Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Day After...

Today is actually the day after the day after, because we spent the entire day after the race in the car driving back from Louisville. This morning, I woke up more stiff and tired than yesterday, ready to get into the pool to stretch and do a short workout.

I finished 19th in my age group, not fast enough to qualify for Kona. I lost the race on the run, which was brutal. Temps in the mid 90's, high humidity, the times were very slow on this race for everyone. I knew things were really tough when several of the pros walked past me, on what I thought was their second loop of the run, but which turned out to be their first loop. I have never seen so many people walk in a race before, even one this long. Still, I trained all summer in the heat of the day and was very disappointed in my legs for giving out. I walked through the aid stations, but ran the whole race, hoping to find some hidden strength that just wasn't there. It was an awesome race, despite the disappointments, and I accomplished many goals along the way. And now I am ready for 2011!

Ultra distance races are so amazing on so many levels, one of them being that no matter your performance, you can't help but smile and feel so proud and honored to be crossing the finish line, fortunate to have a body that will physically take you to the end. The day before the race, we took Alex on a trolley ride around the city, which was a thrill for him. We discovered the trolley the previous evening when we hopped on it to get to dinner. That evening there was another rider, like Alex, who just wanted to ride for the fun of seeing new sights, the thrill of the hum of the engine and to hear the bell go ding-ding. He was a young kid, in a wheel chair, with severe brain damage, obviously unable to walk or function on his own. He was with his two caretakers. My heart hurt, for the little boy, for all children with CP and for the parents who do their best to care for them. It also reminded me that no matter what, I needed to have a safe race. Alex could care less if Mommy qualified for Kona. He just wanted his mom to snuggle safe and sound in his bed when it was all over.

The crowds and the volunteers are amazing at these races. They are so dedicated to the racers, giving their energy all day to helping the athletes find the courage to keep going, even when mind and body say stop. Louisville was particularly friendly and volunteers traveled across the country to help out. Thank you, thank you volunteers! You have inspired me to do something good for someone today.

Alex and Izzy had a blast on this latest adventure. They logged miles in the hotel hallways, swam in the pool, waddled around the city of horses with great enthusiasm. They seem to have grown up a little bit over the weekend. And Erik, such a trooper to help drive, care for the kids, support my training for 9 months, and be there to hug my disappointment away at the finish line...he realizes it is a lot more fun to be the athlete than the spectator, and he is already signed up for Ironman Canada in 2011. Thank you Erik and I look forward to being on the other side of the finish line.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

15 Hours to Race Morning...

We arrived, after 13 hours of driving and a trip to Hersey World. Bike is checked, so are bike and run bags. I swam the course this morning with all 3000 of the other atheltes in the race this weekend. The Ohio River is a great place to swim, tastes like mud, but a nice 85 degrees for those who like it hot!

Weather looks to be in the mid 90's on race day, but the humidity is much less than it was 5 weeks ago when I trained on the course. Should be a beautiful day for the race. My general observation is that Ironman athletes are in better shape than they used to be 4 years ago when I did Florida. As the sport heats up, the competition is tougher and everyone is in better shape.

Louisville is lots of fun for the kids: free trolley rides up and down 4th Street, a great pool at the hotel to swim, tons of running space along the river.

I'm exhausted. My Ironman will be done when I finally line up to enter the water on race morning. Sunday should be a lovely day of doing what I love to do, without anyone calling my name ("Mommy") to tell me their poopy diapers need changing. There should be a separate race for Mommy's!!!!!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Countdown

So, with exactly 6 days until the race, the countdown has begun. Six days from now at this time in the morning, I will be marked with black ink on my arm and leg, and will be watching with amazement as the pros start their powerful swim. The Ohio River is immense and intimidating, with a strong current and murky, dirty water, and watching the pros clobber it as though it were a monster sneaking out of the closet gives us mortals confidence that we can stand our own.

Alex, whose maturity level at times seems to match my own, is beside himself with excitement about the upcoming adventure to Louisville. He understand we are taking a major trip, that Mommy is going to be racing a triathlon (and that he wants to race too!), and that we will be making stops at some exciting places. We are stopping at Hersey Park, at a hotdog stand featured in Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network, at a horse breeding park in Lexington, and staying always in hotels with pools. Izzy, who understand less about the actual details of the adventure, nevertheless does not want to be excluded, and when we talk about it, she heads to the door to put on her Crocks, ready to go. "Ready," she says. "Not yet", I say. "We still have a couple more days." "Ready," she repeats, feeling as I do, that we might as well get this show on the road.

Short run and swim yesterday, short spin and run today, short run and swim tomorrow. The legs have completely stopped aching, my body is no longer tired, and yet, I think to myself, am I really ready, can I really cover 140 miles in a few days, shouldn't I keep training for a few more months or maybe just get in one last 15 miler or 80 mile ride, just to be sure?

One of the major lessons I have learned through long distance racing is to trust my body. Your body will perform as you have trained it, and often slightly better. If you can shut off the logical side of the brain, which tells you that long distance events are crazy, that you need to rest in case you get chased by a lion tomorrow or run out of food this winter, and race on pure emotion, you not only race well, but you also find yourself at complete peace with yourself.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Taper Time

One of the hardest parts about training for an Ironman (or any event, really) is the taper period. After 7 months of hard training, you suddenly must slip into easy training 2-3 weeks before the big race, and then nearly no training at all for the last week. It is physically and emotionally painful. This year, I have trained harder than every before, and the taper is particularly difficult.

Four weeks ago, I started to ease off and began to sleep more. Once I started sleeping, all I could do was sleep, but with two toddlers, that wasn't really an option, so I really spent my days in a fog. Then the legs started aching. They ached at night, in the morning, and pretty much all day. I began sleeping with a pillow between them, but that didn't help much. After the sleeping phase, I moved into the anxiety phase, and wasn't able to sleep at all. Every dream was about the race, and I woke up exhausted (wasn't I supposed to be getting extra rest???).

My metabolism was still jacked high, so I got away without changing my diet while easing up on my training...for about two weeks. Now, with less 10 days of tapering to go before the race, I have had to make a major shift in my eating (no more Chinese food!), so as not to put on any (more) weight than I did in the last few days.

But the hardest part is refraining from going out for a long run. I miss the solitude, the effort-induced pains that melt into a comfortable stride, the feeling of relaxation when I return, exhausted, and the deliciousness of the first sips of water. I look forward to race day, to the chance to test my mind and body, four years wiser and older than the last Ironman. Am I better this time, or just older? I know my mental edge is much, much stronger. I also look forward to the day after the race, when I can wake up and do whatever workout I please, not worrying about pace or proper nutrition. I might take that day off. Or maybe, I'll lace up shoes and sneak out at sunrise and hobble a short distance, for the peace, the quiet, the secret I keep with the start of every day. Only a few more days and the taper will be over.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Annual MRI

Last week, Alex had his annual MRI. It has actually never been an annual thing, because there have been complications and emergencies and further brain surgeries, but this year, we hope it will be an annual one. No more Christmas Eves spent in the ER. No more canceled birthday parties for brain surgery. We hope.

Alex demonstrated extraordinary strength at the MRI. He will be three years old in September, so right now, we say he is two and a half. He would have been born in January if he had been on time, so his age is sort of true. One of the great traumas of the MRI is the anaesthesia. It is painful to have the needle stuck into the vein, and then to sit there often for hours screaming uncontrollably while waiting for the MRI to be free, and then to fall asleep with medicine, and wake up confused, not knowing what just happened, and to have to sit in the recovery room for over an hour, hungry and unhappy, and then to fall asleep in the car on the ride home and be cranky until the next day-the whole ordeal is pretty horrible. But the anaesthesia is usually necessary to keep a child as young as Alex still while the MRI--loud and scary--takes its pictures of the brain.

So, last week, we just happened to have an amazingly astute nurse. I mentioned that it was too bad they wouldn't even consider letting Alex try sitting in the MRI without anaesthesia. She commented that it was too bad, but they don't usually even consider it until children are four, and then you have to make an evening appointment and come back the next day if the child freaked out during the procedure. Then she left the room and returned in 5 minutes, excited and in a hurry. Someone in charge had agreed to let Alex give it a try.

Alex had to sit for at least 15 minutes, lying down on his back, within the tunnel of the MRI, without moving a muscle. He could not turn his head or talk or roll over. The nurse gave him goggles to watch Blue's Clues, his favorite show, and then strapped him in. The MRI started, and he just sat there, mesmerized by the show, despite the extremely loud and grating sounds of the machine. Erik and I held his hand and our breath. In the end, he did it! When they wheeled him back out of the MRI, he asked if he could watch Thomas the Train.

After checking the dial on his shunt, we went home, a full two hours ahead of schedule, minus the trauma, and with a happy child in our back seat. We are so very thankful for good nurses. Her decision to give Alex a chance without anaesthesia made our day, changed our entire vacation (we were on vacation in NH that week) and will likely change the next few years of MRIs.