Saturday, August 28, 2010

T'was the night before Ironman

Here it is. The night before Ironman. The gear bags are checked, the bags have been packed, the carbs have been loaded. My nerves are in full flight, my stomach upside down, but I'm ready. Not really one clear thought going through my head. Maybe there's so many that I can't focused on just one, or maybe I'm just done thinking about this day, and just ready for it to be here.

Nothing more can be done, a quiet night is all I can control now. Tomorrow morning I will wake up and the first thought through my head will be "Today is the best day of my life". Whatever comes my way tomorrow I will roll with it, go with it, and soak up every moment of it. In the end, my pain and doubt and fear will have all disappeared and I will have accomplished something that 5 years ago was a silly, unrealistic, highly unlikely dream.

Tomorrow, I will be an Ironman.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Because your brain doesn't know what your body already does..

With just two sleeps to go, I got this great email from a friend that included a note posted on Slowtwitch (a popular triathlon forum) by member Hurricane Bob. An incredible account of what to expect on Sunday and keeping it all in perspective.

Right now you've all entered the taper. Perhaps you've been at this a few months, perhaps you've been at this a few years. For some of you this is your first IM, for others, a long-overdue welcome back to a race that few can match.

You've been following your schedule to the letter. You've been piling on the mileage, piling up the laundry, and getting a set of tan lines that will take until November to erase. Long rides were followed by long runs, which both were preceeded by long swims, all of which were followed by recovery naps that were longer than you slept for any given night during college.

You ran in the snow.
You rode in the rain.
You ran in the heat.
You ran in the cold.

You went out when others stayed home.
You rode the trainer when others pulled the covers over their heads.

You have survived the Darwinian progression that is an Ironman summer, and now the hardest days are behind you. Like a climber in the Tour de France coming over the summit of the penultimate climb on an alpine stage, you've already covered so much ground...there's just one more climb to go. You shift up, you take a drink, you zip up the jersey; the descent lays before you...and it will be a fast one.

Time that used to be filled with never-ending work will now be filling with silent muscles, taking their final, well-earned rest. While this taper is something your body desperately needs, Your mind, cast off to the background for so very long, will start to speak to you.

It won't be pretty.

It will bring up thoughts of doubt, pain, hunger, thirst, failure, and loss. It will give you reasons why you aren't ready. It will try and make one last stand to stop you, because your brain doesn't know what the body already does. Your body knows the truth:

You are ready.

Your brain won't believe it. It will use the taper to convince you that this is foolish - that there is too much that can go wrong.

You are ready.

Finishing an Ironman is never an accident. It's the result of dedication, focus, hard work, and belief that all the long runs in January, long rides in April, and long swims every damn weekend will be worth it. It comes from getting on the bike, day in, day out. It comes from long, solo runs. From that first long run where you wondered, "How will I ever be ready?" to the last long run where you smiled to yourself with one mile to go...knowing that you'd found the answer.

It is worth it. Now that you're at the taper, you know it will be worth it. The workload becomes less. The body winds up and prepares, and you just need to quiet your worried mind. Not easy, but you can do it.

You are ready.

You will walk onto the beach on August 29th with 2800 other wide-open sets of eyes. You will look upon the sea of humanity, and know that you belong. You'll feel the chill of the water crawl into your wetsuit, and shiver like everyone else, but smile because the day you have waited for for so VERY long is finally here.

The bagpipers will walk across the beach. Steve King will ask you to sing along. You will.

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!

From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

You will tear up in your goggles. Everyone does.

The helicopters will roar overhead.
Maranatha will roar. The splashing will surround you.

You'll stop thinking about Ironman, because you're now racing one.

The swim will be long - it's long for everyone, but you'll make it. You'll watch as the Penticton Lakeside Hotel grows and grows, and soon you'll hear the end. You'll come up the beach and head for the wetsuit strippers. Three people will get that sucker off before you know what's happening, then you'll head for the bike.

In the shadows on Main Street you'll spin out of town - the voices, the cowbells, and the curb-to-curb chalk giving you a hero's sendoff.

You'll spin up McLean Creak Road. You'll roll down towards Osoyoos, past the vineyards glowing in the morning sun. You'll settle down to your race. The crowds will spread out on the road. You'll soon be on your bike, eating your food on your schedule, controlling your Ironman.

Richter Pass will come. Everyone talks about it, but it's really nothing. You'll know this halfway up, as you're breathing easy and climbing smoothly. Look to your right. Look how high you're climbing. Look at all the bikes below, still making their way there. You're ahead of them. All of them.

You'll put the rollers behind you and put on your game face.

By now it'll be hot. You'll be tired. Doubts will fight for your focus. Everyone struggles here. You've been on that bike for a few hours, and stopping would be nice, but you won't - not here. Not today. You'll ride on leaving Cawston behind you and head for the final showdown at Yellow Lake.

You'll grind the false flats to the climb. You'll know you're almost there. You'll fight for every inch of road. You'll make the turn towards the summit as the valley walls close in for the kill, and put your head down. The crowd will come back to you here - the cars are always waiting to cross the summit, and you'll soon be surrounded in the glorious noise that is the final climb of Ironman Canada. Let their energy push you. Let them see your eyes. Smile when they cheer for you - your body will get just that little bit lighter.


Just like that, you'll be descending. 12 miles to go, and no climbing left.

You'll roll into transition. 100 volunteers will fight for your bike. You'll give it up and not look back. You'll have your bag handed to you, and into the tent you'll go. You'll change. You'll load up your pockets, and open the door to the last long run of your Ironman summer - the one that counts.

You'll take that first step of a thousand...and you'll smile. You'll know that the bike won't let you down now - the race is down to your own two feet. The same crowd that cheered for you in the shadows of the morning will cheer for you in the brilliant sunshine of a Penticton summer Sunday. High-five people on the way out. Smile. Enjoy it. This is what you've worked for all year long.

That first mile will feel great. So will the second.
By mile 3, you probably won't feel so good.

That's okay. You knew it couldn't all be that easy. You'll settle down just like you did on the bike, and get down to your pace. You'll see the leaders coming back the other way. Some will look great - some won't. You might feel great, you might not. No matter how you feel, don't panic - this is the part of the day where whatever you're feeling, you can be sure it won't last.

You'll keep moving. You'll keep drinking. You'll keep eating. Maybe you'll be right on plan - maybe you won't. If you're ahead of schedule, don't worry - believe. If you're behind, don't panic - roll with it.

How you react to the changes in your plan will dictate your day. Don't waste energy worrying about things - just do what you have to when you have to, and keep moving. Keep eating. Keep drinking. Just don't sit down - don't EVER sit down.

You'll make it to halfway at OK Falls. You'll load up on special needs. Some of what you packed will look good, some won't. Eat what looks good, toss the rest. Keep moving. Start looking for people you know. Cheer for people you don't. You're headed in - they're not. They want to be where you are, just like you wanted to be when you saw all those people headed into town. Share some energy - you'll get it right back.

Run if you can.
Walk if you have to.
Just keep moving.

The miles will drag on. The brilliant Penticton sunshine will yawn, and head for the mountains behind the bike course. You'll be coming up to those aid stations you passed when you started the fully alive with people, music, and chicken soup. TAKE THE SOUP. Keep moving.

You'll soon only have a few miles to go. You'll start to believe that you're going to make it. You'll start to imagine how good it's going to feel when you get there. Let those feelings drive you on. When your legs just don't want to move anymore, think about what it's going to be like when someone catches you...puts a medal over your head...

...all you have to do is get there.

You'll start to hear town. People you can't see in the twilight will cheer for you. They'll call out your name. Smile and thank them. They were there when you left on the bike, and when you came back, when you left on the run, and now when you've come back.

You'll enter town. You'll start to realize that the day is almost over. You'll be exhausted, wiped out, barely able to run a 10-minute mile (if you're lucky), but you'll ask yourself, "Where did the whole day go?" You'll be standing on the edge of two feelings - the desire to finally stop, and the desire to take these last moments and make them last as long as possible.

You'll hit mile 25. You'll turn onto Lakeside Drive. Your Ironman Canada will have 1.2 miles - just 2KM left in it.

You'll run. You'll find your legs. You'll fly. You won't know how, but you will run. You'll make the turn in front of the Sicamous in the dark, and head for home. The lights will grow brighter, brighter, and brighter. Soon you'll be able to hear the music again. This time, it'll be for keeps.

You'll listen for Steve King. Soon he'll see you. Soon, everyone will see you. You'll run towards the lights, between the fences, and into the nightsun made just for you.

They'll say your name.
You'll keep running.
Nothing will hurt.

The moment will be yours - for one moment, the entire world will be looking at you and only you.

You'll break the tape. The flash will go off.

You'll stop. You'll finally stop. Your legs will wobble their last, and capable of nothing more.

Someone will catch you.
You'll lean into them.

It will suddenly hit you.
You will be an Ironman.

You are ready.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Three more sleeps

Another awesome day closer to race day. This morning a bunch of us met for an early(ish) swim and unlike the few days before, the water was packed with athletes. The conversion of Penticton from small mountain town into Ironman City has begun - in a BIG way.

After our swim it was over to the Expo to register, get our athlete wrist bands and race kits with all the race day necessities like race numbers and timing chips. To add to the 'funnness' of that, the real excitement began - the merch tent opened!!! All the Ironman merchandise you can imagine. The tent opened officially at 9am and at 11am when we were there (and I'm sure much earlier than that), the line up was wrapped in and around the tent. Coffee mugs, visors, jackets, hoodies, t-shirts, race gear, bathing suits, gear bags, stickers, jerseys, shorts, powerbars... you name it.. it was there..with a giant Mdot (Ironman logo) front and centre. We also went to the local coffee/bistro triathlete hang out and signed the annual poster which has been done for every year since, well.. for a long time. It's official! I'm a part of history :)

Back at the merch tent, I forced myself to hold back for the moment, reminding myself that everything I wanted would be available Monday morning after the race except it would have "FINISHER" included on the logo. Tres-cool. Very much worth the wait, although I will be stopping by tomorrow morning to buy some stuff that I don't necessarily need as "finishers" gear. I'm just a sucker for race expo's.

My sister arrives tomorrow! I'm pretty stoked on that. Unfortunately though, due to a broken ankle and the untimely required surgery to fix it, my Dad is not able to travel and will not be making the trip out. BUT - I'm not letting that get me down. I know he would do anything to be out here and really, health first, and that's all there is to it. He'll take care of himself and be back on his feet (literally) in no time.

Just three more sleeps....

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I love riding bikes

This week is going great. We couldn't have asked for more with regard to the house we're staying in. It's far enough away from downtown to enjoy the peace and quiet, but only a few minutes away from the action. It's cool (temperature wise), has everything we need and there is plenty of room for all 5 of us.

Everyone has arrived now. Two athletes from Calgary, a fellow LETC'er from Vancouver and her sister from Ottawa. All great people. This evening we all headed out for a nice easy ride along the run course. It was so hot during the day we opted for the 6-6:30pm start and it was perfect timing. The breeze had slowed, the heat was gone and we were home just in time to BBQ some salmon for dinner and call it a day.

I love riding bikes. It's so much fun. Especially when your riding with 3 or 4 or 5 people. Pace lines are so fun. It's cool riding faster than you would on your own, it's fun to feel in sync with your friends as you cruise down a windy road. It's less work, more fun! I love it!

This week has been perfect so far. I've been resting, eating, napping, working out, napping and more eating. I love it. Here's a little pic I took of lunch yesterday. With nothing but time, all my meals have been similar. Fresh, clean and lean! Fantastic.

Things are getting started in town. A few of the tents have started to go up. The transition area is taking shape and there are a lot more athletes riding around on some pretty kick-ass bikes.

Tomorrow morning a bunch of us are meeting for a swim before coffee and a little breaky. Then, it's off to register and pick up the race kits! That will make things so very real. I'm excited.

Until tomorrow,

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ironman Week

I'm here. I'm in Penticton just 6 days from Ironman.

In my effort to stay present, and make sure that I'm not focusing on anything beyond race day and staying completely in the moment this week, I've been analyzing my every thought and feeling since I woke up this morning. "I'm leaving for Ironman today... how do I feel about that?", I'm getting on the highway heading out to Penticton for real this time... is that making me nervous? Emotional?" "What's going on in my head today?". With all this questioning and analyzing going on, I was disappointed with myself when I just came up with... nothing. It just felt like another normal day.

Cut to 3 hours later though, somewhere on Highway 3 around Headly, it hit me. I had been driving in silence for a while, not thinking of anything particular, just enjoying the drive and zoning out a bit. Then, out of nowhere, I smile from ear to ear and announce to myself "I'm on my way to Penticton to do Ironman".

That's it. Now I'm excited. It's really real and here I am. I've arrived at the AWESOME house that we rented (me and 4 other athletes from Vancouver and Calgary) and I'm blogging my updates from a swinging hammock in a shady backyard.

The next few days will be nothing but relaxing, eating, sleeping, swinging, and more eating and sleeping. Some short easy workouts in the mornings to get out some nervous energy but nothing more than an hour. All the excitement starts Thursday when the registration/kit pick up opens and the expo starts downtown.

I'm looking forward to experiencing Penticton not just as a triathlete and Ironman enthusiast as I have the past two years, but this year, I'm an athlete. An Ironman athlete :)

This year I've gotten a plethora of different advice from all kinds of people. Training advice, nutritional advice ect, but it's the kind of advice I received last week that is making this whole experience seem that much more real.

Thanks to Alison for this noteworthy and practical Ironman advice:

"Lists - you need to make lists! Whatever you forget you can get at the Bike Barn, Peach City Runners or the expo, they're set for everything...."

"Buy bananas the day you arrive. By Wednesday Safeway will be low on bananas, turkey and skinless chicken. It will, however, be full of men with shaved legs wearing their meanest, toughest race finisher's gear - worth picking up a litre of milk to see."

"If you decide to put your race number on everything you will be or might be using on race day try remember that in 3 years time having "2257" on your sports bra may be a little dorky. (Nerves + sharpy = bad combination.)"

Thanks for keepin' it real Alison.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My lucky numbers!?

Ironman Canada has released the bib numbers for 2010. Look for me!

Number 2250

You can also follow along on race day at there will be live web coverage.

Monday, August 16, 2010

It's normal... phew!

Tapering has been sweet. Well - bitter sweet. At this point, I'm tired. I'm tired of training, I'm tired of being hungry all the time, I'm tired of trying to stay focused, I'm tired of always having an agenda that the rest of life has to operate around, I'm tired of being cranky, but most of all - I'm tired of being tired.

The taper is bitter sweet because although I'm grateful that the hard work is all done and the workouts have decreased in volume dramatically, now, I just don't want to do anything. It's great that the long bike rides are now 2-3 hours instead of 5-6, but really, I don't even want to do that anymore.

It's a bit confusing and a bit concerning because I have to wonder how I'm gonna turn myself around with just two weeks left until Ironman. Just as if the universe was looking out for me, tonight at the VOWSA (Vancouver Open Water Swim Assoc.) swim at Kits beach I ran into Dave. Dave is another Ironman in training that trains with my club. He snuck up on me in the water as I was wading around trying to convince myself to do another loop of the open ocean course because really, 30min is a little lame for an Ironman (taper or not). Thankful for the distraction I asked "So? How are you feeling?" and perfectly timed Dave replies "I'm tired. I'm so very tired of training. I don't even want to do anything anymore." THANK GOD! I'm not the only one! I was so relieved when he goes on to say that it's not just him and me feeling this way, but another of our training buddies are in the same head space. Totally uninterested anymore and just wanting to do anything as long as it's not related to swimming, biking or running. Seems that after months on end of mental focus, intense training and commitment, it's just natural that we're worn out.

Hearing that we're both feeling the same way gave us the motivation for another 15mins of swimming.... but that was it.

After my timely chat with Dave, I'm not so worried anymore, but now I'm doing a little mental prep to get re-focused and re-motivated before I leave for Penticton next week (a week today - holy moly!). I'm going to go back through my old blog posts of the last year or so, and even my CityGirl Marathon blog that followed my journey to the Honolulu Marathon in 2006 and find old stories of challenges and triumphs that I've faced in the last 5 years. It's been a long road and in these final weeks, it's time to re-visit the journey and plan for the home stretch.

Should be a great walk down memory lane and one that gets me revved up and turned around. Coming up in the next 7 days is the final count down to the most anticipated day of my life so far. I want to make sure I'm present and soaking in every minute of it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

It's all about the tapering....

Shortly after my last post (the next day I think), when I was worried that I was only "ready-ish" I packed my bags and headed out to Penticton yet again for one last ride of the Ironman bike course. This time was different though. This was not just another training day, this was my LAST big ride.

Do you ever get that feeling at the end of summer when you start running out of weekends to do those things that you said back in March that you wanted to do this summer? It usually starts around the second weekend in August and you try to make plans with a friend that you haven't seen enough of. It goes something like this: you say "Let's get together this weekend!" and they say "Sorry - I have plans. But how about next weekend?" and you say "Sorry - I'm out of town. The weekend after?" and they say "We've got a wedding to go to. Plans for Labor Day?" And just like that it's September and the summer is over.

So there I was on Friday night, stuffing my belly full of garlic bread and lasagna in preparation for the ride and all I can think is "I soooo don't want to do another 6:30 hour ride tomorrow". There's the truth, I am so done with training that I could not get myself excited about another training ride. I would have rathered Ironman be the next morning than go out for another long, lonely, boring, leg burning, mind numbing training ride. I think the worst of it was that I couldn't stand the thought of another day passing by where 80% of my food would come from a processed power bar, gel or be in a liquid form.

But here it is! I'm all out of weekends! There's no time to make this one up, I can't come back and do it another time when I'm more motivated. This is the LAST big ride and then I start my taper for the big day.

So 8am the next day, out I went. Of course, I made sure I had a smile on my face because if this year has taught me anything, it's that a smile is my most important piece of equipment and I never leave it behind (that's by far been the most valuable training I've ever done by-the-way). Without a smile, I just don't feel AWESOME.

Just over 6 hours later I came rolling back in and (you guessed it), was feeling awesome. I was SO GLAD that I went out and did that final ride. The day was really focused around one portion of the course, that 17km section from the end of the out and back to the top of Yellow Lake. This is where last time I almost stopped to cry on the side of the road. Not today. Today everything I had was for that section. It wasn't going to get me this time like it had the last. I stopped at a convenient store just a few miles before so that I could refill my water, have a snack (delicious mini-potatoes covered in butter and salt that I cooked the night before, froze, then had in my bento box on my bike. By the time I needed them they were defrosted but still cool and a yummy treat and much needed boost about 5 hours in) and prepare for the next 20 some kilometres.

With my little carb boost and a smile I hammered up that hill singing and feeling amazing. I rode through a little rain, some headwind and even had to change a flat tire, but I got to the top feeling like an Ironman. From that point on, I sailed home happy and feeling 110% ready. No more of this "ready-ish" garbage. Let's race.

So now I'm two weeks and a day away from Ironman Canada and soaking up my taper. Workout volumes have dropped dramatically to give my mind and body the chance to recover from the last 6 months of hard work (or five years... whatever). My workouts are still everyday, twice a day, but after my 30min swim and 40 min run or a 1:30 bike ride like yesterday, I'll be spending far more time reading my book and napping on the beach.

It's a little hard to believe that it's just a few weeks away. I really don't think I realize that yet. The work is done, and that I'm proud of, so I guess I just sit tight and wait for the big day to arrive.

My summer ritual this year has been to get up and go grab a coffee and enjoy it down at the beach while I read my book. I love mornings and enjoying the quietness, watching the runners and starring out at the ocean is a perfect way to start my day. I haven't been doing that recently because my workouts either start early, or I have to get things done before the workout, or I'm just to tired/crabby to go enjoy my new ritual before my workout. Tapering isn't just a relief from the workouts, it's time back in my day where I can enjoy these types of things. I love you taper.

Coffee's ready...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

24 days to go..

24 days to go before Ironman. How am I feeling? Ready. Ok "ready-ish". I've started to question my months of preparation, wondering if I worked hard enough and if I did everything that I could have. I've listened to others stories of training days and weeks gone by and wonder if my days and weeks were comparable. It always sounds like they've worked SO hard with their huge rides and monster runs. I know that I've worked hard, I know that what I've put in is an incredible amount of work - but I think it's human nature to feel like we just don't compare. However, I do get some peace of mind from seasoned Ironmen who assure me that my panic is right on schedule.

The last few weeks have been tough ones. As the amount of hours dedicated to training in a week rose steadily, the decline of everything else in life was just as apparent. Over the years I've gotten use to going to bed early and running out of energy not only by the end of the day, but also by the end of the week. I also learned a valuable lesson last year in what my capacity for training vs. life really is. Last year with a full time job and an intense focus on triathlon, I found that eventually - something had to give. In a job where multi-tasking was as essential as the english language, I was a (single) task oriented zombi. If I wasn't given clear direction on what to do and how to do it, it likely wasn't getting done. And heaven forbid there was a snag in the plan - o boy - my problem solving skills went from a noteworthy asset to not only could I not fix the problem, but I couldn't even figure out who to call who could rescue me from the troubling issue. Thank God this was a short period and my season came to an early end saving not only my passion for triathlon, but also my job.

Thankfully I was prepared enough to take the summer off and enjoy the final preparations for Ironman this year. I may not have a job, but I still notice the changes that training brings. Fortunately I have the time to nap it off, or to change up my training plans to suit my needs for the day/week. Unfortunately, it's my boyfriend that has to deal with my short-comings and zombi-like personality of the last few weeks. Thankfully he's a sharp cookie and has already learned to get me home and in bed no later than 10pm because by 10:15 I WILL fall asleep wherever I am and that includes falling asleep mid sentence even if I am talking to you.
There have been only a few emergency situations that we've found ourselves in where for one reason or another (probably my zombi-quality planning that day) that we are still up or out somewhere come midnight and, my word, let me just say, when my blood sugar is that low and my brain has turned in for the night HOURS ago.... it is not pretty. I've never seen anyone move so quickly to get another adult to bed. Also, he once caught me in the elevator when I fell asleep standing up.

Ok, so it's not always like that. But I must show some appreciation for those that take on Ironman without the luxury of the time off. People do what I'm doing everyday all the while working full time jobs, being husbands or wives, moms and dads. They are incredible. I've taken the easy route.

I think all I'm getting at today is that "IronCrew" - friends, family and supporters of Ironmen in training deserve a helluva thank-you for everything that they put up with. We couldn't do it without you.

Now, I'm packing my bags yet again for one last trip to Penticton to ride the bike course as my very last long training ride. After this, the next time I head to the Okanagan will be to finish the Ironman Canada race.

Hanging in there....