Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Empathy Desert

"Hey, buddy - what did you think about the race?"

The man stuck his hand up for a high-five from my (at the time) five-year-old son, whose eyes had already darted around the loud room several times. Bird (my son's nickname) had woken up early, skipped his standard breakfast at home, waited for our race to finish, and was looking forward to eating. Bird didn't return the high-five and said a flat-sounding, "great."

I considered nudging my son to return the high-five. After all, this is what I'd done his entire life.

1.) Place child into social situation
2.) Nudge and prompt child to respond appropriately
3.) Watch the other person react, likely thinking my son is rude
4.) Try to not think about it for the rest of the day (or more. But here I am, two years later.)

That day, I chose to not force my child to respond appropriately and chirped out, "eh, he's clearly got donuts on the brain!" Heh. Heh.  I knew the day had already been too much, too loud, too little food, too many smells, too many grown-ups (who would eventually make him feel not-so-great. Like that exact moment.). My son wandered over to his dad and leaned in, wrapping his arms around my husband's leg. He stared at the ground and began to trace the outline of the tiles with his foot, the side of his face pressed firmly on Derek's hip.

All children have awkward, inappropriate social encounters throughout their life. It is part of growing up, and we learn by doing - so it's something they do have to figure out for themselves. But when you have anxiety - a physical, neurological, medical condition - your "figuring it out" becomes a very different experience when compared to your peers.

I honestly was not aware that I had anxiety until we discovered my son has anxiety, and I started to remember similar experiences when I was his age. It's been life-changing for me to understand what has subconsciously motivated me my entire life, why I sought out "soothers," why I have always had problems sleeping, why I have had extreme physiological responses to stress (I've been in the ER more than once in my life for what ended up being panic attacks). I'm not a "weak" person. This isn't something my parents did to me - it's just me. It's genetic. And it's something that Bird will have to navigate his entire life.

Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to explain to people who do not have anxiety. You can't see it. Sometimes it's not a big deal. Some days it's crushing. I can understand where neuro-typical are coming from - regardless of the "why," when someone doesn't show up, it sucks. Like that encounter with the denied high-fiver, it does not feel good when someone doesn't respond to you. Anxiety or not, there are real consequences in life. People eventually stop calling. People no longer invite you places.

People think your child is just a little jerk. After all, so-and-so has such sweet children who always make eye contact and respond appropriately during conversation.

We haven't told our son, "you have anxiety." We have offered him various age-appropriate coping techniques. We dabble with therapy (haven't found a great fit yet). We talk to teachers and coaches. Some folks get it, some folks do not. When they don't - it's like you've wandered out into the empathy desert, and it just plain sucks.

Depression and anxiety are real, physiological conditions. The brain is not wired the same as a neuro-typical person. Here's another thing - when you tell someone, "my child has anxiety," it's like saying they have a broken bone. It could be any bone - you haven't told them which specific bone. But let's say their child also has a broken bone - but it is specifically their foot. They expect your child needs crutches. They expect you to tell your child not to attempt walking. But in reality your child has a broken arm. So, unfortunately sometimes we can't even empathize with fellow parents of quirksters.

Make sense? These neurological conditions are extremely personal and unique, but they're just as real as a broken bone. You can't - and won't ever be able to - see which bone is broken on another person with a psychological disorder.

In the mean time, please consider how parents of children on the spectrum, children with anxiety, ADHD, etc., feel each and every day. They are constantly cringing, struggling with how much/how little to intervene. I know it's uncomfortable for you - the neurotypical person - to wander out into our desert. But we would love to share a glass of water now and then.


Monday, July 10, 2017

When the Empty Glass is Optimistic

Over the holiday weekend, we had dinner at our favorite wing place in Durham where I had a beer. A few hours later, I had a few beers as we watched the neighbor's firework display. Delicious food, beer, fireworks. A full heart, full belly, and full glass kind of day.

The following morning, I turned on my phone to browse the news and Twitter, etc., and stumbled upon an article discussing the caloric content of IPAs. I immediately sat straight up and said, "HOLY CRAP!" Actually, I didn't. I'm an overweight woman with broken abs. I flopped over to my other side and looked at Derek.

My weight gain started when I began to train for endurance events. Also, around that same time:

  • Madeleine stopped nursing as a food source. (That burns a LOT of calories)
  • So, I started drinking beer again because ... I could.
  • Thanks to being spoiled by the craft beer industry, I discovered I loathe domestic beer, and only like IPAs - the bitter, the better.
I could talk about other things that have contributed to weight gain (the impact of stress is very real), but I just want to talk about the beer.

I only drink in front of the kids if we are out and - with the exception of a few baseball games - it's usually just one or two drinks. Other than that, I usually wait until they are in bed, then have a few beers.

Why? Well, that's a loaded (heh) question. I actually like the way it tastes. But, I also have anxiety - it's a real thing. Some people wonder how I can exercise without music. The answer is simple - it's just too darn loud. Not the volume, but the input. I can't stop thinking about Things, and the music makes it worse. When my day finally comes to a close, I don't want to think about anything, I don't want to process anything else - and the easiest way to get my brain from thinking about everything to thinking about nothing is ... beer.

I know people need to self-preserve, or perhaps they legitimately don't care, but the political climate took a toll on me. I've been extremely concerned about access to healthcare, education, immigration, racial tensions and discriminatory practices, the environment - the list goes on. But, I can't think about it all night, so I would go from "UGHHHHH" to bzzzzz after ... beer. Bad day with the kids? Look forward to beer. Stressful "other Thing?" Pick up beer for that evening.

Beer, beer, beery beer beer.

Do I think I have a problem? If I go through the standard checklist: I haven't hit anyone or yelled, haven't blacked out, haven't missed work. *shrug*? I've been extremely honest about it with my therapist, and he hasn't suggested I need to stop.

But is IT a problem? Without a doubt - yes. Going back to that article that shocked me into flopping over in bed: estimated caloric content of ONE beer that I usually enjoy: 320 calories. If I have three over the course of an evening? Almost 1000 calories (or more depending on beer choice and quantity) on top of what I ate that day - not to mention it's consumed right before I go to bed. Of course there are also plenty of other impacts to my health other than weight gain - well aware of those. (Also - the cost, good god lemon. Three-buck-chuck, IPA is not.)

I think it's extremely important to understand the motivation behind any "soother" and/or habit. If I'm drinking because of self-loathing (which absolutely has been some of those days, but truly isn't the majority. I've worked hard with my therapist and have made a lot of progress), it's crucial to avoid replacing a bad addiction with a healthy addiction. It might be better for my physical health, but my mental health will still struggle because "addiction". But it has mostly been to just not think, and to give a little tease to the pleasure center of my brain. "There, there, Heather. The day is over, let me turn off your brain for you."

As I write this, my kids have been at each other during their "clean-up, clean-up, everybody, everywhere" chores they successfully avoided all weekend because we were busy. At. Each. Other. Screaming, yelling. I have no doubt around 5:15PM during swim practice, when I have been watching my children do the opposite of their coach's instruction, observing 46 different and painfully awkward social interactions with my son, I will want to dive into my own pool of NonThink, AKA: Double-Ditterbotter, Smack Your Preacher In The Eye, 2,348% ABV Brewed With Psychedelic Hexes IPA around 8:30PM tonight.

But, I won't. It's just time ... to not to.


Friday, June 23, 2017

The Last Time I Saw Richard


The last time I saw Richard was Detroit in '68,
And he told me all romantics meet the same fate someday
Cynical and drunk and boring someone in some dark cafe
You laugh, he said you think you're immune, go look at your eyes
They're full of moon
You like roses and kisses and pretty men to tell you
All those pretty lies, pretty lies
When you gonna realize they're only pretty lies
Only pretty lies, just pretty lies (Mitchell)

I don't hide the fact I see a therapist - it's been extremely helpful to me in not only identifying and understanding anxiety, but having the opportunity to vent. He does say the standard, "you're a great mom, you're doing great things," but he also asks tough questions from time to time, including this one at our last session, "when was a time in your adult life that you were truly happy?"

<crickets>

I've been happy many times throughout my life, but I found myself unable to find a lengthy period of happiness. That's ... really sad. Like, Michael Scott-"I want to have 100 kids when I grow up so I'll have 100 friends and they'll have to like me" sad. It's not that I don't appreciate my life - I am cognitively aware that I have a fantastically lucky life. A non-abusive partner I so very much enjoy, two healthy kids, a house with a yard, "things," a few friends, and so on.

While I appreciate it all, not being able to immediately answer my therapist's question peeled back the layers all at once.

I'm not happy-happy, and I don't know that I have ever been.


Again - I feel like I need to insert this every paragraph, I appreciate so much in my life. I'm happy about things in my life. I experience happiness and joy.

My husband and I celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary this past Wednesday, and we watched the ceremony DVD with the kids. Now, I am a crier - always have been. I have become better at controlling it, but I do remember trying not to bawl my eyes out during the wedding. It was very emotional to be with our family, some of our friends, and it was just ... perfect. Except watching this video nine years later, I saw Derek smiling and happy, smiling at me while I looked... miserable.

The thing is - I know I was not miserable! I was extremely happy, I was overwhelmed with gratitude that morning. So, why did I look miserable? (Full disclosure - I have serious RBF, always have had.) My therapist's question echoed in my mind... when have you been happy?

My road to positive mental health is somewhere in here, I think:

1.) Acknowledging several traumatic childhood events, processing them, accepting them. They were not my fault.

2.) Understanding I have anxiety, my brain never turns off, accepting this is my normal, and finding healthier ways to process the exhaustion.

3.) Also accepting that I am quirky, weird and have behaved poorly throughout my life. It's part of anxiety - difficulty dealing with sensory processing, hating how I feel and then sabotaging. Sabotaging friendships, romantic relationships, my physical health, etc.

4.) This is the hardest part. Looking back on my life at these mistakes I have made, those sabotaged moments, and loving myself regardless. (Read this reflection by Brian Cuban to better understand what I mean and why it's important.)

Number four is going to be so, so hard. I mean - I've distanced myself from people who voted for 45 (which is not necessarily healthy, either, but partially to self-preserve). Having said that, how on earth can I look back at Jerk Heather and feel shame, guilt and subsequent distaste/dislike for my mistakes, but accept and love myself regardless?

I don't know. I think a part of it is understanding that I wasn't looking for pretty lies, I was looking for acceptance. I still am. And, maybe... happiness.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A Full(ish) Ironman: A Completely Full Heart (P4)

Part Four: Reflections and Thanks


So, as I mentioned before - the course had been shortened and I did not have the opportunity to complete 140.6 miles at an Ironman race course. To some people, it probably seems silly to be upset about such a thing. But it was honestly heartbreaking. I was offered a lot of very well-meaning advice from a handful of folks. But, probably the best advice came from Andrea Peet, who referenced the movie Gleason when she said, "It shows the power of the human spirit -- even when things are hard, or sucky things happen for no apparent reason."

I know that Andrea, and raising awareness for ALS, are my "why." I know that showing my children that you work as hard as you can - whatever that may be - and you do your best is also "my why." And that you show up and keep doing your best even if you aren't going to be the first-place winner. (or get your 140.6 sticker). That it's perfectly fine to have things in life you love and enjoy, even though you aren't pro-level. (And even when you're not even close). Those were all "my why."

So, yeah - it's kind of a big deal to me that I still showed up that morning on race day. I showed up while the winds were howling. I showed up despite having had two bike crashes and not really trusting my bike. I showed up even though I knew that if I crossed the finish line, I wasn't "technically" going to be an Ironman finisher (in the 140.6 sense). I showed up even though I had people raise their eyebrows at me, "you've never run a marathon before?" I showed up even though I was terrified at the thought of running a marathon, and was convinced I was going to get hurt doing it. I showed up even though my training volume wasn't as high or as consistent as most recommend. I showed up even though I had an anxiety attack one week prior.

I.
Showed.
Up.

And I would do it (a not-by-choice shortened race) again in a heartbeat, because we do the things.

I finished the race and immediately knew I wanted to try another full. I felt fantastic after the race - and even my massage therapist noted today that nothing felt injured or strained. I took my time on the marathon, especially the second half, because I knew I had plenty of time. I didn't want to injure myself. I never pushed on the bike because I've made the mistake of killing my legs on the bike course and never finding them again. If I had been wearing my HR monitor, I would guess my heart-rate probably averaged around 135-140, and probably closer to 115-120 the second half of the marathon.

I am extremely happy about all of that. Very grateful and thankful.

_______________________________________________________________________

Thank YOU to Erin for this picture of me starting my second loop on the run :-)

Thank You!


Thank you to my husband and children for their amazing support during training.

Thank you to Team Drea - especially Erin Leventhal (and Brian and the kids!), Christine Stalvey, Robin Fowler and all the members who trained with me and offered supportive words of encouragement and congratulations. It meant so much to see many of you on the course!!

Thank you to my training partners. Jennifer Liptrot - for the runs and never leaving me behind (and for SO much!). Preston Mitchell - for all of the rides, the phone calls and the words of encouragement. Sara Scheck, Kathleen Pelczynski, Gayle Banic, Nici, Tanner, IOSTC friends - everyone who has gone out on rides with me! They were all my "hay," and I enjoyed the time with all of you so much.

Thank you to Rebecca for the swims! Great advice and supportive words helped me finish that swim faster than I ever expected. AND enjoyed it.

Brooks Doughtie - I didn't train for this race with you, but the months of training with you the previous year built a foundation that taught me to respect the process and to know what consistent and smart training can do for athletes.

BASE - a GREAT product and great team, so much support.

Tri-Life - Jon helped patch up my bike and patched up my mental state going into this race.

My massage therapist and chiro - helping put "Humpty Dumpty" back together again. And again.

To my parents - for believing in me throughout my life. And teaching me to believe in myself, because that's what really matters when we set out to do anything challenging.

To the Ironman North Carolina volunteers and race staff - thank you for your time and helping make the experience memorable and safe.

Thanks to all of my friends and family who've encouraged me on this journey. Everything from a "like" to a "comment," phone calls and texts -  I have appreciated (and needed, many times) the encouragement. Thanks to Chandra (my IM70.3 teammate next year!) for being at the race, too!

To Jon Blais and his parents Mary Ann and Robert - "freedom!" We WILL find a cure.

Thank you to Andrea Peet and Dave Peet for your support. I know it isn't the journey you would have EVER chosen, but your steadfast love for each other, your support for finding a cure for ALS, and the way you support your friends - old and new - has taught me so much about appreciating life and the gift of love.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A Full(ish) Ironman: A Completely Full Heart (P3)

Part Three: The Run

After I handed off my bike to the volunteer, I picked up my run bag and hobbled into the changing tent. Again, I realized my naked butt was going to be visible to the world. Also, this changing tent seemed even smaller than the T1 tent. Ohhhhh well. I was pretty disappointed that I took thirty minutes longer than expected on the bike, but reminded myself I was 30 minutes faster on the swim - so it had evened out.

I immediately asked if they had any Advil or painkiller and the woman responded they only had Tylenol. I accepted it and she wrote a "T" on my bib. I honestly didn't care - I needed something to ease the pain in my shoulders and neck. I was able to quickly change into my running clothes - a pair of Tyr compression shorts (but not SUPER compression-y like 2XU) and my Team Drea shirt. I wore my sports bra throughout the swim, bike and run - careful to apply a gob of vaseline under the base of it because it chafes me after 15 miles or so when I run. I changed socks and stepped into my running shoes, remembering the advice of Swim Bike Mom in either her book (or a blog) about taking the time to make sure everything feels good. Saving two minutes in transition by skipping a sock change might cost you an hour on the run course if you can barely walk later on.

I added water to my handheld water bottle - which already had my custom Infinit "Run" blend in it. Pulled on my belt/pouch where I had extra Infinit bags, grabbed my race number belt and pulled on my hat. I had forgotten to pack sunglasses for the run. *trombone downslide* Oh well. I stopped at the porta-jons (FINALLY! HALLELUJAH THANK YOU JESUS) and then began the .5 mile exit out of T2. I saw the babies and Derek again as I started to run.

The first part of the run didn't hurt and my energy was great. I saw Andrea and Dave at the beginning of the run course and ran over to give them a hug. The run through downtown was nice, although I was seriously jealous of the people drinking beer and cheering on the racers! Then we turned toward the lake where the run traces along the edge, with an out-and-back.

I was able to maintain my intervals for quite some time on the first half (3 minutes running, 1 minute walking). I drank sips of water at the aid stations and refilled my bottle with nutrition every hour. I do have to say it meant the world to me to see the BASE signs that my kiddos made. It was a little windy coming back into town, and people were really cheering loudly as I made my way to the turnaround point. I saw the Leventhals and the Peets again. Unfortunately, I missed Derek and the kids because my time was a lot faster than he expected!

After the strange twisting and turning at the beginning of the second loop, I stopped at run special needs to change my socks. Now - it was perfect running weather and I wasn't super sweaty, but I decided to change my socks anyway. It actually felt GREAT to take off my socks. I had also packed "Wet Ones" and used one to wash the salty sweat off my face - that was very refreshing. After that, I sort of just stared into my special needs bag until a volunteer asked me if I was ok. LOL. Yes, I am just thinking about running another half marathon. It was around 4:10PM or so and I knew I would finish before the temperature dropped substantially, but I decided to grab my freebie arm warmers from an FS Series race, just in case. I also took my remaining bags of run nutrition and shoved them into my belt (that I wore underneath my shirt).

When you come out of town on the run course, you gradually climb up, then you gradually go down to the lake. Then back up again, and then down to the finish line. Needless to say, I walked most of the uphill grades. I started eating real food - pretzels - around mile 16. I drank a few sips of flat coke to get some caffeine around mile 17. Mile 20, near the BASE tent, is a park with real restrooms and I decided to stop and potty. I didn't *have* to go, but I felt like I should just flush my system. I washed my hands in a real sink, and chatted with a woman in the bathroom.

Now - obviously I was "running" slowly. And I don't care. It's my pace and it's my race. It was my first marathon and I kept waiting for a wall or a bonk to hit, so I was afraid to push myself very hard - especially after mile 18 because I had never, not ever, "ran" or "walked" that distance in my entire life. But, I felt good. My feet were sore, but not in excruciating pain. I walked a lot coming back up from the lake and ran/jogged nearly continuously when we finally turned onto Front street, except for one spot. And let me tell you about that.

So, it's after 7PM at this point and I was alone on the course. The people on Front Street had probably been drinking all day. I ran a little fast to cross an intersection because a car was waiting on me, then I walked for a minute, and I heard some young guy say, "hey - you're walking. Oh, is that a run-walk? That's not even really running" and he scoffed.

I had swam 2.4 miles. I rode my bike for 56 miles. I had "run-walked/that's-not-even-really-running" for 25.5 miles at that point.

I was beyond pissed off.

And let me tell you, it took every ounce of strength remaining in my body to not turn around and punch that guy in that crotch. I wanted to shout, "then you effing do this, a$$hat." The only thing that kept me from doing that was the realization that...

He probably does do this. He probably does run, or maybe he was one of the full finishers who had finished hours before me. There were a group of people who decided to ride their trainers after the race so they could get their "140.6" miles all in a row. I thought that was a great idea, but you know what eventually turned me off of it (other than having two little kids who were exhausted)? When a woman in the expo said, "some of us actually are going to get our 140.6 miles tomorrow." In this middle-school, "I'm the cool girl and you aren't" sort of voice. 

But you know? Those people are everywhere. They're everywhere - just waiting to one-up you, or tell you how you have it easier, or you aren't good enough for their cool kids club. And to paraphrase my husband:

"If you're dealing with someone insecure enough that completing an Ironman doesn't legitimize their achievements for themselves - you're never going to win with them. Because it's always going to be about filling their own void, and nothing to do with you."

And that's all I have to say about that.

So, by the time I got to the twisty (AND DARK) docks, I had let it go. And then someone walking their dog with a retractable leash nearly gave me a heart attack. I came running around the DARK corner and scared the dog so it lunged at me, barking and growling. "JESUS CHRIST," I shouted. The dog owner apologized and said the standard, "he's a very sweet dog," that every dog owner says after their dog has tried to kill you. I could hear the music from the finish line and I was so excited!


I ran my first marathon!
I just did a FREAKING MARATHON!

I saw Andrea and Dave and waved to them! I kissed the babies and Derek (who had been waiting a loooooong time because he was afraid of missing me again). I heard Mike Reilly saying stuff and I rolled across the finish line. I pulled myself up, accepted my medal and clothes - and that was it. I can't describe the gratitude I felt.

Heather Scott, You are an Ironman.

Nutrition: 6 non-concentrated servings of custom-blend Infinit "Run", handful of pretzels, bit of a cookie, sips of chicken broth
T2 (UGH): 15:40
Run: 6:27:38 14:47/mi pace

Total Time: 11:58:46

Next: Part Four - Final Reflections and Thank-You's (I have a lot)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A Full(ish) Ironman: A Completely Full Heart (P2)

Part 2: The Bike

Due to the devastating and lasting flooding from Hurricane Matthew, the full-distance 112-mile bike course was changed twice. Five days before the race, it was initially promoted as an "approximate 50-mile" bike course. When I checked-in on Thursday, I inquired the possibility of racing as a "half-distance" athlete, because I wasn't interested in running a marathon if I couldn't call myself an Ironman. Because of the training interruptions and injury concerns, it seemed to be a wise choice. WTC officials unfortunately told me I could not transfer, so I made the decision to race the "full" course anyway. The bike course was ultimately changed again into an entirely different 56-mile course.

I was so happy about my swim time when I exited the water. The wetsuit strippers were fast! "Can I take you to all of my open water swims?" I not-so-cleverely asked. I stood underneath the fresh water shower for a minute, taking the time to rinse the salt water off my skin and face. Then began the long run to the transition area. I saw my friend Chandra, with whom I will be relaying IM70.3 Raleigh next year, and my friends Erin and Brian Leventhal. It was so amazing to see people I knew and it gave me an even bigger boost to keep on going!

The changing tent. First of all - there was nowhere to sit where people couldn't see into the tent. All of those seats were taken, and I knew people outside were just going to have to see my naked butt. Oh well! (Also, seriously Ironman? You can't put up a screen or something by the entryway?) After the bike course changes, I debated whether or not to even change into bike shorts. Obviously I need a new bike fit, but as it stands right now - I can wear tri shorts easily for 56-60 miles, but anything beyond that I need my Pearl Izumi chamois. However, my nice and tight bike shorts that give me lots of compression are a wonderful choice on any given day - except when I am trying to pull them up over cold and slightly damp jiggly stomach skin. I could not pull them up. Not one bit! I tugged and tugged, finally got them somewhat over my gut and then the chamois was twisted. A volunteer helped me, and then helped me get into my arm sleeves (also difficult to put on).

Lesson learned? I should have never changed into bike shorts for 56 miles, and when I do another full, I will either purchase a larger size than normal bike short, and/or practice ways of getting them on to damp skin (vaseline? powder?). I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but I wasn't expecting it to be nearly impossible. I was finally changed and even though I had to pee, I decided to just get on the bike.

While on the bike I immediately took two giant swigs of nutrition. I love BASE Performance products, but I had been working with a custom Infinit blend for this race. I navigated around the turns and *gulp* decided to slowly ride over the first bridge with metal grates. Now, when I did this two years ago - I fishtailed like CRAZY over the bridge. I nearly wiped out. I told myself I was going to walk across the bridge this year, but at the last minute I decided to just try. S-l-o-w-l-y. I softly screamed the entire time. "AhhhhhhhhHhHHhHHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhhh - I'm sorry, I am just trying not to fall - Ahhhhhhh - sorry!" And I was across! WHEW. I carefully pulled out my chapstick and slathered it on, and it was time to really ride my bike!

The first road was relatively easy, and then we ride a stretch on I-140. Bikers stay in the left lane, and there are giant divots (sleeper lines) in the shoulder.

That.
Wind.

The average wind speed in Wilmington that day was 21mph with gusts up to 28mph, coming from the WNW. So, for the west-bound stretch on I-140, there were horrible crosswinds, and sometimes headwinds. It was difficult to remain in aero and control the bike. I was actually thankful for my weight gain at this point, because I probably would have been tossed into the ditch otherwise - or at the very least, blown toward the left shoulder and then crashed my bike after hitting the rumble strips.

When we exited onto US-421, I realized I should have paid better attention to the course changes, because we were going the wrong way! We turned south, then made a u-turn, then back up 421, where we would eventually u-turn again and head back into Wilmington.

The entire section of northbound US-421 was into headwind. When I raced the full course in 2014, there was actually very little wind until the end of the course - and then it was WSW and only 10 mph. So, it made the last section of the bike unpleasant, but it wasn't that difficult. This was horrific. Everything on me hurt - my "parts," my shoulders, my neck, my hands, my back. I refused to look at my watch and rode solely by effort. I didn't care that I was being passed by pace lines - though I longed to grab that back wheel and cruise along with people, I just raced my own race.

I took one water bottle from the first aid station and topped off my Speedfil bottle. I should add that this set-up was amazing for me. A lot of times during races I don't want to take my hands off the bike, so I don't fuel or hydrate properly. It isn't a fear thing, it's just that I am usually hauling butt and don't feel like taking a moment to carefully grab a bottle, etc. For this race, I had my liquid nutrition (two hours - concentrated) in my aero bottle, and 2+ hours of water in my Speedfil bottle (which goes onto my frame and uses a long hose that I placed near my aero bottle straw). I don't want to use this all of the time - but it was PERFECT for a long race. I had another two hours of nutrition on my saddle bottle cage.

Riding into the wind was seriously the only time I considered quitting the entire day. My body just hurt so badly. "Where the "F---" do we turn around?!?! Why did I forget Advil?!?!" I took deep breaths, and just continued my moderate effort cadence and power. I remembered my "why."

Finally we turned around, and I got the push from the wind I was waiting for. My dear friend Preston rode by and said, "hey - you're doing great!" and that gave me another boost. I reached up to adjust my helmet because it had started to slide forward and *DOINK* my magnetic visor popped off my helmet, flew into the air off to the left and crashed on the ground behind me.

Are you serious?

I made a split-second decision to just leave it. At this point, I would have been a major safety hazard to stop and ride/walk AGAINST traffic to retrieve it. And of course, a course marshal rode by a moment later, but I was never penalized or DQ'd for littering. Thank goodness.

The wind at my back was a welcome push, and I kept the same moderate-paced effort, knowing that I still had about six to seven hours of work ahead of me. Unfortunately, the rest of the ride was also very bright and my eyes were watering from the lack of wind protection. I also decided to s-l-o-w-l-y ride across the second bridge, and did my same "ahhhhhhhhhhhhh" quiet scream across the entire section of metal grates. I made it! A few minutes later I saw my husband and kids before the dismount - man, that feels nice to see your family.

Unfortunately, when I started to run down the hill with my bike, my left groin muscle locked up and I couldn't run. So I walked the long walk to the bike handlers and held up a bunch of people. Sorry 'bout that. But the walking eased the cramp and then it was time to get ready for my very first marathon.

T1 (ugh): 16:46
Bike: 3:31:45 15.87mph

Nutrition: Three and a half hours custom-blend Infinit "Bike" blend, ~16-20 ounces of additional water

Next up: The Marathon

Monday, October 24, 2016

A Full(ish) Ironman: A Completely Full Heart (P1)


Part One, The Swim


I want to post a few different blogs about Ironman North Carolina. The first is going to be a race report(ish) in three parts, and I will also have a thank-you reflection post.

Saturday, October 22, 3:30AM

I woke up with a happy heart, but a terrified mind. The winds were very strong - there was a small craft advisory in effect for the open water, but I wasn't sure what to expect in the channel. I knew there would be chop and perhaps waves - but I also swam 1.2 miles in Jordan Lake during a tropical storm last year, so I reminded myself I was strong. Stronger than I give myself credit.

I ate three gluten-free waffles and had a cup of coffee. Washed my face, put on deodorant, got dressed and kissed Derek goodbye. Somehow both kids slept through me getting ready.

I had my run special needs bag, my bike nutrition and bottles, water bottles, wetsuit, additional food to eat before swimming, and goggles/cap. Timing chip on.

The bus to T1 was literally a two-minute walk from our hotel (the Riverview Suites - we made a last-minute change to this hotel and it was so WORTH it. Huge thanks to Lisa Arnold for letting us take the extra room she had booked.).

Someone I know from Raleigh actually sat next to me and we chatted for a bit on the way to T1. I was weirdly calm. I had my tires filled, set-up my bike, double checked my bike gear bag, dropped off run special needs and had my body marked. Then it was time to board the trolley to the swim start. For some reason, they dropped us off about 1/2 mile or so from the actual swim start, so it was a long walk to the end of the road where the beach starts. This was one of the low moments of the race. As I walked with all of these tall and fit-looking people, I have never felt so out of place in my life. Never. I told myself I didn't belong and shouldn't be there. When I finally made it to the end, I chit-chatted with a few people, put on my wetsuit and it was time to drop off my morning clothes on the truck.

OK, ok - this is a RACE report. Fast forwarding! It's a looooong walk to the actual swim start, and I was freezing. The solution to standing around in 45-degree weather is to stand in 73-degree water! It felt like a bath compared to the air temperature. It was time to line up, and I heard Mike Reilly talking and he mentioned the cannon. The cannon! OMG - I am about to swim 2.4 miles! I am doing an Ironman(ish). Star-Spangled Banner, then... *thump*. People started filing through the swim start entrance and Eminem's "Lose Yourself" started playing. Hell yeah. I put my goggles on, walked through, remembered my "why" and stepped into the water.

It felt GREAT. I was pretty far to the left of the buoys, but I made sure I swam around the red turn buoys. A little bit of chop coming from the left, not bad. When the sun came over the houses, though, it was impossible to see to the right. I just kept following the green and pink caps in front of me. At one point I glanced at my watch, which I never do, and it said 37:00 and 1600 yards. Hmm.. I am bad at math, but this told me I was going to be alright in terms of time.

The course makes a sharp left turn and as soon we started swimming to the northwest/west - the chop. It was so strong it nearly tore my goggles off my face when I sighted. I am not kidding. The swim at Jordan Lake was like swimming in washing machine, but this was something else. Stroke-stroke-breathe, stroke-stroke-sight-BAM-spit out water-breathe. Repeat. I finally saw the dock and ladders, and it took a while to get to them. But I was PLEASED as ever to see 1:25ish on my watch! How did this happen?!? Did I take a short cut? Holy cow! THANKS, TIDES! THANKS, MOON! THANKS, GRAVITY!

Official Time: 1:26:27 (2:15/100m pace)

Nutrition Before: Three GF waffles, half of a Cliff bar, one cup of coffee, one 10oz water)

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Next blog: The Bike. :-/