Saturday, December 4, 2010

Ironman Cozumel 2010

Where do I start? Oh yeah, in November 2009 I signed up for my first full Ironman (one year out) thinking November 2010 seemed so far away, might never come, and if it did, I would deal with it at that time. Then, November 25, 2010 arrived, and I was on a flight to Cozumel. I had completed my training, stayed focused, tried to taper, and was nervous about 1,000 things regarding the race. Could I put my bike back together after I got there? How is it swimming open water in the ocean (gulf)? Would I get sick? Will I make the cutoff times? On and on. During my training for this Ironman, it took up so much of my time, that I knew my family was looking forward to "the end" of this madness. Each weekend, being gone for hours biking and running. During the week, after work, being gone to swim, bike or run.....and most of the time.....doing two of those each evening. Now it was show time!
I got off the plane, and made it through customs with my luggage and bike (in a large hard case that was bulky, awkward and heavy). After a crowded ride to the hotel, luckily with a few friends I went with, we made it to the hotel safe and sound. It was warm and humid in Cozumel, and all I could think of then is thank goodness the water will be warm!! As I hate swimming in cold water! I had gone to this Ironman with a running friend who also does triathlons, along with her extended family of supporters. I had a immediate support system with them. (That was a blessing I will always carry with me and be most grateful for!). So in our excitement, we put our stuff in the hotel room and went straight to the Expo to pick up our packets and check it all out. We quickly found out how to pay for things, how to get a taxi, and that many folks there spoke very little English. That's ok, as we were staying at a all inclusive resort that provided food and drinks, so we pretty much had everything we needed.
Friday morning we awoke (in my excitement, I gave zero thought that the day before had been Thanksgiving Day!), and caught a taxi down to the swim practice site (also the start of the race/swim). We had from 7 - 9 am to practice swimming in salt water, which included jumping off a pier 6 foot into the water below to start! It would be a mass start, 2,400 racers jumping in the water on race day, everyone looking for their perfect position. So we stood there for what seemed like forever, not wanting to jump in the water to practice. Will it be cold? No, probably not. What's in the water below? It's 100% visibility! That's good - and bad. So finally, I jumped in, adjusted my goggles, and began my practice swim. 'Siting' the buoys up ahead, tasting the salt water, feeling the waves, yes, this was going to be interesting to say the least! Then, ZAP! What as that?! It felt like a sting......then another.....and I realized I was being stung by jelly fish. I knew my practice swim was done, and turned around to head back to the pier. I did panic a bit, but kept swimming and finally got out of the water. Dang! Now I wondered if I would ever get back in that water to swim my 2.4 miles!? But knowing I had no choice, I moved on with my day. Gathering food items I would need for the race, putting my bike back together, and general race prep stuff. Saturday came, and the nerves got worse! I went out in front of my hotel to practice swimming again. And no jellyfish there! My confidence was back......it would be ok!! I took my bike out for a practice ride, and a little short run after it. Then I needed to go turn my bike into the transition area, along with all my gear for the bike and run. Now I was ready to go! I, along with my friends, ate our final meal on Saturday together, talking about the next day.....the race we've been training for, waiting for, longing for......would finally arrive!!
Race day - Sunday morning is here. It's 3:30 in the morning, and I'm preparing to go take the shuttle to the start. I eat breakfast first, knowing it will probably be my only warm meal for the day. The rest of my food today will be water, fluids, gels, supplements, energy bars, bananas, and anything else I could get my hands on during the race. My success would depend on fueling and hydrating myself. When I'm not eating during the race, I need to be drinking. I will burn all of it! I can't let myself run out of gas.
So I'm now on the shuttle heading to the start.....to the pier....to jump into the water with the jellyfish. With 2,400 other crazy people! It's ok, I'm so excited I can hardly stand it. I have lathered myself with Vaseline to deter the jellyfish stings. And this is the day I've been waiting for!!! Let's do this!! They have a little dolphin show before the start....but I'm not interested. I'm focused on how my day will go, replaying it over and over in my head. Finally, the pro's start!! Then it's time for us to get into the water. I know I have to do this. As I get in the water, I find a place towards the back of all the people, treading water, waiting for the gun to signal the start. I will let most of the people go before I start swimming. It's madness at the start of the swim, as people will "trample" you in the water, swim over you, knock your goggles off, etc. So as they majority of the people move forward, I begin to swim. I've started!!! And it's 100% visibility in the water, so there's many things to see!! Eels, fish, jellyfish, and other people everywhere!! I use the people around me as my guides, rather than 'siting' the buoys (for most of the swim), and that saves me time overall. 2.4 miles......some against the current, some with strong waves, some smooth areas, and finally after 1 1/2 hours of swimming, I'm at the stairs to get out of the water. I was only stung 3 times, and I seemed to still be intact. I did it!! The thing I was most worried about....the swim.....was done!!! I was sooooo happy!! I was very happy with my swim time. The cutoff is 2 hours and 20 minutes, and my swim coach had told me I would have no trouble making it - and he was right! All that worrying for nothing.
I had promised myself plenty of time in the transition area to gather myself, dry off my feet, put my biking shoes on, and fuel myself. I drink a V8, some water, and ate a powerbar. That should get me going on the bike. And off I go on the bike. 112 miles to go. That seems like forever, but I take it one loop at a time. The bike would be 3 loops around the island. Headwinds on one side, crosswinds on another. It would be challenging, but I would take my time, keep fueling myself and stay hydrated. The key would be to finish the bike and still have what my body needed to run a marathon. So I take it at a mild pace (not nearly as fast as I usually ride) in order to make sure I don't use up all my energy. Loop after loop, the winds feel stronger, and staying fueled becomes more of a challenge as my body is becoming more and more tired and it's hot out there! I stop often to get more fluids. And finally, I get to my 3rd and final loop! I know when the cutoff is, and will easily make it around in time....with plenty of time to spare. I am not "racing" this Ironman, but have a goal to finish it (always a good first-timers goal). So far, so good!! And the support of the Mexican community along the streets is incredible!!!! They are cheering and yelling, staying out there all day to encourage all the racers along. They were amazing in their support.
I'm thrilled to finish the bike portion as I head into the transition area. I can hear the announcer at the finish line (just around the corner from the transition area) saying people's names as they cross the finish line.....it's the pros finishing at this point.....but all I can think about is that announcer saying MY NAME. But before that can happen, I have to run a marathon. Dang, that's a long time. I decide to change out of my biking clothes - and into my running clothes. I find my Run Bag and start changing, once again, taking plenty of time to calm down, gather myself and fuel myself. Okay, now it's the final event, the run. I can't believe it's gone by so fast. Oh yeah, it hasn't gone by fast! Most of the advice I received for participating in my first Ironman was "to enjoy it". And that's exactly what I was doing. Looking around, soaking it all in, the crowds, the beautiful scenery and the great people around me. I've meet SO many wonderful people from all over the world while I have been here in Cozumel. One girl who came in on the bike with me (from South Africa) wanted to start the run with me.......and so we did. We exited the last transition area, knowing the next location we would stop would be the finish line. I was so excited I could hardly stand myself. I actually felt pretty good! Running, talking to my new friend, seeing all the supports on the sides of the road. What a great day it had been so far. This run would also be 3 loops, but in a different location in town. I wondered if David and Lauren were tracking my progress on the Internet - and seen I had indeed made it out of the water!! And then had indeed finished the bike, and was starting to run. I wanted to see them on the side of the road! But luckily, there were so many supporters, that thought vanished as each mile went by. My new running friend was slowing down, so I kept moving on, talking to others along the way, trying to fuel and drink. I needed more and more fuel, and it was harder and harder to make myself eat and drink. I was tired, everything on my body was hurting, and I was ready to be done. I felt decent until about mile 18, and then I felt the day catch up with me. I was getting SO close! I begin to feel like I needed to walk. My run was already slow, but it seemed when I would walk, I felt worse, so a slow jog was best. At this point, the people around you look like the living dead. But the spectators keep cheering, and the aid station workers were working hard giving out water, bananas, etc. I had to keep moving forward because all I could think about was that announcer saying MY NAME!!! I was ready!! But still had a few miles to go. And finally, I was within a mile of the finish line. I cried while I ran. The people were cheering everywhere! They encouraged everyone - in Spanish, of course!! I heard them saying YES YOU CAN! in Spanish, and they would say Vamanos! Vamanos!, and many other things I did not understand - but knew meant to keep going!! After a little crying, I started saying to myself, "They are about to call my name!".....and before I realized it, I was saying it - yelling it - "they are about to call MY NAME!" The crowd would go wild!! I'm so excited that I can no longer contain it! I'm raising my hands in the air, I'm clapping, and smiling and screaming that they are about to call my name!! Then I see my friends and family at the finish line......they are yelling and excited!! Here I go - across the finish line - and the announcer finally calls my name, and says: GUESS WHAT, CYNDI GRAVES?!?! YOU ARE A IRONMAN!!!! I did it!!! My goal has been realized and I have finished my first Ironman!! I could not have been happier. There are people at the finish line making sure you are ok. They are putting a medal around my neck and giving me a finisher's t-shirt. They are offering me pizza! And it's warm! I am a touch nauseous - but I finished and I'm ready to sit down for a minute to think about if I'm ok or not.
Turns out, I'm ok after all. I did it! All that training, all that time, all that family support......and I could not ask for anything else! It is a wonderful day in the life of Cyndi Graves. And to top it off, my other friends also finished the race - and we are all thrilled for each other! We celebrate at the finish line, talking about our day and are oh, so tired!
By the time I get back to my hotel room and shower that night, the clock turns 12:02. Just a touch after midnight. That means it's now November 29...........my 47th birthday. I got exactly what I wanted for my birthday. My first Ironman finish. I didn't want anything else but that.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ironman Austin 70.3

It was October 16, 2010 and the night before the Half Ironman in Austin. I was trying to figure out why I was nervous! Was it the temp of the water and wearing a new wetsuit? Was it the check-in process of the race/bike today? Was it the worry of finding the race site again in the morning? (This start location is out in the middle of nowhere - and I haven't taken the same route twice to get there.) But luckily for me, Lauren is with me as my guide, to help me tote everything around....and be my super-fan at the race tomorrow!!
So we wake up super early on race day to eat some breakfast at the local IHop. There, we find people who were still up from the night before having their "after partying" breakfast. Lauren and I get crazy and have some pumpkin pancakes with our breakfast. I think that was the magic potion of the day! Yum! Then we are off to the race!! As suspected, the traffic getting to the start is nerve-racking. I know the transition area closes at a certain time......and I need to get there (like everybody else) to be able to race. And we make it by a hair!!! We park, start the drop-off process of the "bike bag" and "run bag", then begin the usual process of waiting in line for the potty. Lauren just loves those port-o-potty's at the race(s)!! I'm just glad they are there!
So now it's time for the event.....and a 7:30 am start begins. I've gotten my body marked with my race number, as well as my age on my calf. And I'm heading toward the water. We are to start in "waves" in the water, with the first wave beginning at 7:30 am. My wave (women between 40 - 49) starts at 7:50 am. So I watch as each wave begins, looking like they are in slow-motion swimming. The swim will be one big triangle around buoys that seem large from the shore - but seem small when your in the water looking for them! It's a 1.2 mile swim. I can do that, right? Yes, you can! I keep telling myself to stay with the others...and you'll be fine. And that's exactly what I do! The swim went well. A little slower than I'd like, but overall it was good,
Now to find my bike. There is a sea of bikes in the transition area. This is a huge race! I find my bike, and begin to wipe the mud off my feet, and start the process of getting ready for the 56 mile bike. Socks and shoes on, gloves on, helmet on, race number on, etc. The bike is one big loop, and the milage was marked every 10 miles - which I liked. I'm off and going on the bike. Immediately I realize this will be a hilly ride. It feels good to be out of the water, and on the bike! Ok, so it's hilly.....it's only 56 miles...so that's ok. I've got everything I need, and move through the bike in less than 3 hours (which was a goal I had!). And now I'm back to the transition area changing my shoes to get ready for the half-marathon run (13.1 miles). As I change my shoes, I realize I've looked for Lauren, but have not seem her yet. She's out in those crowds somewhere!!
Off I go to run! This is it! The run is left, then I'll find the finish line! I'm SOOOO excited to complete a Ironman event!! I get more and more excited every mile I run. Speaking of running, if I thought the bike was hilly, well, the run was hillier!! And interesting enough, the run was on some trails, too. I don't mind that - but other racers were surprised at the terrain as well. There were lots of ups and downs, and with the different terrains, it made it a little more challenging. The run is 2 loops, so after I completed the first loop, I knew it was all downhill from there (well, not really "downhill", but at least close to being done!).
The aid stations had lots of fluid and goodies to eat. As I finished my last few miles, I thought about how well organized this race was, how I had everything I needed every step of the way. The Ironman series does a great job of coordinating these complicated races.
And then I hear the finish line........here I come..... hear them call my name as I approach the finish line....and then BAM! I'm across it!!! I was SOOOO happy!! I have been wanting that for a long time!!! And now I suddenly feel ready for the full Ironman. The real deal!! And now....it's time to EAT!!!!!! So I soak in all the Ironman environment I need before I head over to get all my stuff, bike, etc from the transition area. What a great day it was!! I loved every minute of it!! Lauren and I make the long walk to the car, carrying lots of bags and my bike. It's been a long day for her there. But for me, it was exciting and fun!! Definitely one of my favorite races!! My family says I say that about every race.........but that day....it was my favorite!!


My worries? The water temp was FINE (72 degrees), my wetsuit did great, I got everything checked in on time, and we (barely) made it on-time on race day, so why the worries!?! I wouldn't change anything about the day!!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

5 mile Breakfast Bash at White Rock Lake

I was blessed to have my daughter, Lauren, come home from college for the Labor Day Weekend. She and I had decided to run a race on Saturday morning, and instead of signing us up for a 5K, I signed us up for a 5 miler. She was ok with that, and we proceeded to go to White Rock Lake early Saturday morning to run her first 5 mile race.
We arrived as a family......David, Lauren and I. Oh yeah, and we brought Bridgette along, and David walked her around the lake awhile as we ran the race.
As the race began, we got to the 1 mile marker, attempting to find our place with the rest of the runners. (And trying not to get run over by the bikers on the path!). The weather was beautiful, the sky was clear, and virtually no humidity. We enjoyed rounding the lake, running by the dam, and approaching mile 2. Lauren was moving along nicely. We both knew the 2.5 mile - turnaround point - would be coming up soon. We continued around the turn-around point and started our way back towards the finish. The run back was enjoyable, as Lauren had found her perfect pace (which she kept the entire race) and we knew it was only a matter of time before we would see that finish line. As we approached the finish line, we saw David and Bridgette. Lauren picked up the pace and finished strong, with me right behind her. I was so proud of her - as she ran a great race......consistent, happy, and with a great positive attitude.
So after getting some water, cooling down a bit, it was off to breakfast!

What a great morning it was! We all enjoyed the weather, the race, the lake, and each other. I'm one lucky mom!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Vol State Race 2009 - David's Race Report

The Vol State Race for 2010 was completed at the end of July - and what a another great race it was this year! It has prompted me to post David's race report from the Vol State Race (in 2009, which I ran) on my blog, as I was reading other race reports from this years participants. As promised, I did not participate in the 2010 running of Vol State (a race across Tennessee). David was kind enough to 'crew' me - on his bike! - as I ran 314 miles across Tennessee in 2009. Here was David's viewpoint and race report:



My account of the Vol-State 2009 comes from a little different perspective. As a cyclist support crew and husband of Cyndi Graves, I had the mixture of pleasure and pain watching her attain one of her personal goals at the expense of her physical well being. Although I had anticipated the need for a certain level of detachment from the reality of what she was doing, I found it impossible not to feel her struggles. It was excruciating just to watch.

The cycling support was my idea to be close to her and ensure her safety from two or four-legged “varmints” of all types. Additionally, it gave me a unique close-up interface with the proceedings that are simply not felt in motorized support mode. The bike was equipped with a pull trailer that people typically use for young children. I, on the other hand, loaded it with every imaginable item that might be needed over the next ten days. Don’t get me wrong, space and weight were minimized, and I would estimate that the trailer weighed between 60 and 75 pounds fully loaded (I never weighed it since that was not a fact that I wanted in my head anyway). The only item with no weight restrictions were blister bandages.

A word on how we got here anyway….

When Cyndi started running it was all just a lot of fun, good exercise, social running with a group, unthreatening and casual. As the 5Ks turned into 10s, 25s and 30s, there was not much concern or even acknowledgment that something much different was on the horizon. In a relatively short time the marathons started lacking challenge and the 30-milers became mundane, the Strolling Jim was a “beautiful race” through “spectacular country” and life was… simpler.
However, as the races grew longer so did her desire to achieve more. I witnessed her cravings for more and longer races, like a child longing for Christmas. I watched as the devotee became the aficionado, became the fanatic, became the addict. This addiction was more sinister due to its bland exterior. Few could complain that exercise and activities that are ’good for you’ should be restricted or stopped. So as the races and desires grow, they led, inevitably, to one of the longest foot races she could find.

Cyndi first attempted Vol-State in 2008, dropping out with injury after five days and two hundred miles. She held the dubious title (until this year) of having covered more miles than anyone previously that had not completed the race. Looking back on her 2008 injuries, she felt regret at having stopped her attempt. The shin splints were unanticipated and unnerving. Having no previous experience at such distances, she was not fully prepared to meet the 500K distance challenge while fighting off dehydration, shin splints and blisters for hundreds of miles.
It took that first year to recognize and understand that if you did not ache, were not nearly immobile, had not lost layers of skin or had not left a trail of toe nails along the course, you just weren’t doing it right!
The monkey had indeed been sitting on Cyndi’s back for more than a year. I had seen it in her. She used it to drive herself, drive her training, desperate to avenge her previous attempt and purge that loss. Vol-State 2009 would be different.

But now we ARE here…………

The Last Annual Vol-State 2009 race started with a whimper, drizzly rain and overcast skies. We welcomed the cooler than usual temperatures and tried to take advantage of the weather while it lasted. Cyndi amazed me with her determination and efforts from the beginning. Averaging nearly 50 miles a day for the first four days, she had put herself in a great position to finish days ahead of what she had admitted (in hushed tones one night) as her goal. Keeping up with her, even on the bike, was a challenge for me with no stops during the day and her eating on the run.

When the swelling of shin splints and ankle bruises appeared this time, they were almost expected, like mile markers toward her finish. Cyndi was prepared for the pain and pushed on. I did my best to wrap her legs to keep the swelling down and ice them when she would stop at night. Pushing a constant stream of nutrition (bananas, peanut butter, etc.) and goodies such as Rice Krispie Treats, I attempted to provide her with enough fuel to meet the challenge.
Sometime there late in the afternoon of Day 4 I remembered what my co-workers had told me before we began: “Don’t you slow her down”. What I had laughed off as good-natured kidding in Dallas was becoming a distinct possibility in Tennessee! By the end of Day 4, Cyndi was one full day ahead of her last attempt and passing her 2008 drop point on the other side of Culleoka. That was the last of the good feelings for quite some time.

Pressing on………………

Over the next two days I saw the steady decline of Cyndi’s physical condition. Her early morning runs had started slower, diminished faster and, as her ankles swelled over her shoe tops, her miles began to slow. She was well ahead of the pace to make the time constraint but our predetermined goal of “just finishing” the race no longer seemed to be shared equally. Inside she had other ideas. Despite my closeness to her, and my attempts to be there at all times with anything she may need, it was around this time that I began to be reminded that this is an individual sport. The encouragement and support are welcome but the battle and the race are within the runner. Cyndi showed her determination and character in fleeting glimpses all through Days 5 and 6.

By this time, the bike no longer served its purpose. Cyndi and I had planned to stop in hotels along the way and not sleep out under the stars, or mosquitoes. The inability to stop beyond cities and rack up what we jealously called “bonus miles” would be an increasing hindrance from here on out. As the terrain got steeper and progress slowed, it became apparent that a car was needed to support her through the hills. In Manchester I bummed a ride to the finish, leaving Cyndi to rest and eat a good meal. I picked up our car at Castle Rock and headed back to Manchester to crew the rest of the way. Keeping the bike and trailer any longer would have required that I get a crew of my own!

Reduced to walking now, Cyndi had managed to put in 40 and 35 miles on Days 5 and 6. When she was finishing up some “bonus miles” on Day 5, she suddenly hopped on her right foot like she had stepped on a tack. She told me that something had “popped” in her left foot and it hobbled her. She bent over to check for damage (looking like she expected to see broken shoelaces and bones sticking out). She rose up and forced back the pain for several more miles. Presented with her 5,000th reason to call this whole thing off, Cyndi had shown her resolve. My pride in her and thoughts of how fortunate I was to have married her were quickly pushed aside with concern the morning of Day 7.

Our routine of 3:30 AM starts was broken this morning. Cyndi had asked for several nights about how early we should get started. Sometime late in the evening she decided 2:30 was the “official” start time for Day 7. There are so many miles and decisions made in a race like this. Not just the obvious turns and highway choices, but the decisions on whether to rest now versus grinding out a few more miles, and the second guesses you begin to have as you tire. Each choice increases or decreases your chances of success. Cyndi’s critical decision for the Last Annual Vol-State race 2009 was made in setting the alarm.

I hope to never again have to witness my wife drive herself to the brink; being torn, wanting to yell for her to stop, but knowing she would not, could not, stop herself. The early morning of Day 7 was a fog. As I wrapped Cyndi’s legs and looked at the clock I realized her intentions. She was prepared to go the final 40 miles to the finish today. I had secretly wished that with four full days left she would slow her pace and protect herself, finishing with a respectable time and all of her appendages intact. These proved to be false hopes as there was never any “coast to the finish” within her.

The race begins??

During the previous three days, as Cyndi’s pace had slowed, a very experienced runner, Rita Barnes, had moved steadily closer. In casual conversation several days before, Laz had told me that you sometimes really don’t know who you’re competing against until the end. With less than 40 miles to go, the competitors were clear. Cyndi’s 30 plus mile lead three days before had vanished. Rita had gained ground with each step and had closed within a few miles of Cyndi on the evening of Day 6. With the passed along knowledge that Cyndi was slowing, Rita was prepared to take the race.
I watched Cyndi try to head down the 3-mile slope that lies between Tracy City and Jasper. A more pitiful sight I have rarely seen. Unable to step straight down the slope Cyndi took three-quarter turns from left to right to take the direct stress off of her shins. After more than an hour, the Jasper sign came into view. Cyndi told me she would take any uphill rather than another down like that, which was good considering the Sand Mountain climb was just 15 miles ahead. Her next thought was, “Where is Rita?”

I had dutifully reported our location at each morning call to Laz and was pleased to announce to him on this morning that we had left Monteagle (I was mistaken, it was actually Tracy City @ 2:30 am) that morning and were on the move. I estimated that Rita, leaving at about 6 or 6:30 a.m. from Monteagle, would place herself 2 to 3 miles behind Cyndi with that information. The last email posting the night before said the smart money was on Rita. Would she be conservative and save herself for the race up Sand Mountain or would she push forward on the downhill and try to catch Cyndi early? Getting passed at this point would surely be a devastating blow to anyone, and I guessed that was what Rita would attempt to do.
Cyndi would not be deterred. Although still walking, her step had picked up and she was encouraged in hitting some flatland for a few miles. She made good time though Jasper and Kimball. When she made the turn onto the 156 bridge she could smell the finish, but the turn up Sand Mountain would never arrive. She accusingly asked me where it was, eyeing me like I had conveniently made arrangements to have it moved back a few miles just for this afternoon! The turn was finally located (right where it had been the day before) and Cyndi started the climb. I took this opportunity to quickly head back and see if I could get a reading on Rita’s location.
An experienced racer and veteran of Vol-State, Rita had disappeared! At one point she was reportedly within a half mile of Cyndi (with my miscalculation of our location, I’m not sure she was ever this close). If she was, she surely had to be wondering why she could move well all day long but not catch Cyndi, or even see her. Somehow in this moment Rita reportedly made a left instead of the right turn she needed, heading out of Jasper in the wrong direction. Although the half mile off course would not be the end of the race between her and Cyndi, the Dairy Queen found there would be. Apparently, Rita has a ‘thing’ for DQ and was unable to pass this one by. Meanwhile back on Sand Mountain, Cyndi had reached her own stopping point.

Feeling pretty good about being able to report back to Cyndi that there was “No Rita in sight,” I was horrified to find Cyndi next to collapse when I returned. Out of water and nourishment, she simply wanted to sit beside the road in the gravel and wait for her consciousness to fully return. I quickly tried to get her to eat something and she did her best. After a moment she laid back “just to rest for a moment.” Cars flying by, and Cyndi was half on the 6-inch shoulder and half in the traffic lane, this was serious! Meltdowns, as we called them, never happen at a good time. They are those points where the body has reached the mind’s perceived end of what it can endure. Now, 34 miles into a 40-mile day and less than six miles from the finish, was certainly NOT a good time. Finally Cyndi sat up while I stood in the road flagging the speeding cars around her. Slowly the fog cleared and she tried to stand. I helped her up and brushed off the bits of the road that still clung to her. Disaster averted, she had conquered the meltdown without a single tear and began moving up the mountain again.

Cyndi made the final turn for Castle Rock almost two hours later. She managed an intermittent jog and ran/walked the last mile. Coming into the clearing at the rock 7 days 9 hours and 59 minutes after she started, Cyndi was greeted by Laz, Susan, Dan Fox and Donald. Kissing the rock and having her hand raised in triumph was the result. Having stuck with it and proving herself by competing in a race like this was the lifetime reward.
Forty five minutes later, while we sat and discussed the events of the past week, Rita suddenly appeared in the clearing and crossed to the rock for her finish and congratulations. Cutting days off of her time from 2008, Rita was clearly happy to be done.
The whole event was crystallized in my mind by the realization I had in our final conversations with Laz on the rock. I was indeed the uber “enabler” allowing, encouraging, pushing and protecting my “addict” through to the end …for now.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tri Waco on Sunday, July 25 2010

The Spring of 2010 was full of Ultra races for me. I ran the 50K (31 miles) at the Fort Worth Cowtown in Feb, then the Strolling Jim 40 miler in Tennessee in April (Master's winner), then got to mile 73 at the Keys 100 in May, then won-it-big at the 24 hour Black Mountain Race by finishing 84 miles on the beautiful trails in Asheville, NC in June, and followed that up with the Midnight Madness 50 mile race in Tulsa, OK - placing first in my age group. . It was a great Spring, and I promised myself that starting around July, I'd get more serious about my triathlon agenda for the fall. So I started it off with a BANG at the TriWaco Olympic distance tri in - of course - Waco, Tx. Lauren had been at Freshman camp the week before, and we were to pick her up on Friday. Since the triathlon was not until Sunday, we went down to San Antonio to say hello to David's parents and family there. Then back to Waco for the triathlon.
The TriWaco starts - and finishes - just outside the Hilton by the suspension bridge. I awoke ready to go that morning. My goal: make it out of the water. Everything else would be a piece of cake. The swim was a 1500 meter (almost a mile) jaunt in the Brazos River. We would all enter the water in waves - I being in the next to last wave due to my age. So off goes the horn to start our wave, and the madness begins. Believe it or not, I made it through the swim in good shape, just slowly. Very slowly. I swam it cautiously, sighting the buoys to ensure my locations and turns. At the rate I was swimming, I could just swim all day. Probably should have kicked it up a notch, but was trying to ensure I did not over-do it in the water. The water was 89 degrees - and felt nice. No wetsuits allowed! I was sooooo excited when I stepped out of the water! Now I could bike and run - two of my most favorite things to do!
So, I'm off to the transition area to put on my biking shoes, helmet, etc. I had a 40K (almost 25 miles) to bike. It was overcast, with sprinkles here and there. No problem. A perfect bike ride. I even averaged 18.6 mph. My goal was to maintain at least 18 mph - so maybe that slow swimming helped me out. But it meant I had alot of time to make up, though! The bike ride was uneventful - but enjoyable. Back to the transition area, to get ready for the run. Now the sun is out, starting to bake the city of Waco. That's ok, as it is only a 10K (6.2 miles) on a hilly out and back course. So taking my leftover energy from my swim, I put it into the run. After all, it really is my favorite part of any race! I will vouch for the hilly part. But it seemed to be over so quickly. I ran the 6.2 miles at a 8:57 pace. I was happy with that. And BAM! just like that - it had been 3 hrs and 12 minutes. Yes, a little slower than I'd like. I attribute that to a long transition time between the bike/swim - and then of course - the slow swim itself. But yet, I'm very happy with the bike and run. So all-in-all....it was a fun race! David was there each time I passed through the transition area, and at the finish line. He's my Super-Fan!!
I guess now I've officially gone over to the triathlon side of life (for the fall). I was so comfortable in my Ultra races, that I'm a little out of my comfort zone now. But with time, I'll adjust. I miss the Ultra races already. I'll probably squeeze one in here and there during my triathlons. Probably even a marathon or two. Because after all......the run is my favorite part!!!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Tulsa's "Midnight Madness" 50 miler

Ok, so I signed up a few days before the race, thinking that Tulsa is pretty close by and I'll just drive there and run it for fun. After work on Friday, I drive to Tulsa (through the rain) and arrive to find the start/finish quite easily. The race will start at midnight, with a 14 hour limit. It will be on the Trail System the city has developed, most of which for us will be along the Arkansas River. This was not a "trail" race as in dirt/wood trails, but on a beautifully developed string of concrete trails. A road race! I love ultras on road races - even though my knees and legs pay the price.
So we will run a 10+ mile loop (5 times) alternating direction each time. Yes, I did start the wrong way on loop 3, and have to run back and go in the correct direction! But it does make it easy to see who is ahead of you - and behind you.
It rained off and on during the race, but it really rained (and began pouring!) on my last 10 mile loop. The last 10 miles is always the time to attempt to fly by those people walking - at least that is usually one of my goals. To be strong until the end. Luckily, I was still feeling good and had a strong finish. With ultras, a strong finish is not always in the cards, as each race can have it's own agenda. It's about doing the best you can do that day, and seeing where that takes you.
But at this point, the rain is really coming down! I finished in 10 hours 30 minutes. It was like taking a shower outside! The volunteers (wonderful folks!!!!) fed us breakfast - yum! Lots of options to choose from.....hot foods to cold foods...whatever you wanted, they had. They were under the pavilion, so it was a small spot to try and stay out of the rain, while still watching other finishers. That's one of the best times in a race, watching finishers!!
The rain chased me to my car, as I decided to head back home. I met so many nice, helpful people. I met a couple the evening before who were from Tulsa. They explained the race course to me, including where all the hills were, etc. They run these trails all the time, and know them well. I spoke to others at the start line, each person gathering general information about the other. This is one of my favorite parts about going to these races. Meeting nice people, who, like you, enjoy the love of running. And SO many times, you see see them again at another race. Each having their own reason for running these types of crazy, long races.
So how does one drive a four hour drive home after running 50 miles and saying up all night? I drive for 1 hour, pull over and sleep for a hour, etc. My family was kind enough to drive to Durant to drive me home the rest of the way. They are so supportive of my "madness", and that is only just one example of what they do to support me.
As I always say, "anyone can run many miles"....just put your mind to it, and start with a 1/2 mile and keep at it. I'll see you at one of these races!

The car next to me had a bumper sticker that said it all: My sport is your sport's punishment.