Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Race Report and Our Dog

I am sorry for the delay in posting.  It's been a bit of a whirlwind.  Oh, and this will likely be a long post.

The Race Report

I left work early on Friday and went to the chiropractor because I was in a bit of pain. Viola.  Pain gone.  I wished a little wish that all would stay well with my back and did a little shopping, had some lunch and then drove to St. Pete.  When I went over the bridge, the water was like glass.  I oohed and ahhed and the thought entered my head - don't expect it to stick.  The weather was gorgeous too.

After getting a bit lost because evidently I hit 3rd Ave instead of 3rd street in the GPS, I finally found my way to the Hilton (after 3 calls to a very nice woman named Jillian who worked at the Hilton - it was when she said "we're on a grid system" that it all became clear what I needed to do to get to them).  I checked in and put my bike and other gear in the hotel room, headed to packet pickup, and then back to the room.  I read "National Geographic" cover to cover without interruption and realized that it was strangely quiet.  Then I went to dinner with Teammate Kristi (who I was sharing the room with), her daughter and brother (who was on a Team in Training team from Tennessee).  And I slept really well.

Saturday morning, Kristi and I headed out to the swim course for the team open water swim.  That glassy water was no where to be found.  In it's place was choppy water.  Later I would be glad it was choppy.  We swam out to the 3rd buoy and back, and I got nauseas but that stopped once I got out of the water for about 2 minutes.  Then I went back and swam out to the 1st buoy and back envisioning race morning.  I felt good.  I reminded myself that I was NOT going to freak out on the swim and that I knew how to swim.

Then we were on our own until 3 pm.  So I checked out of the Hilton and took my gear and stuff over to the TNT hotel - Hotel Indigo.  It was a cute little boutiquey type hotel.  But the irony that the building and the interior were GREEN when it was the Hotel Indigo was not lost on me.  Anyway, it was a cute place.  So I checked in and put my stuff in the room and met Teammate Carolyn who I was sharing the hotel with.  She and I then checked my bike in like Coach asked, went to the expo, got her packet from packet pickup, had some lunch, and then met everyone for bike check in.  As a 1st time St. Anthony's participant, bike check in was a little confusing - you had to have your seat on the side of the pole that your name sticker was NOT on and if facing your bike, you needed to have your wheel down on the side of the sticker.  It took 3 explainations from volunteers and my getting a volunteer to double check me to make sure I got it right - because no one was as succinct as my description.  But I was able to tell everyone on the team how to rack their bike!

From there I went back to the hotel, freshened up and went to the TNT Inspiration Dinner.  It was good food, had good speakers, and was inspirational... especially when they told us that there were 360 participants and collectively we raised 1.8 Million just for that race for Team in Training.  They announced the top 10 fundraisers, all of whom raised at least $8,000 with the top fundraiser raising slightly over $20,000 in honor of his wife who was about to have a stem cell transplant in a few weeks time.  It really gives you some perspective on what a bad day is.

Sunday - Race Day.

I woke up seriously refreshed.  It was the best night's sleep before a race I have ever had.  Sure, it was 3:55 am when I got up, but still.  4:30 I was in the hotel lobby ready to go.  We took a team picture and headed over to body marking.  I was pretty calm.  A little nervous but not too terribly bad.  We got body marked and my woman must have really wanted to make sure that I was marked because my word she pressed a bit hard.  Then I set up my transition area and met a nice woman who you could tell was a serious athlete.  She said that normally the water course was hard the 1st leg and then the rest was easy because the waves were with you the rest of the way.  Unfortunately, that day it would not be the case.  I went and talked to some teammates, used the porta potties in the dark and headed over to the swim start (about 3/4 mile away).  Porta Pottie stop #2.  Talked and laughed with teammates, watched the pro start, did a little swim warm up to get used to the water.  And the water was CHOPPY, friends.

Got in line and my emotions were high but I was definitely not super nervous and was feeling good.  Calmed a Team in Training person down who said she was about to cry she was so nervous, and lined up in the very back right of the pack.  I was determined not to freak out. 

Swim Time: 42:25

The gun went off and I ran into the water, picked a spot and started swimming.  I got kicked.  The water churned, and someone grabbed my feet.  I swam and swam but even with the waves I was making good time.  And I DID NOT FREAK OUT!  It was great.  I just kept telling myself - there's no need to be concerned.  You can do this.  And I did.  Then I rounded the buoy and discovered more choppy water.  Sure it was "pushing you in the right direction" but with such force that a few times I thought to myself that this was a bit nutty to be out there in those conditions.  Then I rounded the 2nd buoy and was turned around.  Luckily a guy on a kayak pointed the right way - turns out the left turn is more like a full 180 left, not the angled lefts I've been used to. 

I found my way and it was like swimming in a washing machine.  I was getting battered by waves.  I stayed calm and kept swimming and sighting the best I could.  I sometimes had to use some of the other swimmers.  I knew that the water was rough for everyone and not just me when I realized that there were a ton of different colors of swim caps out there, but I also assumed that I wasn't doing all that well for time because there were people from the waves in back of me now in front of me.  But I kept swimming.  There were waves crashing on the back of my head when I breathed to the left... and to the right.  It seemed like the waves were doing their best to take me out to sea instead of let me get to those stairs to get out.  At one point, I started getting nauseas and thought, I really don't want to win Big Daddy Diesel's award in this race!  So I kept sighting on the giant blow up Gatorade bottle. 

But get out I did.  Without a panic.  Without stopping.  I did the whole thing.  I didn't even care what my time was at that point.  I was just happy I didn't freak out and that I made it without throwing up.  When I found out my time was 42:25.  I was actually happy with it.  I can usually swim a mile in about 36-37 minutes, so you'd think 1500m at 42:25 would be disappointing, but in those conditions I was okay with it.  (Heck, I talked to someone who was a college swimmer who can do 1500m in 25 minutes and he did it in around 34 or 36 minutes, so I think I did just fine.)  Later I would find out that waves 20 and after were treated to a 1,000m because they pulled the buoys in because they had pulled 6 people out of the water in short succession and there were white caps. 

T1: 3:34
I kind of had to get my equilibrium back a bit, so I walked some.  Then I ran a little.  I was pretty far from the transition entrance.  I got myself together and my gear on and out I went.  Sure, it was slow.  But I was a little discombobulated from the swim... and from the fact that there were a lot of bikes still racked.  The woman who told me about the swim was on the bike already, but she had said that you could tell where you were in the age group in transition because we're racked by age group.  But I was the middle of the pack.

Bike: 1:36:47 average pace 15.4

While you might think that I wouldn't be thrilled with this time, and I'm not jumping up and down with joy, I'm still satisfied with it.  I was thinking I would be around 1:30 for 25 miles based on the fact that on a non-windy day, I average around 17 mph.  But with gusts of 10-20 mph while on the bike, I was rather happy with the time.  I really had to bear down on the bike at times to keep the bike from blowing out from under me.  At one point, I rounded a turn at 18.8 mph to be smacked in the face with a very harsh head wind to watch my mph drop to 14.7, 13.9, 12.7, 11.9.  So I dropped my gear and my cadence went to 90 and my speed back up to 13.9.  When the wind died down, I was instantly at 16.4 at which time I went back into a harder gear and dug it out.  Another time I was rounding a turn at 16 mph when a huge gust came and I felt the bike going out.  I bore down and leaned right (which was out of the turn, but in the direction of letting the wheel hit the ground solidly) and of course came out of the arch of the turn.  Somebody likes me up there though because I was headed straight to collide with the curb and somehow I got myself onto the lip and up on to the sidewalk and before crashing into the tree next to the sidewalk, I was able to get myself on the sidewalk and going on to the next lip down where I pedalled on.  At one point I was going almost 21 mph and I got passed.  Another time, I was at 11.7 (love those headwinds) and got passed.  So I decided to just ride my bike and enjoy it.  And that's what I did.  I used a lot of gears too based on the wind.  It was a good ride - even if it wasn't as fast as I would like, and even if it was windy as all get out.

T2: 4:04

Okay.  This is abysmally slow, but my back wasn't too happy when I got off the bike.  So I walked through transition, trying to stretch as I went.  I stretched out some and started to exit and realized - oops I still have my bike gloves on.  So I went back and put them at my spot and then jogged out of transition.

Run: 1:26:56
14:31 pace

And this ladies and gents is where the wheels fell off the bus. But it may have been a good learning experience for me all the same.  I tried to run out of transition.  I ran along the start of the run path and made it probably about 1/3 of a mile before my entire lower back seized up and I had a sharp shooting pain down the side of my leg, into my shin and my big toe.  So I walked the rest of the 1st mile.  I walked as fast as I could and I grumbled.  People were shouting "Go Team" at me and I was grumpy.

I tried to run just after the 1st mile mark.  I made it about 1 minute before I had to walk again.  So I walked over the bridge, and tried again.  No dice.  I could go about 45 seconds before I hurt.  So I tried to walk 5 minutes and run 45 seconds for a little until that was hurting too.  At about the 1 1/2 mile mark, I thought to myself "What would Doug do?  Here I am grumping about what my time is going to be and he's in a hospital bed rooting for all of us out here while he's just had a bone marrow transplant."  And I realized.  Doug would probably just put a smile on his face and do what he could do.  I forgave myself for having to walk because in this race, it's wasn't my brain telling me not to run (which I could ignore) but my back.  So I decided that for Doug, for Angela, and for myself I was going to walk strong and I was going to be happy.

And I was.  At one point I saw a woman up ahead walking.  I was gaining on her and I realized she sort of had a hitch in her step like I have while my back is giving me issues.  I tried running here and there, and things were still not overly happy.  I caught up to her and asked if I could walk with her a bit.  Her name is Maura, she's from Titusville and has 3 young children.  She did the Princess 1/2 like I did, and like me, it was the first time that she actually liked running.  For me, my back gave me issues after and for her, one of her arches fell afterwards.  We talked and walked and then somewhere at mile 4, my back suddenly felt decent.  I asked her if she wanted to try to run and she said yes.  So we ran about 1 1/2 miles of the 2.2 left.  We walked the bridge again, but did the 1/2 mile up to it, and then with about 3/4 of a mile to the 6 mile mark we ran it in.  She helped me when I started to get a cramp by reminding me how to breathe, and then she got me to lengthen my stride in the rather long chute to the finish line.  She told me I was her guardian angel right when I was about to tell her she was mine.  It was great!  Sure my time sucked.  But I wasn't going to PR that day after the swim and the bike, and I am able to train for the rest of my season.

And all in all that day, I didn't give up.  I made the best out of what I had that day, and I had a good time doing it.  I hope to see Maura again.  We had our picture taken at the finish together. 

So I got to my C goal. I finished in an upright position, with a smile on my face and I did not freak out while swimming.  Not every race can be my A goal, so there you have it.

Even better was the fact that when I went to check in at the TNT tent, there was a surprise for me.  Perhaps the best surprise I've had in a very long time. The guy at the tent kept saying, "Oh. Kate Martin. Oh. Oh. Oh." and then finally, "Turn around." I turned around and there before my eyes were Anna, Ms. Sherrie, Bryan and Anna's Husband, John.  (In order, they are Angela's sister, Mom, husband, and brother-in-law.)  I burst into tears and hugged each one of them - except John who I'd never met in person before.  I was so excited and thrilled to have them there!  Anna had read on my blog that no one was going to be at the finish for me, and she organized everyone.  She even made me gorgeous paper blackeyed susans, and brought me two beautiful roses from her garden.  It was so wonderful to see them and to get to spend the afternoon with them... they even oohed and aahhhed at my bike after I got my stuff out of transition.  I felt so loved and so very, very lucky.  I told them how I thought of them just the day before (and of Angela's Dad too) when I saw a woman walking around in a t-shirt that said "Stay calm and carry on." and that I thought to myself "Thanks Ang for looking in on me."   That slogan was a WWII propaganda poster that Angela had up in her bathroom to make herself (and others) laugh.  It was the perfect end to a not-so-perfect and yet somehow fun race.

Our Dog.

When I got home at 8 am on Monday morning.  Mr. Darcy's wheels were flying off the bus as well.  The girls had completely melted down when they woke up and I wasn't home.  They refused to get dressed and then to go to school until they saw me.  And Annie.  Poor, sweet Annie.  Mr. Darcy told me that she seemed like she was in pain and was walking funny with her head down.  But he didn't tell me everything, in his words because he "didn't want you to worry."  Annie came out to greet me, walking so gingerly and with her back in a complete upside down U shape, her head hanging down and only looking up with her eyes.  Eyes that were full of pain.

In a minute, I decided I had to take a PTO day and take Annie to the vet and I'd let the girls stay home with me so they wouldn't be so traumatized.  They were girls who had desparately missed their Mommy.  And truth be told, I missed them a ton too.

At the vet, the girls made friends with 3 greyhounds while we waited.  One of whom wanted to eat Annie, I'm quite sure of it.  Ladybug informed the dog that Annie was NOT a rabbit, but just a small dog.  It didn't change much.  But all was well.  We were seeing my friend Kim who is also Annie's vet.

Turns out that Annie is getting old.  She is having a spinal problem of some sort.  For now, we're trying to see if pain killers, muscle relaxants, and anti-inflammatories will help let it sort itself out.  If it doesn't, we may have some x-rays done to see what the cause is.  In addition, her sebaceous cysts are starting to have sebum that is changing... most likely to cancer, but at this point there was no cancer per se but just funny looking sebacous cells.  Normally that would mean surgery for little Annie dog, our wonder mini schnauzer.  BUT Kim also found that Annie has a bad heart murmur which is news to us... and Kim said it can develop as a dog ages.  On a scale of 6, hers is a 4 1/2 or 5.  Unless we  want to pay $525 for a ultrasound of her heart, no surgery can be performed because it's impossible to know if she'll be able to come out of anesthesia.  Of course $525 might tell us she can't have surgery either.  And this morning, her blood and urinalysis came back and the blood work is fine, but she has a urinary tract infection.  The poor dog.

So our course of action right now is to give her medicine for her back and see if it works itself out soon, and of course to treat the urinary tract infection.  She is the sweetest dog, and seeing her in pain like this tears my heart out.  It's also why (combined with my day spent with the lovely ladies, which aside from the vet was wonderful) my race report is so late.

Another interesting thing happened yesterday too.  While waiting in the vet's office, I got a call.  I am a potential match from the bone marrow registry.  I've filled out my health questionnaire and emailed a little with the administrator from the registry.  I don't know if I'll end up being the donor, but it's not everyday you have the potential to try to save someone's life.  I signed up for the registry hoping to be a match for my friend Doug.  Doug matched with someone else, but who knows?  I might just get to help try to save a life - in a way other than just raising money.

PS. And today I did some yoga, spent time with the foam roller and trigger point leg set, and did Day 1 of the push up challenge!


  1. Welcome back. Sounds like you had quite a weekend. Great job on a really rough race.

  2. Congrats on finishing a tough race!!

    And I got a little choked up when I read you had a little party at the finish line, that was one of the best things I have heard in a while for a racer. You def earned it.

  3. Ohhhhhh! *sniffles* What a wonderul race report! I am VERY impressed with your performance. It sounds like it was one of those situations when it's not about the destination but about the journey. That wind was crazy! I sat on the seawall for a few mintues watching the swimmers and felt for every single one of you. That was also about the same time they started rescuing people. BIG congrats to you for having such a great swim! I'm sorry that I missed you at the race. Instead of handing out medals, I was at the water station after the finish. You were definitely in my thoughts that morning, though. Congrats on a great race!

  4. I was so glad to be there. I know how lonely it can feel going so far and not having anyone there at the end. When I did the 3-day mom and john went to a different area and it was an hour or 2 before I got to see them, just that little time not having someone there like everyone else had was very lonely.(which funny enough, the end of the 3-day was at the pier, and the route you ran was part of the route I walked. I even walked the finish line!) I was so excited to get to be there for you.

  5. Sometimes you learn more from your hard races than the easy ones. Good job getting it done. Sorry about the pooch. :(

  6. What a wonderful race report! I felt all kinds of emotions reading it and felt like I was able to connect with you and your adventure and that was wonderful. Great job on pulling through!

    I am so terribly sorry to hear about your pup. I hope things are going as smoothly as they can.

    And I would love to hear updates on the bone marrow thing! I signed up for the registry but have been holding on to my kit for multiple reasons. It is due back next week so I will be sending it in so I can still do it. That's a wonderful thing you are doing.

  7. Great post. I am a little late to reading. I am glad you finished and met a new friend in the process. People at the finish! Awesome! I never have people at the finish.