Sunday, December 28, 2008

Mele Kalikimaka and Happy New Year!

Christmas was quiet in the Oliver house. We drove down to the beach house on Christmas Day, with a quick detour to my aunt and uncle’s in Williamsburg just in time for my cousin Marc’s wonderful turkey dinner! Once at the beach, Joe promptly dug into a puzzle, Maddy into her new book, and Joey into his legos and Nick ‘toons. I was able to get some good runs in while there—one 8 miler, and three 5 milers. I’ve decided that running on the beach at low tide is the absolute best. I love looking out at the waves, catching some dolphin sightings, and finding some shells. On my run with Lynn, I found a sand dollar! Sophie was in her element, running along the water’s edge, chasing gulls and sand pipers, and making friends with everyone. Such bliss.

The beach trip started out blessedly warm, with Sunday reaching the mid 70s. But then it got cold—down to the low 20s on New Year’s Eve, with a ferocious wind. Our house was mostly built in 1960 and so is not really intended to be inhabited during the winter, but it does have a fireplace which helps cozy it up, even if all the warm air leaks out the windows.

We are home now, and I’ve jumped back into training with our first true “in season” training session on Saturday morning. A fun hour and a half of one-leg drills on the trainers followed by a 5 mile run and 2 half mile repeats. My ass and hamstrings still hurt, but it is all very necessary. I think I ate the majority of the Christmas cookies we baked, along with my fair share of pumpkin bread and pie. Several pairs of pants won’t fit, and I seemed to have developed a muffin top. Scary.

It IS time to begin training in earnest, and to that end I’ve been trying to put together my list of goals for the season and see how to arrange my schedule so that I’m home at least four evenings a week. So first, to the goals.

Obviously looming large is my A race: Ironman Lake Placid in late July. I would like to do as well, if not better, there than I did in Florida. I know some little things I can do to shave some time (like no dicking around in transition…) but will need to work hard to develop my bike and run skills considering the course differences. I am currently signed up for just two triathlons leading up to Placid: Columbia in mid May in Maryland, and Eagleman on the Eastern Shore in June. I may throw a road race or two in there, and will definitely run the Monument Avenue 10k with Maddy in late March. I fully expect to have my ass handed to me during the two tri camps I’m signed up for in February and March, but think they will give me some good ways to improve and get added input on my training from some very accomplished coaches as the heavy training really sets in.

I am also planning to run a fall marathon and I want to finish in under 4:30 (my current PR is 4:51). Between my first and second marathons, I was able to take 25 minutes off my time, much of that thanks to having learned about fueling myself for longer distances. The fact that race day was 50 degrees and overcast instead of 80 degrees and humid helped too! By this fall I will have two Ironman races under my belt, leaving me plenty of base fitness and strength on which to build my speed. I am leaning heavily towards signing up for the Marine Corps Marathon in DC in late October, but I am still drawn to the Richmond Marathon. It is a familiar course, and I would not lack for training partners on the same schedule since there are plenty of TriGirls now training for Ironman Florida.

Scheduling all the training will be tough, but I need to find a good schedule that gives me time at home most evenings a week so I can be around for the kids. I’m not sure Joe realizes that even if I am gone in the evening, I still manage the after-school hours of homework, playdates, dance carpools, and dinner-making. That’s a lot to fit in the 4-5 hours I have between when Joey gets home and when I’d be off for indoor cycling or swimming. I know the TriGirl schedule is still in flux, but currently my two training nights are Tuesday and Thursday strength training/cycling. I may have to throw a Monday night Master’s class in there. I’m not sure how disciplined I can be to swim three mornings a week at the butt crack of dawn. As it is, it is damn hard getting up at 6 for Saturday training. Inevitably, Joe complains about missing out on morning cuddles, even on weekdays. Sometimes I feel that I can’t win for trying. That still leaves daylight hours for running and swimming, especially since I’m not working right now, so I’ll try to use those to better advantage.

Not all my goals for this year are race-related. I need to get serious about finding work. It has been great having the time at home, but I noticed since the end of school I really miss the adult interaction and stimulation of having projects that don’t involve laundry, cooking, or cleaning. I would like to find something part time or project-based, and I think in this current economic climate, that is all I’ll be lucky to find. I am very grateful that Joe’s job allows me the luxury of staying home full time, but since I was 18 I have always had some kind of job outside the home. My mental well-being depends on it!

Most friends are currently on Facebook, which has been a great way to keep in touch with some friends who I don’t see very often at all, some that I haven’t seen in YEARS, and some that I haven’t even met face to face. I love being able to check in, even if just briefly. I’m grateful for this utility that lets me keep them just a little closer. In dealing now with my aunt’s cancer, it is more apparent that you never know what life will throw your way. Your friends, along with your family, are what make your life full. I hope to never take that for granted.

Here’s to a wonderful 2009!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

More Pictures...

Ok so here are the missing pics from the last post.
The cleavage shot (or at least one of them...)

The tattoo close up:

TriGirl Pink had a link on her blog to all the cute Splish suits she's designed. I am not really looking forward to getting back in the pool, knowing what is awaiting me at tri camp in February. But to give myself some incentive to get back in the water no matter what, I bought my first Splish suits. Here they are (still unworn...)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Falling off the face of the earth

A girl could get used to this. The off season, which began the day after IMFL, is full on. I am eating poorly (cocktail party food for 3 nights in a row this weekend), missing more than just the occassional work out, and not blogging. (Blame Facebook for the last one...) I know it won't last long, and to prove I haven't totally fallen off the face of the earth, here is a photo journal of what I've been up to since Florida:

Seeing Jason Mraz Getting a tattoo
Fixing the hole in my kitchen ceiling and taking out walls (now I have holes in the floor!)
Enjoying the kids (my beautiful Maddy Moo turns 12 soon!)
Partying with TriGirls

Friday, November 28, 2008

So Thankful

I am thankful for:

My family. #1 Son Jim came in yesterday, so I had my whole family together for the first time since...January? I can't remember. (Jim just reminded me he was home in May for my graduation.) But we had a great meal, and even my aunt and uncle came from Williamsburg.

My training buddies. Where would I be without the TriGirls? They are my extended family. After yesterday's Turkey Trot, Ironman Sharon was commenting how running a race without your training buddies is hard. I know I never could have trained for an Ironman alone. Thank you girls for being such good friends and for carrying me across that finish line.

Our comfortable life. My husband works hard (he even went up to Northern Virginia last night to work the midnight madness/black Friday sale at one of his stores) to provide us a nice home, good food, vacations, and some little luxuries (like good wine). The coming year will be tough, but it means so much that he has a job he loves and is good at.

Good health. I am grateful for my family's health and healthy habits. Even when Joey ends up in the ER, I am reminded that there are families out there dealing with more severe health issues than us. While diabetes is no cake walk, it is manageable. Now, if we can get Jim back into running... (Last night in our post-turkey delirium Jim and I were watching TV and commented at the commercials for video games for toddlers that "GET THEM MOVING" kinda like a wii set up for the under 4 crowd. Ack. If you want to get the kids moving, turn off the TV and make them play outside.)

My coaches. They believe in me and push me. Along with my training partners, they made it possible for me to cross that finish line and have become trusted friends in the process.

My online friends. I haven't met many of them, but feel like we have known eachother a long time. These women make me laugh, cry, and be inspired. Even though the great majority of them are more accomplished athletes, they celebrate my successes with me and motivate me to give my all to our sport.

I hope everyone has a blessed Thanksgiving weekend.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Wishing I was in Arizona...

Go Heidi, Tammy, CJ, Brad and Som! YES YOU CAN!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


I am long overdue posting a few corrections to my race report, and giving proper credit where credit is due. Apparently I was a little out of it during the race and subsequently couldn't remember who helped me change in T2. It was my sherpa extraordinaire, Lynn. On race day, Lynn was everywhere I needed her to be. Pre-race, she was up with me before dawn and saw me off on the swim. During the race, she was in transition and dropped other athletes (sorry, girls) to help me. She was also the one who post race, while I'm getting IV'd in the med tent, collected my bike and bags and oh so diplomatically instructed neophyte sherpas sister Molly and Poland-Lynn to bring the car around so I wouldn't have to hike 3 miles post IM back to the condo. There is no comparison of the job I did as her sherpa last year when she did IMFL and what she did for me. Granted we were both new at the whole ironman race thing, but now she has set the bar quite high. I'm a little worried, our next ironman we are both racing and our husbands may take off to go golfing instead of I think we've tagged Fave to be our sherpa extraordinaire for Placid! Many grateful thank you hugs, Lynn! I really couldn't have done it without you.

Correction #2--that group of people at mile 1 in the interesting costumes....I think one or two of you were still out when I was finishing, but I wasn't very coherent at the time. On behalf of many racers, thank you for the comic relief and support.

Now, switching topics:
Many hearty congratulations to all the TriGirls and friends who finished the various distance runs this past weekend. Jill and Mindy and Jeff--I am so proud of your accomplishment, your first marathon! Many of you set PRs in less than ideal conditions (it was almost 80 degrees and humid). Way to go! I'm sorry I wasn't able to cheer/spectate those that ran the 8k and half marathon but I hope you heard me ringing that cowbell. I was very proud to run Lynn in for the last 7 miles and set a new marathon PR (outside IM). By mile 23 it got quite blustery and I tried hard to be a wind break to help her out. At one point I had considered running the whole marathon with her, but am very glad I didn't! Jen, you were right. 7 miles was my limit for a first long run post IM. (Here is Jill, showing how smart we TriGirls are.)

I'm starting to feel a little post partum (IM) depression coming on. Part of it may be just the fact that I'm so behind on sleep after spending 8 hours in the ER with Joey. This time it wasn't an hypoglycemic seizure, it was HYPERglycemia (high blood sugar). All afternoon he was well above the 500s in his blood sugar readings. He's home today and feeling ok, but still running high (luckily not over 500 high). I'm hoping it may be just a growth spurt or his body trying to battle some bug. His next endocrinologist visit is in a couple weeks, so we'll tweak his background insulin rates then. He is such an amazing boy--he sat stone still while the nurse stuck him, took 6 vials of blood, and hooked up the IV. He is so brave and didn't cry at all. I can't say I'd do the same.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Run (part 3)

I felt pretty good headed out on the run (don't I look happy to be off the bike?!) My plan was to run the first half, then take it mile by mile with the goal of always making forward progress regardless of speed. As we started out, Kate G was having some foot issues and urged me to go ahead. I was surprised that my legs didn’t feel like total lead (yet) and settled into a comfortable pace. Mile 1 brought Shawn and Sharon’s Super Sherpas sitting in lawn chairs drinking beer. They offered me one but I passed, thinking I might partake when I saw them again at mile 14. In retrospect, maybe I should have had the beer cuz nothing much else was going down. Also at Mile 1 was this crazy group of people in costumes, the most interesting being a bikini top, tanga bottom, and itty bitty skirt thing. She was running beside the guys and letting them slap her bottom. I was hoping they’d all still be out there by the time I hit mile 25 (they weren’t).

Around mile 2 I hit my first “patch of grass” stop. Some guy ran by, asked if I was ok, and seemed a little taken aback when I told him what I was doing. My explanation of not wanting to be customer #1597 for the fun that was a porta potty then made total sense to him. At this point my stomach was already iffy enough as it was. I didn’t want to tempt fate by possibly walking into a really ripe port-a-john and losing my nutrition.

By mile 3 I had found a running partner, Joanne. She was on her second loop, in her second Ironman, and cruising along for a finish time of about 12 hours—and PR’ing by about an hour. We chatted away, and the miles went by quickly. Before I knew it we were in the state park. Sharon and Shawn ran by—plugging along and looking strong. We high-fived and “good job”ed. It was good also seeing Patty (tearing up the course!), Som and Fred along the way. At the turn around, my running partner was itching to get home at a little faster pace so we parted company. I took in a gu and some water and looked forward to the next 6 miles. On the way back in I caught Kate G, who wasn’t far behind me, and Charlotte who was plugging away diligently and sooo positive!

Joe and the kids were waiting for me at mile 9 and ended up leapfrogging along the course for miles 9-22. They cheered like mad and gave me lots of encouragement. I think the other runners also appreciated having them along that back part of the course. It does get pretty lonely out there. I was able to maintain my pace for the whole first half marathon—I think I did it in about 2:35 or 2:40, just 20 minutes off my half marathon PR pace! At the halfway point I collected my long sleeve shirt and took in another gu. Seeing all the TriGirl sherpas was great, but mentally it was tough looking forward to those miles in the state park. At this point the sun was setting, and miles 19-25 were going to be DARK. It was right after I ran into Karen, who had just walked a ways with Shawn, that I started to really feel the miles but I was able to run until mile 15.

I walked miles 15-20, and each mile kept feeling longer and more painful than the last. It was around then that my nutrition fell apart. I had been feeling nauseous since early on in the bike and every time I tried to take in some liquids my stomach let me know it was on strike. So, I just stopped forcing things down and settled for little sips here and there of chicken broth or coke. Sharon passed me at about mile 18 on her way in—she was still running and looking strong. She said “we’re going to be Ironmen tonight!” which was just the right thing to say! She finished in an amazing 14:14! Shawn and I met up between miles 19 and 20 and we pledged to keep trying to run at least a portion of every mile. Fellow racers were getting fewer and farther between and just as I was leaving the state park, some guy narrowly missed running into a deer crossing the road.

I hit mile 20 and resolved to run as much as possible all the way back. The mantra became “just 6.2 miles left to go…”, “just 5.2 miles left to go….” It hurt like hell, but it worked. I think that’s when I became a space cadet—Joe said when they saw me at mile 22 my eyes weren’t quite right and I was looking rough. He wanted to run with me a ways, but I sent them to the finish line. That was where I needed them to be, and what would propel me forward along the course. My sister and friend Lynn from Poland then took over the leapfrogging/cheerleading. By mile 24 even Molly was concerned and wanted to walk with me a ways, but then I was almost home and wanted them all there at the finish line. There was a small pack of us racers keeping each other company and motivating each other to run a bit. I found another fellow racer who was jogging/walking along at my same pace and we tried to chat a bit as we went.

At this point my mind had totally checked out and I was having a hard time regulating my body temperature. I had to really focus on moving forward and putting one foot in front of another, otherwise I would just stop. I knew I could do it and knew I could finish, but it took every ounce of mental and physical energy to maintain any forward motion. My running/walking partner and I hit mile 25 and I had to run. I had to finish, sooner rather than later. I started getting choked up as I passed the club Vega, or whatever it’s called. But that turned into sheer joy as I hit the finish chute after spending 14 hours and 51 minutes to travel over 140 miles. I heard Mike Reilly call my name and say “You are an Ironman!”

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Florida Course is Flat….NOT! (RR part 2)

I had not previewed the bike course. Instead I went grocery shopping—which had to get done, otherwise my nutrition plan would’ve gone straight out the window. I heard brief snippets from Charlotte and Fred about bumpy sections, but never got the chance to talk to Shawn and Sharon about their impressions. I’m sure they would’ve said the same thing. Like Timberman (where I also didn’t drive the course), I didn’t want to have the suffering to look forward to. Keeping it a surprise would keep it interesting, I thought. I don’t think I’ll make that mistake again.

Kate G and I headed out of T1 pretty much together. For the first 10 miles, I was trying to settle in, calm my stomach which was just starting to get queasy, and talk myself into eating and drinking. I was able to down most of a smoothie just before leaving the transition tent and knew that would keep me fueled for most of the first hour since goodness knows the Clif bar wasn’t tasting good. I was feeling pretty good up to the turn onto Rt. 20—my speed was around 17 and I was passing more people than passed me.

That all changed after the turn. The headwind hit and slowed me way down. Then the rollers started. Then I got passed by everyone and their dog—and they were all in big pace lines. (Isn’t that illegal???) I thought several times about trying to hop on the back, but was afraid I’d get nailed with a penalty. So I stuck it out by myself. Kate G and I played leapfrog a bit. I tried to conserve time by not stopping for potty breaks (we all know what that means…), and considering how many times I need to go whenever I’m on the bike, that probably saved me about 15-20 minutes in my bike split!

As Rt 20 and the headwind dragged on, and time ticked away, I got more and more discouraged. I know the low point of every IM is supposed to hit between miles 70 and 80, but I was seriously questioning whether or not I’d finish the race before I even got to the special needs stop at mile 50. The brightest point of the bike was seeing some TriGirl zip by in a white rental car honking like mad. Damn, that looked like Heidi, who was supposed to be back in Richmond training for IMAZ. Sure enough it was! She came all the way out to watch and cheer us on—and she was the pretty much the only reason I kept going at certain points. Thank you so much Heidi. I wish I could do the same for your big race!

Anyways, back to the hell that was Rt. 20. I was so hoping I could catch up with Sharon and Shawn—figuring they’d be stopping for potty breaks and uncrustables at special needs. Never did happen. Kate G and I did get caught up again at special needs and making the turn onto 231 felt blessed relief: finally a tail wind! Cranking along at 21 mph was bliss, and I started thinking if it kept up we’d negative split the bike (at this point I think we’d been on the bike for over 3 hrs already). Whoo hooo! We did stop at mile 56 to refill water bottles (why they wouldn’t have water at special needs is beyond me…) and pee in the grass.

I knew too soon we’d be turning to go west again, naively thinking that since there was a headwind east bound, there’d be a tail wind west bound. NOT. This was where it got bumpy. At one point I had to put my bike in the small chain ring to be able to turn the crank at a decent enough pace. At the little (10 mile?) turn around, I did see Shawn and Sharon—looking strong and almost like they were enjoying the ride. Bump bump bump for almost 30 miles. At this point I knew I wasn’t quite keeping up with the nutrition plan: I was taking in all my fluids but was lagging on the solids. Every so often I had to eat one of my ginger chews to keep the nausea at bay. At mile 80 I started in with the gu—one for every 10 miles which seemed like an eternity.

Finally the pavement became decent again, but at this point I realized how far back in the pack I was. When you only see like 4 people strung out for a mile in front of you, you are going S-L-O-W. The game now became “get me home and off this friggin’ bike!” I was never so glad as to see the bridge that we came over at mile 10—but those last 10 miles in were still tough. I started getting very emotional as I passed more and more spectators. I was so anxious to see friendly, happy faces and hear people say “Good job.” Even though many, many spectathaletes said “good job,” every time I heard it I thought how lucky I was to have made it that far, and yes, dammit, I am doing a good job. Just doing the race is something most people (and at one time I myself) would never consider doing.

So, all told, my bike split was 7:13. Not quite the 6:30 that I expected and had told Joe to plan on. Pulling into transition I saw my sister and Joe and the kids yelling like mad. See how I'm smiling in that picture--I'm unclipped, ready to jump off. I think handing off the bike was one of the sweetest feelings of the race. (Yes, take that damn bike, I don’t want to see it again for a while!) Added to which, Cyndi, Derek, and Grandison were all there waiting for me. Hugs all around, “how’re you feeling?”, “good job”, and help in the changing tent. What could be better?! Kate G pulled in just a short while after me, and I waited in the tent to start the run with her. I was a little apprehensive about the run earlier in the week, but at this point I was looking forward to it. A chance to socialize and visit with other racers, and have more support in terms of seeing friends and sherpas along the way. Bring it on and let’s get this thing done!

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Race (part 1)

My first half iron race was Eagleman in 2007, which I raced with many of the girls training for IMFL that year. Joe and the kids had stayed home that weekend, so I wasn’t able to see him before the race start. I remember feeling that the 70.3 miles we were traveling that day loomed pretty large—seeming to be an almost insurmountable distance. I was very scared and nervous that I wouldn’t be able to finish. I called him (and woke him up) just before we were due to get in the water and cried. I think he was a little annoyed that I had woken him up, but he was able to say “you’ve done the training, you’ll be fine.” I didn’t believe him.

Standing just outside the starting corral for Ironman Florida, I wasn’t quite as scared. This time I knew I could make it through the swim, bike, and at least half of the run thanks to our experience at Chesapeakeman and our weekend at the Eastern Shore. The rest of the run would be a matter of just making forward progress. Being able to hug Joe and hear him say he was proud of me was the best send off. I did miss seeing my sister before the start, but asked Joe to have her say three Hail Mary’s for me. (I’m not about to buck a trend. Every family trip—over 40 years of Cunningham travels—has started with those prayers and every trip has concluded safely.)

Shawn, Sharon, Patty and I walked over the timing mats and into the starting corral together. It was at this moment that the race became very real to me—I held hands with Shawn as we walked in, and we both had tears in our eyes. I had trained with these women, through tropical storms, hot and cold, and just about everything in between for the past 5 months. I could never have been ready for the race without their support and company along the way. They are my sisters in blood, sweat, and tears and I will treasure their friendship for a long time.

Once in the corral, we stood at the back. I remember looking at all those people in front of me thinking soon we’ll all be in the water TOGETHER. Ack. I can’t remember what caught my attention after hearing the national anthem, but I turned around and at the fence were our TriGirls! Jill looked more excited than I felt, but her good luck hugs and those from the rest of the crew helped me know that they would be there cheering their hearts out along the way. Just then the gun went off! I wasn’t even paying attention and was really caught off guard. But that was a good thing—having too much time to agonize over it would’ve sucked. We had planned to try to remain towards the back of the pack, but momentum seemed to carry us forward into the water. As soon as it was up to my waist it was time to start swimming. It was right around this point that I lost Shawn and Sharon.

The first loop of the swim course wasn’t as bad as I imagined. While very crowded, I wasn’t being swum over or pushed down. Every time I took a breath, though, there was someone right in my face. It surpising at first to be looking straight into someone else’s face while we were both breathing and not pull up to stop, but I needed to delineate and defend my personal space. I kept my recovery pretty wide. Going around the turns was crazy. Everyone got condensed into a small area, and with the sun coming up it was a little hard to see the next turn bouy. Luckily this was the shortest swim segment, so I knew it wouldn’t stay like that for long. I did think about Placid and how it will be similar and different (same crowd, no chop). Coming down the stretch to the timing mats I felt some help from the current and was able to find some more space.

I was hoping to see some familiar faces in the crowd at the beach as we went over the timing mats. I know I looked at the clock, but didn’t register how fast or slow I was going. I grabbed some water to rinse out the salt water, and headed back out. Some guy and I chatted a bit, but too soon it was time to swim again. Like Chesapeakeman, my swim felt like it lasted just as long as any open water triathlon swim, regardless of distance, but unlike my other races, I was able to find my rhythm much sooner. Going around the turns the second time was a little easier since the crowd was more dispersed, and it seemed that last stretch went really quickly. I hit the beach knowing I had a better swim than at Chesapeakeman, and went in search of Karen and Shelley to get stripped! Total swim time 1:25:31, ten minutes faster than C’man which was 1:34:50.

What a crazy place the wetsuit stripping area is! Sand, wetsuits, and wet bodies flying in every direction. In addition to having my wetsuit ripped off me, the last big scab from my bike accident on my ankle got pulled off. Ouch. Up the beach I ran, hoping I’d find my peeps in transition. In the tent (and naked!) were Shawn and Sharon, changing so quickly that I didn’t have time to run out with them. I think Patty was there too, and she zoomed out of there pretty fast too. My coach Grandison helped me change. I think next time I won’t bother with the bike jersey and will swim in my tri shorts and top—it was tough just getting shoes and socks and arm warmers on! Kate G and I hit the bike together, which I was very grateful for. So many familiar faces in the transition area (Cyndi, Derek, Trish, Jill, and Jackie) sent me off feeling good.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Race Countdown (post mortem)

Friday passed in a blur. I remember spending most of the day floating around, feeling like it wasn’t quite happening to me—that I was maybe there to watch my friends race. At one point around lunch, I ran into Michael Lovato at the expo. He and Simon Lessing had stayed in our hotel up at Timberman, and I had chatted them up a bit, thinking they were pretty hot (at the time I didn’t know they were major stud pro triathletes and in Michael’s case, married to another hot pro triathlete, Amanda Lovato). Michael was very nice, remembered me from Vermont, and wished me lots of luck. I also had met Bree Wee on Thursday night at the pasta dinner. She’s such a sweet woman and an amazing athlete—she ended up taking 4th woman overall and qualifying for Kona. Way to go, Bree!

Friday afternoon came quickly. I was able to talk to Marit and Jen about the race and my strategy. Jen’s best advice was not to write the end of the race before it even got started. I had a certain goal in mind for time, but she was able to remind me to take each minute as it came and be in the moment. That advice saw me through so many points in the race! Before I knew it, I was almost late to pack my bags and rack my bike, but got them done by 3. That evening I had dinner at the condo with my sister and two Lynn sherpas who had all arrived that day. While we were doing that, Joe took the kids trick or treating at the mall. It was not quite the regular Halloween experience they have at home, but they still had a good time and scored some good candy. Soon after they got home at 9pm, I went to bed.

Surprisingly, I slept pretty well. Not too much of the half-awake, I-know-what’s-coming-and-can’t-relax sleep before other races. I woke up around 1, but was able to fall back to sleep until just before the alarm went off at 4. It was nice to be the first one up and have a little quiet time to myself. I made coffee and started trying to eat my breakfast. At that point I knew the nerves were starting to kick in—it was all I could do to choke down my usual yogurt and granola. TriGirl Lynn got up and helped me pack up my last things, and then we headed down to meet up with Charlotte and Fred to ride to the race start.

Walking toward transition with crowd of other athletes, volunteers, and families, I was glad I brought my ipod. Being able to tune that out and listen to my usual music really helped calm me down and put me in the right frame of mind. I found TriGirl volunteers to body-mark me—big hugs all around! Once in transition, I was very glad to have gotten there very close to 5. I wasn’t rushed at all and was able to get tires pumped, nutrition loaded, and more breakfast eaten before finding Patty and the other TriGirls. Then it was time to stuff the sausage. I had decided to wear Cyndi’s full wetsuit instead of my own john-style one. I liked the added buoyancy and protection (from jellyfish) that it gave me.

By 6:15 I was starting to panic that Joe wouldn’t make it down to the beach in time to see me off. We did find Cyndi and Derek—Cyndi was an important part of my pre-race morning. She brought her trusty sharpie to write “Yes, You Can!” on my arm like I had done for her last year. Having her there, telling me I would indeed become an ironman that day was so special. Then it was time to hit the beach. I frantically called my sister since Joe wasn’t answering his cell phone, and she woke up the other Lynn and kids back at the condo. Joe was headed to the beach—and he found me! Good thing too, since it was time to head into the starting corral.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The View from the Other Side

A year ago I came to Florida to volunteer and sherpa for my friends. It was such an amazing experience! Here it is, a year later and all of a sudden, it's my turn. All day Shawn was saying she was having a hard time grasping the thought that it's her turn, not Karen's. I am too, although sitting in registration, having the band put on my arm gave me more than a moment's panic. Am I really ready???

Shawn, Karen, Som, Steve and I were on the same flights down from Richmond. All the travel plans went well and I was able to catch a ride into Panama City with Steve and Som. I was a little bummed about not getting to hang in Pensacola with Marit, but she will be coming to PCB tomorrow and staying till Sunday. Last night I had dinner with fellow IMFL peeps Shawn and Sharon, and their sherpas extrordinaire. This morning we all met for our inaugural dip in the Gulf. It was pretty darn cold out, and my feet froze while I was putting on my wetsuit. The water, however, was much warmer! It was also calm--not much chop, no strong currents, and no big jellyfish. I'm glad that I did the whole loop, to know how far it is between bouys, and what to sight on, and where it gets deep. I was sad to get out of the water. It was far warmer in the water than out! We then headed back to Shawn and Karen's place for breakfast and quick showers before going back to hit registration. We all found where we'll be racking our bikes (I'm right behind all the pros!), and then lined up. Then after a little shopping, a little checking in with the Community Fund and Janus folks, and lunch Fred, Charlotte, Sharon, Shawn and I biked the run course. That turn around in the state park is going to seem so far away on the 2nd loop. This afternoon, while some peeps went out to drive the bike course, KateG and I hit the grocery store. I am now lounging in the condo, watching the sunset with a Corona in hand, and I'm contemplating dinner. My husband and kids come in later this evening, and I can't wait to go shell hunting with my Maddy Moo. Tomorrow we rack bikes and turn in our bags, maybe do a little swim, then rest and hydrate! I wish you all could be here with me!

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Doctor's Office

This is what Joey was doing while I was snoozing in the waiting room at the doctor's office (make sure your volume is turned on). Goofy kid.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Swimming to Florida

It appears that my taper workouts will have to change. At this point, I am swimming (or more specifically PULLING) my way to Florida since I'm having issues with my hip. I was very lucky not to have fractured/broken any bones in that bike crash two weekends ago. I did, however, really whack my hip when I hit the pavement. The evening after the accident my hip was really swollen. The bursa in my hip are still inflamed--with blood. The sports medicine doc was going to give me a cortisone shot in the hip to alleviate the pain yesterday, but instead ended up drawing off a few cc's of blood. Yeah, I almost passed out seeing that syringe! Her Rx: ice the area for 30 mins 3xs a day to get the swelling down; no biking or running; use a pull-bouy in the pool. We will reevaluate by the end of the week. If I can get the swelling under control, I can then go in Mon/Tues for a cortisone shot before I leave for Florida.

My PT and my coaches say I am trained and will still be ok for the race. I am trying to remain calm, follow doctors orders, and focus on getting all my stuff ready for the trip. But then there's that nagging little voice in the back of my head, screaming "WHAT???? You've got to be f*%#ing kidding me?!" I turn my bike in on Saturday to ship, and won't see it again until maybe Thursday or Friday next week. That would mean the last time on my bike would have been this past Saturday, and the last time I ran...well too long ago. Don't panic, don't panic. Just make like Dora in Finding Nemo: "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim." (Right, Marit?)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The good, the bad, and the truly SCARY

First for the good:

Today we took the kids apple/pumpkin picking. It was the most gorgeous fall day--about 60 degrees, crisp, and not a cloud in the sky. Several years ago, Joe found a nice p.y.o. place about 20 minutes south of Wintergreen, in the Blue Ridge. Dickey Brothers Orchard has been in the same family since the 1750s! We try to get there at least once a year and on several occasions have sent some of their apple gift boxes. This year we went with a co-worker of Joe's, his wife, and daughter. We came home with 4 pumpkins and 54 lbs of apples. Mmmm mmmm. After that, we took a short hike up toward Crabtree Falls, on part of the Appalachian Trail. The family portrait was taken by hanging the camera in a tree. Here are the pictures (Bree, I tried to get shots of the foliage for you):

The bad:

I spent all day Friday in the hospital, keeping my uncle company while my aunt underwent surgery for cancer that was discovered earlier this week. Stage IV uterine cancer. She is facing a long haul of chemo and radiation after she recovers from the surgery which went well. Saturday's workout was something of a bust. I didn't get home from Williamsburg Friday until about 9:30--and getting up at 6:30 for our last long brick was not a fun prospect. I met up with Sharon and Shawn at 7:30, and I remember as I was pulling into the parking lot that they seemed overdressed--tights, jackets, ear name it, they were wearing it. Duh. It wasn't even 50 degrees that morning, and I was SEVERELY underdressed. I barely made it through 30 miles; it's hard to bike when you can't think straight for being so cold. When I got home I had to take Joey to the doctor (ear infection), but I was so tired I fell asleep in the waiting room. Joey apparently amused himself by taking pictures of his lego men and me sleeping. I came home and slept some more (3 hours!).

And finally, for the truly SCARY:

My Ironman Florida bib number is 83!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Is it time to panic yet?

Does anyone remember that scene from "Diamonds are Forever" where Sean Connery and Jill St. John are on this oil rig and some guy keeps counting down, "SEVEN SECONDS AND COUNTING" while all hell breaks loose? I've got that voice stuck in my head, but it's saying "17 days and counting...."

I must say I'm doing alot of visualization--of myself running down the finish chute whiles Michael Reilly says, "Kate Oliver, YOU are an Ironman!" But that has also been tempered by dreams of being late to the swim start because I haven't organized all my stuff or pumped up my tires.

After last night's brick--our last out at West Creek for the year--Sharon and I went to Mojo's for a small "circle of happiness" hour. Our coaches say we're ready. I'm not sure I quite believe it. I felt more ready just after ChesapeakeMan than I do right now. Maybe part of it is the crash, or maybe it's that feeling that I think many people fall victim to of "oh my god, I haven't done everything I can to be ready." It could also be that I think I've caught whatever virus Maddy had at the beach last weekend, so I'm feeling run down and tired. Thank goodness this is our last long workout weekend, and it's just a 50mi bike/10mi run!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A crash course in breaking in a new bike

This past week, the kids had both Thursday and Friday off from school as a combo Yom Kippur/Columbus Day long weekend. Off to the beach we went, with Joey's friend Zan in tow. The weather was supposed to be iffy--calling for rain late Thurs/Fri, but clearing up and windier on Saturday. It worked pretty well that the kids had those days off since the Ironman Florida and Arizona girls had a fun century ride/brick planned on the Eastern Shore on Saturday.

I was super excited to find my new bike had been delivered to the beach house on Wednesday, but I couldn't get it put together at the local bike shop until the compact crank came the following day. Thursday turned out quite nice, with the kids spending most of the day on the beach. They even swam in the ocean and pool. This is Zan and Sophie:

Around 2pm the crank was there! I loaded my Kestrel, new crank and bike in the car and took off to the local Conte's--only for the mechanic/bike fit guy to say he couldn't have it put together until 5pm. So much for that Thursday bike ride....but then I spent 2 hours on the trainer with him later that evening during the fit. While warming up, the gears on the new bike kept slipping. Turns out the brand new Dura Ace chain was broken! Argh. On with a new chain, and of course I needed to pay for it. He tweaked quite a few things from my fit and I was wondering how Saturday was going to feel--luckily I had Friday to give it a go.

The weather Friday had turned overcast, with some intermittent drizzle, and much more wind. Joe took the boys to the Go-Carts, Maddy had developed a fever and was lounging/reading in bed, so off I went for an hour and a half ride around the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I'm glad I only rode that long. The new saddle that came with the bike was PAINFUL! At just 10 minutes into the ride, my pubic bone was screaming, and I knew something had to change if I was going to ride 100 miles on Saturday. Back to Conte's I went after my ride. Luckily they had a saddle that would do the trick and SCORE! it matches the bike beautifully! (If anyone out there wants a white Fi'zi:k Arione Wing Flex saddle, let me know!) That evening, my poor Maddy was feeling lousy and was running a fever, so we put all the kids to bed pretty early. Before I hit the sack, I tested Joey's blood sugar, since he was at the lower end of his target range before bed. He was dangerously low (35!) so I stayed up pumping him full of juice to get his blood sugar back up before hitting the sack. I was due to get up at 5am for the drive up to the Eastern Shore to meet up with my TriGirl peeps.

I forgot to set the alarm on the cell phone to ring on the weekend. Ooops. I glanced at the clock around 5:10 and, thinking it was probably just a few minutes off, thought I may as well get up. Nope, the clock was right. After scrambling around getting dog and crap and bikes together, I kiss sleeping kids and husband goodbye and drive off with breakfast in my lap. I don't recommend driving across the bay bridge/tunnel at 6:30 am when it's windy while trying to eating yogurt and granola. I got to the cabin at Kiptopeke State Park with about 20 minutes to spare before everyone was headed out. Whew!

This was the third TriGirl-organized century ride from Kiptopeke, but my first visit there. The cabins--built in 2007--are great! Ours slept 16 people in 6 bedrooms, with a comfortably furnished main room with full kitchen and 3 bathrooms. They even had all the beds made, and towels provided. The park is on the bay side of the peninsula, just 3 miles from the southern most tip of the eastern shore. There is a swimming area, playground, places for campers or RVs, and even yurts! According to the website volunteers capture, examine, weigh, band and release resident and migratory birds each year and observe and band hawks, kestrels, osprey and other birds of prey from September through November.

Our century route took us up the eastern shore on flat, mostly well paved (the first and last 15 miles were pretty BUMPY), and very scenic roads from Kiptopeke to Onley and back. We got to see lots of interesting sights, like turkey vultures picking at a dead deer, tidal marshes, tomato fields, old falling down farm houses, and fields of green and yellow. On the way north, we had some tough head/side winds. We stayed in a pretty tight pace line--tight enough that at mile 48, my front tire got clipped by Heidi riding in front of me in a gust of wind from our right. I over corrected, and ended up lying in the middle of the road. Ouch. Luckily Charlotte riding just behind me was able to avoid me, and there was no traffic coming right behind or ahead of us. I lay in the middle of the road for a while trying to figure out how bad I hurt. After a few cars went by asking if I needed an ambulance, I decided I would be ok and slowly got up. Road rash on my elbow, a contusion on my ankle, and one hip that will surely turn a beautiful shade of black/blue soon. My helmet was ok, and luckily my beautiful new bike was relatively unscathed.

The next 10 miles to our turn around/rest stop were tough. I maintained a good distance behind people in front of me, and staying aero hurt my elbow. At the rest area, I was able to buy some Tylenol and gingerly rinse off my arm. Walking hurt, more than pedalling. I figured that if I crashed during Ironman, I'd want to do my best to finish the race, so I looked at the second half of the ride as a test. If I can get through this, I can get through Ironman. We were happy to be headed with the wind though, and were able to maintain an 18-19 mph pace for most of the way back.

Then Shawn announced we would rotate the lead in a pace line in 5 min increments...

Shawn led first, then Sharon, and Patty. Those three girls kept us right at the 18-19 mph pace. The rest of us thought the purpose was to push hard for those 5 mins up front. Heidi pushed on, and then Kate G. I was working hard to keep up with Kate, not realizing everyone else was falling back. Then it was my turn. I got up front and pushed really hard. After 3 mins it hurt, and I kept checking my watch for my turn to end. I had not moved my bike computer over to the new bike, so I had no idea how fast I was going. At the end of my five mins, I started dropping back. But there was no one behind me. It turns out I apparently was going about 25mph! I had stopped, thinking the other girls had stopped for some reason, then they caught up and flew by me. Now the shoe was on the other foot, and I had to catch back up. But by then my legs were shot. Those last 15 miles were really hard. Heidi, Kate and I stuck together after that. We were so glad to see the green house indicating our final turn back to the cabin. After the ride, we grabbed the Sophie monster and ran for about an hour. This is us before the run:

Those showers afterwards felt great, as did the beer! Karen, who is in her hard-earned "taper" for HalfMax in Las Vegas, made the best dinner of meat loaf, mashed potatoes, and mac and cheese. We gorged ourselves on the good food and promptly went to bed at 9pm. We repeated the gorge fest at breakfast...mmmm mmmm!

Home now, I am feeling quite stiff, and tired. I am still in love with my new bike.

So let the taper begin!

Many congratulations to Rachel Ross, who placed 3rd in her age group at Kona this Saturday. Amazing!