March 27, 2014

Almost Showtime

In just two days I will be racing in my second-ever half-Ironman, the Ironman 70.3 Oceanside. I have done this once before, SuperFrog in 2012, and when I crossed that finish line I told my husband and best friend that I would never do it again.  Like childbirth, the pain of that day ebbed from my memory, and last year I was waffling on signing up for Oceanside. For some reason, I felt like I had one more 70.3 in me. The facts that it was local and Ironman-branded (which I hadn't done before) also added to the appeal.  The end result was that on July 7, 2013 I hit the register button when there were only a few spots left available.

Of course, back on July 7, 2013, I had no clue what life had in store for me.  As I blithely began training (and when I say training, I mean easing back into things, as I had taken off most of May and June from biking and running to try to heal a herniated disc) life was about to smack me in the face. 

For starters, my mother had just been diagnosed in June with ovarian cancer.  With only a month into her diagnosis, I was very optimistic about her prognosis, but as the year progressed she got sicker and sicker. I gladly skipped some crucial weekends of training in order to be with her in Houston; once over Labor Day, when I went out by myself to spend time with her, and again in January when I brought my whole family for what turned out to be our last visit. Finally, my beloved mother succumbed to cancer only a month ago, on February 24th.  I went out yet again for the funeral.

Not only had I been dealing with the impending loss of my mother and subsequent grief when she finally died, but other life circumstances happened as well.

My husband, J, had a stroke in August.  He had gone in for Deep Brain Stimulation, a kind of brain surgery, in order to help treat his Young Onset Parkinson's Disease. Although he made a miraculous and full recovery, there were a few weeks there that I couldn't train the way I would have, as I was either in the hospital or rehab with him, or caring for the children.

In January, when we were visiting my mother in Houston, my 7 year old daughter, A, broke her ankle. In two places.  We are STILL dealing with this, over two months later; as I type this, she is still in a boot. I lost a lot of training time as she was home for many days before the school could figure out how to deal with her (ie getting approval for an aide for her wheelchair, etc).

In February, on Super Bowl Sunday, my husband had a heart attack.  I haven't written yet about this (I will soon, though) so I have nothing to link to, but suffice it to say it was a very scary time. Again he made a miraculous recovery, but I didn't do many workouts at that time because of dealing with him.

And of course there were the usual random days of migraines and sick kids.

I hope it doesn't sound like I'm complaining. I'm not. I will gladly miss any workout in order to be with my family. My family and its health comes first.  I'm just relaying that between the stroke, heart attack, broken ankle and my mother's cancer and death a lot of life crap got in the way.

And not just other people's stuff got in the way, but my own did, too.  I have been having sciatic nerve pain for over two years, and finally last year had an MRI where it showed a herniated disc at L4/L5.  I am much better now; still in some pain but MUCH more minimal than before, thanks to many physical therapy sessions, spinal decompression and a few spinal epidural steroids.  I am back to running, but much slower, slower than I ever was before, and using the Galloway run/walk method (I use 1:30 minutes running to 00:30 seconds walking).  At least I'm running. And I injured my rhomboid muscle in September, causing me to miss a full two months worth of swimming. I only re-started swimming again at the end of December.

But I am choosing to overlook all the the negative forces that impacted my training and focus on the positives.  For one, my friend Steve, who is now an Ironman, offered to coach me, which I gladly accepted.  I trained myself for SuperFrog, and was fine, but having Steve coach me has been amazing.  Every week he'd send me my workouts for the week. There was no thinking or planning involved, only doing  My workouts were specialized and specific:  intervals, speedwork, fartleks, hill climbing.  Every workout had a purpose. I put my bike on a trainer for the first time, and spent time in my living room biking to nowhere. My swims, which used to be swum straight-out, suddenly had purpose and drills and sets.

Speaking of swims, I did the Tiki Swim, a 2.4 mile swim ending in Oceanside Harbor, the same venue as the half-Ironman.  This was before my forced swim break, but I was able to swim 2.4 miles.  I also biked a metric century, the Senorita Century, which was full of hilly climbs and in the rain to boot.  I ran and ran, building up to an 11 mile run 3 weeks ago and then a 12 mile run two weeks ago.

In short, since signing up on July 7, 2013, I have:
  • swam 50 miles
  • biked 1578 miles
  • ran 330 miles
Not necessarily the best distances for half-Ironman training, but the best I could do given my life circumstances.

And training got me through it all.  Here is an excerpt from an email I sent to Steve just last week, which I think summarizes how I feel about all of this:

I just checked the date that I registered. July 7. I think about all that has gone into this.  All the swims, bikes and runs.  All the time off for injury. All the unplanned things that happened.  The day I registered was just a few weeks, not even a month, after my mom got her diagnosis.  So much has happened since then.  The brain surgery. The stroke. The recovery. The fear. The broken ankle. The visits to Houston. The heart attack. The funeral.  Sick kids.  Migraines.

All those bike rides.  Pushing through. The long one in December when I did all those hills, including Torrey Pines, and I had the flu and didn't know it.  The triumphant ones---getting up Scripps Poway Parkway for the first time without stopping.  Calle Cristobol and getting up one pedal at a time.  Black Mountain, and wondering where the awful part was going to be and suddenly I was up at the bike path and there was no awful part.  The windy rides.  Rainy rides.  Senorita in the rain, that fucking San Elijo hill I got up without stopping but wanting to.  El Camino Real, my most hated hill in San Diego, that I DID walk up in that ride.

Worrying about my shoulder. Doing Tiki and thinking the next time I get in this harbor will be during the 70.3.  Boring swims.  Swims with my music.  Freezing swims in the bay.

Running. More than I ever did for any half I did. I have done 20 stand-alone half marathons, and only ever do two 3-mile runs in the week and my longest runs are two 10 milers.  Not with you. Running 5 miles on a Wednesday. Running 11 last week, then 12 this week.  WTF?  Getting through slowly, more slowly than I want, with Galloway, and praying my herinated disc doesn't slip more and make even more pain.

All those boring trainer rides. 

I missed a lot of key workouts, but all were due to life.  My life came first.  But I got soooo many in, actually most of them.  Not as fast as you wanted me to, but I got through them at my snail pace.

We all know a race isn't about the race. It's about the training.  It's a celebration of the training.  Regardless of how the race goes---even if I come in last, even if I finish but don't qualify for a medal because I was too slow, even if I DNF for some unknown reason---I trained my ass off and it was healing for me and it got me through some really dark times.  Even the hard, dark rides got me through.

And I don't know what I would have done without you. I can't thank you enough for what you've done for me.

I am very proud of myself. I have biked up some hills that just a year ago would have made me stop. In fact, I DID stop on some of these hills a year ago. I'm a huge fan of my new granny gear, and I just spin up the tough ones.  I have biked and ran in the rain, the heat, the hills. I have swam lap after lap, in the heated pool and in the icy bay.

As I wrote in my letter above, regardless of what happens race day, I did my best. I truly do not care about my time. My time for SuperFrog was a little over 8 hours. This may take me less. It more likely will take me the full allotted 8.5 hours (actually, given my wave, I have some leeway and technically about 9 hours to complete the course).  All I care about it finishing, and if I don't finish for some reason if I gave it my all then that will be good enough for me.

And now I just finish packing and rest and wait.  48 hours from now it will be long over.


  1. xoxoxoxox Girl you've been through A LOT, so much, wow, I admire your strength to hold yourself together through all of what your family has gone through in the last year.
    I'm happy that you'll get to toe the starting line this weekend. I hope the race is full of beautiful thoughts about your family. I hope you finish happy.
    Good luck! I'll be thinking of you!

  2. Tomorrow is indeed a celebration of your training. It is also a celebration of your strength & determination - because this past year has demonstrated that and more. I hope you have a wonderful race but even if it doesn't go your way - I'm in awe of what you've accomplished the past 9 months.

    Now go kick some 70.3 ass tomorrow!!!


I love to read your comments!