Sunday, November 14, 2010
THIRTEEN HOURS. TWENTY FIVE MINUTES. AND 37 SECONDS.
We're back! And before I get mired in the usual PIMD syndrome (Post-Ironman-Depression) I'd better chronicle our wonderful trip. We've come back to piles of laundry, unpacking, mail to sort, bills to pay....and some really really horrible news about our dog-son, which I'm not ready to deal with just yet (along with a couple of animal related losses during our absence). So without further ado, here is the first installment of our amazing trip, in possibly even greater detail than most people can handle....
Tuesday, November 2, 2010--We're off!
(oh, look at that! during my absence, blogger has updated their program so it puts the upright pictures upright for idiots like me! Excellent!)
Weeks and weeks of detailed planning, plotting, cleaning, and heavy lifting have all come down to this 5:00 am wake-up and goal of 6:30 leaving for the airport. Setting up as many animals as we have , to leave for 11 full days and get both of us and a five year old onto a plane is like planning a space shuttle launch. Our animal sitter is wonderful and amazing to even consider taking on this job. The dog has been transported, along with 2 weeks of pre-home-cooked meals to grandma and grandpa in Redding. He has been my more than constant companion since my broken leg and our move last year (read: I can't go to the bathroom by myself) and he is a nervous wreck. I'm also leaving behind three cats with medical issues, which has me more nervous than usual. Emma, our fifteen year old, who is doing quite well with her chronic kidney failure, but who will need fluids and sub-cutaneous fluids every day. Norris, recently diagnosed with FIP, who looks very perky and happy, but for whom any drop in weight during my absence will be a concern. And lastly, Faith Louise, our twenty year old diabetic cat with a lifelong attitude problem. She started showing signs of a respiratory infection the night before our departure (of course), which despite her general happiness and still pretty good quality of life, has me worried.
So, I get up in time to stretch a bit and do a half-hour spin on the trainer while watching an IMFL video from 2001, do my last bit of animal chores and we are off, our friend Brian driving us to the airport. The moving walkways and airport trams thrilled Sporty Spice, so Disneyworld ought to blow his head clean off. Our flight was good; we flew on Virgin and the personal tv monitors were a huge perk. I was wearing my IM Hawaii jacket and a woman across the aisle asked me if I was going Ironman Florida. I made a new friend and possible training partner! My new BFF and her husband just moved to our town about a year ago, and she had hip surgery this year and has been training alone also! This will be her first IM; her husband did it last year and will be spectating this year (he packed a whole separate box of wine!). We eagerly exchanged phone numbers. Our bikes were even on the transport truck together. In Orlando, we got our shuttle to a hotel near the airport and it even had a decrepit but functional treadmill for me to use for my half-hour run while the boys hunted down dinner.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010:
Up early, especially if you consider it is 3:00 am in California, and off to the airport again. From Orlando we will fly to Atlanta and then take a connecting flight to Panama City Beach. When we get to the gate for the second flight, just in time for boarding because our first flight was late, we found our "peeps", all lined up to board, M-Dots on clothing, backpacks and skin everywhere.
Funny to be back in Panama City Beach after a seven year absence. Staying at the same condo complex as the other three years makes me miss my Iron-friend Cecilia, and her wacky family, who were our traveling companions from 2000-2002. It definitely won't be the same without them, the laughs and Ironman antics and stories, not to mention the infamous tuna buns and holy water!
When we get here it is raining....a lot. We hit the Subway for a sandwich and back for a nap. Wonderful. I abandoned my plan for a run and a short swim due to the wind and pouring rain. It felt like heaven to relax and read my new Anita Shreve book and do some cross-stitch, but when I saw people out running and swimmming it made me feel a tad guilty.
We headed to our favorite Wal-Mart, where (I'm not lying), they had a guy standing there trying to re-stock the bananas and he couldn't go fast enough. The trip to Wal-Mart in Panama City Beach is so much more than a shopping trip. It is an American cultural experience that is not to be missed. You know that website peopleofwalmart.com? I will swear to my dying day that that camera is set up soleley in the Panama City Beach Store. And we got to see these people in the flesh (pardon the pun)! I could stay there all night. In California a triathlete grocery shopping more or less blends in. Not here by golly! The bodies, the fashion choices, and the cart contents are the dead giveaways. I see things in these grocery aisles I haven't seen since childhood, and I think might be illegal in California now. Remember Kraft Pimiento cream cheese in the little clear glasses you could use later to drink out of? Potato buds in a box? I see a LOT of white bread, and I see athletes cleaning OUT the produce aisles and gatorade. We come back to the condo and make our healthy stuff and it's off to bed, trying to get on the right time schedule.
Thursday, November 4, 2010:
OK, today I've got to pull myself together and remember I'm not here to cross-stitch. 9:00am--it is pouring rain and there is thunder and lightening. Our condo is right on the beach so it is a pretty good show from our 5th story window. And I'm watching some big groups of swimmers out there--is that safe? It's not looking so fun to go out in but today there isn't going to be much of a choice.
....stretched to my obsessive compulsive but tried and true stretching DVD. Went out for a half hour run, mostly to test another in a series of leg braces to put in my run special needs bag.
The big surprise factor here this week seems to be the colder and windier-than-we-expected weather conditions, although the rain stopped a little bit before noon. The expo and registration was a zoo when I passed, so I decided to go straight out for a swim after the run. The white sand beaches here are beautiful as usual (no trace of this year's BP oil spill that we can see). The boys came down to the beach and we found a crab that scared the pants off Sporty Spice--I hope he will ever get in the ocean again.
After a short swim, it was off to register. Because of the weather, almost everyone apparently waited until the same time to do it, resulting in a 2 hour line to the reg tent. Seeing what I had seen passing earlier, I was so happy I had thought to bring my book. The boys went to the Janus tent to make their signs for the course and then we hit the merchandise tent. The warm clothes were flying off the shelves and I bought things I could WEAR on Saturday: long sleeves and a beanie!
Back to the condo for a very quick nap and dinner before I had to head back to the mandatory athlete meeting. Same speech as usual for the most part. On the way there I saw a cat in a corner of the parking lot, which when I stopped and crouched down, was followed out of the bushes by three more. Great. However, knowing what I know, these guys had a feeder, probably resembling myself, from the way they formed an orderly line and just sat, looking at me. And they looked pretty healthy, coats actually shining under the street lamp. The mister asked the security guard at the parking kiosk and he said yes, they had a feeder and yes, she'd been trapping and fixing them. Hooray. At least I don't have to think about that all weekend. Back at the condo, a bowl of cereal and some heat and ice for my leg, and off to bed.
Friday, November 5, 2010:
Ironman Eve and the nerves are starting to frazzle. More over the cold than the actual race, I think. Coming up with some pre-emptive strikes today as I prep my gear bags. Stretched. Went for a half hour ride. Came back and finished filling my gear bags. Headed down to drop off along with my bike. Sunny today but very windy and not all that warm. Made the last minute decision to buy a new Zoot long sleeved wetsuit. Came back and went down to "swim". I use that term loosely, as it was so windy and the waves were so big, I could NOT get past the breakers. I am at a complete loss for what to expect from tomorrow. Came back in and "shut it down". Got my last stuff together for tomorrow. I am ready to get this thing going.
P.S. The pet-sitter called this evening just before bed, crying so hard she could barely speak. Despite our very best efforts to critter-proof our bird enclosure, a raccoon, it appears, managed to get it's paws through the mesh and proceeded to murder our little Melody-duck. I'm going to try really hard not to think about this right now.
Saturday, November 6, 2010--THE BIG DAY:
Approximately two years ago, before the broken leg and before Kona, I sat down and wrote out my "big dream" triathlon goals. I wanted to beat my own time at IMFL 2000, my personal best of 13. 33. 09. And I wanted to do it exactly 10 years later to show that aging doesn't always have to be a negative. After my injury, I was realistic, knowing that I may have to live without fulfilling my goal, but I wasn't ready to stop trying.
My alarm went off at 4:30 am, after the usual fitful pre-race night of sleep. Downed my oatmeal, banana and some nuts, and filled my travel coffee mug I bought at the expo, knowing the longer I could keep drinking warm liquids up to the swim start, the better. They told us it was 38 degrees in the transition area when I got there, but hallelujah, the water temperature was 72 degrees. I like heading to the race starts alone now, without the family, as I can stay totally focused on what I need to do. This was especially good today, as by the time I navigated all the massive amounts of people and IM chaos, I barely had a minute to spare by the time we had to stage the start.
Headed out of the condo at 5:15 am to walk the mile or so down to the transition. Had to drop my special needs bags, get to my bike to put air in my tires and drinks in my bottles. I also wanted to get into my bike gear bag and open up my air-activated hand and feet warmers to give em time to work before I needed them in a couple of hours. Potty stop, wetsuit on, drop off dry clothes bag, and got to the beach as the sun was coming up and the pros were starting (6:50 am). The surf looked relatively calm and the wind hadn't kicked up yet.
7:00 am and off went the cannon! Between the surg and the 1700 swimmers, it was the usual swimming in a washing machine feeling. My new wetsuit is awesome (for the chunk of change I had to plop down for it on Friday, it had better be!); not only kept me warm, conserving that energy it would've taken to heat myself, but it is way thinner and more flexible than my older one. I love technology! Plodded along at my little swim pace, trying really really hard to use my new recent stroke changes the masters coaches have given me and just focus on that. First lap done--peeked at my watch at the beach turnaround--about 44 minutes, not bad for me, especially if I can remotely duplicate that on the second lap. Lap 2--pretty darn similar to the first, minus the initial chaos, but also minus that big draft. Saw two or three jellyfish, about the size of baseballs, and tried to steer clear of them. I think the best part of my day, besides the finish line, is always the same: getting close enough to the beach to be able to HEAR the announcer and the crowd. Only then do I know I'm home free. Up ad out of the water, my watch saying about 1.33. Not the elusive 1.30, but I'll take it and I feel pretty good.
Still cold, as evidenced by this picture of my favorite cheerleader.
This years T1 transition tent wasn't quite as fully staffed with volunteers as past years and I noticed most were younger people, perhaps lacking that imperative mothering skill it takes to dress an adult in an exhausted, disoriented state that those Florida grandmothers of past years had. Which was fine, but combined with the fact we were putting on actual layers of clothes (when has that happened in an IM?), it was a pretty long transition. Let me tell you, whatever money I spent and bizarre solutions I came up with on Friday to keep me warm going into the bike--so well worth it! I had my usual race skinsuit, and added a pair of arm warmers and a brand new long sleeved jersey jacket thing I'd bought at the expo, in addition to an ear-warmer I'd bought there. My hands were my biggest concern and I had bought disposable hand and foot warmers, which might just have been a lifetime-achievement level good idea, along with the plastic baggies over my toes and (get this), a pair of rubberized garden gloves with floral fabric on top--the only thing we could find at the Wal-Mart. And no, zoot has not startedselling gardening apparel. It was stylish, I'll tell you. Headed out on the first loop of the bike and it was, in a word...windy. Started conservatively with a hope of anywhere near a six hour ride and a strategy of staying steady and maintaining focus enough to keep asking myself, "what else can I do right now?? push harder? pedal faster?". My nutrition strategy was simple. Cytomax in the bottles and switching off every half hour between gu and kids Clif bars. Knowing it was cold, I absolutely forced myself onto that schedule, no slacking 10 or 15 minutes here and there like I sometimes do when I feel full. That plan was perfect. My other plan was to make myself wait to the 56-mile halfway point and special needs bags to go to the bathroom. Since I had to pee, it made me ride a lot faster! I also planned to use that very short stop to kind of push my "mental reset" button and treat the second half exactly like the first. I knew I did NOT want to end the day just short of my goal and have even one iota of asking myself what I could have done differently. That, really, is almost always my ultimate goal. It remained so windy and cold, the only thing I ditched in my bag were the warmers and gardening gloves. I hit that stop at precisely noon. My girl-parts were especially cooperative on this day in the chafing area which was great! Second half--really good. Just felt very steady and consistent. I'd say I was in the aero bars 90% of the ride. This year our first names were on our race numbers which was kind of cool. This chick, Gina, and I were playing leapfrog from about mile 80 to mile 100. Women do not generally pass me on the bike and stay away, so not letting her get away was a great boost and I knew it was upping my speed. Gina got away at about mile 100 and I let her go, knowing at this point I'd better start collecting myself for the run. As we hit the main drag in Panama City Beach--I could feel it--oh yes, the merest inkling of a flat on the rear. I kept looking back. It didn't look FLAT flat, but I was definitely starting to feel the bumps. With about five miles left,I decided to just ride as fast as I could on the straights and be really careful on the turns and just hope I could make it. As I dismounted and my bike to a volunteer I took a second to check and indeed, it was going flat. Phew! I can NOT believe I dodged that bullet.
Into the change tent at T2--less congested than T1. I always think the same thing as I head into transition--fast, but deliberate. Don't dilly dally, but don't forget anything. Still had on the arm warmers on, but tied my jacket around my waist and hung on to the ear warmer. It could be cold after sundown. Grabbed my new fuel belt (so much more comfortable than the old one), hit the bathroom and headed out. M optimistic goal was to run the first half if at all possible and then re-evaluate. Gu every three miles on the first half and then switch to my tried and true cola-broth-pretzel-banana rotation for the second. I started jogging and felt ok! It was a really slow pace, but the farther I went, the more comfortable it felt and I knew if I didn't push it much harder I could hold that pace for a LONG time. Hit the turnaround and deiced to see if I could run to mile 20. I was afraid if I walked at all, even the rest stops, I might not be able to start again. So I just kept shuffling. I was watching my watch and doing some extensive triathlon math. At the turnaround, I knew if I could stay just a little faster than my walk pace and hold that as long as I possibly could, I just might hit my goal and not have to kill myself the last 2 miles. I seriously kept thinking, "WHERE is this run coming from?!?". When I hit that final turn and I looked at my watch I KNEW as long as I didn't trip over anything, I was going to make it.
Final time: 13 hours, 25 minutes and 37 seconds.
Met up with the boys, who brought me warm clothes and a sandwich. I stuck exactly to my post-race plan, knowing it was going to be crucial to my recovering in time to get myself to Disneyworld on Monday. Still, I had a bit of the post-race-near-passing-out-shivering-cold-in-my-foil-blanket thing as I walked to the car. Happy to see the condo and my bed, but as always, not much sleep at all that night from the adrenaline and seizing up muscles.
Despite the rougher conditions, I did what I came here to do. I can hardly believe it.