Photographic evidence

June 29, 2007

Before I go on with the story (are you wondering just how long I can drag this thing out?), I thought I would share some photos of the big event that I’ve gotten from various sources.

Me and Mandy at the swim start. neva-and-mandy-at-swim-start.jpg

Then, me and the rest of the yellow cap old lady group waiting about to get in the water (I’m the one in the middle with the pink goggles).neva-swim-start.jpg

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Part 2 – As easy as riding a bike

June 28, 2007

So, I spent a little over 4 minutes in transition between swim and bike. A lot of that was simply getting from the exit of the river to my transition spot. With almost 2000 participants, the transition area was huge. In all the excitement I ran past my row and had to back track briefly, but I found my spot where I peeled off the wet suit, wiped off my dirty feet, put on a shirt, bike shoes and helmet and took off.

The bike route was really gorgeous. It was probably 75 degrees with low humidity and we road all around the periphery of Fairmount park in Philly on roads completely blocked to cars. There were 4 big hills spread out through the 12 mile course that we had to do twice. I knew the hills were there but I didn’t know how steep they were. To me, they were pretty steep. Some people even got off their bikes to walk. I didn’t stop on the hills but I did slow down significantly and got passed many times. The first hill was at about mile 1 and was scary because psychologically I didn’t like feeling that winded so early on. I decided to treat myself to a tangerine Powergel at the top of the hill (I taped two to the bike) .

If I could do anything different in my prep for this race it would’ve been to practice more hill climbs on the bike and maybe to ride the route before the race to be psychologically prepared. The second time I looped around the route was much better just because the route was now a “known quantity”. I recognized the hills and knew they would soon end. I also enjoyed the water bottle handoff at mile 14 and celebrated with another Powergel at that point as well. My second 12 mile loop was faster than the first. I passed Mom, Meg, Fletcher and Kristy and their boys on my second loop just outside the Art Museum fairly close to the Rocky statue. I had to yell at them to get them to see me but then they yelled, jumped and screamed and that was so encouraging for me. At the top of the last hill I passed Dave and Eden who were also great cheerleaders. Eden had made signs and was banging two “thunder fingers” together while screaming at me. I know they walked a few miles and spent a lot of boring minutes waiting and watching just for that brief moment to cheer and I was so grateful to see them. Dave asked me if that was the first or second loop because I was ahead of the time schedule I had predicted and I was so proud to say I was almost at the end of the bike route by then and still surviving.

I drank at least 2 full water bottles while on the bike, had two powergels, sang songs to myself and had conversations with several other cyclists who either passed me (more likely) or I passed. The team in training folks (who made up about 20% of the race participants) would always greet each other and cheer “go team!” and many times we would we talk for a bit longer. I traded lead places several times on the bike and run with two women from the SC chapter of TNT and we always exchanged encouraging words at every passing.

I ended the whole bike section in a little over an hour and a half averaging just under 16 mph. In comparing my split times to other participants the bike was definitely my worst leg but I was generally pleased. I didn’t even own a road bike until last March and I’m a very cautious cycler. I know I held back some simply because I was nervous about the sore hamstring (which I could feel a bit by now) and having nothing left for the run. I braked on the downhills because I’m paranoid about bike wrecks. I was so relieved not to have any mechanical problem. I did see several people changing flat tires and at one point I heard a loud noise like I ran over something hard. I held my breath and all was fine. I finished the 24 mile bike strong and smiling. My coach was there at the transition with encouraging words. I was more than half way through with the race and all that was left was the run, but first.. I had to find a port a potty!

The Recap – Part 1

June 26, 2007

Well, I don’t even know where to start. How do you explain all the feelings of finally accomplishing something that I’ve been thinking about daily for months? It was just awesome, really. I think there is too much to say in one post so, bear with me as I ramble on – it took me 5 months to get here after all!

First, we had a nice time in Philly in general. Great weather and good times had by all. The day before the race I got to check out the area a bit, see the Liberty Bell and then do a Duck tour of the city with the whole family. If you’ve ever seen the duck tours in Boston or Baltimore then you know what I mean… amphibious vehicles that drive throughout town and into, in this case, the Delaware river. That was all fun but clouded a bit by my anxieties of the coming day’s race and a nagging hamstring ache that was making me nervous.

That night there was a nice dinner with two speakers – Dave Scott, known by many as “the man” a winner of the Hawaii Ironman multiple times in the 1980s and evidently a legend although that was all lost on me. He was a funny speaker though and I was impressed that he was there supporting TNT. Then we had a cancer survivor speak as well and I was impressed once again by the spirit of this organization and the good heartedness of so many people involved. They announced at that dinner that we as a national group preparing for this race had raised over a million dollars and that each mile of the triathlon the next day was worth over $23,000 for the society. Turns out that I had been one of the top individual fund raisers. It was so cool to do something that was so significant.

Then, I tried to sleep. Didn’t happen. At all. None. I saw every hour on the clock and worried about my hamstring that still ached. By 4 am, I just got up and made coffee in the little in room coffee pot and spent much time in the bathroom. Finally, a little before 5am I made my way to meet my little team of three and my coach and we biked together 3 miles through the Philadelphia dawn from our hotel to Fairmount park where the race was held. It was surreal riding through red lights between 50 story buildings with such an incredible amount of adrenaline pumping.

I got body marked, visited the port a potty and set up my transition area as I was so well coached to do. About 6 am, we got on a bus to the swim start which was a mile down the Schukyll river. Then, there was the wait. I was in the 8th of 10 age group waves to start with each one separated by 5 minutes. My other teammates went way before me. There were about 100 to 150 people in every wave. I imagine I hung out in my wetsuit for over an hour just getting more and more nervous. It was actually chilly at that time of day – probably 60s and I was shivering, although I think that was nerves. By the time I was in the water at 7:30 I was so relieved to just be starting the thing I wasn’t worried any more. The swim overall went well. There was little to no current which was a disappointment, but in general it felt good and I was pleased. I didn’t swallow much river and I didn’t have to sight much to stay straight because there were people on either side of me that I could just stay near. Luckily, no one hit me or got in my way. I felt a sense of light-headedness and a little off balance getting out of the water but not terribly tired which was my goal at this stage. I didn’t even notice the hamstring at all and I finished the mile swim in 30 minutes. This was, as I expected, by far my strongest leg of the race. I struggled to remove the wetsuit, celebrated with some water and a towel in the transition area and got on the bike. I’ll get to that part in the next installment.

Here’s me at 4:30am in the hotel room getting my caffeine fix in. Can you see the fear?

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I did it!

June 25, 2007

Just wanted to say all went well and I finished strong at 3 hours 16 minutes. After a night of no sleep at all and rising at 4:30 I swam, biked and ran to the finish and felt great! I’ll tell more later with pictures but it was just a fabulous experience all around!!

Go Team!

June 21, 2007

This time tomorrow we’ll be on the plane to Philly. The work is behind us now and I’m excited and a little bit nervous. Our incredible coach Bruce sent us an email today detailing all the hours we have put in since February and I was a little shocked. Here it is!

swim: 20 hours (roughly 35 miles)
bike: 50 hours (roughly 800 miles)
run: 30 hours (roughly 200 miles)
strength: 20 hours
total: 120 hours

Wow! I’ll keep remember that when I start to wonder, “have I done enough?”.

I have so enjoyed most of that time though, especially the weekend workouts with my Team . Our team has been a dedicated group of 3 – me, Pam and Mandy along with the encouraging support of our coach.tnt-team.jpg.

We have different backgrounds and families but have bonded around a common goal and together we have raised over $16,000. We all started on the same day (about 2 weeks late on the official TNT training calendar) and we have been very loyal ever since. These two women are impressive individuals who have inspired me, and I look forward to celebrating this weekend with them and of course with my awesome family (including my brother, sister-in-law, nephews and Mom who are all flying up too!). I’ll be back on Monday with news and photos. Thanks again for all your support!

Hey all – it’s later in the day and I wanted to add just one more thing… Please raise your glass on Sunday around noon and hope that I’m all done and if you need some musical accompaniment to your celebratory drink crank up India.Arie’s new single Beautiful Flower. It’s an incredible song and if you buy it on itunes all the proceeds go to Oprah’s South Africa school for girls. Plus – it’s got one of the best lyrics I’ve heard in a while – “Next time the radio tells you to shake your moneymaker – shake your head and tell them you’re a leader!  There is nothing in the world that you cannot do, when you believe in you”. I know this is one of many songs I’ll be singing to myself while I swim, bike and run on Sunday. Feel free to sing along.

Let the countdown begin!

June 16, 2007

Race is one week from tomorrow.

Did a mini version of our race today – swam out in Jordan lake probably 1/2 mile, biked 20, ran 4 and feel great, so I think I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. This week I’ll do shorter, easier workouts, try to eat well and rest a lot, enjoy Father’s Day and be grateful to all of you who have helped bring my grand total above $9000 raised (some doesn’t show up on the website). Amazing !!

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Vacation to Holland

June 12, 2007

Most of the time these days I’m pretty positive. I’ve discovered being negative really doesn’t help anything. The situation stays the same but I just feel worse. I realize this isn’t very shocking, but it was a big realization for me, and one I have to remind myself of regularly. I need some reminding right about now.

I’ve been feeling pretty negative this weekend. Could be just coming down from such a great time the week before or it could be I’m really missing our incredible next door neighbors who moved this weekend. Maybe I’m over training, or it could be a virus I’m pretty sure I’ve caught. But, generally speaking, I’m feeling more tired and irritable than I’d like. I couldn’t even exercise today and that’s a big deal for me.

Probably some of you have read or heard about an essay about parenting special needs kids called Welcome to Holland. It’s a great essay describing how when you are having a child it’s like planning a trip to Italy and then when a “special” baby is born it’s like being told you’ve arrived in Holland instead with all the disappointments and surprise that come along with that. It captures a lot of my feelings of grief and loss about having Meg and it has been a comfort to me many times, but today I thought a lot about that essay and felt like it didn’t really capture enough of what a strange experience this is.

Today I spent the entire morning at doctor’s offices with Meg. First, at the orthopedics office and physical therapist getting her measured for new leg braces which hopefully will prevent any casting or surgery to fix a tight heel cord I didn’t even know she had. Then I went across town to the eye doctor to get her a strap to help try to keep her glasses on her head. She of course just saw the strap as an extra fun challenge and conquered it quickly. Then I spent time on the phone with a company that provides “mobility devices” (aka wheelchairs) to kids and discovered that our chair which we’ve been waiting over 7 months for was denied many months ago and no one informed us. All of this is frustrating and disappointing in a way I don’t think I can truly explain. These devices (like glasses, braces, “mobility aids” and the like) are expensive and depressing especially when you know that they are not “fixing” anything, just trying to help her “reach her maximum potential” – a phrase I’m beginning to despise. Insurance does everything they can not to pay for anything. Luckily we have lots of resources and medical expertise but it’s still anger inducing. To top all this day off Meg has a terrible diaper rash that is preventing her from sleeping tonite so instead she’s wailed for over two hours and there is no end in sight. I found myself jokingly thinking, I sure wish I was in Holland right about now.

If I were going to rewrite the Holland essay I think I’d pick a different country. Holland sounds too pretty and easy. People actually choose to go to Holland after all. There is nothing pretty about the knowledge that Meg will need to be carried for a long time and my back is already hurting or that she may always need those diapers or that she may never talk to us. It’s sure not Holland all the time.  Today at least, it was maybe Ethiopia or Sudan. There is beauty there but it’s hard to see at times and you must look very, very carefully. You will also see difficult, terrible things you never wanted to see and hear things you never wanted to hear. You will have to learn a language that is incomprehensible to most (IEP?) and negotiate rules and bureaucracy that could probably replace a small government’s constitution. You must be tough and hardened in order to survive the trip and you must make sure you do not forget about everyone else in Italy. You also must forgive the Italians for not understanding your Sudanese child – for staring, asking weird questions, and ignoring you like you have plague. You must forgive them for not understanding you either since your trip has changed you forever in ways they can’t comprehend. Most of all, you have to get up every day and keep going – in Holland, Sudan, Ethiopia, Italy or wherever the heck you are and keep it together for everyone who counts on you to make sure their bags are packed and ready for the next trip.

Halleluia – the wailing has finally stopped – time for all the international travelers to rest and maybe tomorrow we’ll wake up in Holland.

Stars Align

June 3, 2007

I have to admit it – I got really tired this week. Our coach has said that our tri-tri team (there are three of us) is very positive and not whiney but this weekend I did a little whining.This was probably the hardest week so far in our training. A 7 mile run in the middle of the week (and it was HOT here) and lots of swimming and biking too with two long bricks at either end of the week. But… it’s on to another recovery week now and then just two more weeks before the race. I am seeing the light and I think today I have crossed over from tired and have begun to feel excited. The 60 minute massage I indulged myself in yesterday at the YMCA helped tremendously as did a good night’s sleep.

Later today we’re meeting at Jordan Lake to swim. I got a smaller wetsuit and I get to try it out. The weather is cooling off and the plants are getting some much needed rain. Things are looking up.

It’s been a great week on the homefront too. Meg took two small steps without her walker which is tremendous, and Eden has been wowing us with her reading. She just got her first library card and has been through 10 chapter books already. She is excited that soon she’ll be a first grader and get to sign up for the first grade reading program at the library.

We had one of those fabulous nights last night when all the stars align and everyone is relaxed and happy. Eden danced and sang. Meg squealed with delight at anything we did and dinner tasted good but felt like no work. It was wonderful to have no plans and to just enjoy each other. Last year at this time we learned about Dave’s lymphoma and at that time I could think of nothing more I wanted than a carefree, relaxed evening with my family and no worries. I thought I might never have it again.

img_1172.jpgLast night, I got it and I’m mighty grateful.

Who is on your life soundtrack?

May 29, 2007

I have always been a music person. I remember getting my first record player at age 4 (maybe 5?) and listening to my Sesame Street album over and over. Then I quickly moved on to 45s and I developed quite a collection (which I still have in a closet upstairs). I remember listening to the Top 40 and running out to buy the number one song on a 45 record for a dollar. Captain and Tennille and their horrible Muskrat Love song comes to mind as one I “had to have”. There were also many times when I held a tape machine up to the speaker on the radio to record my favorite songs. Oh, the one hit wonders! Do you remember A Taste of Honey’s Sukiyaki? I would pick up the needle and play it back line by line to learn all the words. “It’s all because of you. I’m feeling sad and blue. You went away and now my life is just a rainy day”. It is engraved in my brain forever.
By junior high I began to stretch out a bit beyond the number one hits. I was “alternative” – at least for a girl from Salisbury – remember we only had a few radio channels and no MTV yet! I joined BMG and ordered albums – Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, Billy Joel’s Glass Houses, ACDC Back in Black, Styx, Foreigner, etc. – still have those too. I went to my first concert (Duran Duran – aren’t you jealous!) in 1984 and spent many a teenage angst- filled evening listening to Depeche Mode’s Fly on the Windscreen on the tape player of my friend Michelle’s car (the Ford Fiesta lovingly known as the “tomato”). Boy, those guys in Depeche Mode sure were depressed! Finally by high school I had discovered REM and that one stuck for quite a while. My greatest college memories involve going to incredible shows at the Cat’s Cradle and elsewhere. There is just nothing like the impact of good music.

Even now that I’m “old” I still love music of almost any sort (and, if you don’t believe I’m old just reread the above references to record players and Captain and Tennille). By marrying Dave my taste broadened a bit to include blue grass (Doc Watson is one of his favorites) and sometimes I even tolerate his Beastie Boys CDs. I still don’t get his love of the Chemical Brothers and his constant listening to WXYC (the UNC student station) even when the music on it is mostly terrible.

I am writing about this today because I realized recently that my training for this triathlon has been punctuated by various songs that I have placed on my ipod and like the rest of my life this time will always be remembered by the soundtrack surrounding it. I have run over 150 miles since this started and ridden many, many more while listening to lots of different music. Recently I set my ipod to shuffle on all the music I’ve purchased from the itunes music store and the variety is impressive. There is the Cheetah Girls (Eden’s choice, not mine, but I’ve been known to sing along), Yo Yo Ma, Justin Timberlake (if you say you don’t like his song Sexy Back I’m sorry you’re just lying), Lucinda Williams, Kanye West, U2, Johnny Cash, Joni Mitchell, India.Arie, Melissa Ethridge, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Nirvana, Coldplay, Kacy Crowley (my neighbor’s sister and a great singer/songwriter) and much, much more. Music helps motivate me and keeps my feet moving. Sometimes I discover I’m singing out loud as I run down the street which can be rather embarrassing.

My most recent music discoveries have come from animated movie soundtracks – Shark Tale, Curious George, Happy Feet, The Wild, Meet the Robinsons – all have had good music. My wild nights of concert going have given way to matinees with the kids and I guess it shows, but at least it’s not Lawrence Welk.. yet. But, I’m always looking for new music. Think Lawrence is on i tunes?

lesson #1 – don’t start celebrating too soon

May 21, 2007

topsail-may-07-008.jpgSurf and Turf triathlon at Topsail went well. I cut 6 minutes off my time (1:13 down from 1:19 before) – all from the bike and run sections. The swim was a bit disappointing as I HATED the way my wet suit felt in the water. Turns out it’s too big and there was lots of air between me and the suit all accumulating around my shoulders and back. It made my stroke feel off and my arms tired. Good I found this out now since this is the wetsuit I was going to wear in Philadelphia. Now I’ve got to figure out what to do about it. At Topsail, I ended up breaststroking a lot of the way. Plus, the waves were big and I thought it was harder getting in and out of the water to get to a calm place to swim. Despite all that though my swim time turned out to be exactly the same (to the second!) as last time I did this race. Odd.

Then I shaved at least a minute off each 4 mile bike section and a minute off each mile of the run. I think my transitions were faster too. All in all I was pleased. I was fourth in my age group but in the spirit of full disclosure I should tell you that there were only four of us in my age group! Turns out my age group is pretty competitive though. Had I been in some of the younger age groups where there were many more people I would’ve easily placed in the top three. Strange that us older ladies are fewer but faster. Also, had I entered as a novice female, which I felt I shouldn’t do since I’d actually done one triathlon before, I actually would’ve won that category! Anyway, I was solidly in the middle of the pack. 30th out of 60 women to be exact which is much better than I anticipated and nothing to be ashamed of for sure. I was really pleased to see my run and bike times improve and I know I felt better at the end than I did the first time. I wasn’t even sore the next day which goes to show you regular training is helpful (!).

Other than the fact that I hate my wetsuit, the biggest lesson I learned is to check out the finish line before the race. Turns out this finish line was not where I thought it was. I crossed over a little platform where I heard my timer chip beep (like it did at ever transition spot) and a guy called out my name. I thought I was done so I raised my arms in victory and walked slowly forward. Turns out the finish line was still a few yards away. Mom, Dave and others were telling me to run and I was arguing with them saying I was done already. The picture below shows me at my imaginary finish line where I came to a grinding halt!

topsail-may-07-006.jpgI suspect this story may get embellished as time goes on. I’m already telling people that must have cost me several minutes on my overall time. It’s my story and I’m sticking with it!

So, now back to the grindstone with less than 5 more weeks to go before Phili where the race is more than twice what I did this weekend. Better get to it.