Monday, November 10, 2014

IRONMAN AZ- Here we gooooooo!

Over 7 years I began the triathlon journey, unplanned, completely surprising myself. I couldn't even pronounce it. I couldn't even swim a half lap across the pool without putting my feet down in desperation. And I certainly could not run. Yet I did it. I completed my first sprint triathlon with so much support. My coach had finished more than one Ironman. I was in awe. Part of me wanted to do one and the rest of me said hell no. I will never get THAT fit. That's a pipe dream. But it kept creeping in. Maybe in a few years, like 5 or 10. I'l have to run a marathon first then a century then swim that awful distance of 2.4miles individually.
Over the years I did just that  - multiple times.
Over the years I completed 4 half Ironman races with the last one essentially being phoned in with 2 injuries.
I was feeling good about doing 70.3's. At this point the pipe dream was getting closer. Yes one day I will do one, but in a few years when I'm really ready. I am definitely not confident yet. I need to actually believe in myself.
Then one evening after a few drinks, my triathlete friends and I were talking Ironman 2016- together. At that moment the lightbulb went off. I CAN do one. I have the physical and mental capacity to finish one. It's time. 2016 it is.
The knee injury and diagnosis was in the middle of this. I had to do some soul searching and frank discussion with my orthopedic. I want to finish 1 Ironman, just one then I promise no more running. I dreamed of doing Ironman Canada or Ironman Tahoe- lots of beautiful scenery and mountains. I like cycling hills. Seriously, I do. And if I do one and only one Ironman it has to be beautiful.
But my knee is the unknown -- meaning I may need to walk if it decides otherwise. That means I have to cut time off the bike- a lot and have enough leg power to do what it takes on the run to finish. I'm not going in with any possibility of a DNF. There is no signing up again after this. Therefore I will not sign up unless I know 100% I can finish.
Perhaps a flat course someone suggested. Are you nuts? That's boring.
What is the goal here? What is the reality with my knee? Yes perhaps a flat course where I can guarantee a fast bike and have ample time for the run.
Ironman AZ it is. It's close to home. I have family there and I want all of my family there. Ok. IMAZ 2016.
Im feeling anxious to move forward. Im feeling like I may not have a lot of years left with this knee before really needing surgery. I know in my heart it's time. I know in my heart I can finish.
I receive an email form Tri Club- guaranteed entry slots, send an email to the TCSD president. I do this but too late. Oh well. I check in just in case and I'm on the list.
Im on the list for
Wait. I made the list? Seriously?
Wow! So that means since the IMAZ fills so fast, I don't have to go the year before to the race and volunteer- saving me a lot of time, money and hassle. I don't have to risk not getting in. Im in. wow. But its a year earlier than planned. Do I go for it? Is it too soon?
Do it!
My knee will thank me.
I trust that the universe dropped this in my lap for a reason.
It's time.

So I wait many many months for the announcement from WTC. I plan my schedule. I'll have a few days to sign up and pay for my spot before general entry opens. I anxiously wait, get pretty neurotic the week before and today
around 9 am t
here is the WTC mail.
I pause to open it
Maybe its telling me I cannot sign up for some reason or anther.
I open and there it is.
The link.
Hell yeah Im signing up!
I'm ready.
I'm really ready.
My heart is pounding as I press the "complete" button.
I'm in.
IMAZ 11/15/15.

7 years later, I signed up for a full Ironman. The pipe dream becoming a reality. The idea that others do these but not my lazy ass. Funny thing is when I signed up and even now I have no doubt in my ability. I am fully confident I will finish. When I signed up for my first triathlon, first half marathon, first half marathon and first half ironman- I always felt like I had bitten off way more than I could chew and that I was aiming  too high. But today, I signed up 100% confident in myself.  I believe in me. I also understand that my knee may say otherwise but I am committed to taking care of this knee in the year of training and listening to it. Thats the real growth that comes with arriving here.

So off to the Ironman journey- 1 year of hard work and determination ahead.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Ironman 70.3 CA Oceanside 2014: Mind, Will and Becoming the Buttercup that Sucks It Up

Mind, Will and Becoming the Buttercup that Sucks It Up

The Whiny Prelim
I had a great season last season. My running improved as well as my confidence. I immediately signed up for the 2014 IMCA 70.3 after completing 2013 ready for more. I’m getting closer to a full distance Ironman.

The year took a different turn. I attempted to train for a marathon only to discover my knee had another plan altogether. Knowing one day I would reach that limit as my running knee was a timed element. The plan was after completing a full Ironman which was within my reach but still off in the distance. The knee can fall apart then –at the Ironman finish line and I’ll get all the surgery they’ll give me. Not all goes as planned. Long story short: MRI done, knee way worse than I thought, almost wrong surgery, second opinion from highly respected sports med orthopedist, Chris Wahl, no surgery for now- will not help me run, time to retire running and take up ultra cycling if I want to continue walking for a long time, no surgical option to improve, only salvage surgery. I’m screwed. But I haven’t made it to a full Ironman.  Decision: Take a year off running to let the inflammation go down, train for a full and that be the LAST time I run. Deal. Surgeon agreed.

However, I already signed up and paid for the 2014 IM CA 70.3. No refunds or transfers. Might as well show up for the swim and bike and have a great day. I’ve done this particular race twice already. I don’t need the medal. I’ll train on the swim and bike. I’ll make friends with the ellipitical and see what I can do on the run.  I’m sure I can bike fast enough to buy me time to walk.  In fact, let’s go for a bike PR. And if I’m done at T2 for some reason, I’ll happily hand in my timing chip and cheer on my friends. I like it.

I train. Life is busy. Training becomes more like maintenance and the elliptical goes by the wayside.  I focus more on the bike. As soon as I realized I was going to bike more- which was great news for me- I signed up for the Solvang Century.  I had been dreaming of that ride for many years and now I felt confident I could do it. That became my “A” event. I consistently commuted to/from work a few days a week and did a few long rides and speed work. I worked through a few mental barriers on the bike. Not much training but enough to keep me honest. As March approaches, I increase the bike training. I complete Solvang pleased with my time and effort. I felt great afterwards. I guess what training I did do was efficient. Ok, I can do Oceanside—at least the bike.

The Oceanside plan is to give it all I have in the swim and bike and PR on the bike. The run- I can decide at the time. I’m open to a planned DNF, walking or running.  Again, I don’t need the finishers medal.  But as it gets closer, not finishing seems wrong. I kept thinking that I completed 3 x 70.3’s, 3 marathons…pattern of threes. I tried to complete a 4th marathon but it was not in the cards.  I don’t want to follow the same pattern with 70.3s.  I want to finish. I want 4 medals, 4 completed 70.3s.  I need to finish what I signed up for. If I run slowly I think I can phone in a half marathon especially if I run/walk. Nevermind that I haven’t run since September and this thought process is taking place in March. We’ll see.

Swim Bike Swim Bike Bike Bike Swim

2 weeks before the race – injury.  Not my knee.  My knee is doing great since I haven’t been running. I was riding on a raft with my daughter being pulled by a boat in the lake. It’s great fun. Luna tells my father in law to increase speed. It feels REALLY … REALLY fast. We hit a wake and apparently catch quite a bit of air. I hit the water with my neck and upper back---like a belly flop with my neck. I think someone smacked my spine with a baseball bat. Ouch. I come to the surface of the water and immediately notice the complete loss of sensation in my left arm. WTF??!! I pinched a nerve. I get back on the boat and am fine.

The next two weeks are stressful as this injury feels worse. The numbness and weakness in my arm is still there, my 1st thoracic area is spasming, the shoulder and scapula burn. It hurts to flex or extend my neck in the smallest way and forget turning my head to the left. Sleeping is impossible.

I attempt to swim. Not bad as long as I keep swimming. Stopping- ouch! Bilateral breathing is awkward which in the pool is usually natural. I couldn’t get my face out of the water enough on the left so I’d swallow water regularly. My stroke is way off. I have to tell my left arm what to do as it feels disconnected. THAT was weird. So I’m exhausted after all of this. At least though the swim is do-able. But it will be even slower.

At this point I’m maxed out on Ibuprofen, Tylenol and Devil’s Claw.  I reak of Anesthabalm.  And I haven’t really slept at night. I have to fix this. I have to bike. At work I give my patients Flexeril with the idea that it will relax the muscles and the pinched nerve will just slip back in to place. I’ve never had that in my life. I can’t even take Benadryl and the last medication I had was when I birthed my 22 year old son.  I try Flexeril at bedtime because after a few days of no sleep- I DESPERATELY NEED SLEEP.

It’s great for sleep. I wake up and don’t feel the pain.

get up
I thought one Flexeril would release and it would be over. Maybe it will be better after I move more. I try to ride to work but did not even get out of my neighborhood. It was awful on the bike no matter what I did and bumps were excruciating.
I was crushed.
I was heartbroken.
I was angry.
Really angry.
I have 1.5 week until race day. I’m depressed (looking back the Flexeril was a big part of it). I take one more that night – sleep well but again comes back and I’m super sad.
Screw this. I need to see my chiropractor, Jenny Enstrom. I see her Saturday- 1 week before race day. She adjusts and does a little ART and I can move. The rest of the day is smooth. It’s there but not bad.  Excellent.

But the pain comes back Sunday afternoon. I’m thinking  I may need to skip this race. I can’t seem to bike. I tried again and never got out of my neighborhood. Swimming is a joke. I could cheer my friends on. That would be fine. If I could just make the pain even 1 level less I could tap into my mental strength and just suck it up and race.  I’ll give it until Wednesday to decide.

So what is going on with my neck and back? Herniated disc at T1. Classic. Treatment- exactly what I have done and Prednisone. I do a 6 day course of Prednisone. My last resort. If Flexeril depressed me, what will steroids do? I apologized to James ahead of time if I am being an aggressive bitch on the Prednisone. I start 60mg Monday and return to my chiropractor.  Good stuff. Pain way less frequent. Not much sleep but I’m neither depressed nor a raging bitch. I am stressed as the clock counts down. The closer we get the more I want to finish this race. The more it looks like I may not, the more I want it.

I’m liking the Prednisone---a lot. The chiropractic and Prednisone combo are the only things that work. Wednesday is the day I decide if I am in or not.

I am negotiating with myself. Now thinking I can phone in a full 13.1mile run---nevermind I didn’t even train to WALK this. But I expect divine intervention and I will just run to make up for lost time on the bike.

Tuesday- I ride to work. WITHOUT pain. Excellent. The rest of the day is smooth. Now Im still on Prednisone, 3000mg Ibuprofen, 975mg Acetaminophen and Devils Claw.  Whatever works. I’m elated. I declare it. I’m in. I’m racing Saturday.

I don’t know what it will look like and I may have to drop out on the bike. I’m okay with it. As I verbalized my decisions, my daughter said “well you will at least try, right? You can’t just not do it.”


This race is all about mind and sheer will. Nothing else. If my mind and will are strong I will finish. Physically, I can do it. I just have to be strong enough to suck it up if it hurts.

Mantra- Mind…Will…oh and Suck it up Buttercup.

Thursday- the neck and shoulder start to tighten up. I’m worried. But it never gets worse. Promising. Certainly not the best way to go into a race but after all the other stuff I’ll take it.

Friday- still tight and little sore but no pinching, burning or spasms. I tell myself I’m strong and try to will it away.

Race Day Saturday

3:30am.  Despite 4 broken hours of sleep, I’m ready. Tight and sore but ready.
Liam and James are my sherpas. Liam is turning into quite the awesome Sherpa. He likes getting up early and coming to see me off at the swim. His energy is so positive and helpful. I love having him there.

The arrival is smooth.

Here I am back at the Harbor.  I get ready to step into T1 to set up my gear. I kiss James and Liam good bye and start to cry. Really - I am totally falling apart inside.  I am so afraid I am setting myself up for failure. I honestly have no idea how this race will end. I tried visualizing the finish all week but the DNF would make its way into my visualizations occasionally.  I told myself I was strong and going into this with not one but two injuries so a finish is pretty awesome. But really what if I didn’t finish? Am I really ok with that.  Absolutely not.  I would be done with triathlon—even a full Ironman. Not sure why I had that logic in my brain but at the time it made sense. I’d almost rather go home and avoid a chance of failing. Failing = DNF.  Failing= something else I cannot seem to identify, more of a feeling. However failure is not an option.

I remember what Luna said “at least try.”

I get it together, remind myself that this race is about mind, will and becoming the buttercup that sucks it up.  I just hope I have the mental strength today because I woke up with a very stiff T spine. I’m trusting the extra dose of Prednisone will kick in.
Stepping into T1- I see Linda Rich, another triathlete who was volunteering- Every year I see her and give her a hug and every year that beautiful athlete calms my nerves. I adore her.  All is balanced.

I find my bike rack with Tri Club SD. Love those! I set up. It feels good to be there. I like my bike spot. I like that Liam and James are right there on the other side of the wall supporting me. I see friends everywhere. I am thrilled to see Monika embark on her very first 70.3 and coach Julie come to place after multiple injuries this year. I’m so inspired b everyone around me. I’m comforted by seeing so many familiar faces.

Looking out at the harbor, the butterflies start. My 3rd year on a row and that harbor still humbles me.  I map out my strategy. Slow and easy in the harbor, get into a rhythm. Pick up the pace a little at the turn. Stay next to the buoys—remember that I like all the people around.  Pick it up a notch going to the jetty. Turn around, steady pace. Pick it up more in the harbor back. Sprint to the next buoy, stay close to the right and so on.

I set my stuff up, say hello to people, enjoy the conversations going on around me.  I watch the swimmers, hang out with James and Liam. James is watching the time and tells me I need to hurry. It’s almost time to go. I still need to run over the beach and do a really quick meditation. I do it and return to be reminded by James I really do need to get going. I look for my wave and realize as I am running through the long line of athletes my wave seems closer and closer to the start. Um… actually … wait! That’s my wave getting IN the water! I run to the start and hear someone yell “Go Cecily!” Who on earth would recognize me in a wetsuit, cap and goggles running frantically to my wave? What? Is this a habit I have developed since last year being late to my own wave start? Last year the wave before me was getting in when I ran frantically to my wave. This year they were 15 seconds in the water. Nice. It made me laugh. At least I don’t have to wait and get anxious.

And I’m off.

The Swim
: I like this swim. The water isn’t cold. The sun is out.
Ouch. The T spine is fussing. Kind of a lot. It surprised me. I’m wearing a neoprene cold water swim cap which make my head more buoyant. Just the wrong amount of flexion for my neck. I have to force my head down more to stop the pinching. It works. Just swim and keep the spine neutral.

I passed over a few people- always feels kind of cool to do that. Grabbed a few feet on accident. Had my feet grabbed. No elbows or punches. Excellent. No super aggressive men this year.
The buoys pass by fast. I stay on track swimming with the buoys on my left. I can touch each as I pass by. My sighting is perfect. Excellent. Almost out to the jetty. I turn back and have a hard time sighting back. I can’t see the buoy, sun is in my eyes, so I sight on the big white building and keep the rocks to my right. I pick up the pace as planned. Ouch. Leg cramp—foot, calf all the way up my hamstrings. Okay this sucks. Must be hypokalemia from the Prednisone. Crap. I forgot to drink a bunch of Coconut water last week to replenish my Potassium stores. I stretch it and swim with my foot flexed until it subsides. That’s a rough one. I’m going to feel that tomorrow. Hey, my neck feels great though so I’ll take a leg cramp any day. Moving on…I’m loving the swim. Always happy to be there. Second leg cramp- other leg, not as bad. Resolved. 
I swim to the finish. I can’t find the race clock. I wonder what my time is. Not record fast but I’m fine. I hit land and OMG my legs feel funky from the cramps. They are shaky and wobbly. 

T1: I see James and Liam and run to T1. It feels good to run but I feel way off balance so I slow it down. I arrive at my bike and immediately put my heated winter hat on, sip hot chocolate and remove the wetsuit. After 3 years I have the heated transition down. I no longer need a list of instructions to remember my steps. I’m warm…unusually so. Actually I think can ride without my jacket. Great! Time to move onto the bike.

The Bike: It feels great to be on the bike. I’m not cold. I fly up the short hill out of the harbor and onto Camp Pendleton. Ouch. Here we go with the neck again.  It started fast and early. 
I’m strong.
I can push through it.
I try different positions. Drop- No way. Upright- ouch, aero- yikes. Okay keep moving- better but not good. I settle into regular aero- the least amount of pain and try to ride. Stop gritting the teeth. Suck it up does not mean gritting the teeth. The scapula is searing. The T1 pinched. Why can’t my chiropractor just ride next to me? I’m screwed.  I don’t want to DNF this early.
I’m not DNF-ing.
I plead with the universe.
With myself.
Stop thinking about it and
Just ride.
I descend a small hill and get way, way ,way down in aero, as far as I can and pull my shoulder blades back and down with my butt off the seat.


Something stretched and moved and all the pressure is gone.  Okay extreme aero it is. And that is how I rode most of the way.
10 miles in, pain gone.
Time to pick up the pace and do this.

It’s hard though. I feel more lactic acid than I’d like at this point reminding me of just how little I trained for this race. I felt somewhere between the first and second Oceanside race.  It doesn’t matter. The pain is gone and it’s time to PR this ride. It is clear that I am here today to PR on the bike. I want that the most. And I will do it.

All I really remember about the ride is constantly calculating paces and distances, various bike finishing time possibilities, what pace for the next 10 miles do I need to bring up my current pace to finish at this time or that time. How much will I lose on the uphill and gain on the descents. I was constantly checking in on my perceived effort, how my legs were spinning, adjusting gears to go as fast as I could and maintain my energy. Calculating how many calories I have taken in, what I have left. Passing athletes and trying to catch up with those who passed me. Yet remembering to hold back so I don’t slow down at the end. I was ready for the first hill that kicked my ass the first year. I was expecting it to be a breeze this year. Afterall I just did Solvang and did better with the hills at mile 85.  Hills really are my friends. I got there and it was harder than expected. It didn’t kick my ass but I felt a little burn. I was getting irritated at the people walking their bikes up in front of me and swerving out. Seriously? WTF is wrong with you? You are WALKING YOUR BIKE UP A HILL and you can’t walk straight? Why are you here? It’s an Ironman for goodness sakes.
Time for a snack, I’m irritated. Irritation rapidly changes to elation as I fly down the hill. That’s why I like hills…what goes up must come down and oh I love the down. That means speed in the bank.  For me the first hill is the hardest part for me. The remaining hills are nothing, so I’m good the rest of the ride.

Loving the ride. I even look up a few times and appreciate the scenery. I love this race. I think I will sign up again just to do this ride. It is the only time civilians are allowed to bike in the back of Camp Pendleton.

I am preparing to power though the last 10 miles and gain more speed. These miles are relatively flat but always with an annoying headwind. I looked down and focused on my pace never letting my speed drop below 20 mph and account for stops and turns as I am in town. I needed to get my average speed up by .1-.2mph to PR by 10 minutes. This is harder than any hill but I like it. I thrive on it.  I fly into Oceanside. I’m satisfied with my effort but tired and ready for the next part- a nice WALK. Thank goodness I’m not running.

T2: I get back to Oceanside and ride into T2. PR’d by 12 minutes. I was hoping for 10. I cry out of happiness. I achieved and exceeded my goal- a bike PR. The neck didn’t stop me. I did it! I continued to happily sob all the way to my bike rack, sobbed while blowing my nose, sobbed while eating a banana, sobbed putting on shoes. I felt like I finished. I felt great.
I have plenty of time to finish the race even if I crawl.

So lets finish this race.

The “Run:” I run out of T2. It feels good. I tell myself to go slower and just try to run as slow as I can. Perfect. I feel great. I start deciding on a run walk strategy. Run 1 mile, walk 1 mile. That’s exactly what I’ll do.  Almost a mile in, suddenly my knee decides to speak up. Shit- what is THAT feeling. Its awful- not sharp, but just really unstable, pulling in a way that it shouldn’t be with a little scraping, crunching and popping. Hmm … I could suck it up but I remember how stupid it would be to do so with zero run base...let’s walk. No big deal. My walking pace was only 1 min slower and the sensations subsided as soon as I stopped running, so perfect I’ll hold this for 12 miles.

This is great. I’m really taking the race in. Seeing my friends is awesome. The sun is out. I get to spend the next few hours walking along the coast, perfect weather and feeling just fine. I see my dear friend Wendee cheering everyone on---what a wonderful surprise.
As I’d see friends run by, sweating, struggling I felt really guilty. I’m not suffering. Now I’m not walking at a strolling pace. Its work but nothing like a run. No head stuff. When I used to run I always had head stuff going on, really quite stressful usually.  So a few hours powerwalking and I can take a nap.
Oh dear.
A few hours?
What mile am I on?
The miles go by faster running. Ugh. It’s going to be a mentally long day. Keep moving and stop for the Vaseline because I am getting some really hot spots on the bottom of my feet. I used a pair of REALLY old running shoes from my marathon days. They weren’t beat up. I only ran one marathon in them and bought them 6 weeks before the run so not a ton of miles on them. I had been wearing them for the extra cushion. No other thought went into them. Big mistake.

I lose time on my pacing and pick it back up. I’m getting bored and trying to play mental games. I’m usually stressed and depleted when I run I can easily play mental games and really drift off into the bizarre universe. Too cerebral and present today. So I start calculating paces and times. I had three estimated finish times. When I started today I did not care about my overall finish time, only my bike time. Now I am attached to a finish time. I’d like to finish somewhere between my first and second IM Oceanside. 

Back at the pier I see James at the beach and wave.  Fun! He walks with me a bit which is nice because I needed someone to talk to.  I feel good, the legs are getting tired but not bad. Off to the second loop which seems so far and long. 5 more long miles.  He can’t walk it with me.  At that point I really am mentally done.  Slowing down will only take longer. Legs and hips are getting tired fast. No matter how strong my mind is, my body did not even train to walk this race! Only bike and swim. I run a block to change things around. Feels good to get off the balls of my feet. The balls of my feet are burning. I can feel a blister forming. I need to have some semblance of suffering since I am not running, right? And the shoes are a size and a half too big for me.  When I was running I thought we had to buy running shoes big so I did and of course New Balances are big anyway so my feet always slid around in them.  Lost a few toenails in the marathons in these shoes. It was not until I had a proper run analysis that I was told I needed much smaller shoes. From then I wore fitted minimalist shoes  for running. 

As long as this one blister which feels a little exaggerated doesn’t pop I’ll be fine.  And there we go….Pop. Nice. My socks are going to be nasty at the finish. And the burn right where my foot makes contact with the road. 

And you guessed it…
Suck it up buttercup.
For a damn blister Seriously?

The miles slowly tick away. Calculations look good for a goal finish time but not the best one on my list.  Almost mile 11- I have to pee really, really bad. I never ever stop to pee. Precious time wasted. But the Prednisone makes me pee a lot. Can I hold it for 30 minutes? There’s a porta potty and the answer is a definitive no. I pee for an obscene amount of time in there.  Done. Ready to finish. Ouch. My legs feel like I ran a marathon. They cramped up.

Ok ok…I didn’t train. I get it.

Back to walking. I see my dear friend Erin. She’s not far behind me.

Finally the Strand. I’m going to run the Strand…the whole way.
I start running.
No I’m not.
Yes I am
I will run the finish shoot. I have to. I see Liam before and he hops in. I am so thrilled to see him. He says, “run with me.” I run at mile 13. I see James and he looks surprised that I’m running. I am too because I tell him “there’s some weird shit going down in that knee right now.”
Passing the banners, hearing the cheers I cross the finish and hear my name announced.
I did it.
I finished this thing.

I went essentially phoning it in with two injuries not planning to finish, got a bike PR and had a great time. A 3-peat for IM70.3CA Oceanside, 4-peat for the 70.3. I broke the pattern of 3’s.

But OMG do those blisters hurt!

Will I sign up again next year? I don’t know. At the finish, I would have said no way. But now, I’m thinking I may want to go back for a sub 3 hour bike PR in 2015. I’m planning to look into racewalking/powerwalking too. Had I continued the elliptical training and had real shoes, I think I could have had a much faster “run time.”


Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Meaning of Life and Family When Turning 40

Today is Father’s day and has been surreal and amazing. Had my father been alive today he would have had 14 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. The last few months I have been pondering the meaning of life and family, my role in all of it, my role in the world and humanity, what should and should not be and where to go from here. Perhaps it is a natural reflection that happens when turning 40 is imminent. Perhaps a new perspective from thinking I am 20 and immortal and in the now to facing my own immortality and the limits of time. Or just all a cool coincidence. Someone said that when we are young we are always trying to move forward in time, when we get older we are always trying to go back or hang onto time as tight as we can. Today I feel that I am both hanging on and moving forward at the same time yet suspended in time and space. Interesting, surreal and exhausting. I still cringe at the phrase “getting older” when it pertains to me. I don’t feel old and I want to put that off as long as I can get away with it. I am in the best physical shape of my life and look much better than I did when I was in my 20s- so no issues with vanity and being 40. I am in the best mental shape and have a sense of self confidence I never had when I was 20. I am pretty sure of myself, who I am and what I want. When I was in my 20’s I was all over the place finding my identity and solidifying my belief system. I still don’t know the answers to just about everything but I’m not necessarily worried about them as much. I’m disappointed though that there is no world peace, that so many good people do not live up to their best and hurt others as a result and that people are still going hungry in a world where there is extreme wealth. The notion that work, life, family balance is more important to me than ever. I don’t have the patience for the forces that constantly challenge my delicate balance. Work and some things in life can wait. Family cannot. Self care cannot. Social justice cannot.

I only have 4 years left before my daughter leaves for college and 6 more years with my youngest son. My oldest son is grown and oftentimes I long for the days he was young and home and all three children were home. At the same time I love witnessing his growth, seeing him as a loving, brilliant, mature adult. I want to savor as many moments as I can before I reach that day where I look back and long for my daughter to be young and at home. I have made a commitment to be there.

Ironically in all of this self-reflection about family, almost at the same time, my youngest niece, Kyrie gives birth to a beautiful baby girl, I reconnect with my father’s first daughter, Cynthia. I met Cynthia in the 80’s when I was a kid and she had just married. I never remained in touch. My father had a family in the Philippines I heard about. I knew my Filipino siblings names and their mother’s name but really nothing about them. I receive a friend request two nights ago on Facebook and we start corresponding right away. I instantly am able to connect the names and who they are. So many Arenas’s! I have 8 more nieces and nephews in addition to the 6 I already have. I have 2 brothers and a sister in addition to the brother and sister I have always had in my life. My oldest brother, Arthur died 2 years ago at age 52 and holds a striking resemblance to my father. My father died at 58. He has a beautiful family and a very sweet wife. Cynthia has 4 children, 2 grown and 2 at home. We are looking forward to our youngest boys (now cousins) meeting. My youngest brother lives in the UK and has two children.

There have been many holes in the story growing up. I remember my father going to the Philippines twice and for what reason I have no idea. I never thought about it and only did when I’d come across the postcard he had sent me that I saved. He always wanted me to see the Philippines but as a child my mother would never allow it. I, too have always wanted to visit and find my Filipino roots. I started the process in 2009 when I met with my godfather who at the time was the closest link I had to my Filipino side. He connected me to a former friend and colleague of my father’s. We emailed a few times and he wanted to get me in touch with my father’s first wife – a friend of his. I thought that would be awkward because my understanding was that my father abandoned his first family and why in the world would they want anything to do with me? So I stopped emailing and decided I’d figure it out on my own later. I continue to have a nagging feeling to go to the Philippines and meet my family soon. Maybe before my godfather dies? He is in his 80’s. Where do I start? Maybe I’d sign up for the Ironman in the Philippines. The only way I can understand. Have a destination triathlon and go from there. Hmmmm doesn’t seem right. Life continues, the nagging feeling continues and I go one with my life.

So those holes in the story, that virtual family. I always liked knowing I had another sister and brothers out there. But that was it. They were “out there somewhere.” Not a reality. Except for Cynthia who I met once when I was 10. As I get older and the importance of family becomes even more apparent, the out there transforms to the here and now. And Here I am. I see a beautiful picture of my father, his first wife and the children, apparently mostly grown. They are a family- what appears to be a happy and complete family. What was “out there” is a solid reality. Perhaps my father didn’t necessarily abandon them or perhaps he did. That is why he returned to the Philippines. Still many holes but more complex than I ever knew.

Knowing about my Filipino family doesn’t necessarily feel like it is about my need to know or fill the holes but to connect the family- help my children to know that they have a very large family and know the importance of family. I love discovering that my children have 8 more cousins, more aunts and uncles. I want their whole family to be the “here and now” and not the “out there somewhere virtual family” for them.

So am I discovering my roots here and not in the Philippines? Traveling to the Philippines seems so wonderful yet so overwhelming. I always envisioned myself flying there alone and dropping myself in the middle of Manila and spending months traversing the country and finding clues to my roots. But more and more my roots seem to be in front of my eyes. I am in the here and now of finding my roots. Roots means family and many of them are in the States. I think traveling there is the finishing touch.

What a way to figure out the meaning of life and family.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

San Diego Women's Half Marathon

Coach Julie the night before the race:  Have fun- with the week you have had work wise, being sick- a PR would be a LOT…..not sure it is realistic- but I do want you to give it 100% and see what happens-..”

Over a week has since passed as I continually reflect on my most recent half marathon, The San Diego Women’s half.

I began the run with the following issues:
  • “chest cold” really bronchitis with some asthma components.
  • 2 hours sleep at the most the night before and minimal sleep x 5 nights before from a brewing infection and taking pseudephedrine during the day to make it through work.
  • Family stuff in the night

With all of this in mind, I certainly could have easily slept in and not gone.
I could have easily run easy on this one and just enjoy. I entertained these but
I signed up for this race for a PR and nothing else. I needed this time (2:30 finish) before Ironman Oceanside. It was on my goal list and I was sooooo close.

The run:
Woke up, feeling pretty funky and exhausted. I did not want to eat but made myself anyway calculating the calories I needed to consume before the race. I added extra carbo pro to my watered down Gatorade to get more calories. I just couldn’t eat more solids.

We arrive at Liberty Station. It looks pretty mellow. I’m not feeling anxious, quite the opposite. I’m thinking about a quick nap before I get out of the car. I get ready and James and I head to the start. I take a hit of my inhaler which I only use in the cold. I think it is running out- not sure so I take a few more hits. Oh well.

I get to the start and see the 2:30 pacer. Oooh last minute decision. Do I stay with her? It would be smart. I have never run with a pacer. Tried in the marathons and ultimately got dropped and completely heartbroken. It is different now. I approach her and ask how she will be pacing. She said faster at the first mile to get through the crowd then a solid 11:15 the rest of the way. Sounds good except I have this paceband I made set for a 2:23 finish. I don’t want to undermine my plans. I decide to start with her and at least keep her in view.

Not too bad at the start. Fairly comfortable but early on short of breath.
Ignored. Played music louder so I couldn’t hear my breath. Pushed through it. Stayed almost exactly on pace for a 2:23 finish until a bit after mile 10.  10:30 miles alternating with 11:30’s. I like how fast the 10:30’s go and am always looking forward to the change.
Getting dizzy about mile 5. Different kind of dizzy- not running fatigue or poor nutrition dizzy, more like when I passed out several years ago. Drank more, ate more, remained focused and ignored.
Went away.
Pace is excellent. I am pleased. I know I am pushing it more than I should but I’ll do it as far as I can. The 2:30 pace group is far behind me. I keep them in mind as my gauge when I am near the minimum PR. If they pass me it’s over. That will not happen.

I am enjoying the sunny views feeling the rhythm of my feet constantly checking in. Shoulders back, chest out, eyes to the horizon or the palm trees, core and hips fully engaged…check…and all over again at each mile. Music is good.

Dizzy returned around 8. Visual changes, thinking more like this is a lot like before I went down 5 years ago at work. Okay, keep pace but lets plan accordingly. I’m not stopping for this because there’s a good chance I’ll stay up. Moved over to the side closer to grass so at least if I go down I have less chance of hitting my head on the asphalt. Kept my eye on the medic runners. Ironic that they were always close by. Took deeper breaths…felt like lungs smaller. Chest hurts a little but not in a cardiac way. Sucks, but I’ll be fine.

Keep pace.
Body form check in…

The 10:30’s were getting harder so at each mile I welcomed the nice 11:30 break.
Getting irritated at my chest cold. Seriously? Really? Coughing, spitting, intermittent dizziness. Nice. Thanks parents for being chain smokers in my childhood. I’m irritated. I must need a gel.

Still on pace for a kick ass PR but I know I can’t hold this much longer. I have good time in the bank. I can’t do another 10:30 in the next mile. I try and I feel like shit all over. My legs and hips feel fine. That’s weird. At Carlsbad by now my hip was so tight I could barely move it. Hip felt great, calves, quads, core and hamstrings all felt fine.  My “running body” was fine, yet my whole body felt awful.  I just wanted to curl up in a ball on the grass and nap just for a few minutes. I just wanted to not be vertical anymore. It was harder and harder to keep vertical.

Tired of the gels- just cant stomach another blackberry gu. The texture is making me gag. I have been taking Gatorade at each aid station instead.

I know I am in the spot where I struggle. I own it and do something about it. The last few miles have been consistently hard and I have had no more mental strength. I vow to run, no matter what. No walking - no matter what. Walking ONLY at the aid station because I am not coordinated enough to drink and run even though I literally trained for it for three marathons, received instruction from professionals and yet still spill the whole cup on me. I grab the cup, drink and always drop in the trash and the trash is my starting line to run again. I don’t lollygag. It is one smooth motion, grab cup, walk briskly, drink and drop and go. I remain more disciplined today than in any other run.

Again no walking. I’m hitting the wall and the dizziness returns. I mentally tell the dizziness to f&^% off. I’m finishing this damn race and I am PRing. No walking. I’m crashing hard at 11 miles in. I give myself permission to run slowly, whatever it takes as long as I remain running. I can crash at the finish- only less than 2 miles away. But I really can’t go more than 2 min slower than race pace. I had 6 minutes in the bank at mile 10. I try to calculate what I have now. 2 min x 2 more miles is 4 minutes, still 2 minutes faster than my goal finish. Too close. Anything can happen in 2 minutes.

Mile 12. A few miles back the plan was I’d give it all I had from mile 12 to the finish. Okay let’s go for it. I may have picked it up to an 11 but my head was spinning. There’s a small uphill over the bridge. I know I am so close to the finish yet so far.  I jog up the bridge into Liberty Station. I’m good. Got it. I see James at the bottom of the bridge. He sees me and approaches me. I instantly break down in tears as I run. Have no idea where THAT came from. He encourages me and reminds me how close I am.
“I can’t” I tell him knowing those words are forbidden.
He says I can.
Well I guess I can.
I have to stop crying anyway, it produces way too much mucus. So I stop.

Fuck, I’m dizzy again and I feel really wobbly now. I see the finish. James is running along saying something I can’t understand. I push as hard as I can to get through that damn finish. I chant to myself “dig deep…dig deep…dig deep…dig deep…” The pictures are going to really suck I think to myself.  I look at my watch. I could theoretically do this 4 minutes faster than goal. I AM doing it!

 I feel like I am going to go down really soon. I need to cross the line first. Someone will catch me then. The landing will be softer.

I cross the line 


I am vertical.

I am weaving all over the place confused. People keep asking f I am ok. I lie and say yes. My vision is changing yet again, the knees feel really wobbly.  I immediately get to the side, the knees start to go down, so I grab the bar, put my head down and try to catch my breath.  Big deep breaths. It passes. I should get more to drink.

I see James. I need to lay down I tell him. Not sure if he really gets what I mean. I say it again. I need to find the grass and lay down for real now. At the end of the finish I find my spot and lay down. I look up at the sky as the blue sky and trees spin. Now it feels more like a merry go round and feels nice and relaxing. No pressure now to stay vertical. I can deal with this. It passes.

I sit up and am still a little out of breath. It passes.

Then it hits me….I exceeded my goal time by 4 minutes and beat my last PR by 6 minutes! Excellent.

Despite weird feelings of vertigo and overall bodily nastiness, I did have fun. The views were incredible. I smiled a lot.
I gave it 100%
And this is what happens…an ass kicking PR and a realization that I have more strength than I ever knew.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

The Tiki Swim....2.4 miles in the ocean!

The Tiki Swim

I first saw the Tiki swim ad around the time I did IM Oceanside 70.3. After I finished the race and had a little taste of almost ocean swimming complete with swells and realized I might just be able to do this. I held off though because I never swam IN the ocean and the breaks scared the daylights out of me. Later that year I learned how to swim in the ocean thanks to a really supportive group of triathletes through Team Solana. I participated in my first ocean triathlon, The Solana Beach Triathlon. It was incredible. I fell in love with ocean swimming. I was still a little spooked at times but with more experience I felt it less and less. After Solana, I decided to go for this Tiki swim- the 1.2 miler one. The 1.2 mile seemed WAY out of my comfort zone but I like to challenge myself.

I joined a morning ocean swim group and went on occasion. They were incredible. They were patient enough to swim with me as I was the slowest. My pool time is significantly faster than my ocean time. I am still learning the ocean and still a little hesitant. These guys were so supportive and always inviting me back.

The Friday before Tiki, I swam with my group. We had the craziest surf. I got knocked over just standing there in a foot of water. We made it in and had a great time. Exiting was a challenge but we made it in with the right timing. I have never swam in surf like that so I was happy to have experienced that. I didn’t want any surprises on Tiki day.

That night I keep thinking that maybe I should consider doing the full 2.4 mile swim. Not sure where it came from but it kept creeping into my head. Each time I felt more confident that I just might pull it off. Of course when my cerebrum got involved, I would remind myself that the furthest pool swim I have done is 3500, “flat” open water 1.2 miles and ocean…well…um… maybe 1 mile. Which was based on estimates. So 2.4 miles, really? 1.2 is a stretch and still out of my comfort zone. I was feeling relaxed about the 1.2 mile swim. There was plenty of time to complete it and I wasn’t worried at all. I saw it as a nice Sunday morning ocean fun swim. I could keep it like this and go in without any stress and enjoy it. So why do I keep thinking about the 2.4? I have nothing to prove to myself. I will do it one day soon.

I email my coach and see what she thinks. I’m sure she will encourage me but she also knows what I have done and not done so I anticipate more of a “great idea….maybe in a few months.” So then that will settle it for me and I can move on with the 1.2.  She totally encouraged me. She “likes the challenge.”  I do too but is this unrealistic? Am I going to fail and feel awful? Am I going to get spooked? I heard stories about distance swimmers experiencing glycogen depletion, hallucinating and getting spooked. I have done this on runs and really do not want to do this in the ocean as I may panic. Under no circumstance can I be vulnerable in the ocean.

So packet pickup is on Saturday. My cerebrum has taken over my thought process and I have pretty much talked myself out of it. Not completely but I want someone else to decide for me as I wasn’t ready to ax this idea. The organizers may not even let me change this late so the answer is final. I get to Oceanside and look down from the pier to the harbor. That is REALLY far. I’m sure at packet pickup they will say no. In fact, I really hope they do.

I arrive at packet pickup and one of my morning swim friends, Patti is there volunteering. It’s great to see her.

“You all won’t let me upgrade to the 2.4 this late, right?” I ask.
“Of course you can! You should totally do it!!!”
Everyone at the both encourages me. I remind Patti that she has in fact been swimming with me and does she remember how slow I am. She tells me yes but that’s okay. I will be fine. Then I run into Chuck, the organizer of our morning swim group and the one who often swims with my slow ass. He encourages me too and I also remind him of my slowness. He says to do it anyway and I will be fine. Patti reminds me to swim the pace I swim with them the whole time. I am never tired after our swims.

I take a deep breath and tell them yes committing myself to the 2.4. I sign the additional waiver and get the green swim cap.

Shit what did I just do? This whole song and dance was also in front of my daughter. So I couldn’t back out now. What would she think? I now go from thinking this is a fun little Sunday swim to oh shit! I have never done this before! What if I get fished out? What if I get spooked? What if I don’t finish in 2:20? What if I die? What if there are weird sea creatures? Most of all though, what happens in the open water after 1.2 miles? The unknown scared me most. I have run marathons. What is the equivalent of mile 19 and what do I do out there? What can I expect? I have not trained for this.

I email my coach and she of course gives me excellent feedback. Stay hydrated, eat well before and go slowly. And even if I don’t finish at least I tried. That’s true. I will at least make it to the aid station (a bit over 1.2 miles) and will have achieved my original goal. There is a way out if needed. Of course, I would never give up but it was comforting to know this. It was comforting that I could go into this and not beat the crap out of myself for not making the time cutoff. I can embrace that what I was doing was pretty cool.

That night I went through my race prep anxiety induced ritual.

Alarm goes off. Swim day.
Swim day.
It will be fun. Yes, it will be fun. I love the ocean. I will swim slowly and enjoy the peace and have a hell of a story after.

I ate 600 calories at breakfast and it was WAY too much food. I ran out of Carbo Pro a few weeks ago and didn’t have any left. I took some of my breakfast on the road to Oceanside and tried to finish at the start. I ended up throwing out my pancake and drinking my electrolytes. I am soooo full.

I arrive at the pier. It’s chilly. I’m worried about hypothermia and remind myself it is not winter. I take a big breath and get out of the car and walk to the pier. I see friends from Team Solana. Very nice. Best of all I see Al, the triathlete who was my swim buddy when I learned how to ocean swim in June.  He is the one who taught me. I am forever grateful to him. I immediately go to him and anxiously ask if there is anything I should know. In his calm demeanor he says, “yes, one arm in front of the other. That’s all.” Somehow that calms me. Later he tells me about arriving near the harbor. He tells me I will smell all of this wonderful food and get really hungry only to find that I have further to swim in the harbor but it is worth it. I see Patti, always a wonderful face to see. I’m still here and I didn’t back out.

A few minutes to start. I have major nausea and fear. That buoy is REALLY far. I have only gone a bit past the breakers but NEVER THAT far. There are boats out there. This is way past the pier. My hands are shaking- a combination of fear and my albuterol.

I remember how much I love being out there past the break and remind myself of the relaxing swim.

We line up. I go back and forth. Where to start? Which side? I am not afraid of the group so I start as close to side of the buoy near the pier. The race director tells us it is okay to wait a few minutes for the surf. Oh yes the surf. That is kinda crazy. In fact those waves are giant and rough. I won’t go there. I remind myself how much I like diving under waves. It will be fine.

Time to go.
I have work to do.
Get out, turn and swim slowly and peacefully one buoy at a time, one arm in front of the other.

First wave, too small to dive, strong, make it over it.
Next one, big, dive.
Water is nothing but foam and here comes another.
Meanwhile it feels like total survival around me, yet I am fairly comfortable and very focused. Everyone is in groups instructing each other when to dive. One person is freaking out. I want to help her. She is with other people helping her and if I don’t dive now I get thrown back to the beach.
I make it but this is long. I want to come up for air but it’s still dark. Must be a double. I come up in foam and there is one more.
And I’m down.

I have work to do.

I start swimming which is nice. I look back and I must be past the breaks. The shore is pretty far and the waves behind me are huge. I turn back and see one big one coming starting to break. Really? Okay I guess I’m not past the breaks.

I still have work to do. This one isn’t as powerful. A few more and I am finally out. Still big swells but no more diving. One swell was big enough that I dropped down and felt my breakfast shift. Oh no, I am going to puke in the water. I have never done that. Gross. Please no. Please no. It’s just a burp. Yuck.  Well at least it’s not in a pool and no one can hear me. Why did I eat so much food? Note to self: Always have Carbo Pro in stock at home.

Then I see a guy hanging onto the lifeguard board.  “Poor guy. That really sucks.” I think to myself. He’s tired out so early. He has a long way to go. I’m mentally tired from the breakers but know I can relax for a while.

I sight on the blue house at the end of the pier. It looks relatively close to the first buoy. Making progress. I look up and why is the buoy that far to my … LEFT! And really far away? WTF? No more sighting on the pier. I am getting moved over way  too far. So I try to sight on the bouy which is REALLY far and barely visible at times. It takes what seems like an eternity to get there. I see a group there so I know it’s possible. I finally reach it and look back. I am REALLY far out. Cool. The pier is a long way from here. This buoy is huge, why is it s hard to see? I make my turn and time to do the long swim. I’m ready. I’m happy and at peace.

I barely see the next buoy and try to sight on something else. Maybe the hotel? I swim and realize the lifeguard is close to my right reminding me to move back out. I see that I am closer to the pier. It is discouraging. He kindly tells me he does it all the time.

Most of the swim was about where to sight. If it was too general there was so much room for going off course but the buoys were too far away. About halfway through I had a guard to my left. He was going in the same direction. I was getting a little frustrated at where to sight and I had to breathe to my left to avoid the sun. He helps me by pointing to where I need to sight. I just want to reach the aid station to reset my brain. I’m having fun but this sighting is the hardest I have ever done. IM Oceanside had a LOT of bouys and the water was fairly flat. It was super easy to sight. The TCSD aquathlon was easier to sight. I think I was so far out in such open water where I could go in the wrong line yet still remain in the general direction. I need to add this to my list of things to improve.

I finally see the green buoy in the distance. There are two green ones on the course, one for the aid station a little over halfway through and the one to turn into the harbor. Green, good. I can see that and I can see the outrigger which is the aid station. Easy to sight.

What time is it? I have been out here for a while. The cutoff is 2:20. I really want to make the cutoff. In fact, I have developed some attachment to that even though I went in without a time attachment. I am visualizing the course map in my head. The whole way out I estimated the aid station at 1.2 miles. It is at the turn for the 1.2 mile swimmers. So really it is more than half way. I tried really hard to proportionally measure the lines in my head to get a better estimate of where I was. Was it 20% of the 1.2 miler course? I digress and I am off course again. Focus on the swim and who cares where the aid station is.

I get close to the aid station and am thirsty. I also see this as the line between the known and the unknown. I have never gone beyond 1.2 miles in the open water. I am pensive but not afraid. I really want to know the time. The volunteer tells me it is 8:44. She says I have 45 min to the finish. Really? No I have 1:05 to the cutoff. Hmm. I am not liking the time. If I am halfway then I just swam a VERY slow 1.2 mile. Crap. I know I swam way off course but it doesn’t matter. I have to take that into account with my time. Well, if the next part is not as long which I doubt it will be because I do not have to deal with surf, then…


I can see the harbor from here! I can see the green buoy! I see the rock jetty. It’s still far but I can SEE it. The volunteer tells me to sight on the “dorito.” That passes right over my head. I have no idea what she said or meant. Whatever.

I have work to do.
Let’s go!

At this point the lifeguard is floating along with me on his board. I ask him if that is in fact the green bouy in and he says no. What do you mean no? It IS the green buoy. So it looks like it is on a stick.  He says to sight on the orange buoys. I can barely see them and they are far to the right of the green what-seems-to-be a buoy. There are a few. Oh wait there is an orange buoy with a yellow tip. Ahh the Dorito. That is what she meant back there. Okay. Got it.

I sight on the buoy but I am still fixated on the green thing that looks like a buoy. I don’t like that I am NOT sighting on this. If it’s not the buoy, then what is it?

I know this part is the unknown but this is also the very well known. I swam in the harbor for IM Oceanside to the end of the jeddies. I know that inlet. What is that damn green thing? It is at the very tip of the jeddi on a pole. So if that is NOT the green buoy where is it? I see more orange bouys ahead of the dorito. Damn. I see the harbor and it teases me. I think I am nearing the end of the swim only to look up and feel like I have gone nowhere.

The lifeguard tells me to just sight on him. I do for a while. I try to get out of this head space and I do this successfully. I pick up the pace and start enjoying “punching” the swells. The swells are bigger here. I am swimming harder feeling all of my power in my arms, core and hips. It’s a wonderful rhythm. The guard is next to me and I don’t have to sight.

I get closer, pass a few more buoys and now I am realizing time is running out.


I interrupt those feelings and remind myself how far I am. If I can just get to the inlet of the harbor then I can be fished out. Just let me get there and I will be happy with my distance and accomplishments. I don’t need a medal today. I just want to accomplish my goal or come close. I already have. I’m okay.
For now.
Behind me I see the aid station outrigger coming in. I see someone towing the buoys. Damn I really am last.

Again, I think of what I have accomplished. I remind myself of how strong I am, how I go for things even if the odds are against me. Then…

Screw that. I am tired of being the strong determined one…who comes in near last. Sure I know I have courage and all that crap but


I pick up my speed. I punch through the water. I look up and see the Oceanside sign. I’m IN the harbor. I am in very familiar territory. The unknown is behind me. Now I race the clock.

Déjà vu. I did this in IM Oceanside too. It was all about racing the clock and assuming I was dead last and would be fished out of the water. My lifeguard to the left is saying something. I stop and see what he is saying. He tells me he is talking to them and points to the lifeguards to my right. I had been breathing to my left most of the time so I never saw them. I look to my right and wow!!! Right next to me are three VERY young lifeguards. Hmmm….I should give them a little space. It’s awkward. They are SOOO young. How can their mothers let them out here? They must be close to my daughter’s age.  How proud their mothers must be of them. They must be excellent swimmers. Good kids.

I am turning into the last part of the harbor. My left sided lifeguard is heading in and I can’t cross him to go to the buoy. I ask him what is happening and tell him I need to go to the buoy. He is almost blocking me. He says not to worry about it and look over at the dock and sight there. That’s the finish. All I see is a boat. Oh I see. I get fished out at the boat before the finish. I point to the boat and he says yes.

I was starting to be resigned to the idea of getting fished out but I was so close to finishing I just wanted to complete the damn swim no matter what the time. I was ready to negotiate. I WILL keep swimming. I am not exiting early at some boat. He points again and asks if I can see the yellow bouy and boat launch. Yes I can. That’s the finish. Wait that boat. The boat that was fishing me out. Where is it? It’s behind me! I swam past it. There’s the finish! He looks at his watch. I look at him. He tells me to sprint now. Excellent.

I go for it as hard as I can. I last 6 stokes and
Oh my god!
My arms are full of lactic acid. I slow back down and that’s better. No, he said sprint. I tried again. Crap. I think I’m depleted. I felt fine the whole way, never really tired just mentally busy. I hear people cheering. It reminds me of my finish at Oceanside. I look at the dock to my right and see someone who looks like James. I wonder if he made it back in time form his race. It’s not him. 

I feel good and see the boat launch. It is a radically different day from Oceanside. I am NOT getting fished out. I am finishing and the sun is shining. Holy crap! I just swam 2.4 miles!!! IN THE OCEAN!

I see the volunteer there ready to help me out of the water. I swim right until I touch the bottom of the ramp, step up and take his hand. This time I let him help me. Last time I refused during as a result of pride and a minor hallucination.

I jogged up the mat to cross the finish and feel great. Wow, much better than IM Oceanside where I could not feel my legs. I see Patti, the woman in my swim group and Tiki volunteer. She places the Tiki finishers ribbon around me and gives me a hug. I did it!!!!

The group is saying there is still another swimmer out there. What? No I am the last one. I saw the bouys being pulled in. IS there really another swimmer out there? I’m not last? I leave that thought.

I run to the bathroom to pee and return to see the last finisher coming in. Everyone is cheering loudly. I want to find the lifeguard and thank him. I cheer the finisher in and start to cry. She looks exhausted. She hobbles up the ramp. Good job! I spot my lifeguard and run over to thanks him. His name s Ryan.

The chatter among friends and other swimmers is that the first bouy took forver and they too got off course. They measured the distance at 2.9miles. They also said this was the hardest surf they have ever experienced even after doing hundreds of ocean swims. This was by far the worst.

So I may have swam beyond 2.4 miles.
I made it through the surf and really didn’t find it hard, just very challenging.
I welcomed it and honestly I liked it.

The next day I looked at the results.
I was not last, there were two others after me.
I made the cutoff time with a couple of minutes to spare.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

This Is My Race: Ironman 70.3

 This is My Race

3:45am - the alarm goes off. Feeling like somewhere between a child on Christmas Day and the day I took my board exams, I jump up out of bed.

It’s Ironman time!
Here I go.

Shower. Breakfast. James makes my daily tea and is just as chipper as I. We are goofy and joking. He sings the triathlon song and plays the video on his I-Phone. I need this more than anything right now. I eat my 350 cal breakfast, load up my stuff and we head out into the dark cool morning to Oceanside. I cannot remember much of the drive until we get close to the exit. Then the butterflies begin to flutter.

I review my mantra: “I got this. I will do it. I’m strong. I’m a badass. I will have a blast. And most importantly, this is MY race.”

We arrive at the parking lot. I already set up my T2 gear yesterday so really do not need to be there. I ask the staff if we can just drive straight to the harbor. It is not recommended. So we park there and walk/ride a mile to the harbor start. I arrive in the parking lot among hundreds of triathletes gathering their bikes and gear bags in the dark. I am briefly intimidated by all of the surrounding $5-10,000 triathlon racing bikes.

I remind myself “this is MY race.” 

I’m fine.

James snaps a picture of me holding my bike up for my dear friend, Willow. She saw a picture of a woman powerfully holding up her bike and wrote me a letter from Costa Rica requesting such a picture of me. I’m feeling more dorky than strong at the moment; but, we take the shot anyway. James happily walks with me most of the way to the harbor. I feel calm. It’s still dark and we walk near the ocean. It is breathtaking. The palm tree lined street makes me a little giddy. Growing up in the Midwest, the palm trees still fascinate me to this day. Cyclists buzz pass me like bees. Must be those super cool Zipp wheels that create the buzz. Meanwhile, my front wheel is rubbing on something, perhaps my brake. I stop several times to adjust it and try to hold my balance while hanging onto my gear bag and looping my leg around the mylar “Welcome Home” balloon tied to my bike. The balloon is to mark my T1 spot and the Welcome Home will make me laugh after the swim.

I see the bridge and decide it is time to leave James behind and ride off. I needed him and he was so kind to walk with me as long as I needed. I was ready. It was time to get to T1, get into my headspace and prepare for the swim that lies ahead of me. I kiss him goodbye and tell him I will see him at the finish. I say that more for me as I am so scared I will not finish.

I take a breath and go. Gliding down the hill I feel the breeze and excitement I feel every single time I start on my bike. I feel free. I feel strong. I feel like I am going to the coolest party ever.

I cross the Bike out arch into T1. Wow! Incredible. Triathletes everywhere, music playing. Everyone is busy setting up gear, having a snack, getting body markings. I look for the Triathlon Club of San Diego spot. Members can park their bikes there. It’s right here and wow a great spot. I wanted to be near a landmark so I didn’t have to think after the swim. I wanted to find my bike easily. This was perfect, right next to the parking box just like the other parking lot in T2. I have a lot of space around me to move. Perfect.

I see a familiar face. I met this wonderful woman at a training and we continue to run into each other. She is parked one rack away.  I see another familiar face and say hello.  I get my body marking done and return to my bike to see a familiar volunteer. I met her at a training run and absolutely loved her. We are happy to see each other. 3 friendly familiar faces. I feel good. I text James and tell him that I talked to 3 familiar people. He is nearby and I see him in the start corral. How great!

15 minutes until the pros start. I need to get going here. I get my wetsuit on and repack my gear. James clears out of the corral and we say goodbye. I again tell him I will see him at the finish.

Looking out at the water, it feels eerie. Will I see him at the finish? Or will I see him here at the bike if I DNF (do not finish) out of the water? I get nervous and cannot organize my gear. I feel rushed. In the guide they said they would close the transition area when the pros were starting. I needed to hurry and I felt disorganized. I’m not ready yet. I need to re- order my gear. I need to re check it. What if I forget something? Which goggles will I wear? I brought two. I grab the brand new clear ones and place the older dark ones in my morning clothes bag that I have to drop off before I start. I don’t know. I take my morning clothes bag and leave T1.

The men start and I watch in amazement. They are in a perfect line at the start and swim so fast. So powerful! Amazing! Then the pro women, powerful yet graceful. I hope to spot my favorite triathletes Andy Potts and Heather Jackson. Heather has been a huge inspiration to me. As I watch it hits me that I am going to be swimming there in less than an hour. Eerie. My stomach is doing flips.

The Swim

I drop off my Morning Clothes bag and get ready to go to my start corral. I see one of the volunteers I know. I am thrilled to see her. She has a comforting energy. “I need a hug!” I ask her and she gives me a great hug and wishes me luck.

I was told in one of my training groups to go to the front of my wave to swim to the start. So I wanted to make sure that happened. I am in Wave #17 and only see signs for Waves 14. I see a few other women with the bright pink swim cap…the same color as my wave.  The announcement comes that we need to move aside as the pro men are exiting the water. In a flash, Andy Potts runs by. As always he looks larger than life. I am eagerly awaiting the women in hopes of seeing Heather Jackson. The first woman flies by and I don’t recognize her. A few later, Heather runs by strong as ever. Okay. NOW I’m ready.

I take three hits of my inhaler for my cold induced asthma. It seems empty. Theoretically there should be a lot more inhalations than I have used. I wait to see if it kicks in.  Nothing. I’m certainly anxious but no more than I have been all morning. I’m not feeling it.  Oh crap! What if it is empty? I can’t swim in cold water without it! Deep breath. Let it go. Try again in a bit.

Wave 16 is next. I am lined up with my group behind the Wave 17 sign. I take 3 more inhalations, one being a test to see if I can taste it. I could. Okay, good. Still not feeling it but it could simply be masked by race anxiety.  I ask the volunteer where I leave my inhaler and he says close to the dock. I should see a table for glasses and inhalers. I watch Wave 16 get into the water and swim to the start buoys. Deep breath….I take a VERY deep breath. We’re next.

Wave 17… please line up at the water. I do not see the table for the inhalers and glasses and ask someone. He takes it for me. I scope out which is the most efficient side to start. I move to the right. The water is warmer than my last open water practice…a balmy 58 degrees. I splash my face to acclimate and feel confident. I say aloud “I got this.”

“Wave 17…you may now enter the water.”

I get in and immediately swim hard to the start. Then I look up and realize that I veered too far to the right AWAY from my group, AWAY from the start. I turn towards the group and swim harder. I get closer and stop to catch a breath or two.
Or three….or four… Oh no, I’m feeling that all too familiar panic creeping up. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe at all.

All of Wave 17, all of the women in bright pink swim caps start.

It’s time to go? But I’m not ready? I haven’t even gotten to my starting place. I need to breathe first.  I try to swim anyway. I can’t breathe at all. I stop to try to deep breathe and relax and it’s not happening. I put my face in the water. No way! That makes it worse.  I try to breaststroke but forgot how. Oh crap I really can’t  do this. Did my inhaler fail me? I forget everything I learned including how to swim! I try to doggie paddle. What? I know how to swim! But why can’t I? Why can’t I breathe? My group gets further away and I am still at the start. I look around bobbing in the water. Oh no, someone is going to see me bobbing here and fish me out.

I am done. I am going to turn around and go home. I can’t do this and I’d rather go now before they disqualify me while I am in the water swimming. Might as well just stop now. Breathing is still really hard and I am dizzy now. There is no way I am going to swim 1.2 miles like this. And the thought of going out to the jetty scares me.

The next wave of swimmers goes past me.

I’m still at the start.

I think about the last 9 months since I signed up for the race. I think about the hard work I put into this. I think of the many days of training and accomplishments and growth. Ironically, one would think that would be enough to snap me out of this but it doesn’t. I am happy with my growth. I already proved to myself my strength and ability so why not just go home now. Great, 9 months down the drain. I wasted my time and everyone else’s. Good one Cecily.


I have so many people who know I am doing this. What will I tell them? I quit? I don’t ever quit. What will I tell my coworkers tonight? We are all going to a spa together later. I just won’t go then. They will ask on Monday. What will I tell Coach Tom? Oh man, that leaves a horrible feeling inside. I think of all of my friends and family cheering me on. The outpour of support I have received. I think about my children. I think of what Coach Tom told me the night before. “Whatever you do, I want you to promise me you will have fun in the swim.” I made that promise to him. I can’t break it.  And my kids cannot see their mother as a quitter…ever.

Okay, deep breath. I try. I know I blew it time wise and I know I will probably DNF but I will at least try and enjoy the swim. I start swimming with my head out of the water. I move forward. I begin to put my head in the water and breathe every other stroke. Not bad at all. I’m moving forward. Then every third and finally every 4th  stroke. I sight on the buoys and in no time I am swimming. I remember Tom telling me to swim long. I stretch out.

I got this.

I pass a few buoys and am enjoying the swim! I can breathe now and I’m out of the harbor and already ¼ out. This is so much fun. The buoys seem to be going right by. I am way out and sighting on the final buoy before I turn back. The water is choppy with more and more swimmers are bumping into me. I liked having the other swimmers around. I didn’t mind swimmers bumping or crowding me. I felt camaraderie. At this point something interesting is happening in the water. I continue to swim and look up to see swimmers just bobbing around not swimming. I feel proud that I am still swimming at a steady pace. I see some swimmers hanging onto the kayaks to rest. Wow. I don’t need to rest at all. I feel great and keep swimming. I turn and try to sight but can’t see any buoy. Instead I see a giant swell of water. Wow. It’s otherworldly and must be 6 feet tall! It’s not coming towards me. It is in front of me. The water is rocky making my swim feel nearly uphill. I am fascinated. I really want to bob there and watch this phenomenon but have work to do. Okay so now what? I barely see the next buoy and head in that direction realizing that I am essentially swimming uphill. This is exciting. I make it past the big swell and am heading back.

I anticipated that the swim back would be with the current so it will go faster. Not quite. In fact it was the opposite. That’s why I made it out so fast. Now I am swimming against a current because those buoys are not passing nearly as fast as when I came out. This is great though. I’m having fun and am looking forward to swimming in the ocean another day. The water is still choppy and it is hard to sight so I sight on a building in the same line. The harbor arrives and I turn into it. I can’t wait to tell people about the big swell. Realizing that I have been out here a long time and feeling like this swim has been longer than my practice swims,  I’m pretty sure I did not make the time cutoff especially since I panicked at the start.

I swim faster and for a split second as I am getting close to the finish I decide that I am not going to the dock. I will swim past it and swim in circles refusing to get out. I don’t want them to tell me I DNF’d. They have to come and get me! I don’t really do it but was tempted. I saw a glimpse of James right there so I better get out.

The final buoy is close and its’ time to turn right into the dock. I swim until my feet can touch, look up and see a line of swimmers in blue swim caps waiting, standing. Why are they there? They were in the wave after me, I think. Oh no! They are the other DNF-ers! Oh no! They are reaching hands out to me. Oh no. I really didn’t finish! They must be supporting me and we will all go to a tent and get counseling as a group. I have to keep some semblance of pride here and at least exit the water myself so I decline their help.

Yet, James is there telling me I am a champ. I’m confused. I’m thoroughly disoriented. “Did I make it?” I ask him. “Yes of course!!!!” he says. I don’t believe him and I look at the clock. I did make it.  Oh my gosh! I made it!!!! I only lost 10 minutes from my anticipated swim time. I made it with time to spare!

I run to the table where my inhaler is and ask for it. Except I cannot really move my lips because my face is numb. They have no idea what I am saying so I just go on and run to my bike.  I struggle with running because my legs are numb. I am so happy though. I feel blessed. I made it. Mother nature gave me a chance here.

I get to my bike and two volunteers are ready to help me. They offer to help me with my wetsuit and bags. I automatically decline their help worried that I will get disqualified. I read the rulebook several times before the race. I then realize I am near the end of the group so no one is really worried that I will somehow gain an advantage and place. I accept the help.

Now what? What do I do next? I can’t think of the order to proceed. I don’t think I am cold but I don’t know. I stare at my bag. Oh yes, drink warm water. Eat a snack. I talk with the volunteers and they are trying to move me along. What’s the big rush? I am so happy to be there. I tell them I am blessed and thought I would not make it out of the swim to this point. I get my act together and try to focus. Clothes. Warm hat. Everything is on. I LOVE the warm water and miso soup. I take another bite of bar and leave the rest. The volunteer tells me I need to eat it and how important nutrition is. She sounds just like Coach Tom and all I could do was see him there telling me this.  Okay. Fine, I put the rest of the bar in my pocket and go. The volunteers pack my bags for me. I thank them. I get to the bike out and ask if I can get on now. Yes! I can!

I grin from ear to ear through the chute out and almost cry.
I’m here.
I’m on the bike.
I made it!
I will be fine!
I’m going to spend the rest of the day riding and running!

The Bike

I am feeling great. I see someone already walking up the tiny hill out of the harbor. I feel sad for them. I power up it no problem. I am not cold. I feel good, a little tired but good. It takes me a few miles before I realize it is raining. Something I had feared throughout my training. It’s a small drizzle. I reflect on what James was shouting at me on the way out. Something like “Don’t worry, it’s not rain, just fog. You will be fine.” At the time I wonder what in the hell he is saying and why. Nothing registers in my brain then. Now I see what he is saying. And no, it’s a bit more than fog. I’m fine with it. I’m not afraid. My bike is handling it well and I am glad I wore the windbreaker. Though the water on my sunglasses is annoying. I bought new tires, Continental all weathers, for this exact reason.

I review my mantra again: “I got this. I will do it. I’m strong. I’m a badass. I will have a blast. And most importantly, this is MY race.”

I am in the flats having a great time. I could almost sing.  I went from feeling completely out of control in the water to full control on the bike. I am confident on my bike. I look at my speedometer and am easily going 24mph in the flats. Coach Tom said to ride one gear easier than what feels easy, spin and to never try to go fast at the start and bank time. I will only pay for it later. I feel great right now but know this is way too fast to start. I reluctantly pull back to 20mph. I need to average 14mph for a 4 hour bike finish. I know I can go way faster and easily finish in less than 4 hours but I need to save enough energy for the run. I’m confident in my running and have had some significant breakthroughs in my training but I know things can happen. I can fatigue. The three hills in Camp Pendleton are an unknown. I feel pretty good on hills and calculated my paces prior to the race. But I have never ridden them and have received mixed reviews of the hills. I need to save some energy for those too. So I bring my pace down further to 18 and that’s it.

I see a truck with a giant digital clock on top. Must be the pros. Yes! It’s the #1 male pro, Andy Potts. He zooms past me heading back to the harbor. He looks 100% focused. What a privilege! I continually think of how lucky I am to be here. I am thrilled to enter Camp Pendleton and explore. I am thrilled to see the countryside.

Someone is on the side of the road waiting for help to change a tire. I feel so sad for her. I see help is coming. I pray that my tires stay intact but review in my head the exact process for changing my tires. Someone passes me and cheers me on. The volunteers so far have been so kind and now even the other racers.

My elation begins to settle into comfort and solitude. I welcome this. I look around and it feels like Ireland. I am surrounded by green mountains and mist in the air. The rain stopped; but, it is still wet. It smells nice.  I reach Christianitos Rd in San Clemente, the turn into the mountains before the first climb. James and I drove as far as we could before the gates to Camp Pendleton a week ago. When we drove we scoped out the first hill at a distance which didn’t seem too bad. Until now I had been riding in and out of Camp. Once I get here I will be in Camp Pendleton the rest of the ride until the last few miles. The road was rolling which I loved. My strategy was to hammer down the hills to make up for the uphills. It’s easy and requires little energy. I ride along into the base and grab a water bottle from the volunteers. I have been eating every 15 minutes and drinking my miso/carbo pro soup. I was pretty thirsty.

The ride is smooth and I see the first climb which seemed quite intimidating. It was much steeper than what we saw at a far distance in the car. It looked steeper than my mother-in-law’s hill which was rough. I realize I should have trained harder on Double Peak by my house. Here I go. Everyone is walking. I look down and push up. I will NOT walk. I refuse. 1/3 of the way up I hit a wall.
I walk.
I hear volunteers shouting at the top like military generals.
I won’t walk anymore!
I get on my bike and climb the rest. I pass the walkers and cannot look at them. I make it to the top and am elated and rewarded with a beautiful downhill. The views are incredible and it’s hammertime.

The other hills come which are not nearly so steep. I complete two climbs and giggle to myself. I climb the hills well, no problems. I see several cyclists again walking. They have very expensive bikes with all of the bells and whistles. I pass them right up. I think to myself, “What exactly are they paying for with those bikes if they can’t get up the hills?” I have a newfound appreciation for my little Cannondale.

Mile 50. My pace is right on track for my projected finish time. I feel centered and confident. I am still smiling and feeling so blessed that I made it this far.  I savor every minute of this race. I want to ride faster but I have to save it for the run.  I complete the last downhill and ride in the flats. There is a small headwind. Nothing bad, but enough to make me work a little to keep the projected pace. It’s nice to start seeing where I started. I am nearing the end of Camp Pendleton and heading into Oceanside. I’m happy and tired.

Suddenly out of the blue, I begin to well up with tears and long for my family. I wanted to see them more than anything right now. Must be nutrition, I thought. So I drink and eat more. I still want to see them and hope they will be at T2. I arrive at the harbor, the very place where I took off from the swim, still ever so appreciative. The volunteers guide us to the left to ride to T2. The volunteer shouts, “You are almost there and no more hills. Great job!” Yes, at this point I really am done with the smallest of hills.

I am mentally ready for the run now. They send us downhill on the strand. It’s nice but I am confused. I know T2 is uphill from here and the volunteer said no more uphills. Maybe they changed the bike finish? Anything can happen, I suppose. I am still dreaming of my family and hoping I can make a really fast finish. I want them to see me strong. Then there is the turn back uphill.
Oh no!!!
It is short, steep and just nasty.
I stand up to pedal and feel numbness in my legs. Crap! The residents are cheering me on and telling me I am so close. I make it up but am pretty upset about the last hill. The volunteer said NO MORE HILLS! Okay move on. It’s flat to T2 …really. Unfortunately the length was not far enough for me to make a grand 30mph hour finish for my family. I enter the chute and see them with incredible signs and cowbells ringing. I cry tears of joy. I am so happy to see them. I get off my bike to enter T2 and my legs are numb. I planned to run my bike in but can’t seem to naturally put one foot in front of the other while rolling my bike. Far too much coordination for me. So I walk as fast as I can. Volunteers are guiding me to my spot. I know exactly where it is. A volunteer helps my put my bike on the rack and asks if I need anything. I tell him “I am just so blessed I am here!!!!” I am a little confused. Shoes are changed, helmet off, warm clothes off. I ate a gel, drank some and now what? What am I forgetting? I’m fine and I dart off. The volunteer yells something at me. Oh I must have forgotten to remove my helmet. I feel my head and it’s off. I turn around and ask him what? He says “Good luck!” These volunteers are the best!

The Run

I am elated. I made it to the run. I finished the bike in 4 hours and few minutes over. Perfect. I have plenty of time for the run as long as nothing bad happens. I trust in my ability but also know in the past I have freaked out and lost any semblance of a finish time.
I review my mantra for the last time: “I got this. I will do it. I’m strong. I’m a badass. I will have a blast. And most importantly, this is MY race.”

I run out of T2. The legs are feeling funky. Not quite as numb but my form is way off. Oh well.  It does feel good to be running though. I see my family at the exit and they are cheering me on. I tell them, “I got this! I’m here!”
And I’m off.

I feel as if I am trudging along at a snail’s pace when I look at my Garmin and it is saying I am going 1.5 minutes faster than planned. Nope, it’s wrong. I know I am slow right now. Let’s see what it says at 1 mile.  At 1 mile it is in fact correct. Uh oh, I need to slow down. I’m a bit short of breath the entire time so it must be right. I am supposed to run a negative split. I pull back after the first mile and still feel the same. I work on my form as best as I can. I can’t quite get the pelvis tucked in like I usually do so I work on the upper body and hope the rest will follow. I see my family again at the pier going up. I didn’t realize it was an uphill and nearly tripped. It is so great to see them again. 

2 miles in, I see the sign where it says 8 mile cut off at 3:08pm. That is my last hurdle. If I make it past that in time, I will finish this race. I look at my watch and I have plenty of time but still keep in mind something can happen so I can’t get lazy. The run along the ocean is beautiful. It is a two loop course so I see people coming and going. We enter the neighborhoods and the slight uphill. A runner catches up with me and starts chatting with me. This is his 3rd half. His last half Ironman was in Hawaii. He asks me if this is my first. I tell him “yes and I am so blessed to be here! I didn’t think I would make it out of the swim and I am here!” We chat more and I find out he is already on his second lap. Oh how I’d like to be on my second lap. It’s okay. I’m here and am doing well. My alarm goes off, time for the walk break. I have been running 3 minutes and walking 1 minute. The runner decided to keep running and we say goodbye.

I am ready for some solitude. I need to get up this hill and focus. Overall I am feeling emotionally neutral. I am pleased with that. No drama. In the past running was always dramatic for me full of negativity, frustration and disappointment in myself. Right now I am fine. I hurt, physically. In fact I hurt a lot but I can sustain for the rest of the run. My body is far stronger than my mind allows.

The run continues, I turn at the turnaround and head back to the beach and pier again. I am calculating my times as much as my foggy brain will allow. I am far better at calculations on the bike than on the run. All I know is so far I still have more than enough time to make the 8 mile cutoff. I remain focused. I have a mile to go before the cutoff which will also lead me to the second and LAST loop.

Wow! I’m doing this. I really am.

I reflect on the fact that I made it through the swim, I kicked butt on the bike and I am going to kick butt on the run. I start calculating again and am pretty close to a PR. In fact, right now if I remain at this pace I will smash my PR.  Wow, to finish and run a PR. My last PR was in my last marathon. Then, a run on fresh legs. Not a run after a 1.2 mile swim and 56 mile hilly bike ride! Wow. I am strong! At the same time I am thinking this, I am also contemplating just relaxing on the rest of the run after 8 miles and just finishing happy. I’m not that invested in the PR. At this point I can walk the rest of the way and finish in time. We’ll see.

I go up the pier for the last time and have this wonderful moment of clarity. I look around and see children at the beach and an incredible view. I take it all in. I am so lucky to be here I think to myself. This is absolutely incredible. I am smiling again. And guess who’s there? The race photographer.  I bet that will be a nice picture. A REAL picture.

Later, I see the 8 mile cutoff sign in the distance. My eyes remain focused on it. It gets closer. A volunteer is standing there. As I pass it I am elated. The volunteer cheers me on and I tell him “ I did it! I’m going to finish!” My eyes well up and I breathe a huge sigh of relief. No more cutoffs! No more racing against the clock. My watch says 2:44pm. The 8 mile cutoff is at 3:08pm and the finish cutoff is 4:18pm. I have 94 minutes to complete 5 miles. That’s an 18+ minute mile! I believe that is my CRAWLING pace! 5 miles left and now I know nothing will go wrong short of passing out or something extreme. I am still emotionally neutral and in fact pretty happy and confident. Even if I have some sort of drama, I can crawl an 18 min mile. Heck, I can stop for a tea somewhere or hop in the ocean for a quick swim and STILL make it. If I had my phone, I could check my email. I giggle at these thoughts and keep running.

Physically, I am pretty tired. I want a nap more than anything. I close my eyes for a few seconds and it is heaven. Then I have visions of tripping over something and decide it’s not a good idea to rest my eyes on the run.  I look forward to going to the spa that night with my coworkers. I had a massage scheduled for 6:30pm and will have a story to tell these wonderful women.

Thrilled to be on the second loop, I see my friend that I met at one of my training classes. She looked tired but strong and is almost finished. We say hello again and I cheer her on. I am nearing the turnaround and almost mile 11.  I saw that mile marker before and so longed to be there. Now I am. I am finally at 11.  I am taking more walk breaks. I decide to let the PR go. I am running out of energy despite my efforts at refueling on the clock. I still feel good emotionally. NO walls. Just sleepy.

The positive energy is infectious. I am on my last lap and see other runners still running the other direction. I cheer them on and see them smile.

I meet someone along the way who is walking. I walk with her for a bit. She looks strong. I ask how long she trained and she laughed. Only 2 mos.  We talk more and we are both thrilled to be at this point in the race. I tell her my story and how blessed I am to finally make it here. I really could walk the rest at this point but I need to keep it real and run. So I say goodbye and run more.

12 miles. I’m still in the neighborhood. This is starting to become the longest 2 miles of the entire 70.3 miles I am about to complete. Now I want to be done. I try to pick it up and run faster. According to my Garmin I am still within PR territory but dropping fast. I run harder and it really is not faster than what I have been doing in my run. I make the turn downhill back to the strand along the beach. I have come down this hill several times only to turn AWAY from the finish. Now I get to go to the finish. Seeing the ocean and the sign pointing me towards the finish makes me cry.  The sun came out in the last 6 miles of the run, the waves are coming in and the volunteers are cheering me on.  I am overwhelmed with happiness. It really hits me this time that I will finish. It is no longer a theory or dream. I see the finish in the distance. I start to sprint and that lasted a few seconds. Legs were not having it. Seriously? Really? I’m hot too. The next aid station is full of lively volunteers, about 6-9 on each side. I run through, grab a wet sponge and pour it on my head.  They cheer louder and all are holding their hands up for high fives. I give them all high fives. Once I make it past them the finish chute is in sight.

I stop.

I have no idea why. I suppose to take this moment in. I take a deep breath and hold back the tears. This is it. This is what I visualized for the months. I reflect on the whole race. I reflect on my fears and accomplishments. I hear my coach, Tom’s voice in his slight accent tell me to enjoy the moment. I wish he could be here to see this, to see his hard work. I can’t wait to tell him the story. When I met him, I really believed I had no chance of finishing this race. He always believed in me despite my efforts at self-sabotage. I reflect on all of my friends cheering me on from afar. They are also there in my heart. Best of all, most of my family is right there and they will see me finish. So now it’s time to see them.

And I’m off.

Running in the chute like an elated wild woman. I hear cheers. I see my family and they are high fiving me. I feel myself smiling. The announcer announces my name. I raise my fist in the air feeling strong as ever and cross the line. The volunteer gives me my medal and I hug her with tears. “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!!” I tell her.

My mantra now? “I got this. I did it. I was so strong. I was a total badass. I had a blast. This race is mine, all mine.”

My goals when I started per my email to Tom:
“To finish on time, not get fished out of the water or DNF.
Most important- smile when I come through the finish chute!!!!”

All goals achieved.