December 31, 2009

2009 - A Year of Firsts

2009 was my second year in the sport but a year of firsts. I did my first half Ironman in April after an expedited eight-week training period that only got me about 80% ready for the race. I would have trained more if I hadn't been busy moving into my first solo apartment. After nearly 35 years on this planet I had never lived alone and the settling in period involved countless hours of painting, breaking down boxes and making trips to Bed Bath and Beyond. In June I drove to Lake Placid for a training camp and stayed with virtual strangers who immediately became my friends and helped me celebrate my 34th birthday in a highly memorable way. On the day of my birthday I swam the Lake Placid course, covering the 2.4 mile distance for the first time and just one year after my first swimming lesson.

There were other firsts along the way, including my first solo long ride, but the most significant first was my Ironman finish. Anyone who has shared this journey with me knows how close I came to not being able to race. That finish, and entire experience, will always be incredibly special to me.

I've come a long way from my lazy past and have a long way I still want to go. As I wrap up the year, here is a look at my training numbers. I'm really proud of what I was able to do and look forward to new challenges in 2010.

2009 Training Totals:

Bike: 228h 26m 34s - 3,253.51 Mi
Run: 115h 15m 46s - 717.34 Mi
Swim: 55h 56m 32s - 169,734.9 Yd

December 27, 2009

Christmas Burnoff

I've had a strategy this holiday season to avoid packing on the pounds. I eat incredibly well during the day and save up the gluttony for the evening hours. We celebrated our Christmas last night so I really dove in full force and was feeling it this morning so I put in some Christmas burnoff time on the bike and treadmill. In addition to making me feel semi-human again, it also helped in my acclimation to more consistent training.

I biked 55 minutes alternating intensity and RPM every 10 minutes, then did a longer run/walk on the treadmill. I walked 1.5 miles at a brisk pace, did 21 minutes of run/walking at a 2/1 interval, then walked a bit more, for a total of 51 minutes. Aside from some tightness in my achilles, it was again pain free. I biked an additional 25 minutes before spending some quality time with The Stick. It's amazing how tight I get from a workout that wouldn't have phased me a few months ago. Baby steps...

I'm headed out to dinner with my family for my last night here. I'll be going home tomorrow night and officially starting my IMLP training as well. I have a feeling the next seven months will fly by.

December 26, 2009

Like Riding a Bike

Thankfully, a nearly one month hiatus from swimming didn't entirely destroy my fitness. I dragged myself kicking and screaming to the pool this morning for a relatively easy 1600 with zero expectations. The last swim I did was atrocious and my motivation was shot so the time off was mostly mental, but as it turns out, it was also good for me physically. It came back immediately and my form didn't deteriorate until the end. I was definitely a little slower but I don't mind. I have time.

So maybe swimming is like riding a bike - once you know how to do it, you can take breaks from time to time and jump right back in without missing a beat. Let's hope.

December 25, 2009

Long Winter's Nap

It seems the main activity of my Christmas vacation is sleeping. After an exhausting day of travel, I slept until almost 11. Then this morning I woke up around 9:15 after a solid eight hours of sleep and after being up for only five minutes, I went back to bed and didn't wake up until 10:45. I suppose I wouldn't be sleeping so much if I didn't need it so given I don't have much else to do, I won't fight it. After all my sleeping in days are numbered.

I did a little Christmas indoor brick to burn a few of the cookies I ate yesterday. I biked an hour and did a 22-minute run/walk on the treadmill, sticking to the 2-minute/1-minute intervals even though I felt I could run longer. The 2/1 is on my schedule for the next two weeks so despite having the urge to step it up at times, I'll continue to keep it conservative. I don't want to push my luck. Today's run was entirely pain free and I only felt a bit of tightness in my Achilles. That was the best gift I could ask for.

December 24, 2009

Merry Little Christmas

Today was a lovely Christmas Eve. I arrived last night and had a dinner date with my dad in the midst of a massive ice storm. I slept incredibly late and then spend the morning and early afternoon at a series of supermarkets gathering everything needed for the long weekend. But unlike other years, Christmas this year won't be officially celebrated until the 26th when we're all together so tonight it was just my mom, dad and I, and six pounds of crab legs, a couple pounds of scallops and mushroom risotto. Heaven. All would have been great had I not eaten my weight in sugar cookie dough prior to dinner.

Merry Christmas to all my blogger buddies. I can't thank you enough for sharing my journey in 2009, through happiness, frustration and sadness. It was always a bright spot to come here and see your comments and know that I was not alone. I loved being a part of your journeys as well and can't wait to see what 2010 brings us.

H A P P Y H O L I D A Y S ! ! !

December 23, 2009

Farewell, Offseason

Dear Offseason,

I know we didn't get off to a good start. I really wasn't interested in getting to know you and may have ignored you at times. But after a couple months I really started to enjoy you and for the last six weeks or so, you've become rather special to me. Dare I use the word love?

So it is with sadness and a hint of regret that I must end this relationship. It's not personal, our time has simply come to an end. I have a half Ironman in just four months and my first Ironman of the season in seven months. Let's also not forget that other Ironman seven weeks after.

While I'll miss our leisurely weekend mornings, late nights filled with fabulous dinners and drinks, weeks on end without smelling even the slightest hint of chlorine, I know we'll find our way back to each other on September 13 and this time, I promise to embrace you from the start so we can enjoy an even more fulfilling time together.

Until then, I'll be too busy training to even think about you so please don't try to tempt me with thoughts of skipping workouts, sleeping in and eating whatever I want. I'll do a little more of that this week, then I'll be 100% focused on Lake Placid. I'm looking forward to this new challenge.

Sincerely,

Kristin

December 21, 2009

Winter Wonderland

I can't recall a time I was so neglectful of this blog. Lack of free time is most certainly partially to blame, but lack of content is equally to blame. I am about as far away from being a triathlete as I can be given my lack of training. Sure I had some good stretches in October and November including a couple long rides and my trip to Lake Placid, but December, the month I was supposed to start training again, turned into me hating and boycotting the pool and then having a running meltdown before I really even began. Now I've had three inactive days in a row while the holiday revelry continues and I feel it. I'm mostly just disappointed in the loss of this base building month and when I think about Lake Placid being in seven short months I feel slightly ill. I trained eight months for Wisconsin and while I felt generally ready four weeks prior to the race, it was nice to have the extra time.

I've had some issues with my feet this past week. It's nothing to be alarmed about but it's certainly slowed me down and I'm hoping to see improvements this week after an extended period of rest. I've developed plantar fasciitis in my "good" foot, most likely due to the time in the walker boot and general poor gait including a three month limp. After two weeks of easing into running the pain was enough to serve as a warning sign to stop an evaluate things. I took the last nine days off running and barely did anything to supplement. It was my lowest training volume week yet. While I feel generally disgusting, my feet feel better so after a chat with my coach and doc I may be back on my feet by tomorrow to give it another try. That's all I can do.

We had a magnificent blizzard in New York City, something that always incited drama and excitement simultaneously. We hosted a dinner party that night for six friends and it was the perfect evening to be tucked inside and not have anywhere to be. We awoke to the city covered in snow with every child and dog for miles out enjoying the park. We don't get much snow in New York so it's always a bit magical. It made Christmas feel that much closer and reminded me I still have a lot of shopping to do. Just four more days to go...

December 16, 2009

Just Eight Shopping Days Remain

Am I the only one who didn't get the memo about Christmas being next week? I seriously cannot figure out where the time has gone. I feel like fall passed by in a nanosecond and December was non-existent. I'm ashamed to admit I've only purchased four Christmas gifts and have many, many more to go. I'll offer this blog as a blanket apology to my loved ones. It's looking to be a gift card kind of year.

But just in case you're looking for ideas for that favorite triathlete in your life, Ironman.com featured this nifty gift list. And if anyone is feeling generous, this is at the top of my wish list!

I've had some aches and pains this week so running is temporarily off the docket - better to be safe than sorry. All training has been derailed for the past two days due to work but I plan to start back up tomorrow with a focus on the bike and some elliptical time to replace running. Who knows, I may even swim. Or I may skip it and so some Christmas shopping instead.

December 14, 2009

Don't Look Back

To my fellow Ironman finishers - did you take an extended period of time off after the race and did you morph into a person you barely recognize in this short time? As you all know, I have been injured and therefore barely moving. Granted I could have been a swimming fool and spending more time on the trainer, but I was burned out and didn't want to force myself to do activities that might make me miserable. I also took the old enjoy whatever you want for awhile philosophy to an extreme and I've been living the good life. The very, very, very good life. And I've enjoyed it.

But I noticed how different I look in some recent photos as compared to how I looked in September. I'm not sure why I was surprised, I've packed on 10 pounds so of course I should look different. I'm not overweight by any means and I wasn't super skinny before, I'm just average as I've always been, but I've lost the athletic look I worked so hard for and I miss it.

So even though it's the holidays and my days and nights seem to be filled with gluttony, I'm buckling down when I can and am cleaning up my diet outside of any celebrations. I figure if I can be 75% good I will at least feel better and perhaps thwart any additional poundage. I'm going to have to have an aggressive weight loss goal for January so I'm not struggling to drop weight while training, something we all know is nearly impossible. So while I'm not one for New Year's resolutions, I think the situation warrants one - go back to my uber healthy, sometimes boring training diet and stop skipping workouts come January. Until then, I've learned my lesson and will not look back at any pre-Ironman photos in comparison to now and will continue to enjoy the celebratory moments that made gaining the weight so much fun.

December 12, 2009

It's a Run/Walk Party Over Here

I've been sucked away from blogland due to continuing social and work activities. I've managed to keep up a majority of my training, but have blissfully dropped swimming from the schedule. After complaining one too many times about it to my coach he told me to just forget about it until the New Year. Permission to blow off swimming... did Christmas come early? The funny thing is that I kind of want to go now that I don't have to. Maybe tomorrow.

I upped my run/walk interval to 3:00 run/1:00 walk this week and was greeted with more success. In fact, the only foot pain I've experienced is in my good foot so I'll need to keep an eye on that. I don't want 2010 to be the year of another (different) torn plantar fascia. My running for the week culminated with my first official running race since the Ironman, the annual New York Road Runners Club Holiday 4-Miler. I did this race hungover with a friend last year in frigid temps so we decided to do it again today.

I have a 4-6 mile walk with a 20-minute run/walk on the calendar each week so the race served as that workout. While I tried to minimize the running by stretching the walk intervals - 1:30 for the first two miles, 2:00 for the next few intervals and 4:00 for the final two intervals - I still ended up logging a little extra time on my feet. But I felt great and finished in just over 41 minutes, not terrible considering all the walking I did. My last 4-miler was back on Memorial Day and I took third in my age group with a 30:57 finish, yet today was just as fulfilling. If I do this right I think I can get back to my normal pace and normal confidence in no time.

A second truffle has arrived from Italy so I'll be enjoying that this evening. There seems to be no lull in the holiday indulgence but 'tis the season and I'm loving every moment of it!

December 8, 2009

I Could be Different

Does anyone else find this to be an incredibly hard time of year to be consistent? The holiday season is packed full of activities that often do not mesh with the plans of a triathlete. I find myself trying to get started again only to be stopped at every turn. But luckily I'm not minding it much.

I've been a little overwhelmed with personal things and anyone who has regularly read this blog knows I don't talk about personal things. Suffice it to say I've had significant changes in my life in the past year and while many were sad or challenging, all of them led me to where I am today. I wouldn't be this person and have had all the rewarding experiences of the past year without the challenges that came along with them. I was watching the film Under the Tuscan Sun and in the final scenes the narrative says, "Any arbitrary turning along the way and I would be elsewhere, I would be different." Isn't that what life's all about? Every step we take leads to the next and the next and so forth. If we'd taken different paths we'd be different people.

With that thought I will forgive myself for blowing off another day of training in lieu of attending to important personal things. There will always be tomorrow and the guilt I feel today means the motivation will still be there when I wake up. After all I'm human. I'm not a professional athlete, I'm not an elite age grouper. I'm just an ordinary person attempting to get started on another season. Next year I'll be even more different.

December 5, 2009

Back on My Feet

With the holidays fast approaching I had a whirlwind of a week packed with social plans. It started with a quiet dinner on Tuesday after a long day of catching up at work. It continued on Wednesday with one of the most fun dinners I've had yet. A small group of wine industry people were invited by the owner of a restaurant to an Italian wine tasting dinner. He treated us to multiple small courses and eight different vintages of Sassicaia. Another guest shared a 1959 Bordeaux with us. It was a long and rather late night but so worth it. Thursday, rather sleepily, I had a lovely dinner with five friends. Friday wrapped up the week beautifully with an elaborate six hour lunch at a restaurant I currently think is the best I've ever been to. I spent a couple hours post-lunch celebrating a friend's 50th birthday before calling it a night.

Amidst all the celebrating I had a major training and recovery milestone - I ran. I took my first running steps in nearly four months Tuesday morning with a 10-minute run/walk done in 2:00/1:00 intervals. It felt beyond good despite a bit of nerves. I kept the pace easy and paid attention to good form. I was smiling the rest of the day. I ran again yesterday, edging up to 15 minutes at the same run/walk interval. My overall pace went from over 11 minutes to just over 10. I was feeling more comfortable. And today I did another 10 at the same pace. Each time it feels a little more natural and the fear is easing up. My coach has me building up very gradually and conservatively so hopefully I should have nothing to worry about. It feels so good to be back at it.

I slacked on all other training this week, only making it to the pool once. But given everything going on I had to make some choices and after having some incredible experiences and a good deal of fun, I think I chose well.

November 30, 2009

The Shoe Verdict

I went shoe shopping yesterday in preparation for my big running debut next week. As mentioned in a previous post, I was thinking about switching to Newtons and gave them a try. I ended up not buying them, not because I didn't like them, but because I don't think I'm ready for that much of a change. I've spent the last decade running in the heavily padded, highly stabilized Asics Kayanos so any sort of change is a big step. Now that I have custom orthotics stability shoes are no longer needed. I wanted less shoe and am hoping over time I'll adopt a better running form. Newtons claim to guide you in that direction and after a short treadmill run I can see why, but having been off my feet for nearly four months and really having to learn to run all over again, I decided to wait and re-consider a bigger change in the spring.

I ended up going with the Brooks Ghost, a very light neutral shoe that offers enough support so I can start running in them immediately. I'll likely keep the Kayanos and alternate for awhile until my feet are used to running again. With just two days to go, I can hardly wait.

I'm heading home today after a nice long weekend in Wisconsin. I'm doubtful my whole stable weight plan worked and I blame the browned butter and sea salt rice crispy treats my sister made last night. Until then I may have been able to break even, but after eating four and wishing I had eaten a few more, I think a little weight gain may be in order. But if you had tasted them you'd know it was more than worth it. I'll have to burn them off on my inaugural run Wednesday.

November 29, 2009

Cider Donuts and Slab Bacon... Another Day in the Great State of Wisconsin

I had only one goal this Thanksgiving weekend - survive the gluttony with zero weight gain. Leading into the holiday I was beyond busy at work with travel and long hours so my training schedule had gone from spotty at best to nearly non-existent. I vowed to do something active every day while here in an effort to at least make it back to New York at the same, already elevated, weight I was at when I left. Thankfully there hasn't been a scale in sight so I will have to wait until tomorrow night to assess the damage.

After a slightly healthy reprieve yesterday, I lapsed back into Midwest goodness with a visit to the New Glarus brewery (delicious), a scoop of ice cream at a New Glarus candy shop (yum) and a breakfast this morning consisting of a paper thin molasses cookie (hey, it was thin), a cider donut from a local farm (apples are healthy, right?) and three slices of absolutely phenomenal slab bacon (bacon, enough said) purchased from the sausage and meat shop in New Glarus. That New Glarus is a lovely town indeed.

Hopefully the daily activity I have managed to squeeze in between meals will at least balance things out and send me home having achieved my goal. If not, I'm predicting a diet of vegetables and water in my future next week. But hey, it was worth it.

In the New Glarus Brewery Tasting Room


View From the Brewery

Loading up the Purchases


Ah, Meat

November 28, 2009

The Newton Debate

I've been considering Newtons for over a year now, since the Ironman Wisconsin expo in 2008. At the time I was gearing up for a marathon and was afraid to make a switch so my plan was to wait until winter. But then I started training for the Ironman and again, was afraid to make a switch. Now that I've had a 3.5 month running hiatus due to the worst injury I've had yet, I feel like it might finally be a good time to consider a transition. I've read countless articles, blog posts and message board debates and in the end, like what I've learned. Slowtwitch recently posted this review that gave me the final push.

I am planning to go to a Newton dealer this weekend to figure out which shoe is right for me. They have some intermediate transition shoes for people like me who are used to overly cushioned stability shoes so that might be a good way to go. Either way I'm thinking I'll do just one run a week in them until I feel adjusted, and hopefully can ease into full time by summer. I'll let you know what I end up going with.

November 27, 2009

Five Days to Go

I received my training calendar for the month of December and for the first time in three months, there are run workouts listed. In just five short days I will attempt my first run since my pre-Ironman injury, a whole 10 minutes done in two-minute run, one-minute walk intervals after a hefty walking warm-up. After the 5K walk yesterday I walked 5.86 miles with my sister and her husband today and was totally pain-free. I also had a dream last night that I was running again. Based on how long I've been in recovery, the time since my PRP injection and the finally normal pain-free walking I'm able to do, I think I am ready. But seeing it on the calendar made me instantly nervous.

I will progress from a 2'/1' interval in week one, to 3'/1' in week two, 3.5'/30" in week three and then non-stop running in week four. If all goes well I'll be able to do a continuous 30-minute run on Christmas day. That would be the best gift of all.

Here is a shot of my parents and I finishing the 5K walk yesterday. It doesn't matter what length or how hard a race is, it's always a great feeling to finish.

November 26, 2009

Huffin' for Stuffin'

In the sea of 4,000 runners and walkers, the best team name we saw at the Berbee Derby 5K this morning was the title of this post - Huffin for Stuffin. If you're going to get up early on Thanksgiving and subject yourself to the cold you might as well make it fun right? And fun it was. This day was a family first. My sister and her husband were running the 5K so they asked me if I wanted to walk since I'm still not able to run. I then asked my mom, who's never done anything athletic before, if she wanted to join me, and to my surprise she said yes. Then my dad posted on this blog that he also wanted to join so I signed him up as well. And this morning the five of us braved the chilly, slightly snowy Wisconsin weather to cover 3.1 miles together.


I've been running for 10 years. I've completed five marathons, countless running races, several bike events, six triathlons and one Ironman. After all that it's hard to have an experience that is truly new, but today definitely fit the bill. First of all I haven't walked more than a mile or two since my injury so it was nice to be in a race, and beyond that, I was sharing the experience with my mom and dad, who both had never done anything like it before. We had such a great time despite numb fingers and cold faces. My sister and her husband waited near the finish and joined us for the final walk, but allowed us our own moment to cross the line together, hand in hand and so proud of what we'd done together. I really hope this was just the first of many great similar experiences we can share together.

I haven't spent a Thanksgiving in the United States for several years so it was another first for us to be together on this day. We had a great time and I'm hoping that the slightly active start justified a bit of the indulgence.

November 25, 2009

Exercise Makes You Happy

I thought I'd share another interesting read from the New York Times Well blog, this one focusing on the anxiety reducing effects of exercise. As the post states, it's long been thought that exercise increases feelings of happiness, but new research shows it may also train your brain to react more calmly in situations of stress. Perhaps that's how Ironman triathletes are able to survive the chaotic mass start.

I have definitely noticed a difference in my mood and emotions since becoming significantly less active. When I look back at how I dealt with the crushing news of my injury and the potential end of my Ironman before it even began, I realize I was in a much more stable and calm emotional state. Smaller, more insignificant things really get to me now and I don't like that feeling. So if the looming 2010 season isn't enough motivation to stop being lazy, perhaps the desire to feel better - even happier - is enough.

Tomorrow morning is my big re-entry to racing with the Berbee Derby 5K in Madison. I'll be walking the race with my parents so it will be a very memorable experience. It's rather fitting that I am doing my first race here, the site of my most significant race ever. This one will be a little easier though and should earn me another bite or two of Thanksgiving treats.

November 20, 2009

Very Brief Offseason

I feel like I just did the Ironman. I still talk about it like it was a few weeks ago. But in reality, it was a few months ago, which means I've been recovering from this injury for three long months. I remember the doc telling me it was a 4-6 month recovery on average and thinking that sounded like an eternity, yet here I am in the home stretch already.

I was surprised to learn my Lake Placid training is starting in December. I can't even manage to get on a consistent schedule of light activity and before I know it I'll be Ironman training again. I always pictured the offseason being full of fun, non-tri activities and being anxious to start training again. But due to my foot I've had to restrict all activity and aside from the first month of down time, I haven't been particularly anxious to do any swimming, biking or running. And it flew by in a flash.

I'll feel tremendously better when I get back on track and regain the consistency I had pre-injury, pre-Ironman. Knowing it's just around the corner, I'm going to enjoy these final free weeks and not beat myself up so much about slacking off occasionally. On that note, I'm off to enjoy a training-free weekend!

November 18, 2009

New Faces, New Places

The best thing about the sport of triathlon is the people who do it. During my short 1.5 years training and competing I've met upwards of 30 new people, all of whom are interesting, fun and incredibly nice. Some are just acquaintances that I see from time to time and others have become good friends, some having shared my first Ironman experience with me. It's exciting to think I've barely scratched the surface and will have many more opportunities to continue meeting others who share this common interest (or obsession).

Through the series of events that my injury put into motion I've come out of it with not only a hefty dose of perspective that allowed me to discover a lot about myself and what the Ironman really meant to me, but also with the chance to meet some more great people in the sport. A friend I met through the Brooklyn Tri Club referred me to an ART therapist, who referred me to my podiatrist. Over the course of my three-month recovery we've become friends and Sunday I got a chance to meet some of his friends on a small group ride. I haven't been on the bike with a group since my trip to Vermont in July and forgot how much fun it can be. Even though I didn't know anyone I felt as though I were amongst friends. That's the beauty of this commonality we share. We drove up to Bear Mountain, about 45 minutes north of the city. Bear Mountain is situated right next to Harriman State Park and is stunning. It's also incredibly hilly with some fairly long and difficult climbs. While I never hesitated to say yes to the invitation, I was a little worried my foot wouldn't hold up and would slow me down. I hadn't done anything since the morning of my PRP last week and was hobbling in the walker boot. I figured if my doc invited me it must be ok, right?

I ditched the boot for the day and hoped for the best. The weather was great. It was in the upper 50s and overcast with tiny breakthroughs of sun. If the sun had made its way out more it would have been perfect. With all the climbing, the 38-mile ride took us just under three hours, but the time flew by. We tended to ride in pairs, alternating who was in each pair throughout.

After the slight PRP setback it felt really good to be back on the bike. I'm not sure if the weather will give me another chance for a day like that before Spring. One can only hope.

November 12, 2009

Challenges of a Long Distance Triathlete

They always say the hardest part of an Ironman is the training. While I wouldn't say my Ironman was easy, particularly with the injury, I will agree that committing to the seven months of training, logging thousands of miles on my bike, hundreds of miles on my feet and countless hours in the pool, was by far harder than the race itself. But now that I'm two months post-Ironman, I think an even harder part of being a long distance triathlete is staying motivated in the offseason so you can enter into the new season ready to start over and build to your next big race.

The challenge is that you absolutely need to rest. After an Ironman you are mentally and physically exhausted whether you want to admit it or not. I think many of us pre-Ironman imagine we'll dive right back in because we're so caught up in the routine, excitement and adrenaline. But then you wake up Monday morning and realize you can finally sleep in or do something in the middle of a weekend day rather than be on your bike. At first there is guilt, you feel like you should be training. But eventually there is acceptance, and for me, an incredible amount of pleasure in non-triathlon things. Last weekend it was in the upper 60s, sunny and gorgeous. I should have been on my bike. But instead I relaxed and spent my day with a friend instead. And for the first time all year, I didn't feel guilty.

After two months, I'm just now liking the idea of a little training. I've been easing back into biking more consistently, swimming at least once a week and doing some strength training. I'd like to step up the swimming a bit and increase the strength while waiting for my foot to be ready for running. I think by December I'll be feeling even more motivated, but still in an offseason sort of way. If something else seems more appealing, if I work late or am just tired, I'll skip the training and I won't feel guilty. By February, which isn't that far away, I'll be longing for the days I chose to sleep in and blow off the training. Now is the time to recover, relax and be a non-triathlete for awhile.

November 11, 2009

Rapid Progression

Last night was rather sleepless. I had taken percoset for the pain, which helped tremendously, but percoset makes me feel generally awful and keeps me from sleeping so I was uncomfortable and restless most of the night. When I woke up this morning I still couldn't walk. I used my crutches to get around and had to call a car to take me to work. I was tired and sore all day, but with the boot and crutches, managed to stay completely off my foot.

I noticed mid-day that the pain had lessened significantly and when I finally got home tonight and took off the boot, I was able to stand flat-footed as long as I didn't apply pressure. I'm nowhere near back to normal but I'm really happy to see how fast the recovery from the injection is progressing.

After two days of biking outside in the unseasonably warm weather, I took today as rest due to my foot. I have business travel the rest of the week but should be able to swim before leaving. I've been aiming for consitency. Nothing more, nothing less. I don't need to follow my schedule by the letter, but rather be active on a consistent basis to ease back into the routine of daily training. I've definitely been feeling better since stepping it up and for the first time since before the Ironman, I'm actually looking forward to doing more. That's a huge step.

November 10, 2009

PRP Experience

Today was my PRP injection and while it wasn't awful, I've certainly had better experiences. I was insanely nervous even though needles don't particularly bother me. I think it's more about the foot being the unfortunate location of the injection than the injection itself. The cortisone shot pre-Ironman really freaked me out so this was exponentially worse.

The procedure was really simple. I had blood drawn, I believe around 10cc, or the equivalent of two teaspoons. That part was fine except the veins in my left arm proved to be elusive so I had the pleasure of being poked on both sides. The blood was then put into the centrifuge for about 15 minutes, during which time I had three shots of local anesthetic in my foot to ease the surface pain of the larger gauge needle used for the injection. These shots surprisingly hurt a lot. The first was back toward my achilles, in a nerve that runs along the length of the foot, the second near the site of the tear and the third an inch or so down in my arch. My podiatrist had me sip an orange juice while I waited for my platelets to be procured and my foot to get tingly. I think he was afraid I'd faint from the blood being drawn or being terrified of the injection. Apparently some patients don't handle it well.

After what felt like forever, the technician came in with a syringe full of a pale pink liquid. It resembled rosè wine but something told me it wouldn't be as pleasant. I started to sweat profusely. I was a little embarrassed I was being such a baby about it. I'm supposed to be tough after all. As the doctor put the needle on the syringe and headed toward my foot I positioned myself so my bent right knee blocked the view. I could not watch. He gave me a quick warning and in the needle went. The initial poke was minimally painful to my surprise and relief. But then he started to slowly inject the PRP, about 4.5cc which is a decent amount, and the pain gradually crept up. He told me I'd feel some "fullness." That was a rather unsettling sensation. There were two areas in the fascia he was aiming to cover with the platelets - the site of the tear in my arch and an area just beneath my heel. I survived the arch and was holding up well, but when he moved the needle to the heel I nearly died. I could tell I was turning a shade of crimson and I felt a wave of heat pass over me. My stomach tightened up. It was an intense shot of pain that at first felt like it might pass once the injection was done, but it instead continued to intensify long after the needle was out. My doctor rubbed the injection site for a minute, bandaged me up and then stayed in the room with me while I composed myself. I was afraid to stand up, afraid to put weight on it. I could barely walk and the limp was way worse than when I was initially injured. But at least it's only temporary.

I'm back in the boot and back on crutches until the swelling and pain subside. I'm really glad I did this despite the discomfort. I need to feel I've done everything possible to get better and this was the final step.

November 7, 2009

First Race

I registered for my first post-injury race today, a 5K run/walk in Madison on Thanksgiving morning. I'll be walking of course, but not by myself this time. My mom is walking the race with me and I couldn't be more excited. My sister and her husband will be running and we're hoping to have my dad come along and be our official photographer. It will be a family affair.

Even though it's a walk it feels like a big step in my recovery. I feel completely normal about 90% of the time and have really picked up the pace as I walk around daily. For the first time in a long time I feel like I could run, but I know I'm not quite ready. I'm optimistic that the PRP will be the final push I need to get to 100%.

I swam today after a two-week hiatus and oh my. Swim fitness dies quickly. I felt like I was swimming through mud and was about as graceful as a fish flopping around out of water. I'm a little averse to swimming these days but clearly will need to force myself to go at least twice a week to maintain a marginal level of fitness. I only covered 1,300 yards and was beat. I wondered how I ever did those 4,500 yard workouts and managed 2.4 miles with over 2,000 people. Then I thought about everyone racing Ironman Florida today. I hope it's the day they dreamed of. There really is nothing like an Ironman.

November 5, 2009

So Much For Free Cookies

It's now been two months I've been grossly off my pre-Ironman training diet and I continue to feel the toll. I'm about five pounds heavier, my body composition has drastically changed and my energy is inconsistent. If I felt so much better when eating better, why is it so hard to stick to it? My activity is also tremendously low so I blamed the five pounds on going from training 15+ hours a week to 15 minutes. I keep thinking I'll get more active and magically shed the pounds. But then I read this New York Times blog today and am beginning to think otherwise.

A recent study proves that in most people, exercise does not lead to weight loss. Nearly all of us also have to modify our diets in order to drop the unwanted pounds. It also shows no evidence of a miraculously revved metabolism that keeps blasting calories long after the workout has ended. So if you're indulging a little - or a lot as has been the case for me over the last two months - and exercising to compensate for it, you're likely just equaling things out and not ever burning enough to be one of the lucky souls who can eat whatever they want and not gain a pound.

I've been hitting my nutrition goals about 50% of the time. Let's not discuss the other 50%. So now I'm vowing to aim for 80% and ultimately 90% when I'm back into serious training. But as with all other aspects of my life, I'm planning to remain flexible. After all, a little dark chocolate or the occasional cookie can't hurt, right?

November 4, 2009

PRP: It's On

Thanks to an insurance company denial, I thought the PRP treatment I wanted to try for my foot was no longer an option. However, after an appointment with my doctor today it's back on the horizon and looks likely for early next week. It's still very expensive but much more manageable thanks to his help. I'm also filing an insurance appeal, but coverage is a long shot. I don't care at this point. When I think about other things I willingly spend money on without a thought and then compare it to my well being and long-term enjoyment of this sport, there is no debate. While it's an unproven treatment in general, it has been known to work well for my specific injury, particularly in preventing future re-injury. That's good enough for me.

In other good news, there is a chance I'll be running again in just four weeks. I'm not even sure how I feel about that. On one hand I can't wait to get back to normal, but on the other, I'm terrified of not being 100% ready and risking a setback. Injuries really screw with your mind and I imagine I'll harbor some doubt and fear until I make it successfully through my 2010 season.

A little bad news often accompanies good news. The bad news here is that the boot will be back for a week after the procedure. I thought I was done with my old friend the boot, but it looks like we have unfinished business. I'm just glad I refrained from running over it in a car in celebration of being liberated from it. That ceremonious moment will have to wait for now. But luckily, not for long.

November 1, 2009

A Walk in the Woods

Since I was heading up to the Adirondacks for the weekend I asked my podiatrist if I could do some easy hiking, and to my surprise he said yes. So today, on a crisp, clear, beautiful fall day in Lake Placid, I went for my first post-injury hike and loved every moment of it. We hiked Mount Jo, just shy of three miles and around 800 feet of elevation. I walked carefully and my foot felt fine. It was such a pleasure to be outside doing something different for a change.


After the hike I finally stopped at Mirror Lake to test the water temperature. Suffice it to say there isn't enough neoprene in the world to make that water swimmable at this time of year. I dipped my hand in and it swiftly went numb. But touching the water definitely made me look forward to being back up there for training and racing in the warmer weather. What a perfect weekend.

October 31, 2009

From Zero to Fifty-Six

Since Ironman Wisconsin, I've only ridden my bike outside three times. I did a 14-mile ride in Prospect Park, a 25-mile ride a few days later also in the park, and a 45-mile ride on Long Island. I have done a handful of rides on the trainer in between but it's been slim. But yesterday I broke through the no training barrier with a one-loop ride on the Ironman Lake Placid bike course. This ride was incredibly fun but also incredibly challenging. I'm operating on minimal fitness and it's a very difficult course. I climbed more than 3,000 feet over the course of 56 miles and was swiftly reminded of how much making up I have to do after this two-month hiatus.

I rode solo and can't believe how quickly the time flew by. This is a magical place to ride, I think I could do the course over and over again and never get bored. The roads have been largely repaved and it was dry so I was able to ride rather comfortably. After the famous Keene descent and my favorite part of the course, a relatively flat and super fast stretch on 9N, my average was 18mph. At the halfway point I was on track to do the ride in 3:15, which would have been my best yet on this course. But the punishing climbs on 86 coming off 9, the Hazleton out-and-back and the final long climb back to town made my average plumet to 15.7. I finished the ride in just over 3.5 hours. Not bad when you consider where I was coming from. And most importantly, I really enjoyed it.

The rest of the day was fantastic. I love being here and wish it weren't such a long drive. I'm really looking forward to racing here next summer and having an excuse to make a few training trips this spring.

October 30, 2009

Lake Placid

I arrived in Lake Placid around 10:30 last night and was immediately happy to be here. This is such a special place. There is a huge high school hockey team at the hotel so they upgraded our room to the top floor where we'd get some peace and quiet. It also came with a beautiful view of Mirror Lake. I sat in the window last night looking out at the lake, thinking about being there nine months from now at the start of my second Ironman. Very exciting.


It's sunny and 47, heading into the lower 50s. Today is a perfect day to ride the Ironman loop. It will be my longest and most challenging ride since Wisconsin so I'll take it easy and just enjoy being on my bike in a beautiful place.

October 28, 2009

Watching My Ironman

My brother had a video camera on race day but I never had a chance to see the footage until a DVD arrived in the mail today. I cannot describe the emotional weight of an Ironman. It's been eight weeks and I've barely trained and barely thought about the race, but the moment I saw the video I was filled with a variety of emotions ranging from happiness to pride to awe. I still can't believe I did it, especially given the injury I was dealing with. When I see myself on video I have a hard time believing it was such a struggle. I looked so happy. So I guess I really had the best Ironman experience of all: one filled with joy from beginning to end. I wouldn't trade it for the world.

If I can figure out how to compress the video I'll post it here. In the meantime, I got an update from the doctor today. He is filing an appeal for the PRP but I won't hold my breath. The more promising update is that he offered to discount the treatment significantly so it's back on the table. I have an appointment next Wednesday. We'll see.

I'm off to Lake Placid tomorrow!

October 26, 2009

Denied

I received a letter from my insurance company today confirming that my doctor had requested coverage for my PRP injection, what they referred to as "Removal of tissue for graft, Autologous blood process." The decision? The medical director reviewed the request and determined it was "Denied - Not Medically Necessary." The letter went on to explain that tissue grafts are not approved for my specific condition and there is insufficient medical evidence to support the procedure.

I hope they enjoy paying for the months and months of physical therapy, follow up MRIs, regular appointments with my podiatrist and likely someday the surgery or other treatment that will be needed to correct my chronic condition and resulting scar tissue. Medical insurance companies absolutely infuriate me with their short-sightedness.

So my recovery will continue as massive waiting game. I realized today it's been two months since it all began. Just two months out of the four to six I need to be recovered. I've lost so much in that two months that will take me an additional two months to regain. But on the bright side, I am getting better and now that PRP is out for sure, I'll likely start PT and hope for the best. Hope and waiting seem to be the only things my costly monthly premium covers.

October 25, 2009

Happiness is an Outdoor Pool

I had the chance to swim in an outdoor pool this summer while visiting my sister in DC. I loved feeling the sun on my back and getting glimpses of trees and green when rotating to breathe. It was such a nice change from the basement pool I swim in. I'm back in DC for the weekend and much to my surprise, the outdoor pool is still open and the only thing better than swimming outdoors in the summer is swimming outdoors in the fall. It was a crisp, perfect day, right around 60 degrees and incredibly sunny with light wind. The water didn't feel particular warm, but was just the right temperature. There were fall leaves on the surface and I had to keep my eyes closed because the sun was so bright. It was absolutely wonderful. For the first time since Ironman I actually enjoyed swimming.

I have a short week and long weekend coming up. I'm heading up to Lake Placid on Thursday for what was originally meant to be a big biking weekend. However, due to lack of training I'll be taking it easy and attempting only one full loop at what I'm sure will be a leisurely pace. I'm also looking into other activities I can do that won't bother my foot, but will allow me to enjoy the area. It is so beautiful up there. The weather is looking decent with highs in the upper 40 and only one day of rain so far, but it's the Adirondacks so I won't trust the forecast until I wake up each morning. Regardless of the weather and the time I'm able to spend on the bike, I know it will be a really great weekend.

October 21, 2009

Unthinkable? Amazing

I haven't posted for a few days because nothing has caught my attention... until today. I get the Ironman.com daily news feed and they shared that Scott Rigsby, the first double amputee to complete an Ironman, has released a book about his experience titled, "UnThinkable." The book documents Scott's journey from losing his legs to becoming an Ironman. I've always been incredibly inspired by Scott for so many reasons. He competed in the 2007 Ironman World Championships, the race that made me take the leap into this sport and changed my life. His story was incredibly moving. I was dealing with personal challenges and didn't know how to swim, but none of it seemed that daunting in comparison to what he faced to achieve the Ironman dream. When I completed my first big triathlon six months later, Scott was competing in the same race. It was really incredible to get a chance to see him compete. I'll definitely add this book to my reading list for the offseason.

This has been a very good week. I've been busy but in a positive and productive way. I've done a little bit of training and have worked to get back on my pre-race diet. But it all still remains very unstructured and I do it as life permits. My foot is still as is, but I can't rush it. I'm hoping to take some steps forward with treatment next week, be it the PRP injection or just old fashioned physical therapy. And I'm preparing for a long weekend in Lake Placid, the site of my next Ironman. More on that to come soon!

October 18, 2009

Baby It's Cold Outside

I love fall and in particular, I love October. That is until this October. We went from picture-perfect crisp fall days to 30s, rainy and miserable seemingly overnight. This shift in weather directly coincided with one of the most brutal weeks I've had schedule-wise in quite some time. All of it left me feeling pretty drained by the end of the week. I've been loading up on the sleep - 10 hours Thursday night, 9 hours Friday night and 8 hours last night. I almost feel human again, but I'm still bundled up, looking out the window at the freezing rain and wondering if I'll ever get to enjoy being outside again.

The frigid weather pushed me to start loading up on my winter cycling gear. I'm attempting to create a no excuses situation where I'll be forced to ride outside unless it's (A) Snowing; (B) Icy; (C) Pouring rain; or (D) Below 25 (ok, maybe 30) degrees. With the right gear, one should be able to enjoy our fair sport nearly year-round, right? Given I've never attempted to ride in less than 45 degrees, it remains to be seen but I'm up for the challenge. Yesterday, I invested in:

Gloves

Tights

Balaclava


The last item makes me look like I'm headed to a Monty Python themed costume party, but it will allegedly help me stay warm on chilly days. The thing on my must-have list is a good pair of neoprene booties to keep my feet from turning into blocks of ice in my breezy tri shoes. I'm planning to invest in either road shoes or winter cycling shoes eventually, but for now will rely on wool socks and booties for survival.

I ended up just taking it easy yesterday, and clearly doing some shopping, and in the end was glad I did. I was still feeling the effects of the week so any effort would have been forced and minimal. I got back into the pool today and also did my first strength training in months. Since I can't do much else I decided to make that a priority for the next few months. Hopefully I won't wake up tomorrow and feel like a bus hit me.

October 15, 2009

Barefoot Running - Hype or Help?

Barefoot running is suddenly the hottest topic in the sport. Everyone is reading Born to Run and more than half the athletes I know spend a portion of their running time in Nike Free or similar minimalist shoes. When I first read about crazy people doing marathons barefoot I thought it was ridiculous. How can that possibly be safe? Or comfortable?

Prior to my injury I had considered doing one short run per week in the Frees in an effort to strengthen my feet and beat my chronic PF. But now it looks like I'll have to keep running in my "little foot coffins" as referenced in this New York Times article, "Wiggling Their Toes at the Shoe Giants." It's an interesting article, recently sent to me by my dad after getting it from a friend of his who runs in the Vibram FiveFingers. Perhaps after my recovery I can give one of these alternative shoes a try and see for myself.

October 14, 2009

PRP - Maybe Not For Me

I finally got the call today I've been waiting for - my podiatrist's office letting me know if I could move forward with the PRP treatment. Similar to an MRI, the procedure requires pre-authorization that can take a few business days. It sounded fine to me, but then the office called and explained the process: I pay a deposit and have the procedure; they submit the claim to my insurance company; they reimburse me when the claim is paid. The catch? The deposit is $1,200 and the timing of the claim can be three months or more. Even more troubling is that the insurance company could reject the claim.

I've already paid out of pocket for my orthotics and am really not in the mood to do the same for an interesting, but definitely unproven treatment. Here is an article. What would you do?

NY Times

October 13, 2009

Latest MRI

I got my MRI results today. Good news: the inflammation is significantly reduced which indicates healing. Bad news: there is a visible "discontinuity" in the fascia, meaning it's still torn. I'm also developing fibrous scar tissue that could make this injury a lifelong battle. The news was mixed and I found myself disappointed to hear it. What was I expecting? The doctor to call and say, "oops, my mistake, you don't have a torn plantar fascia after all?" Maybe. Or maybe I was just hoping with reduced inflammation we'd discover the injury wasn't as bad as suspected.

With swelling down and healing underway, I'm ready to start PRP injections. Pending confirmation from my insurance company, I may get the injection before the end of the week. I'll start physical therapy two weeks after the injection to speed healing and combat the formation of scar tissue.

The waiting game continues, but I'm optimistic that my body is trying to heal and with the most aggressive treatment possible, I'll get there eventually.

On the motivation and training front I'm feeling much better. Sunday's ride and yesterday's walk really boosted my spirits. I'm also preparing for a trip to Lake Placid at the end of the month so shopping for the cool weather gear has been fun and makes me want to get out and ride more. I was hoping to nail every workout this week even if out of order, but a big work event and other work obligations are making today and tomorrow training-free. I'm running on fumes anyway so it's best not to push it. I'll jump back in on Thursday and keep on track through the weekend. At least the desire is back. That's 90% of the battle. The other 10% is easy and most of the time, fun.

October 12, 2009

Making Progress

I finally broke the lazy/no training barrier on Sunday with my first real ride since Ironman Wisconsin. It was four weeks to the day and my how four weeks can take a toll on the body. Four weeks prior to that moment I was doing the hardest physical thing I'd ever done in my life and four weeks later I was struggling to do an average ride. My Garmin wasn't charged and I think it was a blessing in disguise. I'm not sure I want to know what my HR was or how slow I was going. Instead I just rode and it was a beautiful, crisp fall day and being out there on the road was exactly what I needed. I covered 45 miles in three hours. Not a bad re-introduction to the bike. Next time will be better.

Today was my usual rest day but I did something I haven't done in over six weeks. I walked. I had an MRI appointment so I walked to the train furthest from my apartment, then walked to work from the radiology center. I also took a long walk at lunch and then walked home again from the train. All in I walked about 3.5 miles and my foot felt fine. I was barely limping and it felt great to do something so common.

As I enjoyed my old friend the MRI I realized it was my seventh in a matter of nine years. I've had three on my lower left leg - one to diagnose a tibial stress fracture and two to rule out subsequent fractures. I've had one on each shoulder - the first after falling repeatedly while learning to snowboard and the second after crashing my bike last year and breaking my shoulder. I've now had two on my left foot due to the torn plantar fascia. This total doesn't account for the three CT scans - one head, two abdominal - and countless X-rays I've also had. That's a lot of medical imaging in less than a decade of life. It makes me wonder if I'm doing something wrong, or if scans are a way of life for an athlete. Let's hope after this one I have a long reprieve. I think I've earned it.

I'm on pins and needles waiting for the results. My doc said he'd call the moment he has an update. I'll be sure to share the news when it comes.

October 10, 2009

Let's Try This Again

After another day with zero activity I decided to give it another try today. I was busy cleaning and catching up on life stuff so sure enough, I lost all desire to swim as the day went on. I had a train to catch and limited time, but I finally forced myself to get in the pool. No watch, no heart rate monitor and no workout. Just 20 minutes of swimming with no purpose other than swimming. I'm so glad I did it.

I have a nice ride planned tomorrow and am hoping it paves the way for more. I hate the feeling I have when I'm totally inactive. There is a distinct shift in my mood and energy levels that is unpleasant. So while a break is nice, I don't consider being totally sedentary a break. Light, unstructured training is a break. If my foot weren't injured I'd do other activities and take a break from swimming and biking, but alas swimming and biking are the only two activities I'm cleared to do. Oh the irony.

I started reading The Omnivore's Dilemma today. I was just starting Born to Run and decided to hold off on that one in favor for a non-sports book. Given the struggle I've had with my diet this past year I figured it would be enlightening. Plus I feel like the only person who hasn't read it. I'm looking forward to time spent on the couch reading. That's what I consider a break.

October 9, 2009

Two Out of Three

I haven't had the easiest time in triathlon. My first season abruptly ended with a bad bike crash that kept me off the bike for nearly six months and out of the pool for over three months. But during that time, except for a six-week stretch where I was stuck on the elliptical, I was able to run. And running made everything ok because it's something I've done every fall season for the last decade.

Now my second season has ended with another injury. At least this time there was an incredibly rewarding Ironman finish to go with it, but I'm still injured nevertheless. I've played the chin-up game for about six weeks now and it's finally taking its toll. I haven't done any training this week and while I can use my schedule and work obligations as an excuse, the truth of the matter is that it simply wasn't important enough to me. I somehow managed to fit Ironman training in for the better part of nine months and suddenly I can't make a 30 minute swim work. It all comes down to motivation and priorities and I have no motivation and the training just isn't a priority.

So as it turns out, being able to do two out of the three sports isn't good enough right now. I'm going to make one more attempt to get back into the swing of things and if it doesn't work, I'm going to rethink how I spend my off season. I know I am desperate to be physically active, but I just don't think it's going to happen in the swim/bike world. Not without the running.

So I'm going to let go of another wasted training day and see what tomorrow brings. I'm going to admit I'm feeling the effects of depression that come with not being able to do something you love. And hopefully I'll figure things out and find a way to make it through this injury and get back on track so my 2010 season doesn't get off to an miserable start.

October 7, 2009

2010

Since 2009 is most certainly over for me as far as training and racing are concerned, I'm starting to look forward to my 2010 season. I'll be racing:
  • Ironman 70.3 New Orleans, April 18
  • Eagleman Ironman 70.3, June 13
  • Ironman Lake Placid, July 25
  • Ironman Wisconsin, September 12
In 2009 I only competed in four triathlons as well, but I rounded the year out with multiple running and swimming races as well as two bike events. For 2010 I'll likely keep the focus on this small group of races and my continued recovery.

I saw the doc yesterday and things are moving ahead. I got my orthotics and will start wearing them instead of the boot on and off over the next couple weeks. I should be having my MRI soon and the results will determine if I'm ready for PRP injections. If all goes well, I could be running by December. I'm willing to wait so I go into the season 100% ready, but just knowing the end is within 8-12 weeks is a good feeling. I don't do injured very well so my primary goal for 2010 is to be injury free. Finally.

October 4, 2009

Back in the Proverbial Saddle

Three weeks ago this very moment I was somewhere around Mile 20 of the marathon in my Ironman, digging deep within my soul looking for the drive to keep moving forward. I was in pain and my body was failing me, but my spirit was not. I had just told my parents that I would finish and I didn't care if it took me until midnight, I was on a mission to do so. Fast forward three weeks and my life couldn't be more different. I went from warp speed to no speed. I was training 20+ hours a week and now I'm lucky if I break four. On one hand, this is the best thing I could be doing. On the other hand, it's a hard pill to swallow. Over the past several months I've started to identify myself first and foremost as an athlete so this is very new territory for me. However, I know my body needs a break. I've asked the world of it and I'm going to be asking even more in 2010. So I'm not stressing and I'm enjoying the down time for what it is.

After a 2.5 week slump, I had a good talk with my coach about the future and about what to expect from my first offseason in long course. Just talking about 2010 filled me with energy and once I had a grasp on what role today and the next several days play, I was ready to get started again. That night I got on the bike and I stuck to my schedule each day after. I deviated today due to mechanical issues with my bike, but I have a bit of a grace period left so I took advantage. I'll take the schedule seriously, but I'll remain open to shifting for life opportunities. I only have three months of off season after all.

Wednesday - Biking
Distance - 14.68 miles
Time - 1:00:00

Thursday - Swimming
Distance - 1,150 yards
Time - 21:29

Friday - Biking
Distance - 15.60 miles
Time - 1:00:00

Saturday - Swimming
Distance - 1,400 yards
Time - 27:02

September 29, 2009

Ironman Wisconsin 2009 - Run

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” - Ambrose Redmoon

A marathon is roughly 41,280 steps and I knew I’d be walking most, if not all of them. My legs felt great coming out of T2. Having to pass the finish line, the huge crowds and my family made it hard to hold back. I really wanted to run but remembered the MRI my doctor showed me right before leaving for the race so I walked. The marathon in an Ironman is very long regardless of your pace, but it was really daunting to think about walking 26.2 miles so I used milestones to shorten the distance into manageable parts. I'll share my experience based on those milestones.

Part One

Not surprisingly, I wasn’t the only one walking. Some people needed time to ease in after the bike and some were feeling the effects of the heat. Others, like me, had planned to walk and would be walking all night. There are many ways to approach an Ironman and blasting out of T2 at a strong pace isn’t the only way. I met my first walk buddy of the day and we covered a mile or so together. His name was Jeffrey and he was walking because he claimed to be a horrible runner. A race photographer got a shot of us coming off Capitol Square together so I was able to look back and see that Jeffrey walked his way to a 6 hour run split. Not bad at all.

I had moments where I walked alone and relied on the energy of the spectators, volunteers and passing athletes to keep me motivated. It was an interesting position to be in given I’ve always seen myself as a runner. Everything looked and felt different and I was seeing a marathon in a way I never have before. I thought a lot about the significant accomplishment we’d all made up to that point in just being there. And I thought about the finish and how much I wanted it, but still might not make it.

One of the more unique parts of the course is a lap around Camp Randall Stadium about 2.5 miles into the race. When I got inside I noticed the surface was spongy grass so I decided to jog a little. It felt so good to switch to running muscles even if only for a moment. I enjoyed my little lap and slowed back to a walk at the end. Just then I recognized a friend and caught up with him for a couple miles of walking and talking. I found I was keeping a much more brisk pace when accompanied by another runner. There were countless kind souls who carried me through the race and I have no doubt I would have taken even longer without them. It was particularly nice to spend time with someone I knew.


Part Two


Next up I had State Street and the huge crowds that come along with it. I also knew my family would be there. They were right near the first timing mat and turnaround at 6.35 miles. I was averaging a 15:38/mile pace. Not great, but not horrible. I felt energized from seeing my parents. Their excitement was really touching and I realized the Ironman means just as much to the people who love us. I continued on, focusing on the 13.1 mile turnaround as my next milestone.

I felt the best during the Part Two of the race. I saw another friend and she walked with me for a mile or so. I had another stranger join me for a couple miles. The time spent alone allowed me to reflect and enjoy my surroundings. I was in pain, but it was normal, manageable pain. I was doing a marathon regardless of how fast or slow I was moving so there was bound to be pain. The sun was still shining and I was filled with energy. At mile 12 I decided to run. I started with a very slow jog and gradually increased to a less slow jog. Because of the change in movement, it felt great. Shortly after I reached Capitol Square and the massive crowds gave me a shot of adrenaline, which can be dangerous since it momentarily wipes all feeling of pain. I saw my parents shortly before the turnaround and was filled with joy. I saw friends as I rounded the corner and spotted the finish line head on for the first time that day. I wasn't depressed like I thought I'd be as I started that second loop, but rather filled with hope that I might be back there in a few more hours to cross that line myself. At the turnaround I was down to a 15:47/mile pace and on track for a 7 hour marathon split. I could live with that.


Part Three

I stopped at special needs, sat on the ground and proceeded to Body Glide my good foot, which was gradually turning into one big blister. The pronounced limp and long miles were creating immense pressure so the blisters were inevitable. I didn't care. I would have walked my foot down to a bloody stump in order to finish. I wanted it that badly. I also grabbed the most important things: a baggie full of Cheez Its and a huge, delicious chocolate sand cookie - a dark chocolate cookie sprinkled with sea salt - from a local cafe. The cookie went in my pocket for later and I got to work on the crackers. It was a nice change from the on-course snacks I'd been enjoying for nearly 3.5 hours already. As I left Capitol Square a volunteer handed me a glow stick necklace and told me it had to be on my body at all times. Sunset was coming.

I continued to jog for another few miles and felt good. I walked a bit on the way to Camp Randall, then jogged again on the comfortable squishiness inside the stadium. But soon after Camp Randall the pain really started to set in. I was roughly 16 miles into the run so it wasn't a surprise, but having 10 miles to go made me nervous. Would my foot hold up that long? I had just seen the finish and heard people being called an Ironman by Mike Reilly. The thought of not making it there myself was difficult to accept. I kept walking.

I went through several quiet miles and daylight was gone. Darkness in the Ironman can be hard to deal with. At times I was in total sensory deprivation. There were no lights. No visibility. No other athletes. No sound except the shuffling of my own feet. I was in a lot of pain and starting to worry more. I cried a bit on and off through these difficult miles. I cried from the pain and I cried from the overload of emotion. But I never wanted to quit and I never questioned why I was there. I had never wanted anything more and I was determined to keep moving forward. As I reached the top of the hill on Observatory I finally encountered another athlete. He was in worse shape than I, shuffling along slowly and repeatedly dry heaving. He at least had a friend walking with him, but my heart went out. I gave him some words of encouragement as I passed hoping he'd find the same energy I'd been drawing from all day.

At that point I was steps away from State Street which meant light, other athletes, spectators and my parents. That gave me the push to keep going. Just before the 19.23 mile turnaround, I saw my mom and dad. I stopped, got some hugs and told them for the first time that day that I would finish. My dad said, "You have 3.5 hours to walk less than seven miles. You're going to be an Ironman today." Those words pushed me ahead. I was down to a 15:53/mile average pace, but somehow found the energy and will to jog a little.


Part Four

This is where the true test of what I was made from began. I kept up the jog-shuffle for less than a mile before severe and alarming pain struck and slowed me to a crawl. At first I could barely walk and wondered if I'd have to stop. Then a guy at the aid station asked if I was Lazy Marathoner. His name was Bill and he told me he'd been reading my blog. We exchanged some words and I was instantly boosted with energy. It was another one of those incredible moments that pushed me forward.


The next couple miles were the hardest. I was out along Lake Mendota where there is no light and nothing to see. My foot was so swelled that my shoelaces were digging into the top and the pain was overwhelming. I was comparing the pain to my right foot to evaluate if it was normal and paying close attention for any pulling or tearing sensations. As I approached the incredibly energetic mile 21 aid station and my second lap around the Inspiration Mile, an area where signs from loved ones are posted and an electronic timing mat calls up a message for most athletes, I was barely moving. I decided to make my first and only porta potty stop in more than five hours of walking the marathon. I had been afraid to break forward momentum and my coordination was shot. Anything beyond simple, slow, straightforward movement was difficult to manage due to the lack of control I had over my body. I had seen a guy passed out at the mile 20 aid station and thought just how easy it would be to lose it all at that point. I continued on, but was unable to derive any joy from the aid station or the inspiration zone due to the low point I had reached. Then I passed friends on their way back about two miles ahead and their words of encouragement snapped me back to reality. I kept moving, but logged two miles in 40 minutes, by far the slowest I had been all day.

Just when I thought I'd hit rock bottom, around mile 22, two strangers walked up beside me and saved the day. Their names were Kara and Scott and they didn't know each other until a few miles back. That is the beauty of Ironman. Strangers are instantly bonded with strangers over this incredible common ground. Both were injured or had been battling chronic injury and were forced to walk. It was so great to have company to pull me out of the dark hole in my mind that was too easy to fall into, so I picked up the pace to keep up with them. I went from a 20-minute mile to around a 16-minute mile and while it hurt, it was possible. We walked and talked from mile 22 until we reached that final loop around Capitol Square. Prior to the race, previous IMWI athletes had shared advice for race day and one said:

"Once you reach the Capitol on your second lap, let it all out. Tears, fist pumps, screams. It is your time. Enjoy the last five minutes because it is what you will remember."

Those words stuck in my mind and I thanked Kara and Scott and let them go ahead. I wanted this time to myself and besides, they were planning to run the finish when I barely had a walk left in me. I took this final walk even more slowly and absorbed every moment.

As I neared the finish, the few spectators remaining along with the final aid station volunteers congratulated me and called me an Ironman. I wasn't an Ironman yet, but for the first time in weeks, I was sure I would be. I could hear the finish and knew it was within my reach. As I made the second to last turn, I let a small pack of runners pass while I continued to walk. I honestly didn't think I could even jog. But as I neared the final turn onto MLK into the finish chute, I heard the music, I heard the cheering and stepped into the spotlight, and from somewhere inside me I didn't know existed, I found the energy to run the final stretch. My good friend adrenaline kicked in and left me completely numb to physical pain and allowed me to run on a foot that was barely functional. Those final moments were unbelievable. I had the entire chute to myself and heard Mike Reilly say, "Kristin Torres from Brooklyn New York," at which point he paused. I looked up at him, he pointed at me and said, "Kristin, you are an Ironman." I crossed the finish line after a life-changing 15 hours, 48 minutes and 17 seconds.


I had completed the goal I set for myself one year ago, but in a drastically different way than I ever imagined. What started as a nightmare two weeks before the race turned into a dream when I crossed that finish line. It wasn't easy. It wasn't pretty. It wasn't always fun. But it was rewarding, memorable and incredibly inspiring and it was the most special thing I'd ever been part of. I had no regrets. I was an Ironman.

Time - 7:09:29

September 24, 2009

Ironman Wisconsin 2009 - Bike


Bike

This ride was a dream from beginning to end. I felt great physically and was in good spirits coming out of the swim. The first few miles are along a busy road and narrow path with a stretch of mandatory single file. I didn't mind this much as it forced us to take it easy and settle in properly. After 10 minutes I felt comfortable, my HR had normalized and I started on my nutrition.

The course consists of an out and back from Madison to Verona, or "the stick," and two roughly 40 mile loops. My goal was to push the pace on the stick and ride the loops a bit more conservatively. While there are climbs on the stick, they are nothing in comparison to what comes later on the course. I reached Verona in 45 minutes, 15 minutes faster than my ride there in June. I was off to a great start.

The entire first loop was incredible. I'd heard the course support was amazing but was still surprised by how many people were out there cheering. In most races you have supporters at the swim start and along the run course, but it's rare to see so many people on the bike course. Some of them were out there all day and never ceased to share energy and enthusiasm. The miles were clicking by and my average was over 17 mph, even with the hills, at the first timing mat. The best I could do in June was 15.75. It was the strongest long ride I'd ever done and I couldn't have asked for a better time and place for that to happen. My nutrition and hydration felt spot on, my energy was consistent and my foot was pain free. I realized at one point that my cheeks hurt from smiling. I was having the time of my life.

As I approached the three nasty hills at the end of the first loop I knew I’d see my parents and couldn’t wait to get there. Riding up these hills is the hardest part of the course, but also one of the most fun due to the spectators. People lined both sides of the street and had tents set up, music playing and signs with a combination of funny and encouraging words. Strangers ran up alongside us and gave us energy to push ahead. My parents ended up not being able to get to the hill we'd planned but I saw them a couple miles later. Seeing them out there meant the world to me.

I pulled up to special needs just after starting the second loop. I can't say enough about the volunteers and organization of this race. As I approached they called out my number, asked if I wanted my bag, pointed where to stop, and by the time I got there, a volunteer was holding my bag open and ready. I clipped out, grabbed the two things I needed and he offered to spray me with my sunscreen while I got things situated. I couldn't have been there more than 45 seconds and was back on the course.

The second loop was more challenging. The heat had risen significantly and the spectators thinned out as did the riders. The wind also picked up to add another layer of challenge, but I continued to feel strong. As I neared mile 90 I recalled someone saying you'd hate yourself around mile 90 and question why you were there. I had a different feeling. Yes, I was starting to feel the pains of a long ride, but I was also having my best ride ever and I still had no idea what the rest of the day would bring. I got very emotional and thought to myself - please don't let this be over. I wasn't ready to end it, but also knew it might not be my choice to make. So I continued to do the only thing I knew I could do for sure that day: enjoy every moment. I accepted that those final miles might be the end of my race.

Time - 6:43:52

T2

As I pulled into T2 the moment of truth arrived. I got off the bike and took a step that would determine the rest of my fate. And luckily, my foot felt great. I was definitely going to go for it. After a quick porta potty stop I headed into the change tent and was helped by volunteers from BT, one of which I volunteered with last year and have gotten to know quite well. Seeing familiar faces at such a critical point in the race was priceless and getting a hug even more so. I was filled with emotion. I was relieved, excited, scared, anxious and most of all, happy. They helped me tape my foot, get changed into new shorts and socks, then I was on my way.

As the narrator said in the 2007 Kona coverage, "two parts down, one dream marathon to go."

Time - 11:52

Up next... the run.

September 23, 2009

Ironman Wisconsin 2009 - Pre-Race and Swim


Race Week

There almost aren't words to describe the atmosphere of an Ironman. You have to experience it to really understand it. I was struck by this last year when I volunteered and experienced race weekend before signing up for my own Ironman adventure. To be back one year later and participating as an athlete was an incredible feeling. I've already shared the day to day activities of race week so I'll just recap it by saying it was magical. Within minutes of arriving I was swept off to dinner by friends and the sharing and camaraderie continued every day of the week with new and different people arriving and joining as the week went on. We were all in it together. All sharing the same special experience. I can't think of another time in life when you are so connected to others.

I'll share my race experience in parts to avoid this being the longest post ever written. As you can imagine, the memories are infinite and there is no way I could capture them all. I'll do my best to hit the highlights and paint a picture of what it's like to take part in an Ironman. I still can't believe I did it.

Pre-Race

I have always struggled to sleep well the night before a race, but this race was in a league of its own. I wasn’t nervous the way one normally would be, but rather filled with dread of the unknown. I’d gone through plans of where to meet and where to be with my parents knowing I might never make it there. I started to feel overwhelmed by it all and despite being exhausted, just couldn’t fall asleep. I woke up at 3:30 and the feeling remained. I had my usual pre-race breakfast - coffee, two pieces of sprouted grain bread (only because my coach makes me eat it) with almond butter and honey. I drank one big glass of water, checked my special needs bags one last time and headed out. My dad drove me to Capitol Square to spare me the three-block walk where I dropped off my bags and then walked alone to transition. I cried for the first time that day. It wouldn’t be the last.

I filled my tires, got my bottles situated and headed into the terrace to wait. What a scene it was in there. Athletes lined the hallway in various states of emotion. I saw a lot of laughter, tears, nerves and fear. I started finding familiar faces, many of the friends I'd shared the week with along with some new ones who had arrived for the race. By chance I met a guy that I've been trying to meet for a year. We missed each other at IMWI last year and haven't had the opportunity since. He was a big inspiration to me when I signed up last year so it was great timing to finally meet.

In that moment, I realized one of the most significant things I'd realize all day. An incredible thing about Ironman is the energy transfer that happens from person to person. It comes from fellow athletes, family, friends, spectators and volunteers. Something as simple as a kind word, a touch or a cheer would immediately change how I felt and give me the energy to keep moving forward. This was felt most noticeably on the run, but it started before I even got into the water.

I walked to the start and found my family. The sun was just coming up and the sight of an Ironman swim start is pretty incredible. I was excited and ready for it to begin. At 6:45 I got in for a quick warm up. After the pro start at 6:50 I made my way to front to seed myself appropriately. I settled about 2/3 of the way over to the right from the buoy line, but decided to stay up front, about three people back. I asked the folks around me for their goal times and they ranged from 1:15-1:25 so I was comfortable there. I knew it might be a bit aggressive but also knew I could hold my own.

The singing of the national anthem was surreal. I looked around and couldn't believe I was there. I was doing an Ironman.

Swim

Unbelievable. The cannon went off and mass chaos ensued. I was right in the thick of it, the famous washing machine, and I loved it! I was surprised I could actually swim through it. To say I took contact would be an understatement – it was a full-on kick and punch fest the entire time. I took the first blow to the face only a few minutes in and would endure at least 4-5 more throughout the swim. Most were just startling with only a couple really hurting, including a solid kick to the jaw. You have to remain totally calm in an Ironman swim and adjust for the amount of people sharing your little patch of water. If I got kicked I’d just stay face down and slow my stroke enough to let the aggressive swimmer pass, then keep going. Twice I had to empty water out of my goggles or put them back on after a kick so I took those moments to look around and take it all in. It was amazing!


I ended up hugging the buoy line and swimming just inside it at times. This made turns difficult and I took a lot of contact but I was comfortable there so I went with it. On the return stretch of the first loop I heard a loud sound in the water and felt a swimmer go right over the left side of me. I looked up and saw the silver cap – it was one of the pros finishing up the second loop. I finished the first loop in 41 minutes which is super fast for me. I was thrilled.

Loop two was still crowded and full of contact, but surprisingly, no one grabbed or kicked my foot. It was slightly slower but I felt great, I was having fun and enjoying the moment. As I approached the exit I stood up, paused and looked around. A volunteer asked if I was ok and I said I’d never been better.

Time - 1:27:43

T1

After my wetsuit stripping the adrenaline took over and I started to jog toward the helix (the parking ramp you have to run up to get to the indoor transition area) when I suddenly remembered my torn plantar fascia and put the breaks on. I saw friends on the way to the helix and couldn't believe the crowds lining it. The cheering echoed and made me want to run and draw from that energy but I restrained myself.

T1 was jam packed so I grabbed my bag, skipped the volunteers and did my quick work right near the exit. I put on socks, an HR strap, a heavy coating of sunscreen, helmet, glasses and race belt. I hit the porta potty on the way out and had to walk to the bike. Had I been able to run I think I would have had a pretty efficient T1 time. A volunteer handed me my bike and I was off. The ride down the helix was awesome, it pumped me up and set the tone for a great ride.

Time - 15:23

Up next... the bike.

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