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.

September 22, 2009

Time Off

I've been on an extended break that doesn't seem to be ending. I feel a little burned out now that all the Ironman excitement is wearing off and even though I have light training on the schedule, I've been skipping it most days in favor of just living my life and catching up on the millions of things left undone for the past nine months. I feel a little sluggish as a result and know when I resume normal activity I'll be re-energized, but for now I think it's a break I need both mentally and physically.

One of these days I'll post my full report, maybe in parts or maybe just one long post. I'll also load up a slideshow of the 150+ photos I've already posted on Facebook. I'm still buzzing emotionally from the incredible experience, but for once I'm slowing down and listening to my body - and my body wants to be lazy. So I'll indulge in it for a few more days, then try to get myself back on track. Lake Placid is only 10 months away after all!

September 19, 2009

Immediate and Long-Term Recovery

As I approach the end of my first post-race week, I'm feeling really good and think my recovery is coming along nicely. The pain subsided very quickly but fatigue still lingers on. I've had one easy bike and two swims so far and will have a very easy ride tomorrow. I'm not expecting much from my body. My HR spikes from minimal activity and even when the RPE feels good, I'm moving at a snail's pace. I ditched the HRM on my last swim and just did it and enjoyed the time in the water. I know I'll get my energy back over time when my body is ready.

I've experienced some other interesting feelings this week. My appetite has been wildly fluctuating day by day. I was starving on Monday, perfectly normal on Tuesday, barely ate on Wednesday, was like a bottomless pit on Thursday, pretty hungry Friday and then back to normal today. I've been allowing myself a grace period of eating and drinking whatever I want during this week. I figure I've earned it. Starting tomorrow I'll get back on track.

I saw my podiatrist yesterday to talk about my longer-term recovery and the prognosis for my foot. I was really disappointed by what I found out, but am willing to do whatever it takes to be 100% healthy for next season. A fascia tear can take 4-6 months to fully heal which means I likely won't run at all during that time frame. I was prepared to give up months, but wasn't thinking it would be that extreme. I'm a bit worried how that will affect my early training for Lake Placid and hope I can get right back to where I was pre-injury. I was cast for orthotics and should have them in two weeks. After that I'll ease out of the boot. I have a follow up MRI in four weeks and will likely be starting PRP injections shortly after. I'm continuing to stay off it and will be gradually increasing my biking and swimming to compensate for the lack of running.

I have an excellent doctor and a great coach who both understand how important this is to me. I trust them to guide me through this recovery and help set me up for a great 2010 season. Onward and upward!

September 17, 2009

PIDS

I seem to have escaped the dreaded PIDS - Post Ironman Depression Syndrome. At least so far. Prior to the race I was really concerned about this. You spend nearly a year of your life focused on a single day in time so when it's over, you may find yourself feeling lost without a goal and missing the adrenaline and good feelings race day brought. I'm definitely missing the race environment and the friends I shared it with, and I'm sad it's over, but I'm not depressed at all. In fact, I'm still riding on this incredible high that doesn't seem to be fading. I've had a permanent smile since Sunday morning. It's a great feeling.

I returned to New York and reality this week. I'm still capturing my memories and thoughts from the day and will post an epic race report by the weekend. I've uploaded more than 100 photos to Facebook and still have more to sort through. My bags remain in my dining room unpacked. I have a lot of catching up to do.

My soreness has subsided after a few days of rest and one of the most brutal massages I've ever had. I also got back into the pool and while it felt great to be active, I felt like I was swimming through mud. I can tell I'm fatigued even though I feel good so I'm embracing the rest. After a few sleepless nights I finally slept great last night so I seem to be getting back to normal.

I'm already looking forward to my next Ironman adventure. I'll be toeing the line in Lake Placid in 10 months and then Wisconsin again 7 weeks later. But for now I'm going to continue to bask in the memories from Sunday and focus on recovering my foot. I want to start next season 100% healthy and ready.

September 15, 2009

A Glimpse of My Day

Just before the swim:



















Coming out of T1, feeling great and ready for the ride of my life:



















First few miles of the bike:



















Riding through beautiful Wisconsin farmland:



















More farmland:



















The beginning of my epic marathon:



















My first walk partner of many throughout the day:



















Jog around Camp Randall Stadium:



















The moment I waited a year and fought nearly 16 hours for:



















Finisher photo:



















Finisher medal:

September 14, 2009

Incredible Journey

I'm still riding on the high from yesterday. What an unbelievable day. I could barely sleep last night and was back at the expo and in race land as soon as I woke up. I dropped my bike off, bought a massive bag of finisher gear and went to the banquet. I'll be "that girl" wearing head to toe Ironman Wisconsin gear, while writing with my Ironman Wisconsin pen and drinking coffee out of my Ironman Wisconsin mug. Ok, I didn't buy a pen.

I have no regrets, no thoughts about "what if" or how I could or should have done, none of this "it wasn't the race I trained for" even though it wasn't. I'm just happy. Ridiculously and overwhelmingly happy, that I had the chance to even show up at the start and was given the gift of the finish. It was slow, long and painful. If you had told me a year ago that I'd walk a marathon I would have said you were insane. I'm a runner, not a walker, and I quickly realized I don't have the muscles required for walking! I'll never be able to put the emotions and experience into words. I cannot think of a time in my life where I was that overjoyed. People say everything happens for a reason. If I had been overly focused on my 13:30 goal I would have missed the incredible display of humanity, joy, kindness, sadness, defeat, elation and respect I saw out there for nearly 16 hours yesterday. And I was right in the middle of it. The energy transfer from person to person was amazing.

Here is my finish. Kristin Torres, you are an Ironman.


video

I'll share photos and a full report soon. I want to remember every moment of it.

September 13, 2009

Ironman

I did it, today I became an Ironman. I had to walk a very painful 22 miles of the marathon, but it was worth it.

KRISTIN TORRES

BIB AGE STATE/COUNTRY PROFESSION
2306 34 BROOKLYN NY USA


SWIM BIKE RUN OVERALL RANK DIV.POS.
1:27:43 6:43:51 7:09:29 15:48:17 1990 105

LEG DISTANCE PACE RANK DIV.POS.
TOTAL SWIM 2.4 mi. (1:27:43) 2:18/100m 176891

FIRST BIKE SEGMENT 40 mi. (2:17:51) 17.41 mph
SECOND BIKE SEGMENT 83 mi. (2:34:05) 16.74 mph
FINAL BIKE SEGMENT 112 mi. (1:51:55) 15.55 mph
TOTAL BIKE 112 mi. (6:43:51) 16.64 mph 160870

FIRST RUN SEGMENT 6.35 mi. (1:39:19) 15:38/mile
SECOND RUN SEGMENT 13 mi. (1:45:03) 15:47/mile
THIRD RUN SEGMENT 19.23 mi. (1:38:59) 15:53/mile
FINAL RUN SEGMENT 26.2 mi. (2:06:08) 18:05/mile
TOTAL RUN 26.2 mi. (7:09:29) 16:23/mile 1990105


TRANSITION TIME
T1: SWIM-TO-BIKE 15:22
T2: BIKE-TO-RUN 11:52


September 12, 2009

Life Changing Experience

People always say an Ironman is a life changing experience. How can a single day, and a race no less, be so important? I'm not sure I fully understood it until now and they were right. This is a life changing experience regardless of how race day unfolds. I was reminded today how fortunate we are to have the opportunity to get to the start line. After an unbelievable one-year journey that involved flying out here to be part of last year's race before signing up in person, 32 weeks of training that tested every mental and physical limit imaginable, private moments of doubt and hope, friendships built from the strongest common ground you can have with another human being and enough positive energy to fill a lifetime, I have arrived at the start and I'm fortunate. I have no idea what will happen during that 17 hours tomorrow, but I do know I'll enjoy every moment of it.

You can share the final steps of my journey with me at www.ironmanlive.com. I'm athlete #2306. Wish me luck!

September 11, 2009

Almost Time

With just one day to go I don't have a whole lot to say. I'm getting nervous and starting to reflect a lot, which I guess is normal after thinking about a single day for an entire year. The athlete's dinner and briefing made me feel a bit sad tonight. I would give anything to be here racing the race I worked so hard to prepare for. But things don't always go the way you hoped.

A friend reminded me tonight that I haven't spent my 34 years of life building for this day. This is really just one day in this one year and while it's disappointing, it won't be my last shot at the Ironman distance. I'll have my perfect day eventually.

Tomorrow will be all about preparation and rest. I'll walk and jog for the first time in weeks, sign up for Ironman Wisconsin 2010, drop off my bike and transition bags, and spend the day with my family staying calm and focused. I'm anxious for race day to come so I can see how this story ends.

September 10, 2009

Tic Toc


As is the case with most important, exciting or highly anticipated life experiences, time is absolutely flying during Ironman week. I got here so early yet feel like it's been a minute and we're already just two days from show time. The official activities kicked off today with the Gatorade practice swim in Lake Monona. I met friends there at 7 and braved the blue-green algae to enjoy an hour in open water. Despite the algae, the swim was great. We spent some time treading to prepare ourselves for the mass start and we took a couple breaks out in the middle of the lake and just bobbed around and chatted. We were the only people on the course playing Marco Polo and chatting. Some of the athletes are just way too serious. I think our approach is much more fun.


After the swim I went through race registration and it was the first thing this week that made me feel sad. I think it's because I was a volunteer there last year and saw how excited and nervous everyone was, and imagined myself in their shoes a year later. I'm excited, but not in the same way I should have been and I know I may not be able to finish. Most of the time I don't even think about it, but the check in process made it feel very real for a moment.

The rest of the day was a blur. I had a long lunch with friends, retrieved my bike from Tribike Transport, dropped it at a bike shop, hit the expo for some IMWI gear (yes, I bought branded gear BEFORE a race... I'm a risk taker) and met more friends for dinner.


If my goal was to come here, experience the Ironman for everything I possibly could, have fun, visit my family and enjoy my friends, I'm hitting it 100%. I'm looking forward to the final two pre-race days before the big day on Sunday.

Swimming
Time - 1:00:00

September 9, 2009

Every Step I Take


I'm literally saving my steps up for Sunday. I have been off my feet, driving, in the boot and on the crutches, all in a desperate attempt to have saved up the 41,280 steps estimated to complete a marathon. I am feeling good. Really good. But I can't let that cloud my judgment. I'm thrilled to be here. I had dinner with friends last night, lunch with more friends today. Then drinks with the same friends plus new friends this afternoon, and dinner with family tonight. I am feeling surrounded with support and on a perpetual high from being in the vicinity of an Ironman.


They were setting up the finish area tonight and I was overwhelmed when I saw it. I so badly want to be there on Sunday night, and not as a spectator, but as a participant on the course completing my journey. I've decided I will do whatever I can to cross that line without causing future damage. I'm going to be smart, take everything I know and make the decision on race day. If I'm hurting I'll stop, whether that's in T2 or on the run course. This is an incredibly special Ironman, but it isn't the only Ironman. I have to keep that in mind.

Tomorrow starts the official race activity. I'm meeting friends at 7 for the Gatorade swim, 1.2 miles in the foul, blue-green algae infested Lake Monona (yum). Then we're registering, having lunch and some of us are retrieving our bikes from Tribike Transport. More friends are arriving tomorrow night. Sunday will be here before I know it. And I welcome it. I'm ready.

September 8, 2009

Glimmer of Hope

It’s been 13 days since I woke up and reality as I knew it drastically changed. I spent the first week slightly troubled by the injury, but hopeful I’d rest, ice and be ready to go as planned on race day. But things took a turn for the worse six days ago and I’ve spent that time dealing with the loss of a dream and finding a way to accept it. To say I was devastated would be an understatement. But the way I’ve dealt with this has been a surprise even to me. I’ve learned a lot about myself, and the most important thing is that I’m deeply changed by this journey. I have discovered that while people, activities or events can make me happy, I no longer rely on them for my happiness. I determine my own happiness and if I gained nothing else, I’ve gained a strong sense of self and am content with the path I took and the choices I made.

With only one choice remaining, I have no doubt I’ll be content with whatever I decide. I saw my podiatrist today and looked at the MRI films. There is definitely something wrong with my plantar fascia, but it’s hard to say 100% that it’s torn. As my injury stands today I will recover rather quickly and can resume training and move on to my next challenge. If I attempt to do any portion of the marathon, walking or running, I am risking further injury and longer term damage. There is no guarantee this will happen, but it’s a risk I have to accept in order to make my decision. The possibility of a full rupture is very minimal since it would require me running or walking through tremendous pain that I would hopefully realize was a sign to stop. That said, there is just as good a chance I could get off the bike, feel pretty good and walk the entire race trouble free. There is even a chance I could run/walk it at a very easy pace. Only I will know the right choice and I won’t know it until I get to T2 on race day.

I’ve been touched and overwhelmed by the support I’ve received throughout this ordeal. I think the most comforting thing is knowing I won’t be letting anyone down by not finishing the race. On the flip side, I hope I’m not letting anyone down if I choose to attempt a finish. I realize it might not be the “right” thing to do in many people’s eyes, but at the end of the day, I have to be able to wake up Monday morning and feel good about whatever decision I made. The right one will hopefully be the one that feels best in the moment.

I arrived in Madison tonight and within minutes, received a call from friends to meet up for dinner. It reminded me why this race is so special to me. I've been here less than half a day and am already having fun. That's what this was always supposed to be about.


My dad looked at my training numbers for the year and shared something with me tonight. If you divide them by the Ironman distances, I've already completed the swim 33.51 times, the bike 22.44 times and the run 24.5 times. For that, I'm proud. If all the stars align and the day decides to be kind to me, maybe I'll complete them all one more time.

September 6, 2009

Enough

I'm exhausted. I'm out of words. I still have no idea what's going on next Sunday and I won't know until Sunday. So I'm taking a mental break from it all while I still can. I slept in, did a little trainer ride and loved it, met up with friends and had another good time, and packed for my trip. I'm going to Long Island tomorrow and off to Madison on Tuesday. I'm ready for this Ironman to be a reality, regardless of what the reality is.

In the spirit of not dwelling on my circumstances, I thought I'd share something that made me laugh today. A year ago the swim was what I feared the most and it barely phases me now, which makes this all that much more entertaining. Enjoy.

Biking (trainer)
Distance - 11.3 miles
Time - 50:00

September 5, 2009

End of the Bender

After being so diligent with my diet and training for so long, I tossed all the rules out the window and had a much-needed three-day bender of eating and drinking everything I'm not supposed to in total excess. It was lovely. But after another night of over indulging, I woke up this morning and decided it was time to pull myself together and be a little kinder to my body in the spirit of recovery and preparing myself for 2/3 of an Ironman in one week. I slept in, ate incredibly healthy and light, talked to a couple friends to lift my spirits and forced myself to go back to the pool since it's the only training I can safely do at this point. I've gained about three or four pounds and was desperate to move again.

Being in the water felt great. I haven't swam since last Thursday and could feel it, mostly in sloppy form, but it wasn't as bad as expected. I took it easy and used a pull buoy for every other set to give my legs a total rest. I've never used a buoy before and it took some getting used to. The flotation is great, but I don't want to get too reliant on it.

I get to do a short, easy trainer ride tomorrow to get some blood flowing to the foot and loosen up my legs. I can't remember a time I was so excited to be on the trainer. After that I'll do a longer swim and the spend the rest of the day packing for Wisconsin. One of the best things to come of this injury is the total lack of pre-race nerves and anxiety. I haven't felt the slightest bit of stress aside from the stress of my decision.

I still have no idea what September 13 will bring and most likely won't know until I'm in the moment. Until then, I'm going to continue to enjoy my time and I can't wait to soak up as much of the Ironman experience as I possibly can. Ironman is a magical event unlike anything I've ever seen before and if I can be part of 2/3 of it, I'll take it.

Swimming
Distance - 1,500 yards
Time - 30:47

September 4, 2009

DNF: Do Not Forget

The messages of support I've received over the last few days have been a lifeline. I have been on the verge of giving up and am brought back to reality every time I read one. I received a comment today on my training log that really struck me and I wanted to share it.

Kristin! Your training has been INCREDIBLE up to this point. I've been following your blog for inspiration to do a mere fraction of what you've been getting out to do everyday. While it will be on record as "DNF" we know you were prepared to go all the way and you will be doing one amazing Aquabike with an injury. DNF= Do Not Forget to take care of your body and Do Not Forget how much your preparation is bigger than race day and Do Not Forget how many people have been reading along in the hope that some little bit of your strength rubs of on them... me included!

This was left by an athlete I met while racing the Hyannis Half Marathon, but we've had little contact since. This was incredibly touching as I struggle with the decision to quit something I want more than anything I've ever wanted in my life. But I know it's the right thing to do.

I had a pretty amazing day on a day that could have been easily one of the worst. My friend Debbie, who has been a huge supporter on this journey, invited me out for drinks last night (which were SO needed) and offered to help me get my bike to the city for Tribike Transport. She came over at 10:30 a.m. and we were together for 12 hours, experiencing a range of emotions while trying to make this a "normal" day. We dropped my bike off and then had a fabulous lunch in the West Village before heading to the Upper West Side to pick up my boot. The boot was miraculous. It feels like I'm not stepping on the ground, which I know is dangerous since it makes me want to race.

We hit Bloomingdales for jeans shopping and I stocked up with three new pairs. It's funny how retail therapy can make you feel so good. We then had a drink in the neighborhood before moving onto dinner and more drinks. I didn't do a minute of training but I feel this time off has been valuable. I'd be going out of my mind otherwise.

I don't feel the least bit good about my acceptance and decision to DNF the race. I still hold a shred of hope things will change. How could I not? Somone shared this video with me today and I realized I've always been far more moved by the final finishers than those who finish easily. Is there any less value in crossing the line at midnight than 8 p.m.? Is it even possible? That is the question.

September 3, 2009

Stages of Grief

Having been delivered this massive blow I've been thrown head first into the stages of grief and they've been somewhat expedited by the extreme circumstances. As I sat here numb last night hearing another human being tell me I couldn't race I was in complete denial. I begged him for options, I rationalized it all I could. I cried. I told him why this was so important to me. And he kept firm to his recommendation that I'm young, I'm healthy and there will be other races for me. I barely slept but was able to forget for a moment, then woke up to the harsh reality that this really happened. I worked from home today to spare my foot the commute and was blissfully busy. It kept my mind in a positive place while I waited for the next update from my podiatrist.

I started to think about alternatives. How could I salvage this experience to be something positive? I thought about doing Ironman Arizona in November after a focused period of rehab. I thought about risking it all and walking the marathon for the glory of the finish, even if it meant I would be in the 16:30 range. I got approval from the race director to walk the marathon in a boot if that's what needs to be. I rearranged every dream, every hope, every aspiration I've had over the last year of my life and I tried to make it work. I cried and cried and cried as I read the 20+ comments left on this blog by people I never knew read it. I was deeply touched to know that you have followed my journey and cared. I received more than 30 comments on my training log today and realized I am incredibly lucky. I have embarked on a journey that has changed my life permanently. I'll never be the same again. And while it isn't ending the way I wanted, I am finding so much positive energy to pull me through this and help me move on.

So if the first stages of grief are denial, pain, anger and bargaining, I feel I expedited my way through them due to the limited time I have. I was truly stunned by this news and spent all day thinking it would change. When I got the bad news a second time I gave up. I met friends for drinks and pretended to be a normal person who's life wasn't being turned upside down. All I can do now is rest, take care of my body and move forward. I'm going through the motions of preparing for my Ironman when in my heart I know it isn't a reality. My reality is a DNF, my first ever, and in the most important thing I've ever committed myself to. It's a hard pill to swallow but I don't feel like I have a choice.

Looking ahead to the future, I will sign up for Ironman Wisconsin 2010 and do it back to back with Lake Placid. It still won't be the race I dreamed of, but Madison and I will have a score to settle and I can't wait another year. I want to skip through the other stages of grief and move immediatly to number 7 - acceptance and hope. The people who have loved me and supported me this year can make that possible. I will never look back and understand why this happened to me, but I'm hoping I can pull myself out of the sadness and begin to focus on the future. That's what the Ironman journey is all about.

September 2, 2009

Only One Choice Remains: DNS or DNF

At 9:25 this evening I received a phone call that changed my life in a heartbeat. My podiatrist had just spoken to the radiologist about the emergency MRI I had today and the news was as bad as it can get 10 days before an Ironman. My nagging plantar fasciitis turned out to be much more. I have a partial rupture of the plantar fascia, an injury that if worsened could cause permanent damage and end a lot more than just one Ironman dream.

I feel like the wind has been knocked out of me. I feel like this is a horrible nightmare that I will wake up from and be able to move on. But it's not. It's reality and it's unfair. I sacrificed so much, worked so hard and dedicated myself to this 100% and for what?

It's a pretty firm diagnosis, but I'll get final word on just how grave it is either late tonight or early tomorrow. The only decision I have yet to make is how to handle the race. I'll still go to be with my friends and family and share in some of the experience, but I have to decide if I will start and do the parts I'm allowed to do before making the hardest choice in the world to voluntarily DNF. The other option is to DNS and just be a spectator.

In my heart I know I want to race. I begged the doctor to let me walk it and I swore I'd never walk an Ironman. I thought there was no point. But when I made that speculation I wasn't at the end of 30 weeks of putting my heart and soul into the preparation so I could never understand being in the shoes of those who've decided to walk. Now that I'm there I can see why they do it. If the doctor said I could without risking permanent damage, I would. But if I'm truly setting myself up for long term rehabilitation and another lost season, then I'll do what I'm told and likely race what I can and then stop.

This is one of the lowest points of my life. Ironman is so much more than a race and those outside of the sport may never understand it. It will take me quite some time to be able to get over this and move on. For now I have to take it one day at a time and try to move toward acceptance.

September 1, 2009

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

In my ongoing battle with acute plantar fasciitis, PF is winning again as of today. I can't explain it. I get dramatically better and start imagining a good race, then hours later I'm reduced back to barely being able to walk and fighting the pain. I felt great this morning, almost back to normal. I had a very positive talk with my coach about my race plan and he said I wouldn't need to adjust my goal, that I had the fitness and endurance to do the same race I've been working toward. My podiatrist also said I should be on track for a great race. Then sometime after lunch I got up and could barely take a step. It's like everything changed in a matter of hours and I was wishing I had my crutches with me.

I took this photo before my 20 mile run a few weeks ago in new shoes I thought would never stay so white. But they've mostly sat unused since and my podiatrist confirmed today I will be doing very little, if any, running before race day. I'm perfectly fine with that. I'm to the point where I don't care if I run again until after T2, even if that means the run will be a total mystery. I'd rather wait to figure it out than take any chances now.

I am trying so hard to keep my mind in a positive place and not dwell on the pain, the recovery, the lack of recovery, the race, my goals, all of it. But I'm human and that's a very hard thing to do. Plus it's a holiday weekend, a weekend I chose to stay in New York so I could take the time needed to prep for the race. Now this solo weekend is going to give me too much time to do the dwelling I don't want to do. It's going to take a lot of will to stay focused on the good and just let time do its work.

I did an easy hour on the bike tonight to keep the legs loose. It was the first time a ride didn't relieve the pain in my foot so I'm hoping today was just a bad day.

I have found incredible support and advice from friends, family, fellow triathletes, forums, blogs and comments here and it has really kept me going. I'm planning to compile the things that have really struck me and will post it here, but I'm also putting it in my special needs bags in case I'm having a hard time on race day and need a boost. It's all part of my effort to let go of the negative. Perhaps the positive energy will help speed up my recovery as well.

Biking
Distance - 14.11 miles
Time - 1:00:00

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