Saturday, October 31, 2009

My Love...My Rock...My Husband

This month, on Nov. 16th, my husband and I will celebrate our 24th wedding anniversary. It is hard for me to believe that we have been married that long. It feels like it was yesterday that we met, and the years have flown by.

Im sure, however, my husband would agree that this has been a challenging year. I don't think people take into account how much support an Ironman athlete needs from their family to accomplish this goal. I guess for some, it isn't that difficult but I can tell you that I don't believe I would be where I am right now if it weren't for the support of my husband.

There were times this year where I was too tired to cook or grocery shop ( I don't cook well...but I can make a mean sandwich!!) and he took care of those things. There were times he would ask me to do something and I would simply forget from fatigue. I have missed a lot of fun time with him over these months..and remember...he has done this for TWO years...not just one. We went through the training for Ironman in 2008 and he agreed to help me do this again when I DNF'ed. This has truly been a journey.

I made the promise that, no matter what happens this year, you would not find me in line for registration for 2010. Next year is our 25th anniversary and we plan to spend it doing what we love the most: flying and traveling. For 20 years, I was a travel agent and my love of seeing the world was sparked by parents who have traveled extensively..and have been around the world. Its very important that I reconnect with the the things that my husband and I enjoy together.

He has been the most amazing support crew anyone could hope for. When I feel in love with the Cervelo, he got it for me. When I wanted to go to Panama City on my birthday to train instead of going somewhere exotic, he agreed. He has given up a a lot during these months and it makes me wonder...

Shouldn't they give medals to the supportive family too??

I think he deserves that...and a lot more...

Thank you honey...I wouldn't be headed to this start line..and finish line without you...

The tale of 3 coaches

As I approach Ironman Florida 2009, it is a time I look back and see how I got to this moment in my life. I didn't get to the point of being able to do 140.6 miles on my own. It took guidance, experience, knowledge, passion, caring and, sometime A LOT of patience to put up with an athlete who didn't come from a talented athletic background. These three guys I credit with where I came from...and where I am headed.

In 2000, I told my friend, Rick Stafford, that I was considering a Danskin triathlon. At that time, I really didn't think it was possible. A 400 yard swim, a 10 mile bike and a 3 mile run seemed simply impossible for someone at 250lbs. Rick saw the triathlon as a great possibility in my life and agreed to train me. After 5 months, I crossed the line of my first triathlon and gained a friend, a training partner and a wonderful caring coach.

Fast forward to 2003 when I had 10 sprint distance triathlons under my belt and I had decided to move up in the world. I found the organization known as Team in Training who helped people train for their first marathon, triathlon or century ride. I decided to go from sprint distance to olympic but knew I couldn't do it by myself. Meanwhile, my godson had been diagnosed with Leukemia and Team in Training was the perfect avenue. My first Olympic Distance Coach was Clint Carbonneau who was incredibly patient and knowledgeable. He believed in the team concept and that no participant was left behind. I was often last in all our training but he was persistent and consistent and helped me complete my first St. Anthony's and Memphis in May Olympic Distance Triathlons.

There were many that believed that anything beyond an Olympic Distance triathlon was simply not an option for a plus size athlete to acheive. I actually had a trainer at one point agree to train me to do a Half Ironman and then turn around a week later and told me it was impossible. I thanked her for her time and moved on but still had the burning desire to complete a Half Ironman. I trained with an online coach for awhile but it just wasn't the same as having someone face to face.

I entered a difficult race in Clermont called Tri America and met my 3rd coach. I was on the course in a HAIL STORM (yes you read that right) and was struggling with some hills. I had already crashed my bike once at this point when I heard this person encouraging me to my left . "Keep your front wheel straight...keep your feet can do this...its just a little farther." And so was my first meeting with Hector Torres. He believed that I could do anything I put my mind to ...and helped me complete not one but 4 half Ironmans.

Hector was there when I DNF'ed my Ironman last year with compassion and an Iron fist. He was NOT going to give me an out. He let me lick my wounds for awhile and then helped me realize my potential. As we sat down this week to discuss the race, he reminded me of how far I have come and that I am stronger now than I have ever been. He told me that this is my race, my day, my dream to realize.

That is all true...but one point remains. If it were not for the belief of these three men and their expertise in the sport, I would have never made it to this point. I thank each of them for what they have done for me and for their experience in this sport. Without them, I would not be where I am. I am blessed beyond measure.

Rick and Hector will be racing Ironman Florida this week. It gives me great comfort knowing that they will be there to cheer me on. Coach Clint will be home watching on the computer as I attempt to make this Ironman dream come true. Thank you are very very special people and you all mean the world to me!!

1 week from today...

Its 430am and I can't sleep. I don't start my swim workout this morning until 745am and it was the perfect opportunity to get some extra rest but here I am WIDE AWAKE. I guess my head is a week ahead. One week from right now I will be eating breakfast, getting dressed and getting ready. I know that I will get out of bed and head outside to see the conditions. Praying for calm seas, no wind, no rain and cool temps.

What a long strange trip it has been. I have had well wishes from around the world including people from Canada, Thailand, the UAE and Germany. A friend of mine posted my Youtube video from last year on her blog and told my story and now I have an international cheering squad. I was overwhelmed and humbled. To everyone who has written me via email and Facebook, thank you. You have no idea how much your kind words mean to me.

I have spent my taper looking back at my training and reliving moments. I remember my first 60 mile bike. I came home and thought "If I feel like this after can I accomplish 112". I remember those run workouts at 430 and 500am because it was just too hot to do them later. I recall the endless laps in the pool...the morning swims at Lucky's Lake and the strength training sessions with Hector. I was almost sad the other morning when I realized that I was attending my final bike trainer session before Ironman. I will miss the Downtown Y gym and the multitudes of bikes, trainers, and people working hard to get to their goal.

Did I just say I would miss that training?? I remember when all I wanted was for it just to taper so I could rest. Ahhh rest...yes...sleep is something I really need. For now, I think I will head back to bed for another hour of much needed sleep.
As always, I will keep you posted!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Vision of things to come...

I have the joy of being on several triathlon websites that provide great information and a sense of community in all things that relate to the sport and specifically Ironman. A person who reads my blog sent me this narrative about my race. He has raced dozens of Ironman triathlons and knew that I am a bit nervous about my race in 8 days. I believe he captures the emotions, pain, joy and passion that is Ironman. Enjoy...
Right now you've all entered the taper. Perhaps you've been at this a few months, perhaps you've been at this a few years. For some of you this is your first IM, for others, a long-overdue welcome back to a race that few can match.

You've been following your schedule to the letter. You've been piling on the mileage, piling up the laundry, and getting a set of tan lines that will take until next year to erase. Long rides were followed by long runs, which both were preceded by long swims, all of which were followed by recovery naps that were longer than you slept for any given night during college.

You ran in the dark.
You rode in the rain.
You ran in the heat.
You ran in the cold.

You went out when others stayed home.
You rode the trainer when others pulled the covers over their heads.

You have survived the Darwinian progression that is an Ironman summer, and now the hardest days are behind you. Like a climber in the Tour de France coming over the summit of the penultimate climb on an alpine stage, you've already covered so much ground...there's just one more climb to go. You shift up, you take a drink, you zip up the jersey; the descent lies before you...and it will be a fast one.

Time that used to be filled with never-ending work will now be filling with silent muscles, taking their final, well-earned rest. While this taper is something your body desperately needs, your mind cast off to the background for so very long, will start to speak to you.

It won't be pretty.

It will bring up thoughts of doubt, pain, hunger, thirst, failure, and loss. It will give you reasons why you aren't ready. It will try and make one last stand to stop you, because your brain doesn't know what the body already does. Your body knows the truth:

You are ready.

Your brain won't believe it. It will use the taper to convince you that this is foolish - that there is too much that can go wrong.

You are ready.

Finishing an Ironman is never an accident. It's the result of dedication, focus, hard work, and belief that all the long runs in January, long rides in March, and long swims every damn weekend will be worth it. It comes from getting on the bike, day in, day out. It comes from long, solo runs. From that first long run where you wondered, "How will I ever be ready?" to the last long run where you smiled to yourself with one mile to go...knowing that you'd found the answer.

It is worth it. Now that you're at the taper, you know it will be worth it. The workload becomes less. The body winds up and prepares, and you just need to quiet your worried mind. Not easy, but you can do it.

You are ready.

You will walk into the water with 2500 other wide-open sets of eyes. You will look upon the sea of humanity, and know that you belong. You'll feel the chill of the water crawl into your wetsuit, and shiver like everyone else, but smile because the day you have waited for so VERY long is finally here.

You will tear up in your goggles. Everyone does.

The helicopters will roar overhead.
The splashing will surround you.

You'll stop thinking about Ironman, because you're now racing one.

The swim will be long - it's long for everyone, but you'll make it. You'll watch as the shoreline grows and grows, and soon you'll hear the end. You'll come up the beach and head for the wetsuit strippers. Three people will get that sucker off before you know what happening, then you’ll head for the bike.

The voices, the cowbells, and the curb-to-curb chalk giving you a hero's sendoff can't wipe the smile off your face.

You'll settle down to your race. The crowds will spread out on the road. You'll soon be on your bike, eating your food on your schedule, controlling your Ironman.

You'll start to feel that morning sun turn to afternoon sun. It's warmer now. Maybe it's hot. Maybe you're not feeling so good now. You'll keep riding. You'll keep drinking. You'll keep moving. After all, this is just a long training day with valet parking and catering, right?

You'll put on your game face, fighting the urge to feel down as you ride for what seems like hours. You reach special needs, fuel up, and head out.

By now it'll be hot. You'll be tired. Doubts will fight for your focus. Everyone struggles here. You've been on that bike for a few hours, and stopping would be nice, but you won't - not here. Not today.

You'll grind the false flats to the climb. You'll know you're almost there. You'll fight for every inch of road. The crowd will come back to you here. Let their energy push you. Let them see your eyes. Smile when they cheer for you - your body will get just that little bit lighter.


You'll plunge down the road, swooping from corner to corner, chaining together the turns, tucking on the straights, letting your legs recover for the run to come - soon! You'll roll back - you'll see people running out. You'll think to yourself, "Wasn't I just here?" The noise
will grow. The chalk dust will hang in the air - you're back, with only 26.2 miles to go. You'll relax a little bit, knowing that even if you get a flat tire or something breaks here, you can run the damn bike into T2.

You'll roll into transition. 100 volunteers will fight for your bike. You'll give it up and not look back. You'll have your bag handed to you, and into the tent you'll go. You'll change. You'll load up your pockets, and open the door to the last long run of your Ironman summer - the one that counts.

You'll take that first step of a thousand...and you'll smile. You'll know that the bike won't let you down now - the race is down to your own two feet. The same crowd that cheered for you in the shadows of the morning will cheer for you in the brilliant sunshine of a summer Sunday. High-five people on the way out. Smile. Enjoy it. This is what you've worked for all year long.

That first mile will feel great. So will the second. By mile 3, you probably won't feel so good.

That's okay. You knew it couldn't all be that easy. You'll settle down just like you did on the bike, and get down to your pace. You'll see the leaders coming back the other way. Some will look great - some won't. You might feel great, you might not. No matter how you feel, don't panic - this is the part of the day where whatever you're feeling, you can be sure it won't last.

You'll keep moving. You'll keep drinking. You'll keep eating. Maybe you'll be right on plan - maybe you won't. If you're ahead of schedule, don't worry - believe. If you're behind, don't panic - roll with it. Everyone comes up with a brilliant race plan for Ironman, and then everyone has to deal with the reality that planning for something like Ironman is like trying to land a man on the moon. By remote control. Blindfolded.

How you react to the changes in your plan will dictate your day. Don't waste energy worrying about things - just do what you have to when you have to, and keep moving. Keep eating. Keep drinking. Just don't sit down - don't EVER sit down.

You'll make it to the halfway point. You'll load up on special needs. Some of what you packed will look good, some won't. Eat what looks good, toss the rest. Keep moving. Start looking for people you know. Cheer for people you don't. You're headed in - they're not. They want to be
where you are, just like you wanted to be when you saw all those fast people headed into town. Share some energy - you'll get it right back.

Run if you can.
Walk if you have to.
Just keep moving.

The miles will drag on. The brilliant sunshine will yawn. You'll be coming up to those aid stations fully alive with people, music, and chicken soup. TAKE THE SOUP. Keep moving.

You'll soon only have a few miles to go. You'll start to believe that you're going to make it. You'll start to imagine how good it's going to feel when you get there. Let those feelings drive you on. When your legs just don't want to move anymore, think about what it's going to be like when someone catches you…and puts a medal over your head... all you have to do is get there.

You'll start to hear the people in town. People you can't see in the twilight will cheer for you. They'll call out your name. Smile and thank them. They were there when you left on the bike, and when you came back, and when you left on the run, and now when you've come back.

You'll enter town. You'll start to realize that the day is almost over. You'll be exhausted, wiped out, barely able to run a 10-minute mile (if you're lucky), but you'll ask yourself, "Where did the whole day go?" You'll be standing on the edge of two feelings - the desire to finally stop, and the desire to take these last moments and make them last as long as possible.

You'll hit mile 25. Your Ironman will have 1.2 miles - just 2KM left in it.

You'll run. You'll find your legs. You'll fly. You won't know how, but you will run. The lights will grow brighter, brighter, and brighter. Soon you'll be able to hear the music again. This time, it'll be for keeps.

Soon they'll see you. Soon, everyone will see you. You'll run towards the lights, between the fences, and into the night sun made just for you.

They'll say your name.
You'll keep running.
Nothing will hurt.

The moment will be yours - for one moment, the entire world will be looking at you and only you.

You'll break the tape at the finish line, 140.6 miles after starting your journey. The flash will go off.

You'll stop. You'll finally stop. Your legs will wobble their last, and capable of nothing more.

Someone will catch you.
You'll lean into them.

It will suddenly hit you.


You are ready.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"You can choose differently"

Being someone that has battled morbid obesity, it should not surprise you that I watch the Biggest Loser religiously. I find the people, the stories and the competition inspiring and fascinating. These people come from a world that I understand. It is a place where food can take over as the ruler of all. It is where food is not for nourishment but for comfort, companionship and a way to fill a void.

The person who was voted off tonight was named Abby. She had a story prior to coming to the show that would break your heart. She lost her ENTIRE family: husband, toddler and newborn to a man traveling at over 100 mph. Her world was stolen from her in the blink of an eye and she decided to use food for comfort. Who could blame her. What a horrible and painful loss. I don't think anyone who hasn't been in those shoes could comprehend the pain. She, however, decided to make a change...she decided to live life .... she decided to "choose differently".

Several years ago, I also made that choice. Instead of using food as a drug, I decided to use it as a tool and a partner in reaching a goal. I decided to make peace with the demons that pushed me to the compulsion to eat. I decided to face them all head on and say "no more."

That does not mean that I am perfect. That does not mean that there have not been times that the whispers of my past life have not haunted me and had me return to old behaviors...but living and surviving and recovering from that compulsion is not about being perfect...its about being consistent.

And so is the life and pursuit of a dream known as Ironman. Its not about being perfect. Its about being consistent. Its about seeing the dream that lies before you and going forward in pursuit of that dream. Its not going to be won't even be pretty...but it will be the purest form of belief in the world. It will be someone setting aside fear and going for what they think is a worthwhile goal. My husband tells me that simply standing on the start line is a victory in itself.....and in part I agree....but I have made the choice to "choose differently"...I have chosen to think, believe and race with the vision, the passion and the goal to be an Ironman. This is my race. This is my dream. This is my day...

Meet Racer number 94....a future Ironman in 11 days!!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Racing in the crosswalk

I had a mini brick workout to do today...a 90 min. bike followed by a 90 min. run. A few years ago, this would have been an EPIC workout for me. Now, after months of 5 hour bike rides and 16 mile runs, this seemed basic. My husband was headed off to work today after being home for several days and I wanted to rearrange my workout so it would fall AFTER he left at 11am. We awoke to a coolish and less humid morning so my hubby and I drank coffee, had breakfast and enjoyed the morning.

Since the bike was shorter than usual, I decided to ride a few loops in my neighborhood. I live just 5 minutes from downtown Orlando in an area known as College Park which is known for its beautiful tree lined streets in the heart of an urban landscape. My loop is 8 miles including a street that runs next to our HUGE Florida Hospital complex. As I enjoyed the safety of bike lanes for half the ride loop, the other half along this complex is in traffic. Sunday afternoon traffic volume was low so it made it easy to keep a good speed.

As I made my way down Orange Ave, I saw the crosswalk countdown clock and I couldn't help myself. As the numbers came up, I sprinted for the crosswalk before the red hand would appear. Sometimes the countdown clock would start at 10..others at 14...but each time, I made a point to go fast enough to make that line...that cut off...that moment.

Maybe in my head, I am racing to make the bike cut off or even make the finish line , or the wonderful metaphor for life that that countdown clock represents. We are all racing that countdown clock in some way or another. Everyday is a gift but when I saw those crosswalks over and over again as I did those loops, it kept driving home the fact that you gotta live each day...each hour...each minute.

12 days left until Ironman...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Ive Decided...

Just two weeks and a few hours away from Ironman...and Ive made a few decisions...

** To be EXCITED instead of afraid

**To be MOTIVATED instead of intimidated

**To CELEBRATE the ability to walk/run miles...unlike years ago where walking blocks was a challenge

**To CELEBRATE that I have raised more than $12,000.00 for cancer research. Of all the excitement surrounding Ironman, this is the part that tickles me the most!

** Above all...Have Fun!! Im not going to be standing on ANY podium or be packing my bags for Kona. I am racing against ME and my watch :)

I could worry about the wind, and the cold water or the cold temperatures but I can't control these things. I can prepare for them. I can show up with the items that will make me comfortable in light of those things but in the end, I will wake up Nov. 7th 2009 and look out the window and, as the legal world says it :govern myself accordingly.

I plan to thank LOTS of volunteers!! I plan to put a grin on my face like Chrissie Wellington. I will try very hard to remember that there will be low spots...but they will pass and things will improve if you give them a little time and a bit of effort.

Just like the analogy from weeks before...Im not trying to be Babe Ruth standing on home plate and calling my shot..but I have decided to Love the game and enjoy every second!!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Carpe Diem

... Sieze the Day...

I know. This phrase has been used until it's worn and tattered. The motivational speaker set has beaten it's powerful meaning into submission. If, however, you look at the TRUE definition of the might be more inspired...

Used as an admonition to seize the pleasures of the moment without concern for the future.

Such an admonition.

[Latin : carpe, seize + diem, day.]

Now that's what my day should be at Ironman. Seizing the PLEASURES OF THE MOMENT. After the months of training and the races I have completed, I understand that you can not look at the ENTIRE race as a whole. It WILL make you nuts. But to live in the moment and enjoy every live the dream in each mile that is accomplished...that is truly a day that is seized.

I have a magnet on my refrigerator that says it all:

What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail??

I am still not completely sure why Ironman became so powerful and important in my life except that I often look at that quote and know that this race should be approached with respect for the course...but the fear must be squelched. Fear is negative. Fear has its purpose but it can swallow you up and leave you empty handed.

I was working at the Living Seas at Epcot yesterday and one my fellow Divemasters asked me...."Don't you get afraid swimming out that far in the ocean?" I then asked him "Don't you get afraid diving 100 feet or more in the ocean with a limited air supply?" It's all the way you approach it in your mind. Yes, 140.6 miles is a daunting task. Yes, 17 hours of perpetual motion is hard to fathom. A swim in the ocean, a bike around rural North Florida and a run in a State Park...reasonable...doable.

Needless to say, the run of the Ironman is my scary place. Im not built like a runner...but in my mind...Im Kenyan!! In my head, I am going to speed through two laps and enjoy the view of a beautiful state park at sunset. I can't think about the pain or watch the clock. I gotta take each mile and make it my focus. If I can do that 26 times...I think I can get that .2.

With about 2 weeks to Ironman, I am running around like a crazy person trying to get things packed and prepared but in my head, I am getting ready to Seize my day. This is my day. Between myself and the guy upstairs, we decide how it will turn out...I have made the decision to be an Ironman

I hope you Seize Your matter what your goal may be...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Entering Taper Phase...

This is the time I have been looking forward to for weeks!! Finally!! After a 2:30 hour run tomorrow, I will be in taper...

What is taper you might ask?? It's when your workouts are reduced down to what looks like normal levels. Instead of doing 25 hours of workout a'll be doing 13 to 15. I have been wishing for the phase for months but it does come with some things that can trip you up:

1. OVERDOING IT EVERYWHERE ELSE: The idea of taper is to let the body rest a little bit and recover from the big mileage that it has done over the last couple of weeks. If you take on the task of .. lets say .. cleaning out your attic like I did last year, you probably won't get the recovery that you need. I went nuts last year cleaning my house and getting things ready for a garage sale I planned for after Ironman. This year I really plan to USE TAPER to do just and get ready for one of the longest days of my life.

2. OVEREATING: your body has been use to burning all these calories and now you are reduce the number of calories you are burning by reducing your workouts. What happens? Well, for a triathlete with an eating disorder, it can be a recipe for disaster. Last year, I put on 5 pounds before my Ironman simply from nervous eating. I am conscious of that this year and will be reducing my calories and not stress eating (or at least keeping the stress eating under some control).

3. THINKING TOO MUCH ABOUT WHAT IS TO COME: Oh heck, I already do this..but in taper, its worse. My outlet for race jitters has always been a long bike or a long swim (running is just not fun for me) but with the reduction of hours, the mind starts to play games. I have read a couple of books about the mental game of Endurance racing and I am hoping that it will help me.

4. THE TEMPTATIONS TO TRY SOMETHING NEW FOR THE RACE: I think everyone-from sprint triathletes to marathon runners alike might think the new socks, the new seat on a bike or the new bike shoes might be a better choice and help on race day but you gotta go with what works.

Why am I writing all these things down if I already know them?? To remind myself of the mistakes in my past. I need to learn from them and use them to make this race THE RACE of my life!!

This morning was my final longish bike ride. I awoke to cool temperatures which was a welcomed entrance of fall after 95 degree heat the weekends before. The wind was pretty strong but I almost welcomed being a little chilly as I headed out on the trail today. I was happy and sad in the same moment. This is it. We are so close now.

After my ride, I headed into one of my favorite triathlon stores in Winter Garden called "Tri n Run" ( If you live in this area and have not experienced Tammy and Jerry's fine expertise and service, I highly recommend it!! As I entered, I saw several friends who gave me big hugs and one of my favorite Ironman triathlete, Jane, who works at the store. My friend, Leny, introduced me to her friends as an Ironman. I shook my head but Jane nodded yes. Just a few more days Melissa, and you will hear Mike Reilly say " Melissa Daly...You are an Ironman!"

"Oh Jane...I said...from your mouth to God's ears!!"

Friday, October 16, 2009

21 days

21 days...3 weeks until we take all that I have done in the past 12 months and hit the road in Panama City Beach.

21 days....thats

504 hours


30, 240 minutes


1, 815, 104 seconds

Why the specific breakdown? Because now time is critical. How I spend these next 3 weeks makes a lot of difference. I am exhausted. I think my body is just saying enough already. I am so ready for taper you have no idea!! My trainer gave me two days off this week because I told him the only thing I wanted to do is sleep.

This weekend should be the final long ride and long run before the race. There are alot of things I need to fine tune this weekend like...making the final decision on what I am going to wear, the final determination of nutrition for the run etc. My mental training is also very important now. I have been having dreams that I am late for the finish line and I don't know how to change what I dream. I am trying very hard to be positive but we all know this is going to be an uphill battle.

When I left Amelia Island, I was in the car with my husband after the race and I started to cry. It was the very FIRST time in my life that DEEP DOWN I felt I could complete Ironman. I walked off that course feeling like I had more gas in the tank if I had to continue (but honestly...I was glad as hell I was headed to an ice bath and a glass of wine). It was a moment I wish I could reach out and capture again.

Taper madness I guess is starting early with me. I remember how I was last year. I went crazy cleaning the house and such but this year it is different. I am really focused on this race. Maybe too focused but I am trying to remind myself that this is a hobby and its suppose to be fun.

The one thing that does bring me a sense of peace is just putting the race in God's hands. I am not outwardly religious...I believe you could call me deeply spiritual. I believe that, in the end, he will decide as long as I put out 110% of me and my effort. I just gotta go out there and put it all on the course. As my husband told me "Go out there honey and give it everything you got...we will be there to sponge up what's left of you". Kind of a gross metaphor...but it works :)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

And who are you racing for??

The power of a memory is a strong force. Christian, my godson, shown above was a huge Star Wars fan. He was only 6 when he was diagnosed with Leukemia. What a hard thing to explain to a six year old but his parents did a good job of letting him know what he was up against. He decided to view cancer as Darth Vader or "the dark side"...and he was the Jedi Knight who would battle and win the fight. He believed in "the force".

This time...the Rebel Legion didn't win...but his bravery to this day inspires me. He died at age 8 with his last words being "I wanna live forever."

And he does. In every person who races for Team in Training. For anyone who works for a cause to eradicate cancer from this world, Christian lives in you. He lives in me and on Nov. 7th-thats the guy for which I am racing.

Christian loved legos. In his hospital room, he would pass the time building Star Wars characters and ships from Legos. They were incredible masterpieces. On Nov. 7th, in my emergency bike kit, Ill carry one more piece of equipment-a green lego with his name on it. This isn't so much a good luck charm as it is a symbol of someone who fought a valiant fight.

I race to celebrate those that live on. My father beat Prostate Cancer and Lung Cancer in the same year. Its been almost 7 years now and he is cancer free. My father in law was another Prostate Cancer survivor-yet another fighter in the fight.

If there is anything that will get me to the line on Nov. 7th, its that face and the faces of my loved ones who have battled and won!!


Comparing Notes..

On Tuesday mornings at 5am, I have participated in a bike training session with the Central Florida Tri Club at the Downtown Orlando Y. My trainer, Hector, leads this 60 to 80 minute workout that leaves the team of 40 to 60 triathletes sweaty and breathless. Getting up at 4am is a struggle sometimes, especially on a day I don't have to be at my fitness business. Its an amazing work week workout.

Today was unique, however, as I actually got to chat with some of the other people in the group that are doing Ironman Florida. This team is pretty experienced and we even have members of Team USA in our ranks so for someone like me to be working out with these can be a little intimidating.

What I found out is...most of them have gone through a lot of the same things I have experienced. I spoke to my friend Kim, who had been out for a week ill. That happened to me early in the season. I spoke to my friend Shannon who's husband is just very tired of all the training-and mine is just ready for all this to be over. I heard about mental meltdowns during the bike, bike trails that were so mentally challenging that some would prefer to sit on a bike trainer for 6 hours instead of doing that trail and suddenly it hit me..

What I have been going through is not unique. Even some of these experienced, talented FAST athletes are in the same boat.

I walked away from this morning's session feeling pretty good about my Ironman journey when I realized that its a struggle for ANYONE who attempts this race. It's good to know that it's not just me in the fight!!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Feeling the Fear and doing it anyway

28 days. I remember when it was 200+ days to Ironman and now we are down to less than a month. Just thinking about the race brings the butterflies to my stomach and makes my heart beat a little faster. The swim start, the rush to make the cut offs are all very real to me now. The fear is very real as well.

But I have learned in the past couple of years that you feel the fear and move forward anyway. I have stood at the start line of many a race with this overwhelming fear to walk away but have pressed forward and achieved my goals.

Ironman presents a lot of time hurdles for me. Instead of looking at the all as one big race, I have sliced them down into section. Each section that is achieved will be a victory for me. Making the swim cut off last year was huge and I have even saved the pictures from the moment I came out of the swim with the biggest smile. I looked at the photographer (who is a friend of mine) and put up the 1 finger...and said "1 down..2 to go".

Next will be making all the bike cut offs. At Ironman Florida, there are some additional cut offs beyond the 515pm deadline so to make each of those will be a victory. Ultimately, I want to be in way before the 515pm cutoff.

And finally...the magical number is 16:59:59. That how long I have before I turn into a pumpkin and would no longer be consider an Ironman. I saw a t shirt recently that said "16:59:59-The time it takes to reach the promise land".

I wish I could calm this fear but right now its huge. I am doing a century ride Saturday and a half marathon Sunday. This should be some of the final major training before Nov. 7th. Never in my life have I wanted to overcome fear and completing a journey more than this!!!

Monday, October 5, 2009

The most beautiful words in the English Language: Personal Record

"One part at a time, one day at a time, we can accomplish any goal we set for ourselves."
Karen Casey, from Achievement of a Life Goal

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009-The day I met my husband 28 years ago ended up being the day I had been waiting and hoping for. Today was my breakthrough day.

I awoke from a great night's sleep. I stretched and took inventory of the aches and pains that training for an Ironman can leave. I felt very few. A smile crossed my lips. See, that is already a good sign.

My hubby slumbered as I prepared my oatmeal, 1/2 of banana and coffee. I retrieved the body glide out of my cosmetic bag (and it was at this moment I realized that I am truly a triathlon junkie if I carry body glide in my cosmetic case), and started hitting the important body parts. With those important tasks completed, I was up, dressed and on my way out the door with Rick in tow. It was 525am

We grabbed the car and headed to the venue. I was concerned that parking would be a problem but i dropped Rick off with the tri bags as close as I could then found a spot just 2 blocks away. I walked back to transition and my brain was in overdrive. Over and over in my head I was saying "Today is your're strong, you're trained, you're ready, it's YOUR race". Over and over.

I set my transition area, talked to my "bike rack neighbor" who's last name was the same as mine and then jumped into the short port a potty line. Had a wonderful conversation with the nicest triathletes as we discussed the great conditions.

The water was warm AND wetsuit legal but as before, I wore my Blue Seventy Swim Skin. I am the most comfortable in this suit and don't feel as constricted.

I was a little nervous as my wave was the LAST to leave the beach at 727am. I kept telling myself not to feel guilty that you may be the last out on the bike course. I paid for the priviledge to be here so if I need every hour the course is open, so be it.

The gun went off...and I hit the water. It felt like home. I felt like I was in the Living Seas at Epcot about to go for a scuba dive. It was warm, welcoming and from what I could see-jelly fish free. After last year's fun with jelly fish stings, I was absolutely THRILLED to see their departure.

My stroke was steady and strong but I didn't think it was too fast. Part of my race plan was to swim slightly right of the course as I knew from last year that the current would push to the left. As we made our way towards the first buoy, I knew I had made the right decision. By the time I made the turn, I was dead on course.

I also switched to photochromatic lenses in my swim goggles. This was a great choice.They were perfect into the sun as I swam the long side of the course . As I made the final turn buoy and headed towards the beach, I looked at my watch. Two minutes ahead of my best ocean time...hmmmm...this is proceeding well!!

I exited the water with my best ocean swim time taking 3 minutes off my previous ocean swim. I headed up the beach and to the chip mat, around the corner to find my NEIGHBOR was the photographer at the swim exit!! What a nice surprise!!

I made it into transition but was fumbling with my swim skin. Somehow I got my lease tangled and had to ask an official for help. After untangling the mess, I made a fast 2:30 T1..and off I went on the bike.

The course was flat and fast..except for one LARGE causeway and one small bridge. I realized that I was the last out of the water but remember, Im not racing against others, Im racing against that watch on my wrist. Before I could think twice, I heard the sound of the sheriff's motorcycle behind me. My goal was to pass i didn't have him behind me.

After about 7 miles, the Causeway that connects Amelia Island stood ahead of me like a school kid on the playground egging me on. "Come on Melissa...ya got the guts??" had the guts. I dropped a couple of gears and made my way up the bridge. I was AMAZED at how easy it felt compared to a year ago. At the top, I overtook another cyclist and hit 32 mph on the other side. After my burst of mass plus inertia heading downhill, she caught me and past me again.

It wasn't until about mile 20 that I made a pass that would stick and dropped the escorting police motorcycle. I could feel my speed increasing as I made my way on towards mile 40..then 45...then 50. I checked my watch. I was going to beat my best bike time by 5 minutes if I could just keep consistent. The final miles were into the wind but I dismounted and crossed the chip mate with that new bike P.R.

Back into transition, I checked to make sure Rick's bike was in and his running gear was gone. Everything looked good as I put on my running shoes and headed out for an afternoon stroll. My goal during this race was to see if I could be fast enough to walk the half marathon and still beat my time. This experiment was very valuable because I learned that I will still need to run a bit to keep the timing consistent.

The first 3.5 miles of this half marathon were in the direct sun and it was HOT! You gotta love the volunteers at the aid stations however, as they had cold wet towels for our necks and cold water. They stayed out on the course even until I came by.

By mile 8, I was feeling fantastic. A little tired but no pains I couldn't handle. The course was a twisty curvy route through a beautifully shaded state park (after mile 3.5) but we left the park before mile 9 and were given the lovely gift of a bridge to cross. For some reason, mentally this was hard because you could not SEE the 9 mile sign until after you crossed the bridge and headed into a turnaround. It was one of the low moments of my race.

At this point I had two runners behind me and I knew that I would not finish last. As I approached the exit of the park with less than one mile to go, my beloved husband stood and screamed "'re doing awesome...almost there cutie...almost there!!" The tears welled up in my eyes as I looked down one more time at my watch. A P.R. by 11 minutes. Could this really be possible ? I know Im one of the final finishers but I don't care. Today my race was against myself and the clock...and today...I won.

I crossed a finish line that was almost deserted to a bit of fanfare and the loving arms of my husband. I was so thrilled that i was overwhelmed with joy. The race that had haunted me for a year was now in the "win" column and will always be remembered as a PR.

I returned back to the hotel with my husband's help. My training partner, Rick, had also set a P.R. on this course. His girlfriend, Lisa, took great care of us giving us a rub down and helping with ice baths.

I sat on the balcony that night and stared out at the ocean that I had faced with a bit of fear a few hours early. I thanked God for his grace and the ability he gave me during those 8 hours on the course. You did it girl...I told myself. You finished this. You CAN DO THIS....Ironman is within reach.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The power of a dream...and the bumble bee

If it were not for dreams...what would we have?? Honestly!! I have absolutely no desire to float through life with no vision, no passion and no GOAL. Ive gone a little nuts over Ironman. I freely admit that I am totally obsessed with this goal but I also believe that Ironman would be impossible even for the finest of athletes without that burn in your gut...that desire to achieve that matter if it's breaking the women's record like Chrissie Wellington or crossing the line before the clock strikes midnight.

But before this Ironman dream, there is the Half Ironman that looms just 2 1/2 days away. I felt differently than last year as I step on the treadmill for my running workout with Hector today. We went through each part of the race. We went over nutrition. We went through step by step the goals I am looking to accomplish. "You're more ready for this race than any other race you have faced" Hector told me. Half me REALLY wants to believe him. The other half of me recognizes that he is one helluva cheerleader.

Belief is key. Belief is what sustains you when the times get tough. When the legs burn and one more step just doesn't seem possible, that's the moment that all you have left is hope and belief!! I really have to knock the negative out of my head and just keep the good!!

I have gained a new nickname lately from my best friend, Rick. He calls me Bumble Bee. Wanna know why?

According to 20th century folklore, the laws of aerodynamics prove that the bumblebee should be incapable of flight, as it does not have the capacity (in terms of wing size or beats per second) to achieve flight with the degree of wing loading necessary. Not being aware of scientists 'proving' it cannot fly, the bumblebee succeeds under "the power of its own ignorance"

The general triathlon population might look at me and think "no way!" but I have other plans. I have two planned flights: Atlantic Coast Triathlon ... and Ironman Florida.