It’s Just A Little Ding On The Head

Concussion.  In our sport?  It’s just a little ding on the head.   That little ‘ding’ might be a whole lot more.  We normally associate concussions with sports that have a little more violence like hockey or football.  But research demonstrates that there doesn’t necessarily need to be a severe crashing of the head, to be concussed.

‘A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury, or TBI, caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that can change the way your brain normally works. Concussions can also occur from a fall or a blow to the body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth.’  as defined by the CDC, or Centers for Disease Control.  

The best way to think of this, is your brain is housed in your skull, surrounded by fluid.  The fluid is supports and reduces the movement of the brain, so the brain doesn’t bang into the skull.  And yet, if the motion or trauma to the head is severe enough, to impede normal function, a concussion has occurred.  The bump could be as simple as misjudging the distance to the wall while swimming backstroke, or as complicated as banging your head after falling from your bike, or tripping during a run.

So, how do you determine if you or your athletes, or your training partners have a concussions?  Did she bang her head?  Did she incur a jarring of her head, like a whip-lash effect?

  • Ascertain what happened.
  • Is it safe to move the participant?
  •  Determine ABCs– airway, breathing and circulation.
  • What is the cervical spine status?
  • Do you need emergency transport?
  •  If the person is concious, look for signs of brain injury.
  • Ask the participant questions about orientation, like the time, the date, where she is, what she is doing.
  • Ask for symptoms:  how severe is your headache on a scale of one to ten.  (An athlete will deny a headache or other pain).  The severity of the symptoms will correlate to the recovery.

Signs of a concussion include:

  • Possible loss of consiousness
  • Loss of Balance
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • One or both eyes dilated
  • Inappropriate answers to question:  for example: what day is it?   Answer:  february.

Symptoms include:

  • Headache  — ask how bad is your headache?
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Amnesia
  • Nausea
  • Intolerance to bright light and/or loud noises
  • Ringing in ears
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Poor attention

An athlete that has suffered from a concussion needs time for the brain to heal.  Normal activities may seem labored.  Cognitive exercises may be challenging, or require a great deal of focus that the injured does not have.  Part of the healing process may require removal not only from athletic practice, but also academic or other work.  This can be a time period of seven days to three or more months, depending on the severity.  This should be determined with the direction of a physician.

Helmets have shown to be beneficial in minimizing some concussions.  The helmet absorbs and disperses the shock wave to the head.  The result may influence the force that impacts the brain.  In cycling, we must ALWAYS wear a helmet.  This is not only to prevent a concussion but to also protect our skull in a fall.

All injuries may not be preventable, but hopefully by increasing our awareness of the dangers associated with our sport(s), we can minimize these injuries.  A bump to the head cannot always be prevented.  I trust this will help us recognize some of the signs and symptoms that might have been previously dismissed.

As always, be careful out there.

Death Before DNF

Pain is temporary.  Quitting lasts forever.‘ — Lance Armstrong

And the racing season is upon us.  The mantra among endurance athletes is, death before DNF.  None of us want that mark on our record.  We will do anything to avoid the DNF.  But our goals and our realities are sometimes very different things, in very different places.  At what point do  we choose to protect ourselves, so we can come back to compete another day.  I once listened to a coach chattering about mile 20-21 in a marathon.  That is the point where decisions need to be made.  Are you able to finish, or do you need to call it a day and tackle that race another time?  I scratched my head at the time, curious as to why this coach would encourage a DNF, but he was being realistic in his coaching.  There are times that we need for our own health and safety to end the race.  

In my endurance racing, I have two DNF’s.  In one race, I managed to fracture a metatarsal in my foot (bone leading to the phalanges or toes), and there was no way I was going to finish the run leg of the triathlon.  And the other, two miles into the marathon my hamstring cramped.  After doing everything I could do, the hammie would not quit, and there was no way I could comfortably finish the race and go out another day.

The reality:  none of us wants to train hard and put in those hours for the event and NOT FINISH IT.  To not go out and be competitive and give this our best is just INSANE.

The truth:  we need to be sensitive to the needs of our bodies.  Sometimes the body is saying something completely different than what the mind wants to hear.

But at what point do we need to choose our safety and our health to be able to come back and race another day?  We need to change our attitudes toward the race and the potentiality of anything that can happen out there.  We need to remember what we love to do, and that we would like to continue to do this again.  We need to understand our bodies, our limitations and the difference between going hard and going dumb.  

Take a moment and think of your racing schedule.  Those of you who are not beginners, have several training races on your calendar.  Those are the races that test your training, your fitness, and teach you new skill sets.  Those are NOT your A races.  Beginners:  this is what you get to look forward to.  Those races your are doing now, are laying down the foundation for future races in future seasons.   An A race is what we consider the most important races.  The A race is where we expect to qualify, to PR, to achieve the ambitious goal we have set before us.  The B and the C races– the training races, so to speak– are the races where we might do amazing things, but are designed in training to teach us, to test us, to define our needs, our strengths and perhaps our limitations, those things in which we need to spend more time working on.

At any time, anything can go incredibly right or terribly wrong in the race plan.  When is it appropriate to keep pushing through or to call it a day, so you can return to complete another?

Only you, the competitor can decide what is best for you, as you are competing.  You need to learn how you respond to the challenges.  You need to understand you.  There may come a time that you need to make that hard choice of DNF or racing again tomorrow.  It isn’t easy.  In fact it is downright disappointing.  Ultimately though, I believe we all want to be safe out there.

Have a great season everyone!!

Ironman St George: Part I: The Swim

Where do I start?

I am thrilled with my result.  4th place Pro woman in a come from absolutely last (by far) fight.  It is all that what ‘never give up’ truly means to me.

My experience in St George is so expansive I am struggling with the picture frame to put it in.  I have had more than a few requests to put a race report, to help people understand what this “toughest Ironman ever” really meant.  I’ve talked to people about the race, mostly to help release some of stress that occurred to meet the immensity of the task, but I’ve yet to put it all together in a cohesive way.

Here’s my best shot.  Piece by piece, sport by sport, because this was quite the race.

The swim:

It was calm.  I had swam in Sand Hollow reservoir twice before the race, both times it was windy and there was a bit of chop, not the end of the world, but as we were swimming early, I, like many people, assumed there would be not much wind out there.  And race morning seemed perfect – it was a treat to get in the water and warm up (sort of, at 63F/17C the water was as ‘warm’ as it’s ever been), but it was comfortable.  Key word, “was”.

average conditions in the ‘windy’ late morning for practice swims

Pro-start was at 6:45 am and it was peaceful and straightforward – a far cry from all other age-group mass starts I have ever done.  I was at the back of the back, but I was ok with that, and was swimming with a small group of girls until the first turn, about 1km out.

Sign #1 that something was amiss.  As we were swimming out, you could start to feel a bit of a roll, no chop hitting you in the face, but more movement than is normal for what started as a calm water swim.  Then things became more apparent as I turned the first corner.

Waves had kicked up and were swelling to swimmers left, so I did my best to relax and work methodically across the 2nd length of the swim.  It was getting a bit tough to see where we were going as buoys became harder to sight.  At this point I told myself not to worry about sticking onto any packs of other pro women and just focus on doing what I needed to do.  That became increasingly difficult as I rounded the 2nd turn.

To give you perspective, Meredith Kessler finished this swim in about 52 min (absolutely incredible!).  I finished in 1:34, so I was out there about 40 min longer and therefore spent a lot of time suffering in increasingly bad conditions.  Although anything can happen in a race, I had planned on trying to make it through the swim in about an hour or less, that was what I had trained for and was on track for.  But anything can happen.  And this race, at this 2nd turn, was not about time anymore.  It was much more important than that.

It became very unnerving by the time I reached the 2nd buoy.  I was alone, being the last pro swimmer in the group.  The waves were in my estimation, about 4-6 feet tall, and in talking to other people, that seems to be the general consensus (therefore, not a Clayton-‘exaggeration’).  If you’ve ever swam in something like this, then you know how challenging this is.  You swim up and down, smash into walls of waves, fall down waves you’ve crested, and as finding your balance in the water is very difficult.  Reports were that wind on the water reached 40mph+.

(pls let me know if this is your photo & I will credit)

So I was alone, often stopping to tread water, attempting breast stroke to calm down my rate of breathing (as I was tending to hyperventilate a bit), and going no where.  In fact, breaststroke was more tiring at a point than attempting to swim about 15-20 strokes, then hitting a wave and swallowing more water, so I often had to just get swimming to save some energy (ironic).  I was often looking left and right to see where the ‘spectator’ (which will soon turn to ‘rescue’) boats where, and I watched a kayak guy dump in and struggle to hold onto his boat (no idea if he got back in).  I watched a speed boat launch off waves going into the wind, I watched another one rolling along in the surf.  It was at this point that I started to worry about my safety, because I was getting really tired.  Panic, I can manage to a point, I know what’s happening and I can keep a pretty level head, but there is no way to trick yourself out of energy loss in violent water.  Nor was this particularly warm water, so that also added to the energy cost.

I took on a lot of water, mostly, I think, swallowed.  I have no idea how much of it I might have inhaled.  That also means a lot of air, which eventually leads to burping (if you’re lucky), gagging (if the burp won’t occur), and then vomiting (the least of my problems).  If you are also somewhat prone to sea sickness & it’s symptoms, this water would have caused it.   At one point, while I was doing a combo of all three while treading water and getting hit by waves, I saw a kayaker who was out of his boat and sitting on one of the submerged rock platforms in the reservoir (there are a few but you’d have to be a local to know where they were).  He yelled something at me (which I couldn’t hear b/c the wind was so fierce but I knew what he was asking) and then flashed me the a-ok sign as a question, and I nodded and flashed it back.  I didn’t feel a-ok at all, but I didn’t want to give up.

(if this is your photo, pls let me know)

I eventually came up open a paddler who had managed to keep her board upright and was holding onto a buoy.  She encouraged me to come over and hold on for a minute.  I held on for a while, maybe 3 minutes, maybe 5, I have no idea.  I asked her where were we supposed to go.  Waves were so big it was difficult to sight and the air had a bit of a haze (maybe from dust or sand) to it that made it difficult to see in the distance.  Buoys had blown off course.  She told me where to go, and that there was another boat at the turn (this is about another 1km to go before the 3rd turn).  I asked her how many more buoys.  She said about 4, or 5, she wasn’t sure, but it gave me a goal to be able to work on.  I pushed off her boat and tried again, faced with a lot of white frothy waves ahead.

All I could think was, I would just be so mad if I didn’t get the chance to ride my bike and run this course.  I would feel as if something was stolen from me.  There were some very difficult moments out there floating in the water just deciding what was the right thing to do.  I’m a sensible person, but I’m also very competitive, and I have a lot of faith in my ability to be tough.  It was hard to know what the right thing was to do.  Then at a point, there really was no other choice but to swim forward and find your way to shore.  I did start to worry about weaker swimmers going down in the lake.  Thoughts like that only amp up your anxiety, so I tried to put it out of my mind and just focus on myself.  Was I worried about drowning?  The thought had crossed my mind.

At this point, the fastest of the age groupers caught up to me.  In fact, the first person I saw was a woman.  She stopped and asked me if I was ok.  Just knowing someone cared helped lessen the stress.  Then more age group men came along.  This was reassuring also, because I had been swimming on my own for a long time and being all alone in the water (as in, no boats even remotely close) was scary.  Everyone was in the same boat, everyone was being respectful of the challenge in the water, giving each other space and just getting through this thing.

One sensation I found interesting was I kept feeling rain splattering on my face and back.  I thought this might have been spray from the other swimmers, but eventually I realized as I was treading water, that the tops of the whitecaps were blowing off and spraying down the waves into us.  New to me.  I think my saving grace in this entire event was that I grew up near the ocean, and have spent a lot of time playing in big surf and rolling around in waves, some time surfing and having to crash and roll and stay composed in the power of water.  If you had just swam in a pool before coming here, this would have been beyond your worst nightmare.

One major red buoy blew way off course.  Because I had stopped to talk to the kayak woman, I knew the buoy was wrong, but there were a lot of people swimming towards it (adding ++ extra distance if they then continued on to the correct turn near the motor boat).  There is some speculation that some people didn’t actually complete the full course.  To that I say I really don’t think it matters much, if it meant they got to shore safely.  It’s just a race, and safety is paramount.  However, after swimming all that way there was no way I would not get to the last buoy.

Amateur video of the race can be found on this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=DNAzuRMS23E

In finally making it to the turn with a scattering of bodies we turned and headed back to shore (500m or so maybe?).  Waves were now crashing from the right and rolling us over, but it was ‘easier’ swimming and your energy cost of swimming was lessened.  It was also hopeful, to know that you were swimming ‘home’.  It took a bit of work to swim straight and I felt I was often getting pushed left but the swim exit became closer and closer and I’ve never been happier to see land.

I was immensely proud of myself getting out of the water, and so proud that I had earned the right to continue on with this race.  I was also absolutely exhausted and mentally drained.  But biking is easy right?  You’re not going to drown, you can coast & recover, you can eat, and you can warm up.

Hmm.  Only somewhat true on the day, but I hadn’t found that out yet, because I was busy repeating myself in T1 to the transition girls that I was “just really cold, really really cold”, and “so tired”.  I probably said that 5 times.  They helped towel me off, get sunscreen on, and get me moving.  They were positive and encouraging and so incredibly supportive.  Their empathy was immense.  Writing this experience brings a tear to my eye as I wrote that last sentence.

I have never experienced something like that I hope to never again.  However, I now know that I have the ability to deal with an event like that, and rely on myself to get through.

I would like to again extend my warmest regard to all those ‘spectator’ boats that soon became ‘rescue’ boats.  There are a few numbers floating around out there but last I heard was that 275 people were pulled from the water.  Another 50+ finished the swim but did not make the cut off.  It is amazing that nothing worse than that happened, and that is a testament to the courageous efforts by race directors, volunteers and anyone who was out there helping out, including, I’m sure, other swimmers that helped swimmers in the water.

Stay tuned for Part II: The bike.

At least it was so ridiculous that one can only really see the humour in it.  I promise to guide my writing into a more uplifting format.

To all the IM St George swimmers, be very proud of your accomplishment.

My First DNF

Hello GO TRIbal!

Happy Halloween (almost)! I hope everyone has signed up for a Halloween 5k…it is always SO FUN to dress up and run with your favorite gals. I also hope everyone is enjoying my favorite autumn treat: PUMPKIN CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES!

This past weekend, I attempted to run the Pony Express 50. Last Monday, I came down with a terrible cold–and never really recovered. My boyfriend and I drove from Missoula to Faust, UT on Thursday and got ready to race. We met his parents (seasoned triathletes and adventure racers) there and had a great time. They were our support crew and main source of motivation on the god-awful, straight, desert-surrounded dirt road.

Fifteen miles into the race, I started having coughing fits and I couldn’t open my lungs in order to breathe how I normally do when I run. I decided to drop out and crew Bryce for the rest of the race. I was disappointed, but I think I made the right decision. My legs felt great, but my lungs didn’t. I paced Bryce from mile 40 to mile 45, and had a great time getting fuel ready and getting a tan in the sun while Bryce maintained his composure on the hellish course. It was fun to watch Bryce–and all the other athletes–finish the race. I have never really watched an ultra…I’ve always just gone to races because I was doing them. I definitely learned a lot from watching the top runners and their strategies. One thing that made me happy was that there were two female athletes kicking ass at the lead of the pack. I wondered to myself if they knew about GO TRIbal–and the empowerment that it provides to so many badass women and girls. The strength, grace, and femininity they exhibited in a sport that causes so much pain and mental torment was amazing to me. It reminded me of the reasons I want to grow and develop as an endurance athlete–whether I am biking, running, climbing, or mountaineering.

I learned that it is important to take your body’s condition into consideration before attempting to do something as strenuous as an ultramarathon. However, I am excited to enter into another 50 as soon as I can. My first DNF will serve as a lesson and a reminder of the way I need to feel before I do a race. And I probably won’t DNF again because of this experience. As athletes, I hope you will strive to be healthy, badass, and good-natured always. Take care of yourself, and if you are sick, make sure you are better before you do something that will make you sicker. Keep rockin’ it! And don’t forget to act like a lady–because ladies are strong and awesome.

Race Plan Outline

Racing season is here. Some of you may have already been to Arizona, California or Texas to test out your springtime fitness. Did you follow your plan?

Below is a form I use to reference my race plan. I fill it out about 6-8 weeks from an important race, during my build/race specific training phase. That time frame gives me plenty of training sessions to practice my pacing, mental and nutrition strategies I plan to use for my event. Writing it down, I can reference my race plan outline which often eases any anxiety I may have. Having a plan reminds me of all the preparation I have done, helps me confirm or reassess  my SMART goal I made the previous months. I am ready for a fun experience come race day.

Key components of a race plan

Reviewing your personal goals for your race is the first step in formulating your race plan. Goals should follow the SMART goal acronym.

With your overall race time goal established, you can now establish your time goals for each segment of the race based times achieved in training or recent performance You and/or your coach should work to create realistic yet challenging race pace goals.

Next you should develop your personal race day nutrition strategy, even if this is your first event. This means deciding what you will eat and drink before, during and after your event based both on science and practice. A good coach or sports nutritionist can help you with this. Race fuel is a highly individual matter. As a result, it is vital that you create a plan that works for you and practice it.

Finally, you need to plan out the mental approach and specific strategies that you want to have with you during this race. After some reflection, you should be able to generate a list of mental traits that have been successful for you before. You can use this list to create a concrete mental strategy for the various parts of your race day.

You should be practicing your race plan in your training rides and runs to make it second nature. If you have a great plan for the race AND HAVE PRACTICED IT WELL, then you will keep your emotions in check more easily and do what is best for you on race day.

Goal Time

Pacing Strategy

Nutrition Strategy

Mental Strategy

Breakfast

N.A.

N.A.

I will relax…………….

Pre-Race

N.A.

N.A.

I will stay relaxed………………

Swim

N.A.

I will stay within myself…………………

T1

As I perform my transition tasks, I will look around, smile and enjoy the great spectacle around me…………….

Bike

I will focus on pedaling smoothly, powerfully, and efficiently.  Especially as I fatigue, I will concentrate on my form….

T2

I will enjoy the emotion of the day.  I will gather my excitement, as I know I have  a run between me and the finishline.

Run

I will set my mental focus on my running form………………..

Post-Race

I will have fun and share the day with my family, the volunteers, and my fellow racers…………………………

Lucky To Have You!

Hello, GO TRIbal!

Spring is officially here! Yesterday was the first day. I am so excited for summer road riding and mountain biking and running in shorts! I’m excited for morning book reading and walks to the coffee shop for iced coffee. I love the warm sun on my skin and the happiness that warmth and sunshine brings.

Saturday my friend Carli and I drove to Bozeman, MT for the Run to the Pub half marathon. It was Saint Patrick’s Day, and I had A BLAST! We decked ourselves out in green nail polish and all the green spandex we could get our hands on (hands, nail polish, no pun intended). I was rather sore and tired from a hard day on Wednesday and a tough workout on Friday, but the run was 13 miles of downhill and relatively nice weather. The comraderie and level of positivity was AMAZING! Carli beat me by nearly 4 minutes…that little gazelle! I spent the last couple miles of the race trying to keep up with this ripped old man. He was sprinting so fast and encouraging me and we finished the race together. He came up to me afterward and gave me a big hug and told me that “we helped each other!”

It seems like I make new friends at every race I go to. I am so happy to be part of a community of active, healthy, and happy people who are united in something that is pure and wholesome. I am so LUCKY to have legs to run on and bike with and friends to run and ride with.

Right now I am training for my second season of wildland firefighting. It’s hard to fit all the running and riding I would like to do into my schedule, which mostly involves skiing, hiking, lifting, climbing, and doing hundreds of pushups, situps, and pullups in a day. But every time I go on a run, I am reminded of how good it feels to do so. I am grateful to have such a huge community of active women who I can look up to and talk to about things I feel passionately about.

Have a GREAT day! I am lucky to have you all!

Cheers!

Women’s History Month

I was asked this morning who my favorite female athlete is/was and how she influenced me in my athletic career.   I had to think about this a moment, since the athlete that influenced me the most is not a woman.  Edwin Moses, the greatest hurdler of all time, was the reason I ran track.  He was the reason I ran 400m.  He later became a mentor and friend after his retirement.  I really had to think, on the women who were influencial.  And……

Jackie-Joyner Kersee.  An amazing power house in track and field.

Florence Griffith Joyner.  Another power house sprinter.  I remember shedding a tear when she died.

Julie Foudy.  Women’s soccer.  What is there not to love?  We beat the world at the world’s game.   It was thrilling when I met her, after seeing her play in Greece.

Lynne Cox.  The woman who swam to Antarctica.  I love swimming; but the water there is COLD.   I also enjoyed meeting her recently.

Dara Torres.  She is my age, and is still competing.

These women are the women who have influenced me in my career past and present. When we think that the first woman had to dress up as a man and sneak in a race, to be able to compete in the marathon, there are many women who are every day doing amazing things in sport to inspire and influence us.

Who has influenced you?  AND why?

Marriage Proposals, Tylenol And Birthday Surprises

This is how it all started on Dec. 4, 2011.

Well, that’s how marathon morning started. But more on that in a bit.

The actual weekend started with an incredibly delish surprise. You see, I turned 40 on Dec 3, and i was flying up to Sacramento with my hunkofburninlove to get this celebration started.

My hubba-licious didn’t board the plane with me and requested that I save an entire row once I plopped my barely awake bones in a seat. (It was 6:30 am)

Next thing I know, I see my dear friend Marison B walking down the aisle behind him. SURPRISE!!! Marison was coming to join me and my family for my birthday weekend and first 26.2.

The only thing i can be upset with her about is that nobody should look this good when they’ve been up since 4:30 am.

————————————————————–

Marathon Memories

“The really happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery when on a detour”

i was eerily happy going into the marathon. on a relaxed trail run with Marison 6 months earlier, I’d said I was thinking about doing 26.2. My heart and mind felt like i was ready. before I could finish waxing on about my philosophy about  my readiness, Marison was like a fully engaged faucet; spurting out marathon after marathon that I could sign up for in the fall or winter. So, any ‘homework’ i was going to have to do to procrastinate was effectively negated by my marathon-savvy friend. My excuses for bowing out were essentially become null and void.

Come December, my enthusiasm for doing the marathon was only tempered by my unlucky streak of serious injuury on my journey to the starting line. I had set a rather audacious (and hairy) goal in August — I was going to turn 40 Dec 3, and then qualify for the Boston Marathon the next day, in my first 26.2 competition. So there.  But in the 10 weeks before race day, I endured a bad case of plantar fascitis that left me with gaping holes in my training schedule; then a surgery on my chest for basal cell carcinoma, that had complications; and finally, a busted set of ribs that prevented me from running at all 5 weeks before my race.

In the advertisement of my goal, i learned what an incredible group of people I’ve come to be surrounded by. Not a one of them smirked, joked, questioned, or otherwise ridiculed my insane goal. it was just the opposite. I found tremendous support, “Hoorahs!”, “You WILL do it!”, and more from each person who heard of my goal.

Lesson #1: Even when you think your goals are nuts and ‘impossible’, if you are surrounded by those who believe IN YOU, they will believe in your goals too. Happily & with equal enthusiasm [and, perhaps, distorted realities.] Those are good things.

The day before the race was spent enjoying time with family and celebrating my 40th. As with all such activities, food is always a centerpiece, and we scarfed some serious grub soon after picking up my race packet.

Breakfast with friends and family, Dec. 3.

Marathon morning was a chazilly one – 32 degrees. I was stoked, and my fear of “not being ready” had faded a few days earlier (likely into a fog of anti-inflammatory drug-induced bliss). My plan was set:  Run the first 1/2 at a slow, painfully easy pace and then pick it up so that the last 10K was my fastest split. I had trained for negative splitting, but that was in my long runs — over 4 weeks ago now. And my longest run had been 19 miles. Still – i was blissfully ignorant of what lay ahead. So I had delicious butterflies in my stomach and goosebumps the size of Texas on my legs, as I stood with the thousands race morning.

I ran separate from a pace group, but did have a friend of my cousin’s running the race, so we started together. unfortunately, he had done this race in 3:31 recently, so I knew I was going to have to stick to my game plan and let him go.

yeah. right.

first mile: 8:57 (Game plan: 9:30)

second mile: 8:56 (Game plan: 9:30)

third mile: 8:37 (Game plan: well, you get the idea)

the rumors around this race were that it was a “flat, fast course”. rumors are usually spread by people who have not actually done the races they are speaking about. the California Int’l Marathon – where i found myself toe-ing the line on Dec 4- is one case in point. It may be a net 200 foot loss in incline, but that doesn’t mean it’s flat. In fact, I learned just how un-flat this course was. And, days later, I’m still feeling the effects of an up and D-O-W-N, up and D-O-W-N, long distance race course.

Lesson #2:

I had two things to focus on: Pacing and Nutrition. I had already failed miserably in my first line of focus. I vowed to practice this in future training – with faster runners. (oh and add more hill running/leg strength training in the gym)

My average paced slowed to 9:00 min/miles through 13 miles and at mile 11 i had my first sign of trouble. my left quad, at the knee, started to seize and tighten. i knew what was coming. i just didn’t know how quick it was going to happen.

by mile 16, i had already seen two signs with marriage proposals. what is it about these endurance events that bring out the Romeo in guys? (before the end, i would pass 4 more signs with pleas of marriage)

by mile 15, my left quad had completely cramped and the IT band and hip flexor were like inflexible rubber bands. My right quad had joined its counterpart in a move of solidarity, and i was now firmly planted in the Cave of Pain with no semblance of light for another 11.2 miles.

My splits were now hovering in the 11:00-12:00 min range and I became more focused on managing my rib pain. Making a stop at a med station at mile 16, I asked for 3 salt tablets and some Tylenol. the med staff kindly inquired what i needed the tylenol for, and then, after hearing my reply, asked me why i would run this marathon (notice the use of “this”) with not-yet-healed ribs. my focus quickly shifted from “get meds” to “how long have i been at this aid station already?!”

By mile 19, I was forcing my mind to disassociate from the pain. I thought of all the women who i’ve been lucky to meet, learn from and watch as i grew GOTRIbal. I drew strength from thinking of my sister, and her incredibly positive mental attitude – one that has helped her outlast cancer’s grip and one that has helped in her continuous recovery from traumatic brain injury. she had just re-learned to run again the week before my race. it had been six years since the accident that left her with severe brain injury, and one year since we did the swim of a women’s sprint tri together.

I drew on her strength to get me to mile 20, then mile 21. She would be at the finish, and I was going to run there if it killed me.

Mile 25:  I’m taking a 30 second walk break. One I’d regret as soon as i started to run again. And then, I looked up and saw Marison screaming on the sidewalk at me. She came out, and ran with me for awhile and I groaned and grunted as I took each step. Talking was out of the question, and she knew it. But we didn’t need to. It meant the world to me to get 2 or 3 minutes of shoog along the journey.

Mile 26: The wheels on this ride have been off for 2 10K’s so far, and I’m taking on this last 385 yards as if it’s my last ever. Once across the line, I see my cousins, my hubba-licious, Marison, and my parents. And then started my wobbly existence — one I am still experiencing two days later.

Lesson #3:  Elliptical training is great aerobic training while you’re injured. But a marathon isn’t just about being aerobically fit, and the pounding pavement that rose and fell beneath my feet deserved more respect than I had granted it.

At the finish line and later, my family made sure I was completely cared for, and I soaked up their support and shoog. I fell into it and thought repeatedly about the beauty of the moment.

Yes, I was disappointed with my finish. Even with an adjustment in my goals and expectations for the race, I struggled to let go of my frustration in my performance. How I viewed myself as athlete was in serious upheaval. My ego and pride were (are) black and blue and needed a load of ice for bad bruising. But I’m on the mend, and this experience will serve the same purpose as the first sprint triathlon I did 10 years ago. In 2001, I rode my husband’s mountain bike (ouch!) and  ran / walked the 5K, swearing the whole time I’d never run farther than 3.1 miles after it was over.

When I finished i couldn’t wait to try another one.

Lesson #4 and 5:  [Relearned] Proper and consistent training makes a difference. Staying uninjured is key.

It’s amazing how much our egos are wrapped up in our finish times/places. In the end, most of us aren’t pros, so continuous improvement and happiness with a full-effort should be things worth our pride and celebration.

Seeing my family and Marison along the route and at the finish was the most important and soulful part of my journey. Without them, this path as an endurance athlete wouldn’t be possible.

Post race blues never hit. I had heard about them, but I wasn’t experiencing them. Still not. What did surprise me was the weird bouts with nausesa and dizziness. All in all, the 26.2 distance felt harder to me than any 70.3 I’ve raced. And with a few days buffer from the final finish, I am already quietly considering my next one. [not before spending quality weeks on healing my foot and ribs!]

Lesson #6: There is more residual ‘after-effects’ to running a marathon than I expected. Even my hottest, hardest half iron distance tri didn’t leave me feeling nauseous or as wobbly days after the race. More homework on training and post-race recovery is required.

The CIM is both a beautiful and well-organized, well-supported race. The day, although not in control of the race organizers, was a perfect day for a run. Gorgeous, sunny, and crisp. A perfect day to be outside with 10,000 other people who love living the endurance sports lifestyle.

The volunteers at every turn were so friendly, so supportive. Even the shuttle bus driver embodied a healthy mix of empathetic supporter, comedian, and supporter. A nice combo when, at 5:50 am, you’re only concern is getting to the start line on time.

In the end, I had an experience I will not soon forget. Even if my mind were to try, my legs won’t let me. Getting up off the toilet is a regular reminder of my birthday weekend accomplishment.