Here it is! I’m sorry it’s taken me so long, but life and work have gotten in the way. Quite frankly, I was dragging my feet. I think it's part of my recovery process too. Nonetheless, I've been working on this blog when I found time. So without further ado:
Okay, I have to pre-empt this with “The Bet” that Gary and I had. First I must tell you that Gary is British (I think). We were all having a conversation via email about final details of the race. David had suggested we call ourselves the “Arkansas Mafia”. Gary had wanted someone to bring an Arkansas flag to hang at our team tent. David volunteered and I made the comment that I couldn’t wait to hear Gary use the word “Y’all”. He wrote that he didn’t think he had ever used that word before, but if I broke 6 hours in the race, he would use it for the rest of the day. Famous last words: “You’re on!”
We get on the road by 10:15 and the drive is pretty uneventful. At some point during the trip, Chris informs me that instead of having 1:10 after the LAST wave goes off, each wave has 1:10. I lost it! I just started crying. I’m so insanely petrified of the swim that I was counting on having the extra time. I explained that to Chris and said that I would be fine in a few minutes. We got past Dallas right after 4 as the traffic was stacking up on the other side of the interstate. I talked to Jo while they were driving the bike course – rough surfaces and lots of turns. She reported the water was very “weedy” and worse than Lake Beaverfork in Conway. I’m sooooo looking forward to this swim now. I can hardly wait to jump in (so I can drown myself). Traffic was very bad coming through Austin to find our exit (turned out to be the wrong exit). I mean it was 7:00 p.m. for the love of God. We had quite a bit of trouble finding the hotel, which David and Jo talked us through it. We finally found it! We walked up to the room and had a beer upstairs then one downstairs waiting on dinner which made me tipsy. Slept pretty good, probably had a little something to do with the beer.
Slept in and had a good breakfast at the hotel. Then Jo was off to work. I was bummed out that she wouldn’t be hanging out with us all day. Chris, David and I drove the bike course. He had already seen it yesterday and fortunately remembered the course for the most part. They were right about the surface being pretty unstable. As we were driving the bike course David pointed out the part of the run that was on trail and got a good gander at “Quadzilla”. We were planning on swimming and running just a little, but decided against it. I was hungry and starting to bonk. We got back to the hotel and had a little lunch and I had decided that if I was going to have to endure sleeping on something that felt similar to a bed of nails that I could at least have a better pillow. So off to Target we went. We bought a shirt for Jo (which you really need to check out David’s pictures on his blogsite to understand). With pillow and various other things in hand we trekked back to the hotel. We headed down to packet pick-up and it was a little chaotic. Really nice schwag! I decided that I needed to go back to Target because I had forgotten razors. Chris opted to stay at the hotel and David decided that I need to be put on a leash because I almost got hit by a car. This time turned out to be a chocolate run as well. You know I was a bit stressed out and I needed something to comfort me. Jo met us at a restaurant across the parking lot and we had a pretty nice dinner.
MY BIRTHDAY!!!!! I finally got Starbucks and all will live. This was not the best birthday I’ve ever had, but understandable considering that it’s the day before a big race. Jo had to work for a few hours again. When she got back to the hotel we headed back downtown so she could pick up her packet. It seemed more organized this time. We went into the Pro Panel meeting and athlete briefing. Where I found out that we would, infact, have 1:10 from the start of the last wave. Okay, that’s good news. We were walking back to the Mom Bomb (I love that) and Jo gave me one of her LIVESTRONG bracelets that she bought at the expo for my birthday! It is my first one and I love it! We went back to the hotel and it was time to load up the bikes to go rack them. Chris, Jo and David checked out the water and said it felt great. I opted to stay on shore and watch everybody’s stuff. We dropped the chairs off at CARVE tent and chilled out for a few minutes. I was starting to feel like I was bonking again. I was cranky and ready to get this over with. I tried to be optimistic about it, but I was having some looming feelings. I just couldn’t figure out what was going on with me and that was making it worse.
Saturday, Oct. 5th RACE DAY!!!!!!
The alarms start going off at 3:30 a.m., but I started waking up every half hour at 2:00. I think it was a combination of nerves, which was worse than usual (wazzupwidat??!!), and sleeping on a hide-a-bed. I was really glad that I had a pillow similar to mine at home. I had waited to take my shower until this morning and it was a good thing too as there was no hot water the night before because the hotel was full. I ate my breakfast and I felt pretty good. Out the door and off to the races.
I was unusually nervous for some reason. I mean, I’m always nervous, but I can usually joke around a little. This was on the verge of being deer-in-headlight-full-blown-I’m-going-to-throw-up-for-real-terrified. I didn’t know what exactly was making me feel that way, but I needed to get over it QUICK!!!! I hadn’t felt my best on Friday or Saturday nights (I felt like I was bonking). It was almost like a premonition and I hate it when those come to fruition. Most of the time when I get bad feelings it’s something small and doesn’t pan out. This time it was different and I told Chris that.
They had everyone park offsite about ¾ of a mile from the race site at the expo center. You could either catch a shuttle or walk to the race site. We chose the shuttle. Next was the body marking. The woman asked my number and I rattled that off with no delay. When she asked my age, I totally spaced. I’d almost forgotten that my birthday was the day before. The woman behind me said, “Oh just tell her 18.” I said, “Oh no, I think it should be 84. I could win my age division that way.” Okay, sense of humor still somewhat in tact. We decided to hit the port-a-potties before the lines got too long. Once again I felt my stomach tighten yet another notch when we entered the transition area. WTF!
I got to my spot and I thought back to Arkadelphia and the brawl that almost broke out about the proper side to set up your gear. So I turned to the woman on my left and asked, “So what do you think? Left or right side?” She said that it was usually on the left but there was a person in between us missing so it really didn’t make any difference to her. Left it is, then. We talked a little more while we were setting up and before I knew it, I was done. I almost asked her what her pace was going to be just so I could try and find her out on the course; maybe she could talk to me and take my mind off of the pain.
The next 1 ½ hours was sort of a blank. I just remember walking and talking with Chris while it was still dark. All of the sudden it was light and I found myself taking off my running shoes in the transition area and grabbing my swim cap and goggles to head down to our team tent. I think my brain had shut down and I wasn’t really thinking about anything. I finally see Gary walking up to the tent. He, of course, looked cool and calm. He even made the comment that right before a race is when he is the calmest. He has done everything he could to prepare. Man, I wish I could say those words to myself and actually have it sink in because it’s so true. I just feel like I fall short every time. There is always some good advice I hear right before an event and all I can do is play it over and over in my head during the event or else it just gets lost in the shuffle. Unfortunately when I do that I lose focus on the task at hand and leave something vital out.
I see Chris walking up to the tent and I want him to just sit down with me, stroke my head and assure me it’s going to be okay. He tells me I look really scared. I really am and I start to doubt my abilities and think, “Should I get in the water?” Ahhh, the dreaded swim…Look at all these women with the fluorescent pink swim caps on!!! The first wave went off at 7:50, two minutes later the second then there were three minutes in between the remaining waves. I think there were 14 waves all together and I was in the sixth; meaning there were a lot of fast swimmers to knock me around like I’m a hockey puck. I get in the water and make my way over to the outside trying not to think about the hydrilla tentacles grabbing my ankles. I found myself asking the universe to please help me stay calm through this leg. Here we go! After I escape from the hydrilla, I find myself sticking with my plan and telling myself not to panic when I feel a hand brush me. I would take ten strokes then I would look up quickly to make sure I was staying the course. This was working really well. Then something very interesting happened. I actually thought I was drafting off of someone to my left for a long time. I finally realized that there was no one there. I don’t know if it was divine intervention, the way the light was hitting the water or something on my goggles. It really didn’t matter because I was calm and it was getting me through the swim. Personally, I think it was literally a guiding light. I rounded the last buoy and this turned out to be the hardest. I have a tendency to veer to the right and the buoys were angled in toward the left. It sort of seemed like that scene in the movie ‘Poltergeist’ when the mother is running down the hall trying to get to her children and the hall keeps getting longer and longer. I zig-zagged all the way in. Out of the water and the crowd goes wild!!!!!
Okay chip is still on, check. Found bike, check. Helmet on, check. Feet muddy, double check – YUCK! Okay, wipe mud off of feet. Shoes on, check. Garmin on, check. I take off and I feel pretty good. The ride is fairly uneventful, but it was hard not to draft because of the amount of people on the course. It was also really windy. There were people jumping over the yellow line and coming in between other people to pass. It was a little sketchy and I played leapfrog with about three other people. Even though the last stretch was flat and fast, I was happy to see the transition area.
Time for the run. This course was tough and had it not been for the support and 16 aid stations I’d probably still be out there. There was trail running involved and I’ve NEVER done any trail running. They cleaned the trails very well, so it was smooth sailing for the most part. It was still overcast and felt pretty good. I took off way too fast and I knew it at the time, but I didn’t have any time to lose because I wanted to win “the bet”. More so for getting in under 6 hours than really to hear Gary say “y’all” even once. I was making good time and feeling okay, but my hips had started to feel a bit like bone grinding on bone and a little achy. I shook it off and dismissed it as sleeping on the hide-a-bed. I mean, I’m not Grandma Moses, but I’m no spring chicken either. Aches and pains are no longer from hangovers and dancing all night long. No, they are now from causes like sleeping in a strange position and injuring yourself training. I had a client that had just turned 50 and she started calling these years the WTF years. She wakes up in the morning and says, “Now, WTF does that hurt for?” I’m starting to understand that on some level.
So here I am running. Then here I am walking. I don’t know if it was because all of the people around me were walking or if my body was forcing me to do it. I gave high fives to my fellow teammates as we ran/walked in opposite directions. We had disco dancers, superheros and live music on the course which was very motivating and entertaining. I filled my bottle at every rest stop and took my Endurolytes like a good girl. At times I could feel and hear the fluid sloshing around in my stomach.
I was going along pretty nicely and then all of the sudden, there it was…Quadzilla. Wow, I get to do this twice??!!! Really? That’s fantastic! Well, I guess I better get started. Yeah, baby I’m walking this puppy. I wasn’t alone in my choice of walking. With each step more and more heavy, I finally reach the summit. I can’t even bear the thought of having to do that one more time right now. I say to myself, fugitaboudit (for now).
Round two! I run through the left side of the chute heartbroken that I can’t go to the right. I will get there. They may be packing up everything when I do, but I’m going to make it. This second loop starts out MUCH harder. I find myself walking pretty much from the get-go. The harsh reality of me not breaking six hours is starting to sink in. So I try to enjoy myself as much as possible for the rest of the race. Only now the sun has decided to come out. How lovely! 300% humidity and now the fireball in the sky peeks through just as I’m entering the newly paved asphalt. All I can think about now is my friends already sitting under the team tent enjoying beer and how good that Coke is going to taste once I get there. David passes me going the opposite direction and says, “Chris is right ahead of you. Not too far.’ I get excited at the prospect that maybe we could come through the finish line together holding hands. That would be really cool! I start running with the hopes of catching him. I see him up ahead finally and catch up. I’m relieved that he is walking because that means I get to walk for a little while too. He tells me that I don’t have to walk on his account. I inform him that it’s not a choice at this point. We walk and talk for a bit longer then my legs let me know they are ready to run again. I’ve decided that I’m going to try and run the flats (as if there are any) and downhills and walk the uphills. It turns out that the uphills were much easier to run than the downhills. Too much pressure and pounding on the knees and feet. I make it to Quadzilla the second time. This time I decide to try and run it just to get it over with. I made it about ½ way up and petered out. I walked until I got almost to the top and decided to resume running. This time I kept running and I was so happy to be able to run down the right side of the chute. It was a glorious feeling to hear them announce my name! They didn’t do that in Arkadelphia and as you know (if you’ve been reading my blog) they called the race before I was done in Kansas.
I decided to wait for Luvbug so I collected my medal and handed in my chip. I stood there for about 20 minutes then decided that I needed to find a port-a-pottie then I would come right back. I wanted to be there to see him finish. I turned and walked out of the finisher’s tent and entered the Twilight Zone. I became completely disoriented and forgot what I was looking for. I got that familiar feeling of passing out. I looked at the food tent and said to myself, “I don’t think that’s was I was looking for.” I looked at the medical tent and thought, “Maybe that’s what I was looking for. I think I should go there.” I put my hand on the shoulder of a paramedic with his back toward me and he turned to me as I was sitting down next to him and said, “Oh hey! Do you need some help.” I said, “I think I might.” I sat down, he started checking me out and he asked if I felt like I was going to pass out. Again I responded with, “I think I might.” In reality I was certain that I would at any second. Then he asked if I thought I could walk to the cot to lie down and I responded with, “I think so.” Not so much. The next thing I know I’m being carried to the cot. They start an IV in my right arm and start taking my blood pressure. The doctor asked me to stick out my tongue and immediately told them to start an IV in my left as well. They announce my blood pressure is 66/40 and that was the only time I freaked out during this whole experience. All I could think was, “Is that MY blood pressure? Isn’t that sort of LOW? Holy Shit!” While all this is going on all of the sudden I see a familiar face over me. It’s Gary and he asked me if I was okay. I said that I thought so; I was starting to feel better. He told me he was going to get Chris. I wanted to cry because I didn’t get to see him cross the finish line, it was so important to me. Then there was his beautiful face looking down at me. He looked so scared and worried. At that very moment I got very calm and realized how much I need and love him. They had an oxygen mask on me by now and had started talking about taking me to the hospital right before he got there. I was feeling much better, I’m fine, really! I don’t need to go to the hospital! All I could think about was how expensive that was going to be and would insurance cover any of it. I know it’s silly, but I worry about that stuff. Gary’s face is above me again and he says, “Well I guess you’d go to any lengths to hear me say the word Y’all!” Then I see Jo smiling down at me…what happened to her tooth?! Has it been like that? She had done an endo last Christmas and broke her tooth off and got it fixed. She said that she thought it had re-broken off opening a gel. David was busy documenting the occasion with pictures. He always says if there aren’t any pictures it never happened. They had decided that I definitely needed to go to the hospital. All of the sudden I was freezing and started shaking uncontrollably. They covered me with towels and transported me to a stretcher. Into the first ambulance I went. They put me in another ambulance to take me to the hospital. Jo and David had gathered our stuff out of the transition area and brought Chris’ truck to the hospital. We have the best friends in the world. I ran the gamut of the ugly scale. I told Chris that he has officially seen me at my worst. I was nasty and grimy from the race. I had lake water and sweat in my hair. I had to use a bed pan for #2 (very humiliating if you’ve ever had to do that) and had the dry heaves. I felt so sorry for Chris. I know he was tired and hungry and he was drained from worrying about me. The nurse finally brought in two sandwiches and I ate about ¼ of one. She started explaining about heat stroke. Heat stroke??!!! Four hours later, a total of three bags of fluid and a heat stroke diagnosis they were going to release me. I was really impressed by everyone who had a hand in taking care of me that day.
We left the hospital with instructions that I was to do nothing strenuous for at least a week. We got back to the hotel, got a nice hot shower and ordered pizza. It was nice to sit around with my sweetheart and better friends than I deserve. I felt good when I went to sleep, except for this little sore throat. I woke up the next day and felt like I had swallowed broken glass. In fact I didn’t sleep very well because every time I swallowed I woke myself up. I chalked it up to the oxygen that was shot up my nose and ragweed. We gathered our stuff and packed up the cars and headed to Mellow Johnny’s to spend some money. We said our goodbyes to Jo and David. Chris and I started our search for a hotel. We decided to stay until Wednesday. If you’re ever in Austin, three restaurants to hit are South Congress Café, Magnolia Café and Truluk’s (I don’t think I’ve ever spent that much on dinner in my life). We visited the Zilker Botanical Garden which was nice, but this late in the year there is nothing really in bloom. We did see a snake which I almost crawled onto Chris’ head after I noticed it. We had a nice time in Austin (for what it was worth); it’s a really neat place. Maybe we will do this race again someday. If for no other reason than to prove I can do it minus fallout (or falling out).
*What I saw in the water, to me it was something beyond the realm of what happens here on Earth. I do know it was what I needed exactly when I needed it
*I know now what I did wrong or rather what I didn’t do. I failed to hydrate myself before the race. Very stupid yet an honest mistake with the temps so mild and the air so dry on my taper week. I’ve been consuming fluids like there is no tomorrow since then. I will not let that particular mistake happen again.
*As long as my body is moving I’m fine. It’s when I stop that my body realizes that it’s time to cease and desist. Sometimes a bit too much.
*When the day is over it’s all been a learning experience, right? I don’t think I’ll ever be totally prepared, but