Tag Archives: Ironman

Honu 70.3: Thoughts & Feelings

It’s been almost two weeks since Ironman 70.3 Hawaii.  And I’ve been struggling with writing down my feelings and thoughts about racing Honu 70.3.  I feel overwhelmed and intimidated.  I question whether I’m capable of appropriately articulating what I experienced during and right after this race.  Nevertheless, I believe it’s important to write down as much as possible.  Doing so is therapeutic as well as a way to record this.  So here it goes…

A wedding determined the location of my first Half Ironman race.  (A couple of good friends married on Oahu the following week.)  Nevertheless Noah inspired me to compete in a Half Ironman.  While in Hawaii during race week I found a great deal of comfort from this.  I had a lot of time to think and just be.  With the beauty of the Big Island and many opportunities to be surrounded by calm and quiet except for the sounds of waves, birds and far away muffled voices, transitioning into a peaceful state was relatively seamless.

As mentioned before, race week is also taper week so by the time I arrived in Hawaii my training was over.  In addition to resting and completing lighter workouts, I shifted my focus to preparing mentally and emotionally for race day.  I still had some anxiety (about possible flats, GI issues, etc.) going into the race but I also had some confidence, more than I thought I’d have.  I had confidence in my coach, his training plan and support.  I had confidence that I would push myself extremely hard during the race.  I had confidence that whatever happened on the course I’d somehow get through it.  I had confidence in my support system, most notably MLH.  I had confidence that the reason I was racing was the best reason I will ever have.  And I had confidence that Noah would be with me.

During the swim I didn’t really think about Noah because I was so focused on making sure I was swimming the actual course.  However, during the bike, I spent a lot of time thinking of Noah and in fact I found myself talking to him.  I had a couple of moments when I thought about stopping because the crosswinds were so bad; I was scared. But I managed to move past these moments by thinking back to Noah in the CICU.  I felt silly, a little pathetic and then immediately emboldened.  “So what if I’m blown off the road,” I thought.  “I’ll probably get some scratches and maybe a bruise or two and even more severely injured but that all can heal.  It doesn’t compare at all to having a congenital heart defect, struggling to breathe, constantly dealing with throwing up or pangs of hunger because having food in the stomach before surgery or a test isn’t allowed.”  Yep, once again I was greatly humbled.

I had moments when I knew I needed to push harder.  It’s almost as if I trained for this because digging deeper and deeper came very naturally; I seem to have developed a switch.  By flipping it “on” my mind, heart and spirit knew exactly what to do.  And I dug down.  Riding hills were actually fun; I embraced such opportunities.  (I’m not saying I’m really good on hills; I just like them!)  I remember passing many folks as I climbed.  My attitude was: “bring it on – the steeper the better!”

With the race taking place along the Kohala Coast, I had the ocean on one side of me for a good chunk of the ride.  I made a point to look out and take in the ocean view as much I could anyway.  During these moments I talked to Noah.  I found myself talking out loud to him.  Who knows if others heard me; I really didn’t care.  I wanted to enjoy the amazing setting with him and I did.  The notion that water brings peace was reinforced.  Even as I fought heavy winds, climbed hills, navigated amongst other cyclists and managed my body and nutrition, my moments when I enjoyed the view with my son were moments of peace and comfort.

The run course was not as beautiful as the bike or swim.  The ocean was not in sight until around the last quarter-mile.  While the wind, heat and humidity were very challenging, I felt like my entire body knew what it needed to do and it did it.  Once again I connected with my son to help me dig way down.

After the race I felt a major high.  I still can’t believe I actually raced 70.3 miles!  And it boggles my mind that I did this for a little over six hours.  It’s not that it took about six hours but that I actually lasted this long!  I felt proud.  I felt proud to finish.  I felt proud to race for my son.

Looking back on my race week I now sense something shifted ever so slightly in me then.  And almost two weeks later I still feel this shift.  Perhaps it’s permanent.  I’m not quite sure how to describe it.  All I can say at this time is when I think back to Honu 70.3, I feel good.

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Words of Wisdom from Two Amazing Triathletes

Chrissie Wellington, four-time Ironman World Champion, just published an article for CNN: “Train your brain, then your body.”  It’s wonderful that this highly accomplished athlete is sharing some fantastic advice on mentally training for a race.

As I read this article, for some reason I was reminded of the book, “The Grace to Race: The Wisdom and Inspiration of the 80-Year-Old World Champion Triathlete known as the Iron Nun,” by Sister Madonna Buder.  A good friend sent it to me a few months after Noah passed away.  Sister Madonna is another amazing athlete.  At the age of 75 she became the oldest woman to compete in the Ironman World Championship.  Below is one of the many inspiring passages in the book.  (I hope it’s ok that I’m copying this excerpt here.)  In this chapter Sister Madonna writes about the deal she made with God and how four angels helped her during the 2006 Ironman Championship.

“Aside from the usual competitiveness involved in this famed annual event on the Big Island of Hawaii, I had my own special reason for wanting to finish. My nephew Dolph had died the previous month, quite unexpectedly. (It wasn’t until six months later that the coroner’s report said the cause was heart disease.) So I had been asking God for some kind of confirmation that he had died at peace and was in the right place. I made a kind of deal with God: If I could finish this race, I would know my nephew was at peace. That thought was in the back of my mind as I struggled through the ocean swim, and it was on my mind now, as I did my best to keep pedaling through the torrents of rain.”

“I got back on my feet and struggled onwards in the darkness, toward the turnaround. With about six miles to go, I was out there alone when these four angels appeared from the opposite side of the road, running in the dark. One had no shoes. One had only thongs. A husband-and-wife team were the only two with running shoes. Imagine my surprise when one of them asked, ‘May we accompany you in?’”

“[The wife said] ‘Do you see that stop sign ahead? Do you think you can start running when you get there and then stop at the next signal to walk again?’ They kept pushing me in this manner.”

“…I begged my angels, ‘Can’t I just walk until we get to Palani Hill, and then I’ll start running down it a mile and a half from the finish? Since we’ll be back in civilization it won’t matter if I collapse.’ They were firm. ‘No, you have to do a bit more running before you get there.’”

“When we got to the top of the final hill, I started extending my legs for a downhill run. They yelled a last admonition, ‘Oh, good, don’t stop! Keep going, even when you get to the bottom of the hill!’”

“How did they know I always stopped at the bottom to walk the next five miserable blocks on the flat until I hit Alii Drive and then gave it my all to the finishing chute? Even without a wristwatch, I sensed this was going to be a fight against time. It was then I realized this was the opportunity I had been looking for. If I could cross the finish line in time, I would know that my nephew was at peace and in the right place.”

“As soon as I made that bargain with God, I had the strangest feeling as if I were dangling between two realities, losing touch with my body and being conscious only of my momentum. I sensed a presence in the dark over my right shoulder, intimating that what I was doing was unreal. It was like make-believe.”

“Usually the Hawaiian Ironman marathon finishes under an arch, but now I saw that they had built a plank that required you to run uphill. How sadistic could it get? But I gave it my all in a last surge. ‘Oh God, please keep this body moving!’ When I topped the finish, the crowd was wild, as well as the announcer.”

“I was the last official finisher, the oldest woman on the course, and I had beat the cut-off time of 17 hours by a mere 57 seconds. ‘Thank you, Lord,” I breathed. ‘Now I know my nephew is in the right place.'”

Needless to say I highly recommend reading this book.  I think it’s got something for everyone.

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December: My Most Intense Roller Coaster Ride Yet

About two weeks ago I began firming up my 2012 triathlon season.  My key races will be Ironman 70.3 Hawaii in June and USA Triathlon (USAT) Age Group (AG) Nationals in August.  (As a warm up for Hawaii I’ll compete in at least one other race earlier in the season.)  I’m really excited about both races.  Hawaii will be my first Half Ironman, and for the first time I qualified for AG Nationals.

I now have two concrete goals.  To achieve my goals I have to create a plan.  I’m so much more productive when I map out how I’ll achieve a goal.  For December I’m focused on building a strong base so I can really push myself when I officially begin my Half Ironman training.  (I’m also focused on creating the Half Ironman training program, itself.)  I’m now running 16 miles a week and spending 45 minutes in the spin studio a couple times a week.  I’m also doing strength training 3 times a week.  I’m feeling stronger every day.  That is until this past Sunday, December 25th, when I twisted my ankle.

A few weeks ago, MLH and I decided not to celebrate Christmas.  We spent our previous Christmas with Noah in the cardiac intensive care unit (CICU).  We actually have relatively fond memories of that time because Noah was doing well then.  However, dealing with Noah’s first birthday, knowing we’d celebrate Christmas without him and feeling the date of his death quickly approaching, I became increasingly anxious, upset and sad as Christmas grew closer and closer.  So after obtaining advice from a grief support group, we made the decision to skip Christmas this year.  On December 25th, we went for a long run outside instead. Well right when MLH and I hit our turnaround point a couple cyclists caught me off guard by passing us and I fell and twisted my ankle.

Now I’m trying to stay off my feet so the ankle can heal.  I haven’t worked out in 3 days and probably won’t be able to do any training for the rest of the week.

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