Badwater, the journey continues


The Journey to Badwater has not ended yet! I went into this race feeling strong, fit and mentally ready.  Unfortunately I had to make a tough judgment call to pull out of the race due to pulmonary edema.  Here’s a recap of my race. 

   My entire team and I got to the start shortly after 7:00 am and were ready for pictures at 7:30.  I felt great, I slept well, I ate breakfast, and I put in some great training and preparation for Badwater and was ready to go! The start was at Badwater Basin, Death Valley, 282′ below sea level, with temperatures already approaching 100 by 8:00.  

We were off!   My goal was to take the first 41 miles really easy with a 9-10 hour goal to Stovepipe Wells. This is the section that gets many runners with the heat and dehydration. I was taking it easy to save myself for the rest of the race. With my past experience in racing and training, I was planning to drink at least 30 ounces of water at a minimum. My crew kept me cool, as cool as one can be in 125 degree temperatures, with an ongoing bottle filled with ice and water or juice.  They kept a cold bandana around my neck, ice in my hat and jog top.

The first few hours were steady and relaxed, just focusing on keeping a 4.5 mph pace. I always like to start in the back and this time I was last in the 8:00 wave for the first section of 17 miles. By 11:30 I ran into the first checkpoint at Furnace Creek, where there is a store, hotel and gas station and my crew all together. I ran into the bathroom, which became the first of many trips. I left feeling pretty good but as soon as I left I had to stop again, this time at the gas station’s bathroom on the way out. From that point on everything I ate or drank went right through me within 10 minutes, my hands started to swell, and everything seemed like more effort than it should have. Within 10 more miles my entire body swelled up like a butterball and I started slowing down. I was trying to keep a good attitude but was concerned about getting this corrected. I had to pull off to the side at least each mile to use the bathroom, my hands were swollen that I could barely see knuckles, and my stomach was ballooning up. 9459369876_bda1eaa219_m



I have gone through some hydration and electrolyte balance issues in the past 2 years of ultra distance races and with trial and error, I found I need approximately 25 ounces of water and 1000 mg of sodium per hour. We had followed this formula for the first 20+ miles but my condition was steadily worsening and I was getting concerned.  By mile 30 or 31 I was thinking about staking out (each racer had a stake that if we choose to take a break any time during the race, this is the mark where we come back to) and going to the hotel for an ice bath and rest.  I didn’t say anything to my crew but they could see I was hurting and they were so good to keep misting me with ice water and keeping me cool. Chris and Kena each ran with me for a short bit and were being so upbeat but I just couldn’t say much to keep the conversation going. I kept toughing it out and finally about mile 35 I asked them to pull out the make shift ice bath, a 3 foot storage tray with some ice in it, to let me cool down for 5 minutes and then I would get back on the road. I didn’t want to stake out yet because I knew the hotel was only 6 or 7 miles ahead.

I laid back into the cold tray and as soon as Tom put a bag of ice on my chest I felt like I was being crushed.  Instantly I felt a moment of fear that I’ve never experienced in a race before.   I couldn’t breath and felt a second of panic.  I sat up and found that I could breathe but was still gasping for breath for the first couple minutes.   After a moment, my tears of fear disappeared but became tears of ‘what’s going to happen now?!’. 

When they saw what was happening, Tom, Chris and Kena reacted instantly, radioed Mike and Lee who just happened to be only 1 mile ahead. My van had taken some gear out to make space for my ice bath and as soon as the 2nd vehicle arrived we took off and left the gear for the other crew to pick up. In the 10 minutes that it took to get back to the hotel, I was able to breathe with a shallow breath and decided to start with an ice bath to see if I would recover from the swelling. I sat in it for a while, still could not get a deep breath in and then hobbled over to see the medical team.    

The first thing they had me do was weigh in. The racers are weighed at the start of the race so they can check along the course if the runner has lost too much weight from dehydration. My weight had gone UP 11 pounds. The medical reconfirmed my oxygen level 3 x’s as they were concerned that it was only 88 where the healthy range is 99-100.    They listened to my lungs and heard the fluid in my lungs knowing immediately I had pulmonary edema.  I had retained so much fluid and it was seeping into my lungs.    They took my blood and ruled out hyponatremia as my sodium and electrolytes were pretty normal.  Medical told me that I needed wait for my oxygen level to get back up into the high 90’s as well as pee enough to lose a lot of the 11 pounds.   Only at that time would they give me blessings to get back in the game.  I waited an hour, nothing. I felt good and had a lot of energy and just wanted to pee so I could get back on the course.  After 4-5 hours I started getting impatient as the race time was ticking and I had only peed about 8-10 ounces.  I wanted to get back in the race! My oxygen came up to 94 but since I was still up 10 pounds they said I was not ready to go. I was trying to learn and determine how serious it was and the pros and cons of continuing on in the race. The doctors’ Megan, Brady and Mike were so patient to answer all my questions and explained how serious my risks were. I agreed to be very cautious but I decided I would at least give it a chance and go back to my stake and start walking slowly to see how my body would react.   I had a glimmer of hope and optimism that I may pee or sweat it out.   They warned against it but I promised that if I felt ANY worse, I would pull out.   

Mike, Kena, Tom and I drove back and when we found the stake I started walking with them leap frogging me every 1/4 to 1/2 mile while Kena walked with me.  It was just after midnight and the temperature was between 105-110. Kena kept my upper body cool with the sprayer.  The pavement temperatures had reached 177 degrees during the heat of the day and I could feel the heat radiating from the ground.  

Within 2 miles my hands had swollen so much you couldn’t see that I had knuckles and I started to get a stinging head ache so I knew what was next.    I didn’t want to go out in an ambulance or body bag so I knew I had to pull out now.  Even though I knew what was right, it was still an extremely emotional decision. I went to the van and talked it over with Mike and then Tom and Kena.   Even after hearing all my sobbing and disappointment, everyone was relieved that I made the right decision.
It felt unreal how it was over so quick. I went into Badwater knowing that it would hurt but was confident that my team and I would finish. It’s done, now what. I got my tears out, licked my wounds, and suggested we go take a nap and cheer everyone on all the way to the finish.   
It was great!  We had a ton of food left and shared it with racers and crew along the way, the favorites being fruit cups, V-8’s and fruit juices, with least favorites being Pringles, Fritos or Frappuccino.  

We got to mile 122, the town of Lone Pine, and visited with the race officials and medical. Fortunately the medical was not crazy busy like they were at Stove Pipe and I got to visit. They saw I was still swollen but were glad to see I was slowly recovering. We put out camp chairs, an umbrella and cheered racers on til dark.  After a few hours we drove back up to the finish to see some finishers coming in. Then around midnight drove back down the grueling 13 mile hill and encouraged the exhausted racers as they went up.  It was thrilling to see them so close and digging so deep to get it done. They could smell the barn but still had a 4 hour hill to climb.
We got back to the rooms and the team went right to sleep. I was still wide awake at 3:00 in the morning so I went back out to the race headquarters across the street to check if all the racers had been through. All the athletes had been through except for one who was in Medical laying down. He was just physically and mentally exhausted and didn’t want to go on. I was able to go in and encourage him to get back on the road and within a couple of minutes his crew was taking him back on the course.

I thank the race director, Chris Kostman, and his AdventureCORPS team who did a wonderful job in planning and executing the race. They keep high standards for the event and runners with support from the best. The volunteers were incredible, knowledgeable and always ready to help. I especially appreciate the medical team who was absolutely first class. They tended to everyone quickly and with great care and nudged racers along.
The entire journey has been a wonderful experience and hopefully I will be back to see the finish. I’ve been thinking about Badwater since 2003 and really focused on it since December 2011. I would love to go back but my first goal is to get this possible kidney or hormone issue figured out. All doctors encouraged me to get checked out right away and rule out any heart or kidney issues. So far I’ve had complete blood tests, chest xray and echocardiogram and all is well with my heart and kidneys. Dr Berry, a Badwater doctor, contacted me and thinks it could be SIADH, which is an imbalance of ADH (Anti Diuretic Hormone). I have started to read about SIADH and it sounds like he hit the nail on the head. I am so thankful for an endocrinologist and a sports doctor friend who are interested in helping me determine exactly what it is and trying to put the puzzle together. I am doing an Ironman race in 10 days (with caution) and to help with further research while my body and hormones are under stress my doctor has a written request for blood work. Hopefully Ironman will honor this at the finish and this will help answer any questions of my medical team.
What next? Because I’ve had edema issues for the past 2 years in events 10 hours or longer, I wonder if my ultra endurance days are over but am being optimistic. For now, I am going ahead and doing Ironman Mont-Tremblant with the attitude of total fun and that if I feel ok, great, I’ll finish, if not, I’ll stop. For the rest of the year I’ll keep my endurance events to maybe a marathon and will focus on shorter distance and quality trainings and recoveries. I look forward to getting stronger and maybe I’ll even get some speed back!
Even though I did not get to see the finish line, I had a great time with Mike, Tom, Chris, Kena and Lee, other racers and all involved with the race organization. I am very grateful of my crew and how much they helped me to get to the start, their knowledge and quick response during the race, and all having a great attitude and fun for the rest of the race. I felt terrible that our race ended and that they would not be able to experience the full race. They were in it as much as I was and it showed in their great support. We even had permits to climb and summit Mt Whitney the day after the race but they wouldn’t go without me. They all told me that had a great experience and I really hope so.
Before, during and after I got to see old friends, meet many new ones and share ups and downs. I also got to see a beautiful part of the country and it’s extremes from Mars-like Death Valley to lush Mt Whitney. I am thankful for the entire experience. I hope to have the good fortune to go back.


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5 Days to Go…

The time is close! I am happy that I was able to keep on a progressive cycle of training for the past 4 months to prepare for Badwater 135.

I started out with a road marathon in March as my reintroduction to pavement. You heard me say before, I love soft and cushy trails! This marathon kicked my butt being 26.2 miles on paved roads. I probably have not run an accumulative of that distance on paved in the 6 months prior.
Goal #1: run on paved roads and concrete sidewalks. My # of long road runs have built up since then and I quickly adapted to the hard surface. I bought 6 pairs of road shoes since March and only wore one out so far.
Goal # 2: Hills. BW has 3 climbs, a 17, 15 and a 13 mile long hill. About 46 miles of hills, and the rest mostly flat. I have begun to love hills in the past 3 months and hope I’m ready for the flat.
Goal #3: Heat acclimation. I was building up the motivation for heat training and started slowly 4 weeks ago with a couple runs wearing a wind breaker jacket in 85+/- temps. In the past 2 weeks, I have worn a winter jacket on most runs. This week I’ve been turning the ac off in the house and car. I do cheat at night though and put the ac on so I can sleep. I’m such a geek about heat this week that I just discovered when it’s 88 degrees outside, it gets to 108 in about 20 minutes when the windows are up.
I have also tried a few hot yoga classes but I think most of the classes were only in the 90’s. One instructor got too hot when it was 95 and opened the door right by me, bringing the thermometer down to 85. What’s up with that?! Admittedly though, that cool breeze felt good while it lasted.

My final preparation these last 5 days is: heat acclimating; 2 more short runs; stretching; packing; wrapping up a few things in my real estate business and coaching; getting to the start line. Mike and I fly out Fri and can’t wait to join up with the crew team on Saturday. We’re going to do this!/p>

Wearing my winter thermal jacket on a 91 degree day long run.

Wearing my winter thermal jacket on a 91 degree day long run.

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Let’s go climb the mountain!

My 50k training run, up and down Kennesaw Mtn 10 x's, is done!  What wonderful support from friends that came out to run or walk anywhere from 1 – 6 laps with me.  Each lap is 3.1 miles with 550' of elevation gain. A couple waves of people came at different times and there were always groups of people around the coolers at the base of the mountain.  I didn't think running 32 miles could be so much fun!  I was never alone and thank everyone for helping the day fly by. 


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Team Honey Badger Princess is coming together!

I am so excited to announce our team that is sharing the journey to Badwater together!   Wow, NOW I’m stoked about our trip!   

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Ten years ago I thought about applying for Badwater but a main reason that I didn’t is because I didn’t know much about the ultra running community and didn’t want to bother anyone and ask them to give up their time and energy to travel across country just to help me run 135 miles.   Was I wrong!   I have learned and love how the community comes together to help one another.   I see so much support and camaraderie amongst everyone at training runs, races and socials.   It’s hard to describe with words how great it is, you have to feel it. 

When I was just thinking of doing Badwater this time, dozens of friends volunteered to assist my jaunt through the desert and up a mountain.  For each of you, I absolutely appreciate your generosity and enthusiasm.  Thank you.  I wish the race would allow everyone to come out and cheer all the racers on.  Logistically, however, it cannot really handle more than the 90-99 runners and support, usually 2 vehicles and 4-6 crew.   In 135 miles we only go through 4 towns, 3 have just a general store and hotel and the 4th is an actual town with traffic lights and of course, a McDonald’s.    

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Many factors come into play when building a team.  Experience in ultra endurance events; different skills and knowledge in nutrition, medical; ability to go 48 hours with very little sleep; energetic; ongoing tracking of the runner’s level of coherency and health; ability to handle the heat; fit to run distance; photographer, and last but definitely not least, a good attitude and team dynamics!  

It’s a tough job and many times I think it may be easier to run than crew.   Crew are like a race car pit crew. A runner comes in for a quick pass through and the crew goes through the checklist such as ice in hat, shirt, neck, icy beverage, food, electrolytes. A longer stop may consist of putting a reclining chair out with ice on the runners chest, legs and lymps; hydrating and fueling; massaging; treating any aches or illnesses; changing socks and shoes, and sending back out quickly. Crew must be on top of their game even when they’re hot, tired and sleep deprived.  

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Team Honey Badger Princess: (the name comes from a nickname Mike has given me)

Crew Chief:   Mike DeLang, not only because he is the love of my life, he is super detailed and takes the planning and runs with it, great with getting around the airports and cities (I don’t know how I ever travelled on my own before I met Mike), great endurance background, awesome running partner, photographer, has patience with me, and I smile every time I see him, possibly even when I’m at a low point. 

Chris Wise:  a great friend and running partner; Chris is a strong athlete and Ironman; always upbeat and inspiring; huge amount of energy and I imagine he’ll be awake just about the entire time; photographer, driver and motivator. 

Tom Wilson:  I have met Tom at many races but usually just quick hellos at race starts, aid stations, and finishes.   When you go to the dictionary or Wikipedia and look up ‘Ultra Runner Support’ it has his picture and a description of Tom.   More than half of the local ultras that I’m at, I see Tom in action either helping runners, or helping the race director.   When I saw him pull out his medical and runner’s aid kit at an event, I knew he was top notch.   Great skills, great attitude!  

Kena Yutz:   she is a top notch ultra runner who gives her heart to the ultra community.  She knows so much about ultra running from experience and uses that knowledge wisely, extremely helpful to others, sincere and motivating. Kena is a tough endurance athlete and I have full confidence that when I’m at a low, low point, she will know when and how to push me to keep going.

Lee Lingo: The first time I met Lee we ran together for 93 miles. We had a group running Bartram 100 Miler in 2011 and Lee travelled into town from Tennessee not knowing anyone. He and I ended up being the same pace and just chatted, joked and had fun together for the entire time. I knew he wanted to break 24 hours and at mile 93 he was still feeling good so I encourage him to push on. I finished just 14 minutes after him in 24:01. We have been great friends ever since and Mike and I were happy to support Lee at Rouge to New Orleans 126 mile run. He is great support to the running community and has a tough mind that only sees the bright side.

I am so fortunate to have such a great group of friends that are willing to help me and I love my team already!   Everyone is looking forward to the journey and I know all of us will work together well.

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There must be something magical about Badwater

As the time is getting closer, 33 days to race start, I sense an excitement from veteran racers that I have not noticed in other races before. Yes, there is the confidence that they know what it takes to get it done, and they will. The confidence may come because they fell in love with Death Valley and are ready to meet up with the magical surroundings again. This is a race that many of the veterans who have run it for many years, go back and run it out and back, or even out and back two times, for a total of 540 miles. My question is, why don’t we see people running other ultra races out and back? Or have I just not heard about people running an event such as Western States 100, out and back one or two times.

I look forward to being there in 33 days and learning more. ūüôā

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Badwater training, 7 weeks to go!

I pretty much have just started a focused BW training in the past month. The 3 things that I am working on is 1) getting used to the paved roads, 2) the heat and 3) nutrition, especially nutrition in the heat. 
Paved roads hurt me!  In the last two or three years probably 95% of my running has been on nice soft cushy trails and enough variation in the terrain to use different muscles instead of the exact same foot step and fatigue that flat surfaces bring.
I ran the Atlanta Publix Marathon in mid March and that was pretty much it for the beginning of my road running this year. Not being used to the hard surface, I could barely walk the next day. So far, I have done maybe 6 or 7 runs on the road including a couple sets of hill repeats at Kennesaw and then this weekend, Florida Keys, running 100k.
Keys took a lot out of me with the surface being mostly paved and some hard concrete. It also took a lot out of me because of the temps in the 90’s from late morning through close to sunset. The Atlanta temperatures have been cool with a lot of rain for the month prior, so it did not help with acclimatizing, except for all our wonderful humidity.
With BW only 7 weeks away, Keys was a perfect reality check. The biggest lesson that I learned was that in brutal heat I need to constantly take care of myself and never get lazy and drop the ball. I did great with keeping ice in my drink, hat and jog top. I also kept on top of my hydration, nutrition and electrolytes…. until about mile 54. At this time the sun was setting and I thought I would be fine to run the 7 mile bridge with minimal of anything. I was still overheated and it got the best of me by mile 62.
The 62 miles was a perfect stepping stone in my training by getting used to the pavement, knowing the copious amounts of electrolytes that I need and the beginning of my acclimation to the heat.
Atlanta this week is around 80 degrees and 80% humidity and should only climb for the next few weeks. Therefore, my weekly runs have changed from the cool mornings on the soft trails, to the heat of the day on the hard payment. Sounds fun, eh?
I’m actually looking forward to the challenges in training, but next summer I’m living in air conditioning 24/7. Instead of picking a race in one of the 3 hottest places in the world, I think I’ll look for one in the South Pole.

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Journey to Badwater and my 50th year!

So this is my 50th year and suddenly it’s going to be one of my most epic athletic years yet. I was blessed to have some pretty full years back in 1999 to 2003 when I did expedition adventure racing in many countries and some ultra running thrown in.

I’m happy to be able to balance my real estate career and endurance coaching with my love of ultra endurance events.
It’s March already and my schedule for this 2013 has seemed to just recently fallen into place starting with the acceptance into Badwater 135 Ultra Run (BW) this July. Badwater was a thought in 2004 but with a new career of real estate, the timing was not right.

In late 2011 I started back on my venture to set out to do BW and saw their qualification requirements were even higher and my 2 Eco Challenge Adventure Races, 6 other expedition races and Western States 100 mile run would not get a person in now. So, in September 2011 I decided to build my resume in time for application deadline in February. The next 2 months, December and January, I ran 2 x 100 Milers, 1 of them I managed to win. I sent my application in but I only received back a ‘regrets’ email. Wow, I didn’t get in. What was it going to take? Now I was on a mission.

I re read their website and saw that if a runner had completed a race called Brazil 135, that would fit as another qualifier. Adventure Corps (BW race company) also state that preference often is given to those who have experience crewing another racer. After crewing I see why, it’s a tough and grueling event that requires a lot of training and preparation that you must really see first hand. By crewing, either you’ll experience the event and say ‘no way!’ or you’ll be chomping at the bit to do it. Crewing was an incredible experience and I think racing will be incredible as well.

I took a look at the Brazil 135’s website, just to see what it was all about. Next thing I know, I’m registering. Brasil 135’s race director and associates review each resume before inviting them in and he welcomed me with open arms.

Fast forward to February 2013 and application time for BW 2013. I have a packed full resume of almost everything I imagine will be enough to finally prove to them that I am capable of finishing their event. hmmm, seems like I must really want to do this! To give you an idea of their ultra requirements they don’t even consider Ironman as significant but look at double, triple and deca iron distance races. Running 3 100 Mile running races barely qualifies one. Resumes of racers include summiting Everest, running across the US or the Sahara Desert, 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days and so much more that I can’t list it all.

I spent nearly 3 hours completing the application full of essay questions that allowed up to 1000 word answers. I jokingly picture the 5 or 6 selected people who are reviewing all the applications as drinking beer and flipping quarters. I understand though that they have a precise point system to rank all the amazing applicants. I really imagine that they are sitting around intently reading surveys and torn over the ones that are on the fence. It must be hard to turn so many away.

At last, February 22nd comes around and I get a ‘congratulations’ email this time! Now I can finally work on my training, race and work calendar for the year. I’m happy to say that only 2 weeks later I have my calendar 95% set. Whew, it’s a big and busy year ahead with a fairly epic race almost every month.

Brazil 135 Ultramarathon, Sao Paulo, Brazil, January 18-20, Done!
Cheaha 50k, North Georgia Mtns, February 23, Done!
Publix Marathon, Atlanta, GA, March 17, Done!
100 Mile Run, North Georgia Mtns, April 13-14
250 Mile timed brevet ride through North Georgia, May 3-4
Florida Keys 100 mile run, May 18-19
Badwater 135, Death Valley, July 14-15
Ironman Montremblant, Quebec, Canada, August 18
MS 150 Mile Bike, Callaway Gardens, GA, September 14-15
Georgia Jewel 100 Mile trail run, North Georgia Mtns, September 21-22
Furnace Creek 508, Death Valley, October 5-6
Beach 2 Battleship Half Iron Triathlon, Wilmington, NC, October 26
Pinhoti 100 Mile trail run, North Georgia Mtns, November 2

I think that if a dream or goal scares us and excites us at the same time, by attempting it we will challenge ourselves to grow. This year of 2013 and my 50th year, there are 3 big goals that scare and excite me.
1st Goal: finally taking the big goal to fundraise for Schools for Niger. I have a big heart for these kids in Niger and I set a goal of raising $15,000 to go to building a school. With no idea where to start, this scares me but I am determined to help. The numbers are staggering that less than half of the children in this region do not live to age of 15 due to starvation or HIV. If we can do this together, it will help educate the kids and slow down the famine and disease. I visualize going there and being able to post pictures of the school doors opening with kids running in to learn.

2nd Goal: Badwater 135, I just feel plain ol’ excited for this race. Don’t know if that’s a good thing or not that I’m not that nervous about it. I love to run and typically just go slow and steady and I’ll be able to keep going. The heat is the biggest issue that I’m concerned about.
The 135 mile run starts in Death Valley, in the middle of July with temperatures up to 130 degrees, then goes up 3 mountain ranges ending at Mt Whitney Portal at about 8400 feet. The race used to end on the top of Mt Whitney, at approximately 14,500 feet, going from the lowest elevation to the highest elevation in the continental US. I’ll feel my journey is not complete if I don’t go from the lowest to the highest. When I finish BW, I’ll go down to the base town and take a nap, drive back to the Portal and then hike the 11 miles with 6,000’ of elevation gain. I’ll be tired, sore, hungry but when I get back down from the summit after finishing Badwater, I’ll have completed what shall be an epic journey with my team.

3rd Goal: Furnace Creek 508. Because of the time commitment of training, this scares me enough that I’ve been on the fence about doing it. This is a non stop 508 mile bike race starting in Santa Clarita, going through Southern California, along the BW course in Death Valley, ending at Joshua Tree. By completing this as well as BW in the same year, I would be one of a few who have completed The Death Valley Cup, which seems like a crazy challenge for me right now. I am an ultra runner, and by no means does that make me an ultra cyclist. When I’m on the bike, I like to lollygag and take it easy. With a 48 hour cut off to ride these 508 mountainous miles I have some serious training ahead and not much more taking it easy. I have a LOT of training to cram in between now and Badwater and then Furnace Creek 11 weeks later.

The best of all for this year is that Mike and I got engaged. Now we just have to find a free weekend between all our events so we can get married. ūüėČ

Stay tuned for future updates!

Sandy Geisel

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I Just Want to Run in an Ironman! IM Texas 2012

I just read my race report from IM Texas last year and realize how stubborn I’ve been.¬†(you can find it in¬†my blog, Sandy’s Time To Play) ¬†I said I would do one triathlon, an Ironman, and that was it, one and done.¬† ¬†I should have stopped there.¬†¬† I met¬†my 3 goals¬†in TX 2011:¬† ¬†1) learning how to swim¬† 2) finishing the swim in the race and 3) finishing the race.¬† I accomplished them all and I¬†was thrilled!¬† My best discipline by¬†far is the running, but¬†in Texas 2011¬†I had nutrition issues¬†and was sick the entire run,¬†forcing me to walk a lot of the marathon.¬†¬†¬†Immediately after,¬†my¬†endurance addiction bug hit me.¬† Wanting redemption¬†I was¬†already thinking about doing another IM.¬†¬†

Fast forward, 2 more attempts and now I find myself at Ironman Texas again, 2012.  

Motivation and Goal:¬†¬†¬† Why not?¬† I still had the bug to be able to just run the entire marathon of an Ironman.¬† Six weeks¬†before the race¬†I happened to look at their website and saw they still had charity spots available.¬†¬† Mike was already signed up and I was going with him anyway.¬† Hmmm, I had 6¬† weeks to build up my¬†swim and bike and then taper for the race?¬† Sure, I’ll do it, I slept on it and¬†signed up¬†the next morning.¬†¬†¬† My goal for the day was to treat it like a long training day and of course, be able to run the entire marathon with brief walk breaks through the aid stations.¬†¬†

Training Program:    Do not attempt this on your own!   This was my 6 week cram course to prepare for the race and is not recommended if you want a good race.  In training I knew I had to build my bike and swim distances up from only having done a few short swims and rides for the 6 months prior.  In the six weeks  I did 3 or 4 short bike rides,  a 70 miler and then 103 miles and went to Lake Allatoona for three 1.2 mile swims and a couple 2.4 miles.  I had a good running base from the past 5 months of doing a few races from the marathon to 100 mile distance and had Boston Marathon on the calendar 4 weeks before Texas.   Awesome, 4 weeks of training and my taper began after riding the Three State Three Mountain 103 mile ride in Chattanooga then a 2.4 mile swim 10 days before.   

Race Day:¬†¬† Got to the swim start¬†about 1.5 hours¬†early with time for body marking, fueling, visiting the port a pot and getting my wet suit on.¬†¬†¬† This year the water temps were warm, around 81 degrees, and most racers opted out of wearing a wet suit.¬†¬† If water temps are between 76.1 and 83.8 the USA Triathlon regulations allow wetsuits, however racers¬†can not qualify for age group awards.¬† Ha, that was the farthest thing from my mind.¬†¬† I really¬†like my security blanket of a wetsuit and guessed that the¬† added bouancy¬†would save me energy in the long run.¬†¬† I swam 600 meters in the lake the day before and felt I wouldn’t be overheated.¬†¬†¬†The wetsuit swimmers had to wait 10 minutes to start after the other competitors.¬†¬†I would guess about 10-15% of¬†us opted for¬†our blankies.¬†¬† The swim was non eventful.¬†¬† I kept a straight line, swam relaxed, hardly anyone around me, and just kept a steady pace.¬†¬† When I got out I saw my time was 1 minute slower than last year with a 1:48.¬†¬† I wanted to do low 1:30’s but considering the water seemed rougher than last year I was ok with that.¬†¬†¬†Volunteers helped me take my wet suit off and I¬†took my time to and in the transition.¬† I dried my feet, put my bike gear on then¬†drank and ate while going to my bike.¬†¬† Two great things about being slow on the swim, I get to swim without the crazy crowds and it’s sooo¬†easy to find my bike calling my name in the transition.¬†¬†¬† I started in the back of the swim¬†and with passing¬†just over 500 people, 2000+ bikes were already out on the course.¬†¬†

I got this shiny¬†new Kestrel¬†tri bike for Christmas and finally was going¬†to get¬†to put some miles on it!¬†¬† I realized race morning that in the past¬†few months I only got to spend¬†about 110 miles on it.¬†¬†When I¬†did 2 training rides on¬†hilly courses¬†near home I opted to ride my road bike because of the gearing system.¬†¬†¬†I was glad to be on my new bike and it felt good.¬† ¬†The temperature was probably in the high 70’s when I got on the bike with a nice breeze.¬†¬† I rode relaxed, enjoying the day.¬† My target ride time for the day was between¬† 7:00 and 7:30 and about 40 miles into the ride I saw I was on¬†a 7 hour pace.¬† By the 50 mile split I realized I had slowed a bit but tried not to worry about it.¬†¬†¬† I¬†focussed on staying hydrated, taking enough electrolytes, and eating.¬†¬† After last year’s incidences of hyponatremia, I knew that I would need at least 850 mg of sodium per hour and I had enough Nuun’s packed to last me through the ride and then would replenish at the transition for the run.¬†

The sun was blazing down¬†when I was¬†at the¬†half way point of the ride, around 12:30 or 1:00 and reached 92 degrees.¬†¬†I was feeling the heat and¬†looking forward to the¬†next stopping point¬†at mile 60¬†where¬†I was going to get more sunscreen, replace my bottle of Perpetuem¬†beverage mix from the ‘special needs’ bag and mostly to cool down and stretch my legs.¬†¬†I just¬†realized that I¬†had lost my¬†supply of electrolytes so¬†I grabbed another bottle of the race’s electrolyte¬†drink, Perform, and got back on the bike.¬† I soon was counting down the miles to the next aid station already.¬†¬† By mile 70 I was really¬†feeling the heat and was in a sufferfest.¬†¬†¬†I took a 20 minute break here and drank more Perform, Coke, and put plenty of ice in my bike top and bandana.¬†¬† I¬†took the long break¬†with the hopes that it¬†would help me¬†recover and that the rest of the ride would get better.¬†¬† Back on the bike and by mile 80 I was frustrated that I was still suffering¬†¬† My swollen hands and nausea¬†were signs of my electrolyte balance running low and my history of hyponatremia was causing me a little concern.¬† I was riding from station to station and my goal of¬†recovering enough to feel¬†good for the run was starting to fade fast, I just had to survive the hot ride.¬†¬†At the 80 mile station¬†I¬†took my time again¬†to take care with ice, food and water, still not¬†feeling any better the reality¬†of missing the cut off was setting in. ¬†I could wait for a sag wagon or get back on the bike and let them take me off the course.¬†¬† I opted to get back on the bike with a hope that maybe I would still bounce back.¬† Sure enough, a few miles¬†later a¬†volunteer pulled up in her¬†truck to help gather up racers who were going to miss the cut off and took us to the next aid station.¬†¬† There I sat with a big group of DNF racers who were¬†keeping a positive attitude and ready to move on.¬†

It’s 3 days after the race and I keep going over all the¬†different emotions I had on race day and the 2 days since.¬†¬†*¬†¬†When I get home I’m hanging up my bike and not touching it again for a long, long time.¬†¬† It was a gift so I couldn’t have the joys of selling it on ebay.¬†*¬† I was bored on the swim and bike because I couldn’t talk to people, therefore another great reason to get to the marathon.¬† * ¬† I’m bored, so why¬†am I even doing an Ironman.¬†* ¬†I’m going¬†to put a circle and a line through the IM logo on every piece of clothing, bag¬†or decal that I own.¬† * ¬†I should have stuck to my ‘one and done’ last year * ¬†I’m signed up for Beach to Battleship full distance tri in October and will¬†contact the race director and drop it down to a half or none at all * ¬†I cried for the first time ever in a race.¬†¬† At the last aid stop, I was so frustrated that I wasn’t¬†able to feel better¬†and when it was setting in that I may not finish, I couldn’t hold the tears back.¬†¬†* ¬†I’m¬†a wimp *¬† I should have ¬†just picked up the speed on the bike and got¬†it done.¬† * ¬†I didn’t want to push so hard to get¬†it done on the bike and then have to crawl the entire marathon, or worse, end up in the ambulance.¬†¬†* ¬†I¬†had the deepest sympathy for the racers that I say laying on the side of the road under the bits of shade they could find.¬† *¬† I felt really bad for¬†one of the guys at the aid station that really¬†should have had¬†an ambulance rather than a sag truck.¬†¬†¬†* ¬†I’m done with Texas heat.¬†¬†*¬† I don’t care if I finish this.¬† *¬† I really want to finish this.¬†¬† *¬† Why can’t¬†I finish strong in an IM?¬† *¬†¬†I have a renewed respect for IM athletes¬† *¬† I’m sticking with just running¬† * ¬†I can’t wait¬†for my next¬†ultra running races and keep my feet on the ground¬†¬†*¬† I’m going to train more on the bike for my next triathlon¬†¬†* Sheesh, my thoughts are all over the board, I need a therapist!¬†¬†¬†

Now I’ll quit my wining, guessing if I could have finished¬†and thinking ‘woe is me’ and am moving on.¬†¬† Will I do another¬†ultra distance tri?¬† I don’t know, right now I’m verbally committed to Lake Muskoka Half IM¬†near my hometown this fall and I have not called the race director yet of B2B to switch from the full… so¬†stay tuned.¬†¬† For now, I’m appreciating my good health and looking at¬†my long bucket list.

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Three Days Before IM Texas, 2011

  • Three days to Ironman Texas, my very first triathlon.¬†¬† It’s been an exciting¬†past 4.5 months of training.
    I registered for the race in December and kept saying I would get in the pool to start learning how to swim.¬†¬† hmmm,¬†kept delaying it and finally¬†joined LA Fitness and got in the water.¬† First time in I¬†couldn’t make it¬†down the 25 yard lane.¬†¬†After about¬†6 weeks I could finally go 50¬†yards without stopping.¬† This was great but I started to wonder about the race because there is not an option of stopping in the middle of a lake.¬†¬† I had a LONG way to go¬†and only had 9 weeks.¬†¬†I¬†then got¬†a video analysis to see what I could do to improve and learned I was not “pulling” in my stroke and wasting a lot of energy.¬†¬† With 4 and 5 days per week in the pool, within a couple of weeks¬†I was doing a mile without stopping.¬† I then decided I was ready for an open water swim.¬†¬† The first two times I stayed in the shallow beach section and would only go a couple 100 yards at a time.¬†¬† I guess because of my nervousness as well as the freezing cold water (in the low to mid 50’s), I couldn’t breath or relax.¬†¬† Fortunately a friend, Shelley, was so patient with me and when I was ready to go out in the open lake, she would kayak next to me.¬† From that point on progression came much quicker.¬† I swam in the open water 1/2 mile, then 1 mile, then 1.5 and felt good, but I had the security and bouancy¬†of a wet suit.¬†¬† I knew the race water temps could be so warm that I could not depend on being allowed to wear a wet suit on race day.¬† I finally got out in an open water swim with Get Fit Atlanta and wanted to see how much slower I was without a wetsuit.¬†¬† The cut off time to swim 2.4 miles in an Ironman is 2 hours 20 minutes and I was too close for comfort.¬† Ok, now I’m thrilled and want to be excited¬†that I can swim, but kick me in the gut because I may be too slow to beat the cut off!¬† I finally¬† determine that I could probably make the cut off by a couple/few minutes, but I’m not taking any chances and am going to wear the wet suit. ¬†I would rather overheat and have to take time during the bike leg¬†to recuperate, than miss the cut off and not even be allowed to go on to the bike.¬†¬† Now I’m happy to say that I should be under 2 hours with more than 20 minutes to spare.
    Ok, enough of my swimming saga!  Now the good stuff of IM training!   First of all, my goal for IM is just to finish on a basic and manageable training schedule.  Running is my strongest of the three so I kept my long runs to just enough to keep my foundation and to allow me time to build the long days up on the bike.  I only rode 1x per week, with an occassional mid-week ride as a bonus.   In February I was in the 50 to 60 mile rides, then in March I bumped it up to 80, then in April I did a couple 100 mile rides with 4 to 6 mile runs after.   Each week I felt better than the next.  5 weeks before the IM, I decided to do a half on my own.  I went to LA Fitness and swam 1.2, drove to Silver Comet where I rode 56, had a fast transition and then ran 13 miles.   I was pleased because my endurance felt steady the whole time and each mile of my run was at a steady 9 min pace.   I was tired after this workout but I just had 4 peak training weeks.  Now I could rest for the Nashville Marathon only 2 weeks away.  Perfect, I was able to fit a marathon in 3 weeks before the IM.  
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New Year’s Day hike

Great through-the-night hike to bring in the Year 2012!

One of the items on¬†my bucket list has been to hike through the night on New Year’s.¬†¬† The past 10 years I couldn’t talk anyone into it.¬†¬†¬†Surprised?¬† In the Spring of 2011, I¬†find 2 other crazies,¬†Mike Delang and Doug¬†Jones, who¬†always hike on New Year’s Day.¬† ¬†If they let me join them, the only thing I requested was that we hike through the night to bring in the New Year.¬†¬†¬†¬†Great!¬† The plans are set¬†for my first NY hike!¬†¬†¬†

We went to North Georia, where we started on the Apalachian Trail¬†at Woody’s Gap,¬†over to Duncan Ridge Trail, then up to¬†Coosa Back Country Trail, in Vogel State Park, and¬†then back.¬†¬† We expected about 12 hours for the¬†30 mile hike.¬†¬† Instead, we got a few ‘bonus’ miles (aka: lost the trail)¬†in for a total of 35 miles, 15 hours and 1 minute.¬†¬† Check out the route, elevation, pace, and even see where we got lost.¬† With the Garmin we realize that we missed a trail that would have¬†only been a 150 meter bushwack to find.¬†¬†Not knowing how close¬†we were,¬†we opted to back track and take the known, but longer, ¬†loop back to Duncan Ridge Trail.¬†¬† Despite the extra miles, all of us were in good spirits still.¬†¬†Even¬†when it started to¬†rain in the¬†38 degree temps, we¬†didn’t let it bother us.¬†¬† It was a tough hike but when we finished at the trail head, we were all grinning from ear to ear.

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