Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Ironman Arizona - November 16, 2014

New Jersey is known as the armpit of America and I think I found its cousin in Tempe, Arizona.  I should have been suspicious of this race characteristic with the lead sponsor, Waste Management.  This was Ironman number 3.. they say three is a charm, third is lucky and there were many signs of this luck throughout the day.  

Friday before the race I met up with Nick (the SagMonkey), grabbed my gear and set out for a practice swim.  Taking a view of the water I did not see anyone swimming.  Nope, they were not allowing athletes into the water except for a practice swim on Saturday.   Frantically texting my coach he said, go warm up in the pool nobody should subject themselves twice to that nasty water.  Done.  I turned back and looked at the water noticing there weren't any birds or ducks either.   My best friend from college warned me it was a disgusting "lake" so I was somewhat prepared.   

Race morning was super smooth.  I got up at 4:00am after "resting" for 7 hours... I say resting because I am quite certain I did not sleep the night before.  I found my groove and breezed through the full body spray down in sunscreen and body glide, jumped into my race gear and set off to the start.   

The past two Ironman's pre race were much more nerve racking than the third.   Race morning and every day leading up to the race I just felt a ton of butterflies.  I was ready and deep inside felt a calm confidence about the day.    

Time to inch my way to the dock and jump in for a 300 meter swim to the start.  I should have known the "Waste Management"  theme would ring throughout the day as we moved like a rookery of penguins toward the dock.  Similar to inching your way out of a concert or sporting event it is slow moving.  I passed an athlete clutching a garbage can throwing up and dry heaving.  I offered him the last sip of water in my bottle and all he could muster was a shake of his head as he stood hugging the can.  More penguin waddling and I jump into the "lake" and place my face in the muck of water.  It is dingy.  I can't see my hand pull past my face.   In a clean water match up between Tempe Town Lake and the break off Sloat at Ocean Beach where the sewer runs I think Sloat OB may take the clean victory.   Me and 3,000 other penguins make our way to the start buoys.   The water smells so I purse my lips trying to keep any drop out of my mouth.  Chris held a meeting with his athletes the day before the race and one guy asked, Should I put Imodium or Tums in my bike transition?.. I start panicking that I did not do that!  Fbombs are flying through my head and I actually think through the route for me to stop at Walgreens once on the bike.   Swimming with a big pucker I feverishly try not to let the water sneak past my lips! 

I am a slow swimmer.   I met a guy, Steve Kukta, a couple years ago who dearly swam next to me across Donner Lake during a training weekend.  He coined the term "lane 8" swimmer in his latest race recap, which I thought was fitting for me as well.  I actually may be a lane 9 swimmer but, the one thing I have going for me is that I swim super straight in open water.  

The gun goes off and the waddling penguins are now swimming as if being chased by a seal.  Here we go with hands in my face, arms on top of my head, bodies sandwiched, spooned it is unclear as I am swimming in the middle of a pile of people sticking to each other.  Just like traffic we plug along and then all of the sudden we are swimming and into our groove.. nope, slam on the breaks.  I was kicked, I was clawed, my goggles were ripped off my face at one point.   Somehow,  I find the finish and push myself up on the bleacher seats and exit to the bike.  There has got to be a spot for us slow straight swimmers.

The first few turns of the crank were textbook and my bike transition was smooth just like my morning started.   The day's mantra: just do what Chris tells you to do.   After the first 10 minutes on the bike my stomach began to cramp.  Uh Oh.  My stomach has had this feeling before after a trip to Cabo San Lucas.  All went well until the last day when we ate at a Taco stand.  Those cramps were all too familiar and it took a trip to the Doc, a donated sample and a Cipro Rx to get rid of them.  Damn Tempe Lake!  I must have swallowed the water?!  AHHHH... slight panicking on the bike. Where is the Imodium???!! Then I just think ok, first keep pedaling, second finish the bottle of water Chris told you to drink before putting in any food.  OK, I finish the water and my stomach cramped again... ahhhh... stressing and sweating more than normal I think, think think.. Ok, drink all the Osmo.. gulk, gulk, gulk, in goes the Osmo all 40 oz of it.  I sneak in some food and just go with it, drinking and eating accordingly and trying to ignore my stomach cramps. 

Do you remember the sponsor?  Yep,  Waste Management or as my Finisher shirt is printed, "presented by... Waste Management.  (I think they are proud of it?)  The bike is a three loop course and we pass the Waste Management center six times!  The smell of burning trash is putrid and metallic.  You can see the inferno from the highway and smell its presence from at least a mile away.   On a day without wind this would be a super easy ride but, on this day the winds really picked up as the day progressed.  In one direction along the Beeline Highway I was fighting to hold 10mph on the flats and then at the turn enjoyed 25+mph.  The wind is so strong thorns blow onto the highway and athletes are flatting out left and right.  I had a little chit chat with my bike angel about our "no flat" deal.  Thankfully no flats.   Thank you bike angel!

Three loops of anything is monotonous not to mention the desert.  But in all that monotony my stomach cramps had vanished!  I did not have to go to the bathroom though. Now, by this time I have had 6 -  20 oz bottles of water/Osmo... that's a 6-pack and a half!  I saw a lot of women during this race peeing on the bike, and yes in the wind.  The thought of peeing all over my beloved Cervelo and Zipp 404s just is well, can't do it.  

There is some beauty in the desert.  The dark pointy mountain range like a cut out against a huge blue sky and surrounded in shades of white and green cactus each with their own personality.  Happily I find the end of the bike course and get out of the wind, or so I thought.   

Into the tent I go and get ready to run.  I am a runner.  Running is my happy place. Skipping and cheerfully singing to jump in my running shoes.  I was unsure of what this marathon would bring.  After running Boston in April I had to fix two tears in my Plantar.   An MRI revealed as the Dr. said a "degenerative" runners foot.  In fact, I think in the report the word "degenerative" was used 12 times to describe my foot.  Welcome to 43 Lane 9 swimmer.   That foot has been running for 38 years!  The cure was two PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) injections,  weekly acupuncture, daily icing, bi-weekly physical therapy, massage, chiro and strength training like no other to wake up the posterior chain.  I was vicious but, patient with healing my foot. My friend Mike, a professional chef,  taught me how to make Liver which I learned was good for building healthy tissue.. I really gave it a girl scout try on the liver but, could not get it down.   No wonder it is a $1.87 for an entire container from the butcher!

I finally got an all clear to start running again mid August.  Dr. Rowan Paul at CPMC did an outstanding job at fixing my Plantar.   I started running on the Alter G and a walk/run until I could run for 30 minutes.  Chris was instrumental in slowly increasing the running and chaining me to dirt and grass.  My longest pre-race run was in Truckee around the Sawtooth Trail for a couple hours. The marathon was a complete mystery to me if I was even going to finish.  

Chris's words from the day before rattle my brain as I exited the tent, "Leslie, you can run this entire marathon".   One foot in front of the other, legs feeling like pegs and fbomb!  Would someone turn off the wind!  The Waste Management gift that keeps on giving presents us with 26.2 miles on CONCRETE around the "lake" !  My running buddies all shuttered that we ran a marathon on concrete. Surprisingly even on concrete,  the miles tick away.  The sunset turns the sky to orange and then to my surprise as the sun sets it also turns off the wind, the cool air wrapped my body and my pace picked up.  I call it the boogieman pace, an easy to hold clip in the dark of night.   Suddenly the turnover is effortlessly faster and I start flying by runners and they are cheering me on, wow!  go!  Great pace!  Like a horse near the barn I am all about finding that finish line.   All I can think about is finding my boys and their sweet little faces near the finish chute .   I want to hear about their day and kiss them.  

FINISH LINE:  11:43.57.   
Swim: 1:24.04   Bike: 6:08.26   Run: 3:59.42
14th in Age Group, 85th Female and 498 Overall

Arriving back home I dilly dally for a few days and then go into full swing preparing for Thanksgiving.  I am very thankful for many people in my life.  Time to stop, time to get eye to eye with the to do list and most of all time to make room for friends, family and those who support me in this crazy endeavor.

Surround yourself with brilliant people and you can achieve great things. 

Chris Hauth -  AIMP Coaching  
Craig Upton -  Performance Labs
Andy Tubbs - Sports Massage
Nick Nicastro - SAGMonkey
Tim Burnmaster -  Teaching me how to lift a weight!
Dr. Rowan Paul-  Sports Medicine 
Mara Kevan -  Nutrition 
Erika Moody - Physical Therapy
Jeff Barbie - Truckee Physical Therapy

... wine, chocolate and the O'Neil boys.....