Friday, September 03, 2010

I think most of the people that are interested in reading this are my close friends and family, those who have done this race before, and those who might be interested in doing this race in the future. If you like a difficult non wetsuit swim, a hot, hilly but fun bike course, and a HOT but flat run course, this is the race for you! It also helps if you are racing with others you know, you bring along 20-30 of your supporters and dress them up in matching tshirts and big hats, supply them with cowbells and noisemakers and signs, have your husband lead them all over the course to see you multiple times, and force yourself to wear something silly on the run so even the strangers cheer for you.
Brevity is not my strong suit, so I will start way back in January when I decided to do this race! (If you want to skip to race morning, scroll down, but you won't get the full story! :)......... Why Louisville, everyone asked? It fit within my timeline of when Dustin was going to be back, so that I could do my long training right before he got back, and it was a drivable distance and close to our midwest families. I decided I would have Wolfgang Guembel, a professional triathlete from Canada (and a friend) coach me to really hold me accountable for my training. I am so glad I did this, because even when I didn't want to go out on those hot summer days, I knew I had to do multiple 100 mile rides and multiple 3 hour runs to prepare for this. I also went to Masters swim twice a week pretty religously. I logged all of my miles through Training Peaks and got feedback from Wolf. I spent a good deal of time figuring out my nutrition and trying to take in 75 carbs per hour and 1000mg of sodium per hour during my long trainings and the race per Wolf. This took awhile for my body to adjust to this (or did it ever really??)
With Dustin deployed, it made it a little easier to roll out of bed most mornings at 5 AM and train on the bike with Bob's group or Hilary or go for a run with Jo. I never really trained too much with people who were doing the race, but I was so thankful that Hilary and Jo were willing to train with me and it kept me positive and motivated, along with seeing all the fast swimmers at Masters swim motivating me to improve.

Dustin and I left Wednesday morning for KY (many jokes were made using these two letters!) We packed up the car with Margarita (my bike), ALL of my crap, including a small fridge since our hotel didn't guarantee we would get one. Dustin insisted that we not take an empty fridge, so he loaded it with beer, and to our surprise, was still cold when we got the hotel outside of Louisville about 12 hours later!
My plan for Thursday was to get up and ride part of the bike course, but when we drove it on Wed night, it was a bit intimidating with no shoulder and tons of hills and I didn't really want to ride it alone, so we decided to go for a short run that morning instead. It was a cool morning and one of those runs where I felt like I could go forever; just what I needed mentally. Then, we headed into downtown to the Athlete Check In. Seeing the Ohio River and where transition would be set up always gives me woozies, but they were excited woozies! I checked in and got my number 70 and checked in at the Janus Charity Challenge.....$5090 total raised for ALS...that's why I got the low people thought I was a pro who was really slow all weekend! We met Dustin's sister, husband and three kids for dinner at the Old Spaghetti factory walking distance from the downtown Marriott where we were staying. That was fun and then headed to the airport to pick up Dustin's Dad and step Mom (from TX) Mia (our friend from Baltimore also doing the race-her first!) Dustin went out for drinks with them as Mia and I chatted about our training and the race!

I slept like crap, but Friday still was upon us, so we headed to check Mia into the expo and ran into some Jville friends there too! We went to lunch on 4th street Live food court, then headed to the Louisville Slugger Museum which was cool. Dustin went on some cave tour with family while Mia and I unwound at the hotel for a little bit. Kat and Scott (from Cali!) met up with us and we hung out for a bit.Then, it was time for the Welcome Dinner and athlete meeting at the convention center. It was HUGE, one of the biggest in Ironman history they said, people were standing room only on the sides. Mike Reilly (so glad he came to ours instead of Canada!) MC'd and motivated us and we ate loads of pasta and salad. It was nice to hang out with Michael and his twin brother who were doing the race to celebrate them both being in remission from thyroid cancer; motivation in itself right there! We saw Skat's friends from St. Louis and gave them their team shirts and then listened carefully to the athlete meeting and each race director (swim, bike and run) gave us info (our favorite was Andre from Jville, race director for the run course!) Notice I said listened carefully......that will come in handy later. After the meeting we met at our hotel bar, where my parents showed up from MO, Dustin's Mom and friends from KS, and Jo and Shivella from Jville! I decided since before all of my good training sessions, I had a few glasses of wine, why should this weekend be any different, so I drank myself some Merlot. I always have a hard time leaving a party, but I knew I needed to try to sleep, so I tore myself away around 11 PM, but still didn't sleep!

Saturday morning was the practice swim and it was a bit crazy, long lines to even get in the water. Mia and I stayed together and Skat and Dustin watched our stuff (thanks guys). We swam for about 20 minutes, then got on our bikes for about 20 and then ran for about 20....(I remembered when that was all I could do when I did my first sprint, and now I was doing that the day before an Ironman, wow!) Dustin and Skat "ran" into an underwear run, so we had to go take pictures of that spectacle, then we went to Panera for lunch with my parents, and Walt. Jeff and Kendra showed up by then (from Cali) and they helped us (along with my parents)get our bikes and T1 and T2 bags checked in. The other crew members met up to discuss their plan for the morning with the swim start/exit/transition and figured it all out perfectly! Disclaimer: There was a LOT of walking before this race since it is downtown and there's not a lot of places to's just easier to walk, especially when you have a big group.

It was SO nice to get rid of my bike and not have to worry about it anymore! Then we headed back to the hotel and got our feet up for a little bit while visiting with everyone. Mia and I headed down to the lobby to fix our pasta, but they wouldn't let us use the microwave, so the front desk girl had to fix our pasta and she wasn't too thrilled about it. Oh well, we ended up eating our usual food which we wanted to do and met up for the spectator meeting at 5 PM. This is also where the HAT contest started and boy, was it a doozie! Everyone was so decked out and I was so excited! Dustin lectured about the points on the bike course and the plan and estimated times as they all ate pizza that we got delivered. Then, we went down to the pool, where I put my feet up some more and got on my laptop to see everyone's well wishes and to try to figure out my tracker that I was wearing to test from Art Perez. Skat's hat and J and Ks hat tied for first place and you gotta check out the pics on FB of how similarly creative they were. My Dad came in a close second with his horse hat! Kat and Kendra drug me away from the party around 9:30, but once again, I slept like crap!

RACE MORNING: Sunday, August 29, 2010

I wake up around 2 AM wondering if I had saved a power gel from my bags that I could take before the swim start and I dozed on and off until my alarm went off at 3:30 AM! I woke up with extreme nervousness that I was NOT ready for. I had to force down my two boosts and a almond butter and jelly sandwich. It took me longer to get everything together than I wanted, despite Skat, J and K, and Dustin's help. We met Mia, Shawn and her parents and walked to the transition together (about a mile) as they all carried my special needs bags (thanks guys!) We got there, pumped up our tires, put our bottles on our bikes, and turned in our bags, then another 15 or so minute walk to the swim start by Tumbleweeds restaurant. The site of everyone rushing was getting me more and more nervous. See, for this swim start, people start forming lines WAY early in the morning because we jump off the docks one at a time (instead of the normal mass start in all other full Ironmans). We were lucky enough to jump in with the St. Louis group who had been saving spots since earlier. I went to the portapotty 2 times and had some extreme nervous energy. In my first Ironman I was nervous leading up to it, and excited on the day of......this Ironman I was excited leading up to it and ready to puke nervous the morning of! It was really making me mad as I stood in a bathroom line and the swim line started moving forward! I hoped that I could still find Mia, Michael, and John to start with them! Dustin and Scott tried to calm me down, but I didn't feel better until I found them again. I downed my power gel and sipped on gatorade and water, and before we knew it, the line started moving more! They are screaming, "goggles on, goggles on!!!!" then you move further down the dock, "get your watches ready, watches ready!!!!!" I see our light blue crew with their crazy hats and I'm jumping up and down wasting all kinds of energy but I don't care! I hold my goggles as I jump in the water and I'm off at 7:04 AM......not too shabby.....4 minutes after the very first people in the water.

All we have to do is swim around an island, under a few bridges and we are out, right? WRONG! I got hit and kicked a lot during the swim, the Ohio River tasted awful, and I just felt tight! It took me 57 minutes to get all the way around the island and I wasn't feeling this current that I heard about. I was able to pee about 5 times during the swim, which was good and the site of the hot air balloons was prettty! But everything else was just causing me to question, "Why am I doing this again?" Once, I had something fairly big hit me on the very top of the head.....what the heck could it have been? A branch? A beaver? A dead body? I'm going with a branch. My new, old goggles (I couldn't find the ones I'd been training in for the last month that I loved, so I used old ones) were a bit too tight and they were giving me a headache, but I needed to pick up my pace big time, so I just dug in and pushed myself to get this swim over with. I've never wanted to get on my bike so bad in my life! I was wearing JC's speed suit, but it sure wasn't feeling speedy! I kicked a bit more at the end to get my legs ready for land and just kept envisioning our crew waiting for me on the sidelines! I came up the steps and up the chute and there they were yelling, snapping pics and video, and keeping me motivated to see them again soon! 1:19:50 (just 7 seconds better than Dustin's previous time! Yeah!)

I ran into transition and got my bag (I thought they were supposed to get it for you, but they weren't ready for me) and headed into the changing tent, but I didn't change clothes. I actually started putting on my race belt on top of the speed suit (can you tell I'm not used to wearing one?)....after a laugh from a few people, I got that off and showed off my USA Kswiss tri suit that I got printed "Hammerheads for ALS" down the side and "CRAWFORD" on the butt! Dustin snuck a note in my bag that said good luck and that was really sweet! I grabbed my helmet, bike shoes, bike gloves, sunglasses, salt tabs and had the lady spray me with SPF 80 spray that I brought which worked great! I had my nutrition already on my bike, so I was ready after I stopped in the bathroom one more time.

I saw our crew as I cruised out of transition and prepared to be with Margarita for 6-7 hours! The first 5 miles went down like nothing and I was averaging 20 so I knew I needed to slow down, but then I had to STOP! My back bike bag was almost all the way off, hanging from a thread with my tubes and CO2 in it and I couldn't afford to not have that or I would get a flat for sure, so I pulled off and fixed it. I envisioned people watching from home on my tracker seeing that I already stopped, so that motivated me to fix it quickly and hop back on, but my right quad seized up as I lifted it over the seat, so I had to take a minute to shake that off! Back on the bike and I tried to remember to spin it out so I wouldn't burn out my legs too soon. I really didn't feel like I was working too hard and before I knew it, I was at mile 23 where our crew was loudly cheering! It was so fun to see them and to know that I would hopefully be seeing them 4-5 more times according to Dustin's plan was very motivating (they took four packed cars to all these spots!) One of my favorite parts of the course was going through LaGrange, a small town that fills the streets behind barricades and yells their butts off for hours! I was in my aerobars, but able to make the "raise the roof" sign as I flew by and the crowds went crazy (on both loops! that was fun!) I gave out high fives to our family and friends constantly at miles 34, 50, 74, 80! The miles just kept cruising by as I thanked them for being out there with their ever changing signs cowbells, HUGE HATS, clappers, and even Dustin had the portable radio blaring for me up one hill "Just gonna stand there and watch me burn? That's okay, cause I like the way it hurts" which became my motto for the race in the last month! I thanked every volunteer, and every cop on the course holding up traffic for us. I stopped at special needs for my only pee break on the bike other than both transitions. I knew I had slowed down on the second loop, but I wasn't about to kill my legs before the marathon. The last 30 miles were the toughest after I left THE best spectating crew ever. It was getting hotter and cyclists were pulled over everywhere trying to hide in the shade. I was SO glad I listened at the athlete meeting and grabbed an extra water bottle at the third to last aid station because the second to last aid station, they were telling us they were out of water and I remembered them saying they were spaced far apart! Oh NO! I just kept yelling "WATER!" and the very last person had one more bottle that I took. The guy next to me grunted as he missed getting any fluids, so I offered him mine, but he refused (glad he did cause I needed every last bit of it!) I was trying to do nutrition every ten minutes when my watch would go off, first Accelorade, then Perform, then Water, with a gel on the hour, clif blocks on the fifteen minutes, and salt tabs on the half hour. It was hard to keep the timing with the hills, but Wolf had told me to take nutrition in on the uphills, so that's what I did! Down to 20 miles and I just kept getting slower and slower, despite being on the downhill section.....there was a headwind and I was TIRED! One of the St. Louis crew, Dana passed me and cheered for me and I swear, I was asleep until she did that! I looked down and I was going 13 mph, so I picked it back up to around 17 and cruised for downtown. I couldn't wait to see everyone and get off this bike seat! Margarita treated me well, but I was glad to see her go as I headed into transition 2. Bike time of 6 hours 26 minutes and I was happy about that. I had been averaging around 18 on flats in training, so I was hoping for anything over 17 and it was 17.4 mph average and I was ready for that run!

I saw the crew again as I entered and exited and gave Dustin a kiss as I started on the HOT marathon course. No one knew that I was ALSO going to representing Kentucky derby style with a huge white flower on top of my ALS cap. I planned to wear it only for a little bit, but so many strangers were screaming for me, that I ended up wearing it for the whole marathon! So, they torture us with an up and over a bridge right away, but it there was a little bit of a breeze and I liked the contour change, knowing it was flat from there on out. As I cruised down the bridge, it was fun to give high fives to our family as I rounded the corner to do two out and backs. It was HOT, but the sun kept hiding behind the clouds ever so often and every time it did, I would be SO thankful. Seeing the 11 people I knew out on the course throughout the day made it much more enjoyable. I was passing people left and right and felt thankful that I was able to stick with my nutrition plan througout the bike and the run. My stomach was a little sloshy, but I was thankful that I had absolutely NO aches and pains. I walked every aid station to get two cups of water and one cup of Perform, and a gel every thirty minutes and a salt tab (215 mg Sodium) every hour. I was wearing Zoot's cool sleeves which helped a lot as I grabbed ice cold sponges and rang them out over those and then stuck more in my shirt. When I was feeling hot again, I would ring them out again over the sleeves! I saw our crew at mile 13 and smiled and high fived a bit! They take you RIGHT up to the finish line where the FAST people are sprinting in before you turn to do one more out and back. Simply torturous! Dustin ran up a little ways to walk with me through the aid station. I thought everything was going well, until I tried to ingest a power gel, dry heaved on a little girl at the aid station, then projectile vomited three times, emptying EVERYTHING from my stomach! As puke was streaming from my mouth and my nose, I looked over at Dustin and said, "Did you get a picture of that?" Jeez, the one time he didn't have a camera! I wanted proof! Well, my stomach felt better, but it made me nervous that I was dehydrated now. Dustin decided he wasn't going to tell the parents about my mishap because all it would do was make them nervous and they'd be at the finish line regardless! After a few more miles, I had to use the porta potty in a bad way a few different times. My darn body was feeling great, no blisters, no aches, but my digestion was having a hard time. I continued to walk the aid stations and was able to get a little more in me, and I stuck with my plan of running from aid station to aid station! Kat and Scott were absolute lifesavers for being at the far end of the course when I needed it most and they kept me going with some figuring of how slow I could do the last few miles and still make it under 13 hours! I kept saying good job to everyone I passed; so many people were walking the majority of the run course (and apparently I passed a lot of people in my age group on the run). I really wasn't in too good of a mood by about mile 18, but because I was wearing that damn flower on my head and people were smiling and laughing and yelling like crazy, I couldn't NOT smile! I highly recommend wearing something silly during long races. I contemplated it this time, thinking I was now a "serious triathlete" and wanted to look "serious" but it helped SO much and what was I thinking? I'm not a serious person anyway! Even as tired as I was, I kept walking the aid stations, but running between them and before I knew it, I was running back into downtown again. Scott put Dustin on the phone and I asked him "Just gonna stand there and watch me burn?" I was faking all the humor and smiles I could just to keep myself positive. I thanked every volunteer and slapped every kids hand that I could find. I started to hear the finish line jamming and I finally knew I could do it! I started picking up the pace, but not too fast to not be able to take it all in. Scott told me where Dustin and the crew were on the finishing chute. I have NO idea what song was playing as I came in (that's something that I had envisioned being, "tonight's gonna be a good night" over and over in my head during training) but the cheers were SO loud, I couldn't hear the music! I slowed down to give my crew high fives and a quick kiss to Dustin, who I was so glad the Navy cooperated with his schedule so he could be there! I crossed the finish line and tried to pause for a picture upright before I did the symbolic ALS roll in memory of John Blais.....I didn't think I would be able to get back up,but I did! The finish line pictures were awful, but hey, our crew got so many good ones along the way! A volunteer caught me and walked with me and Dustin came running around the corner. I was SO glad to hug him and then to see everyone else! 12 hours 48 minutes and 7 seconds. I was an Ironman....for the second time! I got 23rd in my age group out of 128 women and I was in the top 30% of finishers (that doesn't count the around 15% of people that dropped out either!) On a day where people were complaining that they were one and two hours over their previous times or goals, I crushed mine by almost an hour and a half and "totally dominated" Dustin's time too (now he wants to do another one....ughhh!)

Dustin had a Pepsi for me at the finish, and I got a hot dog at the corner stand, and hugged and kissed all our AWESOME crew! I did a TV interview with WLKY that aired on the 10:00 news; I was told I got more face time than the male and female winners of the race! Ha!

What made my fundraising experience even more worth it, was the fact that a man came up to me afterwards thanking me for doing the ALS roll and for raising money because his father lost his battle with ALS. Later, he came back and introduced his kids to me and I found out that he just lost his Dad on July 19th, five years after he had been a completely healthy man. There sure is more work to do in research about ALS and it's tie to those serving in the military.

But as for now, I was the one who needed Medical. I headed to the tent where SO many others were as well. It took forever for them to take my vitals because they were so busy (but very nice) and then they started my IV. I suddenly had to pee, so they walked me to the bathroom and as I stood up, my IV shot out of my arm and started spraying blood! This scared me, and I started breathing hard and freaking out! Then, I got the chills and couldn't "shake" them. They made me change my shirt and wrapped a blanket around me and gave me HOT chicken broth that burned my tongue it was so freakin hot! They said I didn't need any more fluids after taking my vitals and just wanted me to stay there until I got warm. My tongue was on fire for sure and was honestly the part of my body that hurt the worst in the days to joke....closely followed by my quads, hammies, calves, shoulders, and low back! Absolutley NO blisters, which still amazes me after my feet hitting the ground 50,000 times and my knees bending over 70,000 times in just that one day. To say the least, I was SO thankful as I headed to the finish line with Mia (after her amazing first time finish of 14:10) and our crew to cheer on the last of the competitors coming in between 11PM and 12 AM. I really felt like going to the hotel room to shower, but I forced myself to support the other athletes after they had been out there for 17 hours. The finish line was jumpin and one person made it with 15 seconds to spare and a few came in just minutes after the cut off. Wow!

I am simply so thankful for my experience and all those I shared it with, both in person, and over the internet. Thanks for being part of my journey! Now, what's next? :)