Sunday, October 30, 2011

Beach2Battleship - October 29, 2011

It's long race - it gets a long report :-)

New favorite words and phrases and some things NOT to say

The setting: Wrightsville Beach and Wilmington, NC, on Saturday, October 29 at about 7:30a.  The start of the Beach2Battleship (B2B) 70.3 triathlon on a foggy day where we’re expecting rain and wind for the morning, sunshine at about 12:30p and temperatures in the 50s all day long.

May I pause for a moment and say that I am a spelling and grammar purist and the fact that the word “to” is a number 2 in Beach2Battleship bothers me?  Yes, it makes a catchy abbreviation, B2B, that is very recognizable in the state and associated with this race.  But it’s a little too hip and trendy for me.  I’m rather fond of my “to”, “two”, and “too”, thank you very much.

Go north about five hours to Washington, D.C. and there is snow. On Sunday is the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., which is what I was SUPPOSED to be running today before I found out that triathlons are highly addictive. There are some uncomfortable comparisons to addictive drugs unfortunately, like “spend lots and lots of money (on gear), devote time away from work and personal life, talk about not much else, and have little energy afterward” addictive. Some wonderful people to meet along the way, though, and the types of physical risks to your body are usually recoverable.  Next October, I’ll write my Marine Corps post – hopefully with some additional family members joining me. But I digress.  Again.  Back to Wrightsville Beach and the start of B2B.

You’ll note that I try to use the phrases “70.3” or “140.6” – and not “half” or “full” and definitely not “IronMan”.  A few years ago, when the triathlon craze started spreading, companies started putting on races at those two distances and calling them “IronMan”.  IronMan is a trademark brand and that company didn’t want its brand diluted and threw up a fuss.  As a result, you may hear “Half-Iron Distance” or “Iron Distance” on a race that is not sponsored by IronMan.  Not that I really care about hurting IronMan’s feelings or getting a lawsuit, because I have a better reason.  When I say “70.3” to you, especially those of you who are not triathletes, you can immediately grasp the significance of a 70.3 mile race, right?  It’s more impressive and saves you the trouble of having to ask, “what’s that?”  A 140.6 is a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride, followed by a 26.2 full marathon.  A 70.3 is a 1.2-mile swim, followed by a 56-mile bike ride, followed by a 13.1 half-marathon.  I’d like to point out to the IronMan people that the town of Marathon in Greece, where legend has it was the destination of the very first marathon ever run, does not seem to trademark the name “Marathon” or throw lawsuits at companies who sponsor marathons.  Of course, that same legend says that the first marathoner, who ran the 26 miles to deliver a message, promptly died when he completed his task.  So maybe they don’t want to put a trademark on that.

I’m hanging with Jaime, Julie and Jaime’s husband Tim, who very graciously got up at 6a on a Saturday morning to schlep us and our stuff around and take pictures and be a calming presence at the start of our race. Having a person who is NOT racing as part of the crew is a joy – they may be fighting fatigue and will have some insanely boring parts to their day, but they are the voice of common sense and reason when competitors are feeling any combination of nerves, anxiety, stress, lack of sleep, overthinking, second-guessing and frequent needs for bathroom breaks.

As we look out over the water, we see lots and lots of stand-up paddle boards and kayaks and a Coast Guard ship.  This is an open water channel that has been closed for the morning only for this race and 1800 competitors.  The logistics of this are amazing. 

The course is advertised in this manner:  “the swim takes place in a channel that is connected to the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway; so it's a salt water swim but not in the ocean. An incoming tide with participants swimming with the current will make for some very fast times. The water temperature will be in the upper 60's to low 70's - perfect for wetsuit use.”

We can easily see that the current is moving pretty fast, and this will be my very first “ocean-like” swim in salt water and with a current.  That’s fairly intimidating; I grew up in Missouri and Iowa, so we didn’t go to the beach every weekend like many of the North Carolinians I have met here.  Oceans are beautiful to look at, but I don’t think I want to swim in one, and definitely not 1.2 miles.  Too many ugly stories about getting carried away by rip currents.  The reassurance about so many paddle boards and my neon pink swim cap is that they can come over and find me if I drift too far off course and risk going out to sea.  Those of you who know my color preference know that I revere purple and hate pink, but I was grateful for the neon pink today.

My last swim practice was eight days prior, on a Thursday evening and after two back-to-back flying nights that ended after 1 a.m.  The delayed flights had eliminated one run session and more importantly about six hours of sleep.  On Thursday morning, I ran in Umstead for a speed work session, went to work for 8 long hours of back-to-back calls, and then went to swim at Jordan Lake – all on 4.5 hours of sleep.  At the swim, we did a triangle course, 10 laps total.  I felt okay the first couple of laps, and then just lagged.  No energy and couldn’t keep up with the group I usually swim with.  We’re not the “faster” group, but we’re the “faster soon” group, as Coach Marty calls us.  That’s super sweet, isn’t it?  And he says he’s not sentimental.  On the last lap, I was last by a LOT, and as I rounded the final buoy, I saw a dark shape near me that hadn’t been there before – Marty had come out to swim back with me because I was so far behind.  I had planned another swim with Cary Masters before B2B, but work travel eliminated that possibility as well.  So that dismal swim and the eight day layoff from the water was NOT the pre-B2B confidence booster I was seeking.

As we are watching, we see three swimmers from the 140.6 race that started at 7 a.m., and they are not just swimming, they are sailing.  I’ve never seen anyone take one stroke and cover so much distance.  Their lead was huge as well; just an amazing combination of effort, technique and the right conditions to look as if they were being propelled by a motor.  As the other swimmers passed by, it was reassuring to see that maybe my swim would be “passable”.  Marty had shared some tips on navigating the course and the turns, which Jaime repeated to us in the car as we looked at the swim course map so it was fresh in our minds.

Time to get dressed in my least favorite but most necessary piece of gear – the wetsuit.  There are few things more comical to witness than watching someone get into their wetsuit.  There is no way to do it gracefully and it involves putting a lot of Body Glide around every surface than can rub and then slowly working the neoprene up your legs and around your waist, with some squats to try and move the material higher.  The goal is to get the neck of the wetsuit to not pull at your neck like choking, as the last thing you want is for that sensation to plague you for 45 minutes as your putting your head in the water repeatedly.  Feeling like you cannot breathe just isn’t good. As you’re putting on the suit, if another person can grab the back of the wetsuit and lift you off the ground, it’s even better.  I’ve gotten fairly proficient at it, but it’s still humorous to watch.  I’m already in my one-piece tri suit and had decided to wear my Garmin heart rate monitor chest strap – first time I’ve worn it in a race, and I wanted to see how I handle the different phases of the race.  Jaime and Julie invested in swim booties with good soles, because at the end of this swim, we have a 1/3 mile run across sidewalks and street to get to our bikes.  Swim booties are now on the list of “things I really want to have and can justify them as a ‘need’”.  We also put on our swim sleeves, which allow us to maximize our sleeveless wetsuits (no constriction on the shoulders) but still retain some warmth.  They be awesome.  Caps and goggles and we’re ready to go.

We meet up with Meg and Jon, who drove down specifically to watch the race and cheer us on.  How cool is that?  Meg is a fellow Ironman CdA’er (Coeur d’Alene, and it’s an Ironman sponsored race, so I can say Ironman here), and Jon sold my bike to me, patiently translating my, “I want to try a triathlon but I haven’t ridden a bike in 15 years and I don’t want to spend a lot of money” into my very cool Kuota that has proven to be well worth the investment.  Especially once I learned how to shift gears.  Jaime has accidentally forgotten her water, so Meg volunteers to go get some – she and Jon are on their bikes and the store is down the street.  Again, the friends and volunteers who support this sport are simply fantastic.  We connect with Mary, Tori, Frank, Jon and Marty – fist bumps exchanged, Gu ingested, Pam sprayed on our legs (thanks Frank!) and it’s time to swim.

I have two cherished phrases that I take from this race, and the first one is “swimming with the current”. My goal at the start of a swim is just to get clear of everyone in a calm fashion so that I don’t panic and can stretch my stroke like Marty has instructed.  I was able to do that fairly quickly, fortunately, and felt like I was moving right along.  Cool!  Turn left at the buoy, head for the middle to catch the strongest current like Marty suggested and Jaime had repeated an hour before the race, and try not to swallow any of the nasty salt water.  Just keep swimming, as Dory says.  It was a dreary gray overcast day and the fog made it even more challenging, so sighting the buoys was difficult.  Fortunately, we were wearing the neon pink caps, and while it won’t make me like pink at all, I was grateful to see a lot of pink caps in front of me marking the way.  Make the next turn and get parallel with the shore.  Don’t overshoot the docks.  Stay within my ability – this is a long race and I can’t blow all my energy in the first leg.  Stretch my stroke and pull.  Watch the paddle boarders, who are using their oars to point us in the right direction.  See the flying Gumby-like inflatable.  Wait, Gumby?  We’re done?  That was quick, and that’s not a word I usually describe for my swims. 

How quick was it?  Here are my approximate times for my three Olympic-distance triathlons of 1500 meters this summer:  36 minutes, 32 minutes and 36 minutes.  A 1.2 mile swim is 1931 meters.  I swam it in 31:01.  “Swimming with the current” – every swimmer should get to do that at least once.  Glorious.

My new favorite volunteers?  Wetsuit strippers.  Sit on a bench and they pull that thing off in 15 seconds.  I have spent minutes in other races trying to get the wetsuit off.  My wetsuit stripper woman was cold and very wet and smiling the whole time.  Volunteers Make. The. Race.  Thank you to every one of you.

Run through the sprinklers to try and wash some of the salt off, especially my head and face.  Later in the race, I will be sweating and while I don’t want the sweat to get in my eyes in any situation, having extra ocean salt in it would be bad.  But don’t spend too long – because This Is Transition.  Hurry!  Run up the sidewalk in my bare feet and run across the street in my bare feet.  I don’t like moving in bare feet, and concrete hurts my tootsies.  Why didn’t I buy the swim booties when Jaime suggested it?  This is why I can almost justify it as a need, perhaps a little lower in Maslow’s hierarchy than food and shelter. 

During the run, I see Coach Bri and Alysia and Jen and Meg and Jon and Heather and everyone is cheering.  The best part of this year by far has been meeting these wonderfully talented and extra supportive people.  I had read that the triathlete community is special – they prove it.
Get to the bike, towel off and grab the bag with clothes.  My packing for this race involved two complete sets of bike clothes, because we didn’t know if the forecast of wind, rain and 50* temps was going to hold.  You don’t want to overheat on the bike, but you can’t be miserable.  I’m going to be on that bike for 3 ½ hours.  Jacket for warmth?  Or my sleeveless jersey and lycra arm sleeves for some warmth but some coolness – I don’t like to be too warm when I exercise.  The arm sleeves are great, but not terribly warm.  Julie and I have between us five pairs of arm warmers, and I had loaned a pair to Jaime.  Hat or no hat; jacket on or off?  The night before the race, Marty and Bri invited us to their rental for pasta, and several of us are talking through our clothing dilemma.  We were also engaged in an animated and slightly disturbing conversation about peeing during a race, and if it’s ok to pee in your wetsuit or on your bike.  (My answers for me are No and No, in case you were wondering).  Then Marty walks up to me, Julie and Frank and gives us fleece One Step Beyond arm warmers.  And suddenly my clothing strategy is clear.  FLEECE arm warmers, plus my jersey and my capri bike pants and warm socks.  Done and Done.  Dry off, get dressed, get the bike and go.

One of my essentials is my aero bottle that fits between my handlebars, so that I can just lean forward, bite the straw and drink my G2.  It’s super convenient and helps me stay hydrated without fumbling with a bottle down by my feet.  I see at least five dropped bottles in every race, which means that person has to now rely on what’s provided at the race – not good if they like and train with G2 and the race is distributing Heed or just water.  You don’t want to be introducing something in a race that you have not trained for, especially nutrition and in a salt water race.  It’s just not a wise idea.  So my aero bottle might be in my top three gear items of the year, and I’ve invested in a LOT of gear. 

In the first mile of the race, we have to navigate several quick turns and hit three speed bumps.  This causes the Velcro holding my aero bottle to come undone, and almost fall off the bracket.  The rubber bands that I also use to secure it are not enough, so I’ve grabbed my very precious aero bottle with my hand and now have to figure out what to do.  I could stop and secure it, but that Velcro is a pain – I have to get off my bike and work on it from the front.  That’s a lot of lost time.  I’m thinking that I can wrap my left hand around my aero bar and support the front ridge of the aero bottle with three fingers.  It means I cannot take my hand off to do anything else, like brake, switch between big ring (which I really didn’t think I would do much of anyway) or hold the bike steady.  It means my left arm is a little extended, which is causing my shoulder and neck to hurt more than it should.  But I can keep riding and not stop.  And if I made it through the Flying Jacket experience of the Pinehurst sprint, I can deal with this. 

Along the way, I’m thinking that people will read this and think, “you’re an idiot.  Throw the bottle down and race”.  It’s thirty dollars, but I’ve spent so much money already, and I don’t want to lose the G2 even though I had two more bottles on my bike. 

I held that #*$@&! Bottle for 55 miles.

I thought THAT would be my story of the race.  Pretty benign.

The wind was brutal in the first two thirds of the race.  I stayed in aero position, kept my legs moving and my cadence at a pretty good rate, and watched my borrowed power meter to see where I might have been expending too much energy for little return.  Getting to 17 mph was exciting.  And rare.  I ate three packs of energy gels and managed two Gu’s – with one hand.  I was calculating in my head how long this ride would take and just tried to not mentally get down on myself for not being a stronger rider.  I’m already executing the plan to take care of that by June’s IM.

A word about triathlons and one of the key points of the sport.  You rely on yourself.  This is not a team sport, although there are relay categories where an athlete takes each leg and they hand off a chip to their next competitor.  I would not be able to enjoy this nearly as much without my coaches and friends and fellow triathletes, so there is indeed a team environment.  I really appreciate how people tell me “Good job” or “Hang in there” as we pass each other on the bike or run.  But to get from the start to the finish in the race – it’s just you.  No one is to help you except the all-important designated volunteers who strip off your wetsuit or hand you water or point you in the right direction.  On the bike in a triathlon, everyone knows the “no drafting” rule.  This is not the Tour de France, and there should not be any pelotons or people riding within inches of each other.  You get penalized for that.  When someone passes you, you have to defer to them and drop back so that you don’t benefit from their extra speed – that’s just one of the breaks of being a slower rider.  Deal with it or get faster. 

When the group of six passed me, perfectly structured in their two triangles to create a much easier ride for four of the six members, I found that aggravating.  Evidently so did the triathlon gods, since shortly after they passed me, the woman in the back, enjoying the maximum effect of the draft, dropped her bottle.  Karma.  Heh.

On today’s ride, I tried to appreciate the pretty colors of the trees despite the fog and the misty rain that  was cold.  The fleece arm warmers were outstanding – thank you so much Coach Marty.  I had OSB arm warmers and my OSB jersey – OSB rules!  Next up is OSB socks and a hat J  I stayed in aero position for all 3 ½ hours with the exception of maybe five minutes total.   Never stopped and barely had to slow down for turns or intersections – the great volunteers and police force had stopped or redirected traffic for this race, even along the highways.  Just ride ride ride.  Don’t worry about the time, just make it through the ride and then I can run.  My run at Pinehurst was by far the best running experience so far, so I was looking forward to the run even though it seemed like it would be hours before I could get to it.  I make a right turn, and my second favorite volunteer says what must be the most exciting words in cycling.

“You have a tailwind now.”

I had been hitting the lap button on my Garmin every ten miles, using my chin to press the lap button because I’m still holding the aero bottle.  Here are my paces:
16.0 - 15.4 - 15.0 - 16.2 - 19.1 - 17.7

Guess where the tailwind started?

The first 36-38 miles were HARD.  The last 18 were just fantastic.  I should have switched to big ring but was getting so much speed so comfortably that I didn’t want to push it on the bike and not have anything left for the run.

We did hit a monstrous bridge on the final mile that suddenly dropped me to 12 miles an hour, but it was the final mile, so I was pretty excited to just spin easy and get ready for the run.  When I came into transition, my third favorite volunteer took my bike and paid close attention to my caution that, “this bottle is loose – please don’t lose it”.  When I picked up my bike later, the bottle was right where I had left it.  And my fingers were bright red from the red G2 that leaked onto my hand.  But I did not lose the bottle.

Hello Transition Tent with chairs to sit on to switch shoes.  Sweet!  And hey - it’s Julie Paddison, my weekend roomie and fellow FitBit soon-to-be champion and winner of an iPad2!  Julie “yes, I got hit by a car while on my bike three months ago and fractured my pelvis in two places, but I’m still doing the AquaBike at B2B” Paddison.  She is TOUGH.  We chatted for a couple of minutes while I was changing.  It was so great to see her there and to hear her encouragement.  I believe I even said “See you in a couple of hours.”  It was sunny outside too, so when I got through the transition and went outside, I was feeling great and mentally ready to go. 

Leading up to this race, Jaime, Tisha and I had practiced so many brick workouts that I was eager to get through the first ten minutes of “Ugh” of the run and then settle in.   At Pinehurst, I was so mad after my ride, I just got angry and took off.  I clearly couldn’t do that here, as a 5K just isn’t the same as a half-marathon. Plus the last 90 minutes of the bike were so great that I wasn’t upset at all.  In fact, I was really happy and looking forward to laying down a solid time.

The first ten minutes of a run after ride are just painful.  The challenge is just to suck it up and wait for your body to adjust from spinning to running.  I plan on a walk break during this time and I focus on trying to relax my shoulders and neck and just breathe easy.  Get through it and then you can increase your speed for the remaining part of the race.  I had a weird tightness around my chest that felt like a really strong guy giving me a bear hug.  I thought that would pass and just tried to gut it out.  The neuroma in my right foot that I’ve been fighting for three months also flared up.   Stick a knife in the bottom of your foot between your third and fourth toes. Then run.  Ow.

First mile, slow.  My chest is not feeling better, even when I walk.  The bear hug is constant and it hurts.   I try to keep my breathing even, since breathing with a bear hug just isn’t comfortable.  Fighting the neuroma in the foot, which is tolerable and something I’ve dealt with for a while.  But this chest tightness thing is completely new and not good.  I had asthma for a long time when I was younger, and this wasn’t an asthma attack.  I could breathe okay, although it hurt, but that’s because of my chest, not my lungs.  I had put on my heart rate monitor for the first time in a race, and the little tiny numbers were telling me 130’s – that’s good for me, especially when running.  Those of you who know my dad know about his five heart attacks and two bypass surgeries and that of the three arteries that support a normal person’s heart, all of his are either completely blocked or 80% compromised.  I know cardiac symptoms; I’ve been with him in the ER or with his cardiologist far too many times.  I don’t know how it feels personally, but I am as educated as a non-healthcare professional can be.  I had a treadmill stress test last year before I started all of this training, and it came back fine.  I had put that heart strap on at the last minute, thinking I was just curious about the data.  It turned out that was the thing that stopped me from panicking – I could see my heart rate was fine.  So either that strap wasn’t working from the swim / salt water, or it wasn’t related to my heart. 

I could run for two minutes, and then it would force me to walk.  I saw Mary, then Tori, then Jaime.  They all looked great, running so easy.  After mile two, the neuroma went away, so now I could focus on just getting over the tightness.  It wasn’t easing.  My mental routines weren’t working and I could not get any way to relax.  Finally at mile five, I decide to use a portajohn and see if that would help.  Unzip my OSB jersey, unzip my tri-suit and try not to sit on the seat.

Remember the Tom Hanks scene in “A League of Their Own”?  No, not the “There’s no crying in baseball” scene, although there probably is some of that in Texas this week after being one strike away from the Series win twice and then losing.  The other Tom Hanks scene.  You know the one.


But I felt better.  The tightness was certainly there, but I’m fairly sure that was over a pound of fluid I just got rid of.  So I was lighter and able to at least run faster, down in the 8’s where I was supposed to be all along.  I could run for five minutes, endure the tightness and then take my walk break.  That lasted about twenty minutes, during which time I saw Frank just ahead of me and was trying to catch him.  Some of the runners of the 140.6 were now passing me, looking like they were just out for a 3 mile jog and not on mile 120 of their day.

Then the pain came back.  Tighter.  Walking didn’t help any more.  It just never eased, and I’d been fighting it for 90 minutes.  I could run for two minutes and then would have to walk for two minutes.  During one of those two minute running stretches, I saw Coach Bri and Marty and was able to tell her I was miserable and heard Bri say in response, “Marty said the same thing.”  This is rather shameful to say, but hearing that he felt the same way (although hopefully he wasn’t feeling tightness in his chest like this) during his race made me feel better.  I had seen him on his 12th mile when I was on my first, while he was on his way to placing in the Open Masters category, and he was so focused I don’t think he heard me yell at him.  It’s odd to find comfort in someone else’s misery.  I was also slightly relieved that the two times I saw Bri on the run course, I was running.  Of course, I was averaging about a 12 minute pace, but at least I was running.  She had seen me earlier at the swim transition, so she knew I had been in good shape.  Julie could tell her that I was feeling great leading out to the run.  But for the last 75 minutes of the race, all I had in my head was her other advice about the week leading up to the race: “listen to your body.” 

As usual when your body hurts in one area, you try to compensate.  Maybe you stride a little differently or hold your arms in a different manner, or move your neck back and forth to stretch.  Nothing worked.  Two hours of chest pain, although I was trying not to think of it with that particular phrase.  My back is starting to hurt, my neck is already sore and I just want to be done.  I tried to get out of my head and not feel it.  It didn’t work.  Listen to your body, Michele.  So I walked.

Now I got mad at myself.  And sad.  This was the part of the race I had looked forward to and had really dedicated a lot of training to, and it blew up and I didn’t even know how.  Two really good legs, and a time goal that I was within reach of and I wasn’t even close.  I had three miles over two bridges with 20-30 mile gusts of wind to think about it.  I was cold and tired and embarrassed and sad.  I was trying to focus on something someone said to me at the beginning of the year when I confessed that I use walk breaks during my runs, “so I don’t run the entire way”.  He said in response, “do you cover the distance?  Then you run the marathon.”  But I was walking at least a third of this one.  I worried about my marathon in five weeks, which is my A+ race of the season – now I can’t even run a mile. 

A woman was walking near me and we ended up swapping stories, as us walkers sometimes do.  Nora was fighting her asthma and we able to run a couple of minutes at a time.  So we endured the bridges together, shared our respective dilemmas on our first 70.3, marveled at those on the full who just looked fresh and strong, and talked about the beautiful medal we would get.  I speculated that maybe this was indigestion or heartburn and that maybe I could get some Tums at the finish line.  Nora was ready to be warm and breathing calmly.  There is a wonderful bond that occurs during racers when you get to have a conversation; it’s a cathartic bond that we don’t find in many other situations.  It was helpful to walk with her for 15 minutes – she helped me put the day in perspective.  And when I got the most painful case of hiccups in my life (imagine having a bear hug, a lot of muscle pain because of 2 ½ hours of coping with it and then a really hard hiccup – it was impossible to stop the hiccup and the ensuing “Ow” whimper), she just helped me focus on something else for the two minutes.  Thanks Nora.

I ran the last half mile, because by that time it was downhill and almost done and I had decided I needed to find the medical tent and figure out what was going on.  Crossed the finish line, got my medal and saw Jon and Meg and Julie immediately.  How cool that they waited to look for me – I was pretty sure I was the last one of our group on the course.  And how reassuring.  Meg asked how I was and I was able to say, “not good” and “my chest is really tight” and express the need to find a medical tent.  I got my finisher shirt and Meg brought over a woman in a red shirt.  Meg also offered to stay with me, bless her.  That’s when she found out that Julie, Jaime and I had listed her as our emergency contact person on the pre-race form.  We only did that as a cursory thing – you never think you’re going to need the emergency contact person.  But we listed her and thank goodness she was here.  So she came with me.

Once again, I know the medical stuff.  I did train and work as an EMT briefly about 20 years ago.  I’ve briefed enough ER nurses and doctors about my dad to know to choose my words carefully.  I did not say, “I have chest pain.”  I said, “my chest is tight, like someone is giving me a bear hug.  It’s not my heart.  And it’s been that way for two hours.  I think it’s indigestion if I could get some antacid.”  But there are trigger phrases, and “chest is tight” is one of them, and the woman in the red shirt looked at me and marched me into the medical tent.

Well, it wasn’t a medical tent.  It was a M*A*S*H unit.  It was huge, warm and almost fully stocked.  They take my vitals and three people hear “chest pain” from the triage nurse – instead of my carefully worded “my chest is tight” and now I’m having a full cardiac workup.  They’re taking my blood pressure twice, my temperature and my heart rate – a very even 95 bpm and a 98.4 temp, thank you very much. I’m trying to be very cordial and crack some jokes and put them at ease that no, I’m not having anything remotely close to a heart attack.  Didn’t work.

They made me sit on a cot and reclined me into a 45 degree position.  And with that, the pain went away.  Immediately. 

No one would believe me.  I had to have the baby aspirin and the full EKG and two EMT’s and an RN and the ER doc come over to look at me.  My EKG would not register, so they switched leads.  It still would not register, so they strip off the first set of stickers – OWIE – and put on a second set.  “Are you wearing any metal?”  Everyone looks at my necklace and my sports bra and they’re deemed okay.  The tri-suit is still on, but I’ve pulled it down to my waist so they can get the leads on.  The EKG still looked very fuzzy, and they couldn’t get any clear signal.  Be still and don’t talk (kinda hard to do when they’re asking questions and I’m shivering).  Strips are not clear.  Now Meg and Julie have come to be with me, and Julie the critical care RN is looking at the display (not the strip) and I can tell from her that it’s okay.  Christine the medic thinks it’s okay.  Plus, oh by the way, the pain is gone.  I’m sore, because I’ve been coping with it for so long, but it’s not the acute pain it was.  Don’t know what caused it, but it’s not there anymore.  Ready to leave now, thank you so much for your help.

However, the doctor wants a clear EKG, so now I have to strip further.  Then we remember that my Garmin is still on my wrist and active.  That’s a GPS device, so that must be the problem.  Turn that off, and the strips are still very fuzzy.  Now I have to take off the sports bra – Julie and Meg hold up a sheet and I’m pulling it off around stickers – it’s not easy to get off when you can’t sit up.  EKG still doesn’t work.  I’m shivering despite two warm blankets but I’m really really feeling better.  Please let me go and be with my friends – they’ve waited for me long enough and we want to get somewhere warm.  I’ve been okay for 20 minutes, my vitals are normal – not even elevated as they should be after 6 ¾ hours of exertion – and Christine the medic decides to recommend that I be released.  Doctor Todd agrees, and I’m able to thank everyone and leave the fantastic medical tent. 

And I felt fine.  Had I been able to run then, I’d have run a two hour half, even after running the other half.  I can run today.  Because I ended up walking so much, I’m in very good shape for the marathon, even though this race ended so slowly.  Walking is good recovery. 

That night, we went to dinner.  Prickly pear margaritas are yummy.  Eating with friends celebrating a race is even better.  So is Mexican food, my favorite.  And as I finished my enchilada, the tightness came back.  Indigestion.  Good freaking grief – it was indigestion.  Really?  Are you *$(#&@ing kidding me?

Julie suggested I add one Zantac a day to my “week before race” diet.  Done.  Absolutely done.  And a roll of Tums in my fuel belts and Bento boxes.  Never again.

That's the close of the 2011 tri season.  The word for me is "transformation."  New friends, new adventures, and a great time doing something new at my age.

To my fellow B2B racers - Julie, Tori, Mary, Jaime, Missy, Frank, Steffen, Jon and everyone else - you are all rock stars to me.  Those that did the 140.6?  Michelle, Avril, Jenn?  Amazing.  I hope that I'm smiling as much as you were when it's my turn in June.

Thanks to Coach Bri and Marty - it has been such fun working with both of you.  I'm getting a little smarter and a little stronger each time, and i so appreciate your time and patience and helping me get there.

To the supporters who came just to cheer for us - cannot say thank you enough.

Volunteers Make. The. Race.  Go be a volunteer!

I had been looking forward to sleeping without an alarm, just to sleep as long as I could.   On Sunday morning at 5:21 a.m., I woke up and realized at that moment, I had my one piece trisuit on yesterday while in the medical tent.  I had pulled it down to my waist so they could put the EKG leads on.  The trisuit zips up.  Metal zipper?  Probably. 

Oops J

Next up - California International Marathon.   


  1. Michele I am so proud of you! You finished strong and covered the distance. Congratulations!

  2. Rock on! B2B was my first 70.3 back in 2009. I also put up a 31 minute swim and visited the medical tent in th e end. Mine was precautionary for dehydration though. not indigestion.

    You did really well! There's nothing that compares to the pain in your legs during the hard run of a 70.3. Nothing. It's nuts.

  3. Thanks, John! I went back yesterday and read your B2B report. You have come so far (or more accurately, you have gotten so fast!). I hope to follow that path too and learn from you.

    Have a great time in Florida!

  4. Congrats on the race! I found your blog searching for B2B race reports to see how others dealt with the weather. It was pretty tough out there!

    In addition, my race buddy and I drove from Kansas City to participate so there's a little coincidence.

    Good luck on your future races! Looks like you have some fun challenges ahead.


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