Monday, August 25, 2008

Facing my fears. And the Ironman

I got this email from a friend (you know who you are), and I've been reading it over and over, so I decided to post it on my blog:

"Failure is a reality; we all fail at times and it's painful when we do. But it's better to fail while striving for something wonderful, challenging, adventurous and uncertain than to say, "I don't want to try, because I may not succeed completely."" - Jimmy Carter

Many people never make it to the starting line of an Ironman. This is why it takes courage. "what if I fail?" You have come head on with many of your fears and might have some on race day.....

But you were bold enough to catch a dream as it wafted by.... and you were committed enough to hang on tight in your training.... is it the Ironman itself? probably not. I think it is the pursuit of the dream and the beating back of the fears that makes the start line AND finish line so sweet.

Thanks M!

My denial is over. I realize Ironman is 6 days away. As I sent an email yesterday morning at 6ish am I thought that in a week I will be swimming in Ironman. I also added that I actually hope to be swimming and not meeting every volunteer in a kayak out there!

I haven't started packing yet, but I have lists everywhere. I think of things I don't want to forget, like an extra pair of contact lenses!

Over the weekend I started reflecting back to when I trained for Ironman Wisconsin and the race itself. My motivation for that race was stronger, it was to become an Ironman. Really, I did all of my training by myself without a coach. That's not an easy thing to do. I could have never done that this time, it wasn't worth it. So THANK YOU to all my friends that biked, ran, and swam with me, and who also listened to me complain (about the heat) this summer! It made this process a whole lot more enjoyable.

My training for IM WI was enough to get me through the distance, which I did, and just barely in the swim. Of course the rain that day in WI didn't help my bike performance. After recently reading a description Lauren Jensen wrote about the WI bike course I recalled all the hills and all the turns, some very sharp turns! No kidding my bike time was nothing spectacular. I remember just wanting to finish it safely. I also remember how relieved I was to be running, and to have that garbage bag on keeping me warm while I ran.

I started thinking about what this Ironman means to me? What is my goal the second time around? I guess to prove to myself I can do it again, and I can do it better, especially the swim. I would like to think that after an additional 2 years of doing this sport that will be possible. Yes, there are still some fears, there always will be, but this time I'm not venturing out into something unknown and I do feel greater confidence in that. The training is over and done and I feel good about the time and effort I put in.

The training is the hardest part of Ironman, I think. The actual Ironman is fun! When else do you feel like such a RAWK star?!?!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Brain training

A recent study stated that aerobic exercise increases brain function and learning ability. If this is the case, I should have the IQ of Einstein.

Quite the opposite seems to be happening.

My body has been tapering all week. This has been great. My brain has been doing the opposite.

I have obviously violated the "too much, too soon" rule. The training has either been too intense (because no progress has been made), or I have been completely inefficient in my training plan.

Today was "practice test" day. This is the equivalent of the dreaded swim, bike, or run test. And you know what. I failed! Yep, 61%, 122 correct answers out of 200 questions. The scarrier part is that 70% is considered a good score!

So what exactly was I doing all those hours this week I spent sitting at the dining room table with my head burried in books, and notes, and index cards? I have no idea!

I am stressed, to say the least. Good thing is I have more than 2 weeks until exam day.

Bad thing is, I have that little Ironman in between. Or maybe that's a good thing?

Another bad thing is that a couple of my classmates took the exam this week, were certain they failed because it was just that hard, and they passed. Now, these are young (23-24 year olds), with 4.0 GPA's (their whole life!). OK, so they have no kids, no distractions, and certainly no Ironmans in their life. Is that really such a big advantage?

So, I have decided I have to really get down to business and get my head on straight. My studying efforts the past week have not been effective. This calls for extreme measures. This calls for...trips to the library!

I spent 5 hours at the university library this morning. OK, the only reason I went to the university is because it happens to be in the same town as the lake that we did an open water practice swim this morning. IM training is helping my academic life! I really never spent much time studying in the library as a student, in undergrad or graduate school. It's just way too quiet. It's the perfect atomosphere for napping (which I probably did more of than studying). For example, there was one other person in the same vacinity of me. I felt bad because I kept sneezing (allergies) thinking I was distracting him. Then I realized that he couldn't possibly be THAT slow of a reader. He's asleep! OK, so now I feel bad because I might wake him up from a good nap.

In those 5 hours I managed to take a 200 question practice exam and then review all my wrong answers (and there were lots of those!). After about an hour and a half into the exam I found myself looking at the question number count thinking, "only 88 more questions", "only 55 more questions", "only 16 more questions". Does this sound familiar? As in, instead of questions, miles! I know I could have paced myself better. I went out too fast, I just wanted to get it done, and of course, I hit the wall at the end. I'll be more patient next time. At least I took advantage of the 15 minute break to go to the bathroom.

I have decided I have to really get a better plan together. After talking to a couple of my classmates (the smart ones who passed) I have identified some rookie mistakes. I have also decided that I really need to change my environment and make it more conducive to concentrating (if that is possible for me). If I really timed how much time I SAT in the dining room chair this week learning and subtracted all the coffee, computer, snack, and bathroom breaks, I bet I wouldn't be thinking I'm as dumb as I am right now.

Thanks to Susan's brilliant idea I have also found a solution to the 7.5 hour drive to/from Louisville. So that I won't wreck reading index cards, I have taped notes on a voice recorder. Even though my classmates (and every other PT I know) has said this exam isn't something you can "memorize", it's all application, I still think there are several things I need to have in my memory in order to be able to apply. Like for instance, today one of the questions had something to do with the nerve that controls pelvic floor muscles. The only reason I know it is the pudenal nerve is because of the many times I have had to pee in a race and realized my pudenal nerve was malfunctioning (that's what happens after two babies!). I know, I have a really extraordinary way of learning.

Since basically my whole career and ability to pay all those school loans off depends on passing this exam, and since it costs about as much to take this exam as it does to register for an Ironman (non-community fund), I'm feeling a bit of pressure. I guess the good thing is that if I weren't stressing out about this exam I'd be stressing more about IM next week. The Ironman, and the 2.4 mile swim, will hopefully seem a little less stressful. I know it will be hard, but at least I have a whole lot of "distraction" techniques to help me overcome it!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

DeGray Aquabike

I survived the swim! And let me just say it was a bitch! It is a darn good thing no one told me in advance that this year it would be one mass start, men & women, for both the 1/2 ironman and aquabike events. In the past 3 years when I've done these events it has always been men first, then women and aquabike competitors. So fortunately I didn't have much time to panic, only about 45 seconds.

Since my only goal was to finish the swim and manage my anxiety I just got waaay in the back, as if it were an Ironman swim start. I waited for the horn to go off, and waited for the crowd to start swimming, and then I started, really slow and easy. I was just going to stay left along the shoreline. This was a good plan, except that it was still crowded, no matter how easy I swam I was still coming up on people, and the first buoy was not that far out to the right. So I just kept trying to stay calm...long, slow strokes...breathe. I was singing to myself. A church song that was the only one I could think of, and then Marianne's "Believe" song. It helped keep me calm. I found it also helped the more often I sighted and got my head vertical. I stopped frequently and tried David's sidestroke. It works so well for him and at least the water wasn't coming right into my face, and I was still making some forward progress. I tried a little breast stroke, but that doesn't work for me. I thought of Mel and wondered how she did it in St. Croix with her head above water. But mostly I just kept praying. I kept tellin myself that I was not alone and that these conditions were a gift from God because they were testing me. He was giving me the opportunity to overcome my fears and to rebuild the confidence in myself.

OK, the best part of the entire swim happened somewhat early on. I was taking one of those "get your head back on" breaks, trying out the sidestroke and I hear a man say, "Sorry, Mira." My head was turned away from him, but I was surprised that whoever it was knew it was me. I turned and it was John, one the phenomenal guys that rides with David's group. I found so much comfort knowing that John was right there next me. I also thought it was so incredibly polite of him to apologize for hitting me (which I didn't even notice). I think he and I swam quite a while together, if not the whole way. It was probably the best part of the whole swim. Now if only I could have kept up with John on the bike!

Even when the crowd finally thinned out in the water, which seemed to take forever, the water wasn't any calmer. As I headed to the first turn buoy I kept wondering what were the water conditions going to be as we headed that direction. Well, they weren't very good because now we were way out in the middle of the lake. Repeat break and all the good and comforting thoughts (I don't know how many of those I took). I have to admit there were many times that "get out" entered my head. Fortunately, I was to overcome it and go on. I saw the next buoy ahead which was close to the island decided I would just try to get there. Plus Mr. Kayak was close by so if I really started to struggle he was there for the rescue. The water got a little better once I got to that buoy because as I told myself, the island was there and we were heading toward land, so surely the water would be a little calmer. Once I made it there I think that was the end of my panic breaks. I made the last turn to head to finish and I kicked in my "real" swimming abilities with no hesitation and no fear, just get it over with!

I really expected to see 5x:xx on my watch when I got out, which I would have been totally fine with because I finished. I was shocked to see 4x:xx.

I finally got on the bike after some difficulty getting my foot into my shoe coming out of T1. I swear I was so scatter minded yesterday morning. I was forgetting all sorts of things. One, leaving the velcro strap on my right shoe open!

The bike course was challenging and boring. Two loops of hill after hill after hill. Yeah, it was fun descending some of those hills at almost 40 mph, but it sucked climbing the longs one at 13mph for what seemed like an eternity. I was sort of disappointed in my bike time because it was slower than last year. They changed the bike course this year and I know that it is more challenging so I really shouldn't compare. Plus I had to remind myself that I wasn't "racing" this race like I did last year. We decided last Sunday (I think) that I would do the aquabike, and the main goal was to get in the water, deal with my fears, and get rid of the black cloud that has been hanging over my head since Memphis. Goal achived!

I crossed the finish line and handed in my chip and then had to do my brick run. The lady at "run out" thought I was crazy for running when I had already finished my race. And let me tell you, I had little desire to run and what I really wanted to do was just head for the food and massage tent! But, since there were SO many people I knew racing the 1/2 IM I thought at least I can run easy (which I was supposed to anyway) and cheer on the course. But the real reason I couldn't bail on the run was that I told Doug and Susan that's what we were going to do. And I was very happy to see them out there too following through with our brick plan. The 3 of us rode down to DeGray together, and the 3 of us are doing IM Louisville, so it made the race even more fun.

I can't wait to see all the pictures David took at the race. I've never seen myself in so much spandex but since I've met David and started riding with him that has changed. I seriously never wanted a back end view of myself on the bike in aero position and just wanted to keep imagining that my butt and hips are really a lot smaller. Marianne got some good early morning shots of us pre-race too, including the one above. Next time I know Marianne will be at a race I'll wash my hair so it's not so greasy!

The weather was a record for DeGray. Cool with overcast skies. It even rained very lightly and briefly in the afternoon. It sure beat the 100 degree temps I experienced there the past 3 years.

We didn't stick around for the awards and results. I would have liked to have hung out since almost everyone I know was there, but I have this guilty conscious about leaving Milan home with the kids while I'm out having "fun". When I got home I got a text message from Damie asking how it went. I replied letting her know I survived the swim. She wrote back shortly after, "Survived? I heard you won!"

Turns out I actually was the overall female winner of the aquabike. And I'm just going to end it there, like I know Jen would want me to.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

For Marianne

Thought you'd enjoy this, Marianne! Hope you FLY on Saturday!

Good luck to everyone racing at DeGray Saturday, Sunday, or both!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Ahhh, vacation....and taper!

I am having a fantastic week! Monday, I decided to take the day off from training (I didn't take last Monday off like I was supposed to b/c I was too nervous about school so I didn't think it was that bad). I was supposed to go to masters on Monday, but that was being held at a different pool and was going to be televised on the morning show along with the youth swim team. No thanks! I'll stay off of TV in my swimsuit getting my butt kicked in the pool by 10 year olds. I still couldn't "sleep in", I'm just not programmed for it anymore. Plus, I wanted to get up and say good-bye to my dad before he left for the airport at 5:30am. So I got up and pulled out the board exam review books. At about 9am I decided it was time for a nap! That was the first of two I took Monday, and then I got a massage! Do you think I was a little sleep deprived?

Speaking of sleep deprivation. During Saturday's ride/brick I was so tired I literally could have fallen asleep in aero position while pedaling! David told me this was good because I was putting out Ironman race pace effort. It sure didn't feel good. That was the longest 2.5 hour ride of my life! I was so not going to run when I got back to the van, but thanks to David and Jo I did it. I guess that's what happens when you finally graduate from PT school the night before and don't go to bed until almost 11pm, and you have a crappy night of sleep because you're all wound up from all the graduation excitement!

I've decided my coach might have to incorporate studing into my daily training plans. I don't know how I'm going to find the discipline to sit still and focus. It's like I've developed adult onset attention deficit disorder. Every time I sit and start looking at that review book I find myself thinking about everything else and the next thing I know I'm out of the chair doing something I'm not supposed to be. I'm not being too strict about it this week because I did want to have some fun with the kids and enjoy my time off for a bit. I deserve a little break, right? But come Monday morning when the kids go back to school I am really going to have to get down to business. I went ahead and scheduled the exam for September 8th at 8am. If I didn't have an exact date I knew I'd keep procrastinating. Kind of like if you don't sign up for a race you won't really train for it, right? Yesterday while we were shopping for school supplies I even bought myself new pens in an attempt to get motivated. That's what I do to not dread going to the pool, I buy myself a new Splish swimsuit!

I am making my return to the racing scene on Saturday at DeGray. Yes, I know, in a previous entry I said I was never going to do that race again because it's always so hot. Well, that's what I get for suggesting the aquabike option to my coach. Fortunately, we are lucking out with a "cool" spell here in Arkansas. The forecast for Saturday is high of 88, low of 67 with a 30-40% chance of rain. That will be much nicer than the 105 heat index we had the first year I did the 1/2 IM. The main purpose of this race is for me to get in that open water and deal with my anxiety. I did great last Friday during our "graduation day, open water swim training", but as you can see from the picture, the lake was like glass. Just how I like it! I'm not tapering this week in preparation for the race, quite the opposite, so I'm not expecting a stellar bike performance. It will be a very good, intense, training day. I just have to make sure I keep thinking positive out in that water.

Our other big event this week is seeing the new Star Wars movie. Luka has been talking about it just about as much as I did about graduation. I'm just hoping the force will be with me Saturday morning in Lake DeGray!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Doctor Mira Lelovic, Physical Therapist

It was the next best thing to hearing:
"It's a girl!"
"It's a boy!"
"You may kiss the bride!"
And of course, "You are an Ironman!"

I'll write more about what a wonderful day it was later. It's already waaaay past my bedtime. Just wanted to say thanks to everyone that made this day so special for me and for all you that have known me, and put up with me, while I got through this. It was the longest Ironman of my life!

You can click on the Flickr link on the top left of my page to look at all the photos.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Almost there

This is a picture of me, on my last day of "real" school, trying to look professional. I presented my FINAL case report and it was a lot more painless than I imagined. It definitely wasn't worth losing the sleep I did Monday night. I was up from midnight to about 2:30am tossing and turning and thinking about which slides I should delete and what I should have added. It was like having a race to do in the morning. And of course I did NOT want to get up at 4:30 to ride my trainer. But I did.

I got my manuscript and presentation grade back today. I got an "A" on both. That just goes along with my personality, low self-confidence, but pull through with the best.

We are having our licensure exam review course today and tomorrow. It's a bit ironic. I am about to start tapering for my Ironman and resting, but mentally I will just begin my training for this board exam. It really will be a test of endurance. 250 questions with 5 hours to answer them. When was the last time you thought that long and hard? I am glad I timed my Ironman the way I did. I have found just in the past 3 days that being off my feet sitting on my butt at school has made a tremendous difference in the way I feel. I am thinking that in that case all the training I have done that past 10 weeks while I was working hard on my feet 8 hours a day was just all that much more beneficial to my training.

The instructor for this review course made two analogies today to the board exam. First she said that we might think we're going to feel going out and partying once we complete that 5 hour exam, but "if you did an Ironman, do you think you'd feel like going out and partying?" Every person in the room turned around and looked at me. And I could honestly answer, "Hell no, I just want to sit on my butt and eat!" So I decided that after I schedule my examination date and time I'm going to schedule an appointment for a massage. What better way to relieve stress? OK, margarita's work too! The second analogy was that our practice exam consisted of only 200 questions. That's because, well as you all know, if you're going to run a marathon you don't run the whole 26 miles in training, you only do about 20. Duh! I am SO ready for this test!

So it occured to me today that I will be completing 2 Ironman's in a span of one week. I WILL finish Ironman Louisville on August 31 and I will take my physical therapy board exam on September 8. Seriously, if anyone is going to be prepared for endurance it has to be me. Unfortunately, my old age has affected my ability to maintain focus. Most of my IM training has incorporated distracting myself from the pain in front of me!

Hopefully all of my paperwork will be processed an I will be able to schedule the exam for that 9/8/08. I'm choosing the 8th because "8's" have been the theme for my graduation and they're supposed to be good luck for the Chinese. September 8th is also a Monday so I should know for certain by Wednesday, at the latest if, I mean THAT, I passed! I've decided I'll start working the last week of September and ENJOY my time off. I might even make a weekend get-a-way to NYC to visit my little sis! No races, just good shopping and eating sans kids and hubby!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Cruel Summer

I really shouldn't be blogging, but I need a break.

I managed to get my case report submitted on time last Monday. I've been working on the PowerPoint presentation this weekend that I have to present at school on Tuesday. Once that is over all the school pressure is pretty much over. We have a licensure exam review course Wednesday and Thursday, but I look forward to sitting on my butt for a change (which is what I'll be doing tomorrow at school too). They actually give us Friday morning, before the graduation ceremonies, off. I'm hoping to get my hair done and maybe a pedicure. But I have to make sure the "pedicurist" (if that's a word) doesn't scrub and scrape the bottom of my feet. I've managed to get them good and tough in this heat and I want to keep them that way.

The beginning of last week was very tiring. I was burned out. Milan was burned out. Ironman was getting to us. It got a little better Tuesday morning after bike intervals. I don't know how my legs had it in them to do it. I expected a really poor performance.

I finished my last day of work at the clinical on Friday. We celebrated with a trip to On the Border for lunch. No margarita's though. I had too many errands to do after lunch (I only worked a half day) and I had a long weekend of training ahead of me. Yes, I'm patting myself on my back for being so disciplined.

The local tri group made a trip to Lake DeGray yesterday to do a practice swim and ride the bike course. The DeGray 1/2 Ironman is in a few weeks and a lot of people are doing it, or the sprint the following day. I'm not doing either and am very glad. I decided the only way I'm ever doing the DeGray events again is if I sign up race weekend and we happen to luck out with a cool front. I'll gripe about the weather in a second.

It was super nice that we had Sarah and her husband come along with their kayaks and watch us while we swam. We were able to pretty much swim the entire 1.2 mile swim course. I bet the fisherman out there weren't too happy about us interrupting their peaceful morning on the lake. The lake was calm as usual, for the most part. I had two panic episodes. There were a couple of moments where the water got moving and it just made me sick. I don't know what my problem is. I stopped and yelled to Sarah who was there in a second. The first time I told her I wanted to go back, but then I thought about it and knew how pissed I'd be at myself if I bailed. I decided I better take advantage of this great training opportunity, how often do you have your own kayak in a beautiful lake right there with you? I went on until the group stopped to re-group, which made me a little crazy. I had no desire to stop out there in the middle of the massive lake to tread water (waste energy) and chit chat. Let's go people! Once we got going again another surprise in increased water motion, and another call out to Sarah from me. I didn't take too long of a break, just enough to catch my breath and see the light of day. Then we took another "re-group" break, ugh! One of the guys said, "The current is pretty strong right here". I hadn't noticed, but this actually got me excited. I have been trying to imagine what it will be like to swim against the current in the Ohio River. It's basically like someone has a running hose pointed at you under the water. It wasn't that bad. By the end of the swim I was getting used to the motion and I wasn't so worried. It might have helped that I knew we were almost finished. My arms were getting tired, I had swam at masters Friday morning too, and it did worry me that at IM I'd have another 1.2 miles to go, at least. I was frustrated, discouraged, and doubtful getting out of the water. I don't know how I'm going to survive the swim in Louisville. I do not want to be in that river for 2:20 like I was in Wisconsin. I do not want to deal with the panic and the sick feeling I get from the water motion. My only hope is that after 2 days of practice swims in Louisville I'll be able to adjust, mentally and physically, and get through it.

The bike ride was tough. Hill, after hill, after hill, in ridiculously hot and humid conditions. The tri group did one loop, about 31 miles, but lucky me and Susan got to add on another 25 miles. I made the mistake of suggesting that we ride back to Skyline Drive backwards on Channel Drive. I knew it was a fast downhill going out, but I did NOT realize just how friggin' hard and long of a climb it was going to be going back. When I looked up and saw Skyline Drive, where we needed to end up, my stomach dropped. I seriously thought I was going to have to get off my bike and walk it up, it was that hard. Yes, Susan cursed me and my bright idea too. I know the two of us are just that much fitter and tougher now that we accomplished that at the end of a 55 mile hard ride.

I don't know what was better, Sarah in her kayak on the lake, or Chris Irons out on the bike course as our sag wagon. Seriously, how often do you get luxury training like that? Yeah, I know a few of you readers do, but not me. Chris parked at every turn, about every 7-9 miles to offer COLD water and Gatorade. The cold water was so nice since my electrolyte fluids were piss warm. Chris even took my picture as he drove by me as I was enjoying that lovely little climb back up to Highway 7. Don't know how I managed to actually smile.

I made it home a little after 1pm just as I promised Milan. While I was gone having my family the rest of the family activities consisted of trips to Krispy Kreme, Home Depot, the Dollar Store, and the library. We were couped up in the house the rest of the day, because you know, it's just too darn hot to go outside here these days. It's a good thing we couldn't go anywhere because it gave me chance to cook, do laundry, and put together my presentation. I was in bed shortly after 8pm and up again this morning at my usual 4:30 so that I could do my 20+ mile run before it got too hot. Yeah right, nice try. It was 83 degrees with about the same percent humidity when I walked out the door at 5:20am. My runs have felt horrible. My body aches and I just drag. But I tell myself if we were having the temps that my parents are having in Pennsylvania I'd have that zip in my step. I also remind myself of how much training I've done starting the run and it should be hard. That's the point, right? IM marathon won't be easy either, but at least I'll go into the day well rested.

Which reminds me of how much I can't wait to start tapering! Actually, as of Friday my life is going to be so much nicer and easier. Next Monday I will not have to go to work or school or anywhere else. Of course I'm sure I'll get up and go to masters, but when I come home I can put my pj's back on and lounge around the house with the kids all day! I'm sure I won't, but it's SO nice to know I can. I'll have the whole week off at home with the kids, their last week of summer vacation. We have some fun stuff planned, but I hope I'll also sqeeze some studying in. Once the kids go back to school I will officially be tapering and my full-time job will be studying for that licensure exam so I can pass and start working by mid/end of September. The quicker I pass, the quicker we'll have a nice second income!

And now it's my turn to complain about the weather. I am SO envious of the comfortable temperatures you all up north are having. It is just miserable here and I am really tired of it. If I were not training for this stupid Ironman I might not mind it as much, but I am really tired of sitting on my bike for so many hours sweating my ass off and running in a fish bowl. We got free tickets to the minor league baseball game last Wednesday and initially I really didn't want to go. It was going to be hot, like 100 degrees. Then I thought, oh, I just have to sit there in the shade, watch cute young guys play ball, and drink beer. I don't have to pedal my bike. I can do that!