New Directions

Well, recovery is done.  It’s time to start focusing on dodging the flying monkeys on November 18th.

And that race gets me to wondering about my sanity.  Why can’t I pick a relatively flat course for my first time at any distance?  Especially since I’m not light, bordering on Clydesdale at times.  I’m not what you would consider a climber.

But that’s part of the challenge, right?  😉

The last couple of weeks since my DNF have been interesting.

– Juggling three college courses.  For some reason I decided that I could handle three at once, since IM training was done.  All three are keeping me quite busy.

– Last weekend saw by brother-in-law and his family visit.  We had a wonderful time with them, although the time was short.  The photos I posted last week were from a trip we took with them.

– Working on my new photography web page.  I had sold a fair bit of my photos online over the past couple of years, but I’m no longer comfortable with the company that I was using.  So I’ve switched companies and am starting the web page development.  It’s a work in progress, but if you’d like to browse over and have a look, please do.  It’s billanders.smugmug.com.  I’ve got quite a few more photos to upload as well as working the layout.  And if you see any that strike your fancy, there’s a purchase option, if you’d like.

– Last week and this have my schedule flip-flopped, covering 12-14 hour night shifts, so I’ve been sleeping the day away and missing the beautiful weather.  At least I’ll be done Friday morning, right before my two long runs this weekend.  Then my work schedule is back to normal.

So what does this mean?  Six weeks of focused running, with a swim and bike thrown in each week to keep the muscle memory alive.  Lots of stretching, lots of miles, but quite a decrease in weekly hours compared to IM training.  So it is a break.  Of sorts.

Hope all is well with each of you!

Lake Barkley 140.6

Alright. Where to begin.

A lot of weird issues led to my DNF. That’s part of racing. But right now they still don’t make sense. But we’ll get to those.

The beauty of this race venue is that it was right now the street (40 min drive), so I could sleep in my own bed each night. We got out there Friday night for packet pickup and the pre-race brief, had dinner and got back for an early bedtime. Woke up at 2:30, wide awake and ready to go. My alarm wasn’t set for another hour.

Good pre-race breakfast, taking in about 900 calories, so fueling wasn’t an issue from the start. Then we loaded up the bike and drove out.

It was a small race. They were running a 1/2 IM-distance and full-distance race simultaneously and had about 80 racers total (60 in the 1/2, 20 in the full). A nice small field. After a quick briefing, we were herded into the water, which was a comfortable 80 degrees. With a 20-second countdown, we were off.

Swim

All-in-all, a good swim. Right on target.

The course was an out-and-back, curving slightly to the left. Basically the same line that I swam last Monday when I wanted to get a feel for the lake temperature. With such a small field, contact was minimal. I found feet quickly, then realized that they might be attached to someone who’s doing the 1/2. So I found clean water and stayed that way the rest of the course. Finishing the first lap, I turn to see several swimmers on the wrong side of the buoy, apparently swimming the 1/2 and wanting to take the shortest line from the third or fourth buoy to the beach. I had more contact there, in head-on situations, than anywhere else. Total swim time: 1:14:38. I had set myself up for a good day.

T1 – About 6:15, changing into my cycling gear and getting out to the bike.

Bike

I’ve talked about the bike route before. I knew what to expect and kept things easy. With the first 2 miles climbing several hundred feet, I dropped it into my granny gear and just looked at the folks attacking the hill. Everything went well on the first loop. I pretty much ignored my HRM and kept my PE in the 2-3 range over the rolling hills. I’d glance at the HRM every once in a while and confirmed that I was doing just fine. Fueling was going as planned, with my HEED, Perpeteum, Endurolytes and water. At mile 55, I stood to make the left turn into the park and approach the turnaround. My quads cramped. I couldn’t figure that out, since I’d been drinking the HEED and taking the Endurolytes right on schedule. So I went straight into a OODA Loop and decided that I needed more electrolytes, so I popped a few more pills, then again 30 minutes later. By mile 70, all was good and I was back to normal and at mile 75 I was surging.

The turnaround at the far end of the second loop was at the 85 mile point. My Goddess and son were out there giving encouragement. All was good. I started back and they passed by (it was an open course). At mile 90, all of the sudden everything in my gut wanted to come up. No warning at all, no other signs of GI issues up to that point. It was as if someone turned on a switch. I took a few deep breaths, relaxed and slowed down. I kept the intensity real low for the next 10 miles, into the next break station. I got off the bike for a few minutes, drank more water and stretched. I then hopped on the bike and everything felt fine again, so I got back to it.

Flying down the descent toward the lake, the strap holding my Aerobottle popped loose, so I almost lost the bottle. Nothing like flying down the hill, in the aero position, at 35mph in traffic, holding on to a bottle so it doesn’t fly loose. I could finally pull off to the side and get it fixed, but I had lost all the momentum from the hill. Making it over the bridge and turning into the park was uneventful. But the final climb at mile 53.5 is brutal, running about 12% for 1/2 mile. I ended up walking it, since my quads had started cramping again. I could not figure out what was going on. Total bike time: 7:4030 with 7,158 feet of climbing.

T2 – About 8:15. Changing from my bike to running gear was interesting. As I peeled my shorts off, my left calf cramped to the point I couldn’t move. I finally relaxed and I could get changed. But that was going to haunt me the rest of the day. By the time I got out on the run, the race clock had just switched over to 9:10. I was doing good, considering the difficulties.

Run

I’ll use that header very loosely.

Having run the loop a few times before, I knew I was going to walk the steep uphill for the first mile. And my body was going to make sure of that. My left calf was still cramping, but I could move on it. Even my son, who was behind me, commented on how he could see how cramped it was, just by looking at it. I was still in very good spirits, announcing I was going to finish even if it took me 8 hours to complete the course (there’s no time cutoff for this race). I made my way up the hill, taking drinks and grabbing bananas when I could. My Goddess had driven ahead and parked the car, walking back to meet me so we could walk together for a bit. That bit turned out to be the next 10 miles.

Every time I’d start to run, the calf would tighten up to the point I couldn’t run. Even on the downhills. It did loosen just a bit over time, but remained cramped throughout the night, even though I was inhaling the Endurolytes whenever I had a chance.

At about mile 4, everything got dark. Sure, it was approaching sunset, but it was me. My Goddess walked alongside, talking about the beautiful scenery. I could only muster a grunt. Before it got to this point, I told her that even if I collapse, as long as I can get up and keep going, I’m going to. She agreed, just as long as I could get going again under my own power. What a trooper! By about mile 6, I had snapped out of it and was starting to feel real good. I didn’t have my legs yet, but I could pick up the pace.

To give you an idea of how hilly the run course was, one racer headed the other way on a loop mentioned how he’d kill to have 100 yards of level ground. There were only two level spots on the entire route: the transition area and one of the turnarounds, which was a parking lot for the marina. Otherwise, it was continuous rolling with some pretty steep sections. This is definitely a challenging course. The picture to the left is the profile for the part of the run I completed. In that 15 miles, I climbed 1,950 feet! To say that it’s hilly is an understatement.

At mile 10, I was feeling really good and we had come up to the break station where my Goddess had parked the car and left the boy. So I bid farewell and headed out on the second loop. I felt good enough to get the shuffle going, stopping only to feed and hydrate in the next two miles. But the gut was not cooperating with the jostling. I couldn’t find anything that I could stomach that worked, so I was relegated to walking again.

It was a beautiful night. Out in the forest, I turned off the headlamp and enjoyed the view, even spying a shooting star. The moon was bright enough that I could see the road. It was much nicer to move without the light, since my field of vision wasn’t limited to the circle ten feet in front of me.

Heading back to the break station at the end of the second loop, it all came crashing down. I was lucky to shuffle. That at the realization that I had been out on the “run” for five hours and I was only about halfway done. I started doing the math and thought about the fairness of keeping my family out there until 2 or 3 in the morning while I slogged along; about how much more damage I was going to do to my body if I continued; about how my One Thing was to finish, but it wasn’t my everything. So I broke the news to my Goddess.

She did a wonderful job of talking to me, making sure that I was doing what I wanted. She tried to fuel and hydrate me and get me on my way. But once she realized that I was serious, she was extremely supportive. That’s why she’s my Goddess.

Driving back down to the transition, I handed my chip in just as the clock rolled over 14:10. At one point at the beginning of the run, I figured that would be the approximate time I’d see on the clock. Just not this way.

Rollup

Despite all of the difficulties and the outcome, it was an amazing experience. I will do another, although it’ll be a flatter one, I suspect. I still have to figure out what caused the cramping so early in the ride, which I think started the dominoes falling. I will rest and recover over the coming weeks, then ramp up for a marathon in November. Then I’ll relax over the holidays and jump right into it again.

Are you ready, my Goddess?

Friday’s Quote

Getting ready to pack the car, head out to registration, enjoy the buffet and sit through the pre-race briefing.

Who cares what you’ve already done; it only matters what you go out
and do right now.

Kristine Lily, US Women’s National Team

And to put it in context, I’ll include the rest of the e-mail:

A quote from my favorite soccer player who happens to be playing in her record 5th World Cup at the age of 36…She says this in her new adidas commercial, and of course, since it’s an adidas commercial, it ends saying “Impossible is Nothing.” More good words for you.

Thank you, Beth! I hope I live up to the words you’ve inspired me with this week.

See ya’ll Sunday.

Wednesday’s Quote

My good friend continues to inspire me from afar. Here’s today’s quote, setting me up with only 2.5 days to go:

Far better is it to dare mighty things,
to win glorious triumphs, even though checked by failure…
than to rank with those poor spirits
who neither enjoy much nor suffer much,
because they live in a gray twilight
that knows not victory nor defeat.

— Theodore Roosevelt

Countdown and Quotes

Race minus 3.5 days. I’m relaxing and actually haven’t been getting nervous, although as soon as I counted backwards on the calendar just now to come up with “3.5 days”, I could feel that faint tightening in the chest. No worries, though.

What’s done has been done and I can’t do anything else to get me ready. But I can throw it all away (I won’t). I have had a niggling pain behind my left knee for about a week now, so I’ve kept away from running. I’ve been getting my bike and swim in though.

Friday night I checked the water temp and saw that it was down to 80F, five degrees colder than the week before. We had a good couple of days of thunderstorms, so the heavy rain helped drop the temp. Of course, the “what if’s” kicked in and I realized I needed to think about renting a wetsuit. Turns out that I needed to order it by Friday noon in order to get it in time. So much for that idea. There’s no place local to rent, either. So what must one do? Punt.

I got out to the lake Monday morning, sans wetsuit. Conditions were similar to what they’re forecast to be Saturday, so it was a good test. I jumped in and it was fine. The beauty is that I generate so much heat when I exercise that I’ll be plenty warm. A wetsuit probably would have made me overheat.

The beach where we’ll race from is closed for the season, so I parked down the shore then hiked the path most of the way to the beach. I found a spot that let me spot a dock about 1/2 mile away and I figured that was a good swim plus sighting test. Straight line all the way, baby! And that’s what I swam. When I got the the dock, there was a couple bundled up in fleece jackets and jeans, looking at me like I was nuts. But the water was about 15 degrees warmer than the air, so I was good. I smiled, turned and spotted my way back to my starting point. All in all, a good swim.

Traipsing back through the forest to the car, I realized that I was walking in sandals through prime copperhead country, since I decided to depart the path. Not a good feeling, especially since I was out there alone and my goddess was in the airways between Oklahoma City and Chicago at the time. Not much she could have done for me there. Oh well, at least they could have used my Road ID to identify my body.

Water temp today is 79.

Yesterday, a good friend of mine surprised me with a wonderful e-mail. Apparently she’s been waiting for this week to send me some inspirational quotes. And she started off with a quote from one of my favorite authors, Ayn Rand.

In the name of the best within you, do not sacrifice your world to those who are at its worst. In the name of the values that keep you alive, do not let your vision of man be distorted by the ugly, the cowardly, the mindless in those who have never achieved his title. Do not lose your knowledge that man is at his best with uncompromising values, and a step that travels unlimited roads. Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it’s yours.

Today she sent her favorite poem. Amazing words here:

Invictus
by William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll
I am the master of my fate
I am the captain of my soul.

Thank you so much for the inspiration and support, Beth!

I’ll continue to share throughout the week.

Time to go get my bags ready…

Taper Blues

Funny. A concept that I pooh-poohed in the past. Even after reading articles by respected tri-coaches on the topic. But here I am, caught in the middle of it.

Race minus 10.5 days.

I’ve been in a funk all day. Of course, some significant issues at work haven’t helped. But they haven’t been the cause either.

And I felt like a cinder block in the pool today.

Except the block would have been faster than me. And more hydrodynamic.

But there was a plus side to today. A good push of Canadian air and we’re enjoying our first taste of autumn. My favorite season of the year, no matter where I’ve been in the world. I’m looking forward to running in the cool, crisp air tomorrow morning. And then I’m really looking forward to the second push later this week, which will drop the lows over the weekend to below 50F/10C for the first time this year.

And NO, I do not feel like a failure. But that poster has always made me laugh.

Hope all is well with you.  And if you raced this past weekend, I hope you’ve found your legs again.

Jane Tomlinson, 1964-2007

A tip of the hat to Karl for this, which is very appropriate for the post yesterday about my Goddess’ efforts.

From the website janesappeal.com, look at these CV:

During this period Jane, a mother of three from Leeds, took on a series of apparently impossible challenges, for someone suffering from cancer and undergoing chemotherapy treatment, including a full Ironman (4km Swim, 180Km bike ride and full marathon – completed inside 17 hours), two half Ironmans, the London Marathon three times, the New York Marathon, three London Triathlons and three long distance bike rides – John O Groats to Lands End, Rome to Home and her final huge challenge a 6781.8 km ride across America

One of our own.

I’ve just been introduced to you, Jane. But we are connected.

RIP.