Friday, July 31, 2009

Sometimes people die

So a lot of folks are shocked when they hear about triathletes taken out of a race by trauma--wind blowing cyclists off their bike, wheels clipping each other, broken noses in the swim, allergic reactions to jellyfish, etc. The wide-eyed reaction seems out of place because as a triathlete you know these things happen--broken bones, road rash and yes, occasionally death. After each race, and particularly one where there was a lot of traumatic injuries--say LP Ironman--I'm grateful for not only finishing but finishing safely. If it is my fate to segue to the pearly gates during a triathlon I can't think of a better way to go. I would definitely have a smile on my face. My plan, however, is to force the sports world to embrace octogenarian age group racers...maybe then I can also win my age group.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


Let the recovery begin. I had one last lake swim before leaving Lake Placid. The cold water felt so good on my achy bones but I had little aerobic capacity to swim far. Still, it was an enjoyable ice bath.

Arrived home yesterday, went to the doctor for what I thought would be a simple fix to a little infection and ended up being sent to a general surgeon for an in-office surgical procedure. I'll spare the details other than to say that I have a drain in my leg now, thus, swimming, biking and running may be out for the next several days--of course, in the case of my knee this may not be such a bad thing. I have to say while I don't typically care for pharmaceuticals once again I'm happy to also have a prescription for some substantive antibiotics. Meanwhile, I'm not sure whether the original infection or the solution is more painful.

Do not let this discourage you from endurance sports. In my view, the finish is priceless. I might draw the line at losing my face.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Monday morning quarterback

As I sit here in my compression socks, ice pack firmly in place on my knee, what better time to recap my double iron accomplishment.

Yesterday morning prior to the swim start the sky opened up and I had fear that it would be a repeat of 2008's all day downpour. The rain did not last long and while the sky remained ominous it eventually gave way to brutal sunshine.

Entering the water for the swim, I positioned myself in the middle of the pack with the eye toward angling into the course. The contact was fierce when the cannon went off but I really enjoyed it. I remember looking up and seeing the turn buoy in no time. I was in the thick of it. Somehow my first lap was 40 minutes and I was in a pack of swimmers the entire way. I upped my goal to a 1:20 swim and I think that may have been doable except for two errors. The first error, someone (ok probably a guy given the 8 to 1 ratio of men to women in the race) kept pulling my legs down. I retaliated with a whip kick. Big mistake. The result: wicked calf cramp. Usually I can work through calf cramps in the swim but this one was so severe I could feel the different muscle groups through my wetsuit. I had to stop and tread water for several minutes while pulling on my toes. The second mistake: knowing I had given up time to the calf cramp I decided to sprint in within 200 yards to go. Somehow I ended up wide right. How do I know this--the kayaks were pinching me into the course. Oh well, still a PR 1:23.

The bike was amazing. I crushed the competition on the climbs and even managed to take the downhill aggressively (or my definition of aggressively) until I got stuck behind two women riding it like I normally do---Granny on the brakes. I could not get around them with bikes whipping by at 50 plus mph. I stayed aero as much as possible as it was very windy, however, the worst of the wind was on the back side of the course on the climb from Wilmington back to Lake Placid. It was totally shutting down any speed, even when you were not climbing. I returned to town feeling strong and pleased with my performance, grabbed my feed bag, waved to the entourage and away I went on lap 2. I started to feel a little bit fuzzy on lap 2 so I broke out my secret weapon, a stick of spearmint gum. That helped me recapture focus for the downhill. The stronger crosswinds were quickly evident and, as in 2007, a guy in front of me was blown over off his bike meaning I had to brake on the steepest hill and go into on-coming traffic to avoid his long and lanky frame that was sprawled across the road. And so you don't think I'm that competetive, he was being attended to when I passed by. My stomach started to turn on the bike and I had all I could do to keep taking in fluids but I finished strong setting a bike PR. It wasn't what I was shooting for but it was 23 minutes off and given the conditions I knew it was the best I could do. I gave it my all on the bike knowing that I may not be able to complete the run.

When I got back to town you can imagine after 7 hours and 37 minutes that I was happy to get out of my saddle. I remember wanting to cry in 2007 at this point in the race because I did not want to run. This time, no tears. I decided to run as far as I could without stopping. My stomach was revolting but the legs were holding up despite my 4 week layoff from running. After 13 miles my knee decided the cortisone was no match for my swollen IT band and it snapped back and forth across my bone. It is impossible to run with this kind of pain but I did not want to walk, especially on the endless River Road. I restarted about a dozen times before realizing my running was done for the day. I started walking with a guy named Scott who had a stress fracture in his foot. He was walking at a good clip and said that we were doing between 14-15 minute miles. I did the math. It was still possible to walk 13 miles and set a PR and so off I went. Barely able to sip water, I put my head down and used my full stride to walk as fast as I could. Everyone around me kept commenting that it was unfair to walk so fast. I passed a bunch of folks on the run. It made me realize that I may not have been able to even run as fast as I was able to walk. I was speeding by the Ironman shufflers.

I made the finish in under 15 hours. It was not pretty but it was all I had. I could not have done it without the support of my friends and family who screamed passionately every time I was near and who spread themselves throughout the course so I never felt like I was in this alone. It was an awesome day and although painful, one of the best days of my life. I have never enjoyed a race like I did yesterday's LP Ironman. While I will concede that this course is not designed for my talents, thus, this is my final LP Ironman, I will do another Ironman. It is amazing to push your body and mind to the edge and to have people stand behind you in firm belief that you will succeed.

As for now, if I don't get on my bike again for a week or two, I shall cry no tears. I'm scheduled to do the run leg for the Caz Tri in a few weeks as part of a relay team. While it remains to be seen if I can run then given my knee issues, my hope is I can compete and help my stacked team finish respectfully. Until then there are a lot of ice bags and rest ahead.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Quest for Double Iron: The Visualization

2.4 mile Swim
7 a.m. By the sound of a cannon 2,500 Ironman contenders merge beyond the start line to begin the 2009 Lake Placid Ironman. Arms flapping, water splashing, kicking, hitting, trying to make space to propel forward. So begins the swim where for the next 1/2 mile contact with other athletes will be plentiful. Settle in says the mind, settle in. It's going to be a long time in the water.

After 40-45 minutes, the Orca wetsuit with orange on the chest takes a few strides across the beach before re-entering the water. #2433 heads back for lap number two. Another 40-45 minutes later, #2433 will have her wetsuit stripped from her and be sporting a big smile as she climbs up the long course to transition.

112 Mile Bike
The maroon Elite bike is wheeled out of transition, mounted, and so begins a careful descent of some technical turns that will take #2433 out on the race course. Eat, settle in. Warm up the legs. Eat those tough early hills and prepare for the speedy descent into Keene. Focus, focus, focus. Enjoy the beautiful river flowing beside you. Through the flats of Keene, climbing to the finger. In and out of the finger, with it's rolling hills and wind. Make the turn back to town. The wind will cut you down, the hills will make lesser athletes cry, you will pretend it is the climb of the Pyrenes. Three hours and 30-45 minutes or so later, draw from the cheering of family and friends as you wind through town. Grab your special needs bag. Start the course all over again only this time faster and with deeper focus because this is when complacency will cause the unexpected. Eat, drink, focus. Don't forget the secret weapon--a stick of spearmint gum. There will be suffering--dig deep. Seven hours and change later, the smile returns. So happy to disconnect the saddle from her buttocks.

26.2 Mile Run
No, you don't feel like running and 26.2 miles seems so incredibly daunting. Don't dwell on it, it's hard to run when you cry. Be Tiger. Pull the cap down, focus. One mile at a time, a celebration with each passing step. Through town, the road getting quieter and quieter. It's you and the other athletes. Some flying with ease and grace, some sick or injured. Do not quit on yourself. There will be pain, there will be challenges. Down the hill to River Road, so desolate, so isolated. Do not look at the others, be Tiger, focus on what is ahead. The mental peaks and valleys will be plentiful. When it's bad remember the good is right around the corner. Do not give up on yourself, not here, not now. It's easy to climb back into town. So many people cheering you on, look as good as you can, drink in their encouragement. High fives from supporters in my tent, lock into their eyes, draw in their energy, tuck it away for the valleys. Make the turn at the end of the road, run by the Olympic Oval, hear the names of those finishing, head out of town and repeat. Hold strong on River Road. It is long, the body is weak, the mind must be mighty. Down and out on River Road, the glorious sight of the ski jump means the miles are waning. Climb the hills back into town, you can hear the encouragement. The crowd grows thicker, the cheering louder, one last glimpse of family and friends waiting on the sidelines. Down and back, beyond the lake where a life ago this all started, it is all downhill from here. Down the grade to the Olympic oval, the hallowed grounds bring you home. You hear your name, "Liz Towne, you are an Ironman". The finish in sight, don't forget to look good for the camera.

Race starts in less than 24 hours

The nervousness is palpable in Lake Placid. Athletes are out swimming, biking and running all have the look of Lance when he is climbing the Alps--that concentrated stare.

I took my bike for a ride along the lake to check the fine tuning I had done by the David Greenberg and his Elite team yesterday. Perfection. I came back and changed into my run clothes then headed out on the loop of the course by the lake. Everything felt great--no tiredness in my legs, a tinge of pain in my knee but nothing compared to what I have experienced the last few weeks.

Today, I'll drop my bike and obsess over my gear and special needs bags one last time. I plan to spend as much time off my feet as possible which will be much more difficult then what I will do tomorrow.

The family and friends are gathering, still feeling confident, I can't wait to get started. A special thanks to JB for supporting me, again, as I seek the Ironman finish line. I could not have done it with out her. Also a big thanks to all who are joining me here and online to cheer me on. I'll need you all tomorrow, no doubt.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Update from Lake Placid

We arrived on Wednesday evening, slowly the village is beginning to fill with zero percent body fat bodies and type A personalities training as if the race were a month away. The weather has been glorious, and being from upstate NY I fear too glorious. The rain will come, it’s inevitable. My preference is before Sunday but as the beautiful days pass, I’m worried.

My pre-race training could not be better. Yesterday I swam one loop of the two loop swim course. The water may be 66 degrees, significantly warmer then a month ago when we were here. I was strong in the water, passing 10 or so swimmers and setting a PR time for one lap. Granted I was able to swim right on the rowing line which outlines the course, Sunday the masses will have that advantage and I will try to be on the outside for the first half mile to minimize the inevitable contact of other swimmers. I also ran around the lake which is slightly less than 3 miles. I’m pleased to say the cortisone shot seems to be staving off the pain from my ITB injury—of course 23 minutes compared to 5 hours may not produce the same result.

Today, we took the bikes out to Haselton Road to ride the out and back. We fondly call this the finger as the course being fist shaped makes “the finger” an appropriate term. Moreover, the finger can kill you. It is full of false flats, high winds, two nasty hills to climb out of and plenty of rollers. Last year while training on the course, JB decided to pass me on the finger as I yelled, “best to conserve on this section” from behind. We had to call to get her a ride home shortly thereafter. The finger must be approached with humility.

The rest of the today I’ll spend packing my swim to bike, bike to run, and special needs bags. It requires concentration. Making sure the right gear is in the right bag. Planning for nutrition accidents that can be replenished at the mid-way special needs point. This is where being a wee bit OCD is a bonus.
The nerves still in check, the confidence remaining high, I like my chances on Sunday. Less than 48 hours from now I will know whether my long preparation will stand the test of 140.6 miles.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Too confident

I rembember the anxiety of my first Ironman. Until I crossed the finish line I was not convinced that I could do it. Now I worry I am too confident. Here I sit, T minus 5 days and I am not worried at all. Those who know me will find this hard to believe. Look up angst in the dictionary, there is a picture of me.

Am I fooling myself? Will the angst hit me like a truck on Saturday? I'm really not sure. I am visualizing myself throughout each part of the race and finding it unusual that worry is not part of that visualization process. 2.4 mile swim--I've been swimming that distance a few times a week for several months. Getting popped in the face a few times, been there, done that. 112 mile bike--I have a lot of bike miles logged, including a few centuries. I am also much more comfortable on the downhill and, despite spending less time climbing at Skyline Drive this year, I eat hills and know how to make it hurt. 26.2 mile run--okay, maybe I am a little worried about the run but I so love to run that it is the dessert in my race. It may take some time, but I see myself finishing it.

No matter what lies ahead in the next few days, I'm not missing the angst. Instead, I'm enjoying the confidence. A girl could get used to it.

Friday, July 17, 2009

I sure hope this plan comes together

Almost a year ago, I was up watching friends compete in the LP Ironman. The very next morning I left our place at 5 am to queue in a line for one of the 2,500 slots for this year. I was at least a mile back in the line and very concerned I would miss out. The guys in the front had been there since the night before. A race entry to LP is a coveted spot, very difficult to acquire. I remember breathing a sigh of relief when I secured a number in the 2,300s. And so, entry in hand, the training for Ironman LP 2009 started on that day.

Nearly a year later, the training plan was fully executed. The only blip, a big one, IT Band problems in my left knee right before I made it to the taper. Mind you I was having a stellar running year setting a PR in a hilly half marathon, laying down track work that had me feeling incredibly strong, reclaiming a 7 minute mile. So plans change and that is a big part of the Ironman. What do you do when things go wrong.

My hope is that the very painful PT I have put myself through over the last three weeks, the running layoff, the boring hours on the stairmaster will all come together on race day. In 2007 my plan was to focus on finishing the swim, to complete the bike safely and especially be cautious on the descent in the second loop when your mind is not as sharp, and to just survive the run.

Despite the IT problems my plan this go around include being strong in the swim--while in 2007 I was not sure I could make the distance not only do I know I can but I know I can do it with strength (not to be interpreted as speed). My goal, get out of the water as close to 1 hour and 23 minutes as I can depending on how much I get hit. I want to complete the bike in 7 hours and 15 minutes improving my cautious 2007 time of 7:45. I want to hit the run, pull my cap down like Tiger and just focus on one mile at a time. Surely if I've endured the boring treadmill I can endure the long backbreaker portion of the run known as River Road..twice. If I see something less then 14 hours on the clock when I run into the Olympic oval I will not believe it, if I see 14 and change I will be stoked, if I see 15 or more I will just be pleased to finish. Of course, as my riding partner notes, if I don't make my time goal I'll just have to sign up for another Ironman. Sorry, JB.

So here is hoping the amended plan withstands the physical beating I will measure it against and most importantly that my mental game is on.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Body Work

Two hours of body work last night predominately on the hips and legs. Notice I said body work not massage. That's because massage sounds like a peaceful, patchouli smelling evening. Not so. Body work is deep tissue pressure on everything that hurts and some things that you did not think hurt but really do. The soreness after compares to nothing I have ever experienced before. Welcome my friend Aleve.

I was still a little sore today so I went to the pool for a 1.5 mile swim. Surprisingly, I felt pretty good and pushed pace. Tomorrow, normally my rest day, I'll be heading to the gym to hit the stairmaster. Getting in my Saturday workout so we can head to Philly to support SM's crew endeavor in the Schuylkill.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Just like Lance

Rode into work today. I have no idea why it isn't hazy, hot and humid (or as we in the mid-Atlantic say, it's a 3-H day) but I'm really enjoying the beautiful morning rides. Up ahead of me as I crossed the river was a rather beefy guy (not that there is anything wrong with that) sweating profusely. I tailed him up 15th St and he weaved a nice path through the throngs of tourists who do not know how to queue up a line for the monuments. I felt like Lance. Team Astana clears the path, I just sit back and ride.

Tried a little run today. Yea, the knee is still a major problem. I would say the pain is an 8 vs the 10 it was when I stopped running. I can feel some healing but not enough to really run. I pushed through 27 minutes but felt the onset of pain after 10. I only believe in western medicine when I'm completely desperate and having reached that point, my thought is that I better line up a cortizone shot if I want to run 26 miles in 11 days. Easier done when you are a Hollywood star, for me I'll have to call in my chits to medical professional friends. On the other hand, my legs felt pretty fresh when I ran. Were it not for the knee, it seems like my time is right where it should be.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Fragile-ness of the Ironman

Ironically, the stronger and more physically and mentally fit an athlete gets towards race day, the more fragile and delicate they become. As Liz begins the “tampering” stage of her Ironman preparation, she has become (and I as a result of being around her 24/7) increasingly aware of her surroundings. I find myself needing to “spot” her around crowds so that no one steps on her, tries to elbow past her, or makes any sudden moves that would cause her to twist a knee, an ankle or stub a toe. Geez!

She is (and thus I are) constantly assessing her health. “How’s your leg?” “Everything feeling ok?” “Have you iced tonite?”

Likewise, this perfectly healthy and extremely fit individual has experienced an increasing number of doctors, chiropractors, masseuses, ATR specialists, etc in her life in the last month. Collectively, they push, pull, knead, grind, mash, ice, heat, wrap, tape, and all together “promise” their magic and their potions will get her thru the race. And you know what? We buy-in to it all right now with the faith of being born again. Anything …ANYTHING that will get Liz thru the race is worth it at this point.

There’s simply too much invested to let a tweaked muscle, a torn ligament, or a broken kneecap get in the way. Too much time, too much sweat, too many tears, and too much heart. Yes, an Ironman may be among the most elite, physically and mentally fit athlete you may ever come across….but “FRAGILE” - don’t touch!

Just a swim thing

Two miles in the pool today. The crowd from the other high school is gone now that their new pool opened. I miss them, or at least the guys with beer bellies that feared them and swam with me. Sadly I spent the last 30 minutes by my lonesome droning out the laps. Twas a wee bit boring.

More PT today. I'm thinking an itty-bitty run tomorrow and then riding to work. Come on, how is a girl going to run 26 miles when she hasn't laced them up in an eternity. I have to try the IT Band out at some point. Kind of stinks being old and losing all of that elasticity.

Meanwhile, getting organized for the race--nervous, excited. As I swam today I thought about the massive start. 2,500 people waiting to hear the cannon, then arms whipping, white water looking like massive seagulls in flight, the physical punishment in the first half-mile (I proudly remember my black eye from 2007). Bring it on.

Monday, July 13, 2009

T minus 13 days to LP

Good weekend of training and mercifully the steamy weather never materialized. 4 hours in the saddle Saturday working the hills followed by an hour swim. Sunday an hour in the saddle in the 'hood, never even hit any heart rate zones until I made the climb back home. I went to the gym and did 60 minutes on the stairmaster followed by 30 minutes on the elliptical all in place of my run. Thank goodness the Tour was on, I always learn a little piece of info helpful to my own riding through Versus's excellent commentary....and I enjoy converting the speed from kilometers to mph.

I am still listening to my Doctors but think I will try a little test run this Thursday--I will have given my knee 10 days off of running by then and lots of rehab, ice, rolling, biofreeze, anti-inflammatories or what I now refer to as the works. In the back of my head I have a chamber of doubt about running 26 miles after the layoff. I wish others who had layoffs before long runs would quit telling me how miserable their runs were. Lie for goodness sakes, I'll believe it.

Quiet week of training. I'll get in my last two mile swim this week which I confess I may miss. Well, not the process of doing it but the feeling of achievement when it's done. Feeling really strong other than the knee. A little good weather, a lot of good luck, and I could surprise myself on race day which is not a Kona slot but something much, much better--besting my 2007 performance.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Rest...not in my vocabulary

After a short swim yesterday, I have shut the training down until tomorrow morning. I'm letting the varied treatment to my knee set in--electronic stim, ultrasound, graston technique and kinesio taping. As with all of my rehabing, I understand science and the human body way too deeply.

Tomorrow, I'll be hitting the bike and maybe squeezing in a swim. The thought did cross my mind to try a tiny brick run but I will resist for the moment. Sunday probably holds a little bike, a long stairmaster and the swim if I can't fit it in tomorrow. Two more weekends before LP. Here is hoping you can go from zero to 26 miles on the run.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The weigh in

I went to the gym today to get on the stairmaster. It has been a long time since I have been there, so long that I could not locate my card. Then I remembered, maybe the last time I was there it was jacket weather--aha, there is my card, in my jacket pocket.

After 40 minutes on the stairmaster, mercifully getting my heart rate up a little, I headed down to the scale. I have not weighed myself since I was last at the gym. In 2007 I dropped down to 130 pounds training for Ironman. I knew I was not there but I feel a little light. I was happy to see 138. 138-140 is ideal, strong enough and not dangerously light. I guess between a lighter training schedule and all of that incessant eating, I finally figured out how to maintain weight in an Ironman year.

Rode to work today. The IT band hurts a little, hopefully from my ART treatment. Trying to get back to my chiro and also connected to someone who uses kinesio taping. I believe in the miracles I am reading on the web.

Tomorrow, probably back in the pool.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Happy B-day to me

Swam two miles for my b-day, a great start to what is yet another humidity free day in DC. I only wish I had rode in but for my b-day I'm going to get some PT on my knee. Really, it's a present, trust me.

47 feels awesome. Sure muscle groups aren't as elastic as years past but knowledge and experience can make you faster. I'm thinking about three years from now knowing I'll have to do another Ironman to celebrate a new age group--50-54. Ironman AZ, Cozumel, Lake Placid redux....where should I go.

Stairmaster and bike tomorrow? Not sure. Definitely not running.

Monday, July 06, 2009

The hip bones connected to the...

I'm now convinced my knee problem is IT Band--that's the ilio tibial band running from the hip past the knee. The good news is, I have had this before and I know rest, and IT Band strap and in sheer desperation a cortizone shot should see me through. For now, lots of ice, mashing with my foam roller, anti-inflammatories and the power of positive thought is key.

I tried to run yesterday but only made it 30 minutes before I could not go on. I spent two hours on the elliptical--mind numbing to say the least. Although I loathe television I did get to watch the Men's Wimbledon final which proved to be one of the best games of tennis I have ever seen.

I was going to get up and swim today but the animal kingdom, actually Buddy, got me up at 3 and I could not fall back to sleep. I decided instead to ride into work. It's not often that we get humid-free days in DC. One problem I have yet to overcome on my bike commute--my food weighs entirely too much. I have thought of pulling off and lightening my load via a roadside picnic but by noon I would be a mess.

Friday, July 03, 2009

She's not yelling at you

Best ride in quite a while. Rode with KR who I think had too much coffee this morning but I delighted in her yelling at me "get down", "stay aero on the hill". At one point she was yelling from behind as I was passing this woman. Startled, the women turned and nearly fell off her bike. I said, "Don't worry she's yelling at me, not you".

Great 64 miles on the bike which included 10 miles at a really high rate of speed when we received a call that one of our fellow riders had shredded her tire. That was actually quite fun and worth repeating.

My swim, another story. The kids are at the pool now and do not understand lap swimming. I felt like the bitch in lane 4. "Excuse me, I'm swimming laps". "Excuse me you cannot do your jumping jacks in my lane". "Excuse me if you want to swim in the lane with myself and the other swimmer you have to tell us so we can circle swim. Just jumping in is not an option". My swimming companion was non-plussed by the many disturbances but I found it to all be annoying. The body contact and the huge swells from swimming next to the diving well, however, may have been a good Ironman training session.

Tomorrow, an off day. Hoping the rest will help the knee.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

2.35 miles to nowhere

Tried a short run. First 15 minutes were great, then gradually the knee started yelling, "Lady you ain't going nowhere without taking a suck it up pill".

So it looks like the bike tomorrow, no run. I think I may wait until Sunday to try to run. A bit more rest, some ice, some time to find perhaps a knee support for the ligaments. So frustrating. Maybe my deep tissue massage on Saturday will help....can't hurt.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Resisting temptation

I went to Delray Chiropractic last night where Paul worked his magic on my knee. I desperately wanted to try a tiny little run today just to see if there was any progress but I resisted. My knee was a tiny bit sore, a .5 on a scale of 1-10.

Instead I went to the pool and swam for an hour, my lane buddies were sure something was wrong when I climbed out at 6:30. "Are you sure you don't want a few more laps" they politely asked. Yes, so sure--I promised myself nothing more.

Another beautiful ride into work today. Except for my food weighing down my back pack, it's pretty awesome.

Tomorrow, I may not be able to resist a tiny little run.