Monday, June 29, 2015

Purgatory

Ever get in a slump? Well, not just a moment where you feel "meh," but like you've fallen into a small ditch, too steep to climb out of, and just a bit too tall to pull yourself out - even though you can peek out? That describes me for nearly two solid weeks after returning from my quick trip to Warwick. The trip itself was wonderful, even the travel mishaps made me smile, but soon thereafter I found myself spiraling into a mild depression and I could not shake it.

I was not a "good enough" triathlete. I cannot open water swim very well, even my pool swims are not good, I don't run very fast - never, ever have - and I am only average on the bike.

I was not a "good enough" mother. My kids don't get enough "fun mom" things from me. I don't take them on enough playdates. I don't cook meals at home often enough.

I was not a "good enough" friend. I get very withdrawn at times.

Continue this on to worrying about my health - skin cancer, oral cancer, overall wellness, gut issues, thyroid issues, eye problems, undiscovered cancer *some*where in my body. Worrying about Mads' and Alex's health, Derek's health, my parents. Andrea. Derek's parents.

My career. I had a few private students this past year, but lessons fizzled out for various reasons and when my training intensified, especially after hiring a coach, I haven't tried to pursue new students. I read Facebook updates about college friends and I am flat out jealous of what they have achieved in their careers because they continued to teach after they became parents. I essentially have nothing to show anyone right now. No program I have built, no students receiving awards, nothing. My license has lapsed here in North Carolina, and I know I should start the process of renewing it, but I am also extremely disappointed about the state of our public schools. I can't find a good alternative career in the meantime that "fits."

On Tuesday last week, I called Derek after picking up Alex from an all-day camp at a local museum. I cried. I could not stop crying and sobbing, and I was muttering so sadly - not hysterically, just... so sadly, that I heard Derek's voice catch a bit as I was talking to him. He was almost crying, too. It was probably one of my darkest moments since we have been married. I found "Space Racers" on Netlflix for the kids, made them a snack and refilled their water bottles, then curled up on the coach next to my babies, a blanket covering my body from chin to toes. They were enjoying the show and snack, and I just lay there.

Derek came home with salad bar from the grocery store for dinner, and then he took Alex and Mads to Alex's swim lesson. I mindlessly pulled on gym clothes, went to the Y and ran a 45-minute fartlek run on the treadmill. On my way home, I heard good music on the radio. Good music. Somehow, I started crawling out of the ditch that evening. My husband, good music, and a good run. Slowly, painfully, I *was* crawling out that ditch.

It's not all I need though. I have learned some of the dark moments over the last month are actually quite normal for triathletes after a big race. It probably makes one wonder, "then why do you do that?" Well, here's the thing: the low points, the suck, the "ugh" - it's all real. It's all life.

I have a race report to share, but I wanted to put all of this out there first - I've been meaning to share. I don't think I have actual clinical depression, but I do know that I was in a pretty dark place for a few weeks. It's turning around, thankfully. I am sure some folks would look at me and say, "what? You have a great husband, two healthy kids, both parents are in your life, a house in a safe neighborhood, you get to do these races and workout, what do YOU have to be depressed about?! Idiot!" Eh, they're mostly right. I do have a lot of great and lucky aspects to my life. That's the thing about depression, actual depression - you cognitively, intellectually grasp that everything is good and wonderful and rainbows. Still, you cannot see anything but the dark, deep bottomless chasm. It's not about wanting more, nor is it about wanting less. It's not about wanting to be prettier, or wanting anything at all. Depression is ... true purgatory. Shittier than hell, and so hard to get out of - but I think I am. Actually, I know I am and for that I am grateful.

Stay tuned for the race report, I promise it makes this post mean something.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

16.5

This past Saturday I flew to Rhode Island to participate in the Blazeman Run at Aldrich Mansion.  This run was sponsored by Tri-Mom (a local tri team in Rhode Island) to benefit The Blazeman Foundation.  I had known about the run for several months and decided to fly up for it (with Derek's blessing) after I was selected to wear "179" at Raleigh IM70.3.  Andrea Peet has changed my life in so many ways, one of those being the introduction to The Blazeman Foundation and the legacy of Jon Blais.

My flight out was rather uneventful, a lengthy layover in Baltimore that allowed me to eat dinner, and finally landed in Providence after 8PM.  I forgot how much I love that New England accent and relished my short conversations with the airport employees and car rental folks.

My hotel was less than five minutes from the airport, so after checking in I decided to hit up a Walgreens for a snack and some bottled water.  I fell asleep quickly and slept soundly that night.

Sunday morning, I ate a Cliff Bar, drank water and a cup of coffee, and headed out to the Aldrich Mansion.  It's a beautiful mansion on sprawling grounds overlooking the Narraganset Bay, and surrounded by beautiful homes and quaint, quiet neighborhoods.  I checked in at the race and received my bib and race t-shirt.


The race options were a kids run, 5K and 10K.  My coach suggested I run the 10K, so I signed up for that distance.  Andrea and her nephew were racing the 5K - Andrea in her recumbent trike and Will, 11-years-old, running his first 5K!  DP was also racing the 10K.  It wasn't a huge race, but it is the first year and I hope it continues and grows.  There aren't enough 10K distance races!

I decided to take my 2:00 run/1:00 walk interval approach to this race.  The course began with a downhill grade, the 10K and 5K participants started at the same time and later split shortly after mile three.  I decided to just run until it started uphill again and then continue with the intervals.  Lots of hills, lots of heat, and several great people (as usual!) in the back of the pack.  They offered water at each mile, which was nice.  I did not carry any nutrition other than my Base salts, and did not take my own hydration.  I used the salt each mile except for mile 5.  

My interval approach started to fall apart around mile four during a particularly tough hill, and I was spent during mile 5. But I finished strong and you know I rolled across that finish line!

Official Race time 1:12:14

Will won his age group!  And DP finished second in his age group.  Team Drea does rock!

Team Drea members and family

Andrea, wearing 179,  crossing the finish line!

After the run, I was able to have brunch with Andrea and Dave, their families and Mary Ann and Robert Blais.  Wonderful conversations.  I had my first cup of REAL New England chowder and my first lobster roll.  Yum!


I didn't eat all the french fries, believe it or not
I ran into a hassle on my way back that evening (after changing clothes and spending a few hours enjoying lovely views of the water and savoring a decadent frozen coffee drink).  Southwest tried to offer lodging in Providence and a flight later Monday because of potential bad weather in Baltimore.  The scorching heat and humidity caused thunderstorms and BWI was experiencing delays.  I decided to risk going to Baltimore because the family needed me home.  Mads had camp Monday for the first time, Derek had to work, etc.

As fate would have it, I did end up "sleeping" in the Baltimore airport - the delay getting into BWI meant my connector to RDU left without me.

Nite nite!
I tried keep my chin up and overall I think I did well.  I didn't swear at anyone, and I arrived back home around 10AM the following morning.

That's less than 16.5 hours, you know.

16.5 hours - precisely how long it took Jon Blais to finish Kona in 2005, after his ALS diagnosis.  Knowing for a fact his time on this earth was limited.  Knowing he wanted to find a cure "So Others May Live."

I think if Jon Blais can finish an Ironman without complaining, I can deal with a delayed flight home.

Jon was with us on Sunday.  Andrea was asked to spread some of his ashes underneath a tree before the race began.  It was a touching, beautiful and moving moment I will never forget.


Everyone who started the race finished it.  And we all gained a little more gratitude, a little more appreciation, a little more drive to make a difference.  And a lot of it was caught on film, Jon!

Yes, there is a lot in this world that is bigger than ourselves.


Monday, June 8, 2015

Iiiiiiiiii Wanna Thank You... For Givin' Me

Truly - the best day of my life, right behind marrying my husband.  These people have had a huge impact in my life and encouraged me to train for and complete my first 70.3.



The Thank-You List - which I am sure is not complete:

In no specific order!

Andrea Peet - You.  Your guidance, your lead, your selflessness, your love, your determination, your wise advice.  Without you, I honestly don't believe I could have finished this race.  No - I know I would not have finished.  Thank you for everything - everything you have taught me about life. I love and appreciate you so much.

The Blazeman Foundation and Mary Ann and Robert Blais - for raising such a good man in Jon Blais.  He was taken much too early from this world, but his spirit continues to teach and inspire.

Swim Bike Mom - without her informative blog and book, Facebook groups and relentless attitude, I might have never decided to try a triathlon.  I certainly would have never met Andrea and several other women I am proud to call friends.

Rebecca - You really helped build my confidence in the beginning, helped me start to build a base and got me into shape for an early-season half-marathon when I was struggling with health issues (my own and my kids) for what seemed all winter long!

Brooks - My coach has been a really good fit for me.  He writes workouts for me that are helping me get into better shape as an athlete, and he is the first person to recognize the real effect my "Negative Nelly" (southern) has on my training and output. 

My tri and life friends - Lindsay, Aimee, Robin, Sara, other Swim Bike Mom folks, tri friends, the Bedford crew,Beaverdam swims and all my good regular-life friends.  You've all supported me in training and life, I enjoy each moment I've spent with you, even if it's just a bike ride or a swim, a phone call, a text, play dates, mom nights  - I am so thankful for you!

Jennifer Liptrot - in December of 2013, when I needed to find a training group, Jen was the first to welcome me on a group ride.  She's been a very encouraging support and knows everyone - thus connecting me with many different training groups.  Not to mention a great running partner, I always enjoy her conversations.

Bill Parquet of Colorado - he was actually the first person to reply to my question on a Facebook running group, "I think I want to try a triathlon.  Are there any cycling groups in the area for newer riders?"  He pointed me toward Bedford and the story goes... He also helped me train for Beach 2 Battleship - several long, hot rides, and still speaks to me after I had to bail on a ride once (which I still feel badly about).  He never complained about riding slower than he usually would, I always felt safer with him than I did on my solo rides, and he's a really nice guy who runs like the wind on top of all that. 

My parents/family/in-laws - you love me, you support me, you're wonderful.  Thank you.  I always try to make you proud.  <3

Race Volunteers - fantastic job, I appreciated everyone so much!!!

Everyone I haven't specifically mentioned - I am thinking of you now.  Neighborhood friends, people I just shoot the breeze with, Facebook buddies.  You. Brighten my every day.

My Husband - I read an article that said people who speak publicly about how awesome their significant other is, are actually in bad relationships.  Well - Phft, whatever.  Derek believes in me.  He loves me, unconditionally.  He carts around the kids to races.  He doesn't complain about sharing chores.  He doesn't give me a hard time.  He truly thinks this is a good example for our kids and it keeps me balanced (when I don't get too caught up in a funk).  I love you, Derek!

Thank you so much to everyone.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Why Would You DO That? (Raleigh IM70.3 Race Report)

A few years ago, I read about this peculiar event coming to Raleigh - an Ironman, where people supposedly swam 1.2 miles, rode their bikes for 56 miles and then ran 13.1.  Then Google told me that was "just" a half Ironman, and that a true Ironman was twice that distance.

Why would you DO that?  Why?

Certainly a question I couldn't answer, especially considering at that point I had not run one mile without walking, could not properly swim and did not own a bicycle.

I had no idea all that was going to change and that I would take on that very race a few years later.  And more important, I had no idea how my life would be forever changed by Andrea Peet, her ALS diagnosis and raising awareness and funds for The Blazeman Foundation.

Here is my race report for the Raleigh Ironman 70.3 race on May 31, 2015:

I was honored to wear #179 as part of my Team Drea Challenge.  Ironman now has an official process for applying to wear the bib at their races, and the very touching description of that can be found here.  I found out on the eighth anniversary of Jon's passing that I was selected to wear the bib, which made it even more touching.  His life, while cut short by a cruel disease, has a spirit that will live on indefinitely.

When I registered for the race, Mads was still a really awful sleeper, so I also booked a downtown hotel room near T2 and where the shuttles take athletes out to the lake.  I started to regret this for a few reasons, but it was a non-refundable room, so I stayed.  I was able to check out the finish line, and that was pretty exciting!

Finish line on Saturday Night


A HUGE bummer about my room was a lack of a freaking refrigerator.  Seriously?  I had no way to freeze my Gatorade for the run.  THAT sucked (will describe it later).

RACE MORNING:

I woke up at 3:40 (no thanks to the Sheraton, who DID NOT make my 3:30 wake-up call!  Thank goodness my phone went off).  Made some oatmeal by using hot water from the in-room coffee maker. 

I also applied my "Be Brave" tattoo that Team Drea members wear on race day

Also made a cup of coffee, packed my bags and checked out (leaving my bags at the front desk).  Headed down to T2, where I started to set-up and heard "DO NOT SET-UP YOUR SPACE!"  Apparently, you cannot set-up your transition area, and instead must leave your belongings in the bag.  Well, poop.  I set-up things as much as I could within the bag itself and gently closed it.  In my bag was my race number belt, hydration belt with two bottles of Gatorade, three packs of Skratch gummies, visor, running shoes and clean socks, and my Gym Boss timer.  I also had a separate baggie with my phone, ID and bag claim check.  Then I headed over to the shuttle for Jordan Lake.

With my morning clothes bag and bike gear bag in hand, I was not exactly thrilled to be greeted by the words "No wetsuits today, guys!" as we filed off the bus to be body marked and finish bike set-up.  But seeing my amazing friend Lindsay made up for that.  She was a super volunteer at this race - volunteering every day!  She wrote my #179 on my arms - it was really moving for both of us.


Setting up the rest was fine (same rule for T1 - everything on the ground had to be in the bag), and was very happy I had stashed a second pair of goggles because sure enough - my goggles had a tear in the band!  Dropped off morning clothes bag with my poor wetsuit, and before I knew it, it was time to swim.

SWIM:

As my wave filed down into the water at 7:56AM, I was pretty nervous.  Ugh. UGH UGH UGH.  But, I felt confident I could do it, just very slow.

*HORN BLARE*

I was able to get into a nice, but slow, rhythm right from the start.  Sighting was spot on.  Pow, passed one sight buoy.  Pow, passed another.  And then... the younger men from the later-starting wave came upon us.  POW - hit in the leg.  POW - hit in the arm.  Someone actually grabbed my legs.  Grabbed my legs!!!  I kicked as hard as I could to get that a$$hat off.  From that moment on, my timing chip felt loose and I was afraid to kick very hard.  Passed the first turn buoy.  Carnage at the buoy, it felt like I was in a giant toilet with several hundred of my least favorite friends.  And poop.

This is where it got rough.  I had a hard time sighting, I forgot the buoys weren't yellow at this part, and I started to wonder if I was even swimming in the right direction.  POW - hit by a back-stroker.  Ugh.  Finally came to the last turn, and boy I knew I had to be cutting it close.

Total mayhem as we approached the boat ramp/swim finish.  EVERYone wanted to get the heck out of that lake.  I felt like I was finally swimming straight, but kept getting bonked by other swimmers.  Maybe I wasn't - or maybe they were off.  One guy appeared visibly annoyed with me and I wanted to say, "DUDE!  The exit is THERE!  You are swimming to TREES. HELLO McFLY."  But, I didn't.  The hardest part was trying to file all the bodies into the ramp.  At this point, I didn't see any other pink swim caps and realized I was seeing the youngest men and women, perhaps even a few relay swimmers.  Uh-oh.  How slow was I?  After I shook off the blows to the back from a fellow teammate, I stood up on the ramp and finally glanced at my watch.

1:09.  OH NO!!!!!!  The cut-off is 1:10.  Did I make it?  Did I?

I was in a sort of daze, when a friend, Ana (an experienced triathlete and full Ironman), said, "GO TO YOUR BIKE, HEATHER. NOW!"  I ran to my bike and stopped someone who was volunteering.  "Can you tell me if I made the cut-off?  My watch said I was so close..." He talked to someone and said, "If they didn't pull you out of the water, you're good.  Keep going."  My friend Ana also said it: "Go!"

So, I did.

Official swim time:  1:09:11

BIKE:

I felt slow and tired from the beginning of the bike.  It's a gradual climb the first few miles, but still.  Then I remembered, uh... you *did* just swim 1.2 miles. (Well, 1.3 actually, according to my watch.  Heh - bad sighting, indeed)   I saw my first "Team Drea" sign toward the beginning of the course and it made me SO happy.  I remembered today was not about me, not one bit.  Each time I saw a sign, I teared up a bit and pushed ahead.

I honestly didn't pay too much attention to my speed, it just "felt" like I was averaging around 16mph.  But, I had hoped to be around 17 for the first half. I passed the first water station and did not take anything, because I didn't need anything.  I did see Andrea, Julie and Andrea's parents - and it meant the world to me to see them!  I also saw Derek and the kids and our friend Gayle.  That really made me feel so happy and alive to see people on the course.

Hello, Team Drea!!


The second half was hotter and hillier.  I just didn't want to eat my Clif Bar - not sure why?  I did drink my two bottles of Infinit, a little bit of water, I took two salt tabs (not at once).  In other words,

THAT WAS PRETTY STUPID, HEATHER.

I really just took it easy heading back into Raleigh.  There were two situations I should have passed cyclists on the way back, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it.  Instead, I took it easy to save myself for the run.  I would also like to point out that for the first time EVER, the farms by Lake Wheeler didn't smell!!!  That has always nauseated me in the past.  I also saw Derek and the kids holding signs when I was riding in. <3
 
Bike nutrition:  Two bottles of Infinit, perhaps 16 ounces of plain water, two salt tabs and 2/3 of a Cliff Energy Bar.

Official bike time:  3:31:15
Average Speed:  15.91 mi/h

RUN:

My bike wasn't as fast as I had hoped for, and combined with a long swim, I was starting to worry about time.  I already knew my overall goal time from my coach was busto, there was no way I could make up fifteen minutes on the run.  To top it off, I had a very slow second transition, partly to do with the fact some a$$hat placed their bike on my number because another a$$hat had racked their bike on their handlebars instead of the saddle, and took up a crap ton of room.  I really hope that person received a penalty.  Someone helped me move the bikes over, and I finally got mine up on the rack.  I changed my socks, put on my running shoes and visor, sprayed on suncreen, jammed all the bike gear back into my run bag and gathered my belts.  With HOT, and I mean HOT Gatorade.  That is why I wanted access to a freezer at the hotel.

Seeing so many folks already completely finished, and nearly all the bikes racked, it took me down a notch.  Then I tried to run and was able to for a bit, but once I started up Hillsborough St., oh boy.

My Gatorade was hot.  I just could not stomach the chews.  It's not that they taste bad, I just didn't want to have that in my mouth, I didn't want to eat (again! Frown.).  I was dizzy, started seeing spots.  I could not run at all (and my stupid Gymboss, which I still don't know how to turn off) kept beeping.  SHUT UP, GYMBOSS.  Finally I took out the battery and stashed it in my tri top pocket.  Water station.  Water in my mouth, ice in my bra, ice in my shirt.  Drank the somewhat cool Gatorade at the station.

I couldn't run at all.  I was blown away by my total fatigue and all-around bleh.  What do I do, I wondered?  I started composing the apology letter to the Blaises, and to Andrea in my head.  My FB update saying, "I tried... Maybe next time..."

"You just need to finish." - Mary Ann Blais

I remembered her words in her email.

I came across my friend and first coach, Rebecca, who was volunteering on the course.  She gave me a big smile and said hello - then saw how rough I was feeling.  "Drink water, pour it over you, you are overheating and need to cool down."  So, I really drank cool water at the next aid station, the wind kicked up a bit.  I saw my friend Mariah and was THRILLED to see her on the run course.  She has a pretty bad knee injury and a few other sports injuries going on right now, and she wasn't even sure she would make it past the bike.  And there she was!  Running, even!  I called out to her, and her smile really pepped me up.  It was then I decided I was going to finish, no matter what - unless they pulled me off the course.

Laura is taking a picture - I guess I should pretend to run!

I came across my kids and Derek, and they were amazing.  They made me feel great.  Right before the second loop I came upon Mariah again.  We chatted a bit and passed through THE BEST aid station at the turn-around.  Dancing, wet sponges, music pumping - it was exactly what you need after you can see the finish line and have to run another 6.1 miles.  Mariah gave me her extra salt stick, and it saved me for sure, because the water I was drinking would have messed up my electrolyte balance.  I also saw Laura who took a few pictures and chatted, and was able to talk with my friend Robin.  Then I found a course buddy who I guess had chosen me to be his partner for the rest of the way.  That was a true blessing.

This is what I love about back-of-the-packers.  It's what I LOVE about triathlon.  He and I talked about everything and nothing..  It was his first half-ironman as well, and he was also new to swimming (but is a distance runner) - he and his wife are expecting their first child soon.  I talked about Andrea and Jon Blais.  We kept encouraging each other to run a bit - "this crosswalk to that parking sign," "crosswalk to the second light post."  My feet were really hurting at this point, I could feel blisters on my feet - big ones.  Dousing myself with water was a good thing, but apparently it's not so great for your feet!  I will have to research this next time - perhaps Body Glide?  Anyway - all of the other people on the course were doing a lot of walking at this point, and everyone was positive and friendly.  We all were feeling pain, aches, heat, sunburned - but we kept each other going.

Daniel decided to run all of Fayetteville Street when we came upon it, and I decided to just walk at that point, for a minute at least.  The crowds were gone from my first loop.  But...

I was going to do this.

I WAS FINISHING.  WITH THIRTY MINUTES TO SPARE.

I WAS FINISHING!

I started to run, and nothing hurt anymore.  Then I saw Andrea, Julie and Andrea's mom.  The emotion of everything took over.

Thanks to Julie for these pictures!

I love this picture!


When I hit the carpet, I knew it was time to roll.  The Blazeman-Roll.



Run nutrition:  Water, Gatorade, oranges and eventually bit of salt.

OFFICIAL RUN TIME:  3:07:53

OVERALL RACE TIME:  7:58:34

I received my medal from my friends Sara and Caryn and then hugged my family.  What a day.  

I FINISHED!

My lovely friend Sara giving me my medal

Behind every married/dating triathlete, is a very supportive spouse/Sig-Ot


So thankful for the day.  So very thankful.


Stay tuned for a blog post soon with thank-you's!