Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Much delayed IMFL race report - Part 1

I'm not even sure how to start on these blog posts ... I have two that need to be done, and I've got to just jump in and go, or this may never happen! Presently I'm over 6 weeks late ... UGH! Here we go!!

Florida. I headed to Florida on Monday, November 1st. I would take a very circuitous route to arrive at my final destination: Panama City.  From Cleveland, I flew to Chicago, to Nashville, and finally to Panama City. Upon arrival I was quickly met by John Moore, the VP of Insulindependence. He picked me up and we headed over to the hotel where I'd be spending the week, with the other Triabetes Captains.  On the drive over we found ourselves on part of the bike course for Ironman Florida. I would be tackling that race on Saturday!!  I was happy to see the road in good condition.  My bike would be arriving on Wednesday, as it was sent with Tribike Transport.

Upon arrival at the hotel I quickly checked in, then changed into running clothes, as a group of peeps were heading out for a run.  I hadn't eaten much, so I grabbed a Clif bar and some water.  In the van on the way to the run, I reconnected with a few of the Captains that had arrived, and met a delightful woman named Veronica Diaz. Unbeknown to me, Veronica was one of our instructors. She is a very knowledgeable sports and diabetes nutritionist. I enjoyed chatting with her!  We hit it off instantly and Veronica could be my BFF if we lived closer!! (Of course sharing that distinction with my other 2 BFFs KT & EK!!)  I just adore Veronica :)   We then arrived at our destination and went for a run. About 3 miles into the run I started to get GI distress and felt very dehydrated. Thinking back, I had consumed almost no beverages because I was flying and didn't want to be met with trying to use the bathroom on the plane. This strategy might be good for flying, but it's not so good for running! I was dry as a bone and desperate for some water. I started feeling worse and worse, eventually ejecting from the run to turn around and head back to the van. My teammates took pity on me and I was offered everyone's remaining water supply, which I had no choice but to take. Don't get me wrong, I was certainly very grateful!!  I was kind of in crisis at this point. Lesson learned: Never leave for a run without a water supply! The dehydration was really affecting me! My mouth was pastey, my contacts felt miserable, my gut was frozen and I stopped sweating.  Not a good combination :(  I resolved to correct this and begin project rehydration aggressively once we returned to the hotel.  Unfortunately, a headache set in and I was relegated to going to bed at 8:30 with Advil and a large bottle of water at my bedside.

Tuesday morning I awoke early and felt great! I was ready to tackle the run we had scheduled. It went very well and I got a nice 6 mile run in. The morning was filled with various classes on nutrition and biochemistry, as it pertains to diabetic athletes. I found it interesting and useful!  In the afternoon, the group went for a bike ride. My bike had not arrived from Tribike Transport yet, so I sat out the ride and read a book and relaxed in the hotel room.  After the Captains returned, we had dinner and another class session.

Wednesday morning we headed over to an outdoor pool - a 50 meter pool!  I was very happy to swim in that pool and we had a planned workout that was executed.  We could see storms rolling in, and it would turn out to be a very rainy day!   We returned to the hotel and had a few more classes, then, after lunch, headed over to the Pier for a group run in the rain. I declined to join - I feared I'd develop blisters, had no "back up" running shoes, and didn't want to risk getting chilled. I started walking around the shopping center, but the rain picked up so I headed back to the car and read. Thank God for my Kindle!!  I enjoyed the quiet time and the sound of rain on the car.  After the run, we headed back to the hotel for more class time.

Thursday would be my last day with the group. I hung with them until noon - we had a morning class. Then I had lunch and got a ride over to Ironman Village.   I had Blair Ryan driving me over, and Daniel Vincent along for the ride. Dan wanted to get some IM gear for a friend.  I would be meeting a friend of mine from High School - Tom Avallon, and his wife Erin, who were flying in from Switzerland, so Tom could do IMFL.

As we arrived in Ironman Village, we saw a line that was almost a mile long! I started to stress out. I knew right away that this was the line to pick up your registration packet. Packet pickup was scheduled to go through 4 pm and it was about 1 pm.  We quickly revamped the plan and I was dropped off at the Moondrifter to wait for Tom and Erin to arrive. They were having lunch.  Bless their hearts, Blair and Daniel didn't want to leave me, but would rather wait with me until Tom and Erin arrived. But I was in no mood to handle that!!  I'm one of those people that cannot ask for help, and when I do need it, I feel very uncomfortable. I know, it's a huge character flaw! Especially since I'm the first person to help a friend in need!  But I was very unsettled with stress and anxiety at this point, and having them wait with me would have been another stressor, so they were gracious enough to see this, understand it, respect it, and leave me, which I'm sure they felt very uncomfortable doing.  But I must say, I felt a lot more at peace just waiting on a bench alone. It would be not even 10 minutes until Tom and Erin arrived, and I found myself feeling more relaxed each minute.

We dropped off my luggage then Tom and I headed over to get in that HUGE line.  It was a great time to catch up and talk, as the line slowly made it's way forward.  I would say it was almost 2 hrs!  We chatted with some other athletes in line, and were at peace knowing we would not be late to pick up our packets.  Once we had the packets in hand, we set off to look for a place to purchase a ticket for Erin for the pasta dinner.  We were told it didn't open until 5pm so we headed back to the condo.  Our thought was that we could get Erin then head back down and get the ticket.  As the three of us headed to the dinner location, we heard "Pasta Dinner is SOLD OUT"  - Dang! We took a risk and lost.   Oh well ... we then looked at the bright side - we saved $30 dollars and could eat cheaper for that elsewhere. So we head down to the Pier and found an Italian restaurant.  There were a few other athletes there, but it was remarkably empty!!  I had a ravioli dish and it was very good. By this time I was getting hypoglycemic and cranky - not a good combination. A coke before my dinner arrived seemed to do the trick!  It always sucks when I get into these hypo crises with people who don't know me very well or just see me in short visits - it paints me as this witchy woman, which I can be, but usually prefer NOT to be!!   Anyway, I enjoyed my dinner - ravioli - a lot! Yum.  And even more, I enjoyed getting to know Erin a bit, catching up with Tom, and learning about what life is like living in Switzerland.  It was a nice dinner date with the Avellons!

The next day - Friday - Tom, Erin, and I headed out to the beach so Tom and I could get an OWS in.  On Thursday the waves were HUGE and it was extremely windy, but by Friday, the wind died down a bit and the waves were less scary.  The overcast, coupled with the dark ocean water, just left us feeling COLD!!!  I was reluctant to enter the water, but really wanted to get more comfortable with the whole process, so I donned my wetsuit - with help from Tom, acting as a shoe horn, and off we went!!  The waves were VERY STRONG and I struggled to stay on my feet as I entered the water. Surprisingly, the ocean was not near as cold as I anticipated and once I was fully submerged, I felt GREAT!!   Wow, how buoyant you are in salt water!!!   We swam out maybe 100 yards then started swimming against the tide to get used to sighting and fighting the waves.  I was having a blast and loved that I could see the bottom of the ocean and all the fish! What a HUGE change from swimming in Lake Erie!   As I swam, I saw this tan thing about 8 inches in front of me ... Hmmmm...   HOLY SH!T - it was a jelly fish!!!   Now, I know how naive this will sound, but it just never crossed my mind that I'd happen upon a jellyfish!!   I screamed and quickly hightailed it back toward shore!!  On my return trip I saw a stingray and a horseshoe crab on the ocean floor.   While the jellyfish experience was jarring, I felt MUCH more confident about the ocean swim for tomorrow's race and was SO GLAD we did that!!

Next we went for a bike ride.  I opted for 6 miles, Tom went out for a bit more. He had a little bike mechanical issue he was working on so we stopped at a bike support station, only to find the biggest a-hole ever!!  He was giving Tom grief about mounting his Gorilla cage, and how he SHOULD do it,  and then proceeded to insult my bike shop! Whoa!!  If I'm anything, I'M LOYAL!!!   To a fault.    I abruptly ended the conversation and we were out of there - Tom found another support station that had what he needed and this group was very helpful. 

We then headed over to drop off our gear bags. Here are some pics of my staging of my gear! So excited!!
I always enjoy this part and snap pics ad nauseum.  At the end of this LONG blog I'll have a link to my IMFL/Triabetes/Triabuddy Album for those of you who just cannot get enough of my riveting tri-life!! :)
The temp was dropping and I was ready to go in for the day. Tom finished up the work on his bike and checked it, while I did a bit of shopping at the IM store. There would be no finisher jacket purchase for me - WAY too much, but I did want the Addidas collared polo to commemorate my IMFL experience. Oh yeah, and a coffee mug and cap.

The rest of the day was a blur. I passed on dinner, opting to graze on Clif bars and Lara bars all day. And I headed to bed pretty dang early. 

Race day:
Up and into my kit.  For this race, I'd be changing at T1 and T2 - unlike any other race.  We prepared to leave then Erin joined Tom and I as we headed over to the transition area.   Last minute bike check, body glide application, race strategy talk and just experiencing the energy of the morning!! I enjoyed having Tom around - he was a perfect companion, balancing giving me enough personal space to deal with my nerves and neuroses, and being good company, good positive energy and very grounded.  I can often be a loner at these things, or, I can have my nervous energy translate into tension or ultra-gabby status ... (who me???!)  I have to say, Tom had a goal: to go under 12 hrs.  He'd done this race 3 yrs ago and did 12:30 (esque) so this was his next goal. Plus, he was coming off a DNF in Switzerland due to a bad crash on the bike, so he was ready to redeem himself.  I gotta say, Tom was in great shape!  Fit and trim and muscular!  I could tell he'd put in the time and had been training to meet this goal!  My goal was to go faster than Rev3 (14:47) ... I'd heard all along this course is "flat and fast" so, if I could maintain my fitness, it seemed like a reasonable goal.  No longer could I say "I just want to finish!" - I knew, barring injury, I would finish. What I wanted was a PR.

We headed down to the beach. The sand was COLD.  MUY FRIO!!!!  I couldn't stand in the sand without shoes - it was akin to standing barefoot in the snow.  So I wore my crocs ... and subsequently lost them :(  Boo.  Erin was around, but I really didn't want to saddle her with my vest and shoes - I was prepared to lose them.  I suppose had I seen her, I would have asked her to take them to the room, but by now there were TONS of people around and the athletes were separated from the fans and spectators.  I saw lots and lots of people wearing socks in the water and on the sand. WHAT A GREAT IDEA~!!!!  I would have gladly sacrificed a cruddy pair of old sock over my crocs.   Good to know for IMSG.

The music began and the pros went off. Now it was our turn.  The waves were better than the prior day, so I was happy about that.  I seeded myself upfront. My (erroneous) thought was that I'm a strong swimmer, let me nail the swim and get out early so I don't get caught in the mass of swimmers.  Gun went off and I began running into the water.  I started swimming as soon as I could. What happened? Same old issue: HR blew up and panic set in, causing me to slow up and become afraid to put my face in the water.  :(  Those of you that know me, know I'm a good swimmer, a strong swimmer. But when these attacks happen, I'm brought down to "basic survival",  even if it means dog-paddle.

Two separate women saw me and were very kind and supportive. The first said "You are OK. Let the swimmers thin out and you'll settle in".  The second said something similar, encouraging me, yet sympathetic - I can't tell you how much that meant to me!!!  There are some great people in this sport! They wasted energy to comfort me.   Of course, they were right.  I lost only maybe 4 minutes and then I found my groove, my HR settled and my breathing was great.  THEN I started chunking off the swimmers!  I knew I could salvage my swim and I started swimming pretty strong, passing people.  The first loop done, we had quite a bit of beach to run, which slowed me down - I would have preferred to swim point to point, but this is the course and this is how they get our split.  As I ran through I heard my name being yelled out and knew: My peeps are here!!! It energized me! The second loop went well and I had to believe my swim time would be close to 1:20!   As I exited, there was some bottlenecking going on, and the official swim exit was quite a bit inland - boo!  I think my final time was 1:27 ... I was a bit disappointed.  I know I can do a 1:15 or better, if planets align for me one race day ... I just need to work on that mass start, and pick it up a little bit more.  Eh, it was my best effort for THIS day, given these circumstances. And, I'm okay with that.

In T1 I put on my cycling shorts (dry!) and a cycling jersey. I also needed to put on my CGM and begin the calibration phase - in 2 hrs I'd need to stop and enter 2 blood glucose values. Poor planning on my end - I should have done this all yesterday. Boo!   My next mistake was not getting sunscreen. Shame on me :(  My face paid the price as it burned, chapped and peeled for then next week.

I got my bike and zipped out of transition.  My first thoughts: FARK!!! I AM FREEZING!!!   No socks. No leg warmers, no arm warmers. Wet hair. AND COLD AS SNOT!!  Speaking of snot, lots of that as my nose started to run in the cold.  I tried to ignore the cold. I tried to focus on spinning and  leg turnover and settling in. But I am telling you, as someone that alpine skies, as someone that lives in CLEVELAND, as someone that has done the January 1st Polar Bear Plunge - running into Lake Erie sans wetsuit - I can honestly say I've never been colder.   I was numb.  I know we were all cold. But so many of my comrades had more clothes than me and I was immediately regretting my clothing choices.   Oh, yeah, and "FLAT"?? NOT. SO. MUCH.   There were 3 good climbs on the course. Factor in the WIND - which exacerbated my frozen state, and I was pretty miserable for the first half of the ride. I considered quitting. Seriously. I was miserable, and now I was coughing and having trouble breathing. When I inhaled fully, I had pain in the peripheral lung regions.  What was going on???  I coughed for almost 3 hrs.  Most of the road was in the shade. As the sun rose, the left side was sunny and maybe 8 degrees warmer.  I didn't care that it was farther off course, I cycled in the sun whenever I could.

At the 2 hr mark I stopped and tested to initiate my CGM. Next up was a potty stop - but in this ride, there would only be one ... I wasn't making too much urine.  I struggled to keep taking in nutrition and fluids, but it was hard being so cold.  At mile 50 there was an out and back of 5 miles - 10 miles round trip.  This stretch of 10 miles was the bumpiest road ever - Cleveland peeps: think "N. Marginal road".  Seriously, I think my liver and spleen were bruised from being beaten up within my abdomen.

Then: SWEET RELIEF!!! My body warmed up and I was back on smooth road. Now I was feeling GOOD!!  I found myself feeling good on the bike! I had my spiritual moment of gratitude and thanked God for allowing me to be healthy enough to fulfill this lifelong dream. If you want to see more deets on the bike leg, you can check HERE for a link to my Garmin page.

At mile 90 I really started moving.  I think it was a slight descent because it felt fast and I was doing okay! I pushed real hard to finish the bike strong.  I saw my Triabetes peeps pass me in the big white van ... yelling out my name! It was very motivating!  Then they tried to catch me, but apparently I was giving them quite a run for their money!!  :)  They finally pulled up along side of me to get some film footage and gave me plenty of encouragement :)   That was really motivating!!

Into T2 where I found my BG to be 52 - BOO.  No wonder I snapped at the volunteer.   :(  I apologized promptly, and she was gracious.  A lady next to me gave me her Gu.  And again, what amazing people I experienced on this journey!  I changed into my triathlon kit - which was dry and warm.  I headed out of T2 knowing my peeps were out there looking for me.  The problem was that my gut was bugging me. I felt nauseous.  I wanted to walk for a few minutes and take in some coke, but I had people cheering for me! I couldn't walk NOW! I saw Peter, Ed, Rachel, Andrea, several triabuddies and their parents - all cheering me on! It felt really good, and I managed to hold a light shuffle for the first mile, but once out of sight I slowed to a walk and tried to get the nausea to settle.   Next thing I know I feel a hand on my shoulder ... it's Tom. He's kicking ARSE and on his second loop!  I couldn't run with him at the moment, and I certainly didn't want him to slow for me, so I asked him to move on and go get that PR.   (Spoiler: He did - nailed it!! 11:45  So Proud!!!)

I settled into my run - which would be two 13.1 mile loops. Around mile 5 the nausea passed and I was feeling fine.  My next hurdle came when the sun started to go down ... it was getting COLD!  I stayed in the sun as much as possible, but knew that it wouldn't be long before it was to go down, and I worried that the previous FREEZING episode from the bike would return.  I was desperately looking for someone I knew to ask for a sweatshirt or jacket for when the sun went down - even hoping to see Tom on his return route ... but that didn't happen.   :(

To be continued ...

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