Monday, April 28, 2008

A St. Anthony's Triathlon Goal...

I had a goal for St. Anthony's do my best time ever as this was my 4th time running the event. For those of you who know,  I am an OK swimmer (I do better with a tank on my back), a solid cyclist( the new bike is helping ALOT) and a pretty slow runner my goal was simple: to get under 4 hours at St. Anthony's.  For professionals, elite athletes and those with speed in any discipline, this is a laughable goal but for me, this was something that was very important.

 I got up Sunday morning and my husband was not happy.  He had not slept well and the hotel where we were staying would not allow us to have late check out so it meant we had to check out as we headed to the race. Bummer!! I am never staying at Tradewinds again (it was the only hotel I could find with a month to go before the race...bad planning on my part) so we packed it all up at 445am and were out the door by 515am.   You gotta love Coach Beth.  She spends seasons helping  hundreds of Team in Training participants prepare for marathons.  On this race morning, she helped several TNT triathletes make it to the race site since their ride never showed up.  Once a coach, always a coach.

I start ever race morning the same. Oatmeal and a small cup of coffee.  After a quick run to 7 - 11 we were on our way to the race site.  I was amazed at how easy Steve and the crew found parking and I made it into transition with plenty of time to set my race gear.  I was nervous.  Im not really sure why.  As one official told me "Girl...this ain't your first rodeo..." Ive done this race several times and quite a few Olympic distances in the past, but I was nervous.  I had this goal in mind.

Meanwhile, my support crew of Beth, Debbie, Kim Hitsell and my beloved husband had found the Starbucks and were feeling better about the early hour.  The bad thing about St. Anthony's is that transition closes at wave didn't start until 825.  Thats alot of standing around and waiting..and thinking...and getting nervous.  

My wave consisted of Athena women (women over 150lbs...) and women over age 60 (definitely not me...but perhaps how Ill feel when Im done with the race).  This put Sister Madonna in our wave.  For those of you who don't follow Ironman, Sister Madonna is a 76 year old nun that has done over 20 Ironman races.  She is an inspiration both spiritually and physically.  Thanks to Beth, I was able to get a picture with her the day before(see picture below) but got a chance to chat before the gun went off.  A very lovely lady!

"5 minute ladies"..the starter screamed.  5 minute felt like 5 hours.  I was ready to do this! Lets get it going!!!  Finally...the horn...and I was on a run into the water.  My first official race was on its way.

I felt better in the water and my time showed a little bit of improvement.  My best time on this swim course was 43:13.  Today's race time : 42:28.  That best time was 2004 so I am back to the form I was when first racing this distance.  I came out of the water excited.  Hey, I might make this goal today.

I could hear my husband , Beth, Debbie and Kim screaming as I exited.  You know, you don't have much time to acknowledge the people that are there supporting you but their encouragement does stick with you as you go through each stage of the race.  I held up 3 fingers...according to what I remembered at time time, I thought I was 3 minutes faster than my best time...and they cheered!!!  An average transition which included ripping off a speed suit (I didn't wear that in the past) and I was on my way with the bike.

I felt ok on the bike and I now know that the work Hector and I have put forth to make me faster is working.  My bike time dropped almost 8 minutes from my fastest year (2004) and almost 20 minutes from 2005.  It took 3 fittings to get this bike where it works for I love it.  I came in faster than expected and my husband almost missed me on the course.  All of a sudden I heard him yell "Cutie!!  You're back" I had to giggle..."Didn't you expect me back?" I laughed as I dismounted and ran to transition.

The error of my day was probably not ingesting enough salt as my run, although better than last year, did suffer.  I went out on the run and there was Hector waiting for me.  He was supportive as always...and gave me some good tips but as I would find out after a few miles, my body needed more fuel and hydration.  A few hundred yards down the road were Mike and Vi with their dog Scooter cheering me on all the way.  They have been to almost ever race I have ever run...and seeing them made me smile.  Mike's deep voice is distinctive and I could hear him screaming to hold my head up as he always does.

 My feet cramped at mile 3 and I was miserable.  I had the energy and the endurance to go much farther, but my feet really hurt.  I made the turn with less than a mile to go...and there was Steve to take the last mile home with me.  It made me remember what it was like in the early days of running sprints at Clermont how he would run along the water with me when I just didn't think I could continue one more step.  I knew I would finish...and checking my watch, I was amazed.  I was ahead of schedule, even with feet that weren't functioning well.

I rounded the corner and there I was ... a full 10 minutes and 3 seconds faster than my best effort in 2004.  I could hardly believe my eyes!!  As I came into the finishing mats, Beth, Debbie and Kim were cheering like crazy on the bleachers.  A push to the finish...and I made it : 3:56:12.  For your average triathlete, a very bad day.  For amazing day that brought tears to my eyes.

And at the end of the finishing area was Hector.  I asked him : "Did you ever think you would have an athlete excited about breaking 4 hours!"  But then trainers really have alot of athletes that use to weigh 200lbs heavier?  He was excited and thrilled for me but he had a whole team of triathletes to care he was off to celebrate with them.

Next was Rick with a hug and a grin.  For my Ironman friend, this was just another day in the park!  It was his first race since Ironman Florida and he has not trained one day since so he went out and just enjoyed the distances and finished with a smile!!

My husband was there.  Its so nice to have him at a race and so hard to schedule that time.  We got lucky this time around that he was able to join the crew!!  He is the reason I can do this.  He is always there whether it be by phone or in person to cheer me on.

All my friends were amazing and to them I must say thank you.  You guys are awesome!!  Being a spectator I think is harder work than running the race and each of you did it with style!!

My friend, Karen, finished her first Olympic in 3 hours and 6 minutes with a blistering fast swim and a solid performance overall.  Congrats Karen!! I aspire to match your speed!!!

Whats next??  Well...the hard part is next.  In two weeks I have to decided if I am running the Gulf Coast Half Ironman or doing Ironman Florida 70.3 at Disney.  Ill keep you posted.  But for today, Im going to enjoy the fact that I set a goal and completed it.  I feel like I stood at home plate and pointed at the left field wall .... took the pitch...and drove it over that wall!!  Now, lets move on to the real challenge....Ironman is on its way!!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The finest gifts are the friendships we cherish

Yesterday was one of the longest days I have had in awhile and believe it or not, it only included work and no workout.

I was up at 4am for boot camp and did 6 assesssments (6 new clients joining the program) all between the hours of 5am and 9am.  I grabbed a wonderful breakfast with my hubby then it was off to my Dive Physical at Walt Disney World.  As of next week, I have been a Divemaster at the Living Seas for 2 years.  I love my job but never like going into Health Services for the blood work, hearing test, eye test, breathing test and ...all that other stuff!! Then it was off to work at 1130a with full groups of divers, fish feeds and gear clean up.  I got out of work at 800pm.

When I arrived home, my house was humming with activity.  I love it when its like this.  My friend Beth was here with her two adorable girls who greeted me with hugs and were dying to show me the newest Hanna Montana trading cards.  My oldest friends Mike and Vi were here telling tales of long drives off the 5th hole and Vi's continued running workouts.  Karen had arrived after an extremely long day of teaching at Valencia and leading exercise classes at the Y creating amazing salad in the kitchen while my business partner, Rick put his feet up after trying to make a disappointed fitness client happy  and an early morning of 4 straight hours of boot camp.  Ohh..and Debbie...we call her "little debbie" (we especially call her that now because she has lost 25lbs) was here lending her hand in the kitchen.  My beloved husband was grilling steaks and the house had this aroma of summer...and of a great midweek party.  My husband is the grill master and even went to the store to buy dinner and supplies plus some roses for me!  Ive been married 23 years and he still buys me flowers..just because.

Look at all these people, I thought to myself.  I am truly blessed beyond measure. Real, true friends of heart and character that can just hang out at your house with a glass of wine, a kind word and a warm feeling that this is home.  I was tired from a long long day but it was so good just to share this time with the people that have stood by me and been my friends for a lot of years.

As I enter into the official start of triathlon season with the running of St. Anthony's, I couldn't think of a better way to kick of this weekend's events than to spend this time with those special people.  All of them will be in St. Pete this weekend.  My best to Karen and Rick as they run the race (Karen is running her first Olympic).  Mike and Vi will be at the swim start and along the final mile of the run screaming at me to keep my head up and run hard.  Debbie will be at transition taking pictures and Steve will be there in person this time screaming "Go Cutie Go!!".    Beth will be there with lots of cheering and observing all the triathlon ins and outs as she prepares for her first 1/2 Ironman and later in the year goes for Ironman Florida

I am blessed beyond measure. 

Sunday, April 20, 2008

...The horse headed to the barn...

I got up at 500am to do what was to be a 60 mile ride.  Two riding buddies decided  not to go so I was on my own to get some miles in.  As I got my stuff together, racked my bike and made my morning stop at 7 -11 for water and a Powerbar,  a nice fine mist of rain began to fall.  "GREAT" I grumbled.  A wet long ride.

It is very interesting how a ride alone in a soft light rain can give you perspective on exactly WHY I am doing this.  I remember 9 years back how hard it was to walk around a grocery store and now here I am trying to get myself to go a little fast and a little farther...

Mentally,  I have a horrible habit that I can't seem to get around when Im tired.  When going out for a ride or a run, if I have to run/ride past my house or car during the workout-its over.  I just want to go in or jump in and home.  Its just one of those mental games that I must master before November.  Hey at least Im honest.  On this day, I parked my car at mile 0 of the West Orange Trail and rode to the end and returned to the car : 30 miles.  After being wet, cold and sore, I was done and I gave in to the seat heaters in my vehicle.  I did convince myself to head out on my 4 mile run afterwards....but the complete workout was not accomplished.  I must get mentally tougher

I think it is hard as well when you ride or run alone.  The excuses run through your head and they start to make sense the more fatigued you become.  Ironman Florida is two loops on the run.  You KNOW I need to get over this prior to the race!!!

Gotta get stronger..physically and mentally!!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Sometimes you're just not prepared!!

Ironman training is serious stuff..right??  Well, apparently, in my world, its all about the thrill of the challenge and the fun of training with your friends.  Its about learning new skills, unlearning bad habits (like chocolate, potato chips and french fries) and laughing at your mistakes...

Monday night was one of those learning experiences that will make me giggle for weeks to come.

In the quest to balance family time with training time, I had planned to go see my parents prior to my 7pm run with Beth (check out her blog using the link to the right).  Being the fine southern lady that my mother is, I walked in the door and she had dinner cooking.  What was on the menu?? Steak.  22 oz of steak actually...for each person.  After informing my parents that I had just come over to say hello and that I really couldn't sit and eat, I was given the guilty trip explaining that she had made a beautiful meal and that I should sit down and enjoy some...

I can't say no to my mother.  If you have ever met my former beauty queen mom, you would understand...she doesn't take no for an answer.

So I sat down for dinner and ate probably 3 ounces of meat and some veggies, had a great chat with folks and them it was off to the Y to run.  As I arrived at the Y, I reach around for my gear bag bag.  I must have put it in the back of the car, I thought to myself.  I pop the hatch...hmmmm...still no bag.  No bag equals no jog running tights...and no dry fit top. 
Ironmen adapt..adjust and overcome...right??  Well...thats what I decided to do.  My run with Beth was a lovely fashion statement consisting of fleece lined long baggy sweatpants, a cotton Livestong shirt, a boot camp baseball cap,  a normal bra (and here's the scary part people...Im a 40 d)..and running shoes (at least I had those!!).  After contemplating the two black eyes I was probably going to endure from this run WITHOUT the jog bra I refer to as my "bullet proof vest", I decided, the run needed to get done...with or without the proper equipment. The hour long run took us from the Downtown Y to Lake Eola with two laps around and back to the Y.  My pace is still slow but better than it use to be.  

Ohhh..and remember the steak.  I now refer to it as the gut bomb that went off about 30 minutes into the run.  Don't EVER eat meat for the run.  I may never eat steak again.  Ugh!! 

I have heard of triathletes showing up at races and forgetting a piece of equipment and having to problem solve the situation.  I look at my hour run with Beth as a learning experience...and one that I hope I won't have to experience at a race.

Like the boy scouts say: Be prepared!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Knees, Vacations, Sprint Triathlons & The Whole Nine Yards

Ok .. Ok .. So its been decades since I wrote in my blog.  I guess, after my first visit to the doctor, I got scared that my Ironman dream was drifting away...but I have good news...Im back in the saddle!!

I had my appointment with the Orthopedic physician in March.  The verdict?? No torn meniscus. No surgery required!! I got up and did a little dance!!! Wooo hooo!! It was as if someone had removed the weight I had had on my shoulders for weeks!!  I was back in the game and I couldn't be happier.

I wasn't completely out of the woods, however.  From years of being 380+ pounds, the doctor informed me that I do have osteoarthritis in both knees and uneven cartilage in the left.  He felt that physical therapy 4 days a week and some Celebrex might get me through until November but he warned me that my knees may not have too many Ironman triathlons in them.

I informed him I just wanted one......THIS one!!!

So, with a slow pace, I went back to road work. First it was 2 miles...then 3 ... up to 5 and now at 7, I feel OK when I run but it still hurts a bit.  My physical therapist is a woman I wish to kill on a daily basis but I feel she is making a difference.

In the midst of all this, my husband got his first REAL vacation in almost a year so it was off on a Southern Caribbean cruise instead of the Hawaii vacation we had planned.  The weather reports showed 70% chance of rain in Maui the entire time we were to be there, so we changed directions and headed to the tropical waters of Bonaire, Aruba, Grenada, St. Martin and Dominica!!  Great diving, great sun, great sailing and some very special time with my most amazing husband!!

But now its back to workouts with Hector, hours on the bike and laps in the pool.  I ran my first event of the season at Moss Park during the Wildman Triathlon Festival.  Due to my knee, I enter the AquaBike ... which consisted of just the swim and bike portions of the triathlon ... and would you believe...

I won.

No kidding.  No joke!  You could have knocked me over with a feather. there were 6 people total in the was a nice way to start the year!!!  Don't steal my thunder.  Its not often the Athena tri chick does good!!!

The second event of the season was the Great Clermont Triathlon.  A nice little super sprint to get you warmed up for the day. If you wanna a good read about this adventure, click on over to my friend Beth's blog.  I guarantee a good chuckle but most importantly, it was a great day because I got to see a die hard marathon runner slowly becoming a triathlete!! You watch!!  This girl is gonna tear up Ironman Florida!!!

Next on the race list...St. absolute FAVORITE triathlon of all in just 3 weeks!! I promise to keep you posted!!!