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 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.