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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Ironman North Carolina Full #2

The more experience I gain as a triathlete, the more I truly understand that it is the journey to the ironman finish line that is the most important. I've learned that this matches our personal life as well. It is all about mental training, perseverance, and letting Mike Tyson kick your ass over and over and still stand up at the start line. It's starting as a Type A person and becoming one that stands up on race day to face all the variables that you CANNOT control and accepting it with your best effort, attitude and gratitude. That's the transformation to a Type Mdot personality.

IMNC is Ironman #2.  I have a training partner, a new coach, a new goal.  I just wanted different and I got it all in one big shit storm.  Marcus and I decided to train together as it would likely be our last full Ironman.  We are happier with the 70.3 races and want more flexibility and to travel to races in different countries.  IMNC was recommende
d.  It's flat and fast and scenic with loads of support which was especially good for Marcus who finished his first Ironman 11 months ago. (insert WIND always when a course has this flat description).  Our original goal was to finish hand in hand.  As my body parts started breaking down, Marcus continued to improve through our training.  We cancelled this hand in hand goal and decided to let him go get his PR.  I basically spiraled into living hell wondering if I could even be described as an athlete. I felt more like a fighting rooster missing a lot of feathers but still moving forward.

I started having major neck and shoulder pain, even more than during IMAZ, IT band issues, tendinitis under the knee cap (no power on the left leg), and the left foot was continually swelling under the fused toe.  As we started to ramp up training, we found the house of our dreams, well almost anyway.  We looked for about 2 years and of course it shows up as we peak for Ironman training.  I'm totally torn between my efforts in training and my efforts in moving and preparing the 1 billion pieces of paper required to buy a home.  We finally had our current home renter ready.  So I worked on finding the perfect renters and with some research connected to a military family that we just love (it didn't hurt that they REQUIRED a 3 year lease). However, I had 3 days between move out and move in before they arrived.  I had 19 years worth of stuff to sift through and separate and box up and give away within 6 weeks.  I had no idea how difficult this task would be on top of Ironman training and a full time job and Marcus's travel schedule.  There were 100s of trips to Home Depot, 100s of boxes were filled, the goodwill trips were continuous, the cleaning and painting was daily right up to the day they moved in with one tile replacement, carpets and tile grout cleaned, and last minute paint touch ups. It was the hardest 6 weeks of my life on minimal food and rest.

Our training schedule was modified and my body hurt 24/7.  It sure seemed I was in peak training although it didn't show in Training Peaks.  Once we moved to the new house, I had to get organized.  I wanted to wait until after the race but I just couldn't do it. The long rides and runs arrived and I was sore all the time.  I couldn't get past 100 miles on the bike without a complete breakdown in severe pain.  For the first time, I threw in the towel on the long bricks and then the long Sunday runs.  I was ready to quit and sleep forever.  I'll just be a sherpa.  No, I'll just switch to the 70.3 race on the same day.  Ironman Feds said no. I wrote them three times but no change. So finally after some realigning of goals with the coach, I took a deep breath and Marcus committed to holding my hand through the entire full race.  We went back to the original goal and decided a DNF is ok if you know you gave your very best on race day.  A DNS is quitting before the start line.  This is a formula for regret and the whatifs for a lifetime.  Remember pain is temporary, pride is forever so just do your best. The Ironman Feds finally wrote back and said ok, you can race the 70.3.  O.M.G. seriously?  I just talked myself into the Full, memorized the entire No Regrets mantra, changed my goals and now this?

Nope,  I. AM AN IRONMAN. period.  I know what it is to persevere and that is the definition I need to remember,  I'm not going to race the 70 and cry my eyes out on race day with the thought that I just threw away my full Ironman race, for what?  not a PR race , going slow as hell?  OMG  nope I will just blackout on the full course and be in happy painful pride that I gave my best.  I declined the transfer and merrily went into taper mode, more chiro visits, added 12 trigger injections in my shoulders x 2 visits, acupuncture, and foot injections every week to try to dissolve scar tissue so the marble in my footbed would diminish, added a knee band and IT band to the left leg and started packing. Then the sinus infection arrived. Whatever.. added the netty pot 3x a day to training peaks.

Packing for a destination full Ironman is chaotic at best.  Packing for two is just plain nuts.  I had to let him pack his stuff. What if he forgot something??  Let it go... I labeled bags, I prepared the fuel for us both, I gave him his checklist and we commenced the pack-mule exercise.  Basically, a bomb went off in the house from the start but eventually, all the trashbags and ziplocks and bottles were filled by swim, bike, run, morning, special needs run, special needs bike, workout/everyday clothes.

We bought new wheels for the bike cases because the airport had banged them up pretty bad.  Of course we waited to install the new wheels and they were the wrong model.  I knew this would end bad but hell, we'd carry them on a cart as much as possible and roll when required. (in the end, only the last leg back to SD gave us one broken wheel.  The worst part was spending $40 to ship them back to the UK to buy the correct model).  SO Tis' the night before leaving and what could go wrong?....ummm after 10 months of menapause bliss, Aunt Flo arrived, and it was bad. Please throw me more curveballs! I'm in the corner ring with Mike Tyson Round 10 at this point. Oh yea, the dentist says you need two more crowns.

Dear Ironman racer, we can't support the 112 mile course due to road restrictions from Hurrincane Matthew so how about 50 miles? See ya soon!  WHAT???!?!?!  Is this the 70.3 I mean 78.6 race of my dreams?  F' NO.  I am mentally in for 112 no matter what.  Why not two loops?  oh it's a point to point... so what !fix it!  I demand it! sniffle ..sniffle.. One more uppercut punch. thank you.

We arrived at the tiny Wilmington airport to get the only SUV.  No worries that the left rear tire was low on air and the front was dragging some cardboard thingy.  We didn't need it too much.  We will take it.  We felt the humidity immediately and took in deep breaths.  Hurry up and acclimate ok?

We arrived at the host hotel for a tiny cramped room with no microwave, no frig, and a coffee pot on its last leg.  Not one welcome sign for athletes anywhere.  "Hey are ya'll here for that marathon thingy.. umm sure. thanks."

We went to the Convention Center for the athlete briefing and expo.  Super tiny expo and YEA! all the 70 stuff is 10% off and 140 stuff is 25% off...hmmmm that feels weird... where's the 78.6 stuff?

At the athlete briefing,  the rep says you all get $150 towards 2017 Ironman races...(yea! that makes another 70.3 race a lot cheaper! didn't hear the whisper that it doesn't apply to halfs? oh shame on you.  it's not meant to be convenient!)

We basically rested as there is nothing to do in Wilmington but cycle around the neighborhoods which we did twice and we did a pre swim in the channel, We figured out all the logistics of all the drop offs.  You can't do this race without a car.  You never start and stop at the same place. T1 is 20 miles away from the finish.  It all works but it's a bit nuts.  The practice swim was pretty exciting I must admit.  We met our FB friends and started at 8am.  My first 500y buzzed in at 1:11.  I immediately thought that was the time of day.. 1:11 pm..wait what?  no its 8am... what the hell is wrong with my watch? is it possible that I JUST SWAM 1:11 per 100 yard pace?    I just kept swimming in the current that felt as fast as this picture and then, wham into the back of a person.. why are you stopping?  wham again.. wham again.  WTF is wrong with you people?  I KNOW IT IS A RULE SOMEWHERE.  There is no stopping in swimming ESPECIALLY WITH CURRENT...stop breaking the golden rule people!  (geez I learned this to be a recurring nightmare on race day).  I finished about 1500 yard swim in under 20 minutes and felt like I had just ridden the best ride of my life. WOW.  this is what it feels like to be a fast swimmer without effort...I could drink that koolaid all day long!  I can't wait for race day! The water temp was 73 degrees. It was bliss.

Then we walked the 1/3 mile transition run...OMG my feet are going to scream and swell on race day.  Marcus brilliantly found a dollar store nearby and we bought flipflops, came back and strategically placed them in the shoe rack, (I mean fence posts with everyone else that was a type A planner)..Here is where Marcus said he would meet me after the swim on race day.  My eyes teared up with guilt.  He had become such an awesome swimmer...I was .. alas.. the same...maybe worse with neck pain. He promised me he didn't care.  At least he would run across the timing mat for his real swim time for the record.

 Before we left, we found a person from Ironman explaining the buoys.  The swim is an S shape.  The buoys would shift from one side to the other during the swim but the kicker was 1) the tide was at 8:30am so the full swim would not get much benefit from the current but the halfers would motorboat into the dock. 2) they changed the buoys for the full and cut off the 90 degree turn into a 45 degree turn.  this made the swim short for the full mean you already KNOW it's short?  wow...I have no words. There is no explanation either. Garmin distance on race day: 3800 yards instead of 4224. So yes, I still swam 20 minutes faster than normal but that's because the distance was so short.

We never bothered with reviewing the bike course.  It just kept changing and all we knew was it wasn't what we expected.  At the athlete's dinner, they said 6 miles were added so the halfers got their complete race...again why can't we race two loops?  out and backs?  just let it go.  The run? hell I don't know actually. it's 2 loops I think.. whatever.  This race is a soup sandwich.

Race Morning breakfast without a frig or microwave: My oatmeal/coffee water just sucked... thankful for the backup of banana and almond butter bagel and Gu before the swim.  We took the shuttle to T1 to drop off the fuel , the Run special need BAG (no bike special bag now) and Edge computer and then shuttled again to the swim start with the morning bag about 2 miles away.  The weather dropped 20 degrees overnight and the wind doubled. The flags were flapping hard and horizontal. It's 45 degrees and we are hovering around the portable light for warmth and breathing in its exhaust until it was time to start walking the beach.  The morning bag went into the truck and we hiked across frozen sand cubes to 73 degree water. It was crazy!  Everyone was standing in the water, waiting for the start.  I was worried where to place myself because of the fast swim.  Well there were no lines, no markers, just a beehive of pink and green caps and the horn went off and we all ran into the water like we had been freed from jail.

I felt a lot of current in many directions, lots of wild kicking, lots of stopping and all I could site were caps hoping I was in the general area. I rarely saw buoys.  Before I knew it, a kayak was shoving people closer to the dock and I saw all the wooden ladders hanging off the dock.  I was pulled up and in shock because there was no way that was 2.4 miles but I never look at my swim time so I'm not disappointed the rest of the day.  I ran up the dock and rounded the corner feeling the cold air and saw Marcus waiting with my flip flops for 7 minutes.  What a wonderful sight to see!  I wasn't going to strip my wetsuit due to the cold but let the guy do it anyway and he was awesome in 10 secs and then we had warm water hoses to run under to rinse the salt like they have in Kona!  That was fun.  I draped my wetsuit over my front and ran to transition.  I changed and took in my inhaler again. Sprayed pain meds and cream on my neck and exited the tent to see clear skies and sun.  Suddenly I ripped off my vest and ran back to my easy-to-spot bag with orange tape and jammed it in.  I knew I would be warm in 5 minutes on the bike.  It seems if I have to run a distance to T1, I'm always warm for the bike.

Marcus again waited for me at the Bike Out, with his vest on...I hoped he didn't overheat.  We took off and within 10 miles, we slammed into 25+ mph head winds and we continued on this boring highway for 30 miles.  I laid in aero no matter how much pain because the wind was so strong.  I tried not to look up too often to save my neck.  We both wore yellow arms to see each other easily and it really helped because Marcus would go far ahead and then suddenly pull over to the right and let cyclists pass while I caught up and then take off again.  I saw a lot of cyclists sitting up as I passed in aero which made me smile that I could endure this position regardless of pain. We stopped at Mile 40 where he could finally remove his vest and he had to pee.  As soon as he said that, I peed on my bike.  The word Pee is a huge trigger for me!  Then after seeing my speed average drop for miles, we finally got some tail wind and cross wind to help us back up to 16 mph average.  We saw 3 major bike accidents with ambulances because I think people underestimated those cross winds and we crossed 2 bridges with metal grates that were actually quite terrifying to ride over.  It's one of those things where you just pedal steady, straight and hold on tight until it's over. If they had been wet, I swear I would have walked over them. I was grateful at that point it was only 56 miles because those 30 miles were hell and I had no problem not doing it again.  I have no idea if this is a good 112 bike course as a future reference because it was nothing like previous years.  I can say with the humidity, I drank all my fluids in 44 miles instead of 56 so I have to really pay attention to that in my future hot races.  A lot of people seemed over dressed.  Maybe I'm just always warm on the bike but my bike jersey and shorts were enough and most had gloves, jackets, as if it were winter!  I just saw all that clothing as wind drag.  Less is more and when in aero, you don't feel the wind much anyway.

We transitioned and took off for the run.  I had double straps on my left knee to hold the IT band in place above and below the knee and we ran pretty steady off and on through the park with some pretty scenes for 13 miles.  It was not nice to come back literally to the finish line and u-turn for the second loop.  I don't like racing with 70.3 racers because too many volunteers tell you it's almost over when you are starting again! We chatted with a variety of people and they were all so pleasant.  I could really feel the southern hospitality in this race.  I didn't see nearly as many "competitive" racers with no body fat and decked out gear probably because this race is two weeks after Kona World Champs so they are all resting in the post season.  The aid stations had their standard stuff, including chicken broth which was cold and terrible. There is only one small hill on this run course and the rest is pretty flat with scattered shade. We didn't see a lot of race support on the course ever besides aid stations every mile.  However when we neared the finish, the last couple miles are through downtown so all the Saturday night drinkers would cheer us on occasionally.

We finally got to our finisher's chute and we met our goal to finish before sundown due to the shorten course.  The Mdot carpet always chokes me up as we realized we had met another goal, raced whatever Ironman threw at us during our journey and ran with our hands together held high through the chute.  Mike Reilly called us an Ironman Couple and that made it all worthwhile. However I really missed the hot salty French fries and chocolate milk at the finishline from IMAZ.

Next up Ironman Puerto Rico 70.3 in March and Ironman Hawaii 70.3 in June.  We just might race another full in 2018 but I'm not ready to think about that yet.  I'd really love to race Pumpkinman 70.3 in Maine in September so we shall see how the season goes.

For now, we are just happy we met our goals, regardless of all the curveballs this season and have memories of our hand in hand race to last a lifetime.

PS: all Finisherpix in this blog were purchased but have not arrived yet.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

My 2016 journey to BQ

The first half of 2016 was dedicated to running and swimming.  My final would be Mountains2Beach Marathon on May 26. My success would mean a Boston Qualifying time.

I knew my goal was big. My feet are my nemesis.  I padded them well. I wanted it to come true on my first try but sometimes we don't realize just how much work is required to achieve a goal so big. Sometimes it takes longer to grow into the goal. What I learned was that we achieve many small goals along a journey and not reaching the ultimate goal does not make the journey end in failure.  It means we reflect, we learn our lessons, we dust off, and we carry on.  To be ultimately successful in my BQ journey, I will need to continue my speed drills, and persevere until tools like McMillian's Running Calculator agree that I am ready to try again.

I made some great progress while training with San Diego Track Club. I ran faster in shorter distances and ran further in training for a marathon as well. I averaged about 27 miles a week for 8 months so my running fitness improved.  I will likely try again when I'm closer to meeting the expectations required to be successful.  I have run M2B twice now and I can't say that I enjoyed the new course very much.  It lost a lot of its beauty this time with the course changes. The rollers on the second half made the overall race more difficult.

I must praise my mentor, James Ismailoglu for his patience, motivation and selfless support the entire 26.2 miles.  He sacrificed 4:33 hours for me personally and I am forever grateful for his presence because otherwise I'm not sure I could have finished without him.  We practiced a 14 miler together in training and we shared a common pace band from which uses the course elevation to calculate the best pace to follow mile by mile.  I learned that I need larger print on these pace bands!  These old eyes can't seem to focus on small print while running!  James would call out our 1 mile pace goal and we would try to follow it.  The course seemed pretty desolate.  There was only a short section along the pretty tree lined bike path this time.  There was a lot of broken concrete roads to follow.  Even though the net loss was 700feet,  the up hill sections were later in the race when you needed the most gravity to help maintain your speed.

James and I did well reaching the first half of the marathon goal 1:57:22 finishing at 1:58:27.  The only problem was I started to struggle breathing deeply by mile 10.  I had to stop for a minute and use my inhaler to expand my lungs.  When the weather is misty and cool, it is ideal for running but the thick air can bring on a tightness in my lungs.  I am grateful I purchased a 2XU tri top with rear pockets to hold my inhaler "just in case" although I have never used it during a run in the past. Planning for the "bad" sometimes pays off!  I struggled to meet the half goal and knew that the 2nd half would be a harder struggle to maintain this pace but I kept reminding myself that I could only give my best and it would be ok if I didn't make the ultimate goal.  I tried to remain positive, reduce the mental pressure, and stay close to James.

The 2nd half of the marathon has more flat sections but I kept feeling an increasing pain in my left foot but it was bearable until mile 15.  This was the hill I expected and it hurt but even worse was the downhill afterwards.  Now the left foot, which has a fused 2nd toe from a prior surgery, was now jamming into my foot bed due to lack of flexibility. My big toe was protected with a gel sock so when it hit the front, it had cushion and flexibility.  Now my "free speed" downhill became searing pain, leaning back, heel braking to brace against the pain, flailing arms, and pounding feet into the pavement.  Eventually the poor technique and extra pronation added more pressure on the outside of my quads and the inside of my knee which caused both to cramp. Even a double dose of ITSTHENERVE meds didn't stop my cramping left leg.  I couldn't stop the poor technique because I was fighting to stop the pain.  My BT headset had stopped by mile 6.5 so I could hear how heavy my feet were hitting the pavement. Mile 15-18 were mentally and physically hell.  James agreed that we had used up our reserves and were not going to make the goal.  He walked with me for about a half a mile and we worked on a walk/jog to push through the long straight sections.  We walked too long at times which turned my quads into cement making the jog/walk much too short to make faster progress.

We made it through the 19-23 mile straight section which was so boring and ugly.  I only made it worse by not eating much because I was so disappointed in my pace.  When we finally made it to Santa Clara street, James was able to keep pushing me from light to light with a jog/walk.  This was a mile or so of slight uphill but it seemed endlessly up although the pain lessened without the toe banging toe, but the quads were cement without much energy left.  It was pretty desolate on this street and I had expected crowds of supporters.  I was super happy to see Crystal at the turn and faked the biggest smiles I could muster because Jeff said to always smile to make things better.

 I faked it well until she asked me how I was doing and the waterworks started.  I was grateful for her encouragement and knew my hell would be over soon.  I just needed to press on.

The finishing mile of concrete has little visibility of the ocean and it winds around so that you never see the finish line arch. It really seemed an indefinite distance for me.  James continued to encourage me and in a few more bends, I finally saw American Flags and the finish arch.  We stopped for a finisher picture by the only race photographer I saw all day. James and I hugged and smiled with our chins up even if my feathers were in disarray!

I got my medal and just stood still while fighting back the ugly cry.  I couldn't believe I did better in 2014 with a 4:27 finish and 5 min run/ 30 sec walk strategy.  I had trained hard for 8 months and did worse than I ever imagined and had no idea why I had such a problem with my foot.  I heard the Boston Gong going off for the qualifiers and just dropped my head.  I had no family at the finish line and that was tough.  I kept looking for some one I knew and sure enough Elwyn Chaix came to me with sorrow in his eyes and let me sob hard into his shoulder.  He knew he didn't need to say a word.  I just needed to let it go and he was a perfect friend for me right then.  He was awesome.

After clearing my eyes, I looked at my phone and saw that Marcus and the kids were not far behind.  They were having a great race and it picked up my spirits.  Less than five minutes and Marcus was there for me and the sobbing started all over again.  My toe had a pulsating heartbeat by then and when I removed all my protective gear,  I saw the bloody blistered toe and realized the source of my pain from my fused toe jamming into my food bed.  The nail bed was completely lifted and filled with fluid.  Only another 10 minutes later and Ryan and Aliyah completed their first marathon too!  Marcus got a great picture of them.  I'm so proud of them all for meeting their goals!  Marcus also qualified for the USA invitational half marathon beating his qualifying goal by 3 minutes!

I tried to think of what I had done to cause this problem.  I had other toes protected with gel sock caps. I had the sides of my bunion scars protected with gel covers too.  My guess is that by changing to elastic laces, I had not had miles of down hill running to show me that over time, there was too much give in my ankle.  My big toe may have hit the front of the shoe but it was protected with a gel sock and it bends so I never felt the pain.  By the time my big toe would bend, the remaining pressure would be on my 2nd toe that was not protected and it could not bend and absorb the shock.  The pressure just jammed through the nail bed and into my foot bed for about 4 hours probably.  I changed my stride and gait to try to eliminate the pain instead of stopping to try to further tighten the laces.  I have no idea why I didn't think of this during the race.  I guess I was so focused on time that I felt I couldn't stop to look at my shoe.  I just kept going which was my biggest mistake.  I will use standard laces the next time I run for hours downhill. 

I will not try Mountains2Beach again but I will continue to improve my speed and strength over the next year or two and see if I can improve my technique and maybe try again at Revel Mt. Charleston in Las Vegas, NV.  Thanks for following my journey.  Stay tuned for the remainder of the year in triathlons .  My scheduled races are: June SDIT Oly, July Solana Beach Sprint, Aug Chula Vista Oly and Santa Barbara Oly, Sept IM Santa Cruz 70.3 and October IM North Carolina 140.6.  It's going to be a fast 20 weeks!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

What's up for 2016?

After my last triathlon in September, I took a break from everything tri related including my blog. I wanted to really think about my goals, my hobby, my options, my possibilities.  I wanted to build up my weaknesses and take the off-season seriously and not just a continuation.  It's the first time I haven't signed up for Oceanside in March so I needed a plan for the winter season training. My plan was to give my best to the NCC challenge Dec-Feb, take consistent Corepower Yoga Sculpt classes,  swim/run focus, and find out why I am struggling with some things.

One of the things that kept bugging me was why am I hungry all the time for all the wrong food?  I signed up for the SwimBikeFuel nutritional class and learned so much in 30 days.  I dropped about 5 lbs.  I learned that anything "diet" is just sabotage to gaining fat.  I stopped diet sodas and fat free yogurt and haven't looked back.  I reengaged my buried knowledge that fresh water is key to a healthy body.  If I am hungry at the wrong time, it's more likely that I need more water.

I found a swim coach....well described as the Mermaid Whisperer. Sickie @ UCSD can see underwater while hovering over you.  He describes changes that just click.  I've seen my pace steadily drop like never before.  He is so difficult to get in a lesson but once you get in the schedule, it's the best money you will ever spend on your swim.  I think I have tried everything out there.  If you are slow, find out why instead of practicing slow repetitively.  More of wrong never makes you better. Jim Vance once said if you swim 2:00/100s or slower, you have serious technique issues so fix it, don't practice it.  This is fixable but you need a Mermaid Whisperer to explain the problem because it's clearly not obvious to the swimmer.  NCC December had me pushing to swim every day until I missed a pool closing time so I changed my goals to PRs.  I peaked one swim workout at 6000 yards continuous and one week of yardage at 20,000 yards making my December swim miles over 34 miles.

 I realized how much I really needed a bike break.  I dropped my bike workouts to an EZ 2 hour ride
 on Sundays and it's so relaxing now to not think about cadence, power, pace, or grade.  Marcus and I
sleep in and go when we wake up and hope our route takes us to Lofty coffee or Swami's CafĂ© each week!  It's become more of a celebration date that we survived the week! We ride about 30 miles now instead of 100 every week, except in January! NCC Bike month arrived in January and we set up the trainers as furniture in the family room.  We fell into riding 1 hour a day kind of by accident and now we can't break the streak! So far January biking has been achieved 100% daily for at least 1 hour.  We started this streak by riding into the New Year on our trainers with champagne and haven't stopped!

I decided to really focus on a improving a long distance faster running base but I needed a plan and a group.  I joined a Fall SDCC running class which was part of San Diego Track Club to get me in the habit of running more often.   I started running 5 days a week with the class schedule.  I started speed drills.  I ran a different tempo every day and it felt great.  I am fueled by improvement and suddenly other goals start to flicker in my forward view.  My pace was improving. My biological father asked me one day, "When are you running Boston?" I just laughed and said that I'm just a triathlete and I don't focus on running speed.  However, I never forgot his question because it scared me.

Early last year, my tri coach had me focus on 5k running speed and this experience showed me that I could run faster than I ever thought possible.  Now with a run/swim focus, I wondered if my best could be Boston Marathon worthy.  I need to chase a goal with purpose.  This is a lofty goal for sure but then I realized that the worst thing that could happen is that I became faster... just not fast enough...and not right away. Was there a deadline? No.  In my AG, I need a 4 hour marathon to qualify for Boston.  WOW. That's huge since my fastest has been 4:27.  However, I didn't have a speed goal for that race.   My goal was to run 5 mins and walk 30 seconds.  I was simulating my 26 miles for my Ironman training in 2014.   I wanted it for confidence, not speed.  But what if I did focus on speed?  What if I returned to Mountains2Beach, one of the top BQ marathons in the nation, and followed a pacer?  What if????  I committed to work on it that possibility.  Then I learned that even if I could run a 4hr marathon, I wouldn't get accepted into my dream race.  There are more qualifiers than openings so in 2016, you needed to be 2:30 faster than your qualifying time!  OMG..and..if you are 5 mins faster than your qualifying time, then you will definitely get in.  OK this goal of 3:55 is like reaching for the stars. 8:58 average pace for 26.2 miles??   However I have learned through my Ironman journey that goals are achieved by reaching little milestones along the path.  You just keep moving forward.  Time passes anyway so just keep at it.  I have no deadline really and I have a willing body so I will continue to chase this goal until I get it.  If it takes a few years, well then I get more time to finish the marathon to  qualify when I am 55!  I really want that Boston Marathon jacket. 

It's the m-dot tattoo for "real" runners.  You see it and you know them.  You know they are hard-workers that persevere to achieve outstanding goals.  They are relentless. I've done it with Ironman and that was impossible at one point too... so I'm coming after you Boston.  I want in your club.  I.AM.RELENTLESS.

So I ended the Fall with the SD Holiday Half Marathon.  It was my checkpoint to start 2016. I was not hitting the paces I wanted so I adjusted my stretch goal because the #1 goal is get to the start line without injury. I would shoot for 1:55 when my fastest was 1:59 on the same course.

 I woke up race day with a cough and wheeze.  I took every med I could find. I loaded up on cough drops.  I gave all my body would give to achieve 1:55 but finished 1:56.  Although, happy for the 4 min PR, I was gagging and trying to throw up with a coughing attack at the finish line.  This was the beginning of my hell.  I worked so hard to start Jan 1 in my best fit condition for my marathon program.  leaner, faster, confident...but instead I got bronchitis... for 3 weeks...I wanted to cry every day.  My whole training world stopped. I decided I would take any exercise I could get with the lowest HR possible to control the cough.  I'd do anything to keep my base. Spin the legs and the arms and let the lungs heal.

Over the  next 10 days, I could barely swim but learned to cough under water if I swam really slow.  I used fins to make it easier too. I definitely could not run at all because coughing attacks were more like hail storms of wheezing, tears, gagging and sweat. Sleeping through the night was impossible as attacks were regular and could last 20 minutes. Biking on Sundays was at a crawl with constant cough drops.  I kept moving forward at whatever pace my body offered to try to hang on to whatever base I had left.  My office couldn't take the barking cough and sent me home to work for fear I'd get everyone else sick.  This part was actually pretty amazing.  I sat on the trainer in my family room quite miserable but still moving the legs eating cough drops every 5 minutes, lathered in Vicks, drinking cocktails of cough syrup, with my inhaler nearby. Just keep spinning.

I couldn't go to track workouts because the speed drills would have killed me.  January 2nd was the SDTC opening day for the Rockin N Runnin program for my marathon training. I  stayed with the C group on the track and coughed for 30 minutes straight jogging on the track. Tears followed.  I felt I would never come back.  I just wanted to be with my 8:30-9:00 pace group so much but alas I watched them take off for their run without me. I worked for 3 months to prepare for them and I was sidelined.  It was just terrible.  This virus was killing my spirit.  I ate bags of cough drops and carried my inhaler everywhere.  I don't know what I would have done without my SDTC mentor, Katherine.  She kept in contact all the time and was so encouraging that I would be joining soon. She gave me hope.  She encouraged me and empathized with me as she was also sick all of January last year and still qualified for Boston.  She kept the flame flickering for me! I'm so grateful for her.

The week passed and I was able to control the cough more.  It was the 2nd Saturday gathering of SDTC and still I watched my pace group take off.  I need to be in 8:30-9 group!!!  I stayed with the 9:30-10:00 instead.  I cough, I struggled, it was hell for a whopping 50 minute run finishing 9:25 pace.  I couldn't speak when I finished.  I coughed, gagged, cried, gasped and sadly went home,

Sunday was our blissful bike ride time.  I sat up in bed realizing I hadn't coughed as much that night but suddenly had a knife pain in my ribs.  My Lord, have I cracked a rib, busted my spleen, done so many ab crunches while coughing that something is torn?  I cannot take a deep breath without wrenching in pain.  I don't care. I must get outside because I couldn't take one more trainer ride.  That was a tough ride for sure and I held my left rib often, especially when I coughed.  I got a doctor's appointment for Tuesday.  My cough was nearly gone and I couldn't deep breath!!! 
I was surely falling apart. My Dr. took xrays and found I was clear of bronchitis but now had costochondritis which is inflammation of the cartilage and muscle between the ribs from the coughing attacks.  I was near hysterical when she said it could last for weeks.  She prescribed Motrin and Tramadol.  I tried one Tramadol and thought I was going to die from nausea, dizziness and sleepiness!  Thursday, I ran 50 mins on the treadmill in the most excruciating pain of my life.  It was worse than child birth. I talked with the Dr again and she gave me steroids.  I was begging for relief so I could run in some fashion on Saturday with the group.  I took 2 steroids Friday and one Saturday morning, and I was near 85% better!  I ran an hour increasing my speed the entire course ending 9:01 average.  I was on a runner's high for an hour after the run because I felt so free finally of everything holding me back.  No coughing attack!!

So better late than never, I'm crawling back to my speed, 3-4 weeks late to the game but here I am and next Saturday, I will try to be with "MY" group, 8:30-9:00 and hold on for 1:15... each week is a bigger challenge.  "I don't need to be the best.  I just need to be MY best."   So here we go.. I'm back on the Boston path!  I'm still struggling with Corepower Yoga because my core is still in some pain but I just do the best that I can and thank my body for bouncing back as fast as it has already.


During my dark times, I reflected on my heroines.  Julie Dunkle, Leslie Myers, Tracey Cohen, Lesley Paterson and now Katherine Ayan.  They have fought through many battles of their own, but as warriors with heart, they have always come back stronger, better, faster, and wanting more. I am so grateful to watch your journies and thank you for the inspiration because at times, it was all I had