Dizzying two days with not much time to post, so I’m gonna Tarantino it from now and go backwards a bit:
Thursday was Official Check-In Day – 1300 athletes checking in between 10 and 4 in one big tent.
Everyone with whom I have stood in every line this week has been so joyful and happy and excited – maybe it’s just something about Ironman. This has been the most social group I have ever been with at any race. I’ve met so many interesting people, it has been worth that alone to make the trip!
Huuuuge shoutout to my girls Liz and Ali…these girls have been life-savers for me. They’ve befriended me, helped me with the swim, told me where to get coffee, helped me with the swim, eaten pasta with me, helped me with the swim, and have encouraged me at every turn. They are Ironman veterans, and are from the same town (Canterbury) as daughter Glenda’s squeeze Sam. I have loved making these new friends, and any success I have tomorrow will be due in no small part to their guidance and advice!
Jesse, Sam, and Laura showed up Thursday night, and this morning (Friday) Laura went with me to the women’s breakfast. It was a panel of 4 women who have competed in various Ironman races. Their ages ranged from 22 to 64, and they were a delight to listen to. Then we attended the competitor briefing, then back to the campground to get the last few things packed into the bags.
(Brief interruption as I save and publish this post and begin another – a little trouble downloading pics)
Most important order of business, I suppose: I have my bike and helmet inspected, and stickered up to show that. I’ve had my wetsuit dipped for Didymo. Tomorrow is the official check-in day and Carbo dinner – and, no, I won’t be loading up on carbs 2 days before the race. Not even the night before…you DON’T want my carb lecture here, so I’ll save that for another time.
Today was Expo day:
After looking at every tire, nutrition aid, running shoe, multi-tool, wetsuit, trisuit, swimsuit, tshirt, flipflops, sunscreen, vitamin, keychain, training video, and bike jersey, WITHOUT BUYING ANYTHING, I headed into town for a bit. First a quick look at the lake…big mistake:
It may not show up on the picture well, but those are whitecaps, tossing about all those buoys. If the lake looks like this on race morning, I’ma freak my freak. Do we need to revisit the Half-Iron experience?
I have stopped every day in a different coffee shop in the town of Taupo and had a cappucino. They’ve all been delicious, and sitting outside watching the other competitors roll by is my favorite part of the day.
At the end of the day, we had a little 5k fun run, mostly locals, and the kids had a 1k run as well, so I got that little jog in to stay loose and relaxed.
After both the Splash and Dash on Monday, and today’s Fun Run, this was the free food offering – not exactly typical athlete food, but maybe they do things differently here in the Southern Hemisphere:
Finally, I have to share a picture here of Magellan (too many Magpies are named Maggie, and besides, he’s a boy). Magellan wakes me gently every morning with a beautiful repetoire of bird songs and whistles, and he’s a right as rain. We have developed a deep relationship – I speak to him at sunrise and thank him for his melodies…I will never forget what he sounds like.
I can’t believe it’s already Wednesday night. This week has both flown and crawled. Thank you to everyone for your supportive comments – they just mean the world to me. I’ve done enough of these races to know that when you are struggling, you cast about for anything you have heard that will help you go just one more kilometer. Every one of your positive words do that for me, and I am so grateful for them.
I have been remiss in not mentioning in all my blogging that my Flat Friends have made the trip with me. They have spent a lot of time hanging from my window curtain in the room, but they got out today for a little bike ride:
Then it was back into town and back into the lake (for those wondering, I stuff the wetsuit into a backpack, along with the swim cap and goggles). Today’s swim was much much MUCH better; I swam about half the distance. There are 24 buoys and I turned around at 6.
I have to admit that I am an emotional athlete; I can get caught up in the joy or despair of the moment. My coaches have always tried to get me to overcome that. It can work in your favor when times are good – your pace quickens, you perform better when the crowd is with you, but it can destroy you when it goes badly. In the excitement of the competitors, always on race day, my adrenaline surges, my heart rate speeds, my breathing increases – not so good if you are about to embark on a 2 hour swim. I have worked so hard on focusing, removing the distractions, listening to the bubbles (swimmers know what I mean), and today I did that beautifully. Which was easy, since there were about 10 of us in the lake at the time. When there are 1200, not so easy.
I have met some positively lovely people since I’ve been here. I’ve already mentioned Didymo Dave, Jim and Susie from Auckland. I’ve also met up with Liz and Allie from Canterbury, England (insert obligatory small-world comment here – that’s where daughter Glenda’s boyfriend Sam lives), and Leo from Hawaii, and Bill and Ginger from San Diego. Everyone seems, like me, to be having the time of their lives. Today when I was fretting over the swim, Liz and Allie invited me for coffee and a scone (a scone!! During training!!). I am sorry that I declined in my edginess to get in the lake. If I find them tomorrow, I’ll invite them for a beer!
So, this picture of my foot may not seem amazing…until you realize that I’m taking it underwater! I’m in water up to my chest, I bent over and put my fancy waterproof camera into the water and snapped this picture. You can’t imagine what it is like to swim in this! I told my daughter Glenda today on Skype that it is like swimming in an aquarium. I haven’t seen many fish (Taupo is the trout capital or something) but we stay relatively near the shore. We pass one of those floating golf greens, where the tee is on the shore, and I can’t help but chuckle when I see all those golf balls on the bottom – some of them WAAAY away from the green (shankapotomus, I guess).
Then I wandered through town again, because I just can’t get enough of seeing everyone having coffee on the sidewalks, and seeing the other triathletes biking, walking, running through town. I don’t have an explanation for this picture:
After my jaunt through town, I stopped at the info booth to buy a ticket to the Women’s Breakfast on Friday (can’t wait for that), and didn’t mean to stage this shot, didn’t even see it til I came back out:
Finally I headed home to my shower, my green salad, my glass of New Zealand red, and the comforts of my little home. I’m about 3k from town, and every day on the way home I see two things:
So, in summary, I’m having the time of my life. I’m still both wildly excited and wildly apprehensive about Saturday. Tomorrow the Expo begins — FAO Schwartz for triathletes. I plan on spending most of the day looking at all the toys. Bike Tires! Running Shoes! Wetsuits! Heart Rate Monitors! Riding Jerseys! Red Blinky Lights for the Bike! Gu Gels in Every Flavor!
Day two here in Taupo – and what a great day it has been!
I started the day a bit behind the power curve – didn’t sleep well and had freaky dreams when I finally did fall asleep. Everyone with whom I spoke today said I’m right on course…
After having my coffee and a few yoga poses in my little room, skyping with home a minute, and tidying up my 25 square meters, I headed out on the bike. I’m about 3k from town (which I only know because the brochure said so – my bike computer is spazzing), so I rode in on a screaming downhill (guess what that means) and immediately went to see the lake/swim start staging area. It was while I was there gazing at ALL THOSE BUOYS, I met Jim and Susie…from Auckland. Renee, we are going to call our mountian Mt. Kismet from now on – LOVED THAT. Susie celebrated her 50th birthday 6 years ago by participating in this very Ironman, and at 61, Jim is attempting it for the first time. They were delightful and so helpful with hints about the course and transitions.
After our brief visit, I headed out and rode one lap of the run course. Seems manageable – some gentle rollers with a couple of long pulls; 42k is simply a long damn way to run.
The race area is just gorgeous – this town has a huge triathlon group because it’s so conducive to that event.
And not to be left out, if ever my girl Dora comes back here with me, here’s something for her to do while I race:
So today’s group event was a Splash and Dash: a 1k swim followed by a 5k run just for fun. Before getting in the water, however, everyone had to have their wetsuits sanitized by, remember the word? Didymo. Here is a picture of the very enthusiastic wetsuit-dipper:
My experience on the Splash and Dash was helpful – started out WAY too fast on the swim and effed up my breathing pattern and had to breast stroke slowly to recover, but then got back on track and had a delightful little run. Always learning. Tomorrow’s event is officially a 7am swim of the entire distance (3.8k), but a group of us are doing it a little later in the morning with a USAT coach who will kayak along and give us guidance. I’m all about the free advice.
This lake is the most remarkable body of water I have ever been in. I will take my waterproof camera in tomorrow and hope to be able to show you what I see: it is a clear as a mountain stream – I can see the bottom as clearly as if I were in an aquarium – so unexpected but what an experience.
I am loving my little cabin of my own. I have always relished personal space, and this is certainly no exception. There is a little television set in the room; I turned it on, then off, the first day and haven’t had it back on. I don’t have my cell on, so the laptop is my nod to communicating with the world. I’m reading my usual 4 books on my Kindle, and I had my 6 ounces of red wine tonight with my green salad. I guess the Unibomber could write the same blog…I love all my family and friends, but I know how to do solitude.
A little freaked out about messing up the swim, but will be right back in the lake tomorrow working that out. 5 days and counting. I am soooo lucky to get to do this.
Sorry for the brief hiatus — travelling across the globe can do that to you.
I have made it to the country in which my race is being held (still have about a 3-hour drive and a couple of adventures before I finally get to the site). The trip over was fabulous – got up front on the leg from LA for the win. I spent a long 9 hours in the Sydney terminal before boarding the flight into Wellington where Sam and Laura were waiting – just so happy to see their sweet faces!
I haven’t blogged since I travelled back east to attend my mother-in-law’s funeral in South Carolina. Jesse and Glenda both spoke and did a lovely job memorializing her.
The two kids and I got on a plane the very next day, flew to Atlanta, then within about 2 hours boarded planes to Paris, Colorado, and Los Angeles. I trained another day in the warm California sun before getting on yet another plane, this one headed Down Under.
My bike and bag w/gear arrived safely in Sydney where I cruised the airport like a homeless person/grocery cart combo til I could check them on the flight to New Zealand.
Sam had texted me before leaving the states asking for the usual I-can’t-get-this-here-would-you-bring-me-some _______, so I got the requested items: graham crackers, Nilla wafers, marshmallows, black beans – I got them all through New Zealand’s hyperactive biosecurity panel except the black beans.
No training today, but Sam and Laura and I will ride tomorrow, then we’re headed to Mangaweka where they were raft guides all summer and kayak a day or two. I check into my rustic cabin on the lake on Sunday, and begin the countdown to Saturday. Jesse will begin his long journey over next Monday.
Thank you for all your kind comments – Dora, Renee, Susan, Lisa – your words mean so much more than you can know. I will have them memorized and at the ready when I’m in the water, on the bike, and on the run.
I’m enjoying myself in spite of the stress, and really and truly can’t wait for the race to get here. I’ll have to check out the internet situation at Taupo to know how that’s going to look, but I’ll do the best I can with the blog.
After a week of travel, then a week of ill health, I decided to register for and participate in a little mini-sprint race at my local college campus. One of the sororities, something-something-Pi, sponsored this little event: 300 yard swim, 10 mile bike, 3.14 mile run (get it?). I missed online registration, so I just showed up this morning around 6:45, paid my fee, got my number, and set about getting all that crap in place.
This is the inaugural effort for this event, and truthfully, they really did a great job overall. They had door prizes, t-shirts, volunteers cheering you on through the bike course – lots of time and effort went into the race. The one thing I needed, the one critical piece of information I missed was that there were 2 transition areas. What this means to a racer is that when the time came to transition from the bike to the run, she is directed into the second transition area where she has no running shoes! MTSU’s campus is not that big, but I didn’t even really know where the gym was. After riding around for a few minutes, and after having started at the tail end anyway cuz of the late registration, I bailed on the run leg of the race.
Jesse and Aden were there waiting for me, and breakfast at Cracker Barrel sounded wayyy better than the door prizes looked, so off we went!
And now, a word from our sponsors…
This afternoon, again, remember the week of travel (wit limited workouts), the week of sick (with no workouts), and this morning’s events, I scheduled my bad self in for a massage (THE perk of owning a massage therapy practice). My few days of being under the weather included lots of aches and stiffness in my neck, back, and shoulders. This massage was absolutely delicious! Colt is a relatively new therapist on our team, and he went above and beyond with his work today, and I was not an easy client with all those knots and chords. He was gentle and patient and I feel like a new human, so…
Let this serve as a rounding endorsement to incorporate massage therapy into your training regimen. This is what sent me to massage therapy school in the first place, this difference in recovery after a hard event, and my wanting to educate others about this affordable enhancement to a training series. You don’t have to visit my practice, but visit somebody’s!
No iPod today, of course…but thanks to all the girls of whatever-whatever-Pi (note to self: find name of this group because they deserve the recognition, and I mean no disrespect).
Yesterday I got to participate in a triathlon with my daughter. I don’t mean she was there and cheered me on, and I don’t mean that I was there and watched her compete. I mean she was a racer and I was a racer. As I write those few simple sentences, it doesn’t seem like it would have meant to me what it ultimately meant to me. It was one of the most powerful experiences in a relationship chock full of powerful experiences.
We got to train together before the race. We got to load the car the night before, racking the bikes, being sure we had all the crap you have to have for a tri. We got to wake up at the buttcrack of dawn together, and make the hour-long car ride together, trying to get out the heebie-jeebies you always get before a race. We picked up our packets together, got body-marked together, prepared our transition area together, and stood in the start line together. Then, because of the nature of a triathlon, we didn’t see one another again til the finish line.
The race was a sprint distance, and as those races go, it was a fun and well-run event. The bike ride was very picturesque around the lake, and the weather was flawless. It’s a small race (350) so it has a very festive, homey feel, and it has a post-race beer and food tent that is superior. Amy did a great job in her first triathlon experience.
I’m trying to come up with the words to describe why this was so meaningful to me. I love this sport and everything associated with it…the research, the training, the preparing, the event itself. To have Amy not only willingly but enthusiastically participate in all those steps with me was unbelievably gratifying. She has seen me repeat this process numerous times and chose to not only willingly, but enthusiastically want to accomplish this goal, attempt this undertaking, and that thrills me to the core of my soul. She was wide open to the suggestions I made about training, she asked me about the nutrition, she was interested in the strategy of each leg of the race, she worked out her own plan, and in so doing, made her mom spastically, deleriously happy.
Amy may or may not ever participate in another triathlon. She kicked ass in this one, and she may, as some triathletes do, feel the bug to do another one. She may choose to let this experience stand for itself and on its own merit. Neither of those decisions will in any way add to or detract from the opportunity I had yesterday to share in this demanding, intense sport with this phenomenal human being.
When you are in love with someone as I’m in love with Ames, and they choose to participate in something that holds great value to you, it moves you beyond words. It makes me revisit and recommit a promise I made to my children years ago: That anything they would allow me to do with them, I would do – whether that thing would require me to change my schedule, my fitness, my attitude, face my fears, my insecurities, my past, tax my wallet, my patience, my limits – I reaffirm that vow.
Thank you Amy, for your tremendous gift yesterday.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls….I did it! I am a mother-fuckin, chicken-chokin, steamrollin, Half-Iron Triathlete!! (All respect to James Taylor).
Let me start with saying that I did finish, and it was an official time, and IT COUNTS. Now here’s the story…
So we check-in, get our transition stuff together, go down to the beach, ready to rock and roll. 6:15 is the start time for the physically challenged, then the professionals, then a couple of age groups of women, then my group. I am SO READY for this race – remember that I had been freaked out about the water temperature and I got that resolved yesterday…temp was perfect.
The air horn signals our start, and in I go. The first 30 minutes went great…the seas were awfully high, but that was manageable for the most part. I had hoped to do the swim in 60-70 minutes (in the pool I could get it done in 50). We went straight out, turned left, swam 200 yards, turned left again all the way in. At the first turn (waves are now parallel to my body alignment), I turned my head right for a big breath, and because of the swells, I intake 2 full lungs worth of water…I don’t mean swallowing, or getting a little in my windpipe… I mean full-on, ZERO OXYGEN EXCHANGE, pulmonary distress. I’m already in oxygen deficit, and go into instant wind-knocked-out-of-me, cannot breathe in or out, I’m-going-to-die-out-here freakout.
DISCLAIMER: I have promised those folks who follow my blog that I will be as honest and accurate as I can be, and the following paragraph is brutally honest and personal. If you are queasy or don’t want to know what can happen when you breathe in a portion of the ocean, skip to the next paragraph. I warned you.
So, back to me, in a turbulent ocean, unable to breathe, with no flotation device. I instantly know I’m in trouble. There are jetski triathlon officials, helpers in kayaks – I start waving my hands (the universal sign of distress) frantically, and everything is beginning to be a little sparkly in my vision…I’m goin down. Kayakboy appears, I grab on (not a disqualification if he doesn’t provide forward motion or touch you), he coaches me to hoist my body across the bow, and apply pressure to my chest in some manner. I start this, and the result I get is that I get a drinking straw’s worth of oxygen in my lungs – enough to begin breathing. Of course that starts a violent coughing episode, which brings up mucus and salt water from nose and mouth. But because I’m coughing so hard to get this out, it triggers a gag/vomit reflex, but wait, there’s more…as I am in total abdominal spasm, I also feel myself take a shit while I’m in the midst of this. Now, my priorities are the following: 1) Breathe 2) Try to puke in the ocean, not in Kayakboy’s kayak 3) worry about how I’m going to clean out my trisuit, with its spandex feature and elastic legs. I addressed my priorities in that fashion. You probably don’t really need the details…suffice it to say, it was quite an ordeal. Which leads me to….
Next problem…I can now functionally breathe, but when I attempt to release the kayak, the exertion required just to stay afloat in those swells, puts me in to instant deep-breathing, which throws me into a coughing spasm/abdominal seizure. I am half-way throught the swim at this point. Long story short, I limp in piecing together kayak rests (not illegal in and of themselves, but the jetski patrol are hovering, waiting to yank my ass out of the race, like they are doing with dozens of other athletes experiencing the same thing) with little breast-stroking attempts on my own…it was not pretty. I finished TWO hours after I started, which put me enormously behind on my projected times.
When I hop on the bike, after being stroked and loved by my posse/family all throughout transition, I am 7 miles in to the bike ride when I start seeing the leaders coming back. From a 56 mile bike course. Inspiring and defeating all at the same time. Now I have yet another issue: anytime I begin to surge up in my speed to my usually-comfortable 17mph, I get thrown into another coughing spasm…not good when you are counting on your lung capacity to be optimal. So I back down to about 12-14mph which I can sustain with calm, shallow breathing. About 20 miles into the race, I realize I have my own personal cop….I’m tail-end Charlie and the finish line is RIGHT BEHIND ME. No pressure. Brother and hubby find me at the turnaround (mile 26) and with hubby hanging out of bubba’s Corvette convertible, they shout words of encouragement, take pictures, and give me updates on how close I am to making the run course cutoff time.
When I get back to transition, Fam is there waiting, and, they tell me later, they are planning an intervention. They saw me struggle getting out of the ocean, they are concerned for my health, and I love them so much for this. My sons and daughters try to bribe me with foot massages, alcohol, Krispy Kreme donuts…you name it….they are shouting all this to me in transition. A triathlon official approaches and asks if I am going to enter the run course, because….the run course entry closes in THREE minutes. In an instant I’m off…I’ve already made the commitment to myself….they can throw me off, they can close the course, and I may collapse, but I AM NOT QUITTING. If I can get on the course, I have a leisurely 3.5 hours to complete the 13.1 miles.
About 2 miles into it (I’m walking….same lung phenomena….any exertion that raises my heart rate sends me into fits of spasm), Eric and Jesse find me, and I talk Jesse into walking the course with me, completely forgetting he has a pulled groin muscle, and of course he doesn’t even mention it. So off we go….
The blog is going forever….we cruise for 13.1 miles, the kids meet us with half a mile to go, we all hug and cry (more coughing spasms), and we walk to the finish line TOGETHER. I cross the line with 9 minutes to spare, before the official closure of the race – medal and all.
I’m not as tired as I thought I would be, mostly because I didn’t exert like I trained to, so my quads, calves, hamstrings, glutes are not as sore…my back, chest and abdominals are utterly fatigued over the coughing fits…
I have more to say, especially my tribute post, to thank those folks who have made this happen, but I want to spend lots of delicious indulgent time in that, and it took me an hour to get this town, so that post is tomorrow…and if you are reading this, that will likely include you, so please read later.
I wanted to blog one more time before the event…here’s what has happened since last entry.
So Amy and I are planning on driving the motorhome from Murfreesboro on Wednesday, going as far as Atlanta, then travelling the rest of the way on Thursday. Glenda, her boyfriend Sam, and his roommate Michael (also British) are driving to Atlanta from Knoxville in the minivan as well, so we’ll pick them up Thursday as we head south. Son Sam and his girlfriend Laura are also going to Atlanta from her family’s home in Cleveland, Tennessee; he’s going to work for brother Eric for a couple of days, then come to Atlanta with son Ben for the race. Kind of an intricate arrangement, but it’s how my family functions, so it suits me. (Hubby Jesse is flying, and will join us SOMEWHERE when he finishes his trip).
Amy and I projected a noon departure, then revised it to a 2pm departure, then revised it yet again to a 4pm, which we missed by about half an hour. (Something to do with Amy getting her passport renewed – ask her the details of THAT odyssey). I go to start the motorhome – it cranks, which is superior. However, with all the rain we’ve had in Middle Tennessee, where do you think said 35-foot motorhome was parked. Yes. See pic below for the rest of the story.
Ultimately, the hero of the moment was neighbor Ralph Wrather who came to the rescue with his John Deere tractor and a long, strong chain. Many many thanks for his kindness. That averted a potential freakout on my part.
About half-way through the trip, I got an unsettled feeling in my mind, stopped to check, confirmed it: FORGOT TO PAY MY EMPLOYEES. Checked on that 3 times before I left and got it wrong 3 times. Fortunately, I have the World’s Best Staff and they were sweet and patient about it because they are sweet and patient. Trip to Atlanta otherwise went well…all kids were there, so I got to marinate in Jordan for the evening, which did more to calm my spirit than any Valium ever could. Ben, Laura, and Eric and fixed us a delicious dinner of filets, salad, vegetables – perfect pre-pre-race food….
So the next morning (Thursday) we set off for Florida. Know that I LOVE this motorhome and all its retro charm…Mom and Dad thoughtfully gifted us with this a while back and it’s all the RV cliches you can come up with…the open road, the independence, all that. Weather was to have been clear, and motorhome has been parked (cross-reference ruts, above), so when the RAIN began, and I turned on the windscreen (British Sam’s word for windshield) wipers, see below.
So I stopped at an AutoZone, but nooooo…this is a specialty vehicle which requires a motorhome store to find replacement wipers. There is such a store in Dothan, Alabama, which was on my route…perfect. Closing time: 5:00pm. Arrival time: 5:10pm. So I drove wiperless (again, my blog, my words).
Anyway, here we are. I’ve taken my little swim, taken my little bike ride, taken my little jog, gotten registered (#299), shopped at the expo, and am about to go turn my bike in to be put into transition area. Water temperature is flawless, waves are manageable, I am so ready I wish I could start NOW.
Next blog: summary of race.
Can’t begin to thank everyone for words of support and encouragement.