Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Celebrating the miles...

When I told a friend recently that I had 17 hours to complete a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile run-he informed me he didn't even want to do something PLEASURABLE for 17 hours..let alone swimming biking and running.

But in some twisted way, this is a pleasurable thing for me.  As I ran this weekend in my neighborhood, I went by landmarks of my life.  At mile 1.5 is the first house Steve and I owned as newlyweds.  It is now expanded and beautiful and the people that own it  know that I run by it all the time just to see it.  They wave and smile.  They think I'm crazy too!

I then run around Dartmouth Park where our old home faces.  Its a beautiful little park where Steve and I use to walk three times around to do a mile.  I remember those walks because they hurt so much.  Just walking at over 325lbs was painful. Doing a mile was agony.  Now I run..and I usually pick up speed here..just to prove I can.

Then its down to Lake Silver Elementary where I went to 1st grade.  I attended a private school from 2nd grade to 12 grade that my father help start here in Orlando but Lake Silver was where it all started and it still looks like a very cool place to learn.

Then its down to Par Avenue where the old Daniel's Supermarket use to be.  Its a Walgreens Drug Store now but I can still smell fresh baked bread as I run past that building as if the bakery was still in that store.

Then at mile 6 its Florida Hospital where I almost lost my battle to live.  After my gastric bypass revision surgery that help correct the errors in my 1st surgery (it was a clinical trial in the beginning..they did the best they can), the doctors and nurses at Florida Hospital brought me back from a heart attack, potassium poisoning, and dehydration.

And then at mile 10 I pass my high school where no one would ever believe that the "fat girl" in class who did play volleyball well would ever survive an Ironman.  I run the track every time I go by the school just to celebrate the fact that I CAN ..  Even in high school at 230lbs, I wasn't able to run around the track in P.E.

So, even with the miles I HATE and the hours invested that I could be shopping or just hanging out with my friends, I celebrate.  Right now is my Ironman...not November 1st.  November 1st is just the victory lap.  For now, I need to celebrate the fact that I have come so far.  From barely being able to walk around the local mall to traveling 140.6 miles in 17 hours....that's a long journey.  You gotta look up, look around and say : WOW!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tropical Storm Fay just won't go away..

Im a native Floridian...so Im use to the idea of Hurricanes and Tropical Storm.  Ill take either one of those over an earthquake any day of the week but I gotta tell ya...THIS Tropical Storm is the worst I have ever seen.  She is like your old Aunt Bessie that is suppose to visit for 3 days and stays 3 weeks.  She just WON'T LEAVE and she is making everyone's life here in Central Florida difficult if not miserable.

In Downtown Orlando we have had over 9 inches of rain in 2 days with more still falling.  That is light compared to Melbourne Florida with over 25 inches of rain.  I run a fitness boot camp that does workouts OUTDOORS.  This storm is KILLING my business and I really want her to pack her bags and head on her way to part of the country that NEED the rain.

Meanwhile, I am going insane riding a trainer and running on a treadmill.  To those of you in cold climates where training requires hours and hours of indoor work, I tip my hat.  I can't stand being indoors for this long let alone being on my trainer for 5 hours.  I would rather ride in the rain.  I did two workouts today- a 1 hour run and 1.5 hour ride and thought I would go mad.  This weekend, I have to do a 85 mile ride.  I don't care if its raining buckets...im headed to the trail.

To all those affect by this storm, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your families.  I know many homes are flooded and roads are impassible.  Worrying about workouts is a tiny thing compared to losing your roof or wading through your living room.  

Come on Fay...isn't it time for you to visit your friends in GEORGIA, ALABAMA OR TEXAS!!???

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mentally Tackling Long Distance Training

As I sat at lunch during my break from my job at Walt Disney World as a Divemaster, one of my coworkers asked me "So..Melissa..what are you doing this weekend!!??"  Another one of my coworkers said to him, "Don't ask...she'll tell you that she is doing some insane amount of mileage on her bike followed by some insane long distance run."  The first gentleman looked at me and said "Well...is that true??"

85 miles on the bike...17 mile run...I said...hanging my head and realizing that my coworkers don't get it nor do they want to get it.  They think I'm nuts.

As I stare at the numbers: maybe they are right!!

These numbers keep me awake at night sometimes.  Can I REALLY do this???  HOLY CRAP!! This is like riding from Orlando to Tampa.  Its like running from my house to Lake Mary and for those of you who don't live in the Orlando area...trust me...that's a LONG WAY.

So I play games with myself.  Half of 85 = 42.5 miles.  All I have to do is do the 42.5 miles and I get to turn around.....AND HEAD HOME!! Home is where the ice bath, hot shower and warm meal is.  Home is where my dog is waiting to lick my face and bring me pillows off my bed.  After weeks of coming in on the weekends and taking a nap, my golden retriever has learned that I want to sleep after a workout..so he is doing his best to be support crew by dragging the pillows off my bed to wherever I may be.

On my runs, I play the 5k game.  18 miles is 6 - 5k races..approximately.  I can run a 5k..no problem.  I just need to run a few of them today...no big deal.....REALLY..its no big deal.

And then its the people I think about as I ride or run.  I think about those who are no longer here that I run for when I work for Team in Training.  I think of my godson, Christian Stafford, who lost his battle with leukemia at age 8.  I think of Jessi Gay, who fought and lost against blood cancer in the prime of her life..just entering Florida State University as a freshman.  I think of the family of Parker Underwood...a toddler who never had a chance against Leukemia as he was diagnosed as a baby and died before he could turn 3.  

How will I get through 140.6 miles of the Ironman??  I plan on dedicating each mile to someone special in my life.  Nine of the miles will be dedicated to the 9 people who died in the clinical trial I participated in 10 years ago.  That clinical trial is what helped me lose the first 100lbs of my weight loss with a roux n y gastric bypass.  I am lucky to still be alive considering the problems they first had with the surgery. If it weren't for the surgery, however, I wouldn't be here at all!

The next miles I plan to dedicate to every honored patient with the Central Florida Chapter of the Leukemia Society.  These guys are the real heroes in the fight against Leukemia.  Everyday they wage a battle for their lives and for the research that will find a cure.

As the race gets more difficult, I will think about the over 4000 military personnel that have given their lives during the war in Iraq. Ill think about my brother in law who has done 5 tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and has served his country as a Navy Captain.  Their effort is so much more than JUST 140.6 miles.  If they can endure days and months in the sands of Iraq, i can survive 17 hours.....right???

And, finally, as the hours grow longer and midnight gets closer, I am going to think about my husband, my coach and my friends at the finish line.  Ill think about how excited they will be to see me finish!!  Ill think about the bottle of champagne that I bought a year ago to celebrate finally being opened and enjoyed. Ill think about the Ironman pendant that I bought when I was in Kona Hawaii that has sat in my jewelry box untouched for two years.  At last, I will be able to wear that pendant.

When the pain in too much....I will finally remind myself that I DESERVE to be an Ironman.  I am putting in the work...and the pain is temporary...the finish line is forever.

I'm gonna do this....

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Olympic Hurdles as a Metaphor for your life goal

Ok...raise your hand if you have been totally mesmerized by the Olympics and our amazing Team USA!!  Ok...me too!! I have been glued to my TV and my DVR as I have watched our country shine.  Yes yes...I know...they haven't been perfect (I don't expect them to..do you??) but watching the Women's 100m Hurdle Event tonight gave me pause for thought...

Lolo Jones is a track and field superstar.  Everyone expected her to walk away with this event as she sailed through the prelims with great skill and grace.  She is beautiful and focused but..as with all of us sometimes...tonight wasn't her night.

She came out of the blocks with perfect speed.  She sailed over the first 8 hurdles like there were wings attached to her back.  Then, suddenly, she hit the 9th hurdle and stumbled..and her gold medal dream was gone.  The picture above is after she FINISHED the race (coming in 7th even with the stumble) but in utter disbelief at her luck.

My heart sank for her but it hit very close to home for me.  Could this be me at the end of 139 miles..only to know that I have run out of time to finish 140.6 miles in 17 hours?  How would I handle this disappointment?  Would I stand up, brush off and cross the finish line with some sort of dignity like this champion did??  I wouldn't be an Ironman.  Would it count for me??

I have spent almost 7 years in the sport of triathlon.  At first, it was just to see if I could finish.  Then it became about bettering my times.  Then, 5 years ago, it became about finishing a Half Ironman...then to complete the Ironman.  There have been so many people that have told me it just isn't possible for a plus size person to complete this event.  I wonder. What type of person will I be if I DON'T finish.  I think the character represented by those who pick themselves up and move forward is almost more remarkable than those who finish.

I respect this race.  I refuse to be afraid of it.  Last year, the courses scared the hell out of me. Last year, I didn't even make it to the start line.  My ultimate goal is to finish but I want to finish with a respect for the distance even if it takes longer than 17 hours. I want to take each component as an individual challenge: finishing the swim in under 2 hours and 20 minutes...then completing the bike by 5:15pm....then getting to the finish line by midnight.  These are all my goals and I am going to do everything I can in the next 10 weeks to make that dream come true.  If it doesn't...I hope God will grant me the grace that so many of our athletes have shown in these Olympics.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

New Wheels = New Bike

Oh my gosh!! Im so excited I can hardly stand it!! After much thought and several posts on Beginner Triathlete, I made the jump and bid on Zipp Wheels on Ebay.  To my shock, I WON THE WHEELS and here they are on my bike.  I really wondered if a plus size woman on a tri bike with Zipp Wheels would be like putting mag wheels on a Yugo, but I want to take every advantage I can to Ironman Florida.  I couldn't afford the $2000.00 + price tag for new wheels so these used wheels are just fine!!   So if you see a big girl on this little bike at Ironman Florida, you'll know its ME!!

Of all days for it to be raining!!!  I REALLY wanna go take a ride!! Guess Ill have to wait until Saturday!!!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Listening to your coach and attacking your fear

83.9+ miles = 5 hours 30 minutes 14 seconds

After a week of whining, *&^#@ and general moaning, I went to Panama City to attack the bike course that killed me last year.  It was on the bike course in July 2007 that at roughly 50 miles, I was not able to continue.  I was sick, shaking and dehydrated.  I had my nutrition all wrong and didn't have any idea of how to deal with the direct headwind on a stretch of the course that continued for over 20 miles.  I found out later I was anemic and my Ironman Florida dream of 2007 was not to be.

Not this year! We are getting it done this year! I understand that the time posted above is not anything to get thrilled over.  There isn't a single event in triathlon that I would say I perform in a quick way.  I am slow but I am persistent.  

We left the Boardwalk Beach Condos at 730am on Saturday morning and faced a perfect day.  Light wind, beautiful sunshine and a day that showed signs of being in the upper 90's.  We were prepared : armed with endurance drink, gels, sunscreen and maps of the course.  Meanwhile, our dear friend, Debbie was armed and ready to meet us at mile 60 with extra bottles, and solid food (what a treat on a long bike ride).

My buddy Rick had gone to Google Earth and gotten satellite pictures of all the major turns on the course.  This proved to be fantastic as Debbie made her way around the course.  I told her she could sit on the beach and wait for a call from us but she was steadfast in helping us all over the course.  

First stop at mile 25 for a rest stop and the first major turn on to Highway 20.  The first 25 miles takes you along the beach for about 8 miles then up Highway 79 and then over a rather large bridge.  Ive done the bridge several times in training and in the Gulf Coast Triathlon so I geared back and made my way to the top.  Being a plus size athlete, hills are DEFINITELY not my favorite, but this is the hardest one ....or so I thought.  At the stop we grabbed a bottle of water, chatted with some of the unique locals (who were grabbing their Colt 45 Malt Liquor for breakfast) and headed on our way.

As we made our way down Highway 20, I expected the wind to be major, but it was ok.  Compared to my ride in April/May at the Gulf Coast Triathlon, this was not too bad.  Could my fitness ACTUALLY be improving??  I couldn't think about it as we continued on to the next landmark.  At the second gas station on the course, we grabbed a water and were gone fairly quickly.  We realized that our mileage calculations were slightly off and that our mile 60 stop was actually only 50 miles, but we kept moving.

Mile 40 came and went.  This is when I start to have some numbness in my feet and pain in my quads..but not today.  The course is long and boring but there are several rollers and one nice climb along this stretch that definitely got my attention.  I huffed it to the top as I watched a dozen or so teenagers drift down a beautiful stretch of river on tubes.  Now that looked really nice.  Someday I might get my weekends back!!!

Before I knew it, I looked up to see the Ranger station along Highway 20 near where the Special Needs Bags are set up for Ironman Florida.  This was our next major turn and our stop to see Debbie.  She was shocked to see us so soon but we explained that this was mile 50 and not 60.  We grabbed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a banana and some water, exchanged nutrition bottles and hit the road.

I had to pause at this point on the course.  It was at this stop that I abandoned last year.  This year, I felt fantastic.  I had Debbie take a picture of me standing the spot where last year Rick took a picture of me crying.  Maybe this is my year.

As we turned on to Highway 231, I felt good but realized that was just too much solid food.  I was behind in my nutrition (not drinking one of the bottles that I should) so I ate a banana to compensate.  BAD idea!  I couldn't stay in my aerobars with any comfort and I know this slowed me down.  I also switch helmets at this stop.  I bought an aero helmet on Ebay because I had read it would help my speed.  I found out that it really only helps if you are always in the aero position.

Almost to mile 60, bam....a flat front tire.  Debbie was there with the car and helped shield  us from the traffic as Rick, Beth and I changed the tire.  It took us a little bit but before we knew it, we were on the road.

At mile 60, we left the highway and entered the more rural backdrop of Campflower Road.  There are expansion joints cut into the pavement along this road which makes your ride experience a little rough.  Rick has always told me it felt like a jackhammer to the privates and I learned first hand, he was right.

John Bingham, a famous motivational speaker and marathon runner, had often referred to mile 20 of the marathon as the "bite me" phase of your journey.  It doesn't matter what anyone tells you or says to you along mile 20 and beyond of the marathon, you just want to tell them all to go to hell.  My "bite me" phase came around mile 70 as I was hot, tired and not really sure about our turns on the back roads of the course.  Rick was certain we were on the route but I was not feeling so confident.  One of the reasons I never liked Adventure Racing is that my sense of direction SUCKS.  I NEED to know how far I am going and where.  In this last leg of the ride, we weren't sure how far it was from Highway 388 to Highway 77.  I felt like I was riding into the unknown and my mind was not happy.  My body seemed ok..but my mental game was taking me down.  I want this DONE, I kept telling myself.  After almost 12 miles, we could finally see the intersection of Highway 77 and I couldn't have been happier.


Perfect timing as Debbie came rolling up 30 seconds after we arrived to take us home.  Nothing like grabbing a ride in the middle of nowhere on the median.  She helped us rack the bikes, gave us COLD water (ahhh..there is nothing better) and we headed back to the hotel.

As we headed down 77, I realized that the next section of the course is the section of road we traveled during the Gulf Coast Triathlon so I have just about seen this entire course from the seat of a bicycle.  That gave me some peace.  I want to know what I am in for as I approach race day.  

A return to the hotel and one ice bath later, I was tired but relieved that I had completed this hurdle.  We are planning another trip to Panama City and one more ride of the course.  My goal now is to create a little more speed.  I think i can get some more speed from all this now that my mind is more at peace and I have a little more confidence.  

I had the most amazing weekend with my friends.  Rick, Beth and Debbie were a hoot and I don't think I stopped laughing the entire ride home.  I will blog about the FUN SIDE of our weekend in another post...

Ok Hector..you were right...85 was the right amount of miles!!!

Friday, August 8, 2008

No More Pity Party...Its time to get movin...

A new day...a new outlook...a more positive attitude.  Its time to stop whining and get this objective accomplished.  Im going to Panama City with the mindset of doing the full ride but I will stop at 85 and evaluate how I feel.  If I feel like hell...Ill stop.  If I feel I can continue, Im moving on.  

Its time to get this distance in and stop THINKING about it so much and just DO IT!!

More from the road.  We leave at 10am!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Headed to Panama City

Well...I had planned this weekend many weeks ago...but as all good plans go...they are always subject to change.  My "plan" was to go to Panama City and do the full bike course.  After a conversation with Hector last night, he does not feel that I am ready to do 112 so we will be doing 85 miles.  This is my second attempt at completing the Ironman Bike course.  Last year, I traveled to Panama City to do the course but after 60 miles, I was sick.  My nutrition plan was all wrong and I had driven 11 hours to get to Florida (I was in N.C. for three months at the time) and I simply wasn't ready for the course.

This course is starting to haunt me and I feel more and more that this whole ironman journey might be a mistake.  There have been so many trainers in the past that have told me that it wasn't possible for someone my size to complete this race.  Since those times, I have lost another 45 lbs (with a total of a little over 200lbs lost now) and I am doing more miles and more hours of workout than I ever have before.  I get the phone call last night from my coach that he is concerned I will hurt myself.  Why didn't he make this decision several weeks ago instead of 48 hours before I leave?

I am tired.  I am frustrated. I am sad.  Maybe this whole thing is just a ridiculous dream.  Im going to go anyway just so I can fail one more time. 

Monday, August 4, 2008

Long training weekend

The reality of Ironman has definitely set in with a 3 hour bike on Saturday and a 12 mile run on Sunday.  My friend, Rick and I headed out to the West Orange Trail and Lake Minneola for some hills and some flat as we did multiple laps around the lake and a return to the trail. I did have a minor fall during the ride and bent my handlebars but no major deal.  I am still having trouble with my transition muscles as we did a short 20 minute recovery run/walk/stumble after the 3 hour ride.

On Sunday, I was back at it again but this time at Cady Way Trail in Winter Park for a 12 mile run.  It got HOT very quickly making my last two miles absolutely miserable.  AS I told my training partners, Sandi and Beth, "It wasn't pretty but its done!!!"  Having some issues with my left knee and left heel.  Ice has now become my best friend as I did a full ice bath and some general icing during the evening.

This is the my week to find out where I stand on individual events.  Tomorrow morning, I am doing the 2.4 mile open water swim at Lucky's Lake to get my time. Next weekend we will travel to Panama City and do the FULL bike course on Saturday and half the run course on Sunday before we return to Orlando!!  By Sunday I should have an idea if I have the speed necessary to make the cut off times.

I am really worried about these cut off times so I am hoping that these workouts will help ease my mind and show me where I need to work harder!!! Ill keep you posted.