Ironwoman Dreams

If I can do this, anyone can.


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Finding No Meaning: A Training Story

Easter holiday time, no matter what your religion, can be a good opportunity to refresh: to make new goals or re-double our efforts toward the ones we set earlier in the year. Life happens pretty fast, and, if we don’t take these chances to pop our heads up and assess how we’re doing, like any open water swimmer can tell you, we can end up way off course.

However, while we assess our goals, we should also take a moment to  ask ourselves: are we packaging our goals with a degree of self care and objectivity?

I ask this question because most athletes that I know work very hard to achieve certain goals. In working toward a goal, taking measurements, striving day after day, we tend to grow emotionally attached to our goals. While these emotions become attached to goals, they are often deeply rooted within ourselves, frequently attached to certain perceptions we have about ourselves, the same perceptions that create inner monologues and value judgements based on what we do or don’t do. These perceptions have been honed over time, and I have yet to meet a person who lacks any. Still, it’s what you do with these perceptions and feelings that have a profound affect on your overall well-being as you work to reach your goals.

A few weeks ago, Coach Mikey had us doing my least favorite breathing exercise: 50 yd breathing every 3, 50 yd breathing every 5, 50 yd breathing every 7, 50 yd breathing every 5. Even though I can do 25 yards without breathing at all, somehow, the counting trips me up, and I find myself gasping for air after the second 50.

Stopping for a second to look up at Mikey, I shook my head and said, “I don’t know why I can’t seem to handle this drill.”

Mikey, completely unconcerned, looked at me briefly, and said, “Don’t make it mean anything.”

Oh. Okay. I shrugged off my concerns and kept swimming, caring less about how crappy I was at the drill, and moving forward, relieved from the burden of over-thinking, without much emotion toward it at all.

But that moment was poignant. Her words were like an arrow plunging straight into the roots and earth of every problem I ever had. Hadn’t I always made pretty much everything mean something? Hadn’t I always related every goal and every interaction with other people to some deep insecurity or value judgment of myself?

While racing, every DNF, while I gave my best speeches about how I tried my best and that’s what counted, somehow, deeply, meant that I just didn’t have it in me to be a real triathlete, that I was foolish for thinking so. While at work, every time I tripped up during a big presentation meant that I just didn’t have what it took to be successful. While dating, every guy who wasn’t in the right place to have a relationship, I secretly thought, “…with me.” Sense a theme here?

I have attached so much meaning to tiny, little blips in the grand scheme of things, that every time I have not been absolutely perfect has threatened to rip down the grand scheme of my life. In reality, the stakes are not that high. Furthermore, stumbles and blips are natural, and can sometimes mean, counterintuitively, that  you ARE making progress.

So, lately, when I’ve caught myself getting wrapped up in those emotional roots over a tiny blip, I pop my head up, look around, take a deep breath, and keep swimming.

Waves have their ups and downs. Keep on swimming!

Waves have their ups and downs. Keep on swimming!


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The Fine Line Between Diligence And Obsession: A Healthy Lifestyle Story

I am serious, clearly. Very serious.

I am serious, clearly. Very serious.

Imaginative people like me are ruled by obsessive thoughts. We ruminate and dream about possibilities and what-ifs, good and bad. We drive ourselves butts-out crazy with ideas, often staying awake at night creating scenarios. Women tend to be especially good at this, in my experience, as we often leap to conclusions or imagine our own stories about others that may or may not exist. Recently I had a friend of mine whom I’ve known for about 10 years now observe that, based on my Facebook posts and blog, I seemed like I was becoming increasingly “obsessed” with this health and fitness stuff in the four years since I moved to Los Angeles. While she is in another state and isn’t with me day-to-day, and her own assumption, I felt, was incorrect, it really made me check in with myself on two fronts:

1) When does diligence and enjoyment of a healthy lifestyle turn into obsession, and what defines it?

2) While expressing my enthusiasm for feeling healthy and doing things that make me feel healthy, am I alienating other people I care about who don’t share my enthusiasm?

Let’s start with the first check-in. There have been plenty of times in my life when I have used exercise and diet as a form of “punishment” for myself, for being fat, or for eating more of something than I should have. I think that many people look at these things as necessary evils to achieve a certain body type. We’re bombarded with messaging daily, especially in Los Angeles, that a person can never be too thin, or too “toned” (I hate that word). I see this stuff every day. Does it affect me? Sure, it does. Would I love to look like a fitness model? Yes, that would be nice. Do I obsess about looking like one? That answer is a definite no.

At the same time, I do have my own self-conscious little “obsessive” habits that I’ve picked up over the years of struggling with my weight. I still look around the room in an exercise class and observe whether I’m the fattest one there. Usually I am, mostly because I think a lot of people my size or larger give up, or because they observe a room of size 2 women and they think, “No way. I’m the fattest one here.” I try to take it as a compliment to myself, that, even though I’m built differently, I still put in the work. I’m there because I deserve to be, because the classes are for everyone, and there’s no sign on the door that says, “No one above a size 6 allowed.” I’m not trying to be them, or to look like them, I’m just trying to get better at whatever I’m doing.

There comes a point where, at any size, at any moment, you have to accept yourself. You just have to, because you cannot go through life hating yourself, even if you’re carrying more weight on your frame than you’d like, or even if you can’t master Crow Pose in yoga, or you can’t run around the block. You have to slap yourself out of the fantasy that one day you’ll blossom out of your cocoon and turn into Adriana Lima. You have to, because, if you don’t, you’ll never have the chance to be you, and that would be a damn shame.

Anyway, yes, I know fitness and health is part of the culture here in California, and I’m jumping on the bandwagon, but, really, why wouldn’t I? I live in a beautiful place, with GREAT weather. I can be outside playing all year long! I can swim in the ocean, bike along the coast, run in the hills, hike mountains! I can explore and move my body, and feel alive. I’ve never felt so great before. I love how challenging my body and mind makes me feel, and I’m enthusiastic about it. Even when my muscles are cooked, I’ve got a huge smile on my face. I’ve turned what used to be my biggest punishment into my greatest reward.

…Which brings me to check-in #2: Am I being too enthusiastic for those who might not share my passion? Even as someone who enjoys posting and reading about health and fitness, there are certain kinds of posts that even I find annoying, such as people’s daily check-ins at the gym, posting daily run/swim/bike distances and times, and detailed daily fitness routines. See the pattern? It’s the daily minutia that screams to everyone, “Look what I did and what you didn’t do!” or “Look how awesome I am!” Bleh. However, monumental break-throughs, epic workouts, and other noteworthy experiences are interesting to me because they are share-worthy, especially for those who know how tough it is to get to those epic moments. I try to only post about my fitness moments in context, whether it’s a great workout, a fun bike ride, or a really epic run or swim. Still, maybe my enthusiasm is as grating to some friends as the daily stuff is to me, especially if they don’t share my zeal for this lifestyle.

Just like baby pictures or ad nauseum political posts can be irritating to some, it is important that, as our lives change, that we are mindful of what we share online. Sometimes our passion can get a little too passionate, and, while it’s just as easy for some folks to un-follow us, it can be helpful to be understanding and to check-in with ourselves as well. I don’t think my passion for health and fitness looks like an obsession, but I certainly have been made aware of my own enthusiasm, as well as its affect on others.

I guess I’ll wrap up by throwing the question out there: Has anyone out there alienated friends because of their enthusiasm for health or fitness? What kinds of fitness or health-related posts do you find annoying?


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Catalina Curtailed: A Health Story

I really thought I had it, that my energy issues were behind me, and that I was ready to move on. After having my thyroid medication dosage reduced (my blood panel results said I was taking too much), I had started incorporating long runs into my workout schedule in preparation for the Catalina Island Conservancy Marathon in March.

At first, I was feeling great, on top of the world. Then, after last week’s and this week’s runs, long and short, left me with the old “running at top speed in a hurricane-force headwind” feeling, I began to wonder if something was still up with me, health wise.

I saw Dr. Shammas today and when I detailed my training plan, she told me I should probably cool it with the long runs, that my body, just two months out from having a major surgery, was probably not ready for such an aggressive regimen. Instead, she recommended shorter distances, and that I exercise non-aggressively six days a week, instead of five.

I can’t say I’m not disappointed, but, after everything I’ve been through, I’ve learned to listen to my body, and I know, deep down, she’s right. I shouldn’t have tried to push so soon after surgery. I just miss the feeling of being able to run forever and ever, that freedom, there’s nothing like it. I guess I’ll have to get it in smaller doses now, until I work my way back up.

I suppose that it’s good timing, with me starting my new role within my company, and getting up to speed, traveling and such. It’s not really an ideal time to be training for distance running.

Patience is a virtue, and I’m learning to be very, very virtuous. :-/

Sidelined again...le sigh!

Sidelined again…le sigh!

 


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Sometimes Superheroes Need A Push: A New Year Story

My thought process began last week, after being informed by my doc that I was now taking a bit “too much” Synthroid, according to my labs. Until that point, I’d felt pretty great, with the exception of sleeping like a rock for 9-10 hours and feeling groggy for the first hour or so after waking. I was a bit skeptical of her conclusion at first, but then things started to feel worse.

Hyperthyroid symptoms aren’t exactly the opposite of hypothyroid symptoms. The body’s funky that way. With hypothyroid, your body doesn’t produce enough adrenaline and other energy-giving hormones to move you along to function at highest capacity. With hyperthyroid, the body dumps a ton of adrenaline into your system, so you’re in “fight or flight” mode all of the time, which, obvs, konks out your system, hard. So, sure, I’m going along, feeling skipperdee-dee because, for once, I have energy, until…KONK! And I did konk.

Christmas Eve morning, before packing up and heading down to San Diego for the holiday to see my cousins, I decided to fit in a quick 3-miler. Waking up that morning was, as usual, difficult, but I figured, once I got going, I’d perk right on up. After walking the dog for 30 minutes and after about five minutes into my run, I realized that there was no “perking” to be had. I felt like a lead puppet, that same, sloggy, lurching feeling I felt before this whole thyroid mess. My cardio system was working overtime, trying to move this huge, brick-like body along the concrete. I had to stop and walk a couple of times to get my heart rate back down. All in all, I finished feeling failed and worse than I felt before I started.

The rest of the week, I took a break from the running, opting instead to do more walking than usual, but it didn’t really feel like I was doing anything significantly helpful, fitness-wise, and that was frustrating. Finally, over the weekend I chose to get out there on an eight mile hike with the dog. I woke up that morning with a familiar groggy feeling, and, hitting the trail, felt significantly fatigued at first, to the point where, halfway up the out and back trail, I wondered if I should stop and quit pushing myself. Still, I continued the gradual climb to the top.

It was coming back, though, that the strangest thing happened: I felt energized! I sped back down the winding dust and rock with youthful, athletic zeal, so much so that I felt like I could have done the whole trek over again.

I decided I was going to get in at least ONE hour-long run before the end of the year. A friend of mine posted on Facebook, after finishing a six-mile run himself (he’s one of those annoyingly perpetually fit types who can sit on a couch for a year or two, get up, and run six miles at an eight or nine-minute pace without feeling any pain–grr), that running over three miles made him feel like a superhero. I was going to get my cape back, thyroid be damned.

My body fought the first three miles, even though I tried to keep it “slow and steady,” and a cloud of doubt began to rain little droplets of quit suggestions into my head.

“Maybe you should take some walk breaks. It wouldn’t hurt to walk for a couple of minutes.”

“You don’t have to go the whole hour. You haven’t run an hour in a while. Maybe do 45 minutes today, and build up to an hour again.”

“Maybe your body isn’t ready to handle this.”

But then there was stubborn ol’ me. There was the me inside that took me by my own shoulders and said, “No. You have been very caring and you’ve gone easy on yourself for months and months, always opting out of the harder version of the workout because you were afraid to ‘push it’ because of your health. You will feel worse if you quit. You are doing this full hour, no matter how slow. You will stay on your feet.”

Easy as anything, my energy came back. Not in epic, superhero proportions like it did my first run back after surgery, but enough to where I felt like I could keep going forever. I was in the running “zone”, the sweet spot, the point where running was fun again, enjoyable. Granted, I traveled much slower than my usual pace, but I hit the pavement for a full hour and, as I slowed down to a walk, I felt a wave of gratitude and pride of accomplishment splash over me.

I guess that’s how superheroes must feel all of the time.

Happy New Year!


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Updates: A Health Story

“Wow, why do bad things always happen to you all at once?” my friends asked me, each in their own way, yesterday.

I half-heartedly joked, “I guess I must have done something really bad in a former life.”

Chaos Theory would say that bad things just happen, and, in the grand scheme of infinite possibilities, these coincidental happenings aren’t so rare. I’m just an insignificant speck in the universe. Why would anyone or anything want to target me for unnecessary torture?

I’ve become a robot in saying, “It is what it is.” Nature just is. People just are. We create stories and emotions around the facts. We break our own hearts. We give ourselves reasons to be sad. Nature isn’t fair. People expect fairness.

I’m guilty of creating stories. Even when my company reorganized and I found myself placed in a position I never applied for, that ignored my core skills, I thought, “I’ll make the best of it. It’ll be good for me.” There were a lot of details as to why this position didn’t work out, but I found myself miserable, and further sad that I was miserable. When the truth finally outed itself in a performance review At the end of this week, my new boss decided to give me two months to find something else. So, great. I currently face yet another potential layoff situation.

All of those toxic emotions I’d been plagued with during my months of unemployment oozed back into my brain: feelings of inadequacy (if only I’d done X,Y,Z), feelings of fear (will I be out on the street if I don’t find something?), feelings of anger (at myself and others). What good were these feelings doing me? I tried to focus on the positive and on reaching out to folks to find myself a new opportunity, either within the company or otherwise.

The second blow hit while I was already weakened. I’d been chasing the doctor down for days, trying to get the results of my biopsy. I was beginning to think that, maybe, no news was good news, and that it probably wasn’t anything to worry about. Instead, I got a call Friday afternoon. The results found that one nodule, the big one on my left side, was benign, but, on the right, the results were indeterminate, meaning that there was probably some malignancy. So, long story short, she recommended that I schedule surgery for a total thyroidectomy, and said that I would have to take hormones for the rest of my life. Awesome.

I know that nothing and no one is behind this, that nature’s just throwing punches and they’re landing square in my gut. Still, I’m tired of being this “tough girl” that everyone thinks I am. I’m tired of making jokes and shrugging things off, and repeating my robotic mantra of, “it is what it is.” I’m sad and I’m scared of the unknown, and of everything changing. I’m afraid to admit that I miss the feeling of having someone in my life who will just hold me and let me cry it out, on those rare times when crying is the only way to cope.

But it’s true that it is what it is. I can’t change things, not with all of the water power in the world. Tears are ineffective.

In light of all of all of these changes, I have made the decision not to sign up for IronTeam this year. If all goes well, I’ll probably sign up for a few marathons and halves in the coming year. I’ll work on feeling strong and healthy, and on taking care of myself. I’ll keep everyone updated on how things go here.


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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.

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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.


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).