Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Beach2Battleship Iron Distance Triathlon Race Report

A year ago, I was typing my first post on my blog.  Waddler and I were in Wilmington NC and had volunteered for the 2008 race.  I remember how cold it was on race morning; I had on 4 layers of clothes and was shivering.  I believe it was in the low 30's last year.  Would it be the same this year?  
I also remember looking at the athletes and thinking, could I be doing this in 2009?  Will I be prepared?  Do I have the mental and physical strength to accomplish an iron-distance event?  Do I have what it takes to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles in 17 hours?  At that point in time, I had never did any of those distances alone in any of the disciplines.  Is a year long enough to prepare for such a huge event?
Being a volunteer at the 2008 event, was exciting. It had uncovered a deep desire to test my mental strength and my physical abilities to an extreme level, and to push my comfort zone far beyond what I've ever endured, and to accomplish something simply spectacular.
Race Morning
I didn't need an alarm clock Saturday morning; I was up before my 4:10 am alarm.  I was hopped up on excitement and nerves ready to get the day started.  The first thing I did was down 2 bottles of Ensure and forced myself to eat a breakfast cookie.  I put on my bright pink swimsuit and pre-race clothes.  Ed helped me with my transition bags and we headed downstairs to meet Waddler and Snips.  They were already waiting for me.  Nerves were kicking in and I was fumbling with my gear.  Meanwhile, Waddler was cool as a cucumber.  Snips could tell I had a case of the jumbles and she flashed her great big smile at me and told me everything would be just fine.  I relaxed; she was right.  It was all going to be ok.
We took the shuttle bus to the T1 where we then preceded to get body marked and sort all our bags in the appropriate area.  The air temperature was somewhere in the high 30's or low 40's.  Whatever it was, I wasn't shivering.  Keeping busy with all the pre-race things helped me to calm my nerves.  I was now feeling excited and ready to go.  Waddler had a mini-panic attack when she thought she had misplaced her bike jersey. But thankfully, it was right where it should have been. Whew!  Crisis diverted.  
Aboard our second shuttle bus, we were transported to race start.  Unfortunately, because of limited parking, only spectators on foot with a nearby hotel were able to get to the beach area.  As Waddler and I squirmed into our wetsuits, a fellow racer sitting next to us asked us if we were volunteers at last year's race.  Stunned, we replied "yes" and then I asked him if we had body marked him.  He chuckled and replied no, he had met us in the water taxi line last year.  We had told him that we were scoping out the race to participate in 2009.  He was a local and came to check out the race as well.   Ding!  The light went off in both our heads and instantly we had remembered talking with him the year before.  600+ athletes and we happened bump into this guy again!  How cool is that!  We laughed and I knew this was going to be a great day.
The race director was now directing all the athletes to the beach start.  The sand was filled with broken remnants of shells; it was difficult to walk. My feet were ice cold after ditching my socks and shoes and stepping on sharp objects was unfortunately adding to my discomfort.  (This may be my only complaint of the whole race.)  As we got to the water's edge, we dipped our toes into the water.  It felt good; it was probably 68 degrees.  Nice.  The swim was located on the west side of Wrightsville Beach in an inter-coastal water way which contained brackish water. For all us Midwesterns, brackish means a mixture of salt and fresh water.  The inter-coastal way is essentially where a river and the ocean meet.  We were to swim north for about a mile then take a hard left turn and a few more turns to end at a private pier.
Waddler was simply amazing, she was so calm and ready.  She gave me a nice "go get em talk", reminded me not "to eat the paste"* and above all soak it all in and have fun today.  I nodded, smiled and agreed. I didn't have much to say, she had just said it all.  The National Anthem began to play and I said a silent prayer for the safety of everyone racing.  Once over the race director started counting down the time.  I looked over at Waddler and we wished each other the best of luck.   Moments later the gun went off and the race began.
It was a bit chaotic with arms flailing, legs kicking, and bodies bumping for about the first 50 feet until the first buoy.  Once past the buoy, it was smooth sailing.  The channel was so wide that swimmers were able to spread out and find his/her own space. I have to admit, it was by far, the easiest open water swim I've ever done for a triathlon.  I was in my own little world; one easy stroke after another.  The only thing I had to really concentrate on was the route.  Somehow I never spotted the "wiggly man", an inflatable balloon in the shape of a stick figure on top of a boat which by the way was where we were suppose to take that hard left turn.  Instead, I had to rely on some other swimmers. When they turned, I turned.  Off to my left, I saw a mass of swimmers heading straight to a particular pier and to my right I noticed a group of swimmers heading to a different pier.  I chose to take another hard left where the mass of swimmers were headed.  It turned out to be the right decision.  Although, I had finished from a different direction than the mass did, it didn't matter. I had found the finish.  Quickly glancing at my watch, it read 55 minutes!  Holy Swim Time!  What a PR!  Although, I would like to say I'm really that good... I can't.  The current was ridiculously fast!  (In a pool, I usually swim that distance in 1 hour and 25 minutes).
Stripped of my wetsuit, I discovered I accidentally turned off my garmin.  D'oh!  I fumbled to turn it on and get it in the right setting again.  I think I messed that up.  Hidden under a bench, I found my tennis shoes for the long transition run.  Over the timing mat I ran on to the changing tent.
Swim Time: 57:50


Rounding the corner, I could hear the cheers and the cowbells.  I just wanted to see Ed, Snips, and the whole Waddler crew.  And there they were on the next turn!  I gave them a big smile and a thumbs up. One down, two more to go! 
Not one inch was spared in the changing tents for T1; it was crowded with wet women.  All of us were struggling with getting our wet swimsuits off and putting on dry clothes.  With such a cold training season, I was ready for cold temps.  I might have over did it just a tad with the clothing but I'd rather peel off the clothes later than be cold early. It took me awhile to get everything on. I ran to where Shark and Sugar were racked (Waddler and I just happened to get back to back numbers, therefore, our bikes were right next to each other).  Ed was standing a few feet away and asked what took me so long.  I shrugged....wet bodies, dry clothes, and a crowded tent....enough said.  I blew Ed a kiss and headed out with the Shark. I have no ideal what my T1 time was, I'm guessing around 18-20 min.


Nice, comfortable and easy....that was my motto and that was how I rode.  ShirlyPearly passed me early on the bike.  She was going fast and looked strong; I wished her luck.  I didn't care who was passing me....nice, comfortable and easy and no paste eating for me*.  
The first rest stop was at mile 30 (5 miles farther than what had been told to us). Other than being a little concerned that I had missed the first rest, it really didn't matter, I was doing fine.  I stopped for a bathroom break and filled my water.  On a whim, I decided to look at my little tracking device (you know the one I told you guys about). I didn't see any lights blinking.  I thought the device was dead.  I pushed the power button a couple times and still nothing.  I put it back in my pocket, shrugged and said "oh well".  I later learned that in bright sunlight, the lights can't be seen and you need to put a hand over the device to see the lights.  I had inadvertently turned it off so therefore, I could no longer be tracked.  My bad.  Sorry about that everyone.
Off I went again on the bike. The landscape was hard to describe because there really wasn't anything there...trees, swamp, fields?   We rode on a four lane highway for a number of miles which was actually quite neat.  The road was smooth and there were volunteers and police at every turn and at every on/off ramp.  By mile 50, we were out in the rural areas with not much to look at.  Although a few things made me chuckle, like the hunter sitting in a chair on the side of the road with a rifle sitting on his lap or how about the big white 8 foot chicken on the side of the road (with a bright orange hunter's cap on).  It was at around this point that I started to feel a little chest discomfort.  It wasn't bad, I just knew it was there...lingering.  Despite the discomfort, the miles were ticking away, it seemed effortlessly for my legs. I was cruising at a around a 17 mph pace.  I don't recall what my mind was thinking all that time.  I was just concentrating on getting 10 miles completed at a time.  At mile 65 was the special needs rest stop.  I stopped, changed out my fuel bottles, ate a banana and a cookie. 
With about 40 miles left to ride, we turned into a headwind which remained with us until the end of the ride.  I am so use to wind on my training rides, that it honestly didn't bother me. What bothered me was the increasing discomfort in my chest.  Again, I just concentrated on 10 miles at a time.  Mile 100 finally came.  Looking back, mile 100 through 112 on the bike was my lowest point of the race.  My legs were holding up well, again, it was my chest that was hurting.  I had to make a decision....could I finish 12 more miles or did I have to stop and rest or worse was it bad enough to stop racing?  I struggled with those thoughts as the pain worsened and my breathing got more shallow.  I cried for literally 2 seconds.  What should I do?  No! I wasn't going to stop and I wasn't going to allow things to fall apart now.  If I could just ride 12 more fricking miles, I can make the decision in T2.  I told myself to get it together and just pedal. Now my blocks were in 1 mile increments....just one more mile...just one more mile. 
I was so happy to see the USS North Carolina where T2 was located.  I dismounted my bike and heard Ed and Snips cheering me on.  I started to cry and was barely able to get a good breath in, I walked over to Ed and whispered in his ear that my chest was hurting.  I then turned and headed into T2.  I sat down with my bag and started changing all the while showing signs of distress.  A fellow racer looked over at me and asked if I was ok.  I answered truthfully and told her "no" and pointed towards my chest.  She wasted no time and called the paramedics into the tent.  They asked what the problem was and I informed of my chest pain and of my shortness of breath.  The lead paramedic told me he had to take me to the medical tent.  I refused.  "No, my heart is fine. I've had all sorts of tests done by a cardiologist and I'm fine.  This is because I'm anemic."  He again said, "I have to take you to the medical tent because you just told me you have chest pain".  We went back and forth for several minutes, him trying to reason with me and me crying telling him I was fine and that I would walk the whole marathon if I had to.
Despite the tears rolling down my face, I looked at him square in the eyes and with the heart and determination of a lion and begged him "Please, don't take me...I want to finish this race.  I know I can finish this race." He looked at me calmly with much more reason than I was exhibiting and said "Look, you said you've been checked out by the doctor and had all sorts of tests done, right?" "Yes." "Sometimes problems don't show up on tests until the symptoms are actually occuring.  Does that make sense?" "Yes."  "Can I take you to the medical tent now?"  My gaze went down and I replied weakly "ok".  For a nanosecond, I felt defeated.  "But that doesn't mean I can't come back.  Can I get back in the race later?"  "It's not for me to decide, the doctor will make that decision" he replied.  As they wheeled me out of the T2 on a stretcher, I told the volunteer not to do anything with my changing bag..."I will be back for it!"
T1 + Bike: 7:34:24 (Apparently, the timing mats were all messed up ...thus the combined time)

The Medical Tent
So this is normal, right?  Everyone stops during the race to get an EKG.  I mean, isn't this common practice during an iron distance race?  I wish I could say I was relaxing, having lunch and getting a massage, so that I would be all ready to go for the run but instead I found myself in the medical tent with an army of professional nurses and doctors.  They were doing this "gig" as practice for emergency situation such as a hurricane or any other catastrophe.  
I was hooked up to the EKG machine, given oxygen, with all my other vitals getting monitored as well. Nothing alarmed the nurses or the doctor, they just didn't see anything wrong with the EKG.  They made me rest and drink water.  I requested they call Ed.  Within a matter of minutes, he was by my side with the most positive outlook on the situation.  He said, "Ok, just a minor setback.  You just need to rest for a few minutes.  You have plenty of time to get back on the course and finish."  I knew he was right and I wanted so badly to get the heck out of dodge.  Other racers from the half distance were coming in to the tent and being taken care of.  I looked at the big hunk of metal hanging from the neck of one participant.  The medal was huge and had a battleship on it with the year in the background.  I looked over at Ed and said, "I want one of those."  He simply replied "And there is no reason why you shouldn't be able to get one."

The medical team taking care of me, watched my vitals and liked what they saw. My heart rate was coming down and my heart was showing a normal rhythm.  I looked to the nurse with pleading eyes..."can I get out of here now?  I'm ready to stand."   Ed had figured that I still had a good 7 hours to finish the race and knew exactly what pace I needed to keep in order to finish by midnight.  By this time, any time goal in my head was thrown goal now was to convince the doctor I was good to go and to get back on the course.
The nurse called the doctor over and said "She says she's ready to stand, she wants to get back out there".  The doctor gave me the go ahead to stand.  I did, practically jumping off the bed.  With bright and determined eyes, I exclaimed  "I feel fine!".  "Ok, let her go" the doctor said.  Whoo Hooo!  I hurriedly signed the waiver and was out of the medical tent.  Ed gave me my cell phone just in case I needed it and I ran back into transition for the rest of my gear.  Out of dumb luck, I ran into Waddler and confused the hell out of her.  "Are you finished" she asked.  "No, I'm just starting the run!" I gave her a two sentence explanation and told her to keep going.
I found the volunteer and asked "where's my bag"?  She had it sitting next to my bike. I grabbed it and ran into the changing tent once again to change into my run shorts.  I was off.  Two down, a side trip to the medical tent, and one more to go!
My transition time was over an hour...a record perhaps for the longest T2 time?
T2: 1:09:12

I had told the doctor that I would walk....that flew out the window as soon as I hit the mats to get on with the run.  I wasn't completely out of discomfort with my chest, but it was certainly feeling much better.  My original plan was to run a 12 minute mile for the first 6 miles and then I would allow myself to get a tad bit faster if I was feeling good. And the last 8 miles were reserved for an even faster pace of 10:45 per mile if I could handle it.  That was the EN way (don't eat the paste by going out too fast too soon--reserve your energy for mile 18 where the race really begins).  I didn't completely abandoned the plan I just readjusted it; I decided that a 12 minute mile for the whole marathon would be my goal.  I felt good on the first mile, and found myself running too fast.  I slowed down and repeated the mantra..."don't eat the paste"*.  I then caught up to Waddler.  It was so good to see a friend.  I told her my story and she told me of her struggles on the bike as well.  We talked for a bit and both decided to do our own thing.  
Running is not my strong suit especially with this whole anemia problem.  But in any case, I was determined to make the best of the situation and finish this race.  I ran well and would only walk 20-30 paces every mile or every aid station to drink my liquid fuel.  I didn't take any gels or consume any food.  I tried flat coke once but it didn't do anything for me and figured I wasn't having any GI issues so why try anything new?  Just keep moving and stick to the plan. Water and Infinit was it for me.
I've heard this before, but I got to say, I was simply amazed at how many people were walking on the run course.  I don't know what mile marker any of them were at but so many participants were walking.  I was so proud, I was running and I was running steady.  Spectators and fellow racers alike were commenting on my pace..."hey, you're running...great job", "keep up the pace", "looking strong", "wow, here comes a runner".  One lady, who had witnessed the discussion with me and the paramedic in the changing tent noticed me.  Every time she saw me she exclaimed "hey, your running....keep up the pace".  It was so great to hear these comments; I simply loved it. I was doing good.  At one point, in the race, I discovered I had forgotten to grab my race number.  I called Ed on my cell phone (I usually don't race with a phone).  I needed him to tell a volunteer to put my race number in my special needs bag at mile 13.  But he wasn't near the Battleship, he was at the hotel with all my transition bags.  Out of dumb luck, I was close to the hotel and told him to run out with my bags.  Two minutes, later my sherpa came running out of the hotel with my gear.  I rifled through the bags until I found the bib number.  Awesome.  I told him I was on mile 10.5 and feeling good. I gave him a kiss and was on my way again.
I kept a good steady pace and still was getting compliments along the way for my pace.  The course, at this time was thinning out but I was just happy I was still in it.  I was passing people....lots of walkers.  I saw Waddler a few more times on the course and we gave each other encouraging words.  It was not until mile 22 where fatigue really started to hit me. Mile 22!  I've never ran more than 15 miles in training!  I started to run/walk. By mile 24 it was more walking and a lot less running. My legs were tired, the bottom of my feet felt like they were on fire, and my chest was hurting.  I was done running.  As much as I wanted to run the last few miles, I was now toast. I did manage to pass two people by simply walking faster. 

The last bridge before the Battleship was extremely dark. It was a bit lonely and a little disconcerting.  If I trip and fall, no one would see me.  Maybe, some one else would trip over me and find me.  Weird things were going through my head.  I had no idea what time it was.  My garmin was messed up.  I had accidentally stopped the timer at some point on the run (for a short period of time).
I could see no one in front of me or behind me.  I felt alone coming down the last mile of the home stretch.  But I knew I wasn't; I was only minutes from the finish line. Bright lights lit up the black sky and music filled the air.  I started to hear cheering and then I saw the crowd (what was left of it).  

Turning the final corner, I heard my name being announced..."From Plainfield IL, Ronda have reached the Battleship!"  I gave high fives to the cheering squad.  Snips had volunteered at the finish line and greeted me with the biggest hug and smile.  She cried, I cried.  "I knew you could do it" she exclaimed!   That moment felt like pure happiness.  It was simply wonderful.  I found Ed and gave him a big hug.  And then the big ass finisher's medal was placed around my neck.  I never saw such beautiful bling bling in all my life!

Run time: 5:44:43 (average pace 13:09/per mile)

Final time: 15 hours 26 minutes 8 seconds
As I was sitting down for a moment's rest near the finish line, Chris the lead paramedic, came to see me.  He knelt down the same way he did while I was in the changing tent earlier and looked at me with genuine care and concern.  He told me he was just so happy to be here at the finish line to see me cross the finish.  I looked at him with tears in my eyes, just speechless.  I wanted to say, he was right...he did the right thing. And he was only looking after my well-being.  Unfortunately, I only could manage to say "thank you".  "Thank you" I repeated.  I believe he knew what I was thinking.


Post Race

The air temperature had dropped considerably by the time I finished the race.  Ed had inadvertently taken my post-race clothes to the hotel earlier.  He convinced me to stay in the warming tent until Waddler finished in order to stay warm.

I knew Waddler would finish, there was absolutely no doubt in mind that she would cross the finish line in time.  I just had no idea when that might be.  It turns out that we were getting close to midnight; Waddler's family, Ed, Snips, and I were waiting with anticipation...we couldn't wait to see Waddler cross that line.   And finally, the announcer exclaimed "...and our final finisher, Karen Merhbrodt, from Bolingbrook IL, you have reached the Battleship!"

I watched with elation as my training partner and friend crossed the finish line before the cut off time!  How cool was that! She was swarmed by her family; everyone was so proud of her.  She did just awesome.

Overall, the day was an absolute dream.  The weather was perfect as it was dry and sunny;  it was a little chilly in the morning but it didn't bother me at all.  It warmed up nicely during the day for the bike and it got a little cool again on the run. The spectators and the volunteers were awesome.  The course was wonderful.  The medical team was top notch.  All was good!
To Waddler: Thank you for being a true friend and a great training partner.  You were the one who "sucked" me into this whole iron distance idea.  It's all your fault! :)  Never forget that you are a great inspiration to many people including myself.
To Ed:  Thank you for being so understanding of my crazy training schedule and for being my number one "athletic supporter" as well as my Sherpa on race day!  You never had any doubt.  You're the best, Sweetie.

To House and Bino:  Thank you for transporting the Shark and all my gear to Wilmington NC.  You guys deserve kudos for your unconditional love and support you give to Waddler!

To Snips:  Thank you for reassuring me at the start of the race and catching me at the finish!  I am so happy you were there!

To All My Friends, Family and Peeps:  Thank you for all the positive thoughts and support during my training and on race day.  I know this sounds corny, but I could feel you guys with me all the way.  I know many of you wanted to see me in Wilmington and to cheer me on from the side lines.  You were there, believe me, you were there!

IronWaddler and IronSharkie

*"Eating the Paste" refers to the fact that many athletes don't execute the race correctly.  They go out too hard, too fast too soon.  Johnny and all the other kids might be in the corner eating the paste (going too fast and racing hard, e.g. hammering the bike).  When you do your own thing and everyone is passing you ....then you're "not eating the paste" and you are executing the race correctly.  That is EN style coaching.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sharkie is now IronSharkie!

 Beach2Battleship Full Distance Triathlon
140.6 miles
Time: 15 Hours 26 Minutes 08 Seconds

Race report to come! 

Thursday, November 5, 2009

So Exciting!

Can I just say how exciting it is to be here in Wilmington NC for the Beach2Battleship Full Distance Triathlon!  It's been one long year of training and I'm ready!  I'm keeping this blog somewhat I've got lots of things to do including getting some rest.

To all my peeps out there, here is how you can track me on race day (Saturday Nov 7):

Web Browser and iPhones:

Handheld PDA/Blackberry/Palm:

*Certain versions of the blackberry browser do not work.

Just so you all know, I am not allowed to wear this GPS System in the water or bad things might happen to the thing.  Bottom line, you can start tracking me once I get into transition and onto the bike course.  The race starts at 7 am (Eastern Time). You can do the math on what my swim time turns out to be but it better be less than the cut off time (see below).

Race Start: 7:00 am
Swim Cut Off: 2 hours 20 minutes (9:20 am)
Bike Cut Off: 10 hours 15 minutes (5:15 pm) (From the start of the race)
Run/Race Cut Off: 17 hours 00 minutes (12:00 am) (From the start of the race)

I'm not going to give you any indication on what I think my times will be...sorry don't want to jinx myself nor do I want to put any undue pressure on myself as well.  Remember, my goal is to have fun and to finish vertical and smiling.

Bib# 63

Predicted Weather:

High 64  Low 45, Sunny, 0% of Precipitation, E at 5 mph wind

Check the forecast out!  Can you say YEAH for the Sun and very little wind!  Awesome!  It might be a little chilly in the morning and the evening...but I'll take it!  I've done so much cold weather riding/running this year, 45-64 degrees doesn't bother me at all.  I am loving the fact that it will be sunny and dry!

Keep the good vibes and Waddler appreciate every little sentiment!

Time to rest so I can splash, pedal and dash big time on Saturday!

P.s. I'm sure Waddler will post her tracking number on her blog as well... keep an eye out for it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bring it on!

I'm done worrying; it's time to have fun.  I finally got my iron tests back from the doctor's office.  My iron levels are just fine.  My Vitamin D level is a little low and my thyroid is good.  I can not explain the symptoms I've been experiencing lately but I'm over it for now.  I'll figure it out some other day.

I want to have fun with this race.  My goal is simply to finish vertical and smiling...and of course, to have enjoy it.  Only positive thoughts are allowed in my personal space from here on in. 

I'll be flying to NC tomorrow.  Packet pick up is on Friday and we're off to the races on Saturday!  Thanks to all my friends, family, and fellow bloggers for the good wishes! 

Bring it on!  I'm ready to do some splashing, pedaling and dashing, iron-distance style!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

And a Round, and a Round, We Go!

Just when I thought I had things, and when I say "things" I mean my iron level, all figured out, I'm back to square one again.  The past few days haven't been very pleasant for me.  I have been experiencing all the wonderful symptoms I had months ago which include and are in no particular order:  high heart rate during cardio exercise, leg cramps, migraine, chest discomfort/pain, and fatigue.  I'm trying to keep myself from not freaking about this.  This is not good news at all, particularly when my full distance race is in mere days! 

I called my doctor's office to obtain a doctor's order for another blood test for my iron levels.  Instead, of giving me the order, the doctor wanted to see me again. I scheduled the appointment for the first available appointment which was Tuesday afternoon.  It turned out to be a very frustrating visit with my doctor.  I informed the doctor of my symptoms.  I told her about an article I had found on the website regarding iron and athletes.  Something I didn't know nor did my doctor, is that you can lose iron through sweat and in addition, aspirin and ibuprofen can inhibit the absorption of iron.  She scanned the article, and asked me about my over-the-counter use (which the answer is "very rarely).

Doc: "I want to listen to your heart and lungs.  (she listens) ...ok, they sound fine."

As she pulls out a gown, she tells me she wants to have an EKG done...a what?  She starts explaining what it is and what it involves. 

Me: "Yes, I know.  I've had one done months ago."
Doc: "Oh?  Here, at the office?"
Me: "Yes"
Doc: She looks at chart, "Yes, you did. Sorry didn't see it, the file was in the wrong spot."

Doc:  "We may have to do a stress test and a echocardiogram."
Me: "I've already had those done by a cardiologist.  My heart is healthy"
Doc: "Oh, ok. How's your stomach? Any issues?"
Me: "No, my stomach is fine.  I've had a colonoscopy and an endoscopy. Everything is normal."
Doc: "Oh, well I guess we already ruled out the obvious factors."

Me thinking....yes, we have.  Would you please look at my damn chart!

Me:  "My heart and everything else is fine, I believe my iron levels are low again."
Doc: "I believe you are right.  We should get you on some iron supplements"
Me: "I'm already taking them."
Doc: "You are? How much?"
Me: "One to two pills a day"...just like you told me I should do.

Doc: "Looks like we should do an iron test again."
Me thinking ....that's what I asked for in the first place.

Can you say "frustrating"?  Now I don't expect for the doctor to remember everything about me and my medical issues but for crying out my chart before entering the exam room.  Holy crap, lady!

I got my order for the iron test. She also decided to test my Vitamin D and a thyroid levels.  What the hell, why not!  And why not scan my brain while you're at it!

And now I (impatiently) await  for my results and doing my best to keep calm, cool and collected.  Did you know my race is only 8 days away?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Racking Up the Miles and Counting Down the Days

You know it's serious training time when you just don't have time to blog, meet with friends, or simply just to shop for groceries.  Excuse me for my absence from blogging, but I've been racking up the miles on the road, on the treadmill and even in the pool.

For the last 5 weekends I have rode 100+ miles--whether it be on one day or two consecutive days for each weekend.  I've had several long runs consisting of 13-15 miles each as well as several long swims of 2.4 miles (that's 76 laps in a 25 meter pool).  Those are my long workouts, on the other days of the week I usually squeezing in brick workouts after a full day's work.

I know that THIS, all THIS training, is what it is all about when reaching for such a lofty goal.  With less than 3 weeks to go, I'm tired physically and mentally.  It's starting to show.  It's harder to keep focused and moving lately.  The cold weather is getting to me, the constant wind is wearing me down, my muscles ache, ... I simply want to rest.

Luckily, this coming week's training will back down a slight bit in preparation for my Race Rehearsal #2.  I completed Race Rehearsal #1 last weekend which consisted of a 2.4 mi swim in the pool on Friday, and a 112 mile bike ride followed by a 6 mile run on Saturday.  The cold and wind in the Chicago area has been brutal lately.  That 112 mile ride was one of the most miserable rides I've ever rode.  The temperature was in the high twentys and into the mid- thirties; the wind was torturous.  Some how, some way I managed to reach inside myself and find the will and strength to finish.

I know I can and I will get through my training.  But for the next 3 weeks, I also need to find a way to refresh my mind, body and spirit so that I will be ready come race day. 

Splashing, pedaling, dashing and counting down the days to race day.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Sun is Shining

Warning: The following blog is not meant to be a bragging post (ok, maybe a little). But really folks, I simply am amazed at my running progress.

I've struggled for so long with my running. Only a few short months ago, I was seriously doubting my ability to run 3 miles let alone an entire marathon after a 2.4 mi swim and a 112 mile bike. It's as if someone turned the dimmer switch on the dining room light ever so slowly. The next thing you know the room is bright and you didn't even noticed when or how it happened.

So in a very fitting way, I went running at 5:30 am this morning (a first for me--I'm not much of a morning exercising). It was dark, the stars were shining, and a fog hung in the cool air. And I ran; I ran as the sun rose and the fog disappeared. It felt good; I felt good. I ran for 12 miles, only walking at each mile interval to drink some fluids. I checked my pace at each mile interval, I (just about) had a negative split for each consecutive mile and my total time was just shy of 2 hours. When I finished, the sun was shining; I was shining with my personal best.

The details:

Mile 1/ 10:58/ 131 bpm
Mile 2 /10:19/ 144 bpm
Mile 3/ 10:12/ 146 bpm
Mile 4/ 10:18/ 149 bpm
Mile 5/ 10:01/ 150 bpm
Mile 6/ 9:54/ 151 bpm
Mile 7/ 9:49/ 150 bpm
Mile 8/ 9:44/ 153 bpm
Mile 9/ 9:42/ 154 bpm
Mile 10/ 9:28/ 157 bpm
Mile 11/ 9:36/ 160 bpm
Mile 12/ 9:12/ 166 bpm

Total time: 1:59:19
Avg pace: 9:56
Avg HR: 150 bpm

Hey folks, I just discovered that I can actually run! How about that?

Friday, September 11, 2009

I shaved off 5 whole minutes!

5K Time Trial Run

Pre-Iron (supplements): 00:33:10 or a 10:42 min/mi pace, vdot 27

Post-Iron (supplements): 00:28:00 or a 9:02 min/mi pace, vdot 33

That's all I got to say.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Great Illini Half Report

I'm smiling big today. Wow, what a difference good hard training and iron pills can do!

Saturday, Waddler and I completed our second half iron distance triathlon and this time it was "officially" 70.3 miles and our Garmins can prove it. Last year, we both did Steelhead in Benton Harbor MI as our first half. However, due to strong winds and nasty 10-15 foot waves, the swim portion of the race was cancelled. We, therefore, raced a duathlon instead (run 2 miles, bike 54 miles, and run 13.1 mile---apparently the bike course was short due to road construction). My time last year was 6 hours and 50 minutes. I had crossed the finish line in an extreme amount of pain. I had broken the golden rule of racing: I had massacred my nutrition BIG time. And oh, did I pay for it; all the muscles in both of my legs had cramped up as soon as I had gotten off the bike and headed on with the run. It was a horrific moment for me as both my legs seized up....I had wanted to end the race right then and there. If it weren't for some encouraging words from a fellow racer, I might have done just that. That race was quite the experience for me. Yes, I finished and I was proud that I did under the circumstances, but I also learned that day that I had a lot to learn about endurance races.

This year, I'm extremely proud to report that I came in at 6 hours and 25 minutes (under my goal of 6 hours and 30 minutes). AND I did it with a swim included as well as running the entire portion of the run (I did walk for about 20 -30 seconds at every aid station to down some water---all per plan).

The particulars:


Waddler and I woke up at 4 am and I downed two Ensures (a nutritional first for me) and water for breakfast. We drove to the race start, in basically the middle of nowhere, Illinois....lots and lots of corn and soybean fields and one very fine looking lake (Lake Mattoon). We set up in transition the best we could; it was so dark outside with very few lights (I guess it wasn't in the budget). A flashlight at that point would have been nice. This race was extremely low key; boy, did that seem to take the pressure off things. To Waddler and I, it just seemed like another routine training day all except for the timing chip around our ankles.

As I was still finishing up in transition, the announcer exclaims we have 5 minutes to race start. Whoa, I was still struggling with my wet suit. Luckily the men went off 3 minutes before the ladies and I had a few extra minutes to acclimate myself to the water. The course was a .6 mi loop in which we were to swim twice. Waddler and I wished each other good luck and off we went. I seeded myself in the middle of the pack and just kept a nice easy pace through the entire swim. At one point on the first loop, I had caught up to some male swimmers who were 5 abreast; it was as if they were holding a defensive line so as to not let any females through. I tried to swim around the group but didn't see the last guy on the end. As I was attempting to pass, I must have elbowed the guy to my left. The next thing you know, I feel someone deliberately pushing my back down into the water. What the heck? I come up for air and I yell "HEY!".....The guy replies back..."You hit me in the f*#king eye!" I just turned around and kept swimming but I was mad. This is a race and although I'm sorry I hit the guy in the eye... I didn't know I did it and furthermore, I didn't deliberately do it either. "Dude, it's a race and you should expect that in the water. Don't try to drown me because you're a slow swimmer".
Time: 44:40 min

I took my time...wasn't much in "racing"mode, and I didn't want to forget anything. One good thing was that my mind was much more focused than my last race --the OLY(can you say "scatterbrained"). Time: 5:14 min

Quite honestly, the bike was uneventful which was probably a good thing. What I did right... I drank my water, Infinit and ate a package of shot blocks. I fueled my body for the run. It wasn't an earth shattering time but I got it done. The course was flat with one small section that was crushed stone. I had trouble going over it and noticed my mph dropped to 11.5 mph. D'oh. Time: 3:13:52 (avg speed 17.3 mph)

A little long but I didn't care. Time: 3:05 min


I started the run a little fast. My first mile split was around 9:30 min/mile. The legs coming off the bike were going too fast for my plan...I should have been doing a 12 min mile. Oops. If I had one complaint about the entire race, it was regarding the run course. The road out and back was crowned, broken up and just all in all in terrible shape. It was awful, crappy, whatever word you want to use. Yuch! Anyway, my ultimate goal for the run was to actually run the whole course. Sounds simple, but yet for me this is big. Anyone following my blog, will know that I've been struggling due to an iron deficiency. The Olympic distance in June proved to be hard for me and I seriously doubted my ability to run long distances thereafter. However since then, my endurance has significantly improved with the help of iron supplementation. I am in no longer in the red zone and my iron is back to normal levels.

Translation: I could run; I didn't experience the off-the charts heart rate, chest pains, or any struggles with my breathing. I ran the entire thing. Again no earth shattering times, but I am ecstatic about my improvement.

Time: 2:18:55 (avg pace 10.36min/mile)

During the race, it started to rain at about mile 6 for me. It was a steady rain but not horrible. I saw Waddler several times on the course and we high-fived each other, it was great to see her. At mile 10, my left foot was going numb from the freakin' crown in the road. I tried my best to find the flat sections of the road, where there was a road. I could tell other people were trying to do the same thing. Ughhhh.

At mile 12, I was thinking, "I can do this, I'm going to run the whole thing!" On the home stretch, I saw Ed waiting for me (he came to see me at the finish line). I was grinning from one ear to the other and exclaimed to him that I had just ran the entire run. Running through the finishing chute couldn't have been more perfect, "We Are the Champions" was playing over the sound system, my time on the clock was showing a sub 6 and 1/2 hour time, and Ed was waiting for me with open arms. Last year, I cried because I was in pain; this year I cried because I was so elated.

Overall Time: 6 hours 25 minutes 47 sec
Happy Dance, Happy Dance!

Figure in the additional time it would have taken for the swim last year if it was included, I would have done Steelhead in about 7 hours and 15 minutes. That's a 45-50 minute PR!

did great as well, she met all her goals! Great job!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Put me in coach...I'm ready to play...TODAY..

Flashback: It was the spring of 1988, my senior year in high school. Gripping the steel wired fence, I gazed longingly at the pristine softball diamond and all my teammates running on the field to play the last game of the season. We were out of the running for any sort of title but nonetheless, this was a special game. It was, for us seniors, our last game playing together as a team full of Viking pride. Unfortunately for me, I was benched because of doctor's orders. I was to sit out for the "rest of the season".

A week and half earlier, I was playing one of my favorite positions, left field. A routine line drive was hit by the opposing team in between left and center field. It was one of those balls that neither I nor the center fielder could catch on the fly. So we both let the ball bounce with the intention of scooping the ball up as a grounder. Our communications must have failed; we both charged to field the ball. Then it happened, our heads clanged together. I immediately fell to the ground while the center fielder finished the play. I convinced the coach I was fine. She allowed me to continue. The next play later, a ball was hit out to me and I was having trouble seeing it. I was blacking out and seeing stars. I called time and asked to be taken out of the game. A mild concussion was the diagnosis and hence the strict orders to "sit out" for the rest of the season.

Once again, it feels like I've been benched and missing out on something special. I was to ride with Waddler today and ride a full century. A goal I have yet to accomplish. Quite honestly, I'm feeling down and out today because I wasn't able to ride and hit my 100 mile milestone. It was a gorgeous beautiful day with no wind and I was "sitting on the bench ready to play" or shall I say ride. It wasn't a concussion but digestive problems that have me sidelined me this time. I also have a case of the hives to boot. The entire week I have been having "issues", no need to go into detail...just trust me, it hasn't been good. I was prescribed some medication to relieve me of some discomfort which then led to the case of hives. It's been a rough week for me physically and mentally. I sooooooo want to be riding and working towards my goal.

Here's to hoping that I can get back on track with my training. I guess my 100 miler will have to be another day.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I feel like I'm training for an Iron Distance!

12 weeks to go, folks! My training schedule has really stepped up this week for the final 12. My typical schedule from now until the big day will be:

Monday: Swim 1 hour & Run 1 hour
Tuesdays: Swim 1 hour & Run 30 min
Wednesdays: Bike 1 hour & Run 30 min
Thursdays: Run 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 hours
Friday: Swim 1:00
Sat: Bike 4 to 5 hours & Run 30 min
Sun: Bike 3 hours (and an occasional 30 min run)

I am honestly having a tough time trying to figure out when to go to the grocery store and when to get my hair cut. I called my stylist up and asked to get a haircut. I looked at my schedule and hemmed and hawed about when I could see her. Frustrated, I told her I would call her back next week--don't know how I'll have next week figured out, it will be the same as this week. Doh!

Count em...5! 5 run workouts in one week! I have never run more than 3x in a week; I only hope I can keep up. Maybe with the Nike Volmero's I got last week will help. I wasn't sure about how they felt but after a few runs...they're feeling goooooood! Speaking of running, I've got to say that I am seeing improvements. My heart rate is lower. I can run a faster pace. And it just seems easier. The iron is helping!

Last week, I also got a new set of cleats for bike shoes (they were a bit worn to say the least). This could be why I was having trouble with numbness in my toes while riding. I'm sure I'll know after this weekend (long ride scheduled for Sunday)...may be my first century! It's kinda hard to believe, that I never attempted a century. I came close one time with 80 miles in and through out the White Mountains of New Hampshire. That was one frickin hard ride. I should be able to do 100 miles in the flats of Illinois.

Oh, and by the way, I'm all set with my new Garmin 310xt. Ed got it for my b-day and I've used it a couple time already! It's SA---WEET! Battery life is 20 hours and it's waterproof! Unfortunately, I didn't get to try it swimming at Centennial Beach, cause it is now closed during the week. Doh--that was a surprise when I showed up last night to swim. Dang, had to get to my fitness center for a quick workout. Then, they kicked me out of the pool after 40 minutes due to an aqua aerobics class. Can't they see, I've got to get my training in? Time to think about switching health clubs again. It was dumb for me to switch in the first place...thought I would be saving money; but I miss my friends at LTF.

Off to bike and run!

Splashing, pedaling, dashing to Beach2Battleship.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

There's something wrong with my Garmin!

Scheduled for today, was an ordinary brick workout which included a 1 hour bike ride and a 30 minute run. My garmin seemed to be working perfectly fine during the bike. I biked east ward and, of course, battled yet another headwind. My garmin told me I had a pace going about 15-16 mph on the flats and 12-14 mph on the up hills. At my turn around point, my speed increased to 20-23 mph with the most comforting tail wind. I ended up averaging a mere 16 mph for a one hour ride (those darn red and white octagon signs always slow my average down). In any case, my garmin seemed to be reading true. I had a good ride despite being chased by a sharpei/pit bull mix and almost falling down in the middle of an intersection with oncoming traffic. I couldn't get any momentum going after stopping at one of those red and white thing-a-ma-jobbers. I ended up retreating to safety after I realized I wouldn't make it across in time.

Anyhoo, I made it back home, quickly changed into my running shoes and switched my garmin to run mode. My garmin told me I was running a 10:00 minute pace right out the gate. Yeah, I always tend to run too fast right after a bike ride and then I usually slow down to my typical pace. Depending on how I feel, that could mean a 10:40/mi pace or a 12:00/mi pace. So I expected my trusted garmin to show me that my pace was decreasing (or my time was going up). [Did I say that right? I think you know what I meant.] After about 5 minutes into the run, my garmin displayed an average pace of 9:40/mi. "Ok, something is wrong with my garmin. How could I possibly be doing a 9:40/mi pace?" I have never been able to do that pace (ok, sure I have--but only when I am doing sprint intervals); I'm not kidding folks! This is not a normal pace for me. "Something must be wrong with my garmin".

I kept running and thinking, "ok, it won't last...there is no way I can hold this pace for 30 minutes. No way!" Every few minutes I checked my garmin...this just didn't seem right. It still showed a 9:40/mi pace and this was running into the wind! I didn't feel any faster, my legs felt like bricks and my heart rate was relatively high (mid 160's). I probably should have tried to back it down to get my heart rate down but I was too excited about the fact at running a sub 10 minute mile.

I turned around at the 1.5 mile mark and now headed back home with a cross/tail wind. My garmin was taunting was now reading 9:38/mi pace. Could this really be true? OMG, I was keeping the pace! I was getting a little tired but there was no way I wasn't going to quit now. I finished with a 9:36/mi pace for 3 miles!!!!!! I truly amazed myself. Honestly, I'm not sure how long I could have held that pace, but I did it finished 3 miles!

I've come to the conclusion that there are two possible answers on how I achieved this today and no it has nothing to do with doping. Reason One: I'm running more and becoming more conditioned. Reason Two: Iron pills (this doesn't count as doping). Each day I feel as if I'm improving just a little bit more physically and I believe much of it has to do with supplementation of iron into my system.

Iron, where have you been all my life?

I am so relieved to finally feeling a little better with my run workouts; I'm not 100%, and actually, I'm not sure what 100% is right now. I think I could have been anemic for a long time. It would surely explain my training last year.

I've got my long run workout scheduled for tomorrow. Hopefully, I didn't wear out my legs today. Cross your fingers....I'm hoping for a good run!

Side note: Wow, I just noticed my little counter on top of my blog space.... 100 days to Beach2Battleship! After today, we're down to double digits folks!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Evergreen Olympic Triathlon

I admit it, I was dreading this race. I really didn't feel comfortable with my physical abilities right now. So I took a good friend's (Waddler) advice....she told me not to worry about the "race" aspect ...just think of it as another training day.

Waddler and I got up early and arrived at the race site. For a mid-July day, the temperature was quite cool (mid 60's). We set up our transition spots and to Waddler's dismay, she discovered that she had forgotten her bike shoes. Oh man....I felt bad for her. I got to say, she handled it extremely well; she never once thought about quitting. She's a trooper!

We listened to the pre-race talk and met TriHardChick. She was cheerful and ready to race. I sooooooo wanted her enthusiasm. I couldn't muster it though. It was just another race remember.

So in the "training day" spirit, I broke the golden rule of completing a triathlon: I did things that were new to my routine. Such as:

• Breakfast was a half a bagel and peanut butter (I don't have a routine breakfast): thumbs up (but probably could have had the whole thing or added a banana).
• I wore tri shorts and top (never swam in before): thumbs up on the shorts, thumbs down on the shirt. The top was not "tri specific" and was completely water logged after coming out of the water.
• I downed a Gu right before race with no water to wash it down: thumbs down. I had minor stomach cramps during the swim. What the heck was I thinking?
• I didn't test my goggles before starting the swim: thumbs down. Water leaked in right away and I had to adjust them within 50 feet of the start.
• I didn't test my bike before the race: thumbs down. Nothing went wrong, but I get a bad mark for just being lazy and stoopid.
• I tried Infinit for the whole race: thumbs up. Seemed like it worked well...need to keep using it for longer distances.

Other things I did right or wrong:

• I was straight as an arrow during the swim. I'm so proud of my sighting....I hit every frickin' buoy right on target. I could have touch every single one them.
• My transitions were a mess. I was disorganized and scatterbrained not to mention it took me forever to take off my wetsuit. During T2, I had noticed I had one bike shoe on and one running shoe on while I was taking off my helmet. Can't I just focus on one thing here? Plus, I forgot my race number and had to run back over the timing mat to go back into transition. I got yelled at but was allowed back in when they discovered my mistake.
• I walked through the transitions, I could tell I was the last in my age group but I didn't care, I just wanted to keep my heart rate down. I think it might have helped a tiny bit.
• I wasted time putting on and taking off bike gloves to bike only 24.6 miles...I could have lived with out the hassle.
• My bike went well and there was plenty of wind to cut through and a few hills to deal with. I did ok. I would have liked to have been faster but my breathing was labored for at least the first 13 miles.
• Fueling myself on the bike seems to be a reoccurring problem. I did not drink enough water and Infinit. I should have been done with both by the time I was done. I had too much left. That bad habit won't work with an endurance race.
• I carried a bottle of Infinit during the run. At this distance (6.3 miles), I was fine carrying it and drank at every aid station. It worked well but I will have to get a fuel belt for longer distances.
• I ran without walking; that in itself is a major accomplishment for me right now. I might have been slow but I didn't stop or walk. I felt pretty crappy in that I had shortness of breath and it felt as if I had a 20 lb weight on my chest. When will these iron pills start kicking in?

Even though I didn't feel great and was struggling, this race helped me to learn that I've got a lot of things to tweak.

My results:

Swim: 36:13 (2.13/100 split)
T1: 5:09
Bike: 1:25:29 (17.4 mph)
T2: 2:43
Run: 1:08:52 (11:05/mile)
Total: 3:18:28
Age group: 11 out of 11

(My mom always said, "Well someone has to bring up the rear".)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Please Excuse Me

This post may have TMI! So stop right now...if you don't want to read about it.

It's a little after mid-night and I just want to crawl back in bed...but I can't. I'm currently working on flushing out my colon. Yes, how nice!

Excuse me...another bathroom break calls.

I'm writing this in between downing water containing electrolytes and making a nature call to the bathroom. Just to set the record straight, no it does not taste like gatorade rather it tastes like salt water and I'm at a point where I'm gagging every time I need to down another 8 oz of the nasty stuff. Yuch!

Today, was mentally challenging for me. No food whatsoever; I was on all liquid diet today. Last night, I went to Target and bought 10 -20 oz bottles of SoBe Lifewater (10 for $10 and you get a $5 Target Gift card). I bought all kinds of flavors. My favorites are Grape and Tangerine and my least favorite is Goji Melon. I got to say...these drinks really helped me get through the day. I was really worried

Excuse me...

As I was saying, I was really worried about getting a migraine without any food. I think I fooled my body, the SoBe Lifewater has so many vitamins in it, may be my body thought I actually ate something. I consumed 6 of the 10 bottles, and half a container each of grape and lime jello, plus 4 liters of the salt water crap. (well, almost 4 liters, I still have to consume 16 more ounces before I can go back to bed). My stomach only growled a few times today.

Excuse me....

Ugggggghhhhhhhhh! Just finished my last 8 oz! I tossed the last 8 oz down the drain. I'm not cheating, I'm just following instructions: "Your prep must be completed 6 hours prior to your procedure"

Excuse me...

I'm done with that sh*t! I think I've gone the bathroom 100 times today. I am soooooo cleaned fact, I was pretty much cleaned out after the 1st half (2 liters) of the prep. It doesn't seem fair that this is probably the same amount a 200 lb man would have to consume. Shouldn't the amount depend upon your weight?

It's past 1 am now. I'm going to bed; of course not before I go the the bathroom a few more times.

Oh, in case ya'll are wondering, I'm having a colonoscopy and an endoscopy tomorrow (er, I mean today). Yes, I know TMI. Sorry.

Now if you would excuse me once again...

Part 2

It's now 2:30 pm and I just got from my nap. My procedure (it was at 7 am this morning) went really well today and I'm just glad that whole experience is over. The nurses prepped me within a half hour and then I was wheeled to the procedure room. The Doctor greeted me and the next thing you know I'm waking back up in the recovery room. Wow! I didn't even have a clue what had happened. The last time I was "put under" was back when I was a teenager and got my wisdom teeth pulled.

Other than being completely tired and groggy with a slight sore throat, I was good to go. The doctor came in told me that the procedure went well. I didn't have any polyps, therefore, no cancer. Real good news. My stomach was a bit irritated with gastric juices (?)...and so he prescribed a medicine for me. I didn't even know I had a stomach issue--it's probably because of the crap I had to drink last night. Anyway, no ulcers were found so no explanation yet for my anemia. The doctor did take a biopsy of my colon to determine if I have Celiac disease.

In the meantime, he wants me to have yet another test to check my small intestine out. This means I have to swallow a pill that is actually a camera. The camera will take pics as it flows through the system. Do I have to fast for this thing now? Not sure, I was too groggy to ask.

Ed was there waiting for me and helped me to the car. I instructed him to head straight for a breakfast restaurant. Boy, it was yumming too--I had an egg spinach and mushroom skillet with a side of chocolate chip pancakes. Ahhhh, food.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Open Water Swim Race-Crystal Lake

What a good training day today! My alarm went off way too early for me this morning. Who gets out of a nice cozy bed at 4:30 am to go swimming? Crazy triathletes!

I met up with all the other crazies this morning at LifeTime Fitness...I believe there were nine of us. We packed in cars and drove up to Crystal Lake IL for the Open Water Swim Race (1 mile or 2 mile options). The weather was great and the perfect temperature. Everyone, and I mean everyone, in our group had a really good swim. We all had our little stories to tell afterwards (e.g. bad sighting, zig zag swimming, and annoying swimmers). Waddler made it under her time goal with confidence to boot; IronSnoopy and Moose swam like they never missed a beat (after having a "break" from their Ironman races); Dan and Kurt confirmed that they did indeed could handle a 2+ mile swim (ready for Ironman FL and WI); and I just wanted to feel relaxed and comfortable with a 1 mile open water swim... and I was. I just wanted to get r' done.

Afterwards, we all had a "cook-out" with some good eats. It was nice to sit around and just chit chat but training stories and other things that make us laugh. There were smiles all around. It was a good day.

I decided to get in a 3 hour ride today as well. It was a little windy but I pushed out 49 miles despite an annoying tingling and numbing feeling in my toes and feet for the last 15 miles. What's that all about? Any one have any theories on this? I've heard that bike fit can have something to do with it but I haven't changed anything on the bike to change my fit??? Well, anyway I finished with a very slow 3 mile run.

It was a good day.

Splashing, Pedaling, Panting (oh, er... I meant Dashing)!

Monday, July 6, 2009

It's all about the Iron

Don't you know that you need iron to be an Ironman? Yeah, apparently so. And my doctors didn't think to check it.

The last I saw my Cardiologist, he wanted to prescribe beta blockers to bring my heart rate down. Before I left him, I asked him if a low iron count could possibly be the reason why I'm having all these issues with my heart rate as well as shortness of breath, fatigue, blurred vision and chest discomfort. He didn't give me an answer but ordered a blood test "just to be sure" I wasn't anemic. Results came in last week and the doctor's assistant told me to go back to my Primary Care Physician because my iron was low. I knew my iron level was low; it was no surprise since lately I have continually been rejected from giving blood due to a low hemoglobin count.

So back to my Primary Care Doctor I went. "Why are you here?" they ask. They hadn't received the blood test results yet and I hadn't seen it myself either. I waited in the examining room (it's beginning to have a familiar feel). There was a soft knock at the door and my primary doctor walks in the room...still no results yet. I tell her the story that the accompanied doctor from her office had sent me to the cardiologist and an eye doctor where I then have had a multitude of tests done. Blah, blah, blah. She then went to check to see if the fax came in.
Soft knock at the door and she walks in again holding the fax. "Hmmmm. Well, I'm glad you are here" as she shakes her head..."your hemoglobin count is low but not too bad; however, your iron is really low." She shows me the results: Hemoglobin count 11.1 (should be between 11.7 and15.5 ); Iron count is 19 (should be between 40- 175 ) Iron saturation is 4% (should be between 15%- 50) and RDW or red cell distribution width is 20.4 %(should be between 11.0-15.0%). At my surprise, she starts apologizing for her colleague who had sent me to the Cardiologist and the eye doctor. She explains that that doctor (who is now no longer with her practice) should have ordered the blood tests from the get go. I say "Soooo...all my symptoms could be attributed to low iron?" She replys..."It has EVERYTHING to do with it, you're anemic!".

Oh my gosh. A simple blood test would have pointed me in the right direction, instead I now owe lots of money for tests I didn't need. The funny thing is, in the back of my mind I had a feeling that my iron was a primary culprit for my symptoms. I looked at the doctor and said "Hey, well the good news is that I know that I have healthy athletic heart!" She shakes her head again and apologizes another time. "Well, after all that I hate to tell you this but I have to have you get a colonoscopy".
She then prescribed 975 mg of iron a day (I have to work up to that amount). There are three reasons why I might have low iron: (1) not enough iron intake (2) losing blood, e.g. ulcers or via the colon (thus the colonoscopy) or (3) it could be a hereditary condition (I won't go into this one right now--but is is certainly a possibility since my Dad has low iron and a bit anemic). Lastly, she advised me to exercise to the extent of what I could handle.

So another round of tests to come. I got to say, that honestly, I'm relieved....I feel as if I'm back on track and will hopefully figure out my medical mystery.
*Anemia develops when there are not enough healthy red blood cells in the body. This condition can be detected when there is a below-normal level of hemoglobin in the blood. Hemoglobin is the iron-rich protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body. If you have anemia, your body doesn’t get enough oxygen-rich blood.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

Thought I would share some of my favorite finds from salad dressing to bike shorts to water bottles:

Bolthouse Farms Salad Dressings:

These salad dressings taste so good you wouldn't know they were made of yogurt! No trans fat, no hydrogenated oils, no artificial colors or sugar added, and no high fructose corn syrup. My favorite, Blue Cheese, has 70 calories and 6.5 fat grams per serving. And they just came out with a vinaigrette line...with only 30 calories and 0 fat grams. Great alternative to mayonaise based dressings. Two thumbs up! (Btw, these dressings are located in the refrigerated area in your grocery store's produce section).

Louis Garneau Women's Flora Short

I wore these shorts twice now and am in complete love! They cost me a few bucks more than your normal bike short but so well worth it. I WILL get my money's worth on this buy! Initially I thought these shorts were just bike shorts, but when I got them home and looked at the tag, they state "Triathlon Specific". Who hoo, bonus! On the comfort scale, they are top-rated. I love the material (not your typical lycra shorts) and they don't death grip your thighs. Oh, so comfortable. I have yet to try them in water yet but if all I do is ride in them....still well worth it! I got them at Performance Bike.

TP Therapy Products

Ok, I admit, I don't use my rollers as much as I should. But Trigger Point therapy is great for all sorts of ailments. Sure, it can hurt (the hip roller especially), but that means it's working. And it has been. Knock on wood, I haven't had any IT band issues this year.


What is Stevia? Stevia is a South American herb that has been used as a sweetener by the Guarani Indians of Paraguay for hundreds of years. The leaves of this small, green Stevia rebaudiana plant have a delicious and refreshing taste that can be 30 times sweeter than sugar.

It is a natural, non-toxic, calorie-fee sweetener. It is essentially a much better alternative to sugar and artificial sweetners. You can check out their website for more info. But how does it taste? It taste good; I use it in my tea (hot or cold) and really like the taste. I've noticed that sometimes it doesn't dissolve completely but I can live with that. (Btw, you don't need much...a little goes a long way).

Eddie Bauer Water Bottle

This water bottle is da bomb! It's BPA-free and features a removable freezer stick. At the beginning of this year I vowed to drastically reduce the amount of "throw away" water bottles I use. So I tried, Polar water bottles, which aren't bad but if I'm not on a bike or running, I really don't want to drink from a sports type bottle. This one has a straw and flip top opening. The freezer stick helps keep the liquid cold and the bottle doesn't smell or taste of plastic. Bonus for me... I have this quirky habit of not tightening bottles, jars, toothpaste caps, you name it, so I typically end up spilling. (Ask Ed how many times I didn't tighten something and have it spill all over the place). With this bottle ...I just have to flip the sipper. As long as I just flip the sipper back in place, no spillage when I tip the bottle over. It comes in some cool colors too....I got the orange as shown above. (It's on sale now for $5.99 with any purchase).

MacBook Pro

I (or my company) bought a new computer (it's good to be an owner sometimes). Strike's not just a computer, it's a 15" MacBook Pro and it ROCKS! My 10+ year old iMac just wasn't cutting it, it served me well but I couldn't stand how slow it seemed. The power that these new computers have is simply awesome. And the portability of a laptop is fun. I'm sitting in my big brown chair just a typin' away and watching the Cubs game. I'm a happy camper with my new Mac.

Endurance Nation

Work works! That's their motto within the walls of EN. I gotta say, it's been working for me. I've had a couple of a-ha moments out on the bike. In short, I'm faster than I was last year and I'm able to keep a faster pace longer. I know I'm struggling right now due to my heart rate issues but having a solid structured triathlon plan gives me confidence that this lofty goal is attainable. Coaches Rich and Patrick give sound advice and keep you pointed in the right direction. The entire group of EN members are extremely supportive and also ready and willing to give you advice on anything and everything. I love drinking the EN kool-aid...want some? (They are currently closed to new members and have a wait list.)

Well, that's it for now folks...hope you like a few of my favorite things! Do you have any to share?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What the Doc Says

Today I had an appointment with my cardiologist to review my recent tests and discuss my heart rate issues. He began the discussion with the results of the tests I had taken which included an Echocardiogram, Holter Box, and a Stress Test. Good news, he says, I have a healthy athletic heart. Nothing wrong. Ok, good. Also, good news, I am not going crazy. Even though the tests came back as "normal", they did confirm that I experience abnormally high heart rate upon exertion or exercise. The Holter Box (measured by heart rhythm and heart rate in a 24 hour period) showed that my resting heart rate while at sleep was 41 bpm but also showed a high of 176 bpm while I was running. Doc says I have a very strong athletic heart.

He sympathized with my frustration in training with such a high heart rate... explaining that my heart is very senistive to adrenaline and that my heart acts as if I'm running a 50 yard dash when my body is actually only running at a marathon pace. He noted that it appears that I don't have a zone 1, 2, 3 and that within minutes of exertion, my heart rate is at zones 4 or 5. Because of this, I experience discomfort and shortness of heart can not go any harder or faster; I have essentially maxed out within a short time frame. Imagine running a sprint and how you feel, winded and out of breath, right? Now imagine having that feeling for 3 miles, or 6 miles even though your body is only moving at a slow pace. That's what I feel. I have my good days and my bad days; but apparently, race days just aggrevate the situation even more.

Doc says he wants me to see a guy who works with athletes and heart rate/zone training. If that doesn't work, he said there is a 50% chance he would have to put me on medicine (beta blockers). It was kind of funny, cause' at that point I showed him my heart rate numbers for the Sprint. His eyes got wide and he exclaimed, "Wow, 220 bpm!" He then change my chances of taking the medication to 80%.

I also told the Doc that I had low iron (a fact I had forgotten to tell him during our first meeting). I've been repeatedly rejected to give blood due to my low hemoglobin count (low iron). My Dad is considered to be anemic which could be genetic. I'm going to have my blood drawn to make sure that I'm not anemic (high heart rate upon exertion is a symtom).

Well, that's my medical update for now. More to come later, hopefully I can get a handle on my adrenaline monster.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Naperville Tri Sprint Results

The first triathlon race of the year is over. And I'm happy that it is done...cause I just want to move on. It was a "D" race for me. I didn't train specifically for a sprint; it was merely a stepping stone for what lies ahead. This was my fifth year doing the race and my slowest result:

Swim: 13:32
T1: 5:15
Bike: 46:57
T2: 3:19
Run: 33:21
2008: 1:39:12
2007: 1:40:18
2006: 1:38:38
2005: 1:38:11
Race Morning (It was gorgeous weather) :

4:30 am Alarm went off
Got ready per plan
Lost car keys
Stayed calm, looked for 5-10 minutes -- decided to use spare set
Loaded Sharkie* on my bike rack
5:10 am Drove to race
Bike fell off rack while driving
Stayed calm, picked up Sharkie and apologized, loaded bike back on rack
5:40 am Found good parking spot
Unloaded Sharkie to discover chain fell off
Stayed calm, fixed chain
5:45 am Found good spot in transition area
Laid out all my gear
Took Sharkie for a test ride, doing fine
6:10 am Found Waddler in transition
Both agreed that we should have just did a training ride today, but too late now
6:10 am --7:52 am Fretted about not wearing a wet suit (about 80--85% of the racers had wetsuits), water temp was 71ยบ
6:55 am Wish Waddler the best as she gets in her wave (#4)
7:00 am Race starts and the pros are off
7:12 am Waddler's wave starts, as always she has a big smile on her face
7:46 am I'm in the corral waiting for my wave start, look down at my HR HR is 211 bpm! (Yes, it was 211 bpm, this is not a misprint). Ok, I'm breathing fine and I'm not in any panic mode. Is my watch faulty or did I just get a huge jolt of adrenaline?
7:50 am Our wave is moved to the start line, I jump up and down in the water...trying to acclimate myself to the coolness of the water. I wave to number one fan and supporter. (He says since he's not athletic he might as well be an "athletic supporter".)
7:52 am The gun goes off and my wave starts. I put my face in the water, and have trouble breathing out. I don't panic. Still shallow water, so I just stood up and ran a little in the water. I tried again, with better results. The swim was what I expected, lots of thrashing, kicking, and elbows flying. I did my best to find open water, that's a difficult task (the course is zig zag with 5 turns).

I felt a bit exhausted coming out of the water, I wanted to walk up the beach and through transition but I jogged instead. In hindsight, it might have been a good idea to walk. I took my time in T1. I was winded and just wanted to catch my breath. I got on Sharkie and took off on the bike. My goal was to just keep a good steady pace. My HR monitor was showing my HR to be 178 bpm. 16- 17 mph---I wasn't even pushing myself. What is freaking going on? Eventually, my pace got up to 22 mph and fluctuated between 17 and 22 mph for the length of the course. (There was a bad headwind on the way back in). My heart rate stayed steady around 173 bpm. I felt as if I just couldn't push myself any faster, I was too winded. My legs wanted to go but my chest said "no way".

I finished on the bike, with no mechnical problems. That's always a good thing. Change to running shoes in T2, and feeling like crap. I want to walk. I want to walk badly. I push myself instead to start running. I'm running slow, really slow and I don't care. My HR still hasn't come down. I just want to finish this stupid race and stop running. Why didn't Waddler and I just go biking today? My ankle is hurting too, the darn timing chip strap is digging into my skin. (Later, I discovered that the strap had broken skin, and I was bleeding)

1 mile down, I wanted to walk; 2 miles down; I wanted to walk, 3 miles this race over yet? A lady who had been following my slow-turtle like pace the entire distance, comes up besides me and tells me that if it wasn't for me, she would have walked (I guess she liked the pace I was doing). That's funny, cause I really, really wanted to walk. She is now encouraging me to keep the pace going. I feel myself fading or either that, she's picking up the pace. I can't keep up with her. It's too hard. She looks back and waves me I'm trying to keep up with her and finish this damn race. I see Ed, and he cheers me on, then I see the finish line and make a dash for it. I cross the line, thankful it's over.

My HR registered an average of 174 bpm with a max of 22o bpm. I didn't want this race report ending up to be all about my heart rate but unfortunately, that's what it has become. These are ridiculous numbers. I don't know when the 220 bpm happened, I suspect at the start of the race when the gun went off. Before, ya'll write that I need to see a doctor...well I have seen one already. I've had multiple heart tests taken and all have come back with "normal" results. Doctor (Cardiovascular) says my heart might just be "sensitive" to adrenaline. You think? In a few weeks, I see him again for a follow up visit. I just want to get some control over this heart rate issue, it's driving me crazy and it's inhibiting my racing.

On the good side of things, I found Ed, Waddler, IronSnoopy and Moose all at the finish line. It was great to see all of them. Thanks IronSnoopy and Moose for coming out and cheering us on!

Great job Waddler. This weekend, let's just ride.