after looking at scans I had done in October of 2015, told me my hip was destroyed and that I should use it till I can't.

He said that once it started to interfere with my daily life, it would be time to get it replaced.  (As a side note, the knee/shin pain was related to my hip in that my gait has been really compromised.  This put pressure on my back, which triggered the knee/shin nerve.  Fortunately, a shot of cortisone fixed that problem...)

The doc and I talked then about my training for Ironman.  Could I do it?  Should I do it?  He said that my hip wasn't going to get any better but if this was something I wanted to do, and could do it without much trouble, that I should.
Imoo 2014

And so training went on.  What I didn't count on is how quickly things would go south.  While I can swim without pain and bike pretty easily (once the hip warms up), running, and now walking, is a sad, sad struggle. I have days that are okay (where I just limp through my activities) and other days where moving from the couch to the kitchen is a painful slog.

So my grand plans for the 2016 race season had to be adjusted big time.  I went from doing the 1/2 marathon at Fargo to eking out the 10k.  I had a good swim and bike at Buffalo only to shuffle through the run.  I had to skip Grandma's 1/2 entirely.  By July, at Lifetime Mpls, I moved from the Oly to the Sprint distance and then walked the entire 5k.  Slowly.  Very, very slowly.

I did have some bright spots over the summer.  My swimming has gotten better and it was fun to do two new swim races:  Shoreline Swim in Madison and the Chain of Lakes swim at Lake Calhoun.

I was able to swing a golf club just fine.  Walking over the uneven fairways takes a toll, though.  Thank heavens for golf carts.

Greg, my coach for Ironman, was working a plan for me that would have hopefully had me strong enough to get through the swim and bike at Wisconsin so I'd have enough time to walk the marathon course.  It became very obvious after Lifetime that even that was really not a possibility.   I've lost a lot of strength and power on my right side (muscles not really firing the way they should because everything is trying to protect what is left of the joint.).  So, while biking doesn't hurt, I am sure not as fast as I've been.

I did a training weekend in Madison every month throughout the summer and, although I could still manage to get up all those hills on the bike course, my overall times were not impressive at all, and, trying to walk off the bike was very tough.

Slowly but surely over the summer, I began to face the fact that things were worse. My ability to participate in activities I love has become harder and harder.  Just walking from my car to my office is now a chore. Sleeping is more and more uncomfortable.  People -- friends AND strangers -- ask me if I'm okay, or if I need to sit down.  People make beelines to get out of my way when I am walking toward them in a hallway or on the street.  Air cabbies ask me if I need a lift when I am walking though airports trying to catch a flight. There ain't no hiding from this any more.
Hip Spring 2016.  Ouch


So, Warren and I met the hip doc again last July.  We took new images. The evidence was glaring.  No more cartilage in my hip.  All gone.
Bone on bone.

It's time.

I'm scheduled for replacement on October 3rd.

Although I am very sad/mad/disappointed about this, I have also come to realize that it really is what it is.  I can't wish this or want this away.  Replacement will provide relief and really doesn't mean the game is over. But, the game will definitely change.

I'll still be able swim and bike and golf and hike.  Tennis (double) is okay; some yoga will be okay.  There are plenty of adventures yet to come.  I'm thinking of doing the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim hike, a day or two on the Ragbrai ride,  swim Point to LaPointe again and more.  I should be able to continue with sprint tris and maybe longer distances, as long as I don't care if I have to walk the run portion.

Lots of running medals....
It was a tough conversation when we talked about distance running.  Those days are done.  The doc says I should be able to do a few miles, but nothing more than 4 or 5, if I do a walk run.)  I shed plenty of tears during that part of our talk.

So where does leave Imoo?  Well, I really had hoped I'd be able to squeak out a finish this year.  But realistically, that is not in the cards.  However, I have my game plan ready for the weekend and race day.  I'm going in to this with the attitude of having as much fun as I can and to create as many memories as I can.

Its been a wonderful, wonderful ride, this Ironman adventure.  I'm going to miss it a lot.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

I am not Mary Lou Carlson.....

I "ran" my very first 5k when I was 40.  It was 1999.  Warren, who was just my boyfriend at the time, had done a 5k on Father's Day that year.  I went to the race to cheer him on.  I was so proud of him when he crossed the finish line.  I thought he had done the coolest thing ever by running that race.

When we were driving home, I casually mentioned to him that I would love to run a 5k one day, but that I really wasn't a "runner".  Wasn't built like one; couldn't imagine running to catch a bus, much less run 3.1 miles.  "One day", I said.

Well, Warren took it upon himself to sign me up for 5k later that summer -- The Wayside Run, which was sponsored by The Wayside House.

I trained for that race by running Lake Calhoun.  I could only do sections at a time.  I remember feeling so accomplished when I ran the section from 36th Street to William Berry Parkway without stopping.  This was a VERY BIG DEAL.  

Race day came, and I was so nervous....I still didn't feel like a "real runner".  I was heavier than I am today; I knew I was slow, and I thought I was going to get left in the dust once the race started.

We got to the race site and it was buzzing with other racers.  Mostly women racers.  I was absolutely gob-smacked by the number of older women runners that were there.

Remember, I was 40. Some might say that THAT is old (trust me, it isn't).  But at the race there were a lot, and I mean A LOT, of women in their 50s, 60s and above.

One woman really caught my attention.  She had a bit of a bird-body (roundish middle supported by thin-ish legs), silver hair and a wide-genuine smile.  She seemed to know everyone at that race, and everyone seemed know her.

BOOM.  The race started and, although I didn't get totally dusted, I sure did end up at the very back of the pack pretty quickly.  Still and all, I was doing it.  There were lots of spectators cheering us on with the usual cheers ("Looking Good!" (I wasn't.)  "Way to go, Runner" (said to me, even when I was walking.) And, my favorite:  "You're almost there. (A total lie.))

At some point, that popular lady with the silver hair passed me.  She said "Nice Job." to me as she blazed past me.

I finished the race and my love affair with running started.  Even though I sucked, even though I didn't look like those "real runners", I loved it.  I fell hard and fast and never looked back.

After that race was done, I found out her name:  Mary Lou Carlson.

I (obviously) signed up for (lots) of other races.  For many years after that first race, I'd see Mary Lou racing too.   I gathered up some courage one day at a  race and actually introduced myself to her.  I told her that she was an inspiration to me and that I loved seeing her out on race courses.  She was gracious and kind and then she just trotted off.

Then, in 2001, when I was lining up to start at the Twin Cities Marathon, the announcer called out that Mary Lou Carlson, then age 74, would be allowed to start the race a little earlier than the rest of us.  It was her 20th -- and last -- Twin Cities Marathon.  She was running fine, but the race cut off time loomed large now. So, the officials bent the rules a bit for her, let her start before everyone else and enabled her to have her last marathon swan song.

So why do I bring this up?

Well, my hip continues to be my arthritic hip and, although I am continuing to train for Ironmans Wisconsin and Arizona, I am not entirely certain that I'm going to make it to either of those start lines.

I find I have some good days, where I think I'll be fine and will be able to finish (at least one of them).  I also have some really, really bad days, where I am not sure I can get down the stairs to the basement to put a load of laundry in.

Swimming and biking are fine -- no pain.  It's running that's betraying me.  I plod and shuffle.  It sometimes produces some shin/knee pain that is no fun.  It is clunky and un-glamorous and painfully, painfully slow.

And, the thing is, with Ironman, the cutoffs loom large.  The 2:20 cut off for the swim will not be a problem. I should also be able come in off the bike well before the 5:30 pm cutoff.  The run cutoffs are the ones that scare me.

I have the heart to finish;  If I had the luxury of no time limits, I know that I have the endurance to go 140.6.
The question is can I do it, one more time, in less than 17 hours?

Well, I'm willing to keep moving forward toward the goal and I also have to be realistic along the way.  Because, as much as I love the sport, as much as I want to have my swan song this year, Mike Reilly, is not going to announce that I will be allowed to start the race early (or have help from a scooter during the run).

Why?  Because I am not Mary Lou Carlson.




Friday, April 1, 2016

The Verdict: Orchestra may be warming up, but that lady ain't singing....yet.

A short update with the verdict from today's visit with the orthopedist.

First, I liked him.  Straight shooter; dry sense of humor; understands athletes.  My kind of guy.

We talked through all my symptoms and issues;  he looked at the last couple of scans.  He did some manipulation maneuvers on my knee and shin.    Then he broke it down for me ever so gently:

"Your hip is destroyed; use it till you can't".  

"Meaning....?"

"Meaning it is what it is.  But until it really interferes with your normal daily activities, it is not time to replace it. You'll know."

(Love that he believes that swimming, biking, running, trying to get in 10,000 steps per day, etc are my "normal" daily activities.)

"What about Ironman this year?"

"Go for it".

YEEEESSSSS.

So what about the knee/shin pain?  He doesn't think there is any thing wrong with my knee (based on what he did to check it).  He doubts it is a stress fracture, but we are looking in to that.

He thinks it might be a pinched nerve in my back.

"Really?"

"You'd be surprised."

So he set me up for an MRI to rule out or in a stress fracture.  (He said if it was a stress fracture, IM was out.), but he really doesn't think that is the problem.

The pinched nerve is a new potential diagnosis.  Don't really have back pain; some nagging now and then, but my back is not something I generally complain about.

The MRI took about 30 minutes; I'll have the results of that soon.  Assuming it is not a stress fracture, I'll go to see a back guy and we'll go from there.

So, while that fat lady might be itchy to sing her song, this fit lady is itching to get to the bottom of this and then back to training.

Have a nice weekend, everyone.




Thursday, March 31, 2016

Will the Fat Lady Sing?

Over the last week or so, a whole bunch of our appliances have shown signs of age.

First, the handle on our microwave ripped off.  Sheared the screws that held the handle in place right in half.  We did a little investigative work and discovered the microwave was built (and installed above the stove) in 1997.   More investigation revealed that they no longer make the model OR the replacement handle.  Until we have the time to go shopping for a new one, we are left with plying open the door with a screwdriver in order to nuke our food.

The "full power" button on hairdryer we've had for more than 15 years no longer holds.  We are left with either holding the button on in order to get the big blast of air, or settling for "style" mode, which means spending an extra chunk of time trying to get "the look".

I dropped my protein shake shaker bottle on the floor and it cracked.  I'm a big fan of my protein shakes and liked that bottle a lot.  Perfect size; shaker-blender thingie worked perfectly; even liked the color.  For now, until I can get a replacement one, I'm stuck using one that is bigger, clunkier and the shaker-blender thingie is a piece of c*#&.

The final blow came two days ago.  I opened the doors to our refrigerator and smelled the distinct smell of burning plastic.

"Whaaaat?"

The unit at the top of the fridge that houses the light bulbs and controls the temp within the fridge and freezer looked strange. I could actually see part of the light bulbs.  I gentle pulled on the unit and it came off in my hand. I could see obvious burn marks near the light sockets.   I pulled the plug on the fridge and called the repair guy.

Seems this happens a lot with the particular model we have, said the repair guy.  He ordered parts, which will be here in a couple days.  We threw out boatloads of food (which I hate doing), packed up some stuff in coolers and are waiting it out.

With all these age related-failures, I find it hard to not think that this is an omen of what's to come tomorrow.  After all I, too, am just an aging machine.

Tomorrow, I finally, finally, FINALLY get back in to see an orthopedist to get the word on what is happening with my hip and more recently, my knee and shin.

I know that I have hip arthritis.  That was diagnosed in 2014.  I also know it is worse (had an xray which confirmed this last October.).  What is new is the knee/shin thing, which I think is result of my gait changing.

I have been mostly ignoring all of this.  My rationalization?  Better to have my head in the sand than a scar on my hip.

I really am just looking for one more year of long distance triathlon.  I've been bargaining with the Ironman Gods to let me get through IM WI and IM AZ this year and then I'll be okay with stopping.  I promise.  (I sound like a crack addict.  "Just one more ride on the loop, baby...")

I've been doing some rehab with a physical therapist, who finally got me to agree to get an official evaluation.  Tomorrow is the big day.

While I don't think the doc will tell me I can't do these races this year, I am pretty sure he will tell me that this is the last song of the Ironman opera.  It will be very hard to hear that fat lady sing the final aria.

I am guessing there may be some more rehab in my future, maybe some cortisone, probably a lot of duct tape.

One way or another, I'll be at the start line of those races this year.  And, Ironman Gods willing, I'll be crossing those finish lines with moments to spare.

I just need the fat lady to be silent tomorrow.



Monday, February 29, 2016

The Joy of Indoor Tris

They say Minnesota has two seasons:  winter and road construction. 

I think our two seasons are:  outdoor triathlon and indoor triathlon.


While I will say that outdoor tri season is the best, with its warm days, open water and the thrill of riding on the open road, I live in Minnesota, where, even in the best of winters, I'm not swimming in Lake Calhoun, just because it is open.  (All props due to Total Immersion Coach, Dave Cameron, who DID get in to Lake Calhoun last December.  Nutball.  And I say that with the utmost respect.)

What, then, is a triathlete to do a l l  w i n t e r  l o n g.... Just spend hours pedaling on the trainer, while binge watching episodes of Mr. Robot or Girls?  Bundle up in layers of reflective running gear, wear a headlamp  and yaktrax and pray you don't fall in to a snowbank, because you'll never be able to pull yourself out?  

No.  You take advantage of indoor triathlons.  


Why?  Well, first and foremost, they are fun.  And, they keep you in the game.  AND, in the dead of winter, when you don't think you can take one more dreary, freezing cold day, you have a reminder that summer will come and you will be able to put that wetsuit on again.  


If you are a tri veteran, indoor tris offer you a way to check your fitness level and spark your competitive nature.  


But, if your are a tri newbie, or a tri wannabe, indoor tris are a wonderful way to put your toe in the pool, so to speak.  You swim in a nice, clean pool with a lane line; you don't have to deal with wind or hills on the spin bike, and you run either on a treadmill or a track.  You still get nice swag, enjoy post race food and you get to call yourself a triathlete.  


So even though this year's indoor tri season is coming to a close, I thought I'd share a review of the indoor races I have come to love.  A couple of them still have upcoming dates available.    If you haven't done an indoor tri, you owe it to yourself to check one out.


Tri U Mah:  University of Minnesota -- Rec Center, race is in February, registration opens in October:   The format is 30 minute swim/ 30 minute bike/ 30 minute run.  Can race individually or as a team.  Transition between swim and bike is a flat 10 minutes; transition between bike and run is a flat 5 minutes. Winners are determined by the overall distance covered.  


This race is my all time favorite of indoor tris.  Maybe because it was the first one I ever did, way back in 2005.  Maybe because I love the venue.  Who knows.  What I do know I look forward every October to the second registration opens up.  

  • The deep water pool at the U is great.  You get your own 25 yard swim lane (no sharing), temp is always just right.  Volunteers keep track of the number of laps you complete during the 30 minute time frame.  
  • The bike portion is done on Matrix-S series bikes.  Distance is determined by the number of RPMs of the flywheel, so doesn't really match what riding outside is like, but hey, it is February, and you are doing a tri.
  • Run is on a treadmill.   You can set your own incline and pace.   Again, volunteers keep track of your distance covered on both the bike and the run.
  • Changing facilities are collegiate:  shared locker and shower space; smallish lockers (bring your own lock), and bring your own towel.
After race:  Tri U Mah usually provides some nice and useful swag.  In years past, I've gotten an embroidered down vest; a nice winter hat; some nice technical tee shirts.  This year, we got a cotton tee (meh) and a embroidered, weather resistant baseball cap (liked it) and a small carry bag.  Post race food this year was bagels and beverages.

Y-tris:  YWCA - Midtown location.   You don't have to be a YWCA member to participate.  Various dates from late fall until spring.  Next race, April 10th.  Registration still open.  Can race individually or as a team:   Format: 

  • Mini: 400yd swim/8mi bike/1mi run
  • Sprint: 500yd swim/10mi bike/2mi run
  • Long: 600yd swim/12mi bike/5k (3.1mi run)
  • Relay: long distance, one person each leg
Whether the race is an indoor tri, or the really wonderful Women's Triathlon, held in August, Race Directors and Endurance Coaches Nicole Cueno and Kym Zest know how to put on a race. Very friendly, peppy volunteers, nice swag, good post race food (including COFFEE !!) and a masseuse!  

The Y also has several great tri training and prep programs, offering indoor and outdoor brick classes (bike/run); running and biking clinics, and lots of open water swim opportunities at Cedar Lake during the summer. 


I've done several of these races over the years and have loved each one.  I've had my hat handed to me by a young boy, with whom I shared my swim lane, and I've been able to cheer on a number of brand, new triathletes as they crossed the finish line for the first time.  These events are highly supportive and well organized.  

  • Indoor tri facilities at the Y are terrific.  Nice, 25 yard pool.  Two participants per lane.  
  • Bike portion is done on a Kaiser spin bike.  Again, distance is calculated by RPM and doesn't quite equate to what it is like on a real bike outside.  (Details.)
  • Run is done on a 200-meter indoor track. 
  • Changing facilities:  Typical locker room, bring a lock and a towel.  Whirlpool, sauna and steam available after the race.  
LifeTime Fitness Indoor Tris:  Lifetime Fitness health clubs across the cities;  don't have to be a member to register.  Various dates from January through April.  Next race date in Twin Cities is April 24th.  Registration still open.   Format:  10 minute swim; 30 minute bike; 20 minute run.  Winner determined by a points system. 

So, I'm a Lifetime member.  Love the clubs; love a lot of their programs.  Like this tri.  (Notice I said "like").   It could be the way that the tri is run at the club I race at; it could be that the race is simultaneously run at a number of their facilities across the country the same day, but the process hasn't been "Starbucked" (meaning the same experience regardless of what location you visit.)  


I find the LTF events "flat".  The event itself is fun, but a bit disorganized.  The volunteers aren't too peppy; the swag is okay (tee shirt and small bag.)  You do get some offers, including a free month of masters swim; 30 minutes consultation with a tri coach and a discount at the Ironman store.  (LTF has an affiliation with Ironman, primarily to help promote the sport, and LTF sold a couple of their branded races to Ironman, for example  the old Soma 1/2 is now Ironman Arizona 70.3).    After the January event, the Women for Tri facebook page lit up with hundreds of selfies of co-branded swim caps worn by LTF tri participants.  The reviews from participants across the country was pretty mixed.  Some sites seem to have their act together, others not so much.  Biggest surprise for me was that many clubs had post race food (bananas).  My club?  Not even a bottle of water....


Having dissed the organization of the race, I still sign up for these races.  They still allow me to get a good workout in and to have some fun.  As a former boss of mine profoundly said, "It is what it is".  

  • Swim:  in a pool, most of them are 25 yard (the one I swim in is 23 yards);  two participants to a lane.
  • Bike: on a standard spin bike.  The most "true" to an outdoor bike experience.  
  • Run:  on a treadmill, where you can adjust the incline and speed.
  • Amenities:  nice locker rooms, many provide towels, soap and shampoo.  Sauna, whirlpool and steam available after the race.  
So there you have it.  The lowdown on indoor tris.  Just another way I am keepin' it joyful in 2016.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The goal: 60% JOY

Yeah, right.  That last blog post from October, 2015, told you all to "check back soon to learn about my Action Plan!". 

So does over 2 months since I last posted count as "soon"?


Why so long?  Well, it turns out I was still working on that action plan


Not that things haven't been happening and moving along.  No indeed!  November and December passed in a blaze of action packed minutes.  Lots of work, stress and high pressure deadlines.  AND lots of relaxation and easy days off. 

Hubby and I went on a cruise in early December with my sister and brother-in-law.  You may not think I am a cruise person, but let me correct your thinking.  I totally am.  I should say, Hubby and I totally are.  


We are very particular about our cruises, though.  No fussy formal nights or assigned seating for us.  Noooo.  We like Norwegian Cruise Line, the "do what you want, when you want" cruise line.  No formal nights (unless you want to dress up);  no assigned seating for dinner; no nuthin' but fresh air, views of the ocean, endless food and adventurous shore excursions. 


We went from Port Canaveral to the Bahamas, St. Thomas and St. Maarten and three, count them -- THREE -- days at sea.  (Love the sea days!).  I swam in the ocean in the Bahamas and St. Maarten.  We snorkeled in St. Thomas and saw sea turtles, sting rays and the most fish ever on a snorkel trip.  It was heaven.


I also had several days off in-between Christmas and New Year's.   I started to declutter the house and am proud to say that I'm finally willing to get rid of things that no longer serve me/us.   I don't want or need to hold on to "stuff".  I do need to let (it) go.


I also came up with my race schedule for 2016.  Lessons learned from 2015 will help shape what this new race season will bring....it may also be the beginning of the real, actual end of some of my racing life.


You see, the hip issue that has been plaguing me since winter, 2014, is not going away.  It is, in fact, arthritis, which is, in fact, getting worse, not better.  (I know this because I had a scan in 2014 when they diagnosed it and another one last fall, which revealed more deterioration.)


Generally, I'm choosing to ignore the problem.  While the actual pain is hit or miss, my range of motion is definitely impacted, which impacts both my gait and pace when I run.  I have a definite giddyup in my step (meaning I limp), but I am not yet at the point where I am really acknowledging any of this.   Sometimes denial is a very powerful thing.


I have done some (lots) of research though, and most of what I read says that, when the time comes for a little snip, snip, snip, I will still be able to swim and bike and golf.  Running will probably be D O N E, though.  And for as slow and clompy as I am right now running, I'm not ready (willing) to stop yet.

I have stuff to do this year.   Like several of my fave indoor tris;  Like running Grandma's 1/2 marathon again.  Like doing Ironman Wisconsin this fall. And Ironman Arizona.  

You see, I look at it this way:  if I am going to potentially stop doing something I LOVE, I'm going to make sure that this year is a great year.  If my hip is the problem, then the plan is to grind it down to dust before I'm finished with triathlon.  (Might as well make that surgeon work for his or her money and insurance reimbursement, right?)


I've thought long and hard about what I want my 2016 to be and I've come up with this:  By Sunday, every week, I want my week to have been joyful at least 60% of the time.  This means I spend my time doing things I love to do, with people that I love to be with, and have adventures that are meaningful. 


If I find that I'm less than joyful 60% of the time, I need to consciously eliminate the people, places and things that are causing the angst. 


Life is way too short and time passes way too quickly. 


Spend time joyfully.



Monday, October 19, 2015

Ironman 70.3 Arizona: Part I: Lessons Learned

We'll start with the finish.  Or, lack thereof.  

I did not finish this 70.3 mile race.  I did cover 64 miles (meaning got the 1.2 mile swim, the 56 mile bike and 6.55 miles of the 1/2 marathon (which, I recently found out was really measured at 13.6 miles. so I covered 6.8 miles), but could not pull it together to finish this one out.

As the last outdoor tri for 2015,  this was disappointing and embarrassing, but I did learn a lot from this race that I can take with me in to 2016 and beyond.  

I had gone to watch Ironman Arizona last year to watch my 2015 coach, Cathy Yndestad and my friend, Mark Loken, do the race. The venue looked interesting and very different from Ironman Wisconsin's course.  I was toying with the idea of doing "one more Ironman" in 2016 and was thinking that a flatter bike course would be more forgiving on my ailing hip.  When Ironman announced it had taken over the former Soma tri, I signed up for this new 70.3 race the day registration opened.  

I thought this would be a perfect way to try some things that I've never done before:  shipping my bike to a race location; traveling more than 400 miles for a triathlon; swimming in notoriously cold Tempe Town Lake.  I also thought that, since I've finished a number of 1/2 iron distance tris before, that this would be a distance that would be "easy" to cover.  

The day turned out differently than I had thought it would.  Some of the reasons were out of my control.  But, if I'm being totally honest here, there was a lot in my control in both what I did and didn't do in the months leading up to the race which impacted yesterday's results.  

Lessons Learned:  
  • You can't fake your way through a 1/2 iron distance tri.
  • Training Plans and Coaches are worth every penny you pay for them. (At least the good ones are.)
  • Practice on the bike you are going to ride.  
  • Do some open water swimming with and without a wet suit.
  • The strongest muscle you have is the one in your head.
Let's start with the obvious:  You get the race you train for:  After finishing IM WI last year, I wanted this year to be fun and easy.  I did a lot of races, but mostly sprints and a couple of Olys.  I had a lot of fun doing some new things, like covering 70 miles on the second day of Iowa's Ragbrai; going back to SuperiorMan for its 41.5 mile event, and running the Looney Challenge (comprised of running the Twin Cities Marathon weekend's 5K, 10K on Saturday and then the 10 Miler on Sunday.)  I was able to finish all of these events without a doing a lot work to get through them.  However, I really did not spend a lot of time "in training" this year.  I may have worked out more frequently and regularly than the average person, but there is no way I can say, with a straight face, that I spent my summer "in training".  

Self coaching is not the best plan for me:   I didn't really swim with a Masters group this year; I didn't have a formal relationship with a Coach, I certainly didn't follow any thing remotely like a training plan.  I did a little work with a group out of LifetimeFitness, but I did that mostly for the social aspect, not for the actual training.  I thought, since I had covered the distances for the 70.3, I'd be okay.  I didn't string any of them together in any meaningful way in training, and that came back to bite me yesterday in a big way.   

I need to be held accountable.  I need someone to tell me what to do, when to do it and then to either bust my chops for not doing it or to congratulate me when I do do it.  In other words, I need a Coach.

Train on the bike you are going to ride:  Outside of races, I spent the bulk of the year riding my road bike.  I should have spent a lot more time riding my tri bike.  Both my position and my saddle are very different one bike to the other.  It is also very different being in aero versus up on the hoods.  I did do a few longer rides on my tri bike as IM 70.3 AZ approached, but in retrospect, probably not enough time.  My tush was quite accustomed to longer miles on my cushier road bike saddle.  Less so on the tri bike's Cobb.

Practice Open Water Swimming both with and without a wet suit:   All the tris I did this year had been wet suit legal.  I also wore a wet suit for all the OWS practice swims I did during the summer.  I love the extra buoyancy and the sense of security the suit gives me.  (If/when I have to tread water before a race, or adjust my goggles or pee, I basically go vertical and can bob like a cork.  No energy, no muss, no fuss....).  

Tempe Town Lake is known for being cold, even though it is in the desert.  The thought of the race being wet suit questionable never even entered my mind. A few days before leaving for Arizona, I happened to see a post on the event's Facebook page. Someone was questioning whether the swim would happen at all, given all the rain Tempe has been having.  (The lake is part of a reservoir and, apparently, after heavy rains, catches storm water run off, increasing changes of unsafe E coli levels.).  Another person responded that E coli wasn't an issue, but the warm lake temps could make the race wet suit illegal.  

Warm water?  I looked up the water temp online and it was in the mid 70's.  Glad I checked this out before traveling because I ended up packing both a wet suit and a swim skin.  Race morning, the water was 78 degrees.  The race officials made the event 'wet suit optional'.  If a racer chose to wear a wet suit, they would move to a "new" final wave, regardless of which heat they should be racing in.  Racers in that last wave would still have to make the 11:20 am cut off of starting the 3rd bike loop.  

Although I was already one of the final waves for the day, I did not want to sit out any additional time and risk maybe not making the bike cut off, so I opted to not wear the wet suit and wore the skin instead. (In retrospect, the cut off for the last loop was a non issue for me.  I was well on my way on that last loop at 11:20 am....)

On the one hand, the skin was perfect because the water temp was great.  Had I wore the wet suit, I would have overheated.  On the other hand, I had not done any open water swimming without a wet suit in a long time.  The swimming part was easy, but waiting treading water waiting for the race to start was a little tiring; stopping to adjust my goggles and to pee, there was no bobbing.  It was more floundering.  


The water was pretty choppy and I got swallowed more of the lake that I wanted to.  I also had a couple of close encounters with other swimmers that, had I been in a wet suit, would not have rattled me.  Without the suit, I went under unexpectedly, which caused me to be a little uncomfortable. 


I got through the swim, but all it all, it was not nearly as enjoyable as other swims.  I felt more like I practiced water survival skills....

Head Muscle:  Ahhh yes.  My brain.  All things being equal yesterday, it was my brain that caused me my biggest issues.  I knew I had not done the training I should have.  But that was also the case with the Looney Challenge and I managed to get through those three races, AND did the 10 miler with a knot in both my glute and posas.  The big difference was the conversation I had with myself about those races.  For Looney, my focus was on getting the races done, no matter what.  

For IM 70.3 AZ, the negative thoughts started early -- in the swim, which felt like it went on forever.  I felt mostly good on the bike, although my tush was screaming during that last loop and it got mentally tiring riding in to the wind, which had picked up quite a bit.  I may have gotten behind on my nutrition a bit too, which never helps the thinking pattern.  

When I got back in to T2, I thought I had plenty of time to cover the miles of the run.  The course seemed pretty straight forward: two pretty flat loops around sections of Tempe Town Lake.  I started the run at 12:30 pm; the sun broke out and it was hot and humid.  I struggled from the get-go to get my legs to run.  I just did. not. want. to.  Period.  

I can be very stubborn and headstrong.  Sometimes this works very well for me.  Other times, this does not.  This was one of those times.  I tried a few tricks in hopes to turn things around.  I picked places out on the course and said "I'll start running there".  I'd get to that place and then find another place that looked better.  Finally, I just gave in and said "Screw it.  I'm walking'.  

That would have been fine until the detour.

The Race Organizers had to make a modification to the run course, due to a tragic accident (independent of the race) the night before.  This modification added another 4/10s to the total course (not a big number), but the actual change to the course made a big difference psychological to me.

I was walking on the Rural Road bridge and could see other racers on the path on the south side of the lake.  It looked like they came off the bridge, took a left, went away from the race site for about a few hundred yards and then turned to loop back to the site and the start of the second loop or the finish line.


I looked at my watch and thought that I had enough time to get through the second loop before the race cut off.  I was feeling pretty good.


When I got off the bridge, and took the turn to the left, I realized that the turn around was not a couple hundred yards ahead of me, but rather more than 1/2 a mile ahead of me.


That realization took any and all of the wind right out of my sails and my brain said "Game over. Get to the start of the second loop, but you are probably out of time to complete the second loop."

I got to the start of the second loop and Warren was there waiting for me.  I told him that I was done.  He tired to get me to start the second loop, but I knew I wasn't going to run it (or any of it) and with less than 90 minutes to the cut off, it was highly unlikely that I would make the cutoff. 

Had I been able to get my head right, I may have been able to get myself on that second loop and to push to meet the 90 minute deadline.  

But yesterday, for whatever reason, when I was done, I was done.


No matter what I tried to tell myself made a difference.  Internal conversation points included including "You spent a boatload of money to ship your bike here and to travel here to DNF", "You will never live down the embarrassment of not finishing." "You've done this a million times.  Get your stuff together.".  "You want that hat and medal".  Nothing made a difference.  

I'm not sure why I struggle with this so much.  Why sometimes I can right the ship and push forward and other times, I just can't / won't.  

I'll be pondering this for the next few days in order to come up with my next post:  Ironman 70.3 Arizona:  Part II: Putting Those Lessons to Work.

Check back in a few days as I come up with my Action Plan.