December 24, 2012

2012 Running and Triathlon Recap

I don't usually do those end-of-the-year running/racing recaps that sprout up on blogs this time of year, but I saw one on Miss Zippy's blog that I couldn't resist copying.  So without further ado, my year in racing (modified from her original post):

Best race experience: This is hard....I did 5 half marathons, 2 triathlons, my first 10k and a few 5ks this year.  All were enjoyable for various reasons...but if I had to choose the BEST race experience it would have to be SuperFrog.  This was my first half-Ironman triathlon, and while there were parts of the race where I thought I would drown (the swim), get blown away by wind (the bike) or just collapse and never get up (the run), training for and completing this race was hands-down the proudest (personal) moment of my year.  I never thought I would be able to do 70.3 miles, and I did it. A little over 8 hours of swimming, biking, running, and now I can call myself a half-Ironman, a title that no one can ever take away from me.

Best run: Fortunately, I had many great runs, mostly in training. But 2 runs in particular stand out:  the Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Half Marathon, where I finally met my goal of running a half marathon in under 2:30, and the Portland Half Marathon, which I ran a week after SuperFrog and was amazed at how well my body held up after just completing 70.3 miles.  And both races themselves were very fun and like a big party.

Best bike: I would have to say one of my training rides for SuperFrog.  I did 60 miles, which was my longest ride to date, and I was in the zone---clipped in, using my aerobars, fueling right.  It made me think (correctly) that maybe I could complete the bike portion of SuperFrog in under 4 hours.

Best swim: One great swim that stands out in my mind was an open water practice in the ocean with my friend Steve in preparation for SuperFrog. I think Andrea and a few other friends were also along with us. It felt so good to finally get the hang of getting through waves (up to that point, all my open water swims had been in the bay). And once through the waves, it was fun to swim in the ocean.

Worst run/bike/swim:  I can't think of any awful swims or bike rides (although I can think of plenty of hard ones, especially on the bike!) but I can recall a couple of runs where my sciatic nerve pain and/or plantar fasciitis was so bad that I was in pain the whole time.  One run in particular was so horrible that I was limping after and went to Urgent Care the next day to see if it my foot was fractured (it wasn't).  After some time off of running, I was fine again, but that was not fun. At all.

Worst injury: I threw my back out in July, leaving me unable to properly train for my half-Ironman for about 3 weeks.

Worst race experience: None! I'm happy to say that each of my races this year was great, all for different reasons (new distance, new PR, new locations, being with friends, etc).

Best new piece of gear: I love my aerobars I got on my bike this summer. It really helped during SuperFrog, which was all flat.  I also got a new iPod Shuffle earlier in the year, which I use all the time.

Best piece of running advice you received:  This was the year I learned to change my run to strike mid-foot.  Another gem of wisdom was about racing: all that matters is finishing. It doesn't matter if you come in first or long as you train and do your best, that's what matters.  Run your own race (which applies to life as well).

If you could sum up your (fitness) year in a couple of words, what would they be? Mind blowing. I can't believe I achieved two major goals---running a sub-2:30 half marathon and completing a half-Ironman. And I had made it a goal to run more than I did in 2011 (which had been 600 miles).  With one more week left to run, I've already run 635 miles.

What I've learned this year: That I can do anything I set my mind to.  Next year I will do the things that scare me: run a trail race, bike 100 miles, and swim 2.4 miles.  I know I can do it all because of what I accomplished this year.

December 21, 2012

Jingle Bell 5k Race Recap

Last weekend I ran the Jingle Bell 5k with my best friend.  He had written on his bucket list that he wanted to run a 5k, and while he did the Color Run with me last month, that didn't really count since so much of the Color Run is walking and actually stopping (to get doused in color).  We wanted to dress up a bit, so we decided to go as reindeer. I picked up some reindeer headbands from the dollar bin at Target, and he picked up some light-up red noses.  Add some jingle bells to our shoes, and we were ready!

When race morning came, I wasn't too into going.  The horrific school shooting had just happened the day before, and my heart was heavy was sadness.  And while I knew a run would clear my mind (and I actually had to run 8 miles, so I planned on running 5 more after the race) it was a cold and rainy morning.  With both my mind and my body not into it, I got dressed anyway and headed down to Balboa Park, windshield wipers madly working the whole way.

Once there, I connected with D, my best friend.  We then found my friends Andrea and Angi.  Angi, her mom and her dog had dressed up like Cindy Lou Who and Max from the Grinch. Even their dog stroller was decked out. It was so creative. We even ran into Monika, running her first race post-radiation and chemo. It was SO good to see her out and running and looking fabulous!

Luckily around this time the rain let up, just in time to start running.  The course was down 6th Avenue and in Balboa Park a bit.  I had so much fun in this race, for two reasons.  First, it was amazing to run with my best friend.  We kept a nice an easy pace (none of that fast running I did in the Shelter Island 5k last month) and talked the whole way.  At the end he even told me how much fun he had, and thanked me for gently easing him into racing (he's thinking about a 10k now!) Amazingly our red noses stayed on (although mine never did light up like it was supposed to) but somewhere along the course I lost my reindeer ears headband. Oh well.

The second reason this race was so fun was all the costumes!  Aside from my friends, so many other people were decked out in holiday costumes.  We saw lots of Santa hats, reindeer, and snowflakes.  The one of the best I saw was a group of people dressed like reindeer---in full costumes, not just ears--tethered together with Rudolph in the front and someone dressed like Santa in the back. How they ran in formation like that I have no clue, but it was awesome to see!

After crossing the finish line, we got our medals (so rare for a 5k) and hung out for a bit. I ran into my friend Ingrid, who ran the race with her son---his first-ever 5k. After saying goodbye to all my friends, I went off to do another 5 miles.

This is definitely a fun race, one I would consider doing next year with my own son.  Happy holidays, everyone!

December 15, 2012

Shaken to the Core

Like every other mother in the world, like every other parent, like every other human heart is hurting right now.  It literally hurts. When I think about the horrific events of yesterday, my heart hurts so badly that if I didn't know better I'd think I was having a heart attack.  I have cried so many tears, but when I think I'm all cried out, suddenly I start crying again.

Much has been, and will be, written about the tragedy, and I don't have it in me to write much, or even anything new to add....but I will say this.  Although I have always been a very grateful person, and have honestly cherished every moment with my children, this has shaken me to the core. This tragedy will make me a better mother, an even more present and appreciative person, and a kinder human being.

My heart is in Connecticut......

November 26, 2012

Setting My 2013 Race Calendar

I've been thinking a lot since my last post, where I pondered what athletic endeavors I would do in 2013.  Although I still have not made my final decisions, I have gained more and more clarity as to what I want to do.  I think the answers lie in my goals, which are to push myself , do new things, stay fit and have fun.

I am still planning on the 6 half marathons I discussed in my last post. I love half marathons, and may even add a 7th if I can find one next fall that doesn't entail travel expense.  But I was still unsure about my triathlon plans. That decision I have made for sure: I will NOT be doing another half-Ironman (70.3 miles) in 2013. However, I loved the training I did for SuperFrog, and was so proud of myself when I finished, so there will most likely be another one in my future. As I wrote before, there are only two 70.3 races in San Diego: SuperFrog and the Ironman-branded Ironman California, which is in Oceanside. Given that I want to do new things, I think I want to skip SuperFrog next year, and sign up for Oceanside 70.3 in 2014 (it's already sold out for 2013).  So that big decision is out of the way. I am nervous about it, especially the hilly bike ride and the hard 8-hour cutoff that Ironman mandates, but I think I can do it.  I know I'll try my best, regardless.

So, what else will I be doing in 2013? Well, I decided that this year I want to do something in each sport that scares me.  I loved conquering my fear of doing a 70.3 this past year, and want to smash through other fears. These are my proposed plans:


I am 99% sure that I will be signing up for the Tiki Swim, which is in September.  This is a 2.4 mile point-to-point swim (full Ironman distance) in Oceanside.  Yes, there is a 1.2 mile option, but I've done that---my half-Ironman was 1.2 miles. I know I can easily swim 1.2 miles, and building up to roughly 4200 yards shouldn't be that much more of a stretch (I've done 3000 yards without too much difficulty) yet still a challenge for me.  I think the biggest challenge will be fighting boredom---after 2500 or 3000 yards swimming in the pool my mind goes numb with staring at the black line.  But I'm excited about the race.  There is a 2 hour, 20 minute cutoff, which I should be able to do (I did the 1.2 mile swim at SuperFrog in less than an hour, and that included fighting those huge 6-foot waves twice in the double-looped swim).  I also hear there is an aid station on a kayak about halfway through, which should be interesting.  So while the Tiki Swim scares me, I'm also excited about it.


I am also 99% sure that I will be signing up for the Xterra Mission Gorge Tail Run in February. While the distance doesn't scare me (it's 15k, or 9.3 mile) the terrain terrifies me.  I don't run on trails. I am pretty clumsy and am sure I'm going to hurt myself. In fact, years ago, back in 2003 I did a 4 mile trail race (this was while I was in the middle of training for the Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Marathon) and I twisted my ankle on some rocks.  However, a friend of mine has been pressuring me to run this with him, and I finally relented.  He promised me he would help me up and down the hills. So, in the name of doing something that scares me, this trail run is it. I guess I need to start training on some trails over the next few months. I have been running a bit on some horse trails lately, but I need to really get out to the real hill trails to train.


This is where things get fuzzy for me. Most things involving the bike scare me. It's no secret the bike has always been my weakest leg in triathlon.  When I was training for SuperFrog, my longest training ride was 60 miles and I promised myself that I wouldn't ever have to bike one mile further. Well, now I'm reconsidering.  I'm thinking about doing a century (100 mile ride).  The San Diego Century is in June, and while it offers shorter distances (33 and 67 miles) I would do the full, which is actually 103 miles.  The distance itself isn't the scariest part---it's the hills.  This ride goes over hills so steep (for me) and so long that I'm truthfully not sure I can do. If I sign up, I need to commit to major hill training over the next 6 months.  Ideally I would have a better bike; that's not in our budget right now but I think I can do the ride on my current bike. I'm about 50/50 right now on signing up for this.  The idea alone frightens me.


So, if I'm not doing a 70.3 this year, will I do any triathlons at all?  I want to do at least one.  There are many in San Diego that I haven't done, but will probably only do one in the interest of my race budget. I'm eying the Chula Vista Challenge, an Olympic-distance triathlon in August.  I can't see spending the money for a sprint this year, especially since I'm training for much longer distances with my runs, bikes and swims. 

So, that's my proposed race schedule for 2013.  I will most likely throw in a few more 5ks to do with my son, since he likes to do them, and if the Awesome 80's Run comes to San Diego again I would once again do the 10k since I loved the medal (and the new-to-me distance).  The thing about San Diego is that there are no shortage of races to do---whether running or triathlon, and any distance (except for full-Ironman distance) but I can't do them all.  Seeing what my goals were--especially the "try new things that scare me" part--is helping to whittle down the list.

November 9, 2012

What Next?

Now that my daughter is back in school (re-started yesterday, after almost a full month off!) I am able to resume my workouts.  It seems like a lifetime ago that I was exercising almost daily.  Just 6 weeks ago, on September 30, I did my first half-Ironman triathlon, SuperFrog.  A week after, so only 5 weeks ago, I did the Portland Half Marathon. Then my life went to hell in a handbasket when my daughter broke her neck.  She spent 2 full weeks at Children's Hospital. During this time I got a few short runs in, but nowhere near what I normally would have run.  She's been home for 2 weeks now, and I've been able to do a few runs (and 3 races, including my first 10k and two 5ks) and 2 swims. I  haven't been on my bike at all since SuperFrog.

But now that she's back in school, and I have some time to myself in the day where I don't need to coordinate childcare with my husband, training is back on.  Yesterday, after I dropped her off, I went on a 3 mile run. Today I did a 40 lap (2000 yard) swim. I am planning on biking tomorrow, although if it rains as predicted I might spin at the gym instead. Regardless, there will be cycling of some sort tomorrow. I need to get back into my routine.  Yes, it seems like it's been a lifetime since SuperFrog, but really, it's only been 6 weeks.  I've actually lost some weight, despite not exercising the way I normally do AND pigging out on Halloween candy, and I suspect it's a loss of muscle (probably from no biking!) Now is the time to turn things around.

What I've been pondering recently are my new goals, especially as related to triathlon.  I always train best when I have a goal to work toward, a race to run.  I have lots of half marathons planned in 2013:

New Year's Race Los Angeles Half Marathon, January 5
Tinker Bell Half Marathon, January 20
Carlsbad Half Marathon, January 27
San Diego Half Marathon, March 10
La Jolla Half Marathon, April 28
America's Finest City Half Marathon, August 18

What's missing from this list? Triathlons.  I have NO clue what I will be doing in 2013.  One big question is, do I want to do another half-Ironman?  I'm not sure, but I think I do.  At the end of SuperFrog I vowed I would never do another one, but I'm already forgetting the misery that was that run.  I don't want to travel for a 70.3, so I'm left with 2 choices in San Diego:  SuperFrog or Ironman California.  IMCA is already sold out for 2013, but I could consider it for 2014.  . But Ironman-branded races have a strict 8 hour cutoff in order to be official, and while I was just barely over the 8 hour mark for SuperFrog, I was still over. The bike scares me---it's very hilly---but the swim and run should be easier than SuperFrog (there should be no big waves and no beach run like I had to contend with). I'd have to really commit to major hill training over the next year.  Alternatively, I could do SuperFrog again (fact: I met one of the race directors a few weeks ago when I bought another commemorative t-shirt, and he said that if I could finish that race course, I could do ANY race.  He himself thought the course, especially the run, was ridiculously hard.)

Regardless of if/which 70.3 I do, I might also want to do a sprint or Olympic-distance triathlon.  I'm thinking of doing SuperSeal Olympic (I have a 25% off code since last year's cancellation).  But there are other races in San Diego, triathlons I haven't done before. The San Diego International Triathlon is just short of Olympic-distance (a little shorter swim and bike) although the bike goes up the same steep, grueling hill on Cabrillo National Monument that I did in last year's Oly.  And San Diego, birthplace of triathlon, has tons of other sprints that would be fun to do.

Also, I'm looking at other running races. I know I'm in love with the half marathon distance, but I enjoyed my first 10k and am looking at the Coronado Valentine's Day 10k.  And a certain friend of mine is pressuring me to do my first trail race with him. I hate trails, but am crazily considering this sufferfest of a 15k. Why not try something new? I'm also loosely considering a long swim race (2 miles or so) or a long bike (either a century or a metric century, even though I swore I'd never bike a mile past 60).   There are plenty of both to look at in San Diego.

The bottom line, I have nothing on my race schedule after next August. And no triathlons at all.  What to do, what to do.........

November 6, 2012

Shelter Island 5k Race Recap

On Sunday I ran in my second 5k of the weekend (see my first recap here), the Shelter Island 5k.  Normally, I don't like to do 5ks, preferring to spend my race money on half marathons and triathlons.  I've been doing a few 5ks recently, but only because my 8 year old son has started to run and I like to do short races with him. But I haven't done a 5k on my own (sans son) in years.  I changed my mind for this one, though.  My cousin came out to visit from the east coast, and he just started running and doing 5ks.  He really wanted to run a 5k in San Diego on his trip, so we both signed up. I also got two of my neighbors, who had never done a 5k or a race of any sort, to sign up.

With a 7:30 race time, we had to leave the house early. I always like to get to races with plenty of time to spare, in case of getting lost, traffic, etc, so we left the house at 6:00.  It was daylight savings that day, so the early wake-up call didn't feel so bad. We easily found our destination, which was near the San Diego Airport, parked and went to the race site.  We picked up our bibs, and then had a LOT of time to kill before the race started.

I had no real goals for the race.  Usually my race times for a half marathon are at about 11:30 minute mile, maybe slower.  On last week's 10k I had a 10:56 minute mile pace, which was fast for me.  I didn't know what to expect out of myself on a 5k without my son to slow me down. I decided to play it by ear.

When the race started, there were a LOT of walkers in front of me. I had to do a lot of weaving to get around them, then kicked it into high gear to pass them.  The "high gear" mode seemed easy for me, and I was shocked when I looked at my Garmin:  a 9:40 pace.  I NEVER run in the 9's....I'm always thrilled when my pace is in the 10 minute mile range!   Half a mile later I looked down again----and it still said 9:40.  What?  Who was this speedy woman taking over my body?

The rest of the race my pace stayed in that range. Whenever I would look at my Garmin I would see anything between 9:20 and 9:50. I couldn't believe it! I was fast! I did have to take a few walk breaks, which I know is kind of sad for a 5k but I couldn't sustain that fast pace for 3.1 miles straight.  The course was beautiful---into Point Loma, and around Shelter Island. The views of the water, boats and palm trees were gorgeous. I was glad I had chosen this race for my cousin, as he was impressed with the views.

With a final burst to the finish, I set a 5k PR with about a 10:06 average pace (which included the walk breaks).  I was so happy and so proud!  I'm used to running these shorter distances either with my son or my dog, and I guess if I were to run by myself I could get speedier.  After the race I was able to collect my t-shirt (cotton, but nice) and goody bag.  There was a champagne breakfast, but my cousin and his girlfriend (who cheered us on) didn't want to go.  We decided to nix the shuttle back to the start, and walked the mile back to the car.

This was a very fun race for me. It was awesome doing it with my cousin and neighbors (who both had a blast as well) and I was thrilled to set such a great PR for myself, and discover an untapped speed.

The Color Run 5k Race Recap

This past weekend was a double race weekend for me; each day I ran a 5k (see the other recap here).  Saturday was the San Diego Color Run.  While this wasn't a true "race" (ie it was untimed, and people did more walking than running) I still feel compelled to recap the fun. The Color Run is a new type of race where you run through color stations at every 1k mark; at those points, volunteers douse you with color (I believe it's a dyed cornstarch).  You start off in a white shirt, and end up looking like a rainbow.

Originally, I was supposed to do this with my whole family.  I thought it looked fun for the kids, especially  my 8 year-old son, D.  When I showed him the YouTube video of the race back in March (when I registered) he was SO excited. It was just up his alley.  Similarly, my daughter, A, watched the video over and over again, wanting to be part of it. I also signed up my BFF (best friend forever) as he recently made his bucket list and on it was to run a 5k (he never had before).  However, now that A has a broken neck and is wearing a halo until January, she couldn't do it.  I sold her bib, and my husband's, to a friend and her daughter. I went to the expo on Thursday to pick up our stuff:  bibs, white shirts, white headbands, and a packet of color which we were instructed to save for the finish line.  They also had other official Color Run merchandise for sale, which I didn't buy.

On Saturday morning we got up, got ready, picked up my friend and her daughter, and headed down to Qualcomm Stadium where we met up with my BFF.  We did some prep work first, by laying down towels on the car seats and taping sheets down on the floor.  I did NOT want to get my car color-coated!  I also secured a bandana to my head; I had read that was recommended, as the color can be hard to get off and I wanted to protect my scalp.  I did not bring my Garmin, as I did not want it to get ruined (also, as an untimed fun run I didn't care what our time was). My friend brought me an old white skirt to wear, so I was all in white. Soon we joined the many, many people, all in white shirts, to wait for our turn to start.

Once it was our turn, we started running.  Soon we hit the 1k mark, which was the pink zone. Everything and everyone was COVERED in pink.  They had volunteers with big squirt bottles full of the pink powder.  You could just run through and get a little on you, but of course we had to stop and have them totally drench us with color.  I have to admit, it was FUN!  My son, especially, got very colorful.  He had them pour powder all over his shirt and head.

The rest of the run was similar.  At 2k we ran through yellow; at 3k we ran through orange, and at 4k we ran through blue.  At the finish line, was a big crowd dancing to music, and every 10-15 minutes or so they would count down to have people explode their color packets.  We definitely looked like a rainbow at the end.  One cool thing was someone went onstage, where the DJ was, and proposed to his girlfriend. That was unexpected and fun to see.

Once we got home, it was shower time. I had to really scrub myself raw with a body scrub and washcloth, but was able to get the color off.  My son took a bath; the water turned bright green!  After draining and refilling the tub, he was able to get most of the color off. To this day, 3 days later, he still has some blue in his ear and some green on his scalp. I highly recommend putting a bandana on your head, as I did; washing my hair was easy.

I will definitely do this race again next year.  If it were just me, I might not (once is enough) but my son loved it, and I really want my daughter to experience it, too. If it comes to your area, sign up!

November 1, 2012

Awesome 80's Run 10k Race Recap

This past Saturday I ran in the Awesome 80's Run 10k.  This was a race I had been looking forward to for a long time, mainly because I wanted the medal, which was designed to look like a cassette tape.  The race was put on by the same people who did the Hollywood Half Marathon.  They had their inaugural 80's-themed run over Labor Day in Pasadena, and I desperately wanted to go.  However, I couldn't justify the travel expense to Pasadena just to run a 10k. So when it was announced that it was coming to San Diego, I signed up immediately.

I felt very guilty about going, though. My daughter, A, had just come home from two weeks in the hospital (after breaking her neck) the day before.  I didn't want to leave her....but at the same time really wanted to do this race. I NEEDED to do this race. After a stressful two weeks at Children's Hospital, I needed to celebrate and do something just for me.  My husband was very supportive and told me to I went!  You were supposed to dress up in 80's clothes.  I had been planning to go shopping and try to find something preppy to wear, but obviously I had literally no time to shop in the past few weeks.  Fortunately, my friend I, who was doing the race with me, saved the day by getting us both matching neon green tank tops, neon mesh fingerless gloves, and neon headbands.  With my hair in a side ponytail, I was ready to re-live the 80s.

As a side note, this was my first-ever 10k!  I know it's weird, being that I've done countless 5ks, 14 half marathons, 1 full marathon, and 8 triathlons (including a half-Ironman!) but I had never done a 10k. I had attempted a 10k a long, long time ago, but took the easy way out and only did the first loop, making it a 5k. I always regretted that day, but that happened a lifetime ago, back in 1999, and before I really fell in love with running. The only 10k I have done was part of an Olympic-distance triathlon, but I'd never done a stand-alone 10k.  This race would be an automatic PR.

Anyhow, onto the recap!  The race was on Fiesta Island, which, despite it's nice-sounding name, is a desolate island that I think is very ugly. I have done several triathlons there, and a long bike session there for half-Ironman training, and it's ugly and depressing to me each time.  The views of the water are ok, but always to your left is the island itself....brown, dry and gross.  I knew that parking would be awful, and with a 7 a.m. start time I wanted to get there very early.  We didn't have a chance to pick up our packets beforehand (I was too busy at the hospital) and we needed to get those too.  My friend I was supposed to pick me up at 5:45, but at the last minute we changed the pick-up time to 5:30.  Very early, but I'm glad we did, as I read later that parking was a nightmare.

Because we left so early, we got one of the last spots in the first and closest parking lot.  Yay!  We got our packets and came back to the car (still in the dark) to put on bibs, timing chips, etc. While getting our gear on, I had realized she forgot her iPod....I gave her mine (complete with an 80's playlist I had put together) to use.  Before I did SuperFrog, I never would have run 6 miles without music, but that training taught me I could.  Doing that half marathon sans music toughened me up!  Finally we got out and wandered to the start line, where I found my friends Steve, Angi and Andrea.  I was so happy to see them, especially Angi. It was her first race post-cancer (she and Steve were walking the 5k) and I had paid for her entrance fee in celebration of her beating cancer.  After hitting the port-o-potties, it was race time.

me, pre-race

start line

We crossed the start line with 80's music blasting---Eye of the Tiger.  One thing that frustrated me was that since there were no corrals, and there were people doing the 5k and 10k, and runners and walkers, people were all mixed in together. I crossed the start line and literally had two women in front of me walking so slowly they were almost stopped. It was as if they didn't realize they were doing a race and had crossed the start. It took some time to weave around the walkers before I found my groove.

Pac Man


Run DMC--loved these costumes!  

The Blues Brothers

The race was two loops on Fiesta Island (the 5k was one loop).  Although I was music-free, I was never bored.  The costumes people had on were amazing....there was always something to look at.  Many people had on the requisite neon, as did I, but there were some other seriously creative costumes.  Madonnas, Rubic's cubes, Run DMC, Slash, 2 Ghostbusters with the StayPuft Marshmallow Man, the Blues Brothers, Richard Simmons, Michael Jackson, Strawberry Shortcake...I took as many pictures as I could, but I highly suggest you visit the official website and/or Facebook page to see more.  

lots of neon

I don't know how they ran in the Rubik's cube costumes!

hard to tell, but these are two GhostBusters and the StayPuft Marshmallow Man

 After the second loop on Fiesta Island, the 10k-ers had to do a short out-and-back loop on the sidewalk.  This was fine...except for the part that we had to climb a hill to get up to the "back" part.  There were no stairs, and climbing up a steep hill in the dirt was no fun at all; also it slowed down our running times. Not cool at all.  But that was my only real complaint about the race.  There was plenty of water, a good thing because for the first time (in a race more than 5k) I didn't bring my fuel belt. I figured I could get through 6.2 miles without water if I needed, but was pleased to be able to take a cup halfway through at the aide station.

the steep dirt hill we had to climb

I ran the race fast for me....I finished in about 1:08, with an average pace in the high 10's! I NEVER ran that fast....I think all the stress from the recent weeks has been making my runs (including training runs) faster.  I crossed the finish and got the coolest medal I've ever had. I LOVE the cassette tape look!

me, post-race,

 I had a really good time, and was so glad I did it. I was home by 9:30, in plenty of time to spend the day with my newly-home daughter. I got to do a long(ish) run, burn a lot of stress off, and do my first 10k. I would like, totally, you know, do this rad 80's race again next year, dude, especially if they have another totally tubular medal like this year.  Otherwise, gag me with a spoon!

October 27, 2012

Home at Last

Yesterday, after a full 2 weeks in the hospital, we were able to bring A home. (In case you missed it, you can read the story of how she broke her neck here: part 1 and part 2).

We left the ICU a week ago, and spent the following 7 days in the ortho rehab unit at Children's Hospital.  She was very weak, as she had just come off a week of a medicated coma, two surgeries, and was recovering from pneumonia.  She received 3 therapy sessions a day (physical, occupational, and speech).  All three were hard at first, but as the week went on she got stronger and stronger.  In physical and occupational therapies, she practiced walking with a walker and was able to sit on a bench upright, unsupported, even by her own arms.  Having a halo on her head makes her top-heavy and off-balance, a challenge for anyone but especially for A, as she already has a balance disorder.  Speech therapy started out rough, as her speech was very, very slurred and inarticulate (mainly a side effect of the breathing tube that had been down her throat for a week) but it got better and better.  Finally, she was cleared from the therapists to go home, and she got home yesterday afternoon.

Now we are adjusting to life at home.  Here are some of the things we have to change and/or get used to:

  • She can't have a shower, or even a regular bath.  The halo is attached to a fleece-lined vest, which anchors it in place and doesn't allow her neck to move while it heals (you can kind of get a sense of what it look like here, although hers looks a bit different). Because the vest is fleece-lined, and the vest is never, ever removed, it can't get wet. So we have to give her sponge baths.  Additionally, we can't wash her hair easily.  Websites suggest laying her on a counter with her head in a sink, but we are going to order a waterless shampoo, just like they used at the hospital.  
  • Because she can't move her neck even a millimeter in any direction, she is always looking straight ahead. This means adjustments on the couch, in bed, and at the kitchen table with different pillow combinations to make her feel comfortable.  We are still playing with this, trying to find out how best to make her comfortable.
  • She now has a walker to help her walk at home, and a wheelchair that we will use when we go out, and when she returns to school in a few week.  I am getting acclimated on how to use the wheelchair, especially on how to take it apart and put it back together (which I have to do to get it in and out of the car).   I need to be aware of where I park, and where ramps are to get her up on the sidewalk.
  • She literally needed a new wardrobe.  The halo is so big that nothing can go over her head; everything needs to be either buttoned or zipped around the front or back.  However, even those clothes need to be a much bigger size in order to accommodate the halo's rods.  She is normally a size 6 in shirts, but now we have her in size 8-10 hoodies, etc, with large tank tops underneath.  We are still figuring this one out. Unfortunately, I don't sew, but I think I will be cutting the shoulder straps on the tank tops, slipping the shirt on her from the feet up (they are big enough) and then safety pinning the shoulder straps back together once they are on. This way she'll have a tank top underneath and a jacket on top.  She even needed new pajamas.  Luckily, she can still wear her old shorts and jeans.  And this is only for a few months; when she gets the halo off in mid-January, we can go back to her regular adorable wardrobe.
  • We have to clean the 6 pins (which are drilled into her skull--one above each eyebrow and 2 above each ear) twice daily with sterile q-tips and hydrogen peroxide.  After caring for her tracheostomy and feeding tube for 4 years (these were both removed over 2 years ago), this is so simple!
I'm sure there will be more things that we need to get used to, but I think it will be a sharp learning curve; we learn quickly and have dealt with much worse with her.  I don't care; I am just happy to have her home and even more grateful than ever that this is not catastrophic. Doctor after doctor told me that most people with this type of vertebrate break become completely paralyzed.  One doctor told me that A must have some angels looking after her, as she had no spinal cord damage at all.

 I have never, nor will I ever, complain about what we are going through.  We can get through a few months of this for the trade-off of not having to deal with this for a lifetime.

October 19, 2012

Grateful Update on my Daughter

Just a quick update on my daughter. (If you missed what happened to A, please click here) It's been exactly a week since she broke her neck and went to the ER, and was later admitted. She's been in ICU ever since.  Last Saturday she had surgery to put on the halo that she will wear for the next 3 months or so.  I've had almost a week to get used to looking at my 6 year old with a metal ring literally drilled into her skull.  It's awful looking, but it will serve the purpose of keeping her neck still while it heals.

On Tuesday, she had surgery to fuse her C1 and C2 vertebrate.  Her spine surgery was one of the most brutal afternoons of my life.  The spine surgeon had told us it would take 3-4 hours.  He didn't get us until 5 1/2 hours later.  That last 1 1/2 hour was horrific for me....I was panicking, picturing everything that could have gone wrong (a small risk of stroke, a small risk of paralysis since he was working so close to the spinal cord, etc).  It turns out that they got a late start to the surgery, mainly because they had a hard time getting an arterial line in her.  The doctor had told someone to tell us, but no one did.  We could have been spared that agony, but in the end it made hearing that the surgery was a complete success that much sweeter.

All week she's been in the medicated coma, on the ventilator with the breathing tube down her throat.  They would have removed it the day after surgery, but she had developed pneumonia, and wanted to wait until she had recovered from that.  Today was the day.  Today, exactly one week after being admitted to the hospital, they finally took A off the sedatives, woke her up and removed the breathing tube.  It was awesome finally seeing her awake, although she was quite groggy and confused.  I told her what she had broken her neck in gymnastics, that usually a cast would go on a broken bone but since she can't have a cast on her neck there is the halo.  I showed her photographs (given to me by the Child Life counselor) of other kids wearing halos.  Finally, I took her picture with an iPad and showed her what she looks like.  She seemed ok with it all, amazingly enough. I told her she would have it for 3 months, that in January it would come off. And I reminded her that she used to have a tracheostomy and a feeding tube, and both went bye-bye, and this will go bye-bye soon too.  I think she got it.  Of course, she has yet to LIVE with it...stand, walk, eat, write, etc....but so far, so good.

I am incredibly grateful.  She is going to be ok.  This could have been catastrophic...she could have easily been paralyzed. She is not. She will make a full recovery. This injury was bound to happen to her, given her anatomy (of which we had no clue before) and while I hate that she has to go through this, it's happened in the best possible situation:  It happened at gymnastics, on a padded floor, with me close by.  It didn't happen at school, in Adapted PE where she is learning how to jump. It didn't happen at Disneyland, where we were a few months ago and rode the Thunder Mountain roller coaster 7 times, which must have jostled her neck all over.  It didn't happen when we were out of town. It didn't happen when my husband was out of town, or me, for that matter (we were supposed to go to Palm Springs the weekend; last weekend I was in Portland for the half marathon).  My half-Ironman is over, nothing major is happening at school or at work.  It happened at the best possible place, and the best possible time. God was looking out for her.

I have been so overwhelmed by the support I've received.  So many friends and family have reached out.  The day of her spine surgery I think half the world was praying for her.  My Facebook page exploded, I'm getting tons of cards in the mail, emails, texts, and phone calls.  Friends have been bringing us dinner every night.  Friends have been helping to care for my son.  Friends have been visiting at the hospital.  Even my online community, most of whom I've never met, have been caring and supportive.  I'm humbled and grateful and so appreciative.

I will update when I can.  The next step is to leave ICU for the rehab floor...and start walking!

October 15, 2012

Tested Yet Again

My 6 year old daughter, A, broke her neck on Friday.

Friday started out as a normal day.  I took the kids to school, went to Target, went to Costco, and went to the gym (did my first real swim since SuperFrog, 40 laps).  I picked D and A up from school, came home, then took them to gymnastics, like I do every Friday (well, A does gymnastics, D just brings his DS and plays games while she's in class).

Halfway through the gymnastics lesson, I looked down (I was in the parent observation room above the gym, where I was reading and waiting) and saw her teacher bending over her while she lay on the floor. She had been on the long trampoline that goes the width of the warehouse.  I ran downstairs and asked what happened.  He said that A said she was too tired to get up. I tried to get her to stand up, but she couldn't; she was like a heavy, limp rag doll. A said "potty", so I scooped her up and ran to the bathroom. There I put her on the floor and again, she couldn't stand...she collapsed on the bathroom floor.  Neither he nor I witnessed what happened, so we assumed she fell.

At this point I freaked out. I picked her up and ran to the front desk, holding her. I kept asking her what was wrong, what hurt.  She kept saying "I don't know."  At one point, she said she felt "squiggly", and she also said "I'm allergic to jumping" but other than that she told me nothing. I had no idea if she was in pain, or what.  I told the staff to get ready to call 911 if I needed. Again, I tried to stand her up, and this time she stood, but collapsed. Finally, on another try, she stood and was able to walk a few steps.

At this point, I called my husband.  J works just a few blocks away from the gymnastics studio, and was over in a few minutes.  When he came, I had A walk from me to him, about 10 feet away. She was able to do so, but was walking really off-balance, almost like she was drunk.  We made the decision to take her home and go from there.  D and I talked to her the whole time; I was worried about a concussion.  We took her home and asked our neighbor, who's a physician's assistant, to come over. He checked her pulse and eyes, etc and said while she seemed ok we should call the doctor, which we were going to do anyway.  J also started to notice that A couldn't turn her neck.  J called our pediatrician, and the nurse told him to take A to the emergency room at Children's Hospital.  So I loaded up the kids in the car, and, with J following behind me, drove down.

An xray showed that her neck looked irregular.  They weren't sure if it was broken or a congential defect, so they wanted to do a CT scan, which we did.  They wanted more information after that, so she had to have an MRI (with anesthesia, etc).  Finally, at 2:30 in the morning (we'd gotten to the ER at 5:00 in the afternoon) we got our answer: yes, her neck had a congenital defect in C1 (called os odontoideum, or dens) but the ligaments around it broke (or something like be honest, even though it's been explained to me about 3 times so far I still don't quite understand it all).  So we were admitted.  They speculate that this piece of bone has been moving for a while, and her fall, if there was a fall, was the icing on the cake to cause trauma.

Saturday was a blur.  She had to go into surgery to put a halo on her head. If you don't know what that is, look here (scroll down until you see Halo Ring Brace).  This device is literally screwed into her head in 6 places: 2 behind each ear and one over each eyebrow.  It is really freaky looking.  She will have to wear this halo for 3 months, along with the vest that it attaches to. The vest never comes off, nor does the halo, until they actually remove it.  Tomorrow she goes in for a second surgery to fuse her C1 and C2 vertebrae together, which should prevent this from ever happening again.

While this has been traumatic for all of us (and A is still in a medically-induced coma and doesn't even know about the halo yet, although I tried to tell her beforehand), I am very happy.  Why? Because according to every doctor and nurse I've talked to, this kind of injury usually leads to paralysis.  Her spinal cord was not damaged at all.  I don't understand how, especially given that I was having her walk, and transported her to the hospital (trust me, had she not been walking at the gymnastics studio I would have called 911, but since she was walking it never occurred to me that she had a neck injury) but even with all that she is able to use all four limbs.  She will be ok.

Today the gymnastics owner called, and apparently another instructor witnessed the whole thing.  A didn't fall after all.  She went down the trampoline (as usual), jumped on the big cushy mat at the end with both feet (as usual) and bounced on her tush to slide off the mat (as usual)...only this time when she got to the floor she crumpled in a heap.  So she didn't fall. It was the bouncing, and this would have happened at some point in her life regardless, apparently sooner than later.  I'm just glad it was there, on a padded floor, where I was right there and HER SPINAL CORD WASN'T TOUCHED.

So after tomorrow's surgery, she'll have the halo on for 3 months. While this will be a hard 3 months, I have to keep perspective that she had the tracheostomy for 4 YEARS...and that when she got the trach they didn't know how long she'd have it (they told us she could have it for one year, or maybe the rest of her life).  Knowing that this is short-term helps.

I will update later when I can. In the meantime, please hold my daughter in your prayers for a good surgery and a speedy healing and recovery.

October 9, 2012

Portland Half Marathon Race Recap

My 14th half marathon is in the books!

This past weekend I flew up to Portland, Oregon, to run the Portland Half Marathon.  I was not sure how I would do, being that only 7 days before I had completed my first half-Ironman triathlon.  I had actually signed up for Portland way before I had signed up for SuperFrog; when I registered for SuperFrog I had to carefully consider the fact that I would be doing this a week before yet another half marathon. However, I figured I would be ok, as I would rest, compress, ice, and do whatever else I would need to do to get my tired legs and body recovered from 70.3 miles and ready to do another 13.1.  I signed up for Portland because I was supposed to run it with my dear friend, Krista; it was supposed to be her first-ever half marathon. However, she injured herself in training and had to back out.

As it turned out, I wasn't sore at all from SuperFrog. Thank goodness for good training, I suppose! I woke up the following day a bit stiff, but not sore whatsoever. I went to the pool for a short (10 lap) shake-out swim which got rid of the stiffness; swimming the day after a big race always makes me feel better. Aside from that short swim and a few mile-long walks with the dog, I did nothing else all week. Although I wasn't sore, or even tired, I wanted to rest my body and my mind.  I went into the Portland Half with the thought of just completing it. I was eager to run in a new city, cross another state off my list (I've now run a half marathon in 3 states; only 47 more to go, ha!), and soak in the fun atmosphere. I had heard that Portland is an amazing marathon, both for the full and the half, and I was excited to experience that.  I wasn't planning on racing it, only participating.

Spoiler:  I ran my 4th best half marathon time. Ever.  I guess all the training for SuperFrog really paid off. And not having to swim 1.2 miles and bike 56 miles first also helped.

Onto the recap!

Friday morning I flew up to Portland, where I was met by Krista.  We spent the day wandering around cute areas of town, going to the pumpkin patch with her son, and catching up.  Saturday I slept in (until 7:15, unbelievable!) and we went to Krista's son's soccer game. This is where I started to get concerned about weather.  The weather had looked nice all week on all the weather websites I'd checked (mid 70's) but that morning, sitting watching the game, the wind really kicked up. The wind was COLD!  I was shivering, even though I was in a long-sleeved shirt, a hoodie, and gloves.  I had packed two potential race outfits, but neither was for cold weather. I knew that once I got moving I would warm up, but was worried about the hour or so wait I'd have pre-race. I certainly didn't want to be freezing.  I decided to look into buying something warm at the expo. (Note to self: when packing for an out-of-town race, always pack at least one hot and one cold weather option.  It's better to have long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves and a hat and not need it than to wish you had it).

 After the game, we headed downtown. First, I got to meet Lisa, a blogger who I've been following on Twitter for years and whose blog I've been reading for just as long. It was so nice to finally meet her face-to-face (please check out her inspirational blog when you get a chance).  We met for coffee at my favorite bookstore, Powell's. Afterwards, Krista and I wandered around, bought some books, and had lunch at one of the cute food carts Portland boasts (we ate at the Grilled Cheese Grill).  Then it was onto the expo.

me and Lisa
The expo was actually pretty nice. It was in a big hotel downtown, and while it wasn't nearly as big as the Rock 'n' Roll ones I've been to, it wasn't nearly as small as other ones. There was a nice selection of booths and, of course, official merchandise. With my worry about the weather, I forked over $15 for an official Portland Marathon beanie. I picked up my bib and shirt. The only "complaint" I had about the expo was that these were in different areas; the bib pickup was downstairs, and the shirt pickup was upstairs.  I thought it was odd, because expos usually have these by each other, but I guess it was to ensure that each runner actually walked through all the booths. Well played, Portland Marathon, well played.

After the expo, we walked around downtown more (I wanted to go to VooDoo Doughnuts, but balked at the hour-plus line out in front) and spent time people watching at Saturday Market. After meeting Krista's family for dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory, it was home to prepare for the race and get to bed early.

I slept fitfully, waking up almost every hour as is my norm before a race. I finally got out of bed at 5, got ready, and Krista and I were on the road by 5:30. I ate a Luna Bar on the way.  I was anticipating horrible traffic getting into downtown; most big races I've done have awful traffic jams as it gets closer to the race. However, there was no traffic...none at all. We easily got into downtown, found parking, and sat at a table we found. The weather wasn't too cold, as there was no wind. I ate a Honey Stinger Waffle, then handed my new beanie and gloves to Krista to hold onto as I headed to my corral, Corral D (I kept on my throw-away jacket, though).  There were several corrals, but they were set up differently than I'd ever seen before.  The races I'd done before had the corrals on one street, lined up one after the other in a big row.  Portland had each corral on a different intersection. Each corral had it's own set of port-a-potties and gear check.  I got in with my corral, and when it was finally time to walk to the start line, I shed my throw-away jacket. I was warm enough. 


too dark to really see, but this is the start line

 Soon it was my time to go.  The guys from 3 Non Joggers, a podcast I often listen to, were announcing, but I couldn't see them.  There was so much energy in the air, and so many spectators!  We ran through Chinatown before running in some cool residential areas.  Although it was crowded (the marathoners were mixed in with the half marathoners, and didn't split off until about mile 10 or so) it was never wall-to-wall, and I always had room to run.  Unfortunately, I don't know Portland too well so I can't write about exactly where I ran, but for the most part it was through some really neat areas, especially through the neighborhoods, by the waterfront, and some parks.  Miles 6-9 were pretty brutal---it was an out-and-back through some ugly industrial areas--but they had some course entertainment there that helped a bit.

entering Chinatown

There were also TONS of bands and entertainment along the way.  In fact, I didn't even turn on my iPod until about the 5k mark, as I wanted to hear all the music.  Along the way I tried to unplug when running by bands, so I could hear them.  Lots of races have rock and folk bands, but Portland had some other groups such as a group of mimes, a harpist, some DJs and a group of pirates.  Yes, pirates. We ran by the pirates twice, on the out-and-back, and I loved it each time.

a band outside of Chinatown

the harpist was unique to see

pirates! you can't make this stuff up!
Course aid was plentiful, with lots of hydration stops for water and sports drink.  They even had gummy bears (yum!) about mile 9 or so.  I was very comfortable weather-wise, and was so glad I hadn't brought my new beanie, or bought arm warmers or a long-sleeved shirt.  I even ended up dumping water on my head at mile 11, just to cool down a bit.  More than one runner told me that it was the most perfect weather they had ever done the race in.  I guess usually it rains for this race, ranging from a drizzle to a downpour, so to have this dry, mild weather was unheard of. I totally lucked out!

one of the more beautiful views

one of my signature self-portraits while racing
Amazingly, I was doing really well on time.  I realized that about mile 11 that I had the chance to PR, but I was starting to tire at that point and slowed down.  I had kept my usual regime of a Gu at miles 4, 8 and 12, but was feeling a bit nauseous.  Soon enough, I was at the finish line. In the finish chute area there were tons of spectators, and I was one of the only runners there at that time.  My name was on my bib, and I got lots of shouts of encouragement.  Right before I crossed the finish line, I passed a runner, who had done the full marathon, collapsed only a few yards from the finish. He kept trying to get up, and the crowed was encouraging him, but he kept falling down.  As I ran by, a medic ran toward him. I can only hope he was ok, and that he was able to at least crawl the few yards to the finish.

After I crossed the finish line (in my 4th-fastest half marathon ever!) the real swag started piling on.  First I was handed my medal.  After a space blanket was draped over my shoulders, I was handed a yellow rose (they had roses of all colors).  Then I passed through the food tables.  Most races have the usual bagels, bananas and oranges, which they had, but they also had grapes, orange juice, coconut water, and a table full of Halloween candy, already placed in individual cups. They also had empty cups where you could fill your own! I grabbed a filled one, and asked them to put an extra Kit-Kat in.  Mmmm.  There were even MORE food tables but I can't remember them all!  Then I got my finishers shirt. Yes, a second shirt! It's a long-sleeved tech shirt, and says Portland Finisher on it.  Then they gave me a velvet pouch containing a commemorative coin, another velvet pouch with a commemorative charm (to put on a chain), and a seedling of a tree (I think a fir tree, but I'm not positive), planted in dirt in a cup.  I have never, EVER seen so much swag for a race.  The best part was the two different tech shirts!

all my swag, minus the short-sleeve shirt I'd gotten at the expo

My hands were SO full by this time, even with a bag a volunteer gave me to help me carry things!  I found Krista, and, after changing by the car in the parking garage (luckily no one drove by!) we went out to breakfast at Genies Cafe, where I gorged on vegetarian biscuits and gravy and a huge, delicious bloody mary.  Then it was off to the airport for the flight home. The fun part about that was seeing other runners in their long-sleeved finishers shirts. I was wearing mine too, and whenever I'd see on in the airport or on the airplane we'd wave and chat.

delicious and well-earned
All in all, I LOVED running Portland. I wish I lived closer so I could do it again next year!

October 2, 2012

SuperFrog Half Ironman Race Recap

This post is going to be long. Very long, maybe too long.  Feel free to skip.  I was going to divide it up into two posts, but I want it all together in one. There are a lot of things I want to remember about the race, so I want to get it all down before they become a faint memory. So sit back and enjoy the tale of.....


First of all, I did it! I completed all 70.3 miles, and am officially a half-Ironman.  For those of you who have been reading my blog for a while, you know how much training I'd done for this.  I signed up on March 30, 6 months to the day from SuperFrog. When I signed up, I was already trained up to be able to do an Olympic-distance triathlon (the Oly that got canceled).  All summer was a push to increase my endurance, especially on the bike.  I knew I could do the distance in the swim, and have done many half marathons, but needed to increase mileage on the bike. Oh yeah, and be able to run a half marathon afterward.  I did the necessary training.  I suffered some injuries, but was able to resume training.

As I've said before, SuperFrog is the original half-Ironman. It's a notoriously hard 70.3, as it's put on by the tough Navy Seals, who don't like anything to be easy.  Lance Armstrong signed up a few weeks ago, which added more buzz and an extra 200 or or participants.


The days leading up to the race were good.  As I wrote in my last post, I felt ready. I was in a zen-state. I was pretty calm.  I realized I had done most of the course before, which made me feel better.  I hadn't swam at that beach, but I've done lots of ocean swim practices, and a beach is a beach.  I've ridden the Silver Strand tons of time in training, even doing the actual course (albeit one loop rather than 4) in a triathlon last year. I had run the Silver Strand Half Marathon last year, which covers part of the same run course.  And I've been doing lots of beach runs.  So I kept telling myself, although the distance was new to me, the DOING wasn't new.

I'd kept my workouts very light last week. Two short (2 mile) runs, a short (1500 yard) swim, and a short (5 mile) bike.  The bike ride was mainly to test it out; I had been practicing changing the tubes in my tires, in case I got a flat on race day, and wanted to be sure I put my wheel on right.  Apparently I didn't, as unbeknownst to me a screw had come loose and when I replaced it, I'd put it's spring on backward.  When I tried to ride, the chain came off, I couldn't clip out in time, and down I went, gashing my knee.  Just what I needed right before the race, but at least I was able to take it into my local bike shop to get fixed!  Friday I picked up my race packet. Even then I was calm. For a while I was obsessively checking 4 different weather websites, but each gave a different forecast (ranging from 78-85 degrees). I finally stopped checking, as the truth was it didn't matter what the weather was, I had no control over it, it was going to be hot, and I was racing in it no matter what.

Friday night I got a very poor night's sleep. I went to bed at 9:15, but was up from 12:30-3:00, and then up for good at 5:00. All day Saturday I was exhausted...and nauseous. This wasn't good, as I wasn't able to eat as much as I should have. Nothing sounded appealing, and I did my best to choke some food down. I did my final preparations for the race (checked my gear about 6 times, then packed my transition bag and bike in the car), put on my race number tattoos (a first for me, I've always been body-marked in transition with a marker, so the tattoo felt so official!), and was asleep by 8:30. Although I set my alarm for 4:00, I was up at 2:00, and couldn't get back to sleep.  Another poor night's sleep in the books.

By the way, I got a flood of support from my friends and family. A few friends sent me good luck cards in the mail, and I got a ton of phone calls, texts, tweets, and Facebook messages. I appreciated each and every single one.


I got out of bed at 3:30, got dressed, and was out the door by 4:30.  Although I had packed my usual pre-race peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, I still felt nauseous and couldn't stomach it.  I did eat a Luna Bar, though.  I drove down to Coronado, easily found parking at the Silver Strand State Beach, and walked into transition. I met another triathlete on the way; it was also his first 70.3, so it was nice to commiserate.  I was happily surprised to see that we had assigned spaces on the racks; that was a first for me too! They were assigned by race number within waves, so after wandering around for a while I finally found my spot.  I racked my bike, then went back to my car for my Igloo (I brought a small Igloo with ice, because I wanted ice-cold Gatorade to start the run with). I stopped at an actual bathroom, because I was having, er, tummy issues.  I got back to transition, and was setting up when my friend Steve came over.  I was so happy to see him! I may have started crying.  Later, I found my dailymile friend Leah, which also helped to calm my nerves.

The waves seemed calm, and the moon was bright and full in the dark sky.  I remember music blasting from the loudspeakers, which was kind of annoying because it was too early for peppy music.  Lots of athletes were in their own world, listening to their iPods. A mix of excitement and anxiety was in the air.

The full moon as the sun rose. See how small the waves were at that time?

set up with a lot of stuff!

my wave

After setting up, I decided to use the port-o-potty, as my tummy was still in turmoil. While in line, I was so nauseous I almost threw up. My legs turned to jelly and I almost had to sit down. I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I thought "I can't do this. I am not going to even start.".  That's how scared I was.  I almost didn't start.  Then I thought about husband, my kids, my family, all my friends, and how everyone in my life, and on Facebook, and Twitter, and dailymile, were rooting for me, and how could I face them if I didn't even start?  Most of all, how could I face myself?

I got back to my area, and the woman next to me, Denise, could tell I was upset.  She asked if she could pray with me. I said okay.  She took my hands, and said a prayer for me which was so sweet.  The other women around me were awesome too...everyone was so friendly and nice and supportive.  Soon I heard that Lance Armstrong was there. I decided to play paparazzi and took my phone over for a few pictures.  Watching him set up his bike, and wearing the same tattoos that I had on, actually calmed my nerves. I returned to my area in a good mood.

Something that helped was that I thought about my friends who couldn't do what I was doing.  My friend Angi, who is recovering from breast cancer. My friend Monika, who just found out she has a brain tumor.  My friend T, who got me into triathlon 2 years ago, who just broke his foot.  I GET TO DO THIS. I kept telling myself that. I GET to swim, bike, run, and compete.  I also thought about something that I read on a blog this week (I wish I could remember which blog to give it proper credit...). The writer said that the race is really a celebration of the training. I've been training my ass off for this moment, so I needed to celebrate it today.

pre-race, looking scared
Right as I was about to get my wetsuit on, Leah came over.  She insisted that I take something to eat with me down to the beach, so I brought a Vanilla Honey Stinger Waffle. I'm glad I did, I was already in calorie deficit with my nausea and it was good to get some more calories in me. We walked down to the beach, and got in the water to warm up. Brrrr....the water was c-c-c-c-cold! And the waves, which had been tiny earlier, were suddenly big. Huge. I started to get really freaked out.  I had practiced open-water ocean swims many times with  Steve, but usually the waves were calm.  Once the waves were big, but not THAT big.  I had learned that day, after getting knocked over by a huge wave and losing my goggles, that I needed to put my goggles under my swimcap. So glad I had learned this lesson before, as it would be crucial today.  I found Steve, gave him a hug right before it was his wave's turn to go, then lined up, as my wave would start 5 minutes later.


From the SuperFrog website:

The swim course is a two-loop open ocean water swim in the Pacific Ocean. Swimmers will swim out 350m, turn right (north) and swim 200m, and finally swim back to shore (350m) to begin the second lap.  There will be multiple wave starts that will be set 3-5 minutes apart. Water temperatures in September average 69 degrees. Wetsuits are recommended. Cut-off time: 1:10

I don't want to exaggerate, but by the time it was my wave's turn to start (women 30+), the waves were extremely big.  As I said, much bigger than anything I'd practiced in.  I found some photos from the race to give an idea of what I was facing:


So when it was my turn to run into the water, there were a LOT of strong  waves to get through.  I tried doing what I'd practiced, ducking under them like a dolphin, but they were so strong that I was having a hard time getting through them.  I kept getting knocked back.  And the rush going over my head was so strong that had I not put my hand on my head to hold my swimcap and goggles on, they would have gotten washed away.  There were about 3 sets of these breakers to get through before it got calm.  By the time I got through the third set, I was exhausted and almost in tears. I thought it would take me forever to get through the rectangular loop, and then I had to do it again?  No way. Again, I had the thought in my head, "I should give up." That's how hopeless I felt.

But then I got it together. I told myself to suck it up, that I've trained hard for this, that I WOULD get through it.  That of course it's hard, it's a half-Ironman for God's sake, not a little sprint...and with it sponsored by the Navy Seals, why would I expect anything easy?  I got through the last set of waves and was able to actually swim. I swam up to the buoy, where I expected to turn right, but the other swimmers kept swimming straight.  WHAT? OMG there was a second buoy PAST this buoy that I had to swim to before turning north. I hadn't noticed that from the shore...probably because the second buoy was so away.

So I kept swimming.  And swimming.  Finally I turned right, and rounded another buoy before heading to the shore. Stroke, stroke, breathe.  Stroke, stroke, breathe.  Overall I was able to get a good space to swim. Once I got kicked in the head, and another time I got hit by my face and my goggles started leaking, but other than that I was fine. Until...I was almost at shore. I kept looking behind me, because I knew the monster waves would be breaking on me and I wanted to be aware. Suddenly a guy next to me shouted "watch out!" and there was a huge wave I couldn't escape from. Under I went, holding my goggles and swimcap to my head, as I tumbled upside down.  I came up sputtering and spent.  Oh well, almost to shore.

I finally made it to shore, ran a bit along the shore to the start, and did the whole thing all over again.  The experience the second time was exactly the same---same huge waves, same getting knocked back--except I didn't get kicked by anyone.  By this point, though, I was sufficiently warmed up so that I wasn't tired anymore, although by the end my hands were getting numb from the cold water.  Again, I made it to the shore, and this time got to run into transition. I trudged up the soft sand while unzipping my wetsuit and went in. I  came in under my hour goal. Yay me!

I had brought a bottle of water to rinse off my feet post-swim, but the woman next to me, Denise, was there and told me to step in her bucket of water, which was much easier.  I took my time in transition, not really to dry myself off (I didn't) but to make sure I had everything I needed for the bike. It's one thing to rush out of transition for a sprint bike ride of 12 miles...but 56 miles is a different story. Socks and bike shoes on....helmet on and strapped...race belt on....sunglasses on....medicine and gels in my back pocket....let's roll!


From the SuperFrog website: 

Next, the bike course is a flat and fast 56mile bike-leg consisting of four counter-clockwise 14 mile loops on Highway 75. There is one aid-station on the south end of the course which you will pass at mile 4, 17, 30, and 43. The max elevation on the course is 39ft above sea-level….yes, this is the fastest course you have ever been on! Cut-off time: 3:45

I hit the mount line, got on my bike, and started pedaling.  The ride was actually pretty uneventful, which was good.  Four loops. I've biked here so much that it wasn't new to me at all.  One way I got a pretty bad headwind; the other way the wind was a help.  At the first turnaround, I saw two of my friends, S and B! They were holding a sign and yelling for me. That put a HUGE smile on my face and gave me an extra push!  And at the other turnaround, two other friends, A and I, were there with signs. I saw them a few times, on each time I turned around there. They even got the cops who were standing there to cheer for me. I so appreciated my friends being there. I really needed it.
I made a critical mistake on the bike, though. I failed my nutrition and hydration.  I was still feeling nauseous, even a bit more so since ingesting so much ocean water.  I reminded myself to eat and drink, and did so, but not as much as I should.  In my long bike training rides I had nailed my nutrition,but the nausea made it really hard for me.  I didn't intake nearly enough calories or fluid, which would later come back to haunt me. It's hard to eat when nauseous....most of what I was able to eat were Gu Chomps and Clif Shot Blocks,  one and a half of my two Pay Day bars, and a few peanut butter pretzels.  I had more with me. . I even dropped one of my Gatorade-filled bottles around mile 20, and successfully picked up a new bottle of Cytomax at the aid-station hand-off (a first for me!) but never touched that extra bottle.  Total fail.

Although the course is pretty flat, the wind is definitely a factor.  The first few laps it wasn't bad, but by lap 3 the headwind was getting tough.  By lap 4, it was bad. At times it felt I was in a wind tunnel. I passed someone and mentioned how windy it was; his response to me was lost in the wind. I have no clue what he said.

Around mile 50, I started getting a sharp pain in my left knee, on every downstroke. That worried me for the run (luckily it stopped hurting as soon as I was off the bike).  Soon it was time for me to come back to transition.  Although I was one of the last people on the bike leg (but certainly not last!) I made good time for me.  I had planned on four hours, and I came in under that. That also included two port-o-potty breaks.  Although the bike leg was pretty long and boring, I actually enjoyed myself, although I was looking forward to getting off the bike and onto my favorite leg, the run. I liked the biking much better than the swim, and, as it turns out, better than the run.

Back in transition,  I racked my bike, helmet off, bike shoes off, running shoes on, fuel belt with ice-cold Gatorade bottles on....and I was ready.  I actually thought to myself that this half-Ironman thing was easy.  I was having fun. It wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it was going to be. I wasn't too tired, and felt like I could crush the run, as it was my favorite part.

I didn't know just how wrong I was.


From the SuperFrog website:

Lastly, the run course is a 13.1mile course is a combination of  hard-packed sand, soft sand, trails and pavement. The run takes you south down the beach (hard packed sand) for approximately 2 miles and on to the Silver Strand Training Complex. Racers will then complete two loops on roads and groomed trails and head back north to the finish. Approximately 4 miles of the course is on the beach (hard packed sand). Approximately 4-500 meters of the beach run will be in soft sand…the rest is at hard-packed sand at the high-water line. Water, Cytomax Drink and Cytomax Drops will be available at all aid-stations (4 stations per loop). Cut-off time: 3:15

As SuperFrog winner Lance Armstrong said afterward, "whoever invented that run course needs to get checked out!"  It was a seriously tough, seriously badass run course. 

As soon as I started on the run I knew I was in trouble.  The first two and a half (not 2, as stated on the website) miles were on packed sand, making a total of 5 miles there and back on the packed sand. I wasn't too concerned about this, as I've done a lot of beach runs, but I was getting really tired. Plus, I was passing tons and tons of runners on their way back. Nothing like starting out to run 13.1 miles when you're seeing people on their last mile.  Ugh.  I passed another woman, walking, who told me she hurt her foot on the bike. I felt bad for her.
I had planned a 0.4 mile run/0.1 mile walk ratio.  I tried this, but couldn't sustain it. I was just too tired, and my feet and legs were getting sore. I decided to try a run 0.2 and walk 0.05 instead.  Soon that got hard.  Then I decided to walk, and run when I could.  When I ran, I was in a good pace, about 10:00-10:45 mile minutes...but then I'd have to slow to a walk.  After the beach part, we got to the Silver Strand Training Complex, a hot and ugly barren area that we had to run two loops of, totaling about 8 miles. Before we started that part, I sat on a chair at the aid station to empty out my shoes, which were full of soft sand that we had just trudged through.  Soon, I was run/walking again.  Luckily, I made a few friends a lot the way, some random guys who were also trudging along.  This was awesome, because even though conversation was limited, it was some distraction. I almost always run with music, and have never run a half marathon without my iPod, so anything was welcome.  And I had the worst songs going through my head.  It's hard to be solely in your own head, with no talking, no music, etc for 8 hours.

By mile 5 I really wasn't doing well. At all.  My nausea was really bad, and I started retching.  Unfortunately, there was nothing in my stomach (even though I had been eating Gu and Gu Chomps) and I was just dry heaving. I thought if I could throw up, I might feel better.  I did feel a bit better after, even though nothing came up.  I ate some salt and that revived me a bit.  I kept moving, though...always moving forward.  I kept thinking of quote by my hero, Dean Karnazes: "Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up." I was NOT going to stop.  Soon I hit mile 6.6, and I knew I was halfway done with the run.  At that point, all I wanted to do was finish.  I wanted to run more than I was, but I couldn't, and decided that I was ok with that. Even if I walked the rest of the way, I would still finish.

At about mile 10 or so, we exited the Training Center and were on sand dunes. All soft sand, about 1/3 of a mile.  The kind of sand you slip and slide in when going to the beach.  I continued to trudge through that, and when I finally got through that, I sat down once again to empty my shoes.  Back on the shoreline, I began my run/walk again. Now I was motivated to finish, because I knew my husband, two kids, and best friend would be waiting for me at the finish. I wanted to get to them. I NEEDED to get to them.  Remember that woman who had hurt her foot biking? I saw her again; she had dropped out.  That must have been tough after coming so far.

Finally, I was at the finish. I saw my family and my best friend.  My son, D, ran up and tried to run in with me, but they wouldn't let him.  I walked until I hit the final stretch, then ran it in, crossing the finish line with arms up high to big applause from all the volunteers that were there. I was the only athlete crossing at that time.

This race was grueling, which made finishing even more sweet.  Getting pummeled by the waves, biking through a wind tunnel, running in the sand and the heat....I did it. I'm tougher than I thought.  I finished in just over 8 hours.  I am very proud of myself.  Could I have pushed it a bit on the run and come in a few minutes under 8?  Maybe, maybe not. It's easy to second guess myself now, but at the time, I truly did the best I could. Although I walked so much of it, I ran as much as I was able to.  Regardless, I finished. I am a half-Ironman.  Unbelievably, I was never sore after. Tired, yes, but not sore at all. I guess I was trained enough!
By the way, Lance Armstrong won the whole thing 3:49, which was shorter than my bike portion!  The volunteers were amazing, and I'm delighted to report that even with the extreme heat, there was PLENTY of food, water, and Cytomax. I had been worried about them running out, but they were fully stocked, and since I was toward the end, I know there was enough for all. It was a well organized event from start to finish!

But this race wasn't about Lance. It wasn't about any of the other hundreds of racers.  It was about me, about me conquering my fears, and doing what to me seemed impossible at one point. I swam, biked and ran 70.3 miles. I am a half-Ironman!