Sunday, February 11, 2018

My Sister's Thoughts on Our Mom On The Day of Her Funeral

What Can I Tell You About Yvonne Manasse?

       My brother, Mark, and I appreciate your attendance this afternoon, January 18th, 2018, to help us say farewell to our mother, Yvonne Manasse.  She lived to the age of 74, as her birthday was on January 2nd, 1944. My name is Catherine, but my mother always called my Cathy.
       So, what can I tell you about our mother?
       When I was a child, most of the things my mother did made little sense to me. I was often confused and frustrated by her decisions; and her classic explanation was: Because I said so. Never an elaboration for rationale given. As I matured, her later explanation was, “Cathy, one day you will have children of your own, and then, you will understand.” That answer was equally unsatisfying. However, I eventually DID have children of my own. Still, the things my mother did confounded me. BUT, now I understood WHY she did them. She made her choices because she loved us and she wanted us to be safe, successful people.
       Yvonne, my mother, was the youngest of four children. She was a hard person to know. Certainly, she could be kind. She could speak sweetly, and could make a quick friend with any stranger. To go deeper with her, though, was a challenge. In retrospect, she was not one to give advice or make demands. She accepted situations as they were. She NEVER demanded to know when I planned on getting married. And, likewise, never pushed for an expected date for grandchildren. In that way, I thought she was unusual, as far as parents go- especially since our father passed away when Mark and I were teenagers.
       I can tell you that she was a dedicated mother, serious about her duties. Our house was always clean, she cooked dinner every night, she handled all the laundry herself- all tasks any maid could do; but what I think made her motherly was, for example, the times when I was sick. She would wheel the tv into my bedroom, bring me a cup of hot tea with honey, and once I was feeling better, she would sit beside me on my bed and talk or play games. And, she made a hot breakfast for me every morning before school. During the summertime, she would play board games and card games with us-and she could be VERY SILLY! She could make us laugh until we’d cry and beg her to stop. She could make us laugh like that with her storytelling, too.
       When I state that my mother was a hard person to know, that doesn’t mean she was a difficult person to like. She could be compassionate, patient, and downright hilarious. But, I can’t say that I really knew her. The stories she told me were rarely about herself, and when they were, I cannot attest to the quality or quantity of their validity. For example, more than once she told me that, as a child, she and a friend used to run across the rooftops of houses in the neighborhood. I doubt it. She also shared with me she was runner-up in a beauty pageant, perhaps; that she was a surfer, she really meant “body surfing”; and that she was a dancer. I did observe her dance at my wedding with my father-in-law, and, therefore, I think that one is probably true.
       Factual information I can share with you is that she was born in Brooklyn, grew up in Redondo Beach, she loved music, and she loved babies. Also, she was a secret, mathematical accounting genius. She listened to Elvis and The Beach Boys. I remember riding in the Ford Pinto and hearing a lot of Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow, and The Bee Gee’s. She was one to sing and hum and make up nonsense songs while doing her housework. And I remember that she was a substantial John Travolta fan. I got to see Saturday Night Fever in the movie theater when I was probably only 7 or 8 years old.  When it came to babies, every one of them was special, but none more so than her own. She  took countless pictures of us and made detailed baby books-before that type of thing was considered a hobby. She even ran a home daycare business until I was in second grade. But her cloaked surprise was discovered when we moved her to assisted living just a few years ago. When I asked my mom if there was anything special I should bring to her new home, she asked for her “records”. My sister-in-law, Tauni, and I turned her home upside-down looking for The Beach Boys, Neil Diamond, and Barry Manilow. There were no records. What she meant, was boxes and boxes and boxes of her very organized and careful documentation of every purchase of every penny ever spent, and their calculated consequences going back for decades! Each one scripted in her own delicate hand, and in its appropriate column. Receipts included. So in her head, there was a desire for massive organization. After years of, “Because I said so,”  this level of complex thinking is hard for me to reconcile. This is just one type of example demonstrating that she could be a hard person to know.
       I can tell you that my mother was nothing if not independent. Alzheimer’s disease robbed her of that. I feel compelled to thank Dora and Tony from Glenwood Care and Nurse David from Eden Hospice for providing exceptional care for her- and communication with me-  throughout her decline. I am humbled by the daily care, comfort, and dignity they gave not only my mother, but their other patients as well. When I would visit my mom, never once did she complain. She was not upset. She made no demands. She never said out loud, “Why me?” And I do not recall a time when she began a sentence with, “I wish…”, “I want…”, or “ I need…”

       In closing, what I can tell you about Yvonne Manasse is that she did not put herself first. I did not know her very well, but she raised us right and she kept us safe. She set us up to be successful people, as evidenced by all of you here who took time out of your lives to support us today. By my definition, that is a successful mother. My brother and I are grateful. Thank you.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

What Do You Know Now That You Wish You Had Known Then?

When I was in fifth or sixth grade, I used to walk across the street to take the bus to school.  You could see the bus stop from our kitchen window.

One day, I accidentally left my alto saxophone sitting on the sidewalk while I chatted my way onto the bus.  I remember the Santa Ana winds that day, too.  It was so dry, even so early in the morning.  At some point, the bus turned around so I could get my instrument, but when we returned to the bus stop, it was gone.

I. Freaked. The. F. Out. The wind blowing and swirling around me.

I don't remember all the details now, but the bus ended up leaving me so I could walk back across the street to tell my mom what a failure I was.  I remember hyperventilating to the point of uncontrollably crying as the wind rushed through the trees and blew a styrofoam cup down the street.  That was an awfully long walk on the way to tell my mom....to tell my mom...to tell my mom I had failed. That I wasn't responsible.

When I walked in the front door, I found the saxophone in my living room and my mom waiting for me.  She had clearly seen me coming.  And she didn't chastise me or make me feel stupid.  In fact, she didn't say a word.

She greeted me with a hug that I still remember to this very moment.  She held me tight, and I held her tighter as my tears turned from terror to joy.

And I loved her.

***

My mom passed away about two weeks ago, and I have thought about that moment a lot: that timeless, splendid hug.  It seems so perfect.  Like how it was "supposed to be."  A quiet understanding between a mother and her son.  I can't say we had a lot of those moments.  But we had that one.  We had that one...

At her funeral last week, I was supposed to say something.  Do something.  Capture something about her life.  I didn't know what to say.  And it was hot again.  And dry.  And the walk was long and lonely from my chair to the front of the funeral.  I looked through tear-filled eyes out into a crowd to say goodbye.

I didn't say much, as I feared hyperventilating...and swirls of emotions rushed through me.  She wouldn't be there to hug me this time.  There would be no timeless, splendid hug. Ever again.

I ended up reading the lyrics to this song I remember her singing at a piano at a relative's house one day.  I was probably in junior high.  She had this artistic side, after all.  She wrote. She sang.  She performed. She joked.  She laughed.

So I read the lyrics to that song: Those Were the Days My Friend, by Mary Hopkin...and I watched her clap and dance and sing in my head while I read those lyrics through tears and heat and pain.

And I missed her.

***

It seems so silly now, being worried about that stupid instrument.  But I had to go through that pain, and that walk, those tears, to get to that perfect, timeless, splendid hug.

And as I walk through life now...thinking about what I know now that I wish I had known then...I realize that those were the days, and they will never end.




Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Ironman Arizona #2: Race Report for Those Who Have Done IMs, Want to do IMs, and/or Would NEVER, EVER do an IM

I already mentioned how this race RAINED a lot, so I'm not going to dwell on that now...but it did.  It rained a lot.  A LOT.  Like, not a little.

Honestly, though, beyond the complete lack of safe biking conditions--and the utter inability to see where I was going--the rain probably helped.  It made the race, overall, much, much cooler, which was a nice change!  In San Diego, we had been training in unseasonably warm temperatures most of the season, and I was still suffering from the psychological beating from last year's Ironman Boulder.  THAT race was insane.

If I could briefly discuss the end of both of those races to summarize the differences:


  • Ironman Boulder: I was watching many, MANY people cramp up, puke, and pass out toward the end of the bike ride all the way through the run.  Cart after cart after cart was out on the run course pulling people off.   And I watched multiple people pass out WHILE running. 
  • Ironman Arizona: I was dodging mud puddles.  And I was chilly.  Everyone else seemed to be doing ok, all things considered.
Completely different races.

In fact, of the three Ironman distance races I have now completed, Arizona, by far, was without question, the easiest.  That is not to say it was easy because that shit is SO HARD...but in comparison...the course is easier.  Boulder and Coeur d'Alene are more advanced races, for sure.  

Ironman Arizona: It's REALLY, REALLY hard, but it could always be harder.

That's quite a marketing slogan.

***

My strategy for Arizona was to take what I had learned previously and do something with it.  Yeah.  Crazy, I know.  I spent much of this season training slower, and this helped me stave off injury most of the time.  I would say my peripheral training was nowhere near what I did for other races.  In other words:

  • Regular Stretching
  • Proper and Purposeful Eating
  • Strength Training
Not as...um..consistent(?).

Yeah...not a lot of those going on at all this time, especially in comparison to my previous two races.  I think, life-wise, I was just in a different spot.  I had a lot more going on...and I (unfortunately?) had the confidence that if I could finish Boulder, I could probably do anything I set my mind to.  If I had to give someone new to triathlon advice, I would HIGHLY suggest a stretching regimen and a nutritionist and a good masseuse. Those all help!

***

Going into the race, I felt very confident I would break 14 hours:

  • Swim -- Goal was 1 hour 20 to 1 hour 30: Anyone that has ever talked to me about triathlon knows that swimming is my least favorite thing to do, and I hadn't yet broken 1.5 hours in a race. My goal this time was to NOT swim on the outside, but actually attempt to swim in the main group and draft.
  • Bike -- 6:45 to 7:00 hours: Of the three events, biking is probably my strongest.  My goal was to go VERY slowly and save energy for the run.  While I could probably do that course in under 6:30, the goal was to chill out, focus on my heart zone, and get into the run refreshed.
  • Run -- about 5:00 hours: I focused a lot on running slower this season, which seems counterintuitive.  But by running slower, I really did feel better all year, and really only had one leg issue the entire season.  I also did a lot of bricks this season, especially compared to Boulder...so I felt strong and ready to go. 
  • Transition -- 30 minutes max: Even with taking my time in transition, I felt like I could reach my total time goal AND still see a lot of naked men in the transition tent.  WIN-WIN!

Fourteen, long, grueling hours...seemed reasonable. Seemed easily doable.

And it didn't happen.

***

Swim

The morning of, probably because of previous experience and growing confidence, I luckily had zero stomach issues. This was a giant area of growth for me.  Typically, pre-race eating and pooping KILLS me...but not this time.  Appetite was generally fine (or as fine as it could be when trying to eat at 4:00 AM)...and everything else was like clockwork!

Arizona is a rolling swim start, which I loved.  You seed yourself based off of your projected swim time, so in theory, you are swimming with people with your same swimming speed-ish.  I also vowed to myself that no matter what, I was going to swim with the main pack...and not off to the side by myself.  Previously, I had always been so concerned about getting in other people's ways...that I would swim outside the cluster fuck.  This time, I wanted to utilize other swimmers, drafting to help make myself faster.

And, you know what.  I did it!  But with great accomplishment, comes great learning.

You see, when swimming near A LOT of other people, you start to get pelted and hit and scratched and you get off balance because of the same.  But I kept moving forward.  I couldn't see my watch because the water was so murky, so I had zero idea if my strategy was speeding me up or slowing me down.

The course itself was marked by three colors of buoys.  Yellow on the way out, two red buoys to signify the turn around, orange buoys on the way back, and then one final red buoy to signify the final turn: about a one hundred yard swim to shore.

So I swam and I swam and I swam and I got kicked and punched and knocked and took in gulp after gulp of water.  I watched yellow buoys pass me by...and then two reds...and then I swam all the way back counting the oranges...and hoping and hoping to see the last read buoy.  The buoy that would signify my turn back into shore.  And I saw it.  And I felt so much joy and excitement.  I only had 100 yards to go!  How fast had I gone?   Was it worth it...

And then.

AT the last red buoy.

With 100 yards to go.

BAM

A HUGE calf cramp stopped me in my tracks.  The same thing that had happened to me at Oceanside Half, but not in any training session since or before...

BAM

A time-stopping, mind-blowing, body-convulsing moment.  And I literally screamed like you see people do in movies:

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

I screamed.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

I pleaded.

Not because it was going to stop me from finishing the swim. But because I knew that for the rest of the day, I was going to have to ride 112 miles and run 26.2 on a gimpy leg...and that...THAT I didn't know if I could do.

So I looked down at my watch--as swimmers ran into me, and as I floated a mere 100 yards from the finish line-- and I saw it:

1:20.

I was at the low end of my goal.  I was there.  The fastest swim of my life!

So I got my composure.

And I floated and I used the breast stroke and I doggy paddled and then I did the best I could to swim the rest.

Still reaching my goal, and finally breaking 1:30....and wondering about what the rest of the day would bring.

***

Bike

The calf bothered me most in transition, but not too much on the bike itself...thank goodness!

For me, the biggest challenge on the bike was the aforementioned rain and SLOWING MYSELF DOWN.  Not because of the stupid rain, but because that was my strategy...and maybe the rain helped that?

If my goal was to do the bike in seven hours, I needed to be very careful not to get swept up in the adrenaline of the race or care about other people passing me.  I needed to ride my race, and stay in my pre-determined heart zones for a long, long, long time.  This took a lot of mental energy, but unlike the other two IMs, I ended up not feeling an energy drain at 70 miles in.  I felt strong!

In this race, I mostly struggled with going slower than I felt like I could go...and the fact that a vast majority of the time I was shivering and/or couldn't see from the rain and/or from the crud dripping off my helmet into my eyes.  That sucked.  And stung.

But, overall, my body felt great going into the run and I again hit my time goal.

Honestly, I just don't have much to say about this part of the race that Tokio Hotel didn't already say for me.  I guess, maybe, going slower than you can go is just as challenging as going as fast as you can!

***

Run

Ah, the run.

This is what I still don't understand about these races.

Sure, my calf hurt...but overall, I started the first 10 to 12 miles doing exactly what I wanted to do.  Every time I felt myself speeding up, I slowed myself down.  I felt fresh.  I felt ready.  The weather, although cold, was perfect for conserving my energy, and my legs felt great!  I was pacing myself for the second half of the run and everything was going so well!

But at 12 miles in, it wasn't my body that left me...it was my mind.

Although 2.4 mile swimming and 112 mile biking are nothing to laugh at...until 12 miles into the run, I never had that overwhelming feeling...the "There is ZERO way I can do this" feeling.  The "This is stupid and it's just too far" feeling.

I have to admit, though, during the run, these feelings hit me.  And they hit me hard.  And they were winning for awhile.  I would say from about mile 12 to 20, I was a mental mess.  I didn't want to be there, and it became easier to give into negativity than to fight it.  My body was sore.  My mind was tired.  Hell...I had every reason to be tired...but there was something about giving into the tired that disappointed me in me.  And so I gave in more.

In sum: for about 2 hours of that run...I threw a gigantic pity party for myself and seriously contemplated leaving the course because that seemed much more realistic than going one more step.

I had stopped being present.

I started thinking about how far each mile was and how many miles I had to go.  I started thinking about all the things I hadn't done instead of what I had.

But the beauty of these races, and one of the secrets to them, I believe, is the learning that comes out of conquering those fears.  Because that is what those moments are.  They are fear.  After all those hours of swimming and biking and running...there really isn't a lot left inside of you.  Everything is raw and empty and you get to really, really, REALLY know yourself well...and a lot of the things I saw in myself...well...at that time, I didn't like them.  And I was afraid.  And that is why excuses and/or walking and/or giving up are such tempting options.  They are all so easy.

Running, even though everything in your mind, body, and soul are screaming STOP, is simply harder.  Sounds like a no-brainer...but it's really important!

Because it's then...right then...by working through all the pain and agony and self-doubt...when you find that inner strength to put one foot in front of the other...and just love yourself for what you're doing...that honestly, you've won that damn race.  Getting to the finish line really isn't the victory.  Victory comes when you decide and know that you are going to finish.  And that's it.

For me...this epiphany came back to me around mile 20...but I promised myself that this time, I would not forget the pain.  I would not forget the agony.  As I ran...I would burn them into my memory: it really IS hard to do an Ironman...and that I retire...because I don't want to feel that way anymore.  Having to find such strength.  To go so deep.  To conquer so much.  To believe in something with everything.

So, no...I didn't hit my goal time.  My marathon, it was about an hour slower than I had planned.  But I wouldn't be happier if I reached my goal.  I wouldn't be more accomplished.

I am happy.  And I do feel accomplished.

What I believe to be important is the ability to look at myself, really look at myself, and know that I truly did something hard.  That I didn't give up.  That I can do it.

And so can you.

I still have so much to learn about these races and what happens and my thoughts.  But the next time someone asks me WHY I do them, I think I finally have an answer:

I don't know yet.  But I'll know at some point during the race.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Ironman Arizona Blog #1: It *DOES* Rain in Arizona

I typically don't like to speak for other people, but I feel fairly confident that I can summarize a common sentiment about Ironman Arizona held by most (if not all) of the participants and spectators:

Weather websites and local Tempe meteorologists, please--in the most deeply, meaningful, and passionate way, from the bottom of our collective hearts--go royally fuck yourselves.

  • "It never rains in Arizona" they said.
  • "Oh look, we have a slight chance of rain in the afternoon" they said.
  • "Oh, huh, would you look at that?  We have a slight chance of rain in the morning and night" they said.
  • "Oh, never mind, it isn't even going to rain" they said.
  • "Never mind the never mind, we might have a brief passing shower" they said.

THEY can shut it.  No one mentioned that there would be a Noah-esque storm, or that people should bring bikes, two-by-two, to a TriBike Transport semi for safe passage: We already have two Cervelos...you're out of luck!

***


Anyway, I would like to offer my feelings about doing an Ironman in a monsoon via Tokio Hotel's Monsoon. Feel free to play the video along with the new and improved lyrics below:


I'm staring at a gigantic puddle
There's no asphalt left here anymore
My body is cold
It's making me insane

I've been riding in soggy shorts
But now the moment seems to've come
My wang is chafed and the dark clouds coming up again

Biking through the monsoon,
My brakes don't work,
Can't make the turn,
My bones are cold,
Hating this crap,
I can't see shit,
And when I lose my temper I think of beating-the-shit-out-of-everyone-on-the-racecourse. 
Together we'll be biking somewhere new.
Through the monsoon.
Just me and two-thousand-others.

Biking in a torrential downpour takes my sight,
I see your rear tire and jump in fright.
But now I'm drafting and need to drop back five bike-lengths.

I know I need to find an aid station,
Can hear GATORADE, but don't slow down,
My brakes are shot and I almost killed some chick.

Biking through the monsoon,
My brakes don't work,
Can't make the turn,
My bones are cold,
Hating this crap,
I can't see shit,
And when I lose my temper I think of beating-the-shit-out-of-everyone-on-the-racecourse. 
Together we'll be biking somewhere new.
And nothing can hold me back from crashing into things I can't see.
Through the monsoon.

Hey!

Oh-oh-ohhhh

I can't see!

Oh-oh-ohhhh

I'm fighting with my Garmin,
I think it shorted out.
Whoever said it doesn't rain in 'Zona,
Can shut the F up.

I'll be warmer soon.
Just me and two thousand others.
We'll be there soon.
So soon (maybe just four or five more hours of this shit).

Biking through the monsoon,
My brakes don't work,
Can't make the turn,
My bones are cold,
Hating this crap,
I can't see shit,
And when I lose my temper I think of beating-the-shit-out-of-everyone-on-the-racecourse. 
Together we'll be biking somewhere new.
And nothing can hold me back from crashing into things I can't see.
Through the monsoon.

Through the monsoon.
Just me and two thousand others.
Through the monsoon.
Just me and two thousand others.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Ice Bucket Challenge -- Meaning Making and Magic

It's with great sadness that I see what I woke up expecting to see: the skepticism that drenches us when something magical happens.

There are so many layers to the ice bucket challenge, trying to hold them in any sort of logical container, bucket or brain, seems like misconstrued meaning making to me.

***

I remember being about seven or eight years old, and going to bed on Christmas Eve.  In my room, alone, unbeknownst to my parents, I hung a brown paper bag from my desk.  A makeshift stocking that I secretly smuggled to my room.

I remember THINKING that Santa wasn't real…I couldn't wrap my head around how he, in reality, could make it to every house in one night; on the other hand, my prepubescent mind was hedging bets for what I FELT could be real.

I was ashamed of having these thoughts, even at this young age, so I hid them from parents who, I assume I thought at the time, would squelch my hopes and dreams and desires for something other than rationality to exist.

So, in essence, my (little secret) brown paper bag oddly became a scientific test to see if something non-scientific existed in my world.

I, of course, woke up the next morning to a brown paper bag.

And I was sad.

***

On one layer, there is the actual disease, which personally, has not touched my life.  I can't begin to understand the pain and grief of the people and family members who have dealt -- or currently deal -- with ALS.   I have felt loss and pain and suffering, maybe we all have, but I have not, personally, experienced watching someone slowly succumb to a disease.

On another level is charity, and the idea of awareness raising…and simply giving to something that is outside of yourself no matter if it is for ALS or something else.  But we can also think about charity cannibalism and limited funding, and one charity now usurping another.  We could go to the human condition and get into bigger systems, other things this challenge may or may not represent: The ice bucket challenge IS and ISN'T about ALS: it could be about water conservation, water rights, and potable water.  Other issues start feeling preyed upon, so there is a reaction.  Don't they matter, too?

Then we have social media…and the idea of how powerful it can be…a way of connecting people around a purpose.  And/Or connecting people to a self.  And/Or the way it can bring people down.  Trolling.  Tearing people apart from a safe distance through the veil of an online persona.

Then we have the idea of giving, and should charity be something privately done or publicly shared.  By using social media, does the ice bucket challenge (1) enhance, (2) diminish, (3) enhance AND/OR diminish any of the following:

  • Making it about the self: "Look at this great thing I did!"
  • Making it about the act: "Look! I poured water on myself!"
  • Making it about awareness:  "Look at this cause you might not know about!"
  • Making it about influence: "I did it, so could you!"  
  • Making it about shaming: "I did it, why aren't you?"
  • Making it about bullying: "I did it, now you do it, too!"

Maybe all.  Maybe none.

Questions about questioning the motivation of other people are then called into question (that's a lot of questions): Are people just throwing ice on their head BUT missing a/the/my point of doing so?  Are they doing it instead of donating?  Are they doing it and donating to something else?  Are they doing it AND donating to ALS?

What am I/you/we really doing here?

What is this really about?  ALS? Charity, in general?  Ice Water?  Social media?  Following?  Connectivity?  The human condition?  What? What?

And of course there is the pointlessness of it all.  This means nothing.  It is nothing.  There is no meaning.

A spectrum of possible countless permutations…and does someone else's point necessarily need to be my own anyway?

***

Personally, I keep coming back to what it means to me: the anger I felt when I started seeing the ANTI voice come in, and more importantly, why I even felt anger in the first place.

I keep thinking about that little boy, going to bed, and waking up to this world. Was it different?  Was he?  Was it A and/or B? Neither?

Just because there wasn't anything from Santa in my (little secret) brown paper bag, doesn't mean Santa doesn't exist.  Just because my experiment failed AND succeeded doesn't mean I  finished learning about it at that moment in time.

What I do know is that my tolerance for something bigger than myself, bigger than my rationality, and bigger than my senses is growing.

That idea is confounding to say the least.

I don't need to negate magic to make myself feel better, or make the world more tolerable/understandable for me, even if part of me wants to do that.

There is something so chillingly frightful and delightful about pouring a bucket of ice water on my head today, if I physically do it or not.

There is goodness.  There is cruelty.

There is charity.  There is selfishness.

My (little secret) brown bag was empty and full.

BUT IT WAS FULL.

And therein lies the magic.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Ironman Boulder #5 -- So You Think You Want To Do an Ironman?

 How I Have Felt All Week
So you think you want to do an Ironman?

After I got off the bike, I headed to the changing tent.  I ran, ok... jogged, ok...walked, ok...limped around the Boulder High School track to my transition bag; to my surprise, there were still many other bags on the ground.  I figured I would be one of the last ones, but apparently not. I made my way into the tent, sat down to get my run gear on, reached into my bag, and instantly recoiled my hand.

A hot goop covered my clothes, my food, my entire bag.  I was exhausted from one of the hardest bike rides of my life, and couldn't for the life of me figure out what I had just touched.  

Did someone take a crap in my bag?

Nope. 

My Vaseline had exploded.

***

When I woke up race-day morning, I was petrified that I wouldn't be able to do the race, and that this would somehow let everyone down.  I didn't even have a picture in my mind of who this magical everyone was, but I knew, KNEW, deep in my heart, that if I didn't race they would be supremely disappointed in me.

And this was because of my neck.

Multiple alarms expertly set to go off at 4:00 AM around the house were not needed.  I was woken up at 3:00 AM by my neck.  My cemented-in-place neck.  

I thought to myself, Self, do you need to be able to move your neck to do the race today?

When I answered myself that I did, indeed, most likely need to move my neck at least one time during the next 24 hours, I grew a little concerned.  What the heck was I going to do?  

So I did what anyone would do in my situation.

I panicked.

***

So smooth. And scalding.
I was so seasoned, so expert, so knowledgable about triathlons, you see, that I knew not only to put Vaseline in my bike-to-run transition bag, but I knew to include a big ol' vat of it.  I was leaving nothing to chance; I wanted to cake every single inch of my body to make absolutely, 100%, without a doubt certain that nothing, not my nipples, not my thighs, not my ass crack, not my penis, NOTHING would chafe.  Yeah.  I was *that* smart!

Perhaps it was the elevation, the heat, the universe wanting to prank me, but there was an absolute Dexter-esque-crime-scene-level of Vaseline coating my bag, and I looked at the exploded petroleum jelly in awe, poking and prodding at it with my fingers like someone checking if a stovetop was turned on or not.   



***

I instantly started doing neck stretches to try to help my body or mind or whatever it was to loosen up.  The last thing I needed was neck issues unless I could somehow hold my breath in the water for over an hour without ever turning my head to breath.

That probably wasn't going to happen.

So, my immobile neck combined with my absolute abhorrence to eating early in the morning and my need to try to, um, expel, everything from inside my body before the race was a triathlon within a triathlon before the race even started:

  • Stretch stiff neck
  • Eat 
  • Poop
And none of these things were going well.

So you think you want to do an Ironman?

***


Honestly, it was pretty warm.  I was fairly certain the Vaseline must have been bubbling and boiling moments before, and so I needed to make a decision at the worst possible time.  My brain wasn't working at all.  I had just gotten off a bike ride that took me an hour longer than I had planned.  I was cramping.  And I was fairly certain I might die, right there in that transition area, next to a jar of petroleum jelly, in a tent filled with sweaty, naked men.  

The way I had always envisioned myself going.  

But here were my choices:

A. Quit because my Vaseline spilled and felt like it had already been used in a porn scene
B. Go run a marathon WITHOUT Vaseline and be a bloody mess within the hour
C. Coat myself in 90-to-100-degree-spilled-transition-bag-Vaseline and run a marathon
D. Coat myself in 90-to-100-degree-spilled-transition-bag-Vaseline and do my rendition of Deliverance


When you don't know what to do, ALWAYS choose C….no matter how much D is squealing your name.

***

I got my neck stretched, food down, and poop out…and was ready for the swim.  Thankfully, Ironman was trying a new way of starting: self-seeding.

Old Way:
  • Wave 1: Professional Men
  • Wave 2: Professional Women
  • Wave 3: Everyone else, which meant people (meaning, women…or men borrowing pink swim caps) would pull and scratch to pass me in the water.
New Way:
  • Wave 1: Professional Men
  • Wave 2: Professional Women
  • Wave 3: Sub-one-hour swimmers
  • Wave 4: 1 hour to 1:14 swimmers
  • Wave 5: 1:15 to 1:30 swimmers, etc
I really enjoyed this way of starting.  Everyone still had 17 hours to finish; your individual time simply started when you, personally, got in the water.  Also, no one (meaning, women) scratched me, pulled on me, or dunked my head in the water.  In fact, the entire swim, start to finish, was quite peaceful.

I spent the past six months practicing my swim more than anything else and more than I ever had before.  And although I'm still not fast (compared to what?), I left the water refreshed, not exhausted, even at one-mile of altitude.  Also, since it was a fresh-water swim, I was able to "purposefully" take in extra fluids before the bike and run.  I gulped my way right to the swim finish, hitting the higher end of my predicted time.  I was going for between 1:20 and 1:30…and I hit 1:30 exactly (on what I clocked as a 2.6 [not 2.4] mile swim).

My neck issues behind me, I felt like I was set up for a groundbreaking day.  I wasn't tired at all!

***

To my surprise, there was something quite un-erotic about rubbing hot Vaseline all over my private parts in front of panting, stinky, naked men. 

I thought I might make a show of it, and just gyrate my hips a little bit, just a little, and make a few extra dollars in tips before my run, but I decided against it.

***

The first part of the bike ride was freeing, and I really felt like this entire race was coming together.  The first miles were spent how they typically are, passing all the non-strong-bikers who are good at swimming. 

But something incredible was happening.  The altitude was again not bothering me (so I thought), the weather was staying at a cool(?) 81 degrees, and 1/3 of the way in…I was averaging about 18 mph.  My nutrition was on, my breathing was great, and my energy level seemed to be increasing once my heart rate settled in.  

I.

Felt.

Great.

I hit the half way point of the race slowing down just a tad, at 3:15.  My goal was to do the entire thing at 6:30 and if I had a bad day (because of altitude) 7:30.

I was right on track.

***

I didn't know how I was going to ingest my new flavors of Vaseline-flavored Gu, Vaseline-flavored energy bar, and Vaseline-flavored salt, but I did contact my lawyer about patents.

I also asked if he thought Vaseline would sponsor me on my next race…he said No, but that they may be liable for shitty vat making.

***

The next 56 miles were some of the most grueling of my life.  I had never cramped while on a bike before…

As I hit the turnaround to head to home…my entire goal was to have my mileage match the temperature.  I thought that would be a good mental game to keep me occupied.  Getting to 80 miles would put me about half-way there!

Unfortunately, my plan didn't work…because the temperature kept going up…and it was getting harder and harder for me to win my game:

  • 85 degrees
  • 90 degrees
  • 95 degrees
  • 100 degrees!
And once that happened, another triathlon level of things started to occur in my body:

  • My stomach started sending me fun little messages that if I put any more food in my mouth, I would be wearing it momentarily thereafter.
  • My forearms…MY MOTHER F'IN FOREARMS were cramping from changing gears.  WTF?
  • My quads were cramping.  Have you ever tried to ride a bike with cramping quads?  I don't recommend it…mostly because (a) it's dangerous and (b) it sucks.
According to WebMD, here are the signs of dehydration, which I may have been suffering from:


  • Increased thirst
  • Dry mouth and swollen tongue
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Palpitations (feeling that the heart is jumping or pounding)
  • Confusion
  • Sluggishness
  • Fainting
  • Inability to sweat
  • Decreased urine output


If you don't want to read all that, here is a visual representation:

The Ironpug involves sleeping, then eating, then eating while sleeping.

I can't explain, nor would I like to relive, ever, the last few hours of that bike ride.  I was in serious physical, mental, and psychological pain.  But I made it. It took me much, much, much longer on the second half…but I made it in 7:22, somehow still under my "bad day high end" and I was still, technically, alive.

I dropped off my bike, wished for its incineration, and got ready to run.  A marathon.

So you think you want to do an Ironman?

***

There were a couple of people quitting while inside the transition tent, and that seemed like a good idea to me.  It would be so easy to let my day explode.  My cramping quads were with me.  So were my throbbing feet.  And my headache was telling me to stop…let alone the fact that my stomach was about to commit anarchy….any second.

***

I can't say that marathon was the crowning achievement of my life beyond the fact that it was the crowning achievement of my life.  Nothing went the way I had planned, but I made it!

So you think you want to do an Ironman?  That run course was like a war zone.  There were people passed out and/or vomiting everywhere.  Pushing themselves to the limit.

Anyway, before the day started, I figured at the worst, the run would take me 5:30…but was fairly certain I could hit 4:30 with how my training had been going and all my invaluable experience.  Ha!

Sadly:
  • It was really, really hot!
  • I finally felt the altitude.  I couldn't breathe for the first two hours.  All I could do was gasp.
  • My quads were constantly cramping
  • I couldn't eat anything.

I started doing math (ack) and tried to figure out how I could (a) finish and (b) survive.

  • If I tried to do a nine-to-ten min/mile pace….I knew I was going to cramp too much and not finish.
  • If I walked the entire thing at about a twenty min/mile pace, I knew I wouldn't finish in time.
So, I went for the middle, and tried to do a fifteen min/mile pace….which I had never done before, so I had to figure out what that was.  

It turned out if I jogged about half a mile and walked about half a mile, that got me to about fifteen min/mile.  This was enough to get me in on time AND not have my body fail me.

The highlights of that hot, Hot, HOT run were trying:

  • Not to cramp
  • Not to vomit
  • Not to pass out
The first time I almost passed out was when I tried to drink some chicken broth that was hotter than the Vaseline from my transition bag.  It scorched my mouth and throat.

When they asked if it was too hot, all I could muster was "Um, yeah…I wink eh i a wiwwle woo ha."

I then handed them my tongue and told them to return it to me after the race.  

***

I eventually got it together in the transition tent and decided that I would attempt to complete the race.  The Vaseline didn't matter.  

It was an annoyance.  Not the end of the world.  

It was a funny story.  Not the story.  

It wouldn't be my excuse.  It would be another thing I overcame.

***

I EARNED this shit.
I finished.  

It took my longer than I thought it would, but I now realize that altitude and heat together (maybe even separately) are no joke. 

I learned that there is something off with my nutrition when the heat gets turned up…and that I most likely need extra salt and fluids….even more than I think I do.

I learned that biking while cramping is dangerous at the time.  But fun in retrospect…because you get to bike in fun patterns you never imagined before.

I learned what a fifteen min/mile run pace feels like…and how that can be just as hard as a sub eight min/mile pace.

I learned that scalding hot chicken broth is not a good idea.  Ever.

I learned that anything is possible with enough training, determination, and desire.  

I learned that Ironman does have the perfect slogan.

I learned stiff necks, and cramps, and hot Vaseline can be aspects of a porn video OR an Ironman.

But I mostly learned more about myself and how I struggle to be in the moment.  Judgment, fear, cynicism can be like a record on repeat in my head, and simple things like singing "Because I'm a Puppy" to the tune of Pharrell's Happy can get me through some really dark times…and really, if that is all it takes…then, what am I complaining about in the first place.

So you think you want to do an Ironman?  That won't cut it.

You have to know you will.

And you will.  

Eventually. 

You will.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Ironman Boulder #4 -- That John Denver is NOT Full of Shit, Man

Welcomed by multiple days of torrential -- yet brief -- thunderstorms, Colorado has me reminiscing about Ironman New Zealand 2012, AKA The Race That Wasn't a Race, But Then Was Again, But Just Half as Long, But Still Really Windy and Choppy and Crappy.  Its friends call it Paco.

Mountains and Shit



Regardless, I've made it to Broomfield, Colorado, and have been greeted by scenic views, more Subaru Outbacks than Toyota Pri-i (the obvious plural for Prius), a ridiculous amount of bowling alleys per capita (if I've done my math right), and a pug who refuses to poop east of Las Vegas.   -- Insert craps joke here. --

***

I'm clearly staring at the last person I killed
Maybe it's my murder, I mean, training mask, but the elevation hasn't been too awful thus far.  I had the feeling I would be gasping for air (more than I normally do) while I exercised, but things seem decent.  I DO wish I was wearing my training mask when that about-seven-year-old menace kept swimming directly into me today at the Boulder Reservoir, though.  *In a muffled Bane voice* Calm down, little girl.  Now is not the time to fear.  That comes later.

I don't think that would be TOO traumatizing for her….but really…there is only one way to find out.

***

A fun fact about Ironman Boulder -- just in from the false advertising department -- as of now, they have ADDED about 1500 ft. of climb to the ride and another 200 ft. to the run.  These are not absolutely terrible things to do…but I do kind of feel like this was a bait and switch.  And since they were so good at doing this…I kind of also feel like Ironman Boulder pulled a master bait and switch at that.  Yeah.  Pun.

On the bright side, I am pleasantly surprised to be staying right near a place called Golden Bear Bike Shop here in Broomfield, CO with previous ownership connected to Berkeley, CA.  They are clearly not known for master bait and switching.  But they do fit right in with the new marijuana laws.  You get a free gram with every tune up (do I need to put KIDDING when something is that ridiculous?).

My bike and I are going out for a Rocky Mountain High ride tomorrow. I'll let you draw your own conclusions.