First Race

neuroLast Saturday I participated in the Barry-Roubaix Gravel Road Race. http://barry-roubaix.com/ A 62 mile race in the middle of Michigan near Grand Rapids.

The week(s) leading up the race I was both nervous and excited about it. Nervous because we’ve had such a bad winter that I wasn’t sure what the conditions would be like – cold, icy and snowy came to mind. In cold temps it’s always hard to figure out how to dress. As an all winter commuter I’ve experienced the pain of freezing feet and it is not pleasant. I also had never done a gravel race before. I was excited because I was finally going to ride outside after months on the trainer.

Then on the Thursday prior to the race I received word that Katie, one of my best friends passed away. For those who don’t know, my friend Katie was diagnosed in May 2013 with Neuroendocrine Carcinoma and was given a 3% survival rate. It would be like starting a race knowing that you only had a 3% chance to survive and you didn’t know how long the race would take. It was a frustrating and painful time for all who knew her.  Katie battled this cancer like a warrior. She endured months of strong chemo which gave her multiple side effects for which she took too many medications to name in order to keep her somewhat comfortable. Then she found out it spread to her brain and had to have brain surgery. After the brain surgery she dealt with pain from her growing tumor on her liver, inability to walk or use her arm from neuropathy and nausea to name a few. Every time she turned around the news was bad. The times she did get out she always looked as stylish as ever.  Before the brain cancer, she even made one last trip to see her beloved Chris and the trimonsters participate at Ironman Arizona. She made the trip and still planned outings for the group. She loved celebrations and birthdays.  Just a few weeks prior she was at my house giving me a birthday gift.  Among other things she had booked me a massage in Vail where I was headed the week of my birthday.  This is how thoughtful she always was.  She knew that unless she booked it and paid for it that I wouldn’t go.  I’m even terrible at using gift cards!

I waited until the day before the race to pull my bike out to get tuned up. When I took it off the rack I saw that I still had her picture on the top tube. It was hard to see. I had taped it there when I did my Leadville race last year to give me strength to get through the race.

Picture of Katie (we were at a costume party having fun) for inspiration.

Picture of Katie (we were at a costume party having fun) for inspiration.

I was initially not sure if I could actually do the race and look at her picture but then I thought what would Katie say in this situation.  Not only that what would she do, she would totally suck it up and kick ass! I also thought it would be good just to get away and be on my own for a bit.   I packed up my bike and drove 3.5 hours to Hastings, MI on Friday night before the race. I arrived around 9:30 ET checked in and bought a grilled chicken wrap for dinner from Micky D’s had a glass of wine to calm my nerves (Katie would understand that!). The race didn’t start until 11 am the next day so there was plenty of time to chill and reflect. The previous two days were extremely emotional and my anxiety was high.  I couldn’t rid myself of thoughts of how beautiful a person she was with a beautiful smile and a great laugh. We had such good times together. She was wise beyond her years and was a great at listening and giving advice when needed, how unfair it was that her life was taken so early. She had so much more to give.

I woke up early and for a brief moment forgot about the previous two days. Unfortunately reality set in again. I looked over at my bike and thought to myself Katie would want me to do this race.  She would say go honeybadger!!

I went to breakfast and ate the hotel eggs and sausage and had some toast with some almond butter and a banana brought from home giving a full bolus since the starting time was still a couple of hours away. I chatted with my teammates asking what everyone was planning wearing given the cold temps (below freezing) mostly – shorts and knee warmers or full winter cycling tights… winter gloves or fall gloves , the list goes on and I had brought several variations. I also had bought new winter cycling boots which I planned to wear for the first time; this was my third try at buying winter boots which is why I was just using them for the first time. I wanted them big enough for heavy socks and room to move my toes and since I ordered them online it was not easy to guess the size especially when you have Italian makers.

new winter boots!

new winter boots!

It was not raining/snowing at the start although it ended up snowing a bit during the ride. Here is what I ended up with for a 62 mile below freezing race from toe to head;

  • Ski socks and gore windproof socks
  • Gore-Tex winter riding boots
  • Fleece lined winter cycling tights
  • Thick base layer
  • Cycling jersey
  • Craft wind/water proof cycling jacket
  • Balaclava
  • Lobster winter cycling gloves

I felt fairly comfortable throughout the ride and was glad for the larger cycling boots so that I could wiggle my toes when they felt a little cold. I tested my blood sugar and was at about 200 at the start I left my basil rates the same anticipated some adrenaline from the varying conditions.  Which at that time of day is about 0.8 units / hour.

We all lined up in our waves and waited for our start. I started to get a little chilled while waiting.   I wasn’t sure what to expect (at all). All I know is that the whole wave went off like a bat out of hell and I was left in their dust. I tried to keep up/catch up for the first 4-5 miles but knew that I couldn’t sustain that pace for 62 miles. Most people were riding nice cross bikes which gave me a bit of a disadvantage on the road starting out. I ended up with a small group of people. I think we were pretty much at the back of the pack. I won’t lie I felt a little discouraged, ok very discouraged. I looked down and saw Katie’s picture which was all I needed to keep going and just enjoy myself.

The route itself was pretty challenging, not large hills but frequent hills just enough to get annoying. As I got to the first “mud pit” (it had rained the night before so there were several) I negotiated through it without skidding out. Then “Tony” a guy from Iowa who I had been chatting with reminded me to look where I was going not where my wheel is. Oh yeah! How could I forget, this was such a valuable lesson I had learned in Leadville. After 20 miles I noticed I started catching up with a few people I’m not sure if I was picking up speed or if they were slowing down. I did make it up hills that others were walking up but with the mountain bike I definitely had better gearing for this. I found  Priscilla one of our female VQ’ers and we rode together for a bit. The company was nice. We stopped at the aid station where I ate a half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I’d munched on a few blocks and had a hydration pack with Skratch in it. The sandwich tasted great. Off we went. Between miles 30 and 40 I didn’t see one person except for the people directing the course. It was kind of nice. I pushed on looking at my time and realized I’d actually make the 42 mile cut-off which was a relief. I didn’t come all that way for just 42 miles! I reached the final aid station where I ran into some other VQ’ers I ate a peanut butter gel at that aid station. At this time I was feeling great. My Garmin beeped at every 5 mile split and I noticed that they were all pretty consistent which meant I wasn’t getting slower. I didn’t test by blood sugar because it was too damn cold but I sensed that I my blood sugars were good from how good I felt. As each hill came I pushed myself. I wasn’t going really hard but hard enough, sort of on the edge of uncomfortable which is pretty unusual for me because normally I’m overly cautious. After passing a number of people, in the last 5 miles I caught up to another woman rider she pushed the pace and I kept on her (cx) wheel. In the last few hundred feet I sprinted to the finish line beating her by a hair. Ok I may be a little competitive after all! I ended up 22nd overall at 4hours and 33 minutes and 1 second ahead of her :).

I walked back to the beer garden to see if there were any team mates around and I checked out my Dexcom. I was really happy I had a wavy line which dipped below 100 and spiked to just below 200. Katie and her sister were always aware of my blood sugar and asking how it was.  In fact Katie’s sister Caroline saved me during IM Arizona.  She actually walked a couple of miles to meet me with my tester and made me test during the run when I felt my worst (I found out that I wasn’t actually low I was high).  Aside from the gel and the sandwich I had also eaten about 9 blocks (3 servings) probably a bit too much for the length of race but at least I didn’t go extremely low (or high). I saw Robbie get the VQ team award and spoke with Eric S whom I met during Leadville training and is also a diabetic. I LOVE that guy, he and I get the shit with the ‘betes.  He hasn’t had it for long (like 2 years) and I feel bad for him but he is a huge biker guy and rode the 36 mile course in a fatty!  Unfortunately, I started to freeze shiver so had to leave before getting a beer from the sponsor (Founders Brewery).

I showered and hoped in the car to drive back to deal with the reality of Katie’s passing. When something so terrible happens to someone so young and full of life you definitely take things into perspective. I had a 3 hour drive and plenty of time to think about life and all it has to offer and how lucky I am that although I’m stuck with a life-long disease I can still pretty much do all the things I love doing. Riding my bike and being outdoors definitely tops the list, which gave me something in all the sadness to smile about. So Katie, thank you for all the valuable lessons you taught me in life and in death.

I will not take my life for granted. I will not take my loved ones for granted. I will live life to its fullest.

I’m keeping that picture on my bike but have changed the words to “forever” Katie because she will be in my heart and mind and be forever cheering for me albeit from a different viewpoint.katieforever

I love you Katie and I miss you more than I can express.  I have a huge hole in my life where you once were. I need you and your wisdom.

I end the post with this picture because this makes me happy.  Me riding along with a wonky number.  When I asked if  I should raise money for NET I was told that Katie would rather I raise money for diabetes so that is what i’m going to do.  Watch for future posts!

 

Riding my bike being outdoors=happy

Riding my bike being outdoors=happy

 

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An Evening with Andy Potts

Mental Toughness:

“the ability to consistently perform towards the upper range of your talent and skill regardless of competitive circumstances.”

Andy, Mike his coach and Robbie

Andy, Mike his coach and Robbie

I recently had the chance to see Andy Potts speak.  Andy, started with a recount of his journey to winning Ironmen and his decision to not race in Kona this year despite being in the best shape of his life and having the expectation of winning;   a hard decision for anyone to make but even harder for someone in his position.  His presentation was extremely inspiring but it wasn’t his advice on training that really resonated with me.  For those of you who don’t know Andy has the reputation of leading his races, during his presentation he made the following points which have been key to his successes and contribute to his mental toughness:

  • He could not have gotten where he was today without the support of a loved one (in his case it was his wife).  He said that she backed him 100% and it seemed like they both were able to follow their athletic endeavors with the support of each other.  Apparently she was a gymnast and then performed in Cirque de Soleil for a few years in Vegas (all the men in the room were green with envy at that point).  I definitely am appreciative of Tom supporting my crazy endeavors. For the most part he stays out of my way as I run from here to there, taking trips and time off work to train.  I do sometimes wonder if he is proud, thinks I’m crazy or is just glad to have me out of his way.  It was during a recount of an IM Arizona story to my parents where he was telling my parents that I realized he was certainly proud.  He was delivering the TriMonster tent to tribike transport after a day of spectating (another example of his support to my team).  This was towards the end of my race and the last he saw was I was running pretty slowly.  Well as it turns out I managed to pick up some speed in the last 6 miles, Katie called him or texted him.  With slight tear in his eye he told my parents that Katie sent him a message  “Gillian is hauling ass”  you better get back here.  Watching him tell that story confirmed, he was proud.
  • He spoke about anxiety in the swim.  Even he has suffered from this, I was pretty shocked.  His advice here was to remember that “you are in control of what happens.”   I definitely have a problem feeling like I am in control in the water.  I just don’t have the swim confidence to push my way through.  To my credit I did have one incident in Lake Michigan a few summers ago where I truly thought I was drowning.  I’m not afraid to get into open water but the memory of how choking and the inability to catch a breath felt is still etched in my brain.  Something to work on.
  • He starts each race thinking that he is going to win and that it will be his best race.  He was oozing with confidence, not in a bad way, he was definitely humble but still confident.  This is something I really need to work on.  I don’t have a lot of confidence, never have.  I go into the race full of self-doubt, not yeah- i’m gonna rock this thing!  Also, I’m afraid to put my best effort out there for fear that I’ll not have the mental strength to battle through when it gets really rough.  A lot of my energy is spent managing my blood sugar, my first thoughts are not who am I beating or catch that person in front of me. My thoughts are filled with -  Am I going low? Are my blood sugars high? Did I eat enough?  Too much?  Am I nauseous because I’m 9 hours into a 13 hour race or because my blood sugar is high? Why is my mouth dry? High blood sugar or just thirsty? Is my pump insertion still stuck to me?   Is my CGM correct? It’s never ending and exhausting.  I have plenty of examples where I have displayed mental toughness, whether it be battling cold Chicago winters commuting to work or climbing power line at the Leadville 100 race. I have proven that I can endure and suffer pain as much as the next person if not more yet I still doubt myself.  I really want to have that competitive dominating presence but all my life I have fear that I will fail.  I never liked team sports for that reason; for fear of letting the team down.  Oh and I always sucked at team sports, I don’t do well with balls or bats.   The more experience I get with triathlon the more confident I will become.

I had the chance to speak to Andy after the presentation.   You would never know that he was a world dominator in triathlon. Just having met him for a few minutes I felt like I could spill my guts and tell him my life story!  What an amazing person and athlete.  I left Vision Quest on a mission – I was on top of the world, I piled on my winter clothing, got on my trusty steed and rode like the wind on my way home (or so it felt).  I was thinking about 2014 with  renewed energy, spirit and I was going to dominate triathlon or any other race for that matter, I was thinking about my next ironman.  I thought about signing up for the next one as soon as I got home but good sense got the better of me as reality set in and my 5 minutes of being a pro triathlete was over as soon as I got home.  Although I came back to reality, I still have a little glimmer in my eye about what is yet to come.  Thanks to Vision Quest for making providing the opportunity to hear him speak. Thanks to Andy for the positive talk.

Rotate my hips you say....

Rotate my hips you say….

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Getting through the Leadville 100 MTB Race

The hardware.

The hardware.

Early in 2013 a group of 30+ Vision Quest (http://www.visionquestcoaching.com/) athletes had signed up to do the Leadville 100 MTB race many were roadies, some were triathletes (me) some were avid mountain bikers.  I did have a little background in mountain biking but it was a long time ago and pre-diabetes.  At the info meeting I found out that there was another t1 diabetic amongst us, what were the chances.  Eric, was dx’d just a couple of years back just before this very race.  As I would find out, mountain biking certainly brought whole new level of effort to controlling blood sugars during riding.  The last time I mountain biked I didn’t have diabetes.  At the time I asked Robbie Ventura (vision quest owner) if I was crazy to do this, he admitted he had his doubts and told me I’d need to execute training perfectly. I appreciated his honesty.  It just meant I’d need to work extra hard.

Anyway, we/I followed a rigorous training schedule, some of us went to the 4 day camp where we rode the course and got tips from the likes of Dave Wiens and Todd Murray.  I didn’t get in by lottery and didn’t get in by qualifying so my only option was to go to camp (basically paid to get in).  Camp proved to be well worth it from a confidence stand point for me.  You can find my rides on http://www.strava.com/activities/75414630#.  Based on my times at camp I knew that i had a chance of finishing. For camp, I had spent some time in Boulder and Vail prior to getting to Leadville which I think aided me with the acclimating to the altitude for camp.  See my post here for http://endurancediabetic.com/2013/07/04/leadville-training-weeks/ for more on that trip.

The following is my long winded recount of race day.

My main concerns prior to the start of the race were as follows in no particular order:

  • Making the first twin lakes cut-off (4hours)
  • The small chain ring that had been replaced just prior to the race
  • How I was going to react to altitude.
  • Getting a flat.
  • How my blood sugar would be.
  • The expected weather for race day was not looking good. Very cold and rainy.
  • My camelback was too heavy (VQ’er Dave Noda always joked that i was carrying around a tent in there) early on i had gone with the Osprey Synchro which allow me 300 litres of water, tools, extra jacket and gloves and had a mesh back keep allowing air to pass through the back . http://www.ospreypacks.com/en/product/hydration_packs__osprey_hydraulics_1/syncro_10
  • I was too heavy and should have lost more lb’s prior to the race. I really tried but couldn’t lose those extra pounds. Thankfully my Trek superfly was superlight.
  • The downhill’s, I hadn’t practiced once since the camp. The one piece of advice Dave Wiens told us to do after camp was to practice the downhills.

I had tracked my blood sugars during camp using my constant glucose monitor the dexcom.  As you can see in the links below the main days of camp Friday and Saturday look like the ride itself with highs above 300′s. My inexperience with mountain biking and controlling blood sugars showed. Unfortunately there was no way to replicate the conditions in Leadville in Chicago so practicing was out of the question.  I had planned to wear the monitor on race day but I had forgotten it.

friday camp of champions

saturday camp of champions

We arrived in Leadville on Friday morning, the day before the race.  I had Eric – bike guy extraordinaire swap out my small chain ring again to a new one I had brought with me.  Going against all race day rules of not changing things before a race.    I got out for a short 30 minute ride doing some short 20 foot downhills on the mineral belt trail. As I was riding I heard the thunder roll in, so I raced back to the hotel and started to get ready for race day.

Getting ready involved preparing my drop bags for the aid stations, mixing my nutrition bottles and getting my clothing planned out. I had brought several pairs of bike gloves for all weather from 20 degrees to 60 degrees I also brought several throw away jackets for warm and rain, throw away pants, rain jackets, and wind jackets.  You name the weather I had the jacket.  I had my bags and my nutrition plan well thought out.  Meal Plan

At the course talk we heard the notorioius speech of race founder Ken Chlober :

YOU ARE BETTER THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE, YOU CAN DO MORE THAN YOU THINK YOU CAN!  DIG DEEP!

We were also introduced to a double arm amputee who was participating in the race. If that wasn’t motivation I don’t know what was.

How true are those words?  I am a notorious self-doubter and don’t give myself credit for my hard work and determination.  My coach caught on to this early in my training and encouraged me to work on positive self-talk and confidence.

At one point in my training, it was during my stay in Colorado for training I emailed my coach to say that I was thinking of backing out of the race.  Basically I was scared shitless and I convinced myself that I had no business doing this race.  My confidence had dropped to zero.  I had been out on a couple of technical courses with a friend’s husband and crashed a couple of times, I felt like my downhill skills were terrible and I was afraid of every rock.  I arrived at the course training camp (camp of champions) with some serious doubts and I’m sure I was white as a sheet with fear.  The nerves were bad but the fear was paralyzing.

Camp gave me a renewed belief in myself and my abilities.  Aside from my blood sugar issues I felt great and strong.  I left camp feeling good and learned great downhill skills from Dave Wiens- six time Leadville champion, Lance Armstrong and ass kicker and nicest most down to earth super athlete you will ever meet.

I took a break from packing to go to the group dinner and talk.  At the talk Robbie gave us some good advice.  Focus on these things:

  1. First and foremost be safe.
  2. Then smile.
  3. Have Fun.
  4. Ride strong.

After dinner I felt a bit restless so I hopped on my bike and rode into town to see  Melissa, who came all the way from Chicago to see the race and Clare who lives in Vail.

Out on the town the day before the race (not really)

Out on the town the day before the race (not really)

I shared a beer (aka I drank a beer) with Tom then head back to the hotel to finish packing.  After a long day I was tired and with a 3:30 wake up I turned in at 9:30.    The bed was small and soft when one of us moved the other did too. I was wide awake.  I didn’t feel like it was nerves but the longer I was awake the more nervous I got and the more my mind raced.

I think I might have fallen asleep for about an hour at 2:30.

The alarm went off at 3:30, exhausted I laid in bed for another 15 minutes.  I got up and started to feel nauseous. This was not a good combo- tired and nauseous.  I felt so terrible that I couldn’t even drink coffee, which is rare for me. I had stopped drinking it for the week prior to get that extra boost for the race.  I made my usual race breakfast – a bagel thin with Jason’s chocolate hazelnut butter and a banana.  I tested at an ok BG of 210 and fully bolused for the meal. During training I had not increased my Basal for the ride so wasn’t planning on it for Leadville; typically for ironman races I will raise my basal on the bike to 120%. But those rides it is easier to control effort and heart rate.

I got dressed and grabbed my bags getting ready for freezing cold temps outside.  I stepped outside and determined that it wasn’t as bad as I thought.  It was still pitch black out.  I walked across the street to camp central and dropped off my aid station bags.  The first had a dry jersey and long sleeved top, some blocks and a mojo bar. The second bag for the twin lakes aid station had plenty of warm dry clothing just in case the weather turned on Columbine, there was a high chance that we would get rain up there.  It had rained every day for the past month and combining that with a fast descent there is a chance that you could end up with hypothermia if you were not too careful.   Knowing I needed to eat more I tried to choke down the oatmeal provided.  I sat at a table just feeling sick to my stomach.  I knew something was up as I was having some serious bathroom issues on top of the nausea.  Was it something I ate or altitude sickness?  I found out that Eric the other diabetic had gone to the hospital with altitude sickness and wasn’t going to race.

I ran back to the hotel to gather the rest of my things.  I decided to go with the knee warmers, booties and thicker cold-weather gloves.  I was better off being too warm than to cold.  Then I put an old fleece over everything for the wait at the start line.  It was still dark and we all rode into town together.

I knew based on my times at camp on each section of the course that I would be cutting it close with the cut-offs but even so, putting the pieces together, it wasn’t impossible for me to finish under 12 hours and claim a buckle.

I taped the following times to my top tube.

  MILE TIME TOTAL
CT

11

   
SP

20

   
PL 

26

2:45

2:45

TL

40

1:00

3:45

TL2

60

3:30

7:15

PL2

74

1:25

8:40

FINISH

103

3:15

11:55

The biggest challenge would be the Twin Lakes cut-off at 4 hours.  Following that the 2nd twin lakes would be easier to make and as long as I has some cushion there it only made sense that I would make the final cut-off.  So in my head if I made the first twin lakes cut-off I would finish the race.

I stood in the corral on that cold morning trying my best not to throw up my breakfast, feeling every part of nauseous and sleep deprived.  It was a brisk 34 degrees.  I glanced down at my top tube and took a deep breath remembering who I was riding for that day.  I had taped a picture to my top tube for a reminder of how lucky I am that I could even be here and although there is no cure I can still live a somewhat normal life with insulin albeit difficult.

Several months ago one of my dearest friends Katie was diagnosed with neuroendocrine carcinoma a very rare form of cancer. She walked in to get some tests for her gallbladder and walked out not knowing whether she would survive the year.    They found several tumors, specifically an 8 inch one on her liver.  Katie is a tiny girl an 8 inch tumor?  It was inconceivable.  She has now gone through 8 rounds of very strong chemo and has several more ahead of her.  Katie has been very brave; despite everything she still manages to keep up appearances and still manages to attend some of Chris’ (her boyfriend) races.  A lot of times she is in pain and suffers greatly but you would never know it.  She has been so strong.

At one point during the race someone asked me who the picture was of.  I told him and he said he would remember Katie as he rode.  I was so touched. Throughout the entire race, especially at times of suffering and feeling sick I looked down at the picture and smiled and told Katie I would keep pushing for her.

Picture of Katie (we were at a costume party having fun) for inspiration.

Picture of Katie (we were at a costume party having fun) for inspiration.

The gun fired and we were off.  I ditched my fleece. I saw my friend Joanne who was there supporting her husband Ian. Back when I was living in Toronto Ian and I did several long distance MTB races together on a team and several 24 hour mountain bike relay races.  I was always the weakest link but gave them the co-ed status! I didn’t see Tom but saw my friend Clare as I made my way across the start line with 100’s of riders in front of me.

At the start. Pretty pleased with myself.

At the start. Pretty pleased with myself.

A look at the sheer # of bikers at the start.

A look at the sheer # of bikers at the start.

The first few miles are on road and downhill.  The coldness cut like a knife. My hands became numb despite the hand warmers which didn’t seem to be working very well. I was also thanking god that I had shoe covers and Wind Stopper knee warmers on.  As soon as we made the turn onto the dirt the crowd thickened and it was all about not crashing into someone or having someone crash into you.  Then the climb up St. Kevins, a killer first climb with some tough grades of over 10%. It was a shorter climb but burning the watts now would get me later.   As soon as it got too slow to ride I got off and joined the walkers up to the sharp left turn where the pitch mellowed out somewhat.  I realized after about an hour I had not followed my meal plan at all.  I tried to eat some blocks.  I couldn’t stomach anything else.  I drank some of the skratch powder mix from my camel back and tried to defrost my hands which hurt from the cold.  I arrived at Carter Summit, mile 10ish in an hour and 10 minutes mile I was already behind.

The backside of Carter Summit was some road already a welcome break from the grueling rocky trails.  Here I reached speeds of nearly 40 mph.  It was during this section that I first saw the bride and groom.  Unfortunately what goes down must come up.  I reached the turn on to Hagerman’s pass a 4 mile rocky uphill with 1,100 or so feet of climbing.  The prize here is the most stunning views I have ever seen.  Turquoise lake glistening in the sun below.  I wish I could have stopped to take a picture.   I slipped into granny gear and slowly made my way up to the top knowing that I had the powerline descent after that.  I had felt fairly confident on power line during camp, both going down and up.  In fact was able to ride a good portion going up we’ll see if this is the case doing the course all in 1 day versus two days at camp.  I crested the summit of sugarloaf pass and started the downhill of powerline, remembering Robbie’s advice to stay safe.  I took the downhill fairly slow but confident.  I weaved back and forth teetering on the edges of the massively deep ruts that had formed from all the rain.

descending powerline

descending powerline

All in all I made it down in 20 minutes.  Happy to be on flat land again and a nice stretch of pavement to the first aid station at pipeline.  I tried to draft off of a group of several riders and just missed a crash at the turn off to pipeline as a rider realized he had gone past the turn off and stopped suddenly causing the rider behind him to crash into him.

POWERLINE!

POWERLINE!

I arrived at the pipeline aid station a hair under 3 hours.  I was close to 15 minutes behind schedule and I knew based on camp that my time to Twin Lakes from here would be at least an hour.  Not much time to waste. I felt honored and privileged to have Allen Lim from Skratch Labs there to support our team.  Previous to developing Skratch, Allen worked with top American cyclists including Team Garmin and Radio Shack and the Tour de France.  How cool is that, here he is helping little old me!  Allen develops recipes and clean foods to fuel riders during races.  I just love his cook books The Feed Zone and The Feed Zone Portables. http://www.skratchlabs.com/products/feed-zone-portables Unfortunately today I wasn’t able to enjoy his awesome and famous rice cakes because of my nausea, totally unlike me as I’m used to eating anything and everything during a race.  Just as important was the friendly face of Dick the mechanic from Trek Highland Park, who got my bag and helped me with what I needed.  I tested my blood sugar. Wham!  A whopping 400.   During my ride I had thought I felt the unmistakable feeling of the cannula (small tube inserted into abdomen administering insulin from pump) from my insertion site rubbing on something.  It feels like a burn, I picture it as  rubbing against one of my organs (this is not the case but this is what I picture) and as such the insulin stream somehow being blocked although I wasn’t getting any error signals.  In my panic I whipped out my syringe and insulin vial and gave myself 5 units of insulin.  That is right FIVE!!! For those diabetic endurance athletes out there you will know that this is WAY too much.  I just knew that if I didn’t take any insulin I wouldn’t be able to eat and without eating now I definitely wouldn’t finish the race.  It didn’t even click in about what I did until much later. Not having much time I quickly ran to the porta potty stripped down peed then re-dressed and hopped on my bike.

I headed off trying not to think negatively but also trying to come to terms with the possibility of not making the cut-off.   I didn’t want to let myself or my team down.  I know that I was an underdog going into this and even had Robbie express his doubts to him when I signed up.  I wanted to prove to myself and to him that I could do this.  I wasn’t giving up quite yet.  It was during the ride to Twin Lakes that I met my on line Facebook pal Jacque Felt.  We both were coming from the Midwest and had similar capabilities although I think she definitely had better mountain biking experience!  She recognized me and called me out.  We chatted for a while then continued on our way.  It was close to here that I saw the lead riders making their way back to Leadville.  Holy Cow!  They had already been up Columbine and back… how depressing.  The route to twin lakes was no piece of cake either especially coming from the mid west. There were some decently long climbs albeit with less of a pitch than other parts of the race. As I approached Twin Lakes I had my eye on my watch it was going to be close.  I pushed as hard as I could to get there in time, not something you really want to do 40 miles into a 100 mile race but I needed to push it to get to the cut off.  As I approached the aid station with rows of tents and cow bells out of the corner of my eye I saw a lone man standing in a crop of grass near the turn off on to the dam.  It was Eric, I yelled to him he yelled back “go get em girl you are going to make it!!”  Really?  Was I going to make the cut off?  Seeing him made me sad that he wasn’t out there but it gave me that extra motivation to make him proud.  I hammered past the crowd not knowing how close I was and not knowing how strict they were about the time cut off.  I did not want to be that person in the movie that was the first to not make the cut off.  I sped past the large inflatable arch and grinned ear to ear… I had made it. I made the cut off!! Ok milestone 1 – check!!  From here I settled down a bit and got my heart rate back to normal.  Knowing I only had a few miles to go before the next skratch aid station where Tom, Clare and Melissa would be.   Nothing was more comforting that knowing that Tom was going to be there.

As I rolled across the farm land, I heard the unmistakable bark of a dog.  It was Clare’s dog Beacon.

# 1 FAN BEACON!

# 1 FAN BEACON!

We had become close friends during my stay in Vail earlier in July.  This time he did not have his cone on.  I yelled at Clare as she cheered and cheered. Happy times.  A few hundred yards down a dirt road I could see the skratch tent.  I pulled up and gave Tom a huge hug.  I was still reeling in the glory of making the first cut off.  I got off my bike and tested my blood sugar it was 115 but my worry was that it was still dropping and I still wasn’t able to eat much.  I had been choking down the blocks and drinking the skratch.  I tried to eat a rice cake also.  As I was sitting in the chair Robbie came whizzing by, wow, he is amazing. I saw my coach’s family and asked how he was doing, the said he was expected soon and he was doing fine.  Yay Mike!  As I stood there Jacque went whizzing by, she made the cut off, we ended up playing cat and mouse quite a bit.  Seeing another familiar face from a previous VQ camp – Kelly Oliver also filled me with motivation.  I hoped on my bike and started on the route to the top of Columbine a 7 mile 2000 foot climb at an average grade of over 7%.   It didn’t scare me because I had done it before but I still felt sick and the last time I had done it my blood sugar went terribly low.

approaching columbine aid station

approaching columbine aid station

Remembering the effort at camp I slowly made my way up the switch backs (10!!) and passed several folks on the way up as more and more people were walking.  The best part of the climb was seeing my team mates speeding downhill towards home.  I saw Mike, my coach, Carlos, Kris (the other girl on the team who is a rockstar), Noda and a few others.  As I climbed I could feel the unmistakable tremors in my hands and heart from low blood sugar.  I was a couple of miles still from the top, just passed the tree line I stopped and tested, yep I was 50, damn 5 units of insulin.  I quickly inhaled a MOJO bar and some blocks and started walking and sipping my skratch…. I walked and walked then tried to ride for a bit but it wasn’t happening I got off and walked again. It is here where the trail gets really rocky and rutty, they call it the goat trail.  It was a long 2 miles.  It is during this 2 miles that digging deep was necessary… I could hear people talk about the time and cut off issues, I saw riders crying as they tried to keep going it was the worst 2 miles of my life and it took me an hour of the two hours it took me to get to the top.  I got to the top and sat, I told the volunteer I was diabetic and he got me medical attention.  They were so, so kind.  They got me coke and watermelon and m&m’s  I just inhaled it all.  He asked what my BG was and if I had done something similar to this race, obviously trying to gage what my experience was and if I should continue.  By the time I left his chair I was up at 90 BG.  Safe enough to keep going.

The top of columbine from camp a month earlier.

The top of columbine from camp a month earlier.

I had later emailed the medical staff to thank them for their help.  The head medic was excited that people with type 1 diabetes were now able to compete in such events with the help of all the new technology.  It is so true, without my tester and insulin pump doing these races would be that much difficult.  I am thankful every day for the research and money that gets donated to the cause so that I can live a normal life and compete in these races.  One of the medics even remembered me and gave me kudos for being there, I really feel lucky.  I also got to see the bride and groom again, who were actually getting married at the top of columbine! The picture is me during camp at the top of Columbine.

Unfortunately once again I was going to have a cut off issue.  I had 1 hour to get down Columbine, past the aid station and to twin lakes.  This nervous tension about the cut off was getting old!  Although I had made it down powerline, I still needed to make it down Columbine.   I clipped in and summoned my inner Dave Wiens remembering his tips, keep my head over my handle bars, keep my head straight and move the bike, keep my legs engaged and my arms loose, look down the road then immediately in front keep looking ahead then look down, lay off the brakes for as long as you can then feather the brakes to slow down, keep doing this on and off.  The biggest lesson of all “trust the 29ers”.  This was so true, if you let those brakes go those baby’s will roll over just about anything! The downhill is, well, 7 miles; you don’t want to be holding the brakes for 7 miles.  I felt a little discouraged knowing that the 15 minutes sitting recovering was going to cost me. There are some tough rocky sections and some not so tough sections, luckily my inner Dave Wiens ruled and I felt good and confident the whole way down picking up to speeds of 27 mph, the nice thing about being so slow is that there is little or no uphill traffic so you can take nice wide turns. I made it down in 30 minutes.

Back at the aid station I didn’t waste much time a quick hug and kiss and hello and I was off to twin lakes.  I tried to eat a rice cake and put one in my jersey for later.  I still wasn’t keen on eating and was trying to drink as much skratch as possible, I think in the end it saved me.  I also tested at 150.  Good and normal. I remember saying I didn’t think I was going to make the cut-off but they all said I could.  I pulled back into twin lakes at 2 pm 15 minutes shy of the cut-off.  And about 15 minutes behind schedule.  But I had cushion! I had an hour and 15 minutes to get to the next cut-off. This time it was climbing up the single track and up lil’stinker a small nubbin of a hill with a steep grade.  I remember pulling into pipeline aid station during camp feeling great and strong, I hope this was the case this time.

I was watching the clock again, I’m not sure where I “lost” the 15 minutes during my trip from twin lakes but I did.  A few hundred yards (not exactly sure) from the inflatable arch marking the cutoff  people started yelling go go go! I had only a few minutes left for the cut-off.  I literally sprinted for what seemed an eternity.  I truly thought I it was 4th and inches. Mile 74 and I was sprinting.  The results show that I came across the cut-off with 1 minute to spare at 15:14 with a cut off of 15:15.  I felt bad for the folks behind me thinking that they were not going to make it.

I pulled up to the side after the timing mat heaving to catch my breath.  I definitely burnt a match or two sprinting to make the cut off, hell I may even have burned an entire match book.  I just remember Allen Lim  running after me and telling me that he’d be right back.  He then ran back to the tent and came back with a bag full of goodies.  As I was standing there i ate some delicious orange wedges, one after the other and the volunteer taking all my peels.  I also remember drinking from a tiny coke bottle that Allen gave me, it was so good.  I tested again and was at 80, I had not been eating enough.  Allen told me that I was going to finish, I squeaked out am I?  He said yes!  I finally caught my breath, although it cost me another 15 minutes.  As I was standing there I noticed that other riders will still riding by, I guess they were not so strict on the cut-off after all, oh well.  I left Pipeline knowing that there was no more cut-offs just the 13 hour cut-off , surely I could ride the last 26 miles in 4 hours and 15 minutes right?  However, I was not home free, there were still some daunting uphills ahead, remember when I said I was flying down one hill at 40 mph well now it was time to pay the piper, meet my maker and ride up said hill.  Also remember the technical powerline I so proudly rode down without falling?  Well now, I had to go up that also.  Oh no folks, there was not get out of jail free card here, there was some tough road ahead.

The 6 mile ride to the base of powerline was windy and unforgivable, this was supposed to be an easy section but my mph did not translate.  I tried to drink, I hadn’t even gone through a 5th of what calories I had planned and still felt ill.  I just kept thinking of the finish line and thinking, I will throw up then.  What?!

The turn off to powerline arrived before long and I headed down the dusty road and started up the treacherous climb, a 3 mile 1600 foot climb with an average grade of 7% or so.   I probably lasted about 10 minutes before I had to get off and walk.  The bottom of the climb is steep getting up past 10% grade.  This is where it all starts. I looked at my watch still plenty of time, I think I even considered at that time that I might make the 12 hour cut off! I had 2 ½ hours to go 20 miles… surely that was doable! Surely!

As I made my way up I couldn’t help but be amazed that I actually was able to ride down this puppy.  It looked way more treacherous on the way up than it did coming down. Edges were narrow and the ruts seemed to be 2 feet deep, no joke.  In most cased there were two huge ruts, an outside edge, a huge rut, a middle piece of land, and then another huge rut followed by another edge.  Picture a big W shape.  I followed the trail trying to keep myself up right and moving forward. Yes, simple things that you might take for granted were difficult.  I was by myself for most of it, passing a couple of people but other than that I was a long ranger on a death march.  Literally, it felt like a death march.  Oh, we were told about the false flats (9 of them) and the fake down hills and although I had ridden it before it was like a whole different trail, last time I was able to ride up parts of it and felt pretty good about it.  Here I tried to ride up as much as I could but inevitably my wheel would catch a large rock or rut and I didn’t have the power in my legs to push through.  So off the bike I got.  It truly never seemed to end.  It took me 1 hour to go 3 miles.  So much for the 12 hour buckle but surely I had enough time to get in under the 13 hour cut off!  Nothing was for sure any more.

the death march

the death march

You might think, great now it’s a downhill section.  Well, this brought new challenges; Hagerman’s pass is extremely long and extremely rocky. There never seemed to be an easy line it was not stop pummeling.  My arms, neck shoulders and body could barely take the beating.  It was never ending.  I don’t know what was worse the walk up powerline or the bump and grind of going down.   At the bottom of the pass was the gravel road to the 5 mile stretch of road before St. Kevins.   At mile 88 I began the uphill climb on the road this stretch was 1000 foot climb at close to a 5% grade for 4 or so miles with some parts getting up to nearly 7%.  I remember passing an older man who was walking his bike, it turned out he was the oldest rider that day. I don’t remember exactly how old but I want to say 70’s.  Woo hoo I beat a 70 year old… ha!   Although it was on road and not to steep it also felt never ending as the road snaked around,  again always thinking, ok just around this bend and it’ll be over but the road just kept coming and coming.  Up and up. As I waivered I looked down to see Katie’s smiling face and kept going.

Finally I reached the turnoff towards the aid station at Carters Summit, I had no idea what to eat nothing seemed good, the only thing I asked for was coke.  They had run out.  I ate watermelon which tasted pretty good and grabbed a handful of M&M’s and shoved them in my mouth half chewing half spitting them out. It couldn’t have been a pretty sight!

10 miles to go and I had an hour and 15 minutes to do it in with a big downhill coming up and relatively flat until a mile or two out. I was shocked that it had taken me this long to get to this point.  Well, I certainly wasn’t going to “buckle” but I certainly could finish in an hour and 15 to make the 13 hour cut off right?  I wasn’t making any presumptions at this point.

I made my way towards the top of the first St. Kevins climb, where I had been 12 hours ago. Wow, I had been doing this for 12 hours.  There were some steep short climbs at the top then a nice steep descent.  I made it down nice and quick, it felt good. Then made my way on the dirt path to the trail, which seemed to take forever, I crossed over the cow grates and thought that I was home free. Seriously, this was not home free, the dirt road was sandy making it hard to ride on, a few miles later I got to the road then off the road on to another dirt road the route followed the tracks for a few miles, I remember Todd at camp a 20X Leadville finisher warning me about this section and saying, it isn’t over yet.  Well as you turn off this road onto another dirt trail known as the Boulevard you hit a steep pitched hill requiring further dismounting then its uphill for about 3.5 miles.   As I watched the clock tick I truly questioned if I was even going to finish in 13 hours.  The finish line never seemed to come, this partly because the race isn’t really 100 miles it’s more like 103 and believe me those 3 miles  are hard! 3 miles at 3% grade at the end of this race took me 30 minutes.  As I made the turn on to 6th Ave I looked at my watch I had 15 minutes and I could see the finish line.  I climbed up the hill with all the energy I could muster and rode over the red carpet at 12:47.  Good enough for a finish and good enough for a medal.  No buckle but a finish is a finish.  Funnily the bride and groom just came in just before me so I held back in order to not get in their pictures!!

FINISH!

FINISH!

My wonderful support.

My wonderful support.

Eric, fellow T1 and super mountain biker.

Eric, fellow T1 and super mountain biker.

Tom, Clare, Melissa and Eric were there to greet me.  I just looked at Eric and burst into tears.  I had seriously given all I could give and was done.  I think maybe even that tough guy shed a tear or two.   Since, they announced me as Gillian Forsyth from California none of the others recognized that I had crossed.   I saw the group, already showered and looking fresh and flagged them down; they had been waiting for me.  Robbie, Mike, Kris, Carlos – they waited.  In my disgusting sweaty dirty mess Robbie gave me the biggest hug and told me how proud he was.  He said you will remember this day for the rest of your life. It is so true.  You couldn’t put a price on how I felt at that moment. The weather turned out great and I wouldn’t have traded that day for the world.

Would I do this again?  In a heartbeat.  I love Colorado, I loved Leadville and I loved the race.

Loved Leadville!

Loved Leadville!

Not only will I remember the day, I will remember the months of training. It was me and the guys.  Me trying always to hang on to the end of the chain of mountain bikes for dear life.  There were training rides where I pushed myself farther than I ever thought possible, there were also times when I just said.  I can’t keep up but did anyway.  I don’t remember a ride where I got back thinking, that I didn’t give it my all.  To all the guys in the group, you know who you are, thank you.  I will never forget you.  To Kris Sudiak the other girl from VQ  who did Leadville,  thank you for the hug the morning of the race, you are such an inspiration and one hell of a cyclist.  This amazing woman actually stopped during the race for ½ hour with a fellow teammate who was injured, she sacrificed her time in order to ensure the safety of another.  She still finished in 10:44 by the way.  This is how this team worked together.  Chris Joyce, Dan Johns and Steve Harrop you all helped me in so many ways.  Greg Duckworth who approached me at camp because he saw the fear in my eyes, we both supported each other and took some time to stop for photo ops!  Thanks to Dave Wiens for your incredible patience at camp and telling me to trust my 29ers.  Mike Peters my coach for helping me keep my head on straight and sending emails with his guidance, support and motivation.  I asked that Mike coach me because in May at the end of base camp after 4 days of solid riding and a 20 mile balls to the walls effort on the last day when I sat and wept he understood that it had been a hard 4 days for me and comforted me.  I knew it was a special guy who although is a hard core cyclist could still understand what it takes to finish 4 days of cycling for someone like me.  Thanks to Robbie and the VQ team for putting this once in a life time event together and once I won him over , provided me with the support and motivation I needed.

Several weeks after we got back from the race I went up to VQ Highland Park to ride with the group.  Afterwards, Robbie, Mike and Noda took me into the office and presented me with an awesome gift.  Robbie was so genuinely proud of me that I finished and spoke some very kind words which I will take with me to future races.

Thanks again to everyone for your support through the entire ordeal, for all the kind words I received via text and Facebook, they meant so much to me. Thanks to Melissa and Clare for making the trip to cheer me on. Thanks to Tony Apuzzo for your patience and taking the time to ride with me in Boulder/Breck. Thanks to Tom for putting up with my crazy antics and my crazy training schedule.

If you have made it this far, I ask that you send your prayers out to Katie whose strength during her chemotherapy treatments as she battles this terrible disease is undeniably a million times tougher than doing any race. Do not take your life or your health for granted.

Katie and I at a costume party.

Katie and I at a costume party.

Posted in Leadville, Motivation, Race Reports, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hell and back?

I posted on Facebook on Saturday that I had been to hell and back.   After I posted it I sort of regretted it.  My ride that day was hell but not like the hell that my friend Katie goes through every time she has a round of chemo.  THAT IS HELL.  This just felt like hell at the time.

Backing up a little bit, this weekend I was due to run with the marathon group and do another 100 miler (my 4th since Leadville).  I also got an invite to a skybox at the bears game on Sunday.  How was I going to fit it all in?  As much as I did and re-did the math in my head there was no way I was going to be able to do the ride on Sunday before the game.  So after the run group, I went home to get ready for a late start 100 mile bike ride.  I’m not sure if it was because I was on my own or if it was because it was so late or if it was the weather but I just did not want to go on this ride.  I lay down on the bed and tried to rest.  Finally after a plea for motivation on Facebook I got up and put my cycling gear on and organized my food and drink.  I had originally planned on driving to Highland Park and doing 2 50 mile loops out there.  As it was so late I decided to leave from the house, hit the North Branch Trail and do a loop up at Highland Park, refueling at the VQ there.  I typically don’t like riding from the house because you can’t get a good pace going with all the stops and starts for lights, stop signs, getting lost and crossing over roads as part of the trail.  The North Branch Trail is pretty windy.

The first 3rd of my ride took me to VQ, Highland Park.  I felt decent, it took me longer than it should have due to city traffic and stops and starts on the trail.  I used the facilities and loaded up on water.  I set off for the 2nd 3rd of my journey borrowing off of routes that I’ve done with the group.  Some nice flat stretches where I could finally get some good time in aero. The whole time I was looking at the skies the forecast had said rain at 4:30.  Well sure enough about half way through the sky’s open up.  I stopped and put my rain jacket it on but the rain was so hard that it didn’t help much.  My shoes were filling with water.   I kept going, trying to reach my half way point before turning back but felt a little insecure as I was riding with no lights in bad rain on a busy road.  On my way back I opted for the path which would lead me back East to connect with another path.  Unfortunately I forgot that this first path was partially gravel.  I was being pelleted by small grains of gravel; you might say my legs were having a micro-dermabrasion treatment.  It did stop raining and again I was able to get some good miles on the way back towards VQ.  As I passed the turn off to VQ I decided to keep going.  If I needed more water I would stop at a gas station.  Well not a few minutes later the sky’s opened up once again.  I pulled up under a bridge and pulled out my phone and answered a couple of texts.  People telling me to stay safe.  AT that time it was thundering and lightening.  I proceeded to get back on my bike as it let off a bit and headed south towards the botanical gardens.    I stopped in at a gas station at the corner of highway hell and nowhere as the rains came down in torrents.

Standing at the gas station waiting for rain to stop

Standing at the gas station waiting for rain to stop

I stood there hoping it would pass; getting a few sympathy looks and comments from people pulling up in their nice warm DRY cars, I secretly was hoping that someone would offer me a lift.  Yes it was that bad that I would get in a car with a stranger, even the bald buy in the big jeep. Well about 30 minutes later I was still there and starting to get cold.  Finally I had enough of waiting and started off again.  Cold, wet and miserable it continued to rain.  I made my way on a particularly rough patch of sidewalk (near the highway turn offs) to get to the gardens where I would connect with the North Branch Trail again.  My last 3rd, I was moaning and groaning in sheer misery.  My hands felt frozen as I held my bike tight to control it over the sidewalks and through the rain.  Finally it stopped once again.  On the North Branch Trail, although it stopped raining I had the aftermath to deal with.  There was a ton of debris all over the path.  Big branches and multiple chestnuts were strewn all over.  It was a nightmare to navigate my tri bike through it.  How I wished I had my mountain bike I tell you!  The rain also brought out all the animals from the woods.  I felt like I was in a Mary Poppins movie.  As I rode along birds bathing would fly away from my path.

chestnuts

chestnuts

logs

logs

random animals

random animals

more debris

more debris

Bunny rabbits and squirrels were having a hay day.  Then I came upon a pack (?) of deer!  There were many of them and all very close to the edge of the path.  I slowed down and proceeded with caution.  I know they know that I killed one of their own earlier in the season with the car!  I was shocked at how many there were and how they just all came out of the woods.    Of course as I make my way down the path the rain started again.  At that point the jacket was still on and I just had to put my head down and bear with it.  In the meantime as all this was going on my Dexcom was buzzing up a storm with low blood sugars.  I was yelling and screaming at that thing like there was no tomorrow.  I began to treat it like a contest, as if this inanimate object can feel I got great pleasure out of how long I could ignore it without taking it out and turning off the alarm… oh yes that is right little dex I have the mental will power of a ?? what?  Dandelion? I beat you! Ha! See readings - dexcom 10513

I finally got to the end of the path where I was going to finish 10 miles on the road.  And of course due to the waiting around it was going to get dark.  I had no lights.  I just kept going.  I finally turned on to Irving Park with 3 miles to go.  There is no bike lane here and it was officially dark.  I proceeded making my way through the Saturday night hustle and bustle.  It me in my soaking wet lycra versus the ladies in cabs with their high heels and curled hair.  The final straw was that it rained one last time as I was about 1.5 miles from home.  Sure why not!  86 miles later, I got in to the garage and peeled off my soaking clothes and immediately hopped into a hot shower.  I couldn’t even talk.  I wanted a hot shower and a drink badly!  An hour later we were out having big beers to see fellow triathlete appear in a comedy show – the blackout diaries… hilarious!!

IMG_2402

So if it rains during ironman Arizona or if I have to navigate debris I should be all set. I dug deep.

This week is crazy work week and luckily a cut back week woo hoo !!! Only two hours on the bike on Saturday and a 5 mile run on Sunday WHILE I get to watch my marathoners compete in the Chicago marathon!!! Good luck to them all.  I know I posted this pic already but I love it.

1370836_10201524867536103_299468429_o

Finally a big congrats to Dan Jackson and Jill Farnham of our marathon group who ran this past weekend!!! In Dan’s words.. woo hooo!

Posted in Coaching, Ironman Arizona Training, Training, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Dirty little secret and my open water swim

13419525031401066719Happy VW Beetle.svg.medI have a secret.  As you may know I am an avid bike commuter.  I bike 12 months of the year.  Well, my secret is that sometimes when ironman training gets tough and work hours are long I drive to work.  That is right, I am fossil fuel sucking, carbon footprint making driver.  It doesn’t happen often but on days like last Monday after a huge weekend (20 mile run, swim, 100 mile bike) the thought of getting on my bike at 5:45 in the morning to go to swimming when its still dark and i’m tired and sore just about kills me.  I run at night so don’t need to worry about being in traffic and it is the only time that it is actually quicker than biking.  The best part is I get my coffee!  When I can, I try to carpool with my neighbor who leaves for the loop at 5:2o in the morning a few days a week.  Today I only rode 50 miles so rest assured I’ll be riding to swim tomorrow morning at the ass crack of dawn … wait not even dawn – better get the helmet light on!

The open water swim pain cave.

Last Friday a few of the trimonsters gathered for a swim down at Ohio st. beach.  We met at 7:30 and planned to swim to North Avenue and back… about 2.6 miles or so.  I’m pretty calm but I can always feel my nerves hit my stomach as I get to the beach.  We put our wetsuits on and head into the chill which isn’t actually painful until you actually let the cold water into your wetsuit.  I get into the water and take a stroke my heart pounds and I immediately want to run back to the beach and forget that ironman even exists. As I talk myself out of running back I slowly get into a rythym.  Once we get to the 1/2 mile mark where the breakwater ends the waves start to get bigger.  I feel like an old sock in a washing machine.  With each breath I take I hope and pray that as I gasp for air a wave doesn’t hit me the wrong way and cause me to choke.  By the time I get to the wall between North and Oak St. the waves are pushing me in what seems every direction but the direction I want to go in.  Every now and again I lift my head to make sure I’m actually making  progress. Not only am I hit by waves of water I’m also hit by waves of anxiety.  I start to question why I’m even out there, I go into some very dark places in my head and want to quit.  A couple of years ago I had a bad experience where I had to be saved and carried to shore by  another swimmer due to me choking on a wave.  I find myself stopping quite often to cough out water and to make sure that i’m still able to breath.    I have to say that I have a pretty high tolerance for pain and can usually will myself through anything but when it comes swimming in wavy choppy water I am actually afraid. In general I’m not afraid of water and love the ocean but here I was afraid. I see Coach Chris who had climbed up on the shore to look for us.  One of the swimmers (Dave) had already turned back, I swam up to the ladder and decided to get out.    April and Steve followed.  We walked down to Oak St. beach to complete our swim back to Ohio St. Beach.  I don’t feel bad because I look at the water with its dark choppy waves and I  realize that for today it controlled me and for that reason I let it win.  The following day was a beautiful sunny fall day and I decided that after my run I’d give myself another chance.  I even went in without the protection of my floaty wetsuit.  September 28th and I went into lake Michigan in my bathing suit and had an amazing albeit chilly 1 mile swim.  Win!!!

Beautiful warm day at Ohio St. Beach.  The water was stil cold!

Beautiful warm day at Ohio St. Beach. The water was stili cold!

The rest of the weekend training was pretty low key with a 13 mile run on Saturday and a 50 mile bike ride on Sunday in Highland Park.  The weather was perfect!  The 13 mile run was pretty tough because I had already ran 5 times in 6 days including a 20 miler the week before.  All that running and the cumulative effect of all my other workouts took there toll.  Luckily I have my FFC runmonsters that I coach on Saturday mornings which always give me a boost.  Here we all are on the jetty at North Avenue beach before the run. Look how lucky we are to get to run with this as a backdrop!

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The next few weeks will be a challenge as training and work are both amping up. But I’m up for it!

 

 

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Stop and Start

IMG_2369The question has come up lately about whether or not to stop your watch during a workout.  For instance at a rest stop during a bike ride do you stop your watch?  Or at a stop light while running do you stop your watch?  I do not to stop my watch.  I figure if you are stopped, you get to rest a bit which means that you can ride/ run harder when you get going again.  The more you stop the easier the “moving” part of the workout is. So stopping your watch you are really not getting as accurate a pace as you might otherwise have if you were to be moving without stopping.  Not only that there is the problem of forgetting to restart it. Tonight I went for a run and I thought what the heck let me try stopping the watch at redlights. Sure enough the first redlight I come to I stop the watch and forget to restart it…. ugh.  Luckily I hit another redlight and realized I had not started the watch again.  Lesson learned.. just keep the watch going.

What do you think ?  Keep it going or stop it.

Tonights Run

After weekend ride. 105 miles done!

After weekend ride. 105 miles done!

Tonights run was tough.  I have just come off of a weekend which included a 20 mile run, 1/2 mile swim and 105 miles on the bike. Then Monday I swam 2000 yards, ran another 4.5 miles with the marathon group I coach followed by a social outing with the group.  Luckily I worked from home today so got to sleep in for the first time in a while.  By sleep in I mean I got up at 7am not 5am.  My coach had an “aerobic run test” scheduled.  I was cursing him as I started my 15 minute warm up.  But to his credit I did sneak in the 20 mile run which was probably more than I should have done.  My calves were burning the whole warm up.  I arrived at the park I chose to do my test and tried to stretch out a bit.  I had chosen a new route which took me West to a big park (Horner Park in Chicago) that had a loop of about .4 miles.  It was a nice change of pace and there is definitely something to be said for new scenery!  There was plenty of things going on in the park to keep me entertained.  My test was to do 2 miles at 140 bpm heart rate followed by 2 miles at 160 bpm heart rate all continuous.  Luckily my calves and legs had loosened up.  I was pretty happy with my results although I may have pushed it to hard on the last mile which was 7:09! http://connect.garmin.com/activity/380937575  I just kept thinking of making my coach proud and of this video I had watched earlier in the day.  Motivating Video

I saved my run and my blood sugar with a couple of blocks.  I had been proud of myself because I had remembered to reduce my basil an hour before i left for the run. But still it dropped about 20 minutes or so in… grrrr.  I feel like I tell my dex to shut up a lot.  It plays an annoying tune with my blood sugar is rising fast or falling fast.

The blood sugar roller coaster.

The blood sugar roller coaster.

Speaking of blocks I have a terrible habit (ask Tom) of starting to new pack of blocks every workout so I end up with several packs of opened blocks with 2-3 left in it.  So tonight I cut the ends off 3 packs and put them in my pocket.  I still didn’t manage to finish 1 of them and now have 3 open packs with 1-2 left….Am I  the only one who does this?

Open block problem

Open block problem

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Leadville training weeks ?

I am here.

I've arrived

I’ve arrived

I arrived in Leadville today.  It seems like the last month has been a whirlwind.  This is it.  This is the true test.  I’m not going to spend a lot of time rehashing the past but I will just provide some hi-lights since it is important to know the whole journey.

My next big event after base camp in May was a 100 mile mountain bike race on June 6th.  It was 10 x 10 mile loops near Green Bay called Stump Farm.  I came in 2nd in my age group out of 2.  It took me 10 hours and 30 minutes.  Yes, I spent over 10 hours on my mountain bike.  It was not as technical as the Greenbush 100 miler I attempted in May.  But there were some tough sections, especially between miles 6-8 where it was like riding on a wash board – very tough on the body.  My dexcom fell out about 4 hours into the race so tested the rest… I calculated that I consumed about 36G carbs per hour.  I used UCAN in my bottle but also ate a variety of bars and blocks. I didn’t reduce my basil and basically tested at about 100 every few hours… I was quite pleased with the race and my blood sugars.  As much as I think UCAN probably works I’m not sold on it, I wish it had different flavors. I will say I had a couple of mechanicals… chain suck where I had to spend some time trying to wrench my chain out of the derailleur. I finished, collected my medal washed up and got in the car to drive home.  Unfortunately on my way home I hit a deer. I had never killed anything before it was very upsetting.  Not only that Tom’s car was wrecked.  I had to get towed all the way from Sheboygan, WI to home a $600 tab.  I got home at about 2am absolutely exhausted. We had planned on doing the Tour de Cure Chicago on Sunday but without a car we decided to not go.  The race was a great confidence booster knowing that I had spent over 10 hours in the saddle on rough terrain and finished 100 miles.

The next weekend was the Horribly Hilly Hundred a ride that started in Blue Mounds State Park, Wisconsin.  We (VQ’ers) were told to do the ride on our road bikes rather than our mountain bikes because doing so on the mtn bike would be too hard.  We were told that if we could do the HHH then we could do Leadville.  It was 10,000 feet of climbing over  200 K. I finished in about 10 hours.  So add 20% for altitude and that puts me at 12 hours for Leadville. Just in time to get a buckle.  My plan was to practice my nutrition and I had filled my camel back with enough food for the whole ride but ended up munching at the aid stations, having sandwiches, pickles, chips and other goodies. Again it was another confidence builder considering I had a crazy work week, dealing with the disappearance of the Team WILD founder Mari Ruddy and arriving at my hotel on Friday night only to find out that they had given my room away.  I slept in their back room behind the check in desk.  I did the ride on very little rest.  My carbs per hour were about 40 g/hour again no basil decrease and a couple of mini boluses.  Another dexcom fail due to disorganization, I heard the monitor beeping in my car in the morning but for the life of me I couldn’t find it… knowing I hadn’t lost it and that time was ticking I went again sans dexcom, very annoying.

That week I left for Camp WILD (WE INSPIRE LIFE WITH DIABETES).  This was the same group that I had done IM Wisconsin with.  This time I was helping to coach a group of athletes ranging in all ages and abilities.  It was bitter sweet to arrive given the news that Mari, the founder had been found and had tried to take her life with the very drug that keeps us alive.  Insulin.   I had made the decision to drive to Colorado given that I  was going to be there for 2 ½ weeks and had to transport my mountain bike.  So I packed the bug up after work on June 18th and said a teary good bye to Tom and Ruby.  The drive was pretty brutal it was 2 am before I  got to the hotel I had booked in Nebraska.  I’m  pretty sure there were some points where I actually may have closed my eyes.  I slept in my room for 3 ½ hours in order to get up early enough to make it to Boulder in time for the camp start.  Let’s just say that there was lots of caffeinated beverages drank.  I arrived in Boulder as did the athletes.  I won’t go into the camp in this post because it would take too long.  There are lots of great pictures and experiences to share let’s just say that it was a very powerful and emotional experience.  I was completely and utterly honored to have been in the company and to be given the chance to help these other T1 diabetic athletes.  It was an amazing experience. Many friendships were forged in those 5 days of camp.

camp wild coach and athletes

We were lucky to have Allen Lim give the opening speech to camp.  I had seen him speak in the past at Vision Quest.  I could seriously listen to him speak all day long.  He is so insightful about nutrition and athletics.  I have learned two valuable lessons from each of the times that I have heard him speak.  The first time he spoke about the word “should” and how it shouldn’t be part of an athlete’s vocabulary.  You should never say “I should ride in the morning” either do or don’t.  This last time we learned to “Trust the Struggle”  where he spoke of elite athletes who when training don’t look nearly as in control as they do in races… they are struggling and look a mess just like you and me! Trust that the struggle will make you stronger.  This alone has stuck with me throughout this trip especially in light of my recent doubts regarding the Leadville race.  Allen wrote this recent blog which I thought was amazing: - http://bit.ly/TrustTheStruggle .  Also if you haven’t seen his cookbook for athletes, get it.  He is a big believer in eating real food vs. bars and gels etc.  http://www.skratchlabs.com/collections/food/products/feed-zone-portables

While we were in Boulder Chris Navin (who also was one of the coaches) and I did a couple of rides.  Chris had picked one of the hardest climbs in Boulder to do (of course).  According to the website if you are going to climb anything in Boulder climb Flagstaff.  So we woke up early one morning got on our rented road bikes and headed out to the climb.  Starting at 5,000 feet the ride took us up to 7,500 in just over 4 miles.  We both were heaving at the top and felt light headed with the elevation.  The grades near the end got pretty tough. Of course he was whipping up and down and riding circles around me.

flagstaff climb with chris

The next ride took me up four mile canyon.  This one I did on my mountain bike, a bit easier with the mountain bike gears.  It was about 3,700 feet of climbing in 2 hours.  On the way up there was a teeny tiny town where I stopped t o take a few snaps. I also caught a deer staring me down and I thought for sure this was a relative of the deer I killed and he was going to charge me!

four mile canyon church sign

On the second to last day of camp I was to help out on the trail run.  I left the trail run experts to run ahead and I stuck behind for a slower group and ran back and fourth a bit.  Well, apparently you can’t run as fast on trails.  I fell, and fell hard.  My knee was heavily bleeding.  scuffed kneeI continued the hike/ run with a couple of the athletes only feeling the bleeding knee.  By the time I got back to camp and the adrenaline was gone I realized I couldn’t move my arm.  My shoulder was in a great deal of pain, so much so that I contemplated going to have it checked out.  This did not sit well given that I had Leadville camp in a couple of weeks.  I dressed my bleeding wounds, drugged up on ibuprofen and went to bed.   By the morning it felt slightly better but really for the following  week I wasn’t able to put much pressure on it.    I was able to ride however getting on and off the bike wasn’t easy. I had also bruised my toenails! trail run toes boulder

breck 100

Breck 100 loop 2

I was able to ride, however getting on and off the bike wasn’t easy.  I rode the flagstaff ride again, hit Marshall Mesa  a mountain biking trail system outside of Boulder this was the first time I had been on trails in a while and was definitely an awakening as I realized once again the difficulty of trails over road.  I then headed out with Tony, Karen Lipinsky’s man on Friday night on the Betasso Trail.

Betasso!

Betasso!

This is where everything turned to shit.  It was more technical than anything I had been on lately. Tony zipped up the rocks with no problems where I walked.  On one of the descents I lost control on a curve and crashed into a very large tombstone type rock.  My handle bars went one way and my wheel went the other, my grips also broke and I landed on the same arm that was finally feeling better.  This certainly didn’t help my fears and doubts any.  The rest of the ride went ok.  The next morning Tony arranged for a few of his friends to come with me to Breckenridge where we were going to ride part of the Breckenridge 100 mountain bike race.  We left Boulder at 7am and started on the trail at 10am.  I started off with a steep switch back incline. I started to think that I was in serious trouble.  It just went up and up and up.  Long story short I was very cautious on some of the steep rocky downhills and had to walk up some of the 18% plus grade rocky sections, the hills didn’t really bother me , just the technical rock garden stuff.  We ended up riding 5 ½ hours and covered only 32 miles.  We had planned on 68 we just ran out of time. I really started to wonder what the hell I was doing.  I know I have had doubts in the past but this time I really was questioning if I should even do this race.I didn’t eat too much on this ride which meant I lugged around a few pounds of bars for nothing!  With so many ups and downs it was hard to get a chance. After I got back, I emailed my coach who assured me that Leadville was not as technical as Breckenridge.  Whew!

From Breckenridge I headed to Vail where I was staying with my friend Clare from Chicago.  She had moved to Vail from Chicago… lucky girl.  Let me say, that I LOVE Colorado.    I arrived at Clare’s which was a pretty chalet type house sitting on the side of a mountain.

Clare's View

Clare’s View

I worked from her front room looking onto mountains with a nice breeze coming in the window.  Clare’s dog Beacon had had some surgery and the poor thing was wearing a cone.  Spending time at Clare’s was the much needed escape from biking that I needed.   The day after I arrived we went on a hike with a few of her friends.  We hiked for 2 ½ hours and climbed 2,500 feet.  The best part was that enjoyed an amazing buffet brunch at the top and got to take a gondola down!  On the hike we saw some pretty amazing scenery.

Poor Beacon.

Poor Beacon.

vail hike girls

Like living in a painting.

brunch reward after hike

The rewards of the hike!

The next day we worked then went to the local amphitheatre where the Dallas Symphony Orchestra played Beethoven’s 5th.  We packed some great snacks and drank sparkling rose out of champagne glasses.  It was fabulous and just what the doctor ordered!

Enjoying some sparkling rose! Listening to Beethoven's 5th and eating!

Enjoying some sparkling rose! Listening to Beethoven’s 5th and eating!

We both had some pretty long days of work and just laid low the rest of the time.  I didn’t get on my bike once.

This brings me to today.  Today I arrived in Leadville.  After a short ride on the Mineral Belt Trail I noticed my shoulder was quite painful.  The ride is pretty and got the blood flowing.   The trail was interesting and had historical points of interest telling the story of the old Leadville mining days in the 1900’s.  You could really get a sense of what I must have been like back then.  After the trail I stopped to get some pizza and explored the town a bit.  I can’t wait to hit the main street tomorrow, it seriously looks like something from the wild wild west.      LOVE IT!!!

Wild West?

Wild West?

Posted in Coaching, Diabetes Education, Food, Leadville, Motivation, Race nutrition, Training, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment