Thursday, June 30, 2011

Worth ordering? Are my eyes closed?

For your reading pleasure

FYI, I added my complete race report (with the "volumes" in order) as a separate page. I got a sweatshirt and a T-shirt and a hat and a medal, but this is my real souvenir. Link is to the right, under Pages.


So I gestated this race for nine months, then went through almost 17 hours of labor. And what did I get? A whiny, helpless, baby Ironman who keeps waking up in the middle of the night for feedings.

That's just a joke. Well, sort of. I did the whiny and helpless thing for a few hours. And the middle-of-the-night feedings part is still absolutely true. But I'm actually doing great. I have some overall soreness, but nothing that's keeping me from walking around. The only thing that's really bothering me is the chafing on my neck, which makes it hurt to turn my head. And that was totally preventable. Darn.

When I was alone in the hotel room the day before the race, I Googled "last-minute Ironman tips" to see if I could find any other scraps of help. I ended up reading the race report of someone who had finished in about 16 hours, and he said, "One advantage to finishing that late is they let you have a whole pizza." So of course the first thing I did afterward is march up and ask for a pizza, which they were happy to give me. Score! What a great tip!

I also got a five-minute post-race massage, but I'm not sure it was such a good idea. Lying down just made me dizzy and let the soreness set in, so it was harder to walk afterward. Plus it kept the kids up five minutes later, which I could see was torture for them both. They had done the amusement park on Saturday and had then been awake for 19 hours straight by Sunday night.

I wanted to go back to the finish line to see the very last people cross, but it turned out there was no place left where you could really see anything. I heard that there was a woman who crossed the finish line two minutes after midnight. Oh, the suffering. I wonder if she at least got a T-shirt.

My body has been screaming incessantly for food and water for the past four days, and any need for sleep seems to have taken a backseat. There is no desire whatever to get on a bike or go to the gym, except that I'd like to show up at yoga to tell my friends there all about the race—and then perhaps lie on the floor for the rest of the class. (Hey, it's a pose.) That will have to wait until next week, because we're leaving town again tomorrow morning to take Michael to a swim meet. I'd love it if he "swims for the win." In fact, I think I'll go put that on a sign to surprise him.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Volume III: Mim for the win

I got my feet out of my cycling shoes and did my fancy, graceful, rolling dismount (apparently the only transition-specific skill I have). But while the bike handoff was lovely, the first few steps afterward were not. "It's the Ironman shuffle!" some jokester yelled at me. Great. I can't even walk now? This had never been a problem in training, but of course I'd just ridden 12 miles farther than I ever had before.

I "shuffled" into T2, where I found that being dry (and coherent) makes a world of difference. I took my time anyway, because the plan here was to get BodyGlide everywhere. Luckily, all the chafing scars from my training provided a handy roadmap of where I would need it.

When I stood up again, I could walk just fine. And as I left the tent, I saw the most beautiful sight: The race clock showed I still had about seven hours and 15 minutes to finish the marathon. I had been thinking I was down to more like six hours and 15 minutes. So I guess the lesson here is never give up, because there's always a chance you're not doomed after all but just really bad at math. 

Striding toward the run start.
I felt like skipping, but I had decided to walk for a while to loosen up my legs. There sure was a lot of pressure to run, though. The music was pumping, people were streaming by me (where were all these people even still coming from?), and spectators were shouting things like, "You can do it! Just try a jog!" The bonus was that I was going slow enough heading toward the run entrance for Mike Reilly to call me out over the loudspeaker. He yelled my name and said, "Keep up that pace, and you'll make it!" I highly doubted that, but I wasn't worried anymore. I could tell I actually had quite a lot of run left in me.

T2 time: 8:04


I had altered the marathon plan a bit, and given myself a new rule: I absolutely had to run some portion of every mile, and preferably about half of it. (There was an earlier plan about running to every aid station and then walking a bit before running to the next, but I realized that was going to have me running up lots of hills, which would have been pointless, as I could walk them almost as fast.)

The new strategy worked wonderfully. I was finding the switch between walking and running to be kind of painful, so I made sure to run for a good, long stretch before walking for a good, long stretch. My stomach felt on the verge of revolt a couple of times, but I discovered that if I didn't run for a quarter mile or so after every drink I took, I could keep it happy. At one point I made the mistake of trying solid food. It was literally a quarter of a potato chip, but it made me queasy for almost half a mile. The aid stations had cookies, pretzels, oranges, bananas, PowerBars…ugh. No, thanks. I had nothing but sports drink and water the rest of the way.

The early miles of the marathon were where, I think, it paid off to be 40. At 40, you are patient. You are experienced. You are—dare I say it yet?—wise. I could have run way more and way faster on the first loop. But I held myself back. I didn't even think about running uphill. I stopped to walk even when I kind of wanted to keep running. I was disciplined about drinking fluids but listened to my body. I thought about foot speed and form and checked out my shadow to make sure I still looked good.


At mile 14, I had the chance to change socks and put more BodyGlide on the hot spots on my feet. Ahhh. I also grabbed my jacket and tied it around my waist for when it got dark. It was already starting to get a little cool. I could hear Mike Reilly calling out, "YOU are an Ironman! YOU are an Ironman! YOU are an Ironman." They were finishing fast and furious now, but some of us still had a long way to go.

The course was a 6½ mile route that had to be done four times, and that third time was the toughest. I was desperately jealous of all the people heading back the other way. Some of them looked awful, but they still had hours to get to the finish, and there was no question they would make it. I tried to look on the bright side. I was still running every mile, my shadow still looked pretty darn good, and I still had time. Every now and then, a little pain would crop up somewhere, and I'd think, "Okay, who was supposed to be praying for my right hip/left foot/right ankle? They're falling down on the job." Then I'd giggle to myself; God would say (apparently), "No problem, I got you covered"; and the pain would go away. 

There was a nice man volunteering at the timing mat near mile 20, and I told him, "I LOVE this turnaound." He told me it was still a few minutes before 10 p.m., which was fabulous news, because now I was one of those people heading back who was definitely going to make it. "We're definitely going to make it," I'd tell people as we passed each other on the course (we were all friends by this point). I started feeling sorry for my friends coming the other way who weren't doing as well. I heard one woman say, "This is turning into a death march," and I thought, YES! It is! And bring it on, because I am in the best death march shape of my LIFE!


Shortly after passing the turnaround, another great thing happened. This 19-year-old kid ran up to me and started a conversation. He wanted to talk to someone to take his mind off the race, and that's exactly what I had been hoping for. Beau had done something like a 1:03 swim and a 6:30 bike but had been vomiting his way through the run (and that's the story of how I ended up running five miles stride for stride with someone who's normally a sub-3-hour marathoner).

I encouraged him to switch to water at the aid stations for a bit and walk for some long stretches with me afterward. Then we'd run, and I went with his pace, which was a bit faster than mine had been, but it was fine because it was the home stretch, and the moment to run faster had finally arrived. It was such a huge help. Not that either of us wouldn't have made it without the other, but we both would have been cutting it mighty close. I actually coached him to the point where his stomach felt decent for the first time in the marathon, and at that point, he took off like the jackrabbit he was, and I never saw him again. I couldn't even find his finishing time, because "Beau" must have been a nickname. Ah, well. Thanks, whoever you were. 


The last, dark, lonely, winding mile was a lo-o-o-ng one. It was actually hard to tell where you were supposed to turn in some spots (at least for the directionally challenged), and a lot of the volunteers had left their posts. I had one guy tell me I just had two more turns and I was there, which was incorrect by about five turns. I knew I had plenty of time and wanted to save the rest of my running capacity for the very end, so I slogged along. I wondered if my family was worried. I wondered how I looked for the finish line photo and what I should do when I got there. I felt like I needed a plan or something, but I had not given it any thought. I had prepared for everything but the end.

Then suddenly I did make the last turn. Lights! Music! The crowd roared! THE FINISH LINE WAS RIGHT DOWN THERE! My feet started moving on their own, and the spectators closed in, wanting high-fives. I floated down the last few blocks, slapping every hand in sight. I wondered vaguely if any of them belonged to my family, but everything was a blur. I remembered to send up a prayer of thanks. You could not wipe the grin off my face. I wished the road were longer so I could get more high-fives. I went through the arch. I could pick out my husband and kids' voices yelling but didn't know where they were. And then I was there. "YOU are an Ironman!"

Medal, shirt, hat, picture. I was jumping up and down. My family was hugging me. Michael came flying at me with tears in his eyes. And he said (get this), "Mim, you did it! Look at this medal! I think you did win!" And I told him I thought so, too.

Run time: 6:48:52
TOTAL TIME: 16:34:07

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Volume II: The ugly

I came off of the beach and was immediately disoriented by the frantic atmosphere. There were wetsuit strippers waving their arms around and grabbing people, other volunteers were trying to get bib numbers so they could get the transition bags ready, everyone was shouting, I was trying to remember all the instructions we'd been given, and all the other athletes were running, running, running.

The volunteers got my wetsuit off and handed me my bag. I saw lots of people dumping their stuff out right there on the grass, so I did that, too. An arm warmer fall out and tried to put it on, but I was wet and could get it only halfway up. Then my Chamois Butt'r fell out, and I remembered I wanted to put that on under my bike shorts and probably shouldn't do that out in the open. So I gathered everything up again and followed others into the changing tent. It was dark and humid and loud, and all the volunteers were busy helping other people. So I dumped my stuff out again and just looked at it. Okay, here's a towel. I could dry off. Here's a Snickers. I could take a bite. Here's a sock. I could put that on! 

It went like that until someone got free and came over to help me. At the time, I was trying to decide whether I wanted to wear my jacket or not, and I was just sitting there staring at it. The woman took one look at me and asked, with the tilted head of concern, if I was okay. I replied, "I'm just trying to figure out whether I'm cold or not." Then I immediately thought, You give any more stupid answers like that, and you're going to find yourself being evaluated in the medical tent. So I pulled myself together the best I could, laughed, and said, "I guess that means I am." 

She helped me finish getting ready, including the jacket, and then sent me out to the sunscreeners. It's crazy—a dozen people standing there with white hands, ready to slap them on any bare skin they find. When they did my neck it stung like crazy, and I suspected that my wetsuit had chafed me. (Let me just stop and tell you right now, I suspected right. I still look like someone tried to strangle me with a wire. Oops.)

Okay, off to get my bike, and again with the running, running, running. I would guess 30 women passed me just in the 100 yards from the sunscreen to the bikes. My assigned spot was the last one at the end of a row, and believe me, with 2,500 bicycles in the transition area, that was an amazing bit of luck, especially in the state I was in.

And what was the state I was in, exactly? Freezing cold, I think. I didn't feel cold, but I was in some sort of semi-stupor, and my teeth were chattering uncontrollably. So I guess water temperature was a factor after all, just not in the way I expected. 

Huh. I didn't think of it until just this second, but maybe I should have been running to stay warm. 

T1 time: 15:24


I saw my family as I headed out on the bike, and it turned out the teeth-chattering was controllable, because I clamped my jaws together and smiled so nobody would worry about me. I tried to wave but ended up sort of just raising a claw; it was frozen around the handlebars.

That's me in the blue, getting passed.
My plan was to start out extremely easy and then settle into a comfortable effort. This plan caused me to get passed by hundreds and hundreds of cyclists in the first loop. Either they had different plans, or their "easy" pace was a lot faster than mine. Didn't matter. In fact, I found it entertaining: I swam faster than that guy. Yep, swam faster than that guy. Oh, and faster than that guy! Times hundreds. (Eventually the first pro passed me, and I knew I was now getting lapped by some of the people, so that game got less amusing.)

I got nice and warm again on the hills, so I took off my jacket and arm warmers at an aid station around mile 30 and stowed them away. I was afraid that I'd missed my chance to get sunscreen for my arms, but the volunteers had it. It turned out they had pretty much everything. Oh, also? The weather for this race was absolutely perfect. The only time I was ever hot was in the couple of miles before I got my jacket off. And if there was any wind, I didn't notice it.


The bike leg took a lot more focus than I had expected, just because of the number of people on the course. I'd never ridden in that kind of crowd and was worried that I would inadvertently get in people's way, but I think I did okay. I actually got annoyed a few times because so many people were in my way. They would do things like pass me going down a hill, then sit up and coast the second they were around me. After you get passed, you're required to drop back 30 feet so you won't be drafting (you can't just pass them right back), and so when someone did that, it would mean I would have to hit my brakes when I didn't want to in order to avoid a violation.

As I came back toward town to make the first loop, the time on my bike computer was approaching four hours, and I started getting really worried. Was this taking too long? It seemed way too slow. Not only that, but I was feeling… well, not bad, but not peppy, either. I hadn't felt like eating much (though I had been drinking well), and I was concerned that a lack of calories could come back to bite me later. Plus I still had to do those hills again. Somehow I needed to figure out how to finish fresh enough to run a marathon but still with time to run a marathon.

I decided that, of the two, having time should take priority, so I really needed to keep up the pace or go even faster on the second lap (that's exactly what I did, though I didn't realize it at the time). I told myself that running was going to use completely different muscles anyway, so I would still be fresh. I told myself that I had trained for this like I had never trained for anything before, and I had yet to really find out just what I could do. I told myself it wasn't for nothing that I had ridden my bike up the Molt hill a million times.


Something strange happened in the middle of the second lap, somewhere near the end of the hills that never seemed to end: I gave up. I'm not sure why exactly, because I wasn't suffering physically, and I was pretty much perfectly executing the plan that I had set for myself. I was just tired, and tired of all the mental effort, and tired of the same guy cutting me off at the bottom of every descent and making me lose momentum, and I realized that the word "CRUSHER" written across the road in chalk referred to the hill I was about to climb, and it suddenly hit home that it was truly possible that I might not make it.

I mean, it's practically tradition for me to do fine on the swim and bike and then completely crash and burn on the run. That was M.H.'s worst fear, and he ought to know, since he's sat there watching triathlon organizers pack up the finish line before I had crossed it on more than one occasion. I had assured him it wasn't going to happen this time, but I wasn't really sure. How could I be sure? And was I even doing fine on the ride, or was this a total disaster?

I started trying to decide if I'd rather finish no matter how long it took—even though a finish after the cutoff would be horribly painful and totally devastating—or if I'd just pack it in whenever it became clear that I wasn't going to make it within the time limit and at least save myself the pain. Those were both, to put it mildly, unappealing choices, and I decided I would just have to run my heart out and try not to have to make one of them. I had been expecting the end of the bike leg to be a huge relief, but all I felt was grim determination.

Bike time: 8:06:49

Ironman Coeur d'Alene race report: Volume I

In the days leading up to the Ironman, I had to explain several times to my 10-year-old why I was not going to win the race, why I was not going to attempt to win the race, and why I was not really considering it a "race" at all, but more of a challenge to be overcome. But Michael persisted. Would I at least try to win? For him? How could I be sure I wouldn't win? What would happen if I did win?

I told him that if I did win, it would probably be national news and that the headlines would say, "Overweight 40-year-old mother of two defeats world's most elite triathletes." (My husband agreed that it would be national news but said the headline would more likely be, "2,000 triathletes at front of race die in asteroid impact.")

I don't think Michael was ever fully convinced. Some part of his mind was holding out hope that I could defy all the odds and be not just an Ironman, but the Ironman champion. It was a sweet realization for me as a mother that that was his view of me, and I loved it when he came up with the phrase, "Mim for the win!" (Our pet names for each other are Mik and Mim.)


Ironman morning arrived. It was surreal, like the morning of my college graduation/moving/wedding day (yes, and in the space of about 12 hours), when I was thinking, "Is this really the day I'm going to do all that?"

My parents had had the kids spend the night with them at their hotel, so my husband and I didn't have to worry about anything but our assigned roles: M.H.'s was to handle everything, pack everything, carry everything, remember everything, know the way to the race, find a place to park, get me anything I needed, encourage me without being annoying, and support me in any way he could think of.

Mine was to try to eat a big breakfast.

Now, I was proud of myself for how deliberately focused and calm I was keeping my mind, but my stomach wasn't buying it for a minute. It knew something was up and was doing flips. But I ate well. At some point in my multiyear Ironman obsession, I had read about a study that said the athletes who ate the most calories at breakfast ran the fastest marathons, and I was clinging to any advantage I could give myself.


We got to the race site around 5 a.m., but with all the transition bags already taken care of, there was nothing much left to do. I just filled up my aerobar water bottles, got my bike tires inflated, and used the bathroom about 15 times. (My stomach was definitely on to me.) My husband helped me squeeze into my wetsuit, and we went over to get a good spot to watch the pro start. I had never seen an Ironman in person and really didn't want to miss any part of the experience!

My parents and kids showed up a few minutes later. We got some hugs, and some photos, and then it was time for me to head down to the beach (just typing that made my stomach go on red alert again). M.H. was still playing his part and stayed with me all the way to the swim entrance. I should mention that he did a great job getting me to the starting line prepared and sane and in one piece. He never complained a peep all day, from the moment the alarm went off at 4 a.m. until 2 a.m. after the race, when I asked him if he'd get up and untuck the sheets because they were hurting my feet.

Dexter is looking at the other camera, and
Michael is still all "Mim for the win!"

The clock turned over to 7:00:00, the cannon went off, and I watched in awe as the mass of bodies went flying into the water. I was near the back, heading down slowly, hoping that things might thin out a bit before it was my turn to get going. I walked into waist-deep water, splashed my face a couple of times, and went for it. Wow! I thought. This is it! I'm swimming in the Ironman! Then all of the sudden, I wasn't. That mass of bodies was in the way, and I was treading water in the Ironman.

People were everywhere. No one could do anything. My only thought was to stay away from breaststrokers and other flailing feet. I made a game of looking for an open area, darting for it, swimming until I ran into feet again, then sighting the next open area. I probably should have started more toward the middle of the pack, because I was passing everybody. With all the arms in the air at once, it was no use trying to see the buoys. I figured that if there were people to the right, left, front, and back of me, all swimming in more or less the same direction, then I couldn't be too far off course.

It was like that all the way to the first turnaround, where approximately all 2,500 athletes arrived at the exact same point at the exact same time. Everyone went vertical in the water and couldn't move. People were yelling angrily. Some jerk right in front of me decided to fight off the crowd by repeatedly kicking out, hard, obviously with the intent to hurt someone. He got me in the palm of my hand so hard that it stung for the rest of the swim (but, hey, at least he didn't get my nose). I was briefly annoyed. That was stupid and selfish, and frankly useless, because it wasn't the people behind him who were his problem. I can't imagine jeopardizing someone else's whole day, less than 30 minutes in, over a situation none of us had any control over.


Somehow we moved around the turn, and I found the way back to the beach a bit easier, crowd-wise. I came out of the first loop in 37 minutes and was thrilled with a capital R (pronounced thuh-Rilled!!) to be ahead of my best-case-scenario pace, feeling great, and having finally left most of the slower swimmers behind me.

I decided to swim the second loop smarter and swung way to the outside of the pack. I didn't have anyone swimming to my right any more, but I could see the buoys, I could swim normally, and I was having so much fun! In all the worry about the cold water, I never imagined that the real challenge would be finding some of it to swim in. My second loop was also 37 minutes, so I paced it perfectly and was exactly where I wanted to be.

Swim time: 1:14:58

Dexter drew this comic for me in the car on the way home. It's pretty much how it felt out there.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Made it home

Long drive today, and each time we got out of the car, I had to warm up a bit before I could walk. It's really not as bad as it could be, though, and it's a small price to pay for having finished an Ironman. (Plus, as a bonus, my kids find my pain amusing.)

I have no idea why this should be, but I couldn't sleep more than a couple of hours last night, and couldn't sleep in the car on the way home, either. Last night, I was super excited and in too much pain to really get comfortable. I mostly just lay in bed with a water bottle, trying to get rehydrated and stretch my legs. I slept for about an hour, then woke up ravenous, and I crawled to the little hotel fridge where I still had half of the pizza they had given me at the finish line.

So there I am, at five o'clock in the morning, my exhausted family all snoring away, and I'm sitting on the hotel room floor in front of the fridge, wide awake, happy as can be, polishing off a pizza. And a granola bar I found.

It's now been almost 24 hours since I finished the race, and I still feel wide awake. It seems like a hard crash must be coming soon…

I'm planning to start on a real race report tomorrow if and when I do get out of bed.

Perfect day

That. Was. AWESOME!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Pre-race report

Well, I know I said goodbye on Thursday, but here I am alone in our hotel room with a laptop and an Internet connection, and I guess I can give you the boring part of my race report early.

I've been to the check-in, the expo, the welcome dinner, the athlete's meeting, the bike dropoff, the bag dropoff, and the expo again. I decided there was no realistic way to "keep my bib number visible at all times" without a race belt, so I bought one, along with a water bottle and a pink T-shirt with "IRONMOM" across the front that was calling my name and making the kids freak out. (And here I thought I was so original and clever.)

Also, I was wrong. It's NICE to have dropped off my bike and gear bags, and to have those irrevocable decisions behind me. I feel lighter, and I'll have almost nothing to think about tomorrow morning.

Speaking of lighter, my husband has taken the kids to an amusement park for the rest of the day, and will then drop them off at my parents' hotel to spend the night there. The chaos level just dropped 398%, and I can actually taste the silence.

I dipped my hand in the lake (54.5 degrees at this hour) yesterday, and since I was braced for mountain-stream cold, I was actually pleasantly surprised. I've seen a lot of studly-looking triathletes come out of the water complaining, though, and we overheard one declare to his friends that they were all just going to have to "embrace the suck."

I wish I could say I felt super-fantastic, in the best shape of my life, and raring to go, but truthfully I feel stressed, chubby, and not completely sure my body remembers how to do this. But to my self-doubts, I say this: The stress can be turned into a force for good. You feel chubby because these people doing this race are magnificent specimens. And you did not undo 38 weeks of hard work with two weeks of pretending that "taper" meant "lie around doing nothing." (Wait, was that encouraging?)

In case I forget to mention it later in my elation/despair, all your words of advice and encouragement have meant a lot to me. Thanks for reading this! I've loved both the training and the writing, but making a couple of imaginary friends along the way has been even better. (Yeah, I just called you "imaginary." You know what I mean.)

Thursday, June 23, 2011


OK! The piles are in suitcases, the list is checked, and my husband is hell-bent on pulling out of the driveway in, um, 29 minutes. I don't know if I'll be blogging again or not before the race, but I'll surely find a way to check back here for any words of encouragement or last-minute advice you may wish to post. :)

Right now I'm focused on not letting nerves ruin my fun. This is my birthday present, after all. And as my five-year-old niece exclaimed last night at her birthday party after opening some fairy doll thing: "I've wanted this for my whole entire LIFE!"

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Second blog post in one day = can't think about anything else

Besides packing, this was also a day of answering questions about the race. Does this sound familiar to anyone?

Acquaintance: So in your marathon this weekend, you're running 26 miles?
Me: (Knowing she doesn't understand but not wanting to get into it) Uh-huh.
Acquaintance: But there's also swimming and biking in it?
Me: That's right.
Acquaintance: So how far is the run part?
Me: Well, the run is the full 26.2 miles, and there's also a long swim and a long bike ride before it.
Acquaintance: How far are the swim and the bike ride?
Me: The swim is 2.4 miles, and the bike is 112.
Acquaintance: 112 what?
Me: Miles.
Acquaintance: (Grasping chair for support) NO!!!

I swear "112 what?" is an exact quote.

Twisted taper logic

Wednesday: Bike 2 miles

Today is packing day, and here is the strategy:
  1. Go into a room, and find everything in it I might conceivably need for Ironman weekend. 
  2. Put the items in a pile somewhere in that room. 
  3. Repeat. 
If I can just get all the piles swept into suitcases before 10 a.m. tomorrow, I should be OK.

The mental chore of deciding what to bring is just too overwhelming, and I think it's safest, anyway, to have everything. I'm dreading the moment they give me five color-coded bags and I have to make crucial, irrevocable decisions.

Also, the physical work of packing and prepping everything seems like enough of a workout that it would be silly to do much else, which is why I just got on my bike long enough to feel awesome and not nearly long enough to feel tired. Unless that's just twisted Julie taper logic, but if so, it's too late now.

P.S. You can track my race progress Sunday at You just need my bib number, 549. You can also follow the streaming commentary, which is fun. I might get mentioned if I'm, like, last or something.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dress rehearsal

Tuesday: Swim 600(?) yards

Today's objective was to get into some open water to try out everything I would be wearing for the swim leg: bike shorts and a sports bra under a wetsuit, a neoprene cap sandwiched between two regular swim caps, goggles, neoprene booties (maybe), and ear plugs. Oh, and to try myself out in open water, too, because I'm really not a big fan. For safety, support, and sheer entertainment value, I also brought along my 13-year-old in our old rubber raft.

It was a long comedy of errors getting the raft inflated, and we soon remembered we had lost one of the oars a long time ago. Undaunted, we headed across town to the tiny, disgusting, ditch-fed pond called Lake Elmo, which is pretty much the only choice for "open water" swimming around here. Takeaway lesson: It will be nice to be in a clear, creek-fed lake where I'm not horrified at the thought of swallowing the water.

It's a royal pain to get into my two-piece wetsuit. My hands got tired trying to grab hunks of neoprene on the legs and pull them upward. Then they got tired again trying to unroll the top piece and pull it downward. Then I gave up and made my son help me. Takeaway lesson: Somehow I'm going to have to make sure my husband is available for this job before the race, or I'm going to exhaust myself before I even get started.

The water felt a bit cold (not 55 degrees cold or anything), and I eased in slowly. All the wetsuit-covered parts of me were fine, of course, and my feet would have been fine without booties, but it was alarming to have to put my face in. Takeaway lesson: To avoid that breathlessness, I'm going to need to at least splash my face before I take the plunge.

We discovered right away that one oar was not going to be sufficient to control the raft. The slight breeze blew my kid 25 yards away before I knew what was happening. So I towed him out to deeper water, let him drift while I swam with the wind, and then towed him back against the wind to where we started. Takeaway lesson: Nothing ever goes as planned.

The next adventure was getting the wetsuit off, which I also needed help with. I nearly suffocated all the same. Takeaway lesson: Take wetsuit top off first, then swim cap, to avoid massive hair pulling. (Also, hooray for wetsuit strippers!)

My son gets credit for the overall takeaway lesson from the day: "It looks like you're going to be OK on the swim. Well, the water will be colder, and there will be a lot more people, and a lot more pressure. But at least you won't be towing a boat."

Monday, June 20, 2011

The countdown begins

Monday: Bike 3 miles

I finally got my giant editing project sent off this morning, and I had no excuses left to not start getting ready for the race. I started my list, gathered a few things up, picked up my bike from the shop, took it for a short test drive, and created this:

IRON TOES! What can stop me now?

Oh, right, my calf. Well, I woke up with it feeling a ton better—still not 100%, but enough that I decided I didn't need to call in Dan. I've been massaging it a lot, putting heat on it, stretching it…all the stuff I know he would make me do. It's going to be fine, but I don't think I'll be brave enough to try much running before the race.

I wanted to ride more than 3 miles today, but I didn't get my bike back in time. We had plans to go out to dinner to celebrate our 18th anniversary (which was actually yesterday). It's still so light in the evenings that I could have ridden after dinner, but then my self-imposed 9 p.m. bedtime got in the way of that. Another inconvenience that will soon be gone.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Volunteers needed

Sunday: Rest

Lots of fun with fathers today. I got to make breakfast for my husband, take my dad out for lunch, and take my father-in-law out for ice cream. I am lucky to have these men in my life, particularly the one who's doing the bulk of the work of keeping up our house and raising our children while I exist in this alternate Iron-universe (you know who you are).

And so to switch back to that alternate universe…I am worried about my left calf. It's been extremely tight and sore since my run on Friday, and it almost feels like I injured it again. I have been trying to baby it this weekend, but I'm 85% sure I'm going to try to get an appointment with Dan the Physical Therapist tomorrow to see if he can loosen it up and tell me if anything is really wrong. (NOT that that would stop me at this point.)

This exact same thing happened to me during the taper for my marathon a couple of years ago, which made me stop running a week and a half early and caused much strife and worry. A runner friend went so far as to pray for the well-being of my left calf, and wouldn't you know? It was the only part of my legs not in excruciating pain by the end of the marathon.

So Diana, could you please pray for my left calf again? I could also use volunteers to pray for my right calf, left hamstring, right hamstring, left quads, right quads, left foot, right foot, left shin…

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sunny outlook

Friday: Run/walk 4½ miles
Saturday: Swim 1,900 yards

An exciting picture for you today:

This is the 10-day forecast for Coeur d'Alene, and that 70 and sunny near the end is race day. Wouldn't that be great? Bit chilly in the morning, but that's what you get for racing in Northern Idaho. (Water temp at this hour: 55 degrees.)

I finally ran my 35 minutes yesterday and also walked 25. It felt way harder than it should have, and doggone it, my left heel hurts again (well, "still," to be slightly more accurate). The right one feels good, though, so at least the obsessive stretching, icing, foam rolling, toe scrunching, and ankle circling has done some good. I know it's 26.2 miles too soon, but I think my body is just over running for a while.

Oh, and today I tried the neoprene booties in the pool. I'm not sure they're going to work. When I tried to kick while wearing them, it felt like I had no feet at all. Since I don't kick much anyway, that might not be a big deal, but I don't know if I like the feeling of being unable to kick. It also seems like they add quite a bit of drag. Now, if it's a choice between unendurably cold water that causes my toes to fall off or a drag, I will choose the drag. But if I can stand it, I'll probably go without them.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I think I'm doing it wrong

Thursday: Rest

I've fallen off the "doing exactly what the training plan says" wagon. Now I'm just doing whatever the heck I feel like doing. For example, yesterday I was supposed to do my ride and then run (for a measly 35 minutes), but the plan said to do the run "later in the day." At some point I realized "later" wasn't going to happen, and I decided I'd do it "tomorrow." "Tomorrow" became "today," which became "later," which became "maybe a walk instead." You already know where it ended up: Yeah, back at "tomorrow."

See, the problem is I planned to go off the schedule at this point in my training, but I never planned out what it was I was going to do. I guess I figured I'd know what's best for me? Maybe I'm actually doing what's best for me? And anyway, why aren't I overflowing with energy right now, having to hold myself back from working out, rather than having to force myself out the door?

The problem is seeping into my work, too. I was busting my hump trying to finish that document for my client, and I edited 300 pages in three days. Then they told me I no longer had a deadline, and in the four days since then I've done exactly 34 pages. (But don't worry! I'm getting back to work right after this blog post! And maybe a few rounds of Scrabble!)

Maybe I just pushed myself too hard and I broke. I'm not really sure. But somehow I don't think it bodes well for the self-discipline I can look forward to in my post-Ironman life.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bring it on

Wednesday: Bike 34 miles

I was supposed to keep today's ride aerobic at all costs, but I also wanted to do my favorite giant hill loop one last time, so I compromised and did exactly what I wanted to do. (I did go slowly, though. So slowly, in fact, that the mosquitoes had time to sniff me out, chase me down, and bite the crap out of me all the way up.) Afterward, I took my bike to the shop for its pre-race tune-up, and I'm not getting it back until next Monday. Glad I didn't wait any longer!

I'm not sure how the bike leg went from being the part of the race I was most afraid of to the one I'm most looking forward to, but I can't wait to get to Coeur d'Alene and see for myself what the course is like. A while back I watched a video of it taken from inside a car, sped up so it was only 8 minutes long in total. That was interesting, but frankly I didn't really see anything I'd call a substantial hill, and I know there are supposed to be some. My dream is that the hills are exactly the sort of stuff I've been training on—or even easier—and that I will laugh in the face of this 112-mile ride.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

This and that

Tuesday: Swim 2,400 yards

  • My sister is a scuba diver and lent me some fantastic neoprene booties that will keep my feet downright toasty in the lake (57 degrees this afternoon). As a bonus, her Size 12's will double as flippers if I decide to kick.
  • I went to bed at 10 sharp all last week and am transitioning to 9 sharp this week. I am sleeping more hours but not feeling especially well-rested or gung-ho just yet. I think it will come.
  • Swimming felt pretty good today, but I was a little dismayed to run into Jerkface there again swimming laps. (No, we did not have to share a lane. Or speak. Or make eye contact.) I am usually a pretty nice person and should probably stop calling him Jerkface, but I don't know his name and wouldn't tell you if I did. Just think of it as his special blog name.
  • I did a pretty good job today of not thinking about that thing I'm not supposed to think about, except that my husband keeps insisting that it's time to start making a list of things I need to bring to it. I'm afraid that might require some carefully controlled thinking.

Monday, June 13, 2011

This is exactly what I was afraid of

Monday: Rest

I have been trying not to freak myself out by thinking too much about the race. Actually, I've been blocking the thing from my mind completely. Whenever a race-related thought pops into my head, I'm all like LA LA LA TODAY HAS ENOUGH CHALLENGES OF ITS OWN LET'S JUST GET THROUGH TODAY, SHALL WE? And I've enjoyed approximately 38 panic-free weeks of being my normal calm, relaxed, mellow, Type Z self.

Only… recently I thought I heard that the race organizers had mailed out an Athlete's Guide. I had not received one, so naturally my reaction was to go to the website to confirm that I'm actually entered. For peace of mind, you see. Just being on the website, I could feel my heart rate starting to rise. But, yes, I was on the competitor's list (of course, I already knew for a fact that they had taken my money).

Anyway. Okay. That's settled. Whew. Don't have to think about the race anymore.

Only… maybe, I thought to myself, it's about time I READ the Athlete's Guide? What if there's something important that I need to deal with now? So I read it. It's 28 pages, and the theme of 20 of them is, "TAKE ONE STEP OUT OF LINE, AND WE WILL DISQUALIFY YOUR SORRY BUTT." (The theme of the other eight is, "Chances are, you are probably going to die.") I could feel the adrenaline beginning to bubble up from my stomach and spread outward.

Okay. Deep breath. I know most races are a lot friendlier than they sound on paper. (And, as my husband helpfully pointed out, I'm not really going to be passing anyone, so I can forget all that stuff about passing violations.) Deep breath.

Then I started thinking again (oops). The Athlete's Guide had mentioned we could wear neoprene booties if the water temperature was below 65 degrees. Well, just how cold was the water? Unfortunately for me, I found a website that answered that question with hourly precision. And the answer is, at this hour, 56 degrees.

This information caused (in addition to near hyperventilation), an online shopping expedition for neoprene booties, an email to my sister to see whether she had neoprene booties, a round of Googling  for cold-water swimming advice, the reading of several cold-water swim race reports, the watching of 30 YouTube videos of last year's Coeur d'Alene swim start, and the taking of a cold shower to see how tough I was (zero tough). Oh, and pacing around my office under the guise of "stretching." Guess how much work I've gotten done so far today?

So I think I've learned my lesson.

And I hope you have learned why, if you ask me if I'm nervous about the race—or really anything about the race—I will either cheerfully lie through my teeth or actually lunge for your throat.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Sunday: Bike 10 miles, run 5 miles

I was all set for another day glued to my desk, but the client contacted me and said the work I had done so far on their massive document was enough (for now) and there was no need to continue killing myself. Oh, sweet reprieve. Now I can get back to the process of killing myself via Ironman training instead.

Just kidding! Today was a long run, but a short one (if you know what I mean). I skipped my (short) long ride on Saturday, but I still have that extra taper week to play with, so I'll probably get it done…oh, sometime. I'm trying not to think too many days ahead of time, actually, for my own sanity.

Friday, June 10, 2011

What I learned at work today

Friday: Swim 1,700 yards
Saturday: Rest

Today's lesson that probably applies to the Ironman as well: When doing something difficult and repetitive for hours and hours and hours, don't stop if you can help it. It's waaaayyy too hard to get started again.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I might be a tiny bit vindictive

Thursday: Run 5 miles, swim 1,900 yards

I hadn't seen Jerkface back at lap swim for a while, so I assumed he got kicked out of the gym. But a couple of times lately, I've seen him come in with the physical therapist in the adjoining office, who often uses the pool. Today it was pretty full, and as I was swimming, I saw the PT trying to figure out where to do her session, so I stopped to see if she wanted to split my lane. She was grateful and told me the girl in the lane next to me had refused to share, and so we got to have a brief conversation in front of Jerkface that was something along the lines of, "Wow, can you believe the nerve of some people?"

I didn't see his reaction because I was steadfastly ignoring him, and we didn't end up having to share a lane after all because somebody else got out. But still, it was a tiny bit delightful.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Wednesday: Bike 14 miles, run 4½ miles

A client emailed me a giant editing project that should keep me busy for about a month—only, ha ha, they want it by Monday. So what with the work-related mental chaos and having already filed Ironman training into a category named "Practically Done, No Need to Worry About It," I nearly forgot to work out at all. ("What's this junk at the top of my to-do list? Run? Bike? Again?")

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Swim 2,400 yards, bike 15 miles

I felt anxious all of yesterday and this morning, which I have come to realize is a physical, not emotional, reaction to this allergy-related junk (that's the technical term). The schedule called for a low-intensity swim, so I went ahead and did it around noon, and decided to wait until I was feeling better before attempting the ride. The jitters eventually did go away, and I got a decent ride in, although I cut it a bit short because various parts of me were freezing off. Oh, Montana.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Angry histamines

Sunday: Run 7 miles

I decided to run indoors, where it's more likely to be free of allergens (smart), but I failed to bring my emergency drugs with me, despite what happened to me yesterday (dumb). I noticed right away that I had to run a lot faster than usual to get to 75% of maximum heart rate, and I thought it was because I'm in such wonderful shape now (dumb). But it seemed much harder than an aerobic run should, and when I had finished an hour and 15 minutes of the hour and 30 minutes, I started to feel my throat swelling up. I panicked and went straight home (smart). I ended up taking another small dose of Benadryl (smart), which seemed to help without rendering me completely useless for the rest of the day. I also skipped a 45-minute bike ride (smart).

While I moped about my stupid fate of being allergic to exercise, I Googled "anaphylaxis" to see if I could find anything to help. What I found was a lot of medical words that I couldn't quite wade through, but I did find out that anaphylaxis suppresses your blood pressure and cardiovascular system, so it would be harder to get my heart rate elevated (and dumb to attempt it). In a nutshell, the histamines I awakened yesterday were not quite through with me yet, and running just made them angry.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

How it went down

Saturday: Bike 100 miles

Mile 0.01: I glance at my odometer and calculate that I'm exactly 1/10,000th of the way done. I remind myself that that way madness lies and swear not to look at my odometer again for at least 10 miles.

Mile 5: I spend several minutes contemplating why "20 five-mile segments" sounds so much easier than "five 20-miles segments." The scenery soon gets better and I stop torturing myself with mathematics.

Mile 9: I become aware of my bladder.

Miles 11-16: I hold an internal argument. Do I stop and pee on the side of the road (appalling thought, but it is the middle of nowhere) or try to tough it out until my planned pit stop at mile 50? Every time I see a promising clump of trees, a car also appears, and I just can't make myself do it.

Mile 21: I'm no longer in the middle of nowhere, but because of its superiority to wetting myself, the side of the road no longer seems appalling. I stop and wade into a semi-sheltered clump of brambles, and miraculously, no cars come by.

Mile 22: I begin to notice that the Montana landscape on a lovely day in early June has qualities other than those related to its suitability to be peed on. I catch up on fluids, which I've barely touched for 10 miles.

Mile 23: I stop to remove a twig from my biking shorts.

Mile 50: I stop at home, use the bathroom again, reload on fluids, do a spot check for spots I missed with sunscreen (negative), and a check for more brambles in my pants (positive). I notice that my eyes are quite red but assume it's nothing to be concerned about.

Mile 60: I note smugly that I've already done more than a half-Ironman's worth of biking and I'm still well within my comfort zone.

Mile 61: I become aware of my back.

Miles 71-74: I go through a section of road absolutely lined with lilacs, and breathe deep of my favorite smell in the—OH MY GOODNESS IS SOMEBODY GRILLING HOT DOGS?? I have a new favorite smell.

Mile 84: It's officially my longest bike ride ever, and I feel great. Well, my back could feel better, but it's not doing the actual pedaling, so I can cope.

Mile 90: "90 miles, yesssss!" Uh-oh. Did I say that out loud? It's never a good sign when I start talking to myself. But it least it took me 90 miles to get to this point.

Miles 92-93: I go up the last climb of any significant size, zig-zagging across both lanes the entire way because a) it's fun, b) it makes it a bit less steep, c) there's no traffic anyway, and d) it's possible I'm getting a bit loopy.

Mile 95: I start singing the "Sesame Street" theme song out loud, because it has the words "A-OK" in it, and that's how I'm feeling. Definitely loopy. Are we there yet?

Mile 100: Heck, yeah, we are!

At home: My husband notices that my eyes are completely bloodshot and my face is starting to swell up. Since I am prone to DYING from anaphylaxis, we are both concerned. Benadryl, while it technically prevents death, makes me want to kill myself, so I take a Zyrtec and cross my fingers, but keep the Benadryl handy. An hour later, I still feel lousy, so I take a tiny dose of Benadryl. I read on the couch for another two hours, vaguely aware that I'm too woozy to get up. Eventually I go up to my office and find the strength to blog my mixed feelings about the adventure, which are as follows:

On the one hand, that went great. The ride took six hours and 40 minutes (average speed 14.9 mph); I think I got down nearly 2,000 calories without getting sick; and once I walked around a bit to get the kinks out of my back, I definitely felt like I could have run. On the other hand, random allergic reactions obviously make me feel extremely vulnerable. I for sure didn't eat any celery (unless they're putting it in Cheerios now), so I'm hoping it was related to all the sagebrush out there, which Coeur d'Alene is not going to have. But of course it could simply be exercised-induced, which means it's completely out of my hands.

Nice. I completely put to rest any worry about my ability to do the bike leg, and a brand new worry appears 10 seconds later.

Friday, June 3, 2011

One last yoga class

Friday: Yoga, swim 2,400 yards

I was groggy this morning, and a little bummed because I think today's was the last yoga class I'll probably attend until after my race. But then the yoga instructor came skipping up to me and exclaimed, "It's June! It's June! Are you so excited?!" and as usual, yoga makes everything better.

I mean, well, it used to. But it's time to steer this thing in for a smooth landing, and I think all cross-training should probably now cease.

You know, when people ask me about my training (as they are wont to do in yoga class) I always find myself parroting back to them the exact same stuff I've written about recently in my blog. It's like I'm writing my own reality, which is exactly why the Fantasy Race Report is totally going to work.

P.S. Tomorrow is the big 100-miler, and the weather forecast is still firmly delightful.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

And my feet hurt again

Thursday: Run 5.5 miles, swim 1,700 yards

Nothing came magically easy today, such that I didn't even have time to complete the swim I was supposed to do before I had to zoom back home and finish my frustrating, difficult, and not-so-interesting work.

I was beating myself up about it a little bit—not so much because I didn't have time to swim, but because I truthfully didn't feel like swimming, and the work thing ended up being a fantastic excuse to cut it short. Then I reasoned that if I were my triathlon coach (which I actually am, come to think of it) I would give myself permission to skip half of one workout in light of the 8 million I have fully and faithfully completed. So there.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Puppies, roses, sunshine, etc.

Wednesday: Bike 25 miles, run 6.5 miles

Everything today went better than expected. Everything!

I had a busy work day, but it ended up going faster than I had anticipated, and was more interesting, too. I got a ton of things done and still had plenty of time to work out.

Then I set out for my bike ride, and it was so(!) much(!) fun. I did my favorite giant hill, and I noticed that I was passing a lot of other cyclists. In fact, all the other cyclists. (If you count the one guy who sped away as soon as he noticed I was about to chick him.)

Then I did a quick transition and started on my run. It was warm, and my legs felt heavy at first, and I foolishly thought to myself that it wasn't going to go well. But I felt pretty smooth after getting warmed up, and in the end I had to add half a mile to my route because I ran so much faster than I had expected.

Plus? I don't know why this would suddenly be so, but my feet feel great.

What else should I attempt today?