Wednesday, November 30, 2011

These are a few of my faaaavorite things!

It’s that time of year again!!!  I LOVE the time from Thanksgiving until Christmas! I don’t know if it’s the decorations and bright lights, or the Starbucks red coffee cups that get me in the mood, but nonetheless, I LOVE IT!!!

Here are a few things I LOVE about this time of year:

Spending time with my hubby & family



Christmas music


My birthday, the big 30 this year!!

Christmas/Holiday movies and specials on TV

Starbucks Red Cups filled with deliciousness!

Off season, no set training scheduleJ


There is soo much to be thankful for: GOD, my health, my amazing family and friends, my supportive and loving husband, my job, my life. Never take it for granted. Tis the Season! What are you thankful for this holiday?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Ironman Florida-Conquered!!

This past weekend, on Saturday Nov, 5th, I had the opportunity to race in my first Full IM, Ironman Florida!  For those of you unfamiliar with the race, it is 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking, followed by a 26.2 mile marathon.  Sounds fun, right?  lol!  Going into this race, I didn’t know what to think. I knew I had put in the training I needed to finish, and as far as a specific time, I was only looking to go out, have fun and experience this crazy distance! I also knew it was going to be a long day…a LONG day by myself that is.  I know, what was I thinking?

Pre-Race:Matt and I arrived in Panama City on Wednesday, we decided to drive in order to cut down on cost of shipping both bikes and to be able to accommodate all of our things! Matt knows packing with me is dangerous, I always pack entirely tooo much, LOL…I must say I am shaping up, now that I’m married, I guess that is the girl in me! Anyways, it was nice getting down there early. We bypassed the long athlete check-in lines, crowded expo, and overall claustrophobic-ness.  With being down there a few days in advance, we also had the opportunity to get in some training on the course, swim in the ocean and catch up on more zzzz’s. I felt so relaxed going into the race because I didn’t feel rushed to get things done. Our friend Caleb (who was also racing) and wife Tara stayed with us and shared a two bedroom, VERY roomy, condo. It was perfect!  Now if only we could have basked in the sun, by the pool, with a drink in our hand…it would have been ideal! LOL…

Friday: The day before the race, we packed our “gear” bags and “special needs” bags. I must say that was a bit overwhelming at first. Knowing that I couldn’t see my gear and have it laid out in front of me during transition time, was a bit frightening.  But once everything was placed in the bags and dropped off, I felt a sense of relief that I no longer had to think about it. For those of you reading and do not know, the “gear” bags are marked specifically for bike and run. So, for instance, you would place all of your bike gear: helmet, gloves, glasses, shoes, etc in the specific bag and retrieve it once you exit the previous event, and same goes for the run. The “special needs” bags are available to you halfway thru the bike and run. I placed an extra two bottles of infinite (custom formula nutrition drink), along with some gummy bears in my “bike special needs” bag.  And in my “run special needs” I placed a long sleeved shirt, in case it got cool, and my favorite pretzel m&m’s.

Then finally it was off to drop off “Hazel” my good ol bike and the transition gear bags! So everything was out of my hands at this point, and it was only 2:00pm. Matt and I walked through the transition and changing area to get a sense of where to go after each event. I remember thinking there was so much to remember, but decided that I wouldn’t waste my energy worrying about it and there would be volunteers to help. After we did our last walk thru, we called it a day and headed back to the condo. All of us decided to stay in and avoid the crowds. We cooked a nice pasta dinner with familiar sauce and bread. Nothing too fancy or special, just stuck to what we’ve been eating before our races. We finished dinner by 6:30pm and had a few hours to unwind, make our infinite bottles for the bike ride, finish packing up our “special needs” bags and try and hit the sack early. We managed to get to bed by 10pm. Not too bad.

Side note: Matt’s mom, Marty, was fortunate enough to get off work and fly down to see us! It was soooo nice of her!! I was soo excited when she decided to come and support us! It would be so wonderful to see another familiar face on the course to help get me thru the race! Matt’s dad, Bill, made her a t-shirt that said “GO TEAM CRUMMY!!!” It was awesome!!! Sooo blessed to have her in my life, esp, since my mom passed away! She has really been like a mother to me. She rocks!!!
Saturday: Race day!!!!
3:40am came fast! Woke up, ate 2 cliff bars, English muffin toasted with light peanut butter, and a Gatorade. I am soooo not much of a breakfast eater. It is very difficult for me to eat, so I have to force myself. Usually on my early morning workouts, I will try and stomach either a fiber one or cliff bar but that is it. I know it may not seem like a lot, but I guess it takes my body some time to want to eat and stomach anything in the early morning.
We arrived at the transition area around 5am. Did the usual, pump up the tires, hit the port-o-potty’s a few times, and waited around until the start. It was a bit chilly, about 50 degrees, although I heard it was much warmer than last year’s start so I wasn’t complaining. We were allowed to hang out in the host hotel to keep warm until the swim start, which was also a major bonus. I was definitely feeling good, just a few nerves going but that’s normal for me.  6:58am, almost GO time! I gave Matty a HUGE hug and kiss and didn’t want to let go, I found myself getting emotional and only had a few seconds to pull myself together. I looked back and saw, Marty, and smiled. I had tears in my eyes. I quickly said a last prayer and asked God to be with me and help me through this race.

Swim: I probably waited for what seemed like forever, but was really close to 2 minutes before I actually started swimming. It was a chaotic mess. Arms and elbows flying everywhere, I managed to stay out of the thick of things, but still experienced getting kicked at least 5 times in the head, clawed, one guy actually dove right on top of me.  I know the swimmers are only trying to get thru the swim, but MAN it’s brutal. I am all for the swim start in waves, but, it is what it is. I just had to get through it like everyone else. The swim was two loops, the second loop ended up being more spread out and felt like I could actually swim and get a nice stroke going. The water was soo clear, too clear, you could see forever! AND not to mention you could see every sea creature imaginable! I literally swam over two baby-sized sharks, a massive sting ray and no joke, like 80 jelly-fish (they call them pink meanies).  I almost had a heart attack swimming through this. I just did it, along with taking in maybe 5 cup-fulls of sea water and crossed the line at 1:17:58.

TI: Best part about heading into T1, was seeing Matt! He apparently finished just seconds after me, he saw me getting out of the water and shouted my name. We ended up running through the transition area together, out of all those people he managed to find me, pretty cool! We both checked on one another to make sure we were both still among the living, with a few bumps and scratches, we made it through….ONLY sad part, Matt’s wedding band was literally clawed off thru the fight of the swim, and unfortunately sunk to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. Not too much you can do about that!
I grabbed a quick kiss and said my “good luck and goodbye’s” to Matty, then grabbed my “bike gear” bag and headed off to the changing area. It looked like mass confusion everywhere. Soo many people in one space (apparently there was more room to work with then guys side), clothes and things everywhere. One of the volunteers, quickly emptied my bag of things in front of me, I stood there for a minute, and then began stripping down and putting on my bike clothes. The volunteers were extra helpful with putting on my clothes, esp when I was wet, it takes twice as long. Then I was debating between wearing a tank or a short-sleeved top. I am glad I threw in both, because I ended up grabbing the short sleeved shirt. I knew I would be chilly, with the temps in the low 50’s... 99.9% of the time, if I bike in any weather less than 60 degrees, I FREEZE!  I guess I took longer than I thought in the transition area, about 20 mins!!! YIKES!!!!  
Bike: Going into the ride, I knew it was going to be a bit rough with the 19 mph cross/headwinds for most of the first 50+ miles, YIKES! I am NOT a strong rider by any stretch of the imagination either. It was a long road training this year, with most of my long rides completely by myself. Anyways, I just had to deal with the conditions that were presented. It wasn’t until 42 miles into the bike when I started to become extremely nauseous and sick to my stomach. I mean, experiencing flu-like symptoms, pounding headache, dry mouth and achiness. I started praying and asking God to give me strength to just make it through the bike portion. I figured once I have two feet back on solid ground, I should most likely be okay for the run. I ended up stopping at every aid station, actually getting off my bike and hovering over my knees. I felt like I had been on an extremely rocking boat ride. IT was the worst feeling I have ever experienced. It was very challenging trying to manage the winds, and deal with the sick feeling in my stomach. I think it mainly attributed to the large amounts of salt water I took in. I knew I was hydrating properly and on track with my nutrition throughout the race, taking in an infinite bottle every hour. The only thing my stomach can handle as far as food goes are: power gel shots, pretzel m&m’s, and gummy bears, my favorite part of training!  I just hung in there the rest of the ride, stopping at literally every aid station to re-group. I would have liked to have had a better time, but with the conditions being what they were, I managed to make it in 7:00:30.

T2: I was soooooo soooooooo happy to have ended the bike at this point. I thought that ride was a nightmare with my GI track and upset stomach issues.  I was praying and hoping the pain would subside a bit once I jumped off the bike.  I wobbled over to get my “run gear” bag. I decided to change outfits, being that I like being comfortable in every event. AND bike/tri-shorts are uncomfortable to me, unless I am doing a half IM distance or shorter, plus I have been training in run clothes for my runs off the bike. Again volunteers dumped out my bag of run clothes, I managed to sort of gather myself together at this point. After throwing on the shoes, I stood up and fell immediately back down. I was def feeling woozy and a little light-headed. The volunteer asked if I wanted to sit and wait it out, or get some chicken broth from the medical tent, but I just looked at her and said, “look that is very nice of you, but I am running and finishing this marathon if it takes me crawling to the finish line.” She just replied, “Go get it girl, you are tough! I just don’t want to see you at the medical tent at the finish” AND 10 minutes later, off I went.

Run: I quickly hit the port-a-potty on the way out for one last relief, and I was off. I was off to a very slow start, still dealing with the stomach issues, my legs were ready to run, but the rest of my body didn’t want to budge. I shuffled through the first 4 miles without stopping, at a slow pace of 10:12/mile. I wobbled over to one of the aid stations, sat down, a volunteer asked if I was okay.  I just sat down and sipped on some coke and a few pretzels to try and settle my stomach. Having to deal with this issue for the majority of the race, was just not pleasant at all. All I wanted to do was get up and crank out a 8:00/mile pace..that was what I had been training for. I will admit, it takes a LOT for me to get discouraged, and at that moment I wanted to just give up. What immediately came to my mind was my mom and her battle thru cancer. She had fought a brain tumor and lung cancer all at once and NEVER complained. She thanked God she was alive and living and breathing, and never focused on her problem. In her situation she seemed to always magnify God and not magnify her circumstance. She was so brave and fought her battle to the very end, never giving up, and losing hope. Even when the doctors gave her the discouraging report of her 6 months left to live, she wouldn’t receive it. She pictured herself alive, strong, healed, and recovered. At that very moment, sitting down at mile four, I decided that is how I must see the rest of the race. I have to picture myself well, not sick, ready to run the rest of the course, and make it across that finish line, no matter what it took. I sat there for almost six minutes and finally got up and could start to feel a little relief. I just put one foot in front of the other, and made small goals to try and run to the next fluid station and then walk a bit. It seemed to work out. I also saw Matt on the second loop, he had about one mile left to go! I was so proud of him…I still had about 12 more to go. Seeing Matt, helped me push thru the next few miles, along with seeing Marty. They were so encouraging. I tried not to show a few tears when I passed him. I was so proud of his accomplishment and I just wanted to be there to greet him at the finish. I knew I was almost there. I continued to stop at every station, taking in coke and water, and a few pretzels. The coke actually helped my stomach issues subside some, the infinite and anything else made me want to vomit. So I just stuck with the coke and water, although the downfall with the coke, I started to develop severe heartburn or indigestion, def not fun! At mile 23, I was starting to feel alive again. The cheers and loudness of the crowds, esp towards the last mile, were so encouraging! I could see the finish line and bright lights in front of me! I felt an overwhelming sense of joy, happiness, relief, accomplishment all at once! I crossed the line with a smile on my face in 14 hours and 11 minutes. 

 After I got through I saw my hubby waiting and immediately ran right to Matt. I cried, hugged him and just stood there. I couldn’t believe we just accomplished that distance. I grabbed Marty and gave her a big giant hug and was so overwhelmed by it all. This time last year, I would’ve never imagined being able to physically complete such a race as this. What truly got me through this race, was all the support from my loving family, friends, my hubby Matt who was a great training partner and “coach”, my mom’s battle with cancer, and most importantly God’s strength and grace! Anything is possible if you set your mind to it!  It was quite an experience I will never ever forget.  “You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength” Philippians 4:13