Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Working my way back

It's time. Time to get back to it. Two weeks with nothing then one week of a little something. This week it's a little something more. Of course I'm talking about training and working out. Last week was 3 weeks after the Ironman and I was supposed to start swimming and cycling again. Cycling had to be done on the trainer because of the blasted rain and swimming had to be put on hold because of the blasted tattoo. I'm not allowed to get into a chlorinated pool for four weeks after getting one, but I figured that two weeks would be enough time. I won't forget how to swim and I don't want to screw up my wittle tattoo that's going to the grave with me!

This week I got to add some strength/core training and running - the two things which I missed most. I felt like I was turning to jello and inputting waaaaay more than the output of calories. I was getting to the point of wanting to crawl out of my skin. This is actually where you want to be before you get back to it in all reality. You need to feel like someone has a pillow over your face and they are holding you down before you can safely get your body back into the game. The recovery and repair time are crucial. Believe me, I preach it all the time, but practiced it not in the past. The difference is having a coach. I now have an outside voice of reason that reels me back in, slaps me on the back of the head and tells me, "it's not time yet, dumbass". So far I don't have too many goose eggs on the old noggin, but I still have to be told that I need to practice more patience, Wee Grasshoppa. Wait for it...

Ah yes, patience. Not something that comes natural to me, although my friends might say otherwise. I just seem patient and calm most of the time and realistically I am. But, whoa Nelly, when I want something, I, by God, want it NOW! I try not to whine and I think I do pretty well with it. I don't like hearing people whine, so I'm pretty sure others don't appreciate it either. No good ever comes from whining, but some people manage to get what they want by doing it. I don't cave most of the time when clients whine. Just this morning I told a client, in no certain terms, that she was whining. I don't know if she was conscious of it or not, but it stopped when I brought it to her attention. I seldom use the direct approach because it makes me feel mean. It's always a surprise when people respond to someone being direct, but 9 times out of 10 it works.

Speaking of work, it couldn't be better right now. And I love my work because it's also play. I'm very lucky that I have had a fair amount of playtime this week. I love my clients and I think the feelings are mutual. They make it possible for me to be able to do what I want and get I to wear two hats. I can't say I enjoy one over the other, they both bring me great satisfaction and are very rewarding. Both fitness and massage changes people's lives and I get the privilege of being a facilitator of that change. How awesome is that?

You know what else is awesome? Reconnecting with friends and family after a long season of training. The big event has come and gone and now is the time to find my way home. I felt like life was passing me by. I'm reclaiming my friendships and now, through facebook, I am rediscovering bonds that I thought were long gone. I have missed everyone. I intend to make more of an effort to secure those relationships.

The Ironman is just what I needed to remind me how important the everyday is. How the ordinary is actually extraordinary. Sure it was a life altering experience and after you do one you know you can do anything, but without the support and extreme understanding of family and friends, none of it would be possible. So now I'm working my way back and getting back to a routine. I'm still training, but the upcoming year is all about my greatest weakness - SPEED. I'm anxious to see what my training future holds for me, but I'm working hard on keeping it reeled in...

When you start feeling like you are losing control and your grasp on things, sit still and listen. Just remember:

The moment you notice that you are just an instrument of the Divine, the moment you become like a hollow flute, the wind will blow through you and there will be music.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The New Addition

A week later and I'm finally ready to blog about my new addition. I'm talking about my new tattoo, of course. I had a tattoo of Winnie the Pooh that needed to be swallowed by none other than the MDot. Winnie represented a part of my past that I was reminded of daily and that needed to be laid to rest. I needed some sort of closure and I needed the open wound to finally heal. In fact, the middle of last week I had a dream about, let's just call the person "The Wound". Normally when I have dreams that include "The Wound", I wake feeling a little rattled. This dream was different. I was walking through a dimly lit room and literally bumped into "The Wound". About to just walk away, I grabbed "The Wound's" arm and asked how they were doing. We talked for a bit, then I looked at "The Wound" and said, "I have to let you go now". I just walked away. I woke feeling calm and peaceful and I feel it was finally the closure I had needed. I had that dream two days before I got that piece of my past buried.
Now the story that follows is not for the faint of heart nor for anyone considering getting body art. If you are even thinking about getting a tattoo, STOP READING NOW.
Chris and I had decided that we would go on Friday night of last week to 7th St. Tattoo. I was pretty excited about getting my latest accomplishment permanently marked on my body. He wasn't quite as excited as I was. So being the organized person I dream of being someday, had pictures in hand for reference. We got our names on the list and waited for probably about an hour, if not more. Caleb would be working with me and let's just say he definitely earned his money that evening. For about 30 minutes he sketched, re-sketched, traced, drew, arranged until he got exactly what I was looking for. However, this tattoo was going to have to be a bit larger than I had anticipated to cover the other one.
Chris' guy took him back and got to work. Caleb said he needed to get his station ready and he'd come get me in a few minutes. About 5 minutes later he came and got me with surgical gloves on. Now let me put in a plug for 7th St. Tattoos - I have 3 tattoos total with one being covered up (so 4 technically) and got them all at this place because it smells like a hospital. An inky hospital, but very sterile. They thoroughly clean EVERYTHING and are very professional. Okay, anyway, we get to his station and the first step in the process is a temporary outline of your tattoo is applied to your skin. He nailed it on the first try! He informed me that it was not skill, it was luck. He had Chris check it and make sure he had it positioned right. Chris was not even flinching for his tattoo. So I sit down sideways in a chair and hear the needle start up. I was expecting pain and I received it in abundance. He got the characters at the bottom done first and was filling in the Dot when Chris came over. During the first 20 minutes I was thinking about 2 things: 1)Suck it up, you just did an Ironman and 2)breathe.
I began to feel slightly light headed and I was starting to sweat a little. Caleb stopped and asked if I was doing okay. I told him that I was feeling a little light headed and asked Chris if he would get me some water. As he continues and I'm sipping water I get a very bad feeling that I'm going to pass out. I fought it as long as I could, but between the blood starting to rush out of my fingers, the strong urge to just go to sleep and everything getting all distorted I knew it was inevitable. I asked him to stop for a minute. He said sometimes a little sugar helps so Chris went to get a Coke for me. By the time he got back he said that my head was resting in Caleb's hand. He said, "She's out". I think Chris got a little panicked and asked if this happened a lot because Caleb didn't seem alarmed. He assured Chris it happens all the time. I don't know how long I was out, but I finally came to and just remember feeling REALLY sleepy and slightly nauseated. I started drinking the Coke and it just wasn't getting any better. I asked to lay back and once in a reclined position I felt like I could relax. About 5 minutes later, I was sweating profusely and got VERY nauseated. I asked Chris to take me to the bathroom and told him that he didn't have to go in with me, I just needed help getting there. He wouldn't have it. Folks, that is real love, right there! I know it was killing him, but he was a trooper. Finally, I was ready to try and continue the process. It was getting late and I know this was way more than Caleb and Chris had bargained for. I felt guilty and looked really, really gnarly at this point. Like a junky on a street corner looking for a fix.
I asked if he had a massage table I could lay on or something I could lean forward on and he brought out a massage chair. Perfect! Chris positioned a trash can beside me of which I made very good use - Chris reassured me that no one was watching and not to worry about it. He still had to stop every few minutes, but at least if I passed out again (which may have been better for everyone) then I was completely supported and no one would even know, probably. He finally got it all filled in and asked if I still wanted the red outline. OH-MY-GOD no! I weakly told him that he had earned whatever we paid extra for the outline as a tip. Chris put me in the car and Caleb sent us off with a garbage bag, just in case. Good call!
We got home about 1:15 (yes that's a.m.) and Chris put me on the couch and tucked me in. I told him to sleep upstairs in the bed and he said he was perfectly comfortable on the couch. I was so weak and had nothing left in my stomach. Not the most desirable way to lose that 5 lbs. I gained after Ironman, but definitely effective. He told me that I was to sleep, eat and not do much of anything on Saturday. Sounded good to me.
I am in total awe of Chris. I have really put him through the ringer with hospital visits and passing out. I'm surprised he hasn't just thrown in the towel. A lot of people would just walk away, fed-up with the situation. He has definitely proved time and time again that he will be there every time I fall. He is my rock, the love of my life and my saving grace. To say I'm a lucky woman is an understatement. I love you, Luvbug!

Friday, September 4, 2009

It's Ironman...

it's the one day you can do everything you like and you chose to be there - Liz

Those are the words that vibrated through my brain for 140.6 miles on Sunday, August 30, 2009. Those words, loving support and volunteers helped me get through the day and come out on the other side. I'm not sure how it changed me, that is yet to be determined. All I know is that I feel different.

Here we goooooo.....
I slept scantily on Saturday night; going in and out of consciousness. At 2:00 a.m., Chris’ alarm went off, my signal to take my Synthroid and go back to sleep until 3:00 a.m. After eating breakfast I obsessively checked my Special Needs bags for the 487th time. We met Michael and Becky in the lobby about 4:45 and started our journey to the transition area. My usual pattern is that I feel okay until about 10 minutes before start time so I was still feeling clear and focused. I got my nutrition put on my bike and checked my tires one last time - all good. A stop at the port-a-potties, drop off the Special Needs bags and we were ready to start the trek down to the swim start. It was quite a hike in flip flops and it was a bit on the nippy side. We got our body marking done than continued on to get our place in line. I got in line at the port-a-potties again while Chris, Michael and Becky found a place in line. There were athletes asleep on the sidewalk and I don't think we could've gotten any better spot unless we had camped out there. We ended up being about halfway down. I really needed to go one more time, but there was a VERY long line for the only port-a-pottie in close range. It was a really bad sign to see that many guys in line so I headed to the fence with a ziplock bag and did my business with the guys. It's always the most amazing thing to me how fast the smallest amount of fluid goes through me on race mornings. I got back in line and pulled my speed suit on the rest of the way and Chris zipped me up. I had my gel and took a salt tab. I was following my plan nicely. The line started moving and my stomach clenched up. I couldn't believe it was time. I got my swim cap on, goggles in place, my flip-flops off and soaked up how alive my growing nervousness made me feel. This was a time trial swim start and it was really nice to have Chris beside me. Matt came by and collected our Morning Clothes bags to take them back to the hotel. All of the sudden we were running down the ramp and jumping in the water. I started my stopwatch and tried to get in as gingerly as possible, but ended up feeling like I was being forced to walk the plank. So I held my goggles on tight and went for it. It took a couple of seconds to resurface and once I did I saw someone jump on Chris' head. That sort of freaked me out a little, but he was fine. I took a deep breath and started as calmly as I could. I swung out as far right as possible so I could stay out of heavy traffic. The swim out went really well. There was even a bizarre scene where the water had gotten very warm and there people standing and walking – IN THE OHIO RIVER!!!!! Some sort of “sandbar”. I decided it would be faster to keep swimming. I could feel my swim cap coming off so I pulled it back down as quickly as I could. I just kept thinking, “I’m doing a freakin’ Ironman and I’m swimming in the Ohio River”! I finally saw the red buoy signaling the turn and I just knew that I could really relax after that since we would be going with the current. I was very careful to stay out on the edge and things were still going well. I noticed that I started to drift closer to the buoys and was starting to get knocked around. I looked back before I started to go right and had to "go with the flow" for a bit before traffic cleared. I finally got back out in the clear and was going pretty good then I noticed that there were some pretty big rolling waves. I got a little nauseated, but I slowed down a little just kept right on rolling. For some reason I decided to check my swim cap again and this time it was almost all the way off. In fact, my goggles were the only thing holding it on my head. Let me tell you, trying to get my swim cap back on while treading water with my legs in the middle of 1,000 people swimming around me was like trying to put my shoes on standing in the middle of rush hour traffic. After I got it as situated as I could under the circumstances I took off swimming again and noticed that my hair was now caught in the zipper of my speed suit. I just sucked it up and kept going, I thought, “this is probably the least painful thing I will have to deal with today so I can handle it”. I kept sighting on the RR bridge, but it wasn’t seeming to get any closer. I finally reached the bridge and could hear the crowds and announcer and that was very motivating. I knew I was going to make it out of the water! Things got really rough at the turn and people were really aggressively trying to get to the swim exit. I finally emerged from the water and heard the announcer say, “Rebecca Irons. What a great name, I love it”. Boy did I need that!

I grabbed my bike gear bag and headed to the changing tent. I was greeted by a very enthusiastic volunteer. I almost felt like I was being rushed and I just needed to get my bearings after that woozy swim. I still felt pretty dizzy, but I wasn’t going to refuse the help though. I probably looked like I desperately needed it. Before I knew it she had my socks and shoes on me. I had my “to do” list taped to my bag, but it felt like it was happening so fast. I realize that my transition time was very slow in reality. I used the port-a-pottie and opted for the sunscreen that the volunteers were applying. It felt like she was rubbing me down with paste. She apologized and assured me that it would soak in. I unsuccessfully tried to “scrape” it off with my hand. I finally gave up when I noticed that everyone else was sporting the same pastey look.

Stay out of your own way...
I grabbed my bike and left the transition area. I hopped on my bike at the mount line and had no trouble clipping in. I started out slow and immediately took in a gel, a salt tab and got some sports drink down. I was feeling very good and let people just wiz by me, careful not to get caught up in their excitement. I knew I would see some of them somewhere out on course again later. I spun up the first climb while watching people just hammer it in a big gear. I made a left turn I thanked the volunteers and one of them said, “You rock! Can you believe you’re doing this?”. I told her not even in my wildest dreams. I finally made it to the branch off and knew I was in for some climbing. More people passed me and I let it happen. I was really concentrating on staying on top of my nutrition no matter what. That descent into the valley was SUUUHWEEEET! I knew what was coming, though. I started seeing some of those hammerheads already from that first climb. I made the turn around and saw Chris as he was descending. This confused me because I never see him until the run, but he was behind me this time. I climbed out of the valley and finally made it to the beginning of the loop. A guy who was passing me early in the loop said, “We just got lapped by a female pro”. It was pretty cool, but she seemed to think nothing of drafting off the age grouper in front of her. I later heard from Jo that she saw the same thing. I was still feeling great, but I needed to potty. So, I took the time to stop at the aid station and refilled any fluids I needed. Comfort is EVERYTHING in endurance sports. I thanked the volunteers and was back on my way. It was very hard to ride past the Special Needs Station on the first time through. It was unreal going through LaGrange, though. The crowd was huge and made you feel like a superstar! The next section past LaGrange was pretty uneventful and lonely and I noticed my knees were absolutely screaming. I got a little worried about the run at that point, but shook it off. I had also noticed a lot of riders changing flats. The word is that there were some locals who don’t appreciate that they close some streets off for an entire day so they throw “things” in the road. Most of the streets are open to vehicular traffic still, so I’m not sure why they felt the need to do that. I understand it was Sunday and they wanted to go to church and all, but that just doesn’t seem to be a very Christian-like thing to me. I came around to start my second loop and was still right on with my nutrition. So I stopped for another pee break and refill. I knew that the Special Needs Station was right around the corner so I looked forward to that. When I made it there, the volunteer that was helping me was great, but I finally just told her that I was not in a hurry. She just smiled and said, “So you’re just out here enjoying the day?”. I replied that I wanted to savor every minute of this and take it all in. She smiled at me again, I thanked her and I was on my way. I was feeling pretty good and just as I was thinking how unreal it was that I still felt so good a guy passed me and proceeded to “give back” all the fluids he had just taken in – IN THE WIND IN FRONT OF ME no less! What a jerk. I know things happen out there out of your control, but surely you can feel that coming on. Don’t pass someone and toss your cookies (or juice) in the wind when you get around them. It’s just not right. He did his business and took off – good riddance. I played cat and mouse with a guy in a Team Aquaphor kit for about 5 miles and the hills eventually got to him and he fell back, but then passed me one last time. I KNEW that I would see him on the run. I was approaching the last aid station and there was a black car that pulled over and the passenger stuck his hand out of the window and someone actually handed him a Gatorade! Then they stopped all of the sudden a little further up and I and the guy next to me almost ran right into the back of him. We just started yelling, “Go! Go! Go!”. Some people don’t deserve a license. I was so ready to be off my bike and actually looking forward to being on the ground running when I finally saw the transition area.

I dismounted my bike and happily handed it off to a volunteer. I took my shoes off, grabbed my run gear bag and ran into the changing tent. I visited the port-a-pottie (a very good sign that I was hydrated). This transition took even longer than the first one. This time I got a volunteer that emptied my bag for me and left me to my own devices, which is probably why it took longer. I just wanted to have the most comfortable run possible. I slathered Biofreeze on my knees and low back and used my own sunscreen this time! I felt more organized and together when I left the changing tent that final time.

Give NOTHING up, DNFing is totally NOT an option!
I walked down the isle out of the transition area and started running when I saw the timing mat. I made an honest effort to keep my pace easy and comfortable. I was happy to have my feet on the ground and made my way up the river bridge. I was surprised how quickly the 1 mile sign came up and how many people were walking at that point. And as predicted, I even the Aquaphor guy. I felt great and tried to maintain my pace. I was still trying to stay on my nutrition, but it was getting to that difficult point where NOTHING tasted good. I continued to eat the gels, drink the Gatorade and down the salt tabs. I knew I wouldn’t get very far if I didn’t follow what I had done through all that training. I saw Jo first going in the opposite direction and looking strong. Then I saw David going the opposite direction and he told me that Chris was right in front of me. I felt another wave of motivation at hearing those words. I kept my eyes open and looked for the orange cap. Still feeling great I finally spotted him at mile 9 or 10. I was careful to contain my excitement and held my pace. He was walking and I wanted him to run with me, but I knew he had to make that decision on his own and I had to run my own (first) marathon. I asked him how he was doing and he said he was feeling good and not to worry about him, that it was going to be a very long night. I decided to go on and I heard a woman ask him if we were doing the Ironman together and said she thought it was sweet. I noticed a woman on the side of the street with a sign that read, "Death before DNF!" - Amen, Sista! I stopped at the next aid station to pee and get some fluids. My trend for the first half was aid station, pee, water and Gatorade. I took a salt tab every hour and was feeling great and passed on my Special Needs bag, I had decided to rely on the aid stations. It was both amazing and disheartening to see the finish line and not be able to go there. So close and yet so far! I looked at the time and I knew I was not going to make my goal time of 13.5 hours, but I was okay because I knew I was going to finish no matter what. I went out for my second lap and saw Chris again and he said he still felt okay, but he would be walking the rest of the way and didn’t know if he would make the cut off. I was pretty emotional at that point because fatigue was setting in and I just wanted to cry when he told me that. I assured him that he had enough time and he needed to keep going. I gave him a kiss and told him that I love him and off I went. I had a serious talk with the universe at that point and pleaded to have a divine intervention with Chris. How could I finish and him not finish? I worried that he was going to just throw in the towel. My pace was slowing, but I continued to run. My feet were on fire and my knees felt like they were going to buckle, but mentally I was very strong. A couple of times I felt the familiar feeling of passing out wash over me and I just downed more fluids and ate. I kept hope of seeing Chris again and even started to cry a couple of times. Then out of the darkness I saw that familiar swagger and my heart leapt and as he passed me he said, “I can’t stop walking because it hurts too much”. I told him I understood, I was able to relax and just get it done. At about mile 20 it became really unfun and I felt the happiness I had been able to maintain sliding off of my face. I couldn’t stop at the last 2 aid stations because it hurt too much to walk and start running again. I started to be able to hear the crowd and the announcer. I knew I was within blocks of that finish line! I started to have an out-of-body experience and pain left my body as I floated closer to the chute. More and more people and all the sudden a flood of lights and I couldn’t contain myself anymore. I raised my arms and felt the energy from the people permeate me! I looked at a man in the crowd and asked, “How does my hair look?”. He said, “Fabulous!”. This was what it was all about this whole time. I though I was going to pee on myself I was so excited. I waited to hear those words, but, alas it was not to be. I thought with the last name of Irons, he would be sure to say it. However, I don’t need to hear those words to know that I did it. Will I do another one? You bet! Yes, I may have missed my goal time by a little more than an hour, but you know what? I got to savor and enjoy the entire experience and that’s what it was about for my first Ironman. I couldn’t have asked for more.

Rebecca Irons, YOU are an Ironmaaaaaan!