A Funny Thing Happened During My Run…

A Funny Thing Happened During My Run…

How I spent most of the holiday

As some of you may know, my Mom has been battling a severe respiratory disorder since last summer. In October I made plans for my son and me to travel to Virginia during the holidays to spend some time with her. On the day were flying up to Virginia, I received a call from my sister, Anna, that Mom had taken a turn for the worse and she was going to drive her up to the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville to be checked out.

No worries, I quickly did some mental gymnastics, rented a car, contacted my ex-husband to see if I could bring Josh to him from the airport, and planned to then make the 2-ish hour drive from the NRV to Charlottesville. Our sister, Jennifer, lives in C’ville and had offered up her home as basecamp for us for as long as we needed to stay. The flight from Orlando to Roanoke was on time, I dropped Josh off in Christiansburg, grabbed a venti Starbucks, and headed for Hoo-ville.

I stopped at the hospital and saw Mom first thing. She was better than I expected her to be, which put my mind at ease to some degree, although I knew things were not good. I left the hospital and made my way to Jen’s. It was great to get there and see that not only were Jen, Sabrina, and Anna there, but also my Dad and Step-Mom had stuck around as well! It had been a long day and the next few promised to be stressful while Mom underwent a lung biopsy and we waited for some definitive diagnosis of her condition, so we all called it a night shortly after I arrived.

You can see how thrilled I was about this run…

The next morning I woke up early and felt stressed out. I looked at my phone and saw that it was 30 degrees outside. I debated going outside for a run, but I didn’t have any running tights with me – only shorts. I had promised myself I would run at least 6 miles while I was there. I don’t like the cold… I didn’t want to go… But I got dressed anyhow. I put on my Cannondale thermal shirt, my long-sleeved Space Coast Marathon race shirt, and my prized Ironman Florida Name hoodie (this will be important later), my compression shorts, running shorts, and sneakers, hat, and gloves and headed downstairs.

My sisters were on the sofa talking and enjoying coffee. I wanted so badly just to grab a cup and sit, but no, I had WORK to do! Races don’t train for themselves and all that stuff. Jen told me about a great running path and out the door I went. I have played what happened next over and over in my mind, trying to make sense of it… Trying to figure out what exactly happened, and the truth is that I have no freaking clue, but I’ll relay as best as I can remember.

I turned on my running playlist, hit GO on my Garmin and started a slow jog down Jen’s street. I turned right, making my way to a traffic circle, feeling great even in the cold, and thought I should probably make my way to the sidewalk instead of running in the middle of the street. At that moment, my right ankle rolled outward and I was unable to recover my balance. What happened next probably only took 0.5 seconds, but it seemed to take 5 minutes. It was one of those moments like when Neo dodges the bullets in The Matrix. I felt myself falling, I knew I was going down and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

Years of martial arts training kicked in and I evaluated the possibility of doing a front fall, but I was falling sideways and couldn’t figure out how to straighten myself out. My next thought was literally “PROTECT THE GARMIN!!!” so I pulled my arms into my core and tried to throw myself into a forward roll. I landed in a tuck on my left shoulder and thought all was well until I heard a sickening “SNAP” inside my earbuds. I knew I had just broken my collarbone. I finished my fabulous forward roll and stood up (I should have gotten style points if nothing else). I surveyed my situation… I could walk… no blood… nothing hurt THAT bad… OH GOD, THE GARMIN… Whew, it wasn’t even scratched… Maybe I could just go 3 miles instead of 6… No, that’s stupid, clearly I had a broken bone. So, I turned around and walked back to my sister’s house. She was walking her dog and came up to me on the street. I told her I thought I had broken my collarbone. I went into the living room to sit down while Jen went to fetch Anna and they figured out what to do with me. I sat there with my eyes closed, going inside my mind, evaluating… analyzing… trying to figure out a way to make this not so… Then, I heard Anna say she would pull the car around and we would go to the ER. I stood up to walk to the front door, took one step and then everything went black.

When I opened my eyes, Jen was standing over me asking if I was okay. “Of course I’m okay, I’m just going to the front door.” Then I realized I was crumpled in a heap on the living room floor. I had passed out cold. I tried to get up again, but my legs just wouldn’t hold me and down I went again. I remember thinking that this must be what it feels like when people collapse during a race and just can’t get up and get moving again.

At that point, the idea of taking me to the ER was ditched and an ambulance was called. I was told that it looked like every ounce of blood in my body had vanished and that I was white and pasty and obviously in shock. While we were waiting, Jen got Deb on my phone and I just started bawling! I told her how badly I had effed up and that I had come to Virginia to help and all I was doing was making things more stressful for everyone, and how was I ever going to be able to start my Ironman 70.3 training program on time now… She assured me everything would be fine in a way that only Deb can.

After we hung up, I noticed that my shoulder was really starting to ping and so I closed my eyes and again went inside my own head and dealt with the pain – which is just what I do when I hurt. It’s quite effective. I didn’t open my eyes again until the EMTs arrived, who were, BTW, FANTASTIC!  Well done Albemarle County, well done! They evaluated me right there on the living room floor, asked me what happened, what hurt, etc. That was the first time I mentioned rolling my ankle. They carefully took my shoe and sock off and I saw the huge lump on the side of my foot for the first time. SUPER!

They got me out of the house and onto a stretcher and into the back of the ambulance where they started getting all the vitals and stuff. They said my vitals were quite impressive as was my pain tolerance. Then the most horrible part of the whole entire episode happened. They had to CUT my clothes down my left arm to assess my injury. Bye bye, Ironman hoodie and marathon race shirt (from my ONLY standalone marathon). I nearly started crying again. Once I got to the ER, it was kind of a blur. More vitals, the right sleeves of my beloved hoodie and race shirt cut out so a proper blood pressure could be taken, more assessments, x-rays, drugs, but hey, ZERO WAIT TIME!! #bonus My dad and step-mom showed up… Jen and her daughter came back… Anna had come in the ambulance with me – it was a freaking family reunion, but it was AWESOME, I’m not gonna lie. I have really missed my family!

We passed the time joking around until a doctor came back and delivered the news I already knew. I had broken my left clavicle and had an avulsion fracture of my right 5th metatarsal. Basically, when I rolled my ankle, my peroneal tendon stretched so far that it snapped the end of my 5th metatarsal off. Happily, it was not floating so no surgery would be required – just lots of time in a boot.

Can we just talk about how HUGE this foot is for a moment? 😮

I left the ER a couple of hours later with my arm in a sling (clavicle fractures like mine rarely require surgery and are not casted), a crutch, a plaster splint, and a way too small walking shoe. Thankfully, my step-mom had a zip-up hoodie in her car because they finished cutting off all my layers and I was left with my sports bra and shorts – and it was 28 degrees outside!

I spent the next few days in a pseudo-haze of hydrocodone, but all-in-all everything went great. Mom had her biopsy. We got some answers – not enough of them, but some. My dad, step-mom, sisters, and sweet niece couldn’t have been more amazing caretakers. Anna and I had hours of much needed (and longed for) conversation. We all made the very best of a truly suck-ass situation.

I flew home on Saturday and got picked up in Orlando by a wheelchair at the plane door – Deb made me promise – which was weird and surreal. Deb and Erin took great care of me during the holidays. It was frustrating to not be able to do all the Christmas cooking and things I normally do, but I was so grateful to be surrounded by people I love. It’s easy to focus on the things that are going wrong while losing sight of everything there is to be so incredibly grateful for. I was determined to be present for the holidays and enjoy them, regardless of the “perfection” of the circumstances, and our Christmas was terrific.

Today I head back to the orthopedist to get another round of x-rays and see how I’m healing and develop a plan to get me back to a point where I can start training again. My training plan for IM Gulf Coast 70.3 is supposed to begin on 1/21… I don’t know how realistic an “on-time start” will be, but maybe I can get clearance to ease back into swimming… or aqua jog… or run on the elliptical in my boot. We’ll see.

At the end of the day, I DO believe that everything happens for a reason, and I believe the reason for my unfortunate injury was threefold:

  1. It broke a pattern and allowed Anna and me a much needed shared experience to open the door to healing some old wounds. It was totally worth it and I’d have it happen again tomorrow if that is the ultimate outcome.
  2. It taught me a valuable lesson about letting go of control and allowing other people to take care of me for a change.
  3. It gave me a pause in my “training” (if that’s what you would call what I’ve been doing for the last year) that I desperately needed. It gave me time to think about what is really important to me regarding triathlon in 2018. Is it REALLY so important to do another Ironman RIGHT NOW? And it has me HUNGRY to get back in the pool, on the road, and on my bike!

Let’s do this, 2018! I’m predisastered and ready to go! 🙂

 

 

 

“Race” Report: Hurricane Irma … and A Decision

“Race” Report: Hurricane Irma … and A Decision

Damage from Hurricane Matthew (10/2016)

Hurricane Irma… What can I say? You sure did keep us on our toes, I guess. Look, I think I have a mild case of Hurricane PTSD from last year’s Cat-3 Hurricane Matthew which nearly killed Deb (when a palm tree came crashing through the bedroom window of the house we were staying in and sent dagger-like shards of glass flying across the room no more than a foot from her head) and destroyed the exterior of our home to the tune of $50,000 in damages. It was my first up close and personal experience with a hurricane and, honestly, I had no interest in a do-over. We moved into a condo back in June and we live on the 14th floor of a 15-story building that sits right on the intercoastal waterway. The prospects of riding out a major storm way up high on the river did not interest me in the least.

So when I started hearing reports of a monster storm chugging its way across the Atlantic, I paid attention. I tried desperately not to give a lot of energy to all the “what ifs” that were swirling around my head, but it was hard. Irma turned into a Category 5 hurricane and started breaking records left and right. Heck, there was even talk of adding a Cat-6 storm designation in her honor because she was such a big, nasty bitch! On Monday, as she churned through the Lesser Antilles leaving utter devastation in her wake, I started my mental preparations. Okay, I could book a hotel for the 4 of us out of harm’s way… But WHERE? NO ONE agreed on where the storm was heading! She may go up the east coast of Florida… maybe the west coast… maybe right up through the center of the state… maybe turn and head out to sea… maybe bypass Florida altogether and just keep on going into the Gulf… Nowhere seemed “safe.” On Tuesday, I started searching hotels and could not find anything in Georgia that would take our dogs, Kona and Pooka (happily, many hotels ended up waiving their pet policies for hurricane evacuees – kudos to them!). I finally found a hotel with 2 pet-friendly rooms just north of Charlotte, NC, so I reserved them – just in case.

I went out that morning and bought 2 cases of bottled water – because that’s what you do in advance of a major storm. I went to meet Megan to swim that evening and stopped to top off my gas tank (again, that’s what you do) and had to go to 3 gas stations before finding one that had gas – which was eerie and weird. Deb and I made the decision to bust our asses in the office, get everything wrapped up that we could, and if we needed to leave, we would head out on Friday morning. Then people started posting the pictures of the major highways which had turned into parking lots filled with people trying to get out of Florida… people posted that the gas stations along the highways were out of gas and people were running out of fuel on the roads with nowhere to go. AND, as all the spaghetti models of Irma’s path started to come together, it looked like she would be marching straight through Georgia and into North Carolina and Tennessee when she was through with Florida… SHIT! It also looked like she was going to come up the spine of Florida meaning that the entire state would be involved – hurricane conditions stretching from coast to coast and from Miami to Jacksonville – all at once!  CRAZY! But that also meant that she would lose steam as she went north with projections that she would be a Cat-1 storm by the time she reached us.

On Thursday evening, after a lot of soul-searching, Deb and I decided that we would ride out the storm here at home rather than taking our chances out on the road. I don’t know that my family back in Virginia or Deb’s family in Maryland were too happy about that decision, but it was the right call (in retrospect). On Friday morning, I headed to Publix to get provisions. I wasn’t terribly worried about finding food – it was unlikely that there had been a run on avocados and kombucha. 😉 I found everything on my list in record time. And here’s what I noticed about the people I encountered: Everyone was AMAZING! The Publix employees were terrific as always. The customers were kind to each other and helpful. I saw more than one person allow someone who only had a few items to skip to the front of the line. Tall people were helping “vertically-challenged” neighbors reach items in the back of upper shelves. People were smiling, going about their business with a purpose, and getting stuff done. I believe crisis brings out a person’s true nature and I believe that MOST people are overwhelmingly GOOD! I’m proud of my community. I’m proud of the spirit I saw shining through in the lead up to the hurricane.

On Friday, we brought in everything off our balconies, did laundry, prepped food, made big bags of ice, filled the bathtubs with water, figured out how to turn the circuit breakers and water off in our condo – just in case, charged every laptop, cell phone, battery bank, etc. in the house. We were as ready as we were going to get. Josh’s 15th birthday was on Saturday and although we couldn’t give him the birthday we wanted to, we did the best we could. On Friday evening we went to Dick’s and he picked out the sneakers he wanted for his main present. We tried to go bowling, but the lanes closed early. 😦

On Saturday morning we woke up to a cloudy but beautiful day! We took our cars to our friend’s house and put them in his garage where they would hopefully be safer. We took Josh and Nicki out for burgers at The Daily Grind and then for dessert crepes at Cinnamon Tree Cafe (Josh’s bday choices). Josh opened presents (a Garmin from us and the new Rick Riordan book from Nicki) and then Nicki took us home. There wasn’t much more to do but wait. We piddled around the office, watched videos, played cards, ate good food and went to bed early.

On Sunday morning the storm was turning toward Florida. The wind was starting picking up here and the water in the canal next to our building was much higher than usual, but we were still able to take Kona outside with no worries – she was such a good girl through all of it. We fixed a big breakfast, turned down the fridge and freezer temps (in advance of losing power), made grab and go piles in the fridge that we could transition to coolers quickly if/when the power went out, and then just tried to enjoy the day. Irma was not scheduled to arrive in earnest until nightfall – which was a creepy prospect, but it was what it was.

The wind really started blowing around dinner time. Kona was pleading with us to go outside and no amount of coaxing would get her to use the training pads we bought. So we tag-teamed… we went downstairs to the parking garage and I held the door while Deb and Kona went 15 steps outside to the grass. Kona was thankfully very quick. By 8 pm, the wind and rain were coming straight at our unit from the east. We could see the hurricane glass in the sliders flexing. For the first time, we decided to turn on The Weather Channel and see what was happening and just like that I wanted to stress-eat ALL my hurricane snacks! Among the reports from the crazy weather people who were outside during the storm, there were tornado warnings popping up all around us. We weren’t afraid of the hurricane any longer, but tornadoes are another matter. We decided to pull mattresses into our interior master bathroom and sleep there. It wasn’t bad at all and the awful noise of the wind was muffled in there. We actually got several hours of sleep. Josh slept like a rock – per usual. 🙂

At 4 am, Deb and I both woke up and ventured out to see what was going on. Even though it was dark outside, you could see that the river had completely taken over the condo pool and was all the way to the parking garage. Through the kitchen window, we could see that the small neighborhood to the south was completely underwater and the river was all the way out to US 1! I felt so bad for the people in those houses, but the river will not be denied – it goes where it wants! I couldn’t go back to sleep so I got up around 5:15. The river was retreating by then. I could see the white tile outline around the pool and see that the neighborhood was not as swamped as it had been an hour before. The wind was still fierce, but by 7 am when it was light outside, it was starting to die down. We never even lost power, which was shocking!

Daybreak brought clarity on the damage – which was minimal for us in the grand scheme of things… The brand new condo dock (which was just finished and inspected in July) was destroyed. The pool is a mess, but nothing an industrial pool vac and a little chlorine can’t fix, and our carpet got a little wet around the big slider to the east balcony. That said, Deb and I were both chomping at the bit to check on our house in Ponce Inlet (which is under contract for sale, but not yet closed). We spoke to our old neighbor who said there was no visible damage which was a big relief. Turns out we lost the chimney cap and one small strip of soffit, but other than that, no issues and not a drop of water inside! Thank you, Baby Jesus!

       

I know this was not the case for everyone in Florida and my thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by the storm. I am just beyond grateful that our area was spared the worst of Irma’s wrath.

Now, in other news, I have an announcement… Megan and I have decided not to race Great Floridian this year. She is injured and me, well, to be perfectly candid, my heart just hasn’t been into training this year. I’ve tried to kick my butt into gear, but I’ve been so into the business – it always seemed like there was something more important to do than swim, bike, and run. I haven’t been a complete sloth, but I’m not terribly interested in throwing up a Hail Mary for 92.6 miles. GFT was a HUGE knee-jerk reaction coming off of IMFL last year. It was the closest thing I could find to another Ironman – without actually doing another Ironman – and it made sense in my brain at the time, but I’m just not feeling it. I don’t even feel bad about it. Taking 2017 off from hardcore training was probably one of the best things I could have done for myself, and now I’m excited about the 2018 season, which looks like it will include IM Gulf Coast 70.3, IM Augusta 70.3, and POSSIBLY another shot at Ironman Florida – I’ll make that call after Gulf Coast. 🙂

 

“F*CK IT!”

“F*CK IT!”

img_3924I feel terrific!  I feel like I am climbing out of a hole and seeing the sun shine for the first time in a very long time. Most of 2016 was spent with my head down and blinders on as I plowed toward my goal of becoming an Ironman.  If something got in my way I went right through it – failure was not an option.  I took little detours  here and there to do what absolutely HAD to be done in my business, but EVERYTHING unrelated to swimming, biking, running, eating, and sleeping was IN MY WAY (hell, even sleep was in the way there at the end)!

I felt horribly guilty about this, because along with work, all the routine stuff like cooking, laundry, food shopping, etc.,  even MY FAMILY was in my way, because they took time away from my obsession.  This is NOT a healthy, long-term way to go through life, friends, but I just couldn’t deal with the prospect of getting to race day and failing because I didn’t prepare well enough.  Of course, as it turned out, I think I was prepared IN SPADES, but how could I have known that beforehand?

After Ironman Florida was in the books I fully expected to jump right back into my life with my usual, pre-Ironman vigor, but it didn’t happen. Instead, I found I didn’t have much motivation to do… ANYTHING!  I told myself everything would get back to normal after our celebratory cruise, but, while I thoroughly enjoyed the cruise, I saw no pick up in my desire to dive back into life once we returned home.

What in the actual hell was wrong with me?

I stumbled through the rest of November and most of December trying to pick an “A” race for 2017, trying desperately to jumpstart my engine and re-engage at work, trying to get organized again both at the office and at home, but I wasn’t making much headway.  It wasn’t that I was depressed, I just felt… LOST.  I knew it was coming and I knew exactly what was happening and why it was happening and I STILL was powerless to do anything to stop it right away.

miracleThen something MIRACULOUS happened!

fckitOne day, about a week before Christmas, I just threw my hands up and said, “F*CK IT!”  Whatever was gonna be was gonna be and it would all sort itself out one way or another.  The simple act of releasing all the pressure I was placing on myself was absolutely incredible!  Suddenly, I could breathe again.  I let go of all the guilt I was carrying around about “abandoning” my family during the last 5 months of 2016.  And let me be clear, Deb and Josh were both so stinking proud of me and what I had accomplished,  Neither one of them EVER complained or ever “guilt-tripped” me or tried to make me feel bad about my choices – not one time.  My guilt was ON ME!

I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of me.

The next morning I woke up without an alarm at 3:30am with all kinds of ideas floating around my brain – content for the new book manuscript I was supposed to be drafting (and yet hadn’t written more than a few words), ideas for new products and services in our business, new recipes to try – all kinds of stuff!  So, I crept out of bed, made a cup of tea, sat down at my computer, and started typing.  Two hours later I had two stories and the book Forward drafted – WHOA!  This new creativity flowed into my workday which was incredibly productive.  I made a meal plan for the following week and used an online shopping app (Shipt) to order groceries during my lunch break.  I prepped dinner before leaving to pick Josh up from swim team.  Then I read some professional development materials before bed and fell asleep in minutes when I turned off the light and closed my eyes, which hadn’t happened in a LONG time.

It was the same the next day, and the next!  I took the week between Christmas and New Years off and spent time getting myself organized.  I cleared off all the clutter on my desk to the point where there was NOTHING on it except my monitor, a pen cup, my phone, a tape dispenser, and a stapler, and I vowed to have only the ONE THING I was working on in the moment on the surface of my desk (if you know me, you know that I MAY be slightly on the ADHD spectrum 😉 )… I downloaded a Chrome extension called Momentum to help me stay on track instead of squirreling off all over the internet… I planned and prepped the next week’s worth of dinners… I planned out my workout schedule for January and February… I was a MACHINE!

I have jumped into 2017 with both feet!  I’ve totally re-engaged in my life, my business, and my family!

A couple of days ago, Deb came over to my desk and put her hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eye and said,”Hey, it’s really nice to have you back.”  You know what?  It’s nice to BE back!

2016 was a tough year, but I don’t regret anything about it for even a moment.  I did what I had to do to feel good about my Ironman journey (even if feeling good actually felt bad sometimes) – and I do!

And I’m totally excited about what’s coming in 2017!

This is the power of saying “F*CK IT!” every now and then.

Let’s DO this!!!

2017

What’s Next!

What’s Next!

“What’s Next?”  It’s a question I’ve been asking myself for a couple of months now.  Trying to figure out what my “A” Race for 2017 should be was not nearly as simple as it has been in year’s past.  At the end of 2014 I knew I wanted to step up to a half-iron distance race (or two), so I easily chose Gulf Coast Triathlon 70.3 and Beach 2 Battleship 70.3.  At the end of 2015, I knew I wanted to fulfill my Ironman dreams, so (albeit with some angst and stress) I registered for Ironman Florida for 2016.

But this year is different – and difficult!  Signing up for another Ironman feels like the most normal and natural thing to do, but as I teased apart in my post on the Post-Ironman Blues, that’s not a good enough reason to put my body, my business, and my family through another Iron-year!  So, I was looking for a race that would be a challenge, but not require the ridiculous time commitment of a full iron-distance race.  I thought about just making 2017 the year of the sprint triathlon, but even though they are fun, I prefer long-course and I have a hard time getting myself motivated to train properly for them.  I know that I could embrace it if I focused on the right things, but I’m just not feeling it.  I thought about registering for one or two 70.3 races, but the ones I really WANT to race are not a good match with my calendar (IM Gulf Coast 70.3 is on the same day as our daughter’s college graduation, and IM Eagleman 70.3 and IM Augusta 70.3 are both on days when our non-profit holds races).

gft-logoI hemmed and hawed… I thought about not racing at all and just plowing into our business this year – afterall, I took so much time away from it this year, it seems only fair.  Then, I positively GRIEVED over the thought of not having a nice, juicy race goal on my schedule, so Deb told me I HAD to race SOMETHING!  Then, one day about a month ago, I got an email marketing piece from Sommer Sports advertising the Great Floridian Triathlon on October 21, 2017.  This race is marketed as the 2nd oldest full iron distance triathlon in the continental US.  But it’s not just a full iron race!  There are also 1/3 and 2/3 distance races on the same day.

Essentially, the GFT course in Clermont, FL is broken down into a 0.8 mile triangular swim in Lake Minneola, a 37.3 mile bike loop (described as a “hilly beast” in one review I read – yes, there ARE hills in Florida and apparently, they are ALL in Clermont!), and a 8.73 mile run course.  The 1/3 distance racers make 1 loop of each… the 2/3 racers, make 2 loops, and the ultra (full-iron) racers make 3 loops.

swim       bike     run

My training buddy, Megan, had done the bike and run legs of the 1/3 distance in October on a relay team as a lead up to Ironman Florida and she said it was a tough course – a lot like this year’s modified IM Augusta 70.3.  My iron-friends, Beth and Malachi, said it was very similar to the IMLOU course.  The more I thought about it, the more it resonated with me.  I liked the thought of the 2/3 distance!  It was longer than a 70.3 ( it’s 92.6 miles) so it would still require a stout training effort.  It had a very hilly bike course and I’ve never raced in hills before.  And, as a bonus, Clermont is only 90 minutes from my house, so I can train on the actual course and we don’t have to travel far for the race.  And let’s discuss that the registration fee was only $250 (as opposed to $380 for IM Augusta 70.3)…

I messaged Megan, who has been going through her own “What’s Next” battle, and asked “How do we feel about GFT 2/3?”  We bantered a bit and she liked the idea too.  So, yet another year of training together is set to commence.  I am terrific-ly excited about this!  I went ahead and pushed the “Register” button yesterday morning.  Here we go again!  T-minus 305 days to go!!!gft

Post Ironman Blues

eeyore_cloudI KNEW they were coming… I did everything I could think of to ward them off including taking a 7-day cruise to the Virgin Islands and officially hiring my life/business partner and coach, Deb Cheslow, to help me figure out what’s next – and they still arrived on my doorstep like an unwelcome house-guest… the Post-Ironman Blues.

In my business I see it all the time.  People who Deb and I work with are working towards a HUGE, scary goal – they are passionate and driven to achieve it – bordering on obsessed.  They work hard in a place that is WAY outside their comfort zone and then, one day, BOOM – goal achieved.  It is a time of exhilaration, elation, and joy.  They ride the high for a while – sometimes days, sometimes weeks or even months, but then all of a sudden they look around and wonder, “now what”?

That is exactly where I find myself now that Ironman Florida is over.  I had the race of my life.  I don’t even know how it could have been more awesome – from the week before race to my execution of the race itself – it exceeded every one of my hopes and expectations.  And I rode that high for a while – in some respects, I’m STILL riding the wave.

im-memeEvery time I look at my wristband (yes, I STILL have it on, don’t judge me!), I feel such pride and such a sense of accomplishment.  I am an Ironman – ME!!  OMG!  Never in my wildest dreams as that poor, overweight, alcoholic woman back in Virginia in 2010 would I have EVER believed such a thing possible.  Heck, I wasn’t sure I believed it was possible 5 minutes before the start horn blasted!

So, I accomplished something that, for me, was “unrealogical” (our made up word describing something that is, at once, unrealistic and illogical), and unfolded in a way that I would never have predicted and was so much better than I ever believed possible.

How do you top that?

20161117_075406-1I was fine for the first couple of weeks.  The first week back home was very busy playing catch-up on all the things that had been set aside (or, more to the point, fallen through the cracks) until the race was over.  I knew I needed to take time off from working out to let my body recover, even though I felt pretty terrific.   And then, we went on an amazing cruise to the Eastern Caribbean and we walked an average of 7-8 miles per day (even on the sea days) and went snorkeling in St. Thomas and St. Maarten, and I enjoyed actually sleeping until I woke up each morning unassisted by a puppy or an alarm clock, so not officially working out was not bothering me.

But as soon as we got back from the cruise and I started swimming, biking, and running again I started feeling… well, kind of lost.  I don’t have any solid racing plans for 2017.  I don’t know how to BE this person who wakes up at 7am and works out for 30-60 minutes.  I almost MISS the 3am wake up calls and the 4500 yard swims and 100 mile rides and 15 mile runs of peak training – they felt BADASS.  And while I AM moving forward, I guess I just feel directionless in the absence of any real racing goals.

I started working with Deb the Tuesday after the race on a structured coaching program to help me determine what my next goal would be.  On the first day she asked me what I wanted… cue CRICKETS…

What do I WANT?  I WANT it to be November 5th again.  I WANT the magic of that day again.  I WANT the movie Groundhog Day only November 5th was what I got to relive over and over again.  I don’t want it to be OVER!

And the urge to pull the trigger on Ironman Florida 2017 or ANY other Ironman 140.6 race is almost irresistible!  It seems absolutely natural in this moment.

But here’s what I KNOW – as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow…

I could race an Ironman every year from now until the day I die and I will NEVER be able to capture the perfection of November 5, 2016.  I will never be able to gin up the enthusiasm and the strength of will to train like I did for that race, because I now know that I could go the distance with A LOT LESS training.  Like so many other “firsts” in our lives, you just can’t re-create the magic.

It can still be good…

It can still be worth doing…

But unless some freaking miracle occurs and I qualify for Kona, I just don’t see how to make it better.

That’s because there are 3 levels of goals.

Level 1 Goals are things we already know how to do.  It’s like saying, “My goal is to go to LA Fitness and swim 1500 yards in the pool.”  I KNOW how to do that.  I have done it hundreds of times before.  I dare say I could be half asleep and pump out 1500 yards in a respectable amount of time.  In fact, racing Ironman Florida again would be a Level 1 Goal – different day, different conditions, but I know exactly how to race that course.  There is absolutely no growth in a Level 1 Goal.

Level 2 Goals are things that we THINK we can do.  We’ve never done them before, but we can see a way to plan our way to achieving them.  At this point, I could register for any other Ironman race on Planet Earth and it would be a Level 2 Goal.  I’ve only completed Ironman Florida, but if I registered for IM Chattanooga today – even though it’s a completely different course, it would be a Level 2 Goal.  I haven’t actually raced CHOO, but I have trained for an Ironman before.  I know what’s involved.  I know how to adjust my nutrition for a hilly course, and so on.  I can make a PLAN to achieve that goal.

Level 3 Goals are FANTASIES!  They are completely unrealogical.  You have no idea how the stars will align to make this ridiculously HUGE thing actually happen.  All you do know is that you WANT it – and want it BAD!  That’s what Ironman was for me this time last year.  It was a fantasy.  I knew that many of my friends had finished similar races, so I knew it COULD be done. I just didn’t know how I was going to do it.  Honestly, I still wasn’t quite sure how it was all supposed to come together the night before the race!  But I wanted to be an Ironman.  I wanted to hear those words as I crossed the finish line.  I wanted it with a white hot passion.

And that passion drove me all year long – to get up at 3am to get my swims and long rides in without taking too much time away from my work or my family… To stop drinking alcohol because it got in the way of my workouts… To eat the good stuff and step away from the pizza – even when all I wanted was to stop at Mellow Mushroom and stuff my face… To do the things I needed to do, even when I didn’t want to do them.

Deb was my coach during the entire process.  Not my triathlon coach, but my MINDSET coach.  She kept my mind right and called bullshit when I started justifying less than I was capable of.  She sympathized when I said I was exhausted and then kicked me out the door to run 20 miles anyhow.  SHE knew I was working on a Level 3 goal – and she supported me 100%, but she was tough as shit on me too – which is EXACTLY what I needed.

Level 3 Goals are where we want to play, people.  Because it’s in the achievement of Level 3 Goals that we grow as a person and find out what we’re made of.  They stretch us WAY outside our comfort zones and teach us if we deserve that star we are shooting for.

I’ll tell anyone who asks me about coaching – do you need a triathlon coach to complete an Ironman?  Maybe.  I guess people would say I was self-coached in the traditional sense for Ironman Florida.  I had a training plan and I followed it (Be Ironfit by Don Zink).  Do you need a mindset coach?  ABSOLUTELY!  Especially as training starts to ramp and your brain turns to mush for anything outside of swim/bike/run/eat/drink/sleep, I believe EVERYONE needs someone to keep them moving forward when everything inside them wants to quit – someone to give them a toolbox of mental hardware to use out on the course when the dark and twisties come.  That’s what Deb did for me and it worked beautifully!

So, I need to find myself a NEW Level 3 Goal – and I can’t imagine it will be in the racing world.  I mean seriously, what’s bigger than Ironman – unless we get into the TOTALLY cuckoo for cocoa-puffs world of Ultraman or Epic 5 – and I’m not THAT crazy.

Likely, my next goal will have something to do with my business.  I have some ideas, but nothing that’s ready for publication just yet.

As far as racing goes, 2017 will most likely be populated with local sprint and Olympic distance triathlons, some running races, and perhaps a 70.3 in the Fall (Augusta, NC, and Great Floridian are leading the list so far).  Stay tuned!

39388573 - woman's hand with red pen writing word "what's next"

Lighten Up (And Other Thoughts Brought To You By The Taper)…

be-greatTAPER TIME!!!  Thank you Sweet Baby Jesus for allowing me to arrive at this point in my Ironman training alive and relatively in tact!

I’m in a very weird place right now – a place I have never been in before a race…  It’s a place where I am kind of numb…

I’m not freaking out over the fact that in exactly 2 weeks, I will be halfway to Panama City Beach en route to my first (and likely only) full-distance Ironman race…

I am not allowing the doubt over race day conditions to swirl through my head like a tornado – even though the past several year at IMFL have been pretty extreme…

I am not flipping shit because I missed a workout (or three) due to Hurricane Matthew…

I feel okay…  Actually, I feel better than okay – I feel pretty darned great!

hardI’m not delusional – I KNOW it’s going to be a hard day…  I KNOW it’s going to hurt…

But you know what?  I also KNOW I can do it!

Am I going to Kona qualify?  Hardly…  But can I finish this race in 17 hours?  Yes, I believe I can.

Someone posted a very nice perspective piece on one of the Facebook pages I follow:

All I need to do to become an Ironman and meet all the cutoffs at Ironman Florida is swim 2.4 miles < 3:19/100 yards, T1 < 15 min., Bike > 13.58 mph avg., T2 < 15 min, run < 13.33 min/mile

I can do all of that… I know I can…

I have chosen to lighten up on myself…  Of course I have time goals that I would like to meet, but you know, at the end of the day when you’re a middle of the pack age-grouper, does it really matter if you finish in 14 hours or 16 hours? Isn’t it just the FINISH that matters?  If I finish in 16 hours, I am still as much of an “Ironman” as the person who finishes in 13 hours.  I suppose there are those people out there who would disagree with me – that a 16+ hour finisher is not a REAL Ironman. They are entitled to their opinion, but I would suggest they lighten up.

de15d21ae07ac866ab5c1cf91c9a5030Because here’s the cold hard truth… I know a lot of triathletes – like A LOT!  And there is only ONE of them who can ever even hope to earn a paycheck from triathlon (Hi Malachi!!! 😉 ).  The rest of us are out here to have fun… to challenge ourselves… to do our best… and to finish what we start.

I have learned that there is a whole population of triathletes out there who take themselves WAY too eff-ing seriously.  LIGHTEN UP, people!

For the first time in my life as a triathlete I understand the comment I have heard so many times before a race:  “Enjoy the day.  It is your victory lap.  Your reward.”  I believe that now – the training for this race has been harder than anything I have ever done.  My family and I have had to sacrifice A LOT over the past year for me to get to this point.  The past year has been a journey of getting to “belief.”  Belief in myself… Belief that I can finish what I start… Belief that I truly am stronger than I EVER dreamed possible…  Belief that my body is capable of incredible feats… Belief that I AM good enough.

And it has all been worth it!

17 days until race day… And now, back to my taper!  😉13434941_10207022398979376_2030666058340802037_n

Things I Wish I Had Known BEFORE I Signed Up For An Ironman…

ironmanlogoWell, here we are in mid-August and it’s been 3 full months since I posted on this blog.  Why?  IRONMAN

See, that’s my blanket response for everything that has gone wrong, everything I have forgotten, procrastinated, messed up, or otherwise needed to come up with an excuse for.

Seriously, it’s a joke in my family about now…
Deb: “Ang, did you get those mushrooms at the market?”
Me:  “Oh crap, I totally forgot!”
Deb:  “I know, I know… IRONMAN…”

Ugh!

As of today, there are 82 days before I get this particular monkey off my back and can hopefully rejoin the world of productive adults.  Until then?  Well, it is what it is!

I have learned a lot over the past 4 months and there are some things that I wish I had known BEFORE I ever registered for an Ironman.  I mean, some of them are kinda “duh” things, but I guess I never really teased it all apart in my brain beforehand.  So, for those of you who may be interested in climbing the Ironman mountain at some point, here’s my list:

  1. repeatIt’s a part-time job…  Only it’s harder than any job I’ve EVER had in my life!!  I just started the “peak” phase of my training plan this morning.  This week, I will work out for 18-1/2 HOURS. That doesn’t count the time involved in packing bags, filling bottles, commuting to/from the gym, doing laundry, showering (more on that later)…  and this is only Week #1 of Peak…  It just gets better (worse) from here… At the “peak” of “Peak” it’s 22 hours.  LAWD!  And before you say “Oh boo hoo, poor you…” I know, I totally signed up for this myself – no one was twisting my arm.  I own it all!  I’m just putting it out there – Ironman takes a TON of time.
  2. im-sorry-post-itYou will fuck up… A LOT!  I can’t tell you the number of times I have said “I’m sorry” to Deb or one of our kids or Freddie or my Mom or a client, because I have Ironman brain and can’t keep a thought in my head to save my life.  Case in point:  My son’s first day of 8th grade was today.  Yesterday Deb asked me if all was good to go with the morning bus schedule.  Wide-eyed, I just blinked at her… Bus schedule?  Was I supposed to do something there?  I quickly banged out a web address and sure enough, Josh was not assigned to a bus.  SHIT!  Fortunately, there are a lot of middle-schoolers in our neighborhood, so the bus did indeed stop this morning and he did make it to school… Whew!
  3. You will miss out on stuff…  Because training takes a lot of time, you’re going to miss some stuff – maybe even important stuff.  I’ve missed swim meets, kisses goodbye in the morning, meetings, travel opportunities, parties, dinners out, and more because I was either training or going to bed while the sun was still up so I could get up the next morning to train…  This morning was Josh’s first day of school… and I missed sending him off to the bus for the first time ever… Yeah, put me up for Mom of the Year, stat!
  4. tiredYou will be tired…  I think this kind of goes without saying, and of course I knew I would be tired, but I was ill-prepared for the type of bone-crushing exhaustion that I feel almost every day.  I do sleep in on my Rest Days, but OMG!  I’m TIRED!!  Most mornings I wake up at 3:15am so I can do my personal development (don’t ask, it’s just my jam) before I head to the pool at 5am or get on the trainer.  I try to get to my desk in the office by 9am, work until 5pm, pick up Josh from swim team, eat dinner, and go to bed by 8:00pm, so I can do it all again the next day.
  5. You will stink… Dear LORD, why didn’t anyone tell me about the SMELL?  So today, I had a brick workout that went from 5am-8am and then I had errands to run.  I skidded into my office at 9:03 and sat down to work.  Shower?  I had no time for a shower… And so, I minimized my contact with people and grabbed a shower at lunch time.  :/  Triathlon STINKS!
  6. hungryYou will be constantly hungry…  I thought I was hungry when I was pregnant with Josh.  Pregnancy hunger has NOTHING on Ironman hunger!  I feel like I eat all the time.  It is not uncommon to catch me with my head in the refrigerator with a rice cake in one hand and an open container of hummus in the other double dipping like a crazy person!
  7. You will be bi-polar…  While we’re on the subject of pregnancy, you know how emotional pregnant women are?  Yeah, THAT!  I find myself in a heap in my closet or in the shower WAY too often, just crying it out.  Trying to figure out how the hell I got myself into this mess.  Wondering if there is a way I can get OUT of this mess without eating crow.   Pretty sure that I am losing my ever-loving mind!  I guess it goes hand in hand with #4.  And I thought it was just me, but I got a text from my training partner this weekend who was packing for a century ride and was sitting on the floor of her garage sobbing.  I guess it’s not just me…  Then there are other days when I feel like the Queen of the World and NOTHING can bring me down.
  8. You will feel so guilty and selfish… I don’t know how you get around this one.  You’re going to take time away from your family – you just will, so make peace with it or feel guilty about it.  I feel guilty about this all the time – and I have the most supportive group of cheerleaders EVER (my family) in my corner.  And yet, every time I head out in the dark on a  Saturday morning and know that I’m not going to be home until late afternoon, I feel so guilty about it.  Triathlon is a very selfish sport.
  9. Malachi-MegIt takes a village…  There may be those people who can survive an Ironman training cycle on their own, but I am not one of them.  I am 51 years old, people, and I have a freaking TEAM of people who routinely put Humpty-Dumpty back together again!  My training partner, Megan, keeps me sane and motivated and tells me that I “can,” even when I’m pretty sure that I “can’t.”  My chiropractor, Malachi, keeps me rolling and running on feet that do not like this whole running/biking thing. And then there’s a whole legion of people in my Swim-Bike-Fuel community who keep me grounded and eating what I should rather than what I want in any given moment (pizza/ice cream/cake/donuts/froyo…).
  10. You will amaze yourself time after time…  I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I have been dumbfounded at the end of a workout.  Maybe it was just because I lived through it… Maybe it was a new PR time in the pool… Maybe (like on my birthday) it was averaging 20 mph over 60 miles on the bike (thanks Malachi 🙂 )…  I have shocked the hell out of myself over and over again.  It truly is amazing what the human body is capable of if we just get out of our own way!

Look, I’m just a middle of the pack age-grouper.  I’m never going to win a long-course triathlon – EVER.  I’m never going to qualify for Kona.  And that’s okay.  Triathlon is HARD!  Ironman is HARDER!  But, as Tom Hanks said in A League of Their Own, the hard is what makes it GREAT!  I’m really looking forward to crossing the finish line on November 5th and joining a club to which only 0.01% of the people on Planet Earth can claim membership.  That will really put an exclamation point on the major transformation I’ve undergone over the past 6-1/2 years.  It may not be fast and it may not be pretty, but one way or another, I’ll get there.

So even though I’m stinky and scatter-brained and walk around like a starving zombie most of the time and cry at the drop of a hat and feel like a horrible Mom and partner sometimes, at the end of the day I am pretty damned proud of myself.

Oh, and if I can do it, ANYONE can do it!!

ironman florida 230x120

#82days #iCANdothis #IMFL2016