Saturday, November 3, 2012

Hawaii... Mahalo

“Mom, could you please get my snorkel?” My mind embraces the, “please” giddy with enjoyment of hearing that from both my boys.   I stand up and head for the beach towels and bag to grab the prized snorkel.  I glance at the ocean finding a sense of free peace and calm from its blue hue and movement.    Reaching for the snorkel, I see a woman in the ocean floating face down about a hundred feet from shore.  I search for her snorkel and realize she is not enjoying the fish… she has drowned.  Sprinting to the water  the burning sand melts away from my feet as I jump into the ocean.  I swim to her and tap her on the shoulder with some wild hope that she will lift her head and yell at me for interrupting her swim.  No movement.  I turn her body over as foam rushes from her mouth and nose then place her head on my chest and start pulling her out of the ocean.   I scream 911 and HELP through a mouth full of salt water and my voice is in my ears similar to screaming in a dream. Pulling her up to shore I can feel the pain in my skin as I drag her body over the coral, sand and lava rock.  My body is shaking and immediately my auto pilot takes over remembering my CPR skills.  The ocean has soaked her body and while trying to drain the water from her lungs the thoughts of hope rush through my mind.   It is 3:00pm that time of day where the heat from the sun has swelled up and saved itself for the sand.   Searching for a heartbeat, her body turns shades of blue to purple and her eyes stare at me as if she is telling me to work harder.  I can feel her stare and the eyes of others who begin to form a circle around us.  The EMT’s finally arrive and begin their magic.  I am shaking on the outside and praying on the inside.  Her daughter races to the shore and is in complete shock and screaming as if she is in a nightmare.   Her family and friends had arrived that day to celebrate her 40th  Birthday.   I am a Mother reviving a Mother for a Mother who is desperately hoping this nightmare will end.   The EMTs stare in my eyes and shake their head while continuing the resuscitator making sure they have exhausted all possibilities.    The adrenaline is racing through my body and tears are flowing down my face as they carry the woman to the ambulance.  I can hear the ocean and waves, children laughing and look up to remember the snorkel.    How has twenty minutes of time made such a profound impact on my life?  I have wasted twenty minutes many times in one day and not thought a second about the time passing.   I am numb with tragedy, and my body is thoroughly exhausted as if I had just finished a marathon.    People are talking and moving about the beach, and everything is in slow motion.  I hear voices but, it is all mumbled and I cannot make out the sounds.  I find myself laying on the sand staring at the sky.  Tears are flowing down my face and as I look up a lady is staring down at me and says, “You tried”.   My life became extremely narrow very quickly to the sole necessities of love, my boys, family, friends, peace and fostering simplicity.  Spiritually I believe life events happen for a reason to teach us something we need to learn or to prepare us for someone coming into our life.  

Sadly the woman did not survive.  Thankfully she was surrounded by friends and family when she passed away at the hospital. Negating one of her biggest fears, to die alone.  A courageous woman who has taught me to live in and enjoy each moment.    I miss the Hawaii sun, warm ocean and white sand… peace.  Mahalo Hawaii.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Coeur D' Alene Ironman 2012

The pilot barks commands over the loud speaker, "All crew, passengers attention I need everyone in their seats, carts in lock down, crew seated in 5."   I stare into the eyes of a flight attendant with my heart pounding and I can feel its beat in my throat.  The passenger next to me can sense my fear and as I sit with a tray full of airplane food he asks, "Are you going to eat that?"  I stutter the word no and he takes my tray, holds my hand and says... "Just breathe, relax, I just finished Ironman and there is no way this plane is going down."  He continues to talk to me about his race as he shovels a 2nd tray of what he deems cuisine into his fit body.  I listen and completely forget about the emergency and become lost in his adventure.  Years pass and this Ironman dream comes up in conversation with my good friend, Mark Reilly and it seems a little more interesting. Time goes by....I lay in bed staring at the light fixture in my room as the sun tries to pry open the dark curtains.  I am deeply depressed and searching to grasp a blade to pull me out of a very dark place.  I stare at the light then look down at my phone remembering my bucket list and pull up the note to read the first item... IRONMAN.  The blade. 

I started this journey two years ago.  My training buddy Bob Smith had just finished Vineman and we decided to do Ironman Coeur D'Alene in 2012.  I had done some research on Ironman coaching  prior to watching the race in 2011.  The day after the race I signed up and a day later received an email from a coach I had contacted months earlier who asked, " Did you sign up? Ready to start training?  That was the confirmation I needed ... A coach seeking accountability.

The flight attendant calls out over the loudspeaker.. "Welcome Ironman athletes on our flight to Spokane."  I look around and realize she is referring to me and not just the fit athletic guy sitting next to me... 

Training for an Ironman is a feat in itself and a journey just to get to the starting line. The personal sacrifices and monumental friends and family support is a daily enduring necessity.   Not to mention my coach and other professionals who guided me on a daily basis.

Rock Star Credits
Coach Chris Hauth of AIMP Coaching
Craig Upton of Upton Performance Labs
Andy Tubbs Sports Massage Therapy
Nick Nicastro of SAGMonkey
Ryan Moore
Erica Moody of Presidio Sports Medicine
The O'Neil Boys

I had a daily battle with nerves as race day approached.  You could feel the nervous energy wrapping the Athletes Village.   I tried my hardest to zone out the race chatter and fill my head with Chris' wisdom and voice.   The mini workouts helped ease my twitchiness.  Nick Nicastro continued to flood my mind with positive thoughts and took care of my bike in between workouts.   I felt like I had studied hard for an exam but had no idea how the professor was going to test me on the material.

The day before the race I ate my largest meal at 1:00pm, 18 hours prior to the gun time.   Just do what Chris tells you to do and trust him.  It worked like a charm.  I woke up race morning hungry and ready to eat at 4:00am.  

I made my way to the transition and dried off my bike from the evening downpour, loaded nutrition and tuned out a female athlete telling me not to go too fast down the hills.  She sounded like Charlie Brown's teacher in my time I am wearing my Shuffle.   I hook up with Bob and we make our way to the beach and get ready for the gun.  My feet are happy to stand in the familiar sand and I can feel my heart beating through my wetsuit.  6:59 gun and we are off swimming.  If you have ever been in traffic on the I-5 in Los Angeles at 5:30pm then you have experienced an Ironman swim start.  It is packed and if I don't have a foot in my face then there is a hand grabbing my leg.   I am searching for real estate.. Anything.   I am breathing so fast I swim head up for a while just trying to find a way out of the mess which does not exist until the second turn.   There was an emergency athlete evacuation which created huge swells from the emergency boat.  I find myself almost underneath one of the red turn bouys.  I complete the first lap in 46 minutes and actually quite surprised by that time all things considered. As I get out of the first lap I am elated that I am surrounded by athletes and not last!  We climb back into I-5 for loop two and now I am warmed up, I can swim with ease and complete the last frozen lap.  Water 57 degrees.  I can do better on the swim and should have lined up farther to the right as Chris had told me to do.

I run out of the water on frozen feet and with numb hands toss on my helmet, shoes, arm warmers and glasses and set off to get my bike.   Little long on the transition (9:29)! I am greeted at the bike racks with a roar of cheering (and funny antidotes) from my family and friends.  I am off on my bike and review the plan, Z3 heart rate, eat 150 calories and drink 20oz every hour.    The bike course is two loops of 56 miles and has a few challenging hills.  Not steep just long and I am happy to have trained with my friends Mt. Tam and BoFax.  There is a familiar silence on the bike and I feel like I am in a library..staying quiet but focused on my task at hand.   I stopped at the first set of bathrooms and waited in line for 5 minutes.  Same bathroom mess as a marathon...I should have known.  I hear some just go on the bike and I tried that but, stage fright, it didn't work..  The next time I was smarter and found bathrooms with no lines!   The second loop required more brain power on the way out on Highway 95. The hills felt steeper and the wind was pushing us back. I laughed a few times on the bike as I said to myself, "Holy $hit Leslie you are running a marathon today!" And so it was... I found T2 and another set of bathrooms....I was nailing the water requirement! I could not wait to get this bike (yes, beloved Cervelo) stuck off from the bottom of my feet!   I reviewed the run plan and kept my HR within 5 beats +/- of a settled HR of 144. The sun found its way to the blue sky and the heat of the day rose from the asphalt.  I could feel the heat and started my ice tricks.  Never thought I would be thankful for the lessons learned on past bad marathons.  Some stomach issues on the run but nothing new and not severe. The first loop was easier than the second and mile 16 felt like mile 20.  I carried a 10oz Fuel Belt water bottle which filled easy at the water stops.  I failed at eating on the run.  I did sneak in a pack of Honey Stinger Chews one by one and drank Coke ( yes, you read right...) at mile 23 and by mile 24 I felt like Speedy Gonzales.  I could hear Mike Reilly, the crowd, music and I honed in on the finish.   The sun was beginning its decent and it was 7:00pm... How had this day flown by so fast?  I see my boys cheering and before I know it I hear....Leslie you are an Ironman!  I was greeted by a wonderful volunteer who held my arm and helped me through the shoot. 

Finish 12:02:42. 
Swim: 1:29:02  Bike: 6:23:55  Run: 3:55:54  
Division Rank: 11  Overall Rank: 587

Best Race Gear: A CH trained body
Funniest Sign: I trained 6 months to hold this sign
Biggest Laugh: Guys ripping them on the run
Lasting Memory: Chills I felt running through the finish

If you ask my legs if I will do another Ironman they will say no. If you ask my mind it would say...probably...

Thank you to all my friends and family. Without you this dream would have never happened. I love you and hope some day I can support you in your adventures.

My thoughts and prayers go to Sean Murphy and his family and friends.  Sean died of cardiac arrest during the swim portion of the race.  May you Rest in Peace.  Article from Seattle Times