Ironwoman Dreams

If I can do this, anyone can.

1 Comment

Frankenbike: A Training Story

I’m writing this post from atop a block of ice, my lower extremities slathered in arnica gel and Biofreeze. Needless to say, I did not finish today’s 80-miler. Not even close. Even with the best of intentions, I faced yet another stupid monster. And it got me.

I had high hopes for today’s ride. I had a great trainer ride mid-week, and I finally felt like some power was coming back into my legs. My bike, Shadow Comet, on the other hand, had grown tired of all of the switching back and forth of the front derailleur, and obstinately, as it has been prone to do in the past, refused to switch out of the big chainring toward the end of the ride. Fine, be that way. I’m taking you to the shop again. I told it, yanking it off of the trainer and leaning it against the wall.

I had to hit up the bike shop anyway, as I was finally getting on board with obtaining a cadence sensor, which Coach Holly said would help a whole heck of a lot with my overall pace. I was willing to try anything, so the cadence sensor seemed like a good place to start.

Unfortunately, two of my usual shops didn’t have the sensor in stock. I was going to have to shop around(which OF COURSE I have loads of time for). Meanwhile, my bike mechanic, Jorge, had other disappointing recommendations about the status of my bike and its shifters. He said that the shifters would keep getting stuck, so if I wanted to stop the sticking, I would need to get new shifters, rear cassette, chain and front derailleur.Oh. Dear.

Mind you folks, I purchased this bike for a mere $600 off of Craigslist. I was unemployed, so my options we limited at the time. Let’s just assess what I’ve spent on it so far, shall we?

Bike fitting: $200
Tune-up: $100
Second bottle holder: $10
Service fees for brakes, shifters, etc.: $180
New pedals: $60
New bar tape: $40
New tire: $50
New saddle that felt like a wild animal was biting my crotch: $100
New saddle that was less painful than the others: $200
Saddle cover to deaden the saddle pain slightly: $20
Third and Fourth bottle holders: $40

My bike total: $1600

Basically, if I purchased all of this machinery, I would have been able to buy a much better bike, brand new, for the ridiculous lot of cheddar that I would be dumping on this thing. Of course, all of that money had been spent and was now a whole lot of Velveeta under the bridge anyway (hey, I follow through with my cheesy jokes). Plus, what if it happened again during Vineman? It would be devastating to not finish on a mechanical failure, a race I worked SO hard to finish!

Needless to say, I left my bike (and my grocery money for the next month) at the bike shop, and hunted down a new cadence sensor. When I entered the third shop, and asked the sales guy about whether they carried the sensor, he seemed to know right away where to find one, except there were none where he thought they were. After some hunting, he found one, but he told me that it was on hold for another customer. You have got to be kidding me, I thought. Was there some run on Garmin cadence sensors among the cyclists of Los Angeles that I was unaware of?

The sales clerk disappeared into the mysterious back room for a while, I’m assuming to consult The Great And Powerful Wizard Of Cog, and emerged with good news. I was granted permission to purchase the sensor. To heck with that stupid holding cyclist. You snooze, you lose, Bucko!

I even succeeded in mounting the thing on my bike myself, without much help (thank you, YouTube). Armed with all of the tools for success, my lovely Frankenbike and I were ready to rock the weekend’s 80-mile ride.


Initially, I was a little surprised at how low my comfortable cadence had been. Starting out, my legs really liked 75 rpms. But that was my problem. Previously, I would begin a ride at a high gear, with low rpms, and my legs would tire, mid-ride. Furthermore, once my legs fatigued, they were used to slugging along at low rpms so my pace would fall and I would be unable to pick back up.

Today I was training for high rpms. Instead of mashing a higher gear up the hills, Coach Quinton stayed back with me. I worked on spinning up them, working the whole leg and whole pedal stroke to get up the slopes. It felt weird and cardiovascularly annoying, as I felt like I was running on my bike.

Quinton helped guide me as I acclimated to this new riding style. My legs felt as though they were flailing wildly, with nothing to push solidly against, but without lower gearing and higher cadence, a triathlete can melt down on the run. I had to learn this. It was for my own good,

Spin easily uphill and work the downhills and flats I thought to myself. With no bigger gear momentum to get me up hills, I felt slower and more winded climbing at first. I spun fiercely against those grades, maybe too fiercely.

Around Mile 20, I felt that familiar tight ache in the back of my leg, the kind where a muscle fiber feels as though it has been stretched beyond its limits. Crap. I think I pulled a muscle. I started to worry. Am I going to be able to finish 80 miles on a pulled muscle?

I tried to push the pain out of my mind, but it kept getting worse, stronger and sharper as I climbed up hills. On the last couple of climbs before we hit the SAG stop, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be able to continue. The crazy part was, I felt like I was just getting warmed up and probably could have gotten into an okay cycling “zone” at that point, if it wasn’t for the pain. I wanted to keep going, to keep practicing my cadence, but, at that point, I knew that it would be stupid to continue, and risk the season. I SAG’d myself out, yet again.

The funny thing is, I didn’t even cry this time. I felt disappointed, but I accepted it. I didn’t flog my own sorry hide about being a slowpoke or for being a baby and not pushing through an injury. I didn’t boohoo over the fact that I’d just spent all of this money and still had a stupid ride. I didn’t lament the fact that I have never had a good bike ride, ever.

Sure I’m nervous about my race, but I think the bigger lesson here is that I
have to be kinder to myself. I still have time to get used to having a higher cadence and to become a stronger cyclist. I want to do it, and I will. Next week we will probably ride most of the Vineman course. The only real monster I have to face is myself.


Leave a comment

Help Save Lives, Win FREE Airfare!

Hi Everyone,

As many of my readers already know, I’m not just swimming, biking and running 140.6 miles straight for my own amusement (what a hoot it has been–ha!), I am doing so to help raise money to fight cancer and support those who are going through very difficult treatment right now.

Here’s the deal: I have a goal to raise almost $6K by July. I’m only 32% of the way there, and it’s already May. I really could use your support.

What’s in it for you if you donate from now until July 1:

If I reach:

34%– one randomly selected donor wins a $50 Visa gift card

43% — One randomly selected donor wins a $100 gift card to his or her airline of choice

60% — Two randomly selected donors will win $200 for their airline of choice

90%+ — One randomly selected donor will win a grand prize package!

$10 donation= one entry. Drawing held July 2, 2013

Donate here:

Instead of ordering pizza tonight, consider putting that money toward making a difference in the lives of many.

Spread the word, inspire others to do something awesome today!



Kick A$$!

I’m kicking cancer’s a$$!


Leukemia And Lymphoma Society “Fast Facts” 

WHO: The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) is the world’s largest voluntary health organization dedicated to funding blood cancer research and providing education and patient services. Founded in 1949, we are relentless in pursuit of our mission: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families.

WHAT:  Investing in blood cancer research: LLS has invested more than $750 million in research, approximately $72 million in fiscal year 2010 alone. Programs like the Specialized Center of Research (SCOR), which brings together teams of scientists from different disciplines and our Translational Research Program, which funds research with a high probability of producing innovative patient treatments in an accelerated time frame, have directly contributed to many breakthrough cancer treatments.

Research funded by LLS has led or contributed to advances such as chemotherapy, bone marrow and stem cell transplantation and new, targeted oral therapies such as Gleevec®, Rituxan®, Velcade®, Thalidomid®, Revlimid®, Dacogen® and Vidaza®.

Providing critical information and support for patients and their families:

We made 4.7 million contacts with patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals in fiscal year 2010, through our Information Resource Center (IRC), our award winning Web site and community-based patient service programs. We put people together with experts through Web-casts and teleconferences, and provided professional education through seminars, to extend the latest findings to a broader professional audience.

Advocating for issues impacting blood cancer patients: With more than 50,000 advocacy volunteers throughout the country, our voice is being heard by those responsible for legislation to fund blood cancer research and educational programs.

WHY: The need is critical: An estimated 957,902 people in the United States are living with, or are in remission from, leukemia, Hodgkin lymphoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma or myeloma. Every four minutes, someone new is diagnosed with blood cancer. Every 10 minutes, someone dies.

Leukemia causes more deaths than any other cancer among children under the age of 20. Lymphomas are the most common blood cancers and incidence increases with age. The survival rate for myeloma is only 38.5 percent. Incidence is nearly twice as high among African Americans as for all other races.

HOW:  As a nonprofit, we rely on the generosity of individuals, corporations and foundations. Seventy-five percent of our total expenses support cancer research, education, advocacy and patient services. Major, annual fundraising campaigns include Team In Training®, Light The Night® Walk, School & Youth ProgramsSM, Man & Woman of the Year and The Leukemia Cup Regatta.

WHERE: In addition to our national headquarters in White Plains, NY, we have a network of 59 local chapters across the United States and Canada. Information on blood cancers and support is available through our IRC and at


Information Resource Center: (800) 955-4572

Media: Andrea Greif, director of public relations  (914) 821-8958

Research grant information: Rick Winneker, SVP Research (914) 821-8310

To volunteer or donate: (888) HELP-LLS

1 Comment

Friendship: A Training Story

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”
― C.S. Lewis

I didn’t set out on this journey to connect to others. Not specifically, I mean. I thought that I might make a few friends, and a few friends of mine might find amusement in reading about my many adventures in training. I expected to fall in the dirt, to pick myself up and dust myself off, as I’ve done over time, and gone on. I never expected others to lift my battered limbs, clean my wounds, and dry my tears. I didn’t expect that they’d cry with me, and then laugh at the utter ridiculousness of what we’d just tried to do. I didn’t expect to feel supporting hands on my back as I moved onward.

Now, here I am, with this wide, wide circle of support, both through TNT and beyond. They’ve come to my aid so many times, especially when my faith in myself began to falter. They believe in me, even when I can’t.

I know that a lot of people train for a full ironman alone, and more power to them, but I cannot fathom what this experience would have been like without my friends.

I just wanted to take the time to thank you all. You inspire me not to give up on myself. I can do this. We’re all in it together. Thank you so much.

20130521-061617.jpgPhoto credit: Paiwei Wei

1 Comment

Losing Faith: A Cycling Story

Anaheim to San Diego: 80 miles. It’s the longest I’ve ridden so far. I was half dreading, half looking forward to this ride, thinking that, somehow, maybe, my body would make a breakthrough and my legs would propel me at a steady pace all the way down the coast.

When we arrived in Anaheim, my teammates buzzed excitedly about the scenic journey ahead. Some had ridden the route before, while others, like me, had no idea what to expect. I hoped that, at least, we wouldn’t get separated.

We started out on the bike path near Angel Stadium. For a while, I stayed with the pack, but, little by little, they began to pull away. I piled on the gears and spun furiously, trying to keep up, but, even at 16-18 mph, I was no match, and I was beginning to tire with no real warm up. My speed dropped to 15-16 mph, and I trailed behind.

The bike path ended at the Pacific Coast Highway, where my paper directions told me to follow South. I headed down the road alone for a while, until Coach Quinton and my teammate, Bobbi, caught up with me. We followed the road up and down rollers, through stop and go traffic, and to the first SAG stop at Mile 33.

I guess that I had held out some kind of hope that more of my teammates would be waiting at the stop, having dropped off from the furious out of the gate pace they began with. Only two teammates remained when I got there, everyone else having done what they needed to do and rolled out already. I was beginning to feel like a huge loser. I could feel the defeat loom over me like a suffocating dark, smoggy cloud. My heart sank into my cleats as I clipped in and rode on.

Just before Camp Pendleton is a long stretch of false flat, a slight incline that caused the pressure of my saddle to multiply. My breath quickened as I tried to pedal through the searing pain. I whimpered slightly, pedaling by campers, who gave puzzled looks as I passed with my pained expression. My pace was about 14.5 mph, as I tried to keep from having a total meltdown.

Everything hurt by the time I rolled through the military base, a long stretch of un- scenic territory that seemed to last forever. Quinton remained about 100-200 yards ahead of me as I pedaled furiously to keep up. Looking down at my watch, I knew that I wasn’t going to make the cut-off time that the coaches had planned, and that I was going to be the only one on the team who wouldn’t. Me, the stupid, stupid slowpoke, I was thinking. I am not an Ironman. I wasn’t cut out for this.

It was then that the dam burst. First I started whimpering, which led to pathetically weak sobs, which broke into full-on wailing. I didn’t even care if anyone heard me. I couldn’t stop. I cried to all of my frustrations, all of my failures. I grieved with such sorrow all of my hopes and dreams of the last year. They fell to the speeding ground, with my tears. I failed. Now to finish this stupid ride, I told myself.

Quinton was far enough away that he hadn’t heard my sobfest. Once through Camp Pendleton, he pointed out that we were quite near the final SAG stop, which was only 15 miles from our final destination. Getting to SAG was an ordeal, as we had to navigate through a busy port town, with hoards of beach goers streaming toward the water. Starting up into traffic, my wheel accidentally caught Quinton’s and I went down, scraping my knee a tiny bit (of course), right in front of lots of people(of course). I cried a few frustrated tears, and carefully wove through cars to the parking lot, where I got some refills on water and a cookie.

The last fifteen miles were slow torture, with tons of dangerous beach traffic, rough roads, and tons of stop and go. I just need to get there, I just need to get there. I ridiculously chanted to myself, over and over. My seat was starting to hurt again as we hit the last couple of miles on a false flat, my legs ached, and I was emotionally quite worse for the wear.

Everyone else on the team had gotten to Pizza Port, our final destination in Solana Beach, and had already changed clothes and ordered food. Even as teammates and coaches high-fived me, I felt like I was being patronized. In my mind, I had failed. I was the worst one. The worst cyclist on the team. I didn’t deserve a high five.

“You just rode 80 miles,” Coach Holly said to me. “Don’t take away from that.”

Yeah, 80 miles at a 12mph overall pace, I thought to myself. Tears continued to roll down my cheeks. I felt like an ungrateful brat, but I didn’t care. Riz saw my tears and gave me a hug. It amazes me that my coaches still believe in me, even after I am continuously left in the dust, even during my best efforts. I want to believe, but the faith I had in the beginning is running out of me. Will my best ever be good enough?

I can’t help but be left with this sort of heartbroken feeling, like all of this is for nothing. It’s not like I am not going to try still, but I just wish that I could receive some sign from my body to have a little bit of hope.

P.S. It really was a beautiful ride. Sorry I don’t have pictures. I was too busy pedaling furiously or boo-hooing to take them


Wildflower Long Course: A Racing Story

I think that sometimes you need to fall off the horse, get dragged for miles through the mud, and stomped a few times in order to become an even stronger person. My “horse” was Wildflower Long Course this year.

Before I go into too much detail, let me rewind a few weeks. Lately, I’ve been feeling immense bodily fatigue, from the very instant that I hop on the bike or jump in the water. It’s increased in intensity over recent weeks, until, now, I frequently have no power in my limbs whatsoever, especially on the bike. All experts point to either nutrition or over-training. However, I’ve consumed the right levels of vitamins and carbs before training, and even backing off exercise a bit hasn’t helped. It never happens on the run. I’ve been at a complete loss. The fatigue has led to me putting strain on my left knee, which has nagged on and off during intense climbs. Basically, my body has been falling apart and quitting on me, and nothing seems to help.

I’d started questioning whether my body was up to the task of a full Ironman. Maybe I’d been going at this too quickly, taking on too much. I’d started hating the bike and liking the swim less and less, longing for the “good ol’ days” of just plain marathon training. It’s certainly hard to rev yourself up and get motivated for something that, at best, you’re bad at, and, at worst, causes you intense, slow suffering for 5+ hours at a time.

Nevertheless, I signed up for this and I was going to try to see it through. Everyone kept telling me how I’d surprise myself at Wildflower, that I’d likely finish, and, hey, if not, I’d bought myself a $275 training race. What a bargain.

I took Friday off and headed up early in the a.m. on the 5-hour car ride to Lake San Antonio with my team mentor, Erin, and teammate and training buddy, Marissa. We stopped at Whole Foods for a scrumptious (and Ironman-sized) breakfast burrito in Santa Barbara, and continued up the 101, chattering excitedly (and fearfully) about what lay ahead, and what we had already accomplished.


Instead of being anxious, I decided to push those oogie boogie thoughts from my brain, instead trying to enjoy my time, and, “Just have fun,” like the coaches and my friends kept telling me. I avoided talking too much about my anxieties about the bike cut-off, and remained in an odd state of calm that lasted until probably the very last several minutes before the swim start.


Wildflower Long Course is a tough race, with over 5500 feet of elevation gain on the bike, and over 2500 feet elevation gain on the run, and the cut-offs are aggressive, especially for the women, who get the short end of the stick, starting one full hour after the men. My swim wave started at 9:15, and I had about five and a half hours to finish both the swim and the 56-mile bike, so nothing could go wrong.

As I headed out on the swim, I noticed my breath quickening a bit as I headed out. Fearing that horrible situation where you can’t catch your breath during a swim, I slowed down and kept myself steady. I swam off course a couple of times, which was annoying, as it took me twice as long to get back on course. It was taking forever, but I feared getting panicked, so I kept myself slower than usual, thinking, “It’s no use to kill yourself on the swim. You’re not adding that much more overall time, and you’ll tire yourself out.” As I reached the turnaround, I noticed the faster swimmers of the last couple of waves coming forward. A relay swimmer grabbed my shoulders and pulled me under, as she swam over me. Luckily, I didn’t panic, kept my breath, and kept going, speeding up as I got closer to the dock. Before I knew it, I was out of the water and ready to get to the part I dreaded most.


Transition seemed to take me forever. My socks wouldn’t go on my feet, my wetsuit clung to my legs. I tried to hustle as best as I could, feeling slightly lightheaded and disoriented. As we headed out on the bike, I told myself to take it easy, that everything would be okay, as long as I controlled my breath up the hills, and powered down the downhills.

Beach Hill, the dreaded first intense climb after the first mile of the bike, came sooner than I expected. the sun shot fiery rays over my body as I tried with feeble legs to power up the hill, which seemed way more intense than it was on training weekend. Halfway up, my head started to hurt, and I felt slightly dizzy. My teammate, Lindsey, saw me stop my bike, and came over.

“Lindsey,” I whimpered, tears flooding my eyes. “I can’t do this. I feel like I’m going to pass out!”

“Yes you can,” Lindsey encouraged me. “Let’s walk a little bit.”

She walked with me part way up the hill, and then encouraged me to get back on. Everything in my body didn’t want to, but I did it. Continuing on, I started to feel slightly better, wheeling my legs a bit faster, getting up to 16 mph on flats, which, while not my fastest pace, was better than nothing.

I remained steady on the steep-ish rollers that followed, bombing down the backsides at 25-35 mph, as fast as my bike would allow, and pedaling quickly to use their momentum. I kept a good, steady clip for a while at 18-20 mph, and I thought, “Hey, maybe I’ll finish this thing!”

The heat intensified around Mile 12 and the air felt sucked of all moisture. I started feeling scorched, and stopped to have volunteers pour water on my back at the aid stations. Much of the water was warm, but provided a very brief cooling sensation as I gained speed. Of course, the dry atmosphere evaporated the water in what seemed like minutes, and I was left dry and scorched yet again.

I drank like I’d never done before on that bike, sucking down three bottles of fluid before the second hour had passed. My mouth felt like I’d devoured a desert. There was no relief.

Around Mile 25, my legs started to lose steam again, powering down against the slight inclines on the course. “Am I bonking?” I thought. I’d already ingested about 5 doses of Accelerade, definitely more than enough calories for a 25-mile ride, but I decided to consume half of a 350-calorie bar, just to be on the safe side.

My hamstrings began to ache, and my feet began to expand in my cycling shoes, causing immense pressure and pain along the sides. My hard, unforgiving Adamo saddle wasn’t doing me any favors either, and my body felt, once, again, broken. I stopped for a minute to relieve some pressure from my rear, to gather my senses, to force myself to power on ahead. I looked at my watch. I could really make this, I just had to keep going.

Every pedal stroke was painful in some way, and my legs provided less and less power. I started to whimper, not only out of pain, but out of frustration. “What the heck is going on??!!??” I thought. My body was rebelling, quitting, and, even my willpower wasn’t enough to muscle it through.

Then, of course, my bike started to have issues. My rear shifter began to get stuck, causing me to stop every mile or so to un-stick it. The winds started to pick up, and blow forcefully against the front and side of my bike. The time I had to finish started flowing through the hourglass.

As I approached Mile 40, just before the dreaded Nasty Grade hill, my worthless legs pushed weakly against the windswept road, propelling me forward at an awesome velocity of 7-10 mph. The aid station volunteers cheered me on, but, looking down at my watch, I knew that there was no way I was going to make it. Just then, I saw a van. I flagged it down.

The guy wasn’t SAG, he was just a race mechanic, but he said he had room for one rider, and would pick me up if I didn’t mind going along on the rounds with him. I took the opportunity and took myself out of the race.

Preston, the mechanic, stopped several times along the way to help fix flats or offer a defeated rider a Gatorade or water. I was surprised at the number of riders that still dotted the roads. An ambulance had stopped to revive a severely dehydrated rider, who had collapsed on the side of the road.

I rode my bike back down Lynch Hill, toward the finish line, as some of the runners were making their way down toward the finish. I entered the chute, handed off my chip, and re-racked my bike. Stripping off my gear, I felt the pangs of heartbreak as I realized that I wouldn’t be going off on the run, wouldn’t be getting a medal, wouldn’t be crossing that finish line in triumph.

The best thing to do now was to find my team and to cheer on others who were actually crossing the finish line. While searching for them, my feet somehow caught the pavement, and I tripped over them and fell, scraping a small hole in my hand. I found the medic tent, and sat patiently, waiting for someone to patch me up. Coach Jason found me.

“How are you doing?” he asked.

“Okay,” I said.

“Did you fall?” he inquired, looking at my hand.

“Yes…no…not off my bike, “I told him. “I tripped on the pavement…of course.” I gave a sheepish smile.

Jason chuckled and shook his head slightly, amused by my known klutzyness.

“So, what happened out there?” he asked.

I blurted my frustrations at him, while he calmly dissected the issue, saying we’d work on things. He told me that a lot of people had a rough day, that I wasn’t alone, that it was tough and that nobody had a good time racing that day.

More than 10 people on our team did not finish Wildflower Long Course this year, and, about 14% of overall entrants DNF’d. Last year only two people on our team didn’t finish. The temps had climbed to 95 degrees F out on the course, and many people ended up in the medic tent with IVs, or worse.

Still, it was hard to watch teammate after teammate come through the chute triumphant, with a finisher’s medal weighting their necks, while mine remained unburdened by victory. I felt like a failure, a complete and utter piece of worthless non-athletic trash. Still, I forced my lips into smiles for them, congratulated everyone on their race, and, while I was happy for them, it made my loss all the more punctuated.

That evening, I tried to let it go. We had a campsite party, spending some rare time actually socializing with our teammates. That morning, I still stewed. My amazing and supportive teammates, coaches, and friends repeated the same things to me, that women had an unfair go of it to begin with, that the conditions were nasty, that I had little control over what had transpired, that it was just a training race, and that Vineman was going to be easier. I still gave myself a sound mental flogging, even as I cheered people on the Olympic Course wearing a sombrero the next day.

I got home at 8 p.m. last night (Sunday), feeling deflated. No medal, no glory, just the knowledge that I didn’t do what I set out to do. Even though I told everyone the same things that coaches and teammates told me, I didn’t believe them, really. I felt like a weakling, a joke.

There are times that a good sleep can “put you right,” can sort out all of the jumbled pieces of an emotional weekend and make sense of them, and you don’t have to do a thing. When I awoke this morning, it was like a proverbial Phoenix-from-the-ashes, where my attitude did a total 180. That defeated feeling had melted away to reveal a new, stronger me, one who wasn’t going down without a fight. I felt powerful, glorious. Oh, yes, indeed, I WOULD cross that finish, I WOULD be an Ironwoman, come Hell or high water!

Sometimes the horse throws you, kicks you, and drags you, but, ultimately, you have to be the one to decide whether you’re going to let it get away from you, and limp away, or whether you’re going to catch it in a field of clover, jump back on, and ride off into the sunset (or sunrise, because this is just the beginning of a brand new journey).