Monday, April 4, 2011

The Four Week to go Blues

Yep, 4 weeks to go. Its the end of a huge week for me. In many ways. I managed to get the newsletter done so that it had more than just the usual sections in it. I scrambled and printed off a report of barefoot running knowing it would add a stir amongst the members.

But anyway, the week in conclusion..............

I opted out of my Wednesday long ride and traded it for my long run. I added/combined a shorter bike and a swim session and also squeezed in a massage. All good I thought but this meant that my weekend would be back to back long rides. Nuts!!!! really. I know in the back of my mind it would be a big ask.

The 2.30hour run ended up a 2.22hour run along a fairly flat course. But the scenery was fantastic and a welcome distraction. Ocean, lake and tree lined streets. I felt comfortable the entire time though the pace was slow I didn't mind. In the end I logged up 20kms. So happy all round.

So Saturday rolls around and my husband (gaz) has to work. I make arrangements with my buddy to meet him for a ride and do our 160km long ride. I lay in bed in the dark at 6.30am awake, but not wanting to move. I wanted to roll over and find a hiding space and stay there all day. Not good. I dragged and forced myself out of bed and got ready. I rolled my bike out onto the driveway, mounted and headed down the street and beneath me the road bumped and groaned as my rear tyre lost all air. Nuts! A flat.

Not far from home, 20metres. I pushed my bike through the door and eased the pain by knowing that at least I wasn't siting on the side of a road somewhere. I changed the tyre and pumped it up. No go. The valve was buggered on this tube. Start again.
Finally I left my front door behind and headed to my mate James' place. He had slept in. Just as well I guess. So by 8.30am we were finally heading North. The streets were busy with people making their way to work, but we road on laughing and chatting happily.

We had a Southerly blowing at our backs and we made good time. We rode all the way to the Sea Cliff Bridge. Its a beautiful part of our city.

The road is incredible and the wind was lifting as we snaked round the cliff edges and headed for Bald Hill. <insert overly dramatic dah dah daaaaaah>

Yep this climb up to Bald Hill had alluded me for some time now. In my mind it was bigger than Ben Hur. I didn't think I was up for the ride but I dutifully followed James who was keen as, to get up there. We started up one steep sharp section. OK got past that. Now up the last section. A steep elevation it was insane. I had already ridden 56 kms of road and now was about to ascend the steepest road to date. With 4 weeks left of training I am not sure that this was the smartest descion I had made to date. But I climbed. I tried to remain calm and find a rhythm that my legs could keep as I worked the pedals. I alternated when the work became to hard seated to standing on the pedals and attempting the mountain climbers pedal dance like on the Tour de France. Tiring of the dance again I sat and churned out the strokes. I dare not look down at the side of the road as a deep cement gutter cut into the edge of the road to carry water run-off away during heavy rain. It could quite easily have swallowed me up. I had learnt that lesson a while ago. Look at the pothole...end up in the pothole. So I refused to let myself look into the dangerous gutter drain and concentrated rather on my breathing and the road ahead.

We went on for what seemed an eternity. My internal battle for confidence and victory was being eaten alive by self doubt and pain. I kept my eyes on James and tired to mimic his strokes and rhythm. My lower back was starting to complain, almost as loudly as my heart and lungs. I was getting scared now. If I stopped I would have to rip out a foot from the cleat and hope I had enough energy left to hold myself upright as the cars and motorbikes rolled past me. Equally I had to concentrate on holding my line as the cars came dangerously close and any shake or error would see me perched on the bonnet of some poor souls bonnet.

Finally I saw the trees clear ahead of me and this meant the end of the road. Real panic now rather than relief because at the top of the road it turned to a T intersection and I would have to cross the T and head right which was yet another upward grade. I fought my head and all of the doubt. "How will you feel if you fail this?" How good will it feel knowing you conquer this hill?" Choose your outcome Sammi and it shall be so! I am a winner! I am an Ironman. Today I choose to conquer this hill. I rode to the T, there were cars lined up giving way to us and cars going in our same direction. I crept across the intersection and lifted my hand a little to wave a weak thank you to the cars for waiting for me and being so patient. I had made it to the top. My lungs and stomach now were screaming, I felt ill. Was I really going to throw up? Had I maxed out and hit 100% effort?

I rolled through the intersection and onto the grass in front of me. I didn't have the legs to push up the next section. My mind had souly been focused on the climb, breaking it up into sections the grass was my finish line. Waiting for me was James smiling. "You did it Mumma Bear!" Oh my..... I was shattered and relieved and thrilled. After a quick rest and regroup I pushed on up the short incline and into the parking lot of Bald Hill.

Photo evidence complete we turned and headed for home. I have never felt anything like it. Our heads went down as we faced the full force of the Southerly as we crept slowly back around the cliffs. With every pedal stroke we gained very little ground but we pushed on. Over all of the hills once more, along all of the flats that only had brief reprieve from the wind when we ducked behind houses. My bones began to ache as the temperature dropped. My knees started to seize up. The wind in my ears and the exposure to the elements started to drain every spark of energy left in me.

Worst of all was going past the road that would take me home and continue on down the road to Kiama. It is the hardest thing to do... turn a pony's head past her stable and this little pony wanted to go home to her stable.We finally turned our bikes and once again the wind was at our backs. We absolutely flew along the highway, it was an amazing ride. We reached my road and I said goodbye to James and slowly alone worked my way home to my front door and into Gary's arms. I was completely spent. He stripped me off and had made up a hot bath for me. I sat there in the water letting it seep into my cold bones. I fell asleep momentarily. Once out of the bath I lay on the bed with Gary spooning me and fell immediately asleep.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Long Course Triathlon Done!

Well I made it.

After a huge day cheering and supporting my husband and my friends in their
races. Then registering my bike and entry into my race for the next day and
leaving my precious ride on its rack, we headed home at about 4pm.

4am and I was up with the alarm again and choking back a couple of muffins
with jam for breakfast. Yep, I haven't quite worked out what the best breaky is
for me yet. But the muffins held me over for a while. We travelled the 80mins
back down the coast again in the dark. Husband drove, I snoozed and tried to
fight off the nerves.

I left him in the dark to catch an hour of sleep and walked alone along the
streets to the transition area. The Gathering! Athletes were milling about their
bikes making last minute adjustments. I had a backpack on and tools onboard as I
had a few extra adjustments to make. Basically at the last minute my rear brake
had failed on Saturday and now Sunday morning at 6.30am I was tapping and
pinching cables into place. Just to add to the nerves.

I added my drinks, food, shoes, helmet etc and headed off to find my training
buddy. I found him with his girlfriend, he was a ball of nerves. He hasn't been
training for a couple of weeks. A real worry but nothing I could do would get
him up and out the door. I had to leave him and train without him and I felt
awful but technically he is a better athlete than me and we knew we had to part
ways anyway.

We pulled on our wetsuits and stared out at the flat calm ocean. Race

The starters gun had gone and I was off. Thrashing about with about 200 women
35+ years and heading for the first bouy. Trying not to hyperventilate. Round
the first bouy and finally some clear water. Tried to get my rythm and glide
through the water. Then the 35-39 year old guys came through. Not sure why they
send the girls off and then send off the strongest, largest mens field. But just
when I was wondering if I was heading in the right direction, the boys came
through and my answer was quite clear. Yep, you're right in the middle of their
race line. Keep going.

I stood up when both hands hit the sand twice and began to run through the
shore waves. At the same time remove goggles, cap and top half of wetsuit. Reach
my bike, yep I found it for a change. And within a minute was out on the
legs spinning easily.

Clear roads for a while saw my first of 3 laps go by quickly. 2nd lap was a
chance to get some speed in. Stomach cramps from swallowing too much salt water
hindered me getting the food in for a while. So while I waited for the pinch to
go I worked hard to get some good distance under my belt. 3rd lap of the 83km
course and I started to tire. I needed to get the food in and so I had to sit up
out of the aero position so that I could stretch out my middle and get the food
down. OK, done, get back into it. Head down and as the heat of the day let
itself known on the competitors and I started to feel the legs, the end of the
bike leg was in sight. Very happy with my ride I dismounted and headed into
tranistion again to rack my bike and get ready to run.

The heat worried me a lot for the run leg. But as I ran out of transition I
was determined to run in front of the crowd and my friends and as soon as I was
out of sight only then would I let myself walk. I should not have panicked. I
should have trusted my legs and my fitness and as I dissapeared out of sight of
friends the legs just kept on ticking on.

I ran the 20kms faster during this race than what I had done previously when
I ran a half marathon without the bike. I was extremely happy. I was sensible in
that I didn't push it and run up and down two steep short hills and I walked the
aid stations getting the nutrition right first. Still I had a great race. My
ITBs held strong and as I headed home on the second lap I managed to come up off
my heels and run on my forefeet so that as I came down the last 3kms of the run
I got stronger and faster.

The cheers from my friends were amazing and I felt amazing. As I crossed the
finish line I didn't fall in a heap. I walked calmly to the aid station and
helped myself to a well earned piece of fruit and icecream.

At the end of the day, I feel bolstered that my fitness is so good. That my
body is ready and now I truly believe that this Ironman is fully within my
grasp. (barring accident or illness). The next 7 weeks are going to be hard. But
this will only make me more prepared and ready to play.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Legs of Lead and a head to match

ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh my.
I woke up this morning and ok..... I am awake, I'm up, I'm going through the
motions. I'm rolling down the road at 5.20am. But I am not having fun. I meet up
with my friend after climbing a short sharp hill to get there and going lactic
in the first 2kms of the ride. We head off and it is sooo dark I can't see a
thing in front of me. Yup my light isn't working. My friend's is but I can't see
round her. No offense but she is a big girl. Anyways the road is covered in
little rocks. Scarey stuff. Now I wish for cars to go by so they can light the
road for just a moment so I can see the road ahead. My legs are tired. YOu know
that tired where it feels like you're packing 5 kilo weights strapped round your
ankles. My shins/calves are tight and my head isn't happy. It is so dark we
abort our planned route and take one that will lead us on further down the
highway and towards a big long hill. The flat is a relief and the ride has only
just begun. "Come on Sammi, find the mojo." No go. We find the base of the hill
and begin the grind and I wait for the body to respond. But nothing happens. I
can't turn back, its a dual carriage's onward and upward. "Common
TRiathlete, get your a$$ up the hill!" I find a high gear and spin my legs and
crawl slowly up the hill. Finally at the top some relief as we have a slight
down hill and a turn to the left. A short rollercoaster dip and then relief as
we find a long steep downhill run. I get into the aero position and feel the
wind whistling past my ears, my legs sigh relief. I glance at the horizon and
across the sea the sun is struggling just like me. There is a band of cloudy
mist hugging the horizon. The sun and I have something in common this
morning....a foggy start. At the bottom of the hill the road winds round a lazy
river where we swim. This morning the mud is showing through as the tide has run
out. The river and I have something in common, this morning......we are both
empty. Over a bridge and out into the country side and the bumpy original route
we had planned now has a grey outline where we can distinguish the bumps and pot
holes. Farmers share this road and drive the cows to the dairy and so the
council has never bothered to resurface this road. The cows and I have something
in common this morning.....we are challenged by the pitfalls of a bumpy road. I
search my head for strategies to rise myself above my present challenge. I have
nothing. I call to my friend that we will ride to the 'Turn around point" and
head for home. My body wants to turn around bed is calling me holding
me to ransom...."See you should have stayed with me, I'm comfortable and snuggly
and I am the happy place" I reach the turn around point and not even the fact
that I am heading for home gives my body relief. I remember how big a weekend I
had and I decide to give myself a break. Let the legs do the speed they want.
Stop pushing them cause I am not going to win and they will carry me home
eventually. So at the turn around point I turn my head around and accept that
today is going to be a day of "let it go Sammi, let it go." As predicted my legs
finally carried me home. If nothing else I can trust them to do that for me.
They will always carry me home. Remember that Sammi. No matter how tired they
are, This too shall pass and they will carry me home. I carried my bike through
the house and nestled it into it's bed and then I stripped down and fell into my
own bed. I set the alarm and an hour later started my day again.