Wednesday, April 15, 2015

It is still all about Oceanside... a few more stories...

I'm glad the memories of pain fade so quickly... or maybe it is just the way I like to remember the course of events.  Either way, I've been thinking about a few additional funny memories from race day that I would like to share... if you haven't already, read the previous post, "Oceanside 70.3 - Here we go... RACE REPORT!!!" for the context of these stories.

#5... My chat during the swim...  This is a story, two years in the making!  In 2013, I met an athlete during the Desert International who had crashed (bad) at the start of the bike (first time with aerobars)... here is that race story (must read to understand the rest of this story)...  I didn't see Chris at the 2014 race, but I ran into him at the 2015 race just a few weeks ago.  I was soooo excited to see Chris, since his goal, two years ago, was to get healthy and finish a 70.3 when he turned 60.  "I'm signed up to do Oceanside" he said, "but I'm injured and am going to have to pull out." Flash forward to the swim at Oceanside... I was swimming along and noticed someone swimming on their back... IT WAS CHRIS!  I stopped and excitedly started chatting with him (yes, during the race)... to check and see how he was feeling and to cheer him on.  I saw Chris again when he caught up with me toward the end of the bike... and later, when he FINISHED HIS FIRST 70.3!!!  I can't tell you how INSPIRED I've been by his journey... to meet him at the start of his journey and to be there when he accomplished his goal!  Can't wait to see what is next... :-)

#4... Military support...  I've told you the crowds were awesome, our Tri It Together team was awesome, but there was another group that was on the course that was totally AWESOME!  The bike course was mostly on Camp Pendleton property... and our service members were in force,  in uniform, and making sure the road conditions were safe for all of the riders.  I thanked them as I rode by and got choked up when, after I thanked one service member, because he saluted me.  THAT was a great memory!

#3... My bike has clothes...  oh, the things you think about when you are in the middle of a triathlon.
In T2, I racked my bike and started getting ready for the run.  A volunteer came over to me and gave me several "kind" words of support (yes, she was yelling...COME ON... HURRY UP... YOU'RE ALMOST DONE... YOU ONLY HAVE A HALF MARATHON TO RUN!) As I started thinking once again, "What the heck am I doing...?" she put a "finisher" seat cover on my bike.  I stood up a little straighter and took off on my run thinking, "I must be an serious racer now!  Even my bike has clothes!"  I giggled to myself about that for the first mile or so of the run!!!

#2... "Oh NO you di'int..." After I was carried to the top of the hill and my 2nd muscle slammed into a cramp, I asked one of the volunteers if they would get my husband, Jeff, who was at a tent just down the street.  You heard that part before.  What I didn't know until later was the kind volunteer found our tent and said an athlete had collapsed down the street and he needed "Jeff." My Mom was standing there and said, "I'm her Mom..."  He said, "I'm sorry, she asked for Jeff."  OHHHH!!!  You can't tell a Mom her daughter had collapsed on the course and that she had to stay put.  I know the volunteer was doing his job, and he was fantastic.  As I laughed out loud when I heard this story, all I kept thinking was, "Oh no you di'int!!!" 

#1... Candy from strangers...  While the volunteer was getting Jeff, a woman came up to me with a little baggie and (2) pills.  She saw what was going on, and noticed I was wearing shorts from "HERevolution," an awesome female only tri shop.  She quickly introduced herself, said she was also part of HERevolution (they have racing and ambassador teams, which I am not a part of, I just love their clothes!) and she handed me the pills and said, "Take these."  Again, the silly things you think about during a race. I've spent decades telling my kids "not to take candy from strangers" and here I am downing these pills, on the side of the road, from a stranger. :-)  Of course they were salt pills and she was very kind to help me!

Two weeks later, and I've barely taken off my Oceanside t-shirts, and am still thinking daily about that tremendous day.  Last weekend, I was chatting with my Uncle Scott about the race.  He asked, "The story of the race and your pain was amazing, but tell me, did you have any fun or find any pleasure in the race?" He made me think.  A race like this hurts. Everyone. The elite athletes hurt just as much as everyone else... they just finish up with their pain faster than the rest of us.  I had fun training with our tri group, sharing my adventures with friends, hitting my training goals, and I have found so much pleasure thinking back on that day, hearing stories from other athletes of their race day, and remembering all of the other funny/silly/quirky details of that day.  Yes, the race hurt, but doing a 70.3 is about so much more than that one day.  :-)

Is it March 2016 yet...? :-)

Friday, April 3, 2015

Oceanside 70.3 - Here we go... Race Report!!!

Just part of the 50+ Tri It Together family members we had in Oceanside - 23
racers and a ton of cheerleaders!  This was in the Athlete's Village Friday
afternoon... packet pickup, shopping, Course Talk... almost go time.
Saturday was the hardest (both physically and mentally), most exciting, painful, silly, "what the hell was I thinking," supportive and wonderful days ever.  I've been thinking about the story that I wanted to tell and one of my training partners helped me define it.  Wednesday was my first workout since the race and I started telling the story.  "I didn't finish the race,"   "What!? You've been doing triathlons for years and we've been watching you train... what happened?" Exactly what I've been asking myself for the past few days, but a perfect way to start the story...

Another view of Athlete's Village - what a BEAUTIFUL
place for a race!
Friday afternoon - Jeff and I headed down to the race to do packet pick-up, Athlete's Meeting, catch up with friends, check out Athlete's Village and drop my bike off at transition.  The week leading up to the race, I had a cold and decided to really taper.  I did what I thought I should do... started taking in electrolites, packing my bags, and I was a nervous wreck!  Am I ready?... nutrition?... training?... 8 1/2 hour time limit... where are Mom and Dad going to park?... racking my bike the day before?...8 1/2 hour time limit... the bike hills?... where are we going to park?... AUGH!  I continued to freak out... until I got to the transition area.  This was familiar... it was BIG... a big inflatable entry, lots of racks, "Ironman" on everything... but once in transition, I knew what to do.  I checked out the in's and out's... how to site my transition spot... looked at the swim course... and all of a sudden I was calm... and ready... 

Representing Tri It Together... and my new
Ironman Swag... shopping is part of the process! ;-)

Caught up with "Queen Amanda" at transition set up.  Signs were made for
each of us... shhhhhhh... we weren't supposed to see them yet...
 I LOVE this photo... walking down the center of transitions like,
"Yeah... this is my hood..." :-)
Saturday morning... up at 3AM... on the road by 4AM... in transition by 5AM.  Set up was good... normal... body marked... tires pumped up (I had never racked my bike the day before so this was a new step)... chatting with athletes (I LOVE this part... meeting new people... hearing their stories!), final bathroom stop, photos with Jeff, final nutrition, back to check my stuff one more time and grab swim gear, photo with Matt and prayer with Lala, and off to do a brief run and my own pre-race prayers.
Race morning and on our way to the swim start.  We
started a "Tri Club" at our YMCA several years ago.  Although
the program didn't make it, those of us that started tris at that time
have become wonderful friends!  Matt is one of those friends,
one of my biggest inspirations, and the one I call, "Superman!"
The wave starts were in a different format that I was used to, but I was glad to line up with several of my tri friends.  While in the chute, we took photos, watched the pros go by and celebrated what we were about to accomplish.  And then, there were the sea lions...

The swim start... about 100 meters from a boat ramp in Oceanside harbor.  The day before the race, the sea lions were  sunning and enjoying their normal spots... on the boat ramps.  Just before my group, the pink caps, were to start, this
group swam up and started playing right in front of us.  We all started laughing and cheering and the sea lions seemed
to play even more.  I am VERY glad that I didn't see this photo before I got into the water... where I could see just
how big their teeth are... I have now done races with dolphins (Mission Bay Tri) and jellyfish (Spring Sprint Tri)
and now the sea lions.  Just hope that sharks aren't next on my "wildlife swim partner" list!!!
I told you we had a bunch of Tri It Together family cheerleaders on course. There is something very special about doing this race for the first time, being in a wave start with several tri friends, and then having the swim out/in team being our team! That is Rick in the hat taking photos... Lee giving me a huge hug... I think we had about 10 friends on this line... you guys made me feel
like a superstar! BEST... WAY... EVER... to start a race!!!
 The swim was very crowded and choppy, with sun in your eyes on the turn, but I felt good and this is the best part of my race.  Funny thing... about 20 minutes into the swim, both of my calves cramped up.  Weird!  I NEVER cramp during a swim.  I spent a good third of the swim without kicking, legs straight out and feet flexed, but felt like I had a strong swim. Swim Split - 41:38 - 30/188 in my division; 258/675 of the women!  Oh YEAH!

After the race, I told Jeff that I could hear the sea lions barking during the whole
swim and I asked him how close they were to the swimmers.  He smiled and said,
"Those of us on the docks could see the sea lions... swimming right next to you...
swimming under you and coming up on the other side... they were having a great
time playing with you!"  Again... very happy I did not see the photo of their teeth
before I dove in!

Swimmers starting on the far right... swimmers coming in on the left... I love this photo!
I was just getting out of the water and didn't realize that my suit was already open
and ready to go!  I was too busy hugging friends and moving onto the bike.  Thanks,
Kaide, for the cheering and suit stripping! ;-)
So, swim went well - CHECK!  Transition... although I finished faster than I expected, I was very surprised that both of my calves were in a total cramp as I tried to run into transition.  Again... NEVER happened before.  While it was happening, I figured it was nerves, but kept it in the back of my mind.

Our cheerleaders were AWESOME... even made it to!

Next up... the bike.  56 miles.  Although I had practiced the first 20 or so miles of this course, the mental part kicked in about mile 10.  I was already calculating my speed and the needed time to get to the 5 hour 30 minute cut off to start the run.  Darn... those negative voices can be SO LOUD!  I did alright... decided that I could make the cut offs, but wanted to be smart.  I decided I would stop at each aid station, grab a quick drink and nutrition (bananas... those would help with the weird cramps) and breathe.  Now, there are parts of this course that an athlete can not see or practice until race day because it is on Camp Pendleton property.  I passed the second aid station and was doing well... until I came up on a crest and saw the first climb in front of me.  I said out loud, "What in the hell is THAT!?" A few riders around me said, "That is the 'Mother F-----..." like that is a hill I was going to smile at and say, "thank you, can I have another!?"  I would say 75% of the people around me walked their bike up that hill... I made it up at 2 miles per hour.  Yeah, my time sucked, but I cheered on every single person that biked up that hill!  Little did I know there would be (3) more significant climbs on that course.  (2) more I walked part of and (1) that I rode all the way up.

The last (10) or so miles of the bike is pretty flat, but there was a strong headwind.  It was tough, but the worst part was an incredibly painful cramp in my side.  I have had this cramp before... the (4) times it has happened in my life, I can tell you exactly when and where it happened because the pain is significant enough you don't forget it.  And during this one bike ride, it happened (4) times... each time I had to slam on my breaks and jump off the bike so I could stretch it out. I probably wasted about 40 minutes with these cramps... (foreshadowing... why didn't I see I was having a major cramp issue!?)

I don't know how, but I made it back to transition with 10 minutes to go before the bike cut off.  I spent over (4) hours thinking I couldn't make it, but I DID!  Ok... now onto the half marathon run... Bike Split - 4:31 - 109/118 in my division - 615/675 for the gals - OUCH!!!

I'm not sure what in the heck we were doing, but we were sure having fun!
I took my time in transition and by the time I started the run, it was about 5 1/2 hours into my race.  I took it easy to get my legs moving after the bike and the first mile wasn't too bad.  I saw the first of several Tri It Together Cheer Stations (Hi Lorenzo!)  Next was the pier and ramp (what an aweful thing to put into an Ironman... don't they know our legs were shot?)  Right at the top of the ramp was the home base Tri It Together tent with Rob and Kevin cheering us on, my parents, Jeff, Anna and Chris and a whole team of cheerleaders.  Boy, did I need those smiles and hugs right then!!! 
Only (3) hours to go!
 Down the street and the ramp down, and at the bottom was another of our cheer stations.  Lee ran up next to me and asked how I was doing.  I was hurting, but I had no idea how much worse it was about to get.  Another mile down and all of a sudden, my body stopped.  I walked a bit and tried to run, but my legs wouldn't hold me up.  Back to walking.  Another few test run steps and my legs went out.  I started thinking about exactly what was happening.  What the heck!?  I trained, I put in the miles, I thought I had taken in plenty of liquids and nutrition all day, I had my best race run EVER (sub 10 minute miles) just three weeks ago, how could my body stop now?  I spent the next mile walking, one excruciating step after another, all while my body was yelling, "Stop, stupid, you're race is over!"  I had about 10 miles to go and about 2 hours to get it done before the 8 1/2 hour cut off.  I lifted my head, stood up straight, and started power walking.  I knew I wasn't going to make the cut off at this pace, but darn it, I WAS NOT going to leave that course until an official pulled me off!
I walked like that for another hour.  The crowds were amazing, homeowners giving us showers with their hoses, other homeowners having little parties in their yards, blasting music and cheering on every athlete.  Most of the racers at this point were hurting, but most would at least flash a quick smile or "thumbs up" as we passed.  At about mile 6, there was another ramp to go up.  Half way up, my right inner thigh slammed me with a massive cramp.  I bent over, started to massage, but the darn thing would not relax!  I looked around and there was nothing to hold onto and my other leg was shaking and about to give out, which would have been tragic because I would have tumbled down to the bottom of the ramp.  One of the race volunteers ran to me and offered to help.  My brain shut down and I couldn't think of anything but getting that muscle to let go.  Another volunteer ran down to us and the two of them got on either side of me and picked me up.  NOW my brain started working and all I could think, besides the fact I was sure my leg was going to fall off it was squeezed so hard, was that I had raced for over 7 hours and I smelled BAD... and I'm a big girl... I went between thanking these poor guys and apologizing for the smell and weight... thanking them... apologizing... and then I started giggling.  Even with the craziness that was happening, I could see how funny this whole scene was! :-)  My helpers set me down at the top of the hill and as soon as they did, my right quad locked up.  Lord have mercy!  A few police officers came to see what they could do as well as race officials.  I asked one of my helpers if they could get my husband (I was only about a block away from Jeff at that point) and he ran off.
It had been about 10 minutes since the first cramp started and both the inner thigh and quad had yet to let go.  Jeff ran up about the same time that a race official told me that he strongly suggested that I go go to medical.  However, he told me that if he took me off the course, my race was done.  That was it... I couldn't stand, much less walk and I called it.  I was in medical for about an hour, and while I was there... the first two cramps STILL GOING... my left calf and shin cramped as well as my diaphram.  What the heck...!?  It took about an hour for fluids, salt and massage to get everything to finally let go, to stand up, and limp around the room.  Jeff wasn't allowed in the medical area, but sat in the doorway and watched over me the whole time.  As I limped out to him, he looked at me with a grin and said, "You're doing this again next year, aren't you!?" :-)

Last week, I moved my triathlon medals to the left and my running/marathon medals
to the right, leaving the center for this week's medal.  I have already put up a sign
that says, "RESERVED - Oceanside 70.3 - 2016"
For the past week, I've been thinking a lot and reflecting.  Am I bummed that I didn't finish - YES!  Do I need to do some research on salt/electrolites/race nutrition - YES!  Was I ready, both physically and mentally, for this race - YES!  After all is said and done, what one word would describe this experience - PRIDE!  One thing that I have learned from (5) years of triathlons is that every single race is different.  Training, nutrition, confidence, preparation... all important, but race morning you show up, and your day will be set up by how you feel - THAT DAY - if you are ready - THAT DAY - what kind of mechanicals or injuries or mental blocks that you have - THAT DAY.  I am THRILLED with what I accomplished with the cards I was dealt - ON SATURDAY, and will be back to get that medal in 2016... because I will have MY DAY!!!