Saturday morning the alarm went off at a time too obscene to share with all viewers. Despite the darkness Seth and Val's home was buzzing with activity. There was a flurry of coffee brewing, water bottles being filled, and oatmeal being eaten. Of more suspect there was use of a the crack pipe, the passing around of little white pills, and an expensive white powdery substance. Honest officer, I can explain....... The pills and powder are my nutrition. The CRACK PIPE. It's not really a crack pipe; it's the valve adapter so I can inflate my deep dished super aero dynamic race wheels. Now those should be illegal.
After breakfast we headed to Lake San Antonio for the big day. Tim and Seth would start an hour before my wave. Bruce would start 10 minutes before me. We rode our bikes slowly down the hill from the parking lot to the course start and check in. This was the first of three times we'd head down the long hill today. It was a chilly descent early in the morning but I knew that wouldn't last. The four of us checked in and headed into to the corral. We intended to stake out our spots in transition and get body marked. Body marking is where you stand in line to have somebody write your number on your arm, calf, and swim cap with a permanent marker. They also write your age on your calf. This is how Tim first found out my age. Well first he googled me but that was unsuccessful in identifying my age.
I had a great spot near the end of a row and right by the bike out exit. It would be easy to find my spot in transition. Knowing where you are in transition is important. There are thousands of bikes in the corral at Wildflower. In my first race I returned from the bike leg as fast as I could. I ran proudly up aisle 9 sighting for the Mickey Mouse Beach Towel marking my spot. Where was Mickey and why were there men in this aisle? I realized due to my EEID (Exercise/Excitement Induced Dementia) I had run up aisle 9 instead of 6. Oops ... rookie manuever. My thoughts on transition are get faster at 'em or go longer. I am signed up for two Full IM's this year. I guess you know which path I chose.
Most of my friends skipped Wildflower this year. There were no familiar faces in the transition area. I arrived at the spot marked 2092 (my #) only to find another girl's bike in it. I stared at the spot for a moment. I wondered if I should ask for the owner to move it or if I should move it myself. I didn't want to move some other gals stuff. I was of what drama might arise. I needed to focus on my own race. Lord knows some females have claws and on race day...they'd be sharpened. I didn't want to waste my energy on that. Another girl (whose own race wasn't enough for her) told me I could put my bike anywhere. She went on to explain to me it wouldn't matter where put my bike because we'd all come out of the swim at different times. I tried to nicely dismiss her unsoliceted and incorrect advise. Given the pink bike, wheel disk, and aero helmet this was especially ironic. Thankfully the participant who had misplaced her bike finally got it. She moved her bike and I racked my bike. I stood motionless and stared again. My bike is so tiny it dangled in the air. The other bikes had one wheel touching the ground. I began having visions of my beloved pink bike tipped over with the gear I strategically placed scattered in a yardsale-like fashion. I paused and pondered what I could do differently. During my pondering time the helpful girl started giving me more advice. Somehow I felt like this was an episode of Seinfeld. I'm sure this gal's intentions were good. I just have this thing about unsolicited advise from strangers. Did she have any clue who she was talking too? I'm from San Diego.... ... and sporting the Tri Club San Diego kit. San Diego is the triathlon mecca of the world. I'm also sporting a pink bike and pink running shoes. Did she not think that just maybe this was a passion of mine? I'm probably the last person she should be giving advice to especially since I've solicited the advice of a coach and I'm soon to be a member of the most athletic family on the face of the planet: the Neuschwander Family. Lastly I am the president and founder of idropboys.com. I reminded myself to stay focused and avoid negative energy. The flying Nun, Madonna Buder said not to allow any negative energy. I was struggling not to focus on creaming this girl. I also started wondering if we were assigned numbers based on are expected finish times or last years time. I hoped I would lambaste this course and share a transition area with more normal triathletes next year. I decided to put my wetsuit on as I was a little chilly and head to the swim start. I needed to distance myself from this prattle. Another overly helpful women raced over and insisted on helping me zip my wetsuit. Although many people so need help into their wetsuits I can zip mine myself. I really didn't want to accept her gracious offer but there are a few different ways to fix the zipper and its cord. She was about 50 and seemed a little unstable. I could just imagine the cord wrapping around my neck as I swam. Midway through zipping up my suit she started to freak out about her glasses. They were prescription and she said she didn't know what to do without them in the water. How did I answer this without sounding snide? "What do you normally do?" I wore glasses or contacts for years and there are a lot of options. None fun, but the first day one thinks about this is usually not race day. I asked her calmly if she swam without them in the pool. She said yes . I told her if she could see well enough in the pool she could follow the pack. She said she was worried she would fall off the pack and not see the buoys. My heart went out to the volunteers in the boats and kayaks at this point. I mentioned there often is a table where athletes are allowed to leave their prescription glasses near the exit of the swim. The helpful girl piped in again "yeah they do have a table where you can leave you glasses, it's the ones the challenged athletes leave their limbs on while they swim." Ok if I have one thought to keep things in perspective this would be it. No matter how tough things may seem today, I have all of my own extremities. Sometimes you forget how great you have it until you see somebody restless to get their prosthetic arm on or leg on.
Time passes quickly. My wave is 10 minutes from the start and Bruce's wave is in the water getting set to swim. They announce what a competitive and tough age group it is and who to watch. It is announced that Bruce was 4th last year and is a threat to win this year. Yeah, I think. He said he wouldn't place this year. The competition is too deep. I think differently. I am excited from hearing this announcement. His wave leaves. I feel a little choked up. I want to do better than last year. Not so much by time, but I want to enjoy the race. I start thinking about what I did last year to prepare vs. this year. It seemed like I did a lot then. I also want a solid half IM finish before the full in June. Oceanside would have been the place to build confidence but I messed that up. Today is my opportunity to build confidence or to destroy. I start to breathe a little fast and feel a knot in my throat. I force myself to take a deep breath and exhale deeply. I decide to "have a good time" today. I will accept whatever the day brings good, bad or otherwise. That is my job, that's life.
Jen's Diesel Fuel
I jump into the water to warm up and feel strangely calm. I know I can handle whatever the day brings me and I am ready. I head back up the dock and take my place near the back of the pack. The horn sounds and I feel like everyone is in slow motion. It seems like the back half is waiting for Christmas before entering the water. I hear swim coach "Sickie's" voice and see his smile. "Jump in, the water's nice" I run down the dock and enter the water. Forget the back of the pack. Today IS the race.
The first few hundred yards are mass chaos. Interesting because you see those overhead shots of Ironman with all the caps in the water and it's so beautiful. It looks peaceful. In the water it is anything but. Arms and legs flailing. People trying to move up. People trying to give up. I swim head up for a while an with my hands outstretched in a "stop right there" position. It seems strange but it fairly efficient in protecting my face and goggle from somebody else's feet. This is what makes a lot of people panic. This is my advantage. Having two older brothers has taught me not to get bent out of shape when you get knocked around and pummeled. I waste no energy panicking. I focus on moving forword out of the chaos of arms and legs. The swim goes by relatively fast and soon I am passing brights green caps from the wave that started 5 minutes before me. This was a very good sign. I start to get excited as I head towards the swim exit. I am almost done with my weakest link. I strip my wetsuit down to my waist as I run towards my bike. I glimpse at my watch delighted to find I was six minutes faster than last year. I use Jenny math to determine that is the equivilant of a down hill mile. In my head I have shortened the run to 12.1 miles instead of the actual 13.1 miles.
I struggle to pull the wetsuit off over my chip. It takes me three tries to rid this suit. I grit my teeth and it finally gives way. I throw on my helmet, shoe, and sunnies and say sayanora to T1.
The ride start out with some immediate up and downs. There is a cluster of people at all abilities everywhere. It seems nobody is giving any respect to staying right side. I don't want to get caught up and crash so I force myself to be patient. Patience isn't something that comes easily. We start to climb and I pass a lot of people. Mostly boys:) I'm careful this year to listen to my breathing and not go too hard too early. We get close to the top and somebody is ringing a cow bell. I like this. We crest the top of the climb. I drop into my aero bars and get down to business. This feels really easy. I hope I am going hard enough. I was told to be patient until Nasty Grade at mile 42. Soon we are climbing again and it doesn't seem too easy again. For a while it seemed like all I was doing was climbing. I remembered the e-mail from my coach stating he remembered Wildflower to be relatively flat with the exception of a few climbs. I think he made this statement on the pretense that I was a drama queen and exaggerated how big the hills were. I think he wanted to help me keep things in perspective. I realized that it seemed like I was climbing all the time because the other sections of the course flew by so fast. In less than two hours of riding I rolled through mile 40. Yee Haw!!! That was fast. I decided. I hoped I hadn't gone to hard too soon. Now I was so excited I couldn't stop smiling. I hoped my smile wouldn't create some sort of drag in the wind. Mile 42 started the climb up Nasty Grade. I eased into the climb knowing exactly how long it was. I was now a little concerned. I was also to have consumed most of my calories before this climb. I just couldn't. My mom told me oatmeal would stick to my ribs.....today I think she was right. I took in what I could but didn't want to force it. I hoped I wouldn't bonk on the run. I guessed if I did I would just have to dig myself out of that hole. Today one thing was for sure. I wasn't going to give up. About 3/4 up Nasty Grade I heard the drums of the Energizer Bunny. Last year I was suffering here. I wanted to pin that pink bunny with a water bottle. This year, when I heard him I stood up and unleashed my quads. It was time to hammer it in until the run. This was fun. I started singing various songs in my head as I passed the boys of the 40-45 division. They looked fit but I think I had less mass to lug up the hill. Also I changed the words of "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine I" to "This little bike of mine, I'm gonna let it shine." I alternated that song with the one my friend Elaine gave me "I'm not here for your entertainment" and "You belong among the Wildflowers" only I changed it to "You belong racing at Wildflower". As I came down the last mile of the bike towords the finish the pros were finshing the run. I saw Samantha McGlone headed to the finish. She spoke to the tri club. She's really funny. Now that girl, she drops men. That's "Fierce."
When I came in to T2 there were lots of people cheering. I love the crowds when I race but sometimes when I'm going really hard I have tunnel vision and I only see what I'm focused on in front of me. I know I smiled but I couldn't see the crowd. I will say thanks though for all the "Go Girl" shouts. Those cheers really fired me up. I knew I needed to have a strong run and legitimize myself. Anyone can be a one event wonder. I happened to finish as the only gal in a mob of guys. Not that there weren't ladies blowing my doors off out there. There are lots of them. There are just fewer females and I think the crowd gets a kick out of the token female in the midst of a bunch of men with shaved legs and little body fat.
T2 went by pretty quick. On with the running shoes and hat. I shoved my e-caps and Jelly Belly sport beans up the leg of my shorts (two weeks later I would still have a scab on my thigh from the wrapper) Emergency inhaler in jersey pocket, along with a few Shot Blocks. I wasn't planning on needing all of this nutrition but if I got into trouble it would be there. Also I could quit worrying and focus on the run. With my water bottle in my hand I was off. I ran toward the steps and started up them. The 40-45 boys were walking the steps two-three abreast. I wanted to some how shimmy through them but slowed for a second until the steps were clear. The competitor in me wanted to yell"MOVE RIGHT" but that would have taken too much energy. Despite holding back a little on the bike I wasn't feeling so great right now. All this up and down I couldn't find a "cruising" pace. My legs and lungs burned. I was working and not quite done with mile one. Oh..... this could be like last year. I looked at my Garmin 7:20 pace. Ok ....time to slow down a hair. I am not Samantha McGlone and I was instructed to run the first couple miles around a 9:00 minute pace then to pick it up. I slowed a little and it was amazing how great I felt. It was a bit hot and I enjoyed pouring water on my head. I was done with mile three and pretty convinced that no matter how hard the climbs were this year I would fare better than last year. I ran swiftly around the lake and reminded myself that I said this race was for my Mom. She loves Wildflowers more than anybody else. I knew the hardest part of the race was coming. I was going to refuse to let my attitude get ugly while I was surrounded by this beauty. It's funny how fine the line is between being the toughest athlete and the biggest baby. As an athlete, when things don't go our way it is easy to lose perspective on the real world and feel sorry for ourselves. I finished the section around the lake and started the climbing. This section isn't that long but it is super steep. It also has a few false summits. Running has become much easier for me. I could run on a smooth flat surface forever. However over the last four miles I don't think my foot struck level ground once. I realized if I had done more core work this would have been easier. I needed to be stronger to maintain correct biomechanics. It was a little late for that now. I was going to have to gut it out with brut force. I worked my through the carnage of now 30-35 year old guys. I know dropping guys is my MO. Honestly .....when I see them walking and looking so demolished it's hard for me not to let up on myself. It seems like the majority of people who pass me were well trained women. Thank goodness for this. The ladies sent the message that if you train right and race smart you can finish strong. They looked hot while the men looked hot. I muscled my way to the top of a climb and rounded a corner only to see another climb. The trail was obstructed by 4 men walking for abreast. I did not have enought extra energy to yell to them to move. I stopped and walk behind them for about one minute. My legs felt pretty blown up from the intense climbing I had just done and were cramping a little. I tool an e-cap and a sip of water. I remembered the advice my coach had given me. I asked him if it was smarter for somebody like me to save my energy and walk the hill instead of running it. I told him last year I blew up running it. He reminded me that I was stronger this year and if I started out walking the hill I would probably walk the whole thing. I realized I was on pace for the race of my life and if I kept walking I would let it go. I started to run again. I started to sing again. "This little bike of mine, I'm going to let it shine" I wasn't going to give up. There was another short but steep climb. I grunted and recited the Hail Mary because that's what you do when you're in trouble. That's what the priest told me to do when I went to confession. I confessed I let my brother Tom take the blame for messing up the footstool when I fact it was me doing flips over it. He told me to say three Hail Mary's and to try to do my flips outside. The Hail Mary's must have worked because soon I was back on the pavement running through the campground. I love trail running but I was glad for my feet to hit the pavement. My legs felt pretty helter skelter and I trip a lot when they feel like this. Tim's actually threatened putting me on a kid harness. I didn't want do a header. That would really slow me down. I ran efficiently through the campground. My Garmin said I was running around an 8 minute mile. I wanted to "make bank" while I could since I would be climbing again. A man from NYC started to run with me. He commented that it was like my own party as everyone was yelling "Go San Diego" and "nice pink shoes." I don't know how I would ever race withouth the TCSD logo. Everybody cheers you on. A 3000 member club that feels so small. I tell the man he could always buy a jersey....they'd cheer for him too. He stops at the next aid station. He says he's done. I give him the peace sign and keep moving along. I don't want to waste energy talking. I see a tall lanky man with a TCSD jersey and black shorts. He looks like Tim. Oh crap! I think as much as I would love to finish with him. It would have meant something went wrong. I hope to someday be as fast as Tim so I don't slow him down in training so much. That's a pipe dream. Today is not that day and I am really worried. After his flat tires at Oceanside I want things to go just right. I pass the guy, relieved it is not Tim. Oh. Thank God. I tell this guy good job and to hang in there. I run on. I don't know if this guy appreciates this comment. I don't mean to be annoying. During my first 1/2 IM, Superfrog, I was running in the sand. It was hot and I was struggling. One of the fast older TCSD guys put his hand on my shoulder as he passed me (lapped me). He said good job and to hang in, it meant a lot. It made a difference to me.
Now I am at the out and back. This is the section where you basically run out down hill for a mile then back up it. I remember walking up this hill last year. It's not very steep, just a long grade that you can't get any momentum on. This is more than a race, it's a test. I look at my watch only and only focus on the math that tells me to keep moving. I could have walked up the grade this year and still fared better than last year. I knew if I just kept on I could have the race of my life. I kept going. Three girls passed me up the grade. Next year, I will take the challenge and hang with them. I was only 2.5 miles from the finish. I was not confident enough to try to hang with them. I worried something would happen like I would cramp or bonk. I trudged on up the hill. I didn't want to risk a personal best to stay with these girls. I look at their ages marked on their calves. 30, 32, and 50... I got dropped by a 50 year old women and honestly nothing makes me feel better than that. Look what I have to look forward to. I make it back up the hill round a corner and remember that I have to continue to climb until mile 12. I just have to hang on until mile 12 because then it is all down hill until it flattens out 500 yards before the finish chute. Ugg. Everything had been easier than I had remembered until this point. I forgot about this last half mile of uphill. I don't want to climb any more mentally I thought I was done with the hard stuff. I start to feel discouraged. "This little bike of mine. I'm going to let it shine," I sing in my head. I see the mile 12 sign ahead and I dig a little deeper. If I can just make it to that sign I'll have done it. Nothing can stop me from meeting my goal then. I make it to the sign. I'm ahead of my ETA. I run down the hill. I try to run as fast as my tired and crazy legs can go with out falling. I think to myself if something happened I could probably crawl to the finish. Wooosh .....a female cyclist from Team in Training goes by me. Crap. I didn't even hear her coming. I wish she would have yelled as I would have moved to the right. I was slightly left because I was passing lots of guys on this home stretch. I feel for the rider who has still has a challenging run ahead. It's going to be a long day for that girl. Maybe next year will be better for her. I am at the bottom of the hill. I see a lady waving flags and directing the athletes. Cyclists left, Runners right. Ahh... I think to myself how great it is to finally be the athlete getting directed to the finish. I used to be the athlete going out for lap 2 when others were finishing. I have come a long way from where I started. I feel a lump in my throat again. I worry I may choke up and act a fool. I pass the lady with the flags. 300 yards and you're done. The lump in my throat is gone and I am like a drunken fool. I high five people as I turn in the shoot. I don't know what my time is only that it's much better that I dared myself to hope for. I start sprinting in the chute. Blah, blah, blah......if you can sprint the chute you could have gone faster. Save that advice for somebody who cares. At this point I didn't. I was now singing "Celebrate good times, come on." I hoped Tim would be on the other side of the finish. I was ahead of my scheduled time of arrival. The clock says 6:53 and some change and I started with 1:16 on the clock. My exercise induced dementia kicks in and I can't figure out what my time is. I see Tim and Cindy on the other side of fence and want to celebrate with them. I want to run to them but I am accosted by the chip timing police. They cut my tether off, give me a wet towel and set me free. I hug Cindy and Tim. The photo of me above is taken there and I feel drunk with happiness. I have done it. I got it right this time. I ask Tim how his race went and he says he went under 5 hours. Wow, that's fast. I am happy for him. We can celebrate together. I am very excited. I tell Cindy I just wanted to be done by 3 o'clock. She held up her watch and it's not yet 2:55. Now it sinks in. I have gone sub 5:40. I know you are probably thinking I should have known this but I didn't wear my Garmin in the swim or even on the bike. I didn't use a stop watch. I was just focusing on my splits. That way if the day was long I wouldn't get discouraged. Tim tells me to get some food and drinks and he'll take me down to the lake. With this much excitement my dementia is flaring up and I am glad to have Tim to guide me. Tim walks me down to the lake. I am so hot I can't wait to get in. I start handing Tim my stuff to hold while I soak in the cool water. Out of my pocket comes an inhalor, sport beans, and individual packet of biofreeze (like icy hot but less smelly) . I had it just in case my friend IT band syndrome came to visit. A coin purse full of e-caps, oh wait another one and my Garmin watch. Tim looks at my pile. 5:37, 5:36, 5:35 he say out loud as he lifts the items. You never know I said. If I didn't have them I might have wasted all my energy worrying. I floated on my back. A few others were doing likewise. A couple dogs were loyally swimming around their owners. It was classic bliss. I dragged myself out of the water.
Tim and I headed over to the transition area and gathered our gear. Now is where the hard part starts. We have to lug are stuff up the monster hill again to the parking lot. We put our aero helmets on so we don't have to carry them. They don't work so well with a back pack. Tim turns his around so the beak is in front. A few people comment. I loudly interrupt that I find his aero helmet sexy that way. Soon I turn my aero helmet around backwards too. Ugg... Tim groans as we push our bikes up a steep off road trail (the main road is closed as people are still racing). "Stick a fork in me" Tim quotes our friend Shannons Ironman Blog. Tim grabs my bike from me and pushes it up the hill. "Thanks" I say. I know exactly how good I have it. Backwards helmets and big grins we leave the park. I guess we are well suited.
"This little bike of mine. I'm going to let it shine"