Archive for April, 2011

Sharon’s Lonestar 70.3

April 12, 2011

On the last lap of my run (4 loop course), I had plenty of time to reflect back on how far I’d come, and I’ll admit there were tears in my eyes (ok,  I’m tearing up even now).  I remember the days it hurt to walk; the days where getting out of bed was enough of a challenge; where I was throwing up from the pain and spasms.  I’m about to finish 70.3 miles. At the end of the race, Lisa commented that she knew there were days that I didn’t think I could do this; that’s almost incorrect.  There were days when I didn’t know if I could. That’s a big difference.  And to quote Lisa, as she was getting to do her IronMan, “Surround yourself with the right people and you can do anything.” Some of my friends saw me at the beginning when I was in pain; some of you have only known me at various stages along the way;  a few of you have been there for the whole journey.  You’ve seen what I’ve accomplished, how far I’ve come. I’ve come a long way baby!

There are several people I’d like to thank – I could make this a very long list, but I’ll shorten it to the essentials…

Lisa Pruett – for asking if I could help her train for her 70.3 two years ago,  and starting me on the possibility.

Ron Perry – because you speak HMET, or at least understand it.

Darren Tice, LMT and Christopher Fritel, LMT/CST – The weekly bodywork over this last 3 month journey; the not quite as often body work for the years leading up to it.

Seth Wagenblast, DC, ART – for putting me back together after every weekend, for the head lifts, Ys, Ts, Ls & Ws. He’s so much more than just a chiropractor!

Tammy Harbison – for keeping my feet going, and the last minute frantic fix on my cuboid.

Suzyn Skaggs Barrientos – for being my Saturday run buddy & mental coach.

Amanda Fearheiley, RD/LD – for helping me figure out how to eat with all my food allergies.  My RD can kick any other RDs ass.

All my other training buddies – Evalyn, Geni, Rosie, Dan, Ruben, Ruthie, my cycle , yoga & Pilates classes.  All of you had a huge impact on my ability to finish.

Caveat: This might be a bit long. It was 70.3 miles after all. I’ve spaced out the headers so you can skip to specifics if you want, but you’ll miss some of the lead in.  So, grab a glass of red wine, sit back, and enjoy!

Thursday, 4/7/11

I choose to start this tale on the Thursday prior to my race, because Ron is just so entertaining. I get done with private swim lessons at the Y and walk into his office, “Ron, any last minute advice for me?” Ron replies with “what race are you doing?”

Friday, 4/8/11

I go see Dr. Wag at 8a, pick up Lisa, load the car, and wait for Suzyn to get back from her work meetings.  We get on the road around 10:30a.  Near Brenham, I’m in dire need of carbs.  We end up at KFC getting me some smashed potatoes, hold the gravy.  They needed the gravy for flavor. Alas… what’s the gluten free girl to do?

We arrive in Galveston around 3p, check into the hotel, and Suzyn & I hop on the bikes for a short ride down the seawall.  Our hotel, the Baymont Inn, is off 63rd Street.  We ride down the seawall to 81st, where the race will be coming out, and decide to detour down, check it out. As we’re coming back to the seawall, Suzyn decides she needs to cut it short – she wacked her knee on the desk at work, and its hurting.  No worries, I head off on my own, hitting 14 mph into the headwind, 17mph with the tailwind.  Life is good. Upon getting back to the hotel, I slide on the running shoes & head out to the seawall for a short run. On concrete.  Legs and SI joints getting unhappy.  After the run, I’m walking back up the beach, wave at Suzyn, and promptly step in a small pothole in the sidewalk.  Right ankle gets a little tweaked. Yep. Really.  HMET.

We find Lisa on the beach, with a collection of goodies, and also a freshly decease catfish (or shark?). Lisa even picked it up by its topfin (which didn’t look like a shark’s, but rather a fish).

We go to Casey Gaido’s for dinner. Fish restaurant. That doesn’t serve potatoes. Little in the way of gluten free carbs. Seriously?

The painting of the nails starts. Scrabble game that night: Sharon with 200 points, Lisa with 181, and then there was Suzyn.

Saturday, 4/9/11

Ahhhh, a day to sleep in!  We all start to rouse around 8a, Suzyn & I head out for a walk/run, testing my newly tweaked ankle out. I’ve got some KT Tape on it, just in case. We walk about 10 min, run for 4 (that’s enough), hit Starbucks, and head back to the hotel.

I’ve got a couple other people I know doing the race as well, and we take Angela Fuller along with us for the rest of the Tri events.  An open water swim in the ocean, which neither of us had done before.  The salt water was less of a taste issue than I thought it would be! Very happy with that. Worked with Angela to get her comfy in the open water, and swimming without her lifeguard bouy tagging along behind. I assure her that on race day (since I’m in the last wave to go off), that I’ll save her if she needs.

Over to Moody Gardens for packet pick-up, realizing we won’t make it through before the 12:45p athlete meeting, head over to meeting instead. Would someone please explain the sense of having a lot of your athletes, at peak sun, out in the middle of a parking lot with no cover? Most of us started our sunburns there. 45 minutes later, we’re heading back to packet pick up. A lot shorter line this time.  I’m bib # 1939, Angela is 1847. My friend & swim student Annie is around here somewhere, as is Bonni.  Don’t see ’em.  Next: bike check.  Wow, they’ve actually got our spaces numbered. I’m accustom to the free-for-all of the shorter distances!  This is kinda nice. I’m 4 rows in from the Swim In, lots of rows away from Bike Out. Oh well.  We return Angela to her family.

Also, why do they schedule these meetings at athlete feeding time?  And yes, I did have snacks. I inhale 2 glasses of milk when we get back to the room, and then we head off to dinner.  Chili’s for dinner, then I get some quiet, alone time in the hotel room as Lisa & Suzyn explore Galveston.

Nail painting continues. I now have racing stripes.

I’m in bed by 8.

Race Day

Pre-race: There must be some reasons to love getting up at 4 am. I have no idea what they are.  At least I’ve gotten 8 hours of rest, and get up fairly easily. FYI – yeah, it’s dark out!  Transition opens at 5, closes at 6:45a.  We get there a little after 5.15.  Breeze is light at this point.  Transition gets set up, and I look around at the people next to me – they’ve got 2 pair of shoes (cycle, run), the race belt, and maybe a visor/hat. I’ve got 2 pair of shoes, 2 cans of spray sunscreen, my race number belt, my fuel belt, a towel for the run, a towel for other generalities, an extra bottle of water, 2 extra bottles of quinine water/nuun, a box of KT tape (remember that sprain? just in case), bottle of tylenol, and  probably some other stuff.  Can you say HMET?

Get my tires pumped, thanks to Angela – I forgot my pump, and I have 2 of them! Hit the port-o-let about 5 times, my guess.  Transistion closes, we make our way toward the swim start staging area. Now mind you, the first wave takes off at 7a.  I take off at 8:40a. Yep, the last bleepin’ wave.  I’m ready to age up so I can start earlier!  We do a lot of sitting, standing, lying around. I get in 2nd breakfast, and even first snack. At one point, I have a strong desire to do headlifts & Ws.  I did seated Ws – not quite the same, but close enough.  I did the headlifts too. Angela & I don our wetsuits partway at about 8a, and head over toward transition.  As we get over there, we see Annie, and then she darts off to join her wave in staging.

I’ve reassured both Angela & Annie that if they feel anyone tapping on their feet, its just me letting them know I’m there, they are safe, and they can swim faster now. Remember, I’m starting last. Swim is my thing. I’ll catch ’em both!

Swim (1.2 miles in the ocean/bay): Finally, 8:30 rolls around, my wave stages.  8:35. It’s almost time!  We have a deep water start, and get to jump in from about a 6′ dock. COOL!  I plunge readily into my favorite medium, deciding this is a much preferred way to get in vs. the slow acclimation at Barton Springs!  I get a short warm up swim in. Life is good. I line up just behind the first row of swimmers (all those that are destined to come in before me).   Horn sounds. We’re OFF! The Pro waves actually got a gun shot. We get canned air.  oooo ahhhh aren’t we special?   There’s 3 of us in a little pack and I seem to be in getting squished in the middle.  Time to do something about it. I actually back out and got around them.  600 meters to the first turn.  Got it.  I’m already passing some white caps. Make the turn, and its a side wave. I’m getting rocked side to side. Wasn’t sure if I swallowed water, or if the rocking motion got to me, but I almost chucked up once (mmmmm raspberry gel comin’ back up).  I get over it.  I see red caps.  I see purple caps.  I see a few green caps.  I’m a fish, watch me swim!  I think I see Annie (red cap) pausing and asking a SUP guard for help. Make the long stretch, next turn left, and homestretch!  I’m flying past more people, as I’ve now started some serious kicking, being cautious as this is typically also where I get a foot cramp. No Cramp.  I’m out of the water in 37:31, get my wetsuit stripped (to quote Ruben, “I love strippers”), run through a small trickle of non-salted water, and off to T1.

Transition 1:  Liberally spray sunscreen. Ride jersey, shades, helmet, shoes on. A swig of quinine water. Pull Bounty (yes, my bike has a name) off the rack. Trot out of transition to the mount line.  Just over 3 minutes from the time I exited the water.

Bike (56 miles along the coast): Getting on the bike course, our first few minutes wind through Moody Gardens, then we’re out on 81st, smack into a true headwind.   It’s cool. I was prepared for that.  From 81st, we turn right onto Seawall, and a more open road.   Feeling my quads work through the transition of swim to bike, and the push into the headwind. I figure I got about 20 min of feeling like this until I get “warmed up”, then I’ll be rocking.  20 min comes, and I’m still feeling it.  I start thinking… why… training was good… cadence… I’m not getting my cadence up. I can’t get my cadence up. Urf.  Back brake is on.  Around mile 5 I hop off the bike to check the brake. Yep, it is on.  Rear wheel doesn’t even go a full turn. I work on the brake, get it so it allows the wheel to go several revolutions (opening up the back brake as if I was taking the back tire off). Hop on, I’m going again. Lots of people are passing me. Angela passes me. Wondering what the bike support truck looks like.  Ooo look. Llamas!!! First Aid Station is at mile 14. I stop to use the restroom, check my brake again, loosen it again with my limited bike adjusting skills. Get back on. People are still passing me. Annie passes me. Seriously?  I know her swim is slow… and she already caught me?  Probably around mile 18.   The fat people start to pass me. Not intending this to be a degrade of fat people, but that’s what they are. Seriously folks??? I’m looking around for the tech truck.  They should mark these things better. Lots of time to work on technique with the back brake on, and focus on steady pace.   Crossing over the San Luis Pass (the only “hill” on the course), there are lots of people with flats.  Oh goodie, I might eventually pass SOMEONE. Finally get to the next aid station.  I stop for the restroom, and my poor left knee needs a rest.  One of the volunteer workers assures me its a tailwind back. I adjust my back brake.  I continue onward, headwindward. I eventually see Angela going the other way. I never see Annie, although later she tells me she yelled at me, but I was evidently very focused on what I was doing. I continue. Not many people passing me now. I wonder if I’m the last person. I know this is where Lisa is accustomed to -being at the end, pushing the envelope to make the cut off – but I’m not used to this. It’s a mental challenge to keep going when I’ve seen just about everyone pass me.  About a mile from the turn around, I finally see the bleeping tech truck ahead – oh, that black one without any markings on it. That I also saw at mile 6.   They should really mark these things better. I would like things to be obvious when I’m focused on technique & trying to figure out why the fat people are passing me!  There’s lots of people with flats near the truck, the guys are busy helping to pump tires, so I continue on… I’ll catch them on the way back. Heck, I’ve done 27 miles with the brake on to varying degrees. What’s a few more?

I do the first 28 miles in 2:20ish. 11.8mph or something ridiculously slow like that.  That was a boost for my ego. I flag the tech truck, get the brake opened up. I actually bruise my quad getting off the bike. This day just gets better and better! No chance its gonna touch now unless I intentionally put the brake on. Ooo, I won’t have to stop every so often to adjust the brake, I have a tailwind, and I’m ready.  I finally hit 17 mph for about 1 min, and then realize 2 things: 1) my left knee is extremely unhappy, and 2) after 2+ hours of pushing into the headwind with the brake on to varying degrees, I’m tired. My nutrition has been good, I’ve done the electrolytes, I’m good on hydration, and I’ve just got nothing. Slow & steady for another 28 miles? Really?  I can see on my cateye that I’m now hitting 13 mph.  Well, that’s something at least.  So let’s talk about the knee, since I was having a conversation with it the whole way back.  Lateral knee (IT Band insertion, but friction with the ham & quad) & patellar tendon bursa. Did I mention they were unhappy? The bursa feels huge, swollen. Ok, focus on technique, see if it’ll quiet down. I see with the turn-around that I’m NOT the last person out here. Almost, but at least I’m not last! I get back to San Luis Pass (the only hill), and stand for a little power and to get out of the saddle. My knee gives out. BLEEP!!! Ok, I’m back in the saddle, hit a pot hole, and lose a Gatorade bottle.  That sucks; it was semi-cool. Pull foot out of clip, peddle with right leg for a little, giving left a break. Take a look at it, doesn’t actually appear swollen. Foot back in, knee doesn’t want to bend or straighten.  Try pulling with right only, keeping left in. Pain is enough that I want to scream.  At the next Aid station, I’m gonna let EMS take a look at it.  Focus on technique. Focus on technique… where’s the bleeping aid station? Thought it was supposed to be just over the bridge. And about 10 miles farther down (or so it seems).  Manage to get to the aid station, which is packing up by now. No medical tent (they are red, should be easy to see even in my state). Sigh. I resign to go on. Slow & steady. One peddle stroke at a time. Knee continues to hurt. I try standing again. Almost brings tears to my eyes. And not the good kind.  Mentally, my knee is beating me down.

One of the cutoffs for the race is that you have to reach the aid station at mile 48 by 1:18pm.  I really hadn’t planned on having to worry about this one.  I’m now getting passed by the people that had the flats that I saw earlier. Can I tell you how disheartening it is to continue to be passed at this point?  And they’re going by saying “you’re doing a great job” and such. May I wring their necks please? I realize that they intend well, but when it’s the challenging ride that I’ve had, I’d prefer silence. My knee hurts like all get out on occasion, but I find moments where it doesn’t bother me at all. I can’t distinguish what I’m doing differently. After passing the previous aid station, my next goal is to make it to mile 48, and I’m going to be perfectly happy if they tell me that I didn’t make the cut off. In fact, at this point, I’m hoping they tell me that. Please just end my misery. Technique. Technique. Technique. Plugging along.  Playing mind games with myself.  Lots of small segments of one legged pedaling.  Tailwind?  There’s no stinkin’ tailwind. This is a shoulder wind. I’m still hitting 13mph or so, and not getting cadence up. Slow & steady. Slow & steady.  I reach Mile 48 at 1:11pm. @!^$&!. Ok. 8 miles to go.  I just did 20 with my knee screaming at me the majority of the time.  I can stop and quit in T2, cuz my knee is just not happy. I can’t stand, I can’t do a posture break, my back is aching from the lack of posture breaks. My elbows are unhappy from being in aero (I have sat up, but the wrists don’t like holding on for too long).  I can feel an elbow nerve getting pissed off, and my thumbs are feeling wierd. I’m having lots of negative thoughts, and I let them come and go.  Once they go, they are released, and no longer mine.

I’m standing at the transition area fence, both hands on the fence, looking dejected, looking down. Lisa & Suzyn are on the other side.  I ask, “I’ve just ridden 56 miles with my back brake on for 1/2 of it, my knee is killing me, and now you want me to run a 1/2 marathon?”.  Suzyn answers, “Yes”. This conversation is now running through my head on a repeating loop.  I’ve got 7 miles to go. I’ve had other training rides where the knee has felt something like this, but not to this degree. I’ve got 6 miles to go. I start remembering that I’ve been able to work it out when I did my bricks. I’ve got 5 miles to go. I know I’ve trained the run well. I’m back at the seawall, almost done. “I’ve just ridden 56 miles with my back brake on for 1/2 of it, my knee is killing me, and now you want me to run a 1/2 marathon?”.  Suzyn answers, “Yes”.

Four hours, 20 minutes after I start the bike, I’m pulling back in toward transition.  I see Lisa & Suzyn, who’ve been worried about me (thanks Angela for telling them I was coming).  I shout at them that my knee is killing me.

Transition 2: I reach the dismount line, and slowly walk into transition, testing the knee. Working on range of motion. How does it feel? I rack my bike. Take my time.  Jersey comes off, spray on sunscreen. Sit on ground, change to running shoes. Let the knee have a few minutes of peace.  Grab some quinine water.  “I’ve just ridden 56 miles with my back brake on for 1/2 of it, my knee is killing me, and now you want me to run a 1/2 marathon?”.  Suzyn answers, “Yes”.  Body glide the underarms/lats again. Grabbing my fuel belt, race number, sweat towel, 4 sticks of blocks, and tube of salts, I hit the restroom, then walk out of T2, onto the run course. Suzyn answers, “Yes!”

Run (13.1 miles mostly in Moody Gardens, 4 loop course):  I start off walking, letting the knee adapt. Start focusing on technique.  Lisa comes up along side, and I explain the bike.  I continue walking for about 2 minutes. No time like the present to see how I’m gonna do on the run, and its relatively flat.  I take off, waving at Suzyn as I run by her. Knee actually feels pretty good.  I’m so thankful at this point that Ron’s taught me Chi Running, and I run from my glutes. If I had to run from my quads/hams, I’d be walking. And probably crying. People are calling me by name as I run through the first section of the course – its on my race number, but it always freaks me out.  I pass a LOT of people. Making up for bike time. “I’ve just ridden 56 miles with my back brake on for 1/2 of it, my knee is killing me, and now I’m doing a 1/2 marathon”.  Suzyn smiles. At this point, no one can keep up with me on the course. As I approach the 2 mile mark, there are 2 guys sitting in lawn chairs, drinking beers, with a sign – “Ok! We get it! We know you are fit!!!” I smile, laughing. They’re gone by the time I come around again. I blaze through the first 2 miles (including the initial walk), in 20 minutes.  I’m actually around a 9 min mile.  I take my 2 min walk (this is the plan: 20 min run, 2 min walk). I start off on my next run set, and realize that the extra long bike has had an effect; I can keep pace on the run, I’ll just need more frequent walks.  This is also the Learning Loop; I know from experience that I’m heat sensitive, so I’m also figuring out where there’s a breeze to cool me off, and where there’s not – the places I’ll walk. I see Lisa & Suzyn as I come around to the end of loop 1, Lisa joins me for a bit to see how the knee it, and I tell them I’m cold.  She comments on Facebook that if my knee is hurting, you can’t tell. What knee?

The course has you run past the finish line (straight) 3x… I veer right going into the 2nd loop.  I start making deals with myself – run to mark X, and then I can walk, ah, see you made it to mark X, you can go farther.  I’m walking at one point, and catch up to a man that’s on his last lap.  He’s walking, would run, but he’s cramping up. I offer him some salts.  I offer him some water.  “Your a regular walking pharmacy,” he comments. Little does he know that I have to be. As I pass Lisa & Suzyn the 2nd time, Lisa says I’m faster on the 2nd lap then on the first.  This walk/run combo is working.

Loop 3 is the “Ed lap” – where Suzyn went astray and walked the whole thing in her IronMan. I’m actually feeling good – been taking my salts as trained, drinking, taking in calories. I plan on walking a little bit more so I can haul in on Lap 4.  I’m commenting to the volunteers that I got my victory lap coming up, and are they still going to be there?  They comment they love my attitude. I’m noticing even on this 3rd lap, that my walk is way faster than everyone else (running or walking). I’m in cruise mode now. The power walk feels good, and I got a few age groupers in my sites. I run past Lisa & Suzyn, smiling, according to the pics. I feel good. Only 1 more lap to go? Really? Is that all?

Veer right. The Victory Lap has begun. I start thinking back about the journey that had led me to this victory lap, how far I had to come to get to here. There are several times on the loop where I have tears in my eyes, some even roll down my cheek.  If only Andrea & Kelly (the PTs that worked with me when I first had the fall) could see me now! I think of the people along the way that have given me a helping hand.  I’m still flying past people. A women going the opposite way on the other side of the cones comments she’s been out here for over 8 hours. Ha! I pass a 26 yo. I pass men. I may be physically one of the last ones to come across the finish line, but I’m by no means the last! The didn’t have to be concerned with the cut off times, since they weren’t the last heat to go off. At the end of the lap, I get to go straight this time – Lisa is down the chute, taking my pic as I come in (ironically,  my mom calls on my phone, which Lisa is using for the pic, at the same time. No finish photo, but that’s irrelevant!).  I hear the announcer saying “and high stepping it across the finish line is Sharon Boon from Austin Texas!” and then I’m being handed my finisher medal, a hat, a water bottle, and someone is taking my timing chip off.  Suzyn is beyond them and I get a giant hug as “Are we Human, or are we Dancer?” plays.  Very appropriate, we think.

I note that I’m tired, because I’ve been moving for 7.5+ hours, but not exhausted. Training was harder than the race (with the exception of the brake issues).  My nutrition, electrolytes & hydration were right on target. No issues with cramps or spasms at any time, and since I paid attention on the run, the heat was a non-issue.

My official finish stats:

Total time: 7:38:29.

Swim time: 37:31 (19th in age group, 617 overall)

Bike time: not available…

Run time: 2:24:15 (11 min mile avg, thank you very much!)

113/134 in my age group (let’s see how well they would have done with the brake on!)

Overall 1712/1856 finishers

The drive home. After grabbing a quick, and much needed shower in Annie’s hotel room, and aloeing up for the sunburn, we head to McAlister’s for carbs, and then hit the road home. Knee on ice. Once I stopped moving, it stiffened up.  In a text conversation with Evalyn, she told me, “You – car jellyfish.” And I obeyed.  I think I’ve earned car jellyfish status after a 70.3. Don’t you?