Saturday, August 12, 2023

This is for me - Norseman 2023

I don't even know where to start - I'm still in disbelief and overwhelmed that Norseman actually happened. I'm not sure how I was physically and mentally able to do that and the whole experience was just so surreal. I feel like I've been fighting for so long and now that it's over, I don't even know how to feel.

First things, some advice for future Norseman athletes. This is nothing like an ironman. Sure it shares the same distances as an ironman, but they aren't even remotely the same in terms of race approach. Just because you've gone xx:xx time in an ironman, doesn't mean you will even be on par with your results in Norseman. Take that time, throw it away, and respect Norseman for what it is. I learned that hard lesson in 2016. I was bitch-slapped and humbled by that race. Because of that though, I came into 2023 with a much better mindset. It's a clean slate when you start Norseman. Sure, I've had great results at normal Ironman races, but that meant nothing in a race that makes athletes cry at every turn and the battle with the elements is every bit a part of this race. I've never dug deeper within myself to finish a race than I have at Norseman both times. Also, this race is now the Xtri World Championships. It is seriously competitive and these Xtri specialists are insane! Short version of this story: Norway is still stunning and I got the black tshirt. For more details, please read on. But first pictures of the scenery from race day:

Voringfoss waterfall on the bike course

Swim in a fjord.

Mt Gausta pre-storm

When I found out I got a spot in November, I was stunned. I hadn't expected lightning to strike twice. I got in on my first try in the lottery in 2016 and I only had to wait 7 years for my second chance. There are people that have been waiting so long for a spot and I'm lucky enough to have had my name drawn twice. So even though Norseman wasn't even on my radar (I literally put my name in right before they closed registration for the draw!), I knew I had to take the spot since you never know when your next chance will be.

We all know what happened next - I strained my hamstring again in December and took some time away to rehab it. Then once I was finally coming back from things, I was attacked by the dog. So yeah, we were panic training into Norseman 😅 In all seriousness, the last 3 months have been so hard. Mentally and physically, it's been difficult to remain positive. Shit hurts. Being in pain is draining. I tried to focus on the good and that I get to race Norseman, but even that had lost some of it's allure because I knew I wasn't going to have the fitness I would want going into the race. And I knew my body was going to protest it all the way.

But with the support of my friends, family, my physical therapy team, and my actual therapist, I pushed forward and before I knew it, we were flying to Norway. We met Liz in Oslo since she was on travel prior and flew straight from there. She was very happy to be reunited with her bike and went on many bike adventures in Norway, which I am very envious of. Next time I go to Norway, it will be to play bikes.We spent a few days in Oslo, then made our way to Eidfjord and it was just as spectacular as I remember it being. There was one hiccup with my rear brakes and they needed to be recabled, but really the lead up to the race was pretty calm and we really enjoyed our time. I REALLY MISS NORWEGIAN BREAKFAST SPREADS. 

Before I knew it, I was up at 2:15 on a Saturday morning getting ready to tackle this monster again. I was so calm until the night before and then was a bundle of nerves. I barely slept (but no one does honestly) and I questioned my sanity more than once that morning. I've been questioning if my body could actually still physically do this race. My anxiety was through the roof. The reality is though, I get to do this. And I'm so very lucky that I am able to do this. Anyway, after forcing breakfast in my face, we got my crap into transition, I grabbed my ferry snax and water, gave mom and Liz big hugs, and boarded the ferry. 

I wrote that I'm not sure if words can describe the ferry at Norseman on a post earlier this week There are none. Both times it has felt like I'm living an out of body experience. Like "is this really my life?" I got my wetsuit on and before I knew it they were pumping the fjord water up so we could acclimate to the temperature. And then they lower the hatch (is that what is called?) and they put the Norseman banner up. This is when you know shit is about to get real. I swear both times I have made this jump, time slows down. At 450 am, they start "the jump." Then you swim out to the swim start. My heart beat was roaring in my ears and I had to remind myself to take deep breaths. When my time came to jump, I stepped off and remember thinking, "let it go." For those fleeting seconds I was falling into the fjord, I felt so at peace for the first time in years. Cliche? Probably, but my mind hasn't given me peace since dad was diagnosed. Then I hit the water and it was just this feeling "what will be, will be." I haven't felt that in so long. I swam over to the swim start and got myself ready to go.

                                                               It me! Jumping off the ferry!

The ferry horn blew and we were off! It was windy and the currents were strong, so much like last time, I knew this would be a slow swim. I don't mind that though, since it does give me an advantage as a strong swimmer. However, when I made the turn back to the pier and the swim finish, I quit triathlon a lot lol! Surprisingly, I ended up being first female out of the water even after falling over five times because my calf cramped up getting out of the water. Luckily the guy who had been drafting on my feet for the swim helped me up along with the volunteer and I was up and out of the water. The live feed did catch this all on video in case you want to watch me fall over a lot. Liz met me in transition and had to show me where the heck my bike was since I had forgotten already 😂 She helped me get ready to go and as I started getting too ahead of myself, she reminded me I have lots of time and to get settled in. For those interested in bike start gear: I swam in my sports bra and tri shorts, put a jersey on in transition, my required reflective vest, socks, light gloves, and then I did have toe covers on my bike shoes as a "just in case." I knew I was going to get hot on the climb, so I kept the clothing minimal.

All smiles on the first climb out

And then I was off. The first climb is long, with the bottom having the steepest pitches. To be completely honest, it felt pretty damn good. I may have overrode a bit, but it's so rare that I am climbing mountains with oxygen around! I made sure to soak in the scenery - this bit of the world is so insanely beautiful. I felt ok with going a bit harder on this climb, knowing that after Dyranut at 36 km, it was a net downhill to Geilo at 90 km (you still get a good chunk of elevation gain in those kms, but net down 😅). I made it up to Dyranut in less than 2 hours, which is stellar for me. Surprisingly, the weather was good on the plateau. Chilly, but not raining. And no hail. *shivers in 2016 Norseman* Liz and mom helped me refill my bottles, onboard more nutrition, and I threw on my waterproof wind jacket. 

 Was the medical car just tailing me because they know my history? 😂😂

The kms to Geilo were pretty uneventful. I just focused on taking in nutrition, staying down in aero as much as I could, and conserving energy for the back end of the bike course. My muscles were feeling a bit twitchy and tight, but I think that was partly due to the temperature change and they were cold from the net downhill. I got to Geilo and met up with mom and Liz again. I was facing a lot of demons on this bike course, and I got emotional knowing what was coming in the last half of the course. Those were my first tears of the day and Liz reminded me that I got this. So off I went to start the first of the 4 major climbs in the last half of the course. None of them are particularly steep, or at least they didn't feel as difficult as riding around Santa Fe, but I knew Imingfjell loomed and it was waiting for me. I played chicken with a few dudes - I'd catch them on the climbs and they'd fly by me on the descents. It helped pass the grind through those miles. Finally, on the last descent, I saw it, Imingfjell. We had planned a stop right before the climb started, mostly because I knew I would need moral support and caffeine. After that brief stop, it was time to climb the mountain that broke my knee last time. Surprisingly, it felt good. I felt strong and was able to get into a steady cadence and spin up the mountain. I crested the top in 35 min. For reference, in 2016, that climb took me nearly an hour. I saw mom and Liz one last time at the top, breathed a sigh of relief, and started the grind to where the descent to T2 truly started. Yeah I know, you don't get to go down immediately after Imingfjell. RUDE. 

My sigh of relief was short lived. About 5 min into the plateau on Imingfjell, the Norse gods decided that it was time to fuck shit up. The skies opened up into a downpour and the thunder was rumbling. The descent from Imingfjell is technical so I was holding on for dear life and trying to stay warm. Once I got to the long downhill drag to T2, I tucked in the best I could and again, tried to conserve energy. I definitely lost some spots on that descent, but I didn't want to risk getting taken out and not being able to finish. 

By the time I made it to T2, I was definitely shell-shocked and cold. I wasn't even sure I could run after that. Liz and mom must have seen it in my face, because they got me out of my wet clothes, into a dry base layer and socks, and got me moving again. Since my watch had died (as well as my bike computer lol), Liz lent me hers for the run and off I went. It took me a good few miles to feel like I was still in this thing again - I was really out of it at the start of the run! Liz had reminded me to settle in and I knew I needed to take this in chunks. I had decided on a 10 min run, 30 sec walk since I came into this race with not the greatest run base and I did not want my hamstrings to flare up. This ended up working very well and the miles ticked by. I should mention that they had closed the mountain top finish due to the lightning that was moving through and while I was sad about it, I still had a black tshirt to get. I kept ticking through my run-walk, and finally, by 25km it was time to start Zombie hill. I came through that check in 150th (top 160 make the black tshirt cutoff) - oh man was I nervous now! Since I had topped off nutrition a few km before, I didn't need to stop at the base and gained a few places back. Liz said she would catch up, so I kept moving forward. The power hike was on!

Zombie Hill was rough to say the least. My back and the sciatic nerves decided it was the perfect time to start acting up. Lot's of whimpering was happening, but Liz kept reminding me I was still in black tshirt contention and that I just needed to keep moving forward. It was extremely hard mentally to stay in the moment when I got passed, but like Liz said, I just kept moving foward. I counted down the switch backs, and before I knew it, we were passing Team BOB (with a brief dance party respite lol) and we it the 32 km checkpoint. I was number 159 out of 160 that would normally make the cutoff at that point. Holy crap the relief I felt in that moment was so amazing. I screamed, Bent (Norseman crew, walked into the finish with me in 2016, and the beating heart of Norseman) was jumping up and down cheering for me, and I was elated. Since they had closed the mountain top finish though, black was now based on time. So we needed to get to the 37.5 km checkpoint (mountain entrance) in 14:45. We had plenty of time, so with the second wind of knowing I had black, Liz and I grabbed our mountain packs and started the 5km up to the checkpoint. 

Zombie Hill with my fren

As we began our hike (it's still 5km at 8% avg grade), the weather started to turn again. And as we reached the checkpoint, the skies opened up once again. At this point, we had done 7 miles straight of uphill with a gain of nearly 4000 ft and my legs did not want to go downhill. I would have much rather gone up at that point. Since the mountain was closed, we all finished at the "white finish." Which meant 5 more km of brutal downhill. I should be grateful that I was able to get the full marathon as they started pulling people from the course not too long after I finished and people coming up Zombie Hill were routed to finish at 32 km. Initially, I had wanted to walk it, but then the lightening started, and the hail (it wouldn't be Norseman if I didn't get hailed on), and it was time to get the hell off the mountain. Getting out of the lightening that was striking nearby (they definitely made the right call to close the mountain) gave me the push I needed to get to the finish.  Counting down the kms, we finally saw the 42 km sign. And there was the finish. God it was emotional. I know Liz and mom were tearing up too - I couldn't have done this without them. Like they say, you can't do this alone. It's been so hard these last 5 years and I finally got my moment. I did it in the most nerve wracking way possible, but I'm not sure if this story could have gone any other way. Those 14.5 hours fighting my way through the Norseman course were everything I could have asked for (minus not getting to go up the mountain, but no one got to) and I'm so proud. So many times in the last few years, I could have quit, but I didn't. Norseman as a race is just such a great parallel to life in general. It's messy, hard, beautiful, and amazing. You never know what the race will bring and it's unpredictable - and that's life. This race changes you. It gets under your skin. And there is nothing like it. 

Final downhill

Finishing with dad

Shortly after the finish, my core temperature dropped rapidly and I spent the next hour dying until I could get warm. I remember sitting in the Team BOB cabin next to the fire in a chair just crying as I reflected on what just happened. I couldn't believe that it was over. And so, Norseman 2023 is complete. I think I'm satisfied (I mean, no mountain finish sooooo). Huge thank you to Liz and mom for crewing, Kari for cheering from afar, all of you for support, and dad whatever spirit energy brought me last Saturday. I mean #159 - you can't make that shit up.

Sunday, September 4, 2022

I am really s**t at being vulnerable

I guess I should write an update. It's been a hot minute. And I honestly don't really know where to start. I just feel a need to write.

Mostly I want to write about how I've been struggling the last few months. While I typically like to remain positive, I need to talk about the bad. Someone is always struggling and I promised myself a long time ago I wouldn’t hide the bad things from people.

I guess things kinda started to go downhill towards the end of may when I hurt my hamstring (again - well on the left leg this time). Since the Tulsa crash, I’ve been dealing with all kinds of fun things with my sacral nerves, low back, and hamstrings. This was the third time I’d managed to tweak one since right before IM Maryland last year. While it isn’t a deal breaker, it’s always annoying because it stops the momentum of training so I can rest and let it heal. Then I got food poisoning while I was in Vegas visiting family over Memorial Day. 10/10 do not recommend. At that point it was no big deal since my fitness base was huge, but then just a few weeks later, boom, COVID. 

Notably, I actually raced City of Lakes sprint while I unknowingly had COVID. I had thought it was just a sinus infection, so I raced. I should have known there were some red flags - mostly because I was fatigued beyond normal levels and my heart rate was insanely high. I also had a horrendous headache two days before the race. It wasn’t until a few days later when I wasn’t getting better and got an email from a colleague saying that a meeting I was in the week prior had 5 people test positive. I basically said “dammit,”, went to my group office to get a rapid test (luckily I’d already been masking to avoid getting COVID before Lubbock), and tested positive in my office. While my symptoms remained mild, in that I never got a fever, I did end up feeling like there was an elephant sitting on my chest for a long while after. And well, we all know the rest of the symptoms at this point. Luckily, Logan never got it (still a bit salty about that 😂) and I basically just slept for what felt like a week. Since this was just a week and a half before Lubbock, I wasn’t even sure I was racing until about 5ish days before the race. I still felt like shit, but I was hopeful I could at least show up and finish and roll out of there with my worlds spot.

We all know how Lubbock went. I am thrilled with how things went all things considered. I’ve never raced a race and physically wanted to take a nap in the middle of it and I never want to run a half marathon with my lungs feeling like I was in a constant asthma attack again, but I’m happy I did it. Since I finished decently, I figure I was ok to continue training and get myself ready for Boulder. Unfortunately, I wasn’t. 

This is where the “never compare yourself to others” comes into play. Since I have had plenty of endurance athlete friends get COVID in the last few months (well years I guess), I felt like I should be ok. Instead of listening to my body and all the red flags, I convinced myself that I was just a wimp and that I was fine because others I know returned to racing/training so soon after being sick. It was probably about 3 weeks before Boulder, I knew I was really in trouble. My fitness was faltering, I was gaining weight from what I assume was the stress my body was under, and I was so fatigued all the time. And since I’m so stubborn, I ignored all this, watched my power/paces get slower every week, and became more and more depressed as I watched friends go on with their awesome seasons. It’s hard not to get down on yourself when everyone is seemingly just doing awesome and your body can’t even get out of easy pace zones without your heart rate going into threshold levels. 

I felt like all of it was my fault - I just wasn’t pushing through things and I wasn’t working hard enough. So I continued on. The week before Boulder, I had an easy run and I literally had to stop every mile to just catch my breath because I couldn’t keep my heart rate in control. Another warning sign that I shouldn’t have ignored, but did anyway. I had decided, at the very least, at that point that I was taking a week off after Boulder. Obviously, I turned in my chip after the bike at Boulder after getting stung and just generally tanking (still zero regrets about that). After that, I finally let myself rest.

Anyway, while the two weeks of rest were much needed, I hated that I let myself get to that point. I feel like I should be “on” all the time and it is really hard for me to allow people to see when I am vulnerable. I am the same with my bipolar disorder and dealing with my grief over dad’s death. I feel like I need to be “fine” all the time. It was no different dealing with the injuries/illness this summer. I hated that I felt like I was the only one struggling with COVID recovery and everyone else seemed fine. I felt like I had done something wrong. Which is absolutely stupid since biology dictates how it will affect you, but my brain wasn’t being rational anymore. 

While I still don’t think I have long COVID symptoms, a friend reached out after Boulder and directed me to a Facebook group for endurance athletes dealing with long COVID symptoms. And it actually was very helpful. After perusing through the posts, I realized I wasn’t alone in all this. After I returned to training two weeks ago, the only symptoms I am dealing with are some high heart rate and brain fog. Luckily the fatigue and chest tightness have gone away. I’m still being cautious because I know my body did go through a lot, but I am confident that it is basically behind me.

This weekend was the first one since May that I feel like I actually could be returning to normal. It wasn’t anything spectacular - it was just consistent and productive. I have some great friends to thank for that. While they all were deep in the thick of Ironman training and with fitness levels much higher than mine at the moment, it was great to tag along for part of their long ride and just hang out with them. It feels like it’s been far too long that I enjoyed training and just letting myself be ok with where my body is at the moment. I made a promise to myself that when I came back into training, I would just enjoy the process. 

I’ve learned some hard lessons this summer and that’s fine. Part of this crazy sport is learning from the lows, so that you can get yourself to the highs. I have learned this lesson many times over throughout my swimming and triathlon career, but I still somehow need to be bitchslapped into place once and awhile 😅 I am hopeful going forward that I will make smarter decisions and not let myself be a stubborn idiot. Time will tell - I’m sure I’ll end up doing something stupid again at some point, but hopefully that stupid is consistent Ironman training block leading into Ironman Texas in April lol!


Sunday, October 10, 2021


It doesn't get easier, you just get stronger. I can't even begin to say how much that saying simultaneously frustrates me and also describes the last 4 years for me. After IM Tulsa's crash, I really questioned if I was even capable of ironman anymore. Not only was my body in pain, my soul was absolutely crushed. Laying there on the pavement, there was a moment that crossed my mind that I couldn't do this anymore. Let's recap as to what caused that brief moment of quit:

1. I DNF'd Ironman Maryland in 2015 after passing out off the bike. My day ended in ambulance trip to the ER.

2. Dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer just 5 days after my last ironman finish at IM Wisconsin in 2017. That race really does mark a turning point in my life. 

3. Dad passed away in April of 2018. My world was shattered.

4. I do what I always do, push down my grief and try and move forward. I signed up for Ironman Boulder in 2019, just a week after my dad's interment into Arlington National Cemetery. What I suspect is a combination of grief, exhaustion, and being sick results in yet another DNF and ambulance trip at Ironman Boulder.

5. 2020 - COVID. In some ways COVID and quarantine was good for me. It forced me to face reality and come to terms with my grief. I finally felt the racing bug again and signed up for Ironman Tulsa.

6. Coming into Ironman Tulsa I was in the best shape I have been in for ironman racing. There was no doubt in my mind I was in for a huge breakthrough there. Unfortunately, the universe had other plans and I was involved in a crash on the bike. Another Ironman that ended in an ambulance. 

7. When I found out that I had no broken bones, my mind immediately went to planning my recovery and salvaging my season. Once again, I underestimated the emotional and physical toll this would take on me, but I persisted. I shoved down that hurt and fear and got back on the bike (not the healthiest way to go about things, but this seems to be how I deal with trauma).

8. Going through all the above while managing my normal bipolar symptoms and trying to remain a functional human being. It's a lot. 

And yet, I somehow found something in me that needed to do this. Again. Maybe I put too much of myself into this sport, but this sport is therapy for me. The highs and lows associated with this sport are almost spiritual for me. Well I guess they are spiritual. There is something to be said when you are deep into the marathon of an ironman and your body is barely functioning anymore, and your mind is what is keeping you upright and moving forward. I love that feeling. And of course, the finish line is worth the 10+ hours of hurt every single time.

The hardest thing coming into Ironman Maryland was knowing I wasn't in the shape I was in before Tulsa. My body had been through a lot and mentally, it was difficult to keep going when I was still dealing with crash pain and to be honest, the emotional trauma. I came to terms with the fact that I may not have the best race ever, but I could still have a great day out there. I'd been waiting for so long for this race, there was no way I wasn't going to do it. Also, I convinced Liz to come out with me and race since Kona was postponed again. So honestly, it was a really fun week. My mom had gotten a sweet room at the Hyatt in Cambridge, so we definitely enjoyed our time lushing and soaking up the race atmosphere. And eating all the crab.

Race day is a blur to be honest. I woke up with an upset stomach, not so much from nerves, but  for the fear that I end up in an ambulance again. I had told my mom and Adelaide that if I made it off the bike, I would finish. I would crawl if I had to. Ultimately, I think my biggest goal coming in was "just f*cking finish." The swim was jellyfish noodle soup. Thankfully, I don't seem to react to the stings and they were more annoying than anything else. I got stung in my mouth twice which was interesting, but otherwise I had a decent swim. The bike course is something a cyclists dream off - fast and roads in great condition. It is so rare that I get to ride fast here in NM, so I loved every minute of this course. I did actually off road a bit at mile 80 and almost crash, but somehow remained upright, and finished a relatively uneventful bike. Coming into transition, I had total deja vu from when I passed out in front of my parents in 2015, but luckily this time I was coherent and my mom told me I was first in my AG. Well shit. Guess I better hope that my run is there. While I didn't have a great run, I didn't have a bad run. All things considered, I was really lucky to be even starting the race, let alone running. It got ugly, I quit Ironman about a dozen times in my head, but I ran it. For the first time ever, I actually never walked except for the aid stations to take on fuel. I don't think I've ever been able to push through that much pain on the run before, so that is a win in my book. There were more than a few moments where my quads started to give out, but I found a new level of suffering and since I am a sick person - that's why I do this shit. 

Jellyfish noodle soup 😂

Regardless, as the miles ticked down, I reminded myself why I was here. I thought about how lucky I was, to be there and in that moment. I had two functioning legs and I was doing something I love. My body was in horrific pain, but I felt so lucky. And while I am not the most spiritual person around, I felt like my dad was with me, helping my legs keep churning forward. Coming down that finisher chute with dad's picture in my hand and my legs physically failing, literally opened the flood gates. Everything just came out. Four years of grief, the stress and uncertainty of my crash and how my body was going to handle an ironman, and the frustration of my last few ironman races - it all just came out. It sounds weird, but a weight lifted when I crossed that finish line. I can't put it into words how much it meant to me - probably because I didn't even know how much it meant to me until that moment. And I broke. I finally broke. I let everything out I have been holding in for so long. The immense gratitude I felt overwhelmed me, the grief overwhelmed me, the magnitude of what I have overcome overwhelmed me, and what I had just accomplished overwhelmed me. And it felt so, so good to finally let go. #ironmantherapy

I had this laminated shortly after dad died so I could tuck it in my race kit. Knowing it was in my pocket gave me comfort when it really started hurting.

I raced with so many of you held close to my heart - my family, my friends, my Coeur teammates, my SISU-IRLAG teammates. Seeing some of you on course absolutely made my day. I know for a fact I could not have done this without any of you. There are so many people to thank and all of you are amazing in your support. I need to call out a few people though! To Claire - picking up my bike and driving me home from Tulsa and reminding me that I can do this - I don't know how I would have survived those first very painful days without you. To Liz - I'm just calling you my ride or die at this point. You're unwavering support and friendship, especially the last 4 years, has meant everything to me. I don't know many people that think Everesting on a random Saturday is a great idea (spoiler alert: it's not), but I'm here for it. Having you in Maryland was a very calming presence for me and a reminder of how "fun" this can be. I wouldn't have improved so much in the last few years without you pushing me to be better. And let's be honest, post-race donut day is the best thing ever. To mom and Kari - I'm not sure how we have made it through the last 4 years, but somehow we have. We got dealt some shit luck, but in true Jim Seaman spirit, we have "shook it off." While we can never fill the gaping hole dad left, we have learned to live our best lives in honor of him.  To Adelaide - it's amazing to see all the progress we have made in the last two years, not only from a physical standpoint, but in my mental game. I'm also glad that you like to do stupid stuff too, like ride through mountain passes for no reason. I'm glad I can count on you as a friend and to push me to be a better version of myself. And to Logan - from your very blunt "run faster" comments to your worry about me doing these things, I am forever grateful to have your support and belief in me (and begrudging willingness to let me disappear for 8 hours on a Saturday to train for my hobby!).

While Maryland wasn't the best race I could have had, I'm actually at peace with the Ironman distance for now. It was still good in terms of execution and a 70 min PR, but I know there is more in the tank. However, I am good for now. It's a bit of an odd feeling since I feel like I've spent so long chomping at the bit for that finish line, but I'm ok with not doing an Ironman next year. I feel like I need a mental break from that kind of training and I need to get my body behaving physically again. So next year I'll focus on 70.3s and let myself have a winter without the crazy training load that is Ironman training. 

Letting it all out. Also, everything hurts and I'm dying.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Lubbock 70.3.

 Sometimes I question my sanity. It's been a hard month mentally and physically since Tulsa. As much as it doesn't seem like the crash didn't affect me so much mentally, I had many fears about getting back on a bike. The good news is that I have a great support team and they were here for it. For the first two weeks after Tulsa, I basically just let my body recover, but I still remained active. That first week was tough on me. Claire drove my doped up self back from Tulsa (thanks a million times over Claire) and that was probably one of the more painful experiences I've been through. My body did not want to be folded into a car and my muscles/bones were pretty damn bruised so it hurt to sit, and stand, and well, just exist at that point. Thankfully, lots of gentle yoga got me walking 2 miles with my amazing friends Therese, Nadia, and Claire by that Friday, 5 days post crash. I spent that weekend walking up a storm up and down County Road 84 😂 By the next week, I was back on the trainer, then I did a very uncomfortable walk/jog by the end of week two. My biggest accomplishment was that 2 weeks post crash, I was able to ride outside on my road bike with Liz to TVM because delicious breakfast will tempt me to face fears any day. Since I was at least jog-walking again, I naturally decided to sign up for Lubbock 70.3 which was only 3 weeks later. Definitely a bold move (insert Dodgeball reference here) since I was no in the best of shape and not even running! Luckily, 2.5 weeks before the race I did my first run, so I knew I would be able to finish even though the run was going to be very uncomfortable. I finally got back on the TT bike the week before the race and did a little mini brick run that didn't feel amazing, but at least I got back on the bike. So with my 2.5 weeks of prep, I was off to race.

Anyway, Lubbock was amazing this year. We had pretty much the best weather you could ask for in terms of temperature. Normally this race boasts triple digit temps on the run, so a high of 77 was unheard of. I went into this race with absolutely zero expectations and feeling more relaxed than I ever have pre-race. It probably also helps that I was just having fun with Liz and Amber and meeting all my Coeur teammies. Side note - TLC is pretty much the best prerace prep. Liz and I actually had to force ourselves to go to bed the night before and not stay up watching You, Me, & My Ex all night. We actually got a decent nights sleep, and for once I actually felt rested before a race.

My mom dropped Liz and I off at T1 and then headed back to the hotel so she didn't have to stand in the rain, but promised she would see us coming into T2. Cue my anxiety. It really is only fitting that it was raining and cooler just like in Tulsa. When I was standing with Liz at the swim start, I actually mentioned that this was making me nervous. I knew I just had to get through the bike, but getting there was monumental. The swim was decent - well I guess it was good since I was the first female overall out of the water, but my mind was basically just focused on getting through the bike.

I always take the most flattering pictures coming out of the swim 😄

Once I got to the mount up line with my bike, I faced one of my bigger challenges - getting on the bike! Since I hurt my back, I've lost some mobility/strength in my side, so getting on the bike is actually tough. I took a deep breath, got on my bike like an 80 year-old, and off I went. My legs actually felt pretty bad and my back was not thrilled with me at all. Then I started panicking a bit because the roads were wet and the men were of course not yelling "on your left" when passing, so I really started to go to a dark place. My HR was getting high at 170 bpm and I was getting scared. I looked at my race files and it looks like I was riding pretty timid the first part of the race until the turnaround. Two things happened there that helped me: 1. I was close to halfway done. 2. I saw Liz about a mile after the turnaround. I don't know why, but seeing her reminded me that I can do this and that this is just another day on the bike. I guess it helps that we train together on the bike all the time, so that bit of comfort gave me a boost. At that point I knew I had to try and beat Liz to transition since this was just like training where I am holding on for dear life trying not to let her catch me. I started passing the men back and finally fell into a race rhythm. The rest of the bike flew by. I finally let myself glance at my time and promptly said "holy shit" because I was riding faster than I ever had. I honestly had no idea I could put down a bike split like that and I'm still shocked, but that is a testament to the work Liz and I put in over the pandemic, as well as all the Zwift racing. When I came into transition and after my geriatric dismount, I yelled to my mom that I didn't crash and breathed a huge sigh of relief. It was also the first time that I've ever come off the bike at the pointy end of the female race in a big race, so that was super motivating. 

I'm glad my mount up was capture on camera and please excuse my bloated stomach on the second bike pic. I wish the sun was out to get all the pretty colors in Rainbow 2's paint! Also, Scott Flathouse is awesome - I was so stoked to see that mount up pic made his Insta stories!

The run was obviously the big question mark. I knew if I was having the run I was capable of before Tulsa, I would be close to breaking 5 hours, if I didn't, I still was going to have a huge PR. Turns out that my body wasn't capable of pre-Tulsa pace, but that wasn't much of surprise. I came off the bike feeling pretty flat and my back was like "seriously wtf are we doing," but I settled into a pace that I knew I could hold as comfortably as I could and that minimized the back pain. I am actually super  proud of this run - it was consistent, I didn't walk except to take on nutrition in aid stations, and I remained tough even when my back was telling me no more. Other than an unfortunate port-o-potty emergency at mile 2ish, it was an uneventful run. My pace was consistent and I just focused on my nutrition since it was good test to see how I would handle it at IM Maryland in September. I ran into one of my TCB teammies on my 3rd lap and she was on her second, so we got to run a good chunk of that together before I headed into the finish line. I was pretty shocked to see 5:07 as my final time for the race. Two years ago, I would have never dreamed that I was capable of that. I was 6th in my AG (damn 35-39 for being so competitive) and 14th overall, which is still unreal to me. This was my first time at an Ironman race racing at the top end and I can't wait to see what I can do fully healthy and at peak fitness. Ultimately, I just feel relieved and incredibly lucky that I was even able to race on Sunday. Finishing was the biggest win, everything else is just icing on the cake. 

All the feels.

I can't thank all of you enough for the outpouring of support I have gotten since Tulsa. It takes a village to train and race these things and even more support is required coming back from an injury. Thankfully, I have the best coach, great friends and teammates, and the best family. I am not super spiritual, but I know dad was with me too. I think the reason that I came away from that crash with no serious injury, was because he kept me (and the bike 😆) safe. Knowing how hard I was hit and the cracking in the helmet further confirm that for me. Needless to say, keeping him in my thoughts Sunday helped get me through that bike mentally and I only wish he was here to tell him about my bike split. I can see the face he would make and the same "holy shit" that came out of my mouth when I saw it 💓


Tuesday, June 8, 2021

One More

I basically only dust this blog off when I am feeling waxing poetic, and lately, I have been. It's been an interesting and tough few weeks to say the least. 

There are many swim sets that I've done in my life that I still remember to this day. Mostly because I couldn't believe I could physically complete them and because I found a new gear in myself that I never knew existed. I can remember how I felt during them, the intervals we went one, and the paces I held. But there is one set that stands out over all the rest, and that is One Mores. Every year in the fall at UNLV we did this as a team bonding workout. It was one of the few times a year where we would have a women's and men's only practice since we swam coed most of the time. The premise is brutally simple, fast 25s from a start on coach's go. Brutal because you didn't know when the set would end and there were no intervals - you could get some rest, no rest, or something in between. I very much remember being halfway out of the water to dive in when I heard my coach yell "ONE MORE!" And off I went. The set starts with endless amounts of 25s and ends with elimination rounds. The goal for me was to always try to be one of the last few standing. I am proud to say that I made it to the final two women twice over my 4 years of college swimming (thanks distance swimmer endurance). Anyway, few sets have really challenged me mentally more than one mores did. It really was a team and individual challenge. If you fail, the team fails. So as the set goes on, the rallying cry of "ONE MORE!" echos across the pool deck between gasps for air and tears shed that were washed away in the water. 

I have done 7 ironmans - finished 4 and DNF'd 3. All 3 DNF's ended in an ambulance. Ironman Tulsa was supposed to be my masterpiece. I finally felt like I had all the pieces of the puzzle - lost nearly 30 pounds, nutrition, fitness, mental toughness - clicking together. What I didn't see coming was a crash. I was completely blindsided literally and figuratively. It was scary and if I really let myself think about what happened, I freak out a little. The witnesses said it looked "horrific" and "terrifying." I've been feeling guilty that I wasn't more seriously injured if that makes any sense. I also feel extremely lucky I've avoided any serious injury besides whiplash, multiple contusions, a muscle pull, and a likely minor concussion. Someone was definitely watching over me and my bike (thanks Dad 😆). Any time I look at my damaged helmet, I freak out, but because I am recovering so well it is hard to believe the crash was serious. Basically, I am kinda a mental shit show about it. 

So how do one mores relate to this?

As I was laying on the road, literally watching my Kona aspirations ride away, several things were going through my mind. The crash itself happened in slow motion. As I was airborne, the first thing I thought was "this is going to hurt." Sure as shit, it hurt. The first thing I felt was pain in my back. I knew this was not good. I was almost starting to panic because I thought I might be paralyzed. I could only feel the pain in my back (for a split second my mind went to that I could get into handcycling if I was paralyzed). As the witnesses to the crash got my helmet off and I started to take some deep breaths, I realized I could feel and move my arms and legs, but I remained on my side in case there were fractures. And let's be real, I was in a lot of pain, so fetal position felt the best lol. One of the volunteers called 911 and the minutes waiting for the ambulance ticked by excruciatingly slow, so naturally, I had some time to think. My first thought was to ask about my bike, but as the adrenaline started to wear off, I kept asking myself "how is this happening again?" My train of thought started to derail as I watched each rider ride by and I sunk lower and lower. Why me? As my thoughts start to go to darker places, there was one part of my brain that screamed "ONE MORE." And in that moment, everything changed mentally. I would come back from this, whether I needed surgery, had broken bones, or if something else was seriously wrong - I would come back from this. So what if this was my third Ironman ending in an ambulance?! I was going to come back from this. Because ONE GOD DAMN MORE. 

In the two weeks since, "one more" has become my mantra. I've been making little goals with the big goal of finishing Ironman Lubbock 70.3 at the end of June. I don't really have goals for the race, just to get out there and enjoy it as I am not sure where my body will be mentally and physically at that point. I am healing quickly enough that I have to remind myself that my body went through a pretty traumatic event when I get down on myself for not hitting a certain power or pace. I think the thing that I am most proud of is that as soon as the ER doc said there were no fractures, I looked at him and my mom and said "I am walking to the bathroom and back on my own." It took FOREVER and it was excruciatingly painful, but 3 hours post crash, I went from backboard to walking and that was my finish line that day. Because just one more.


Sunday, August 9, 2020

vEveresting - a race report?

 Ok, so I know it wasn't actually a race, but since this is 2020 and all races are canceled, I'm counting this one as a race. 

So vEveresting. Essentially riding up the same hill/mountain until you hit an elevation gain of 29,029 ft, the height of Everest. Simple right? Hells 500 has more information on how to do it, rules and regulations, and how to submit your ride to be in the Hall of Fame.

Since this is 2020, and everyone is not racing, crazy challenges have become pretty popular. I wouldn't say vEveresting is popular (based of the Hells 500 database), but there are quite a few people doing it as a challenge this year. Additionally, very few women have done it, so to say I'm stupid proud of Liz and I is an understatement. 

So how did I get to the point of wanting to do this? It's no secret that Liz and I have a penchant for doing stupid things. In my defense, I think there is something to be said when you are pushing your body to it's absolute maximum limits. The human body is amazing and the things that it is capable of doing deserve to be explored. I honestly can't imagine going through life without doing harder and crazier challenges. My brain doesn't work that way, and I can't just exercise to exercise. Anyway, back in the April/May time frame, Liz and I had started talking about the potential to do an Everesting attempt. It wasn't a near future thing then, but the seed was planted. Fast forward to July. MSM-JHC coaching has been putting on a "commit to it" challenge and one of the challenges was to climb the elevation of Mauna Kea (13,800 ft) in one ride. I  saw that one and thought this would be a good gauge to feel out where I was at physically. I talked to Liz and since it is like crack when one of us presents a challenge, we of course scheduled a date of 8/8/20 for the attempt. As things got closer, Liz mentioned that she might try and go for the Everest attempt. Welp, the carrot was dangled, I talked to my coach, and all of a sudden Mauna Kea doubled to Everest. Alrighty then. 

There is actually a lot of planning that goes into this, so it's honestly a bit nuts that we planned to do this with less than a two week turnaround. I do not recommend doing this and there are a few reasons we could get away with doing it this way:

1. The obvious: we are crazy

2. We live at high altitude. Every ride we do has a good amount of elevation gain. It isn't uncommon for 50-60 mile rides to have 4000-5000 ft of gain on a normal basis. When we have been riding on Saturdays, it hasn't been relaxed either. We've been hammering climbs and building a really good base for cycling. So even though our max gain in a ride for both of us has "only" been 10k, we are both pretty confident climbers.

3. Since both of us were training for ironmans, we already had the fitness base for an attempt.

4. I think the fact that we are both multiple time long endurance event finishers, really prepared us mentally for the dark times we knew would come. 

Ok so details on the route choice:

We considered doing with Pajarito Ski Hill (I think this would be 28 times up) and Santa Fe Ski Basin (8 times - ish up), but with monsoon season in full swing and the stupid amount of traffic from all the people getting outside lately we opted for Alpe du Zwift on Zwift. 13 hours on a trainer excites no one, but I knew once the fatigue set in, I just wouldn't be mentally aware enough to be riding in traffic. 

Alpe du Zwift was modeled to match the famed Alpe d'Huez. Zwift used GPS data to match the 21 hairpin turns and inclines. Alpe du Zwift is 3400 ft of gain at an 8.5% average grade, so it takes 8.5 times up to vEverest. Alpe is an intense climb to do solo, so the thought of doing it 8.5 times still is mind boggling even after I did it! Side note, you also need a smart trainer that simulates the climb to be able to do this indoors. While you don't have to deal with things like weather indoors, it is mentally a whole new ball game. Not only do you sweat more inside, sitting in one spot not actually moving is a mental mind f**k for 13 hours. There are pros and cons for the outdoor vs indoor attempts, so if you are wanting to do this, weigh them carefully. I think the biggest pro for indoors was being able to get off the trainer while your avatar descends (alpe is steep enough that you can do this) and being able to eat/stretch.

Some key things that I followed:

1. EAT. Eat early and eat often. At some point it becomes force feeding, but the calorie burn is insane (I burned 6400 yesterday!). I had a variety of food to choose from because you never know what your body is going to want during these things. The two snickers bars after lap 6 and 7 were glorious!

2. Get off the bike during the descents. My avatar took about 11 min to descend each time. While I had no plans of taking an extended break (some people do), these were perfect to mental reset and get ready for the next ascent.

3. Know your time frame. I started this at 2 in the morning. I expected to take between 80 and 90 min on the way up. With breaks, I was expecting to be done around 14 hours (to say I am thrilled with 12:59 is an understatement!). For me mentally, it was important to get a good chunk of this done by mid-morning. By 9, I was nearly done with 5 laps. Side note, most of the guides say to start at midnight, but I'm not that crazy.

4. Change clothes. So much this. You sweat so much on the trainer so definitely change.

5. Chamois cream. No explanation needed.

6. A comfortable setup. I normally have my tt bike on the trainer, but swapped it for a road bike. The geometry is just much better for extended climbs. I ran a 50/34 compact crank and an 11-28 rear cassette and I was fine. I think an 11-32 cassette would have been nice though for when the fatigue really sets in to be able to spin more, but I rode my normal climbing setup.

So for an overview of the day, I have it broken up by lap. Keeping a consistent heart rate was so important as my power varied through the day.

Lap one: 75:35, 170W, 143 bpm. Before lap 1 I weighed in so my w/kg would be accurate in Zwift and it is a requirement for the Hells 500 vEveresting. I felt great. I could tell my legs had some rest in them. I was so excited because it felt SO EASY.

Lap two: 73:25, 175W, 145 bpm. Ok this is cool, descend the laps. I was still feeling good here.

Lap three: 71:36, 180W, 147 bpm. Wow a segment PR! Unexpected, but my HR was still low and I was still feeling good.

Lap four: 84:17, 180W, 146 bpm. This was my slowest of the day simply because my power meter crapped out (even though I replaced the batteries the day before) so I had stop and fix the problem. Also, the last half of this lap is when things started getting dark and the wheels came off a bit.

Lap five: 82:35, 155W, 152 bpm. I wish I could forget the pain of lap 5. You hit the halfway point early on in this lap, but it did not excite me at all because you still have another 14,500 ft to climb. My power had dropped off 20ish watts and my HR was creeping up. Utimately, I think the reason why this lap was so hard was because it is a transition point in the ride. Your body is feeling the fatigue of climbing halfway up and this was also the point where eating solid food while riding became hard. Both Liz and I struggled immensely on this lap. I am actually glad we had started at different times. I was on lap 5, while she was still enjoying the lap 3 glory, so her message of "just one switchback at a time" got me through this one. I had started to think about how much time I had left (DON'T DO THAT) and that I wasn't going to make it, but the one switchback at time trick worked. When she was on lap 5, I was able to tell her that 6 was so much better. So my other key for this is, have a great support crew! Also, if you have a friend willing to do this with you, it will help so much! 

Lap 6: 78:38, 163W, 154 bpm. Second wind and back to sub 80 min laps. I thought my legs would come back around even more after this one (HAH). After the utter devastation that was lap 5, lap 6 felt great mentally. After lap 5, I had changed and taken motrin (I know this is not the smartest thing, but I was so swollen that I didn't have much choice). The break helped me get my head back in the game. Also, lap 6 is where you cross the 20,000 ft mark. For some reason "only" having 9,000 ft of climbing left really boosted my spirits. Also, a snickers after this lap was amazing.

Lap 7: 82:25, 155W, 150 bpm. Remember how I thought my legs were coming back? The fatigue is real people. Even though I was slowing, the reality of "I am actually going to do this" had settled in on lap 7. You are so close, but so far when you start the lap (for me about 3.5 hours from finishing), but you have already covered so much ground, you know you won't quit now. 

Lap 8: 83:01, 154W, 147 bpm. Bolstered by another snickers and caffeine after lap 7, I was ready to make my way up this bitch for the final time. I found myself wishing for the easy speed I had early on so I could just get this done, but my legs were just turning the crank at this point. You are running on adrenaline during this lap and much like an ironman, this is the tunnel vision to the finish point. Logan came in to see how I was doing at few points and one of them was on this lap, and he said "just go faster if you want to be done." We are still married today. Once you summit lap 8, you are 27,300 ft - just 1700 ft to go.

Lap 8.5: 46:46, 161W, 147 bpm. OH MY GOD. Cloud 9 right here. Even though pain was real (hello knees!), I had the BIGGEST smile on my face. Watching the elevation counter tick up to 29,029 ft was AMAZING. I like to compare this to the last mile of an Ironman, when you can hear the finish line and then you can see that iconic finisher chute. Of course, there is no fanfare here, just you and your elevation counter and the beautiful Zwift achievement banner for Everesting. I can't believe I did it. I'm still in disbelief that I was capable of it. Hells 500 recommends tacking on some elevation just in case before submitting your time, so I finally stopped at 29,252 ft and a final time of 12:59:21. Afterwords I "watched" Liz finish up in zwift and sat around for a good 90 min in stunned disbelief (and pain). 

Liz and I joined the low numbers of women who have actually done this yesterday and I could not be more excited and proud. We got confirmation last night that our attempts got accepted into the Hells 500 vEveresting Hall of Fame, which led to me eating cold pizza and half a pint of Ben and Jerry's at 1130 pm (hey my body feels post ironman, no judging!). Today the only thing my brain can really process is how the hell did we do that? That might just be the stupidest thing I've ever done, but I guess it is pretty rewarding! Finally, all the messages and support really helped!! One thing I did and am glad I did, was tag vEveresting in my avatar handle in Zwift. This lets others know you are making an attempt and a lot will send you messages of support and some even ride with you for a bit! So anyway, thank you everyone. As always, you guys make it worth it!

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Year 2

It's been awhile and I am feeling like writing again. It's been a tough year and an emotional one.

Year 2 without dad is coming to a close and it still feels just as raw as April 20th, 2018. I keep waiting for the grief to subside, to be able to smile when I think of dad, but everything still feels like knives to the heart. Year 2 was as brutal as everyone says it would be. Dad went into Arlington in May and that gave everything such a sense of finality. He isn't coming back. I have to repeat that to myself because I keep waiting to wake up from this nightmare, but this is real. This is real life. He is gone and that void is more vast than I ever thought it could be. I don't think a day hasn't gone by that I haven't cried since he died.

I've finally come to terms with my grief I think - I'm ok with people knowing I'm not over his death and I fully understand I never will be. If people think I talk about him too much, well tough shit, I need to talk about him. I need them to know how amazing he was. If I seem fixated on death, I am. It's completely understandable. Watching someone die of cancer is horrific. I WATCHED HIM DIE. That is something my mind is still coming to terms with. Year 2 has been plagued with nightmares of watching him die again and it feels so real that I wake up in tears. That's ok though because sometimes I have dreams he is still here and those are the best because the joy I feel is amazing. In those dreams I can feel myself smiling. It's been hard to feel true joy the past few years and I love those dreams for it.

I don't want to be all doom and gloom, so I want end (yeah it's a short one) with some positives.

1. I'm pretty sure that I have changed for the better. I am more compassionate now. I feel like I try to understand all points of view more so than I used too.

2. I don't sweat the small stuff as much. Life is short people. Cliche, but true. Get out there and enjoy each day,

3. I'm fairly certain my focus on my grief has helped my bipolar symptoms. Why? Because this is something bigger than myself. I've been so distracted by grief as weird as that sounds. That said, maybe it's because I have been hyper aware and been really good at self care the last few years.

Thanks for listening to my random rant. I'm absolutely certain that people can relate and think we need to talk about death and dying more as a society. It is so hard to pretend like everything is ok every day and I think it was silly I only had 3 weeks away from work to grieve my father (and then got dumped on with an overwhelming amount of work that continued through this past fall - I legit almost quit my job. It was extremely frustrating because I felt so isolated and felt I wasn't being heard when I brought up the issue). I can't just bury my dad in June and come back to work like normal. People seem to assume that because it was over a year after he died that I could just return to my normal workload. No. Not the case. I was wreck and that was rough. I needed time to process and I was smothered and conflicted with trying to be "fine." The point is that we need to talk about this more and we need to realize that we aren't robots. Take care of yourselves my lovely friends!