Friday, August 31, 2012

A Triathlete's First Day of Yoga School

From Runners World to pro blogs, the experts are all telling us to combine yoga into tri training to improve flexibility and prevent injuries. Now you have finally decided to heed their advice to head off to your first class. In typical Type A triathlete over achieving fashion you want to be prepared for your first class. Here is a quick outline of what to do to prepare for your first class.

What to Bring
Unlike triathlon, yoga is a low-gear activity. No special watches measuring aura levels or custom fit footwear for chakra grounding, just a mat. Most yoga studios will have mats available to rent for a few dollars but your own yoga mat is worth the investment monetarily and hygienically. You are going to spend an hour standing, sitting or splayed out face down on that mat and although good studios clean mats between uses, having your own ensures you spend savasana laying in a pool of only your own sweat. In addition to your mat, plan to bring a small towel and a water bottle. Like mats, towels can be rented at most studios if you forget.

There are many options for yoga mats. I personally have a Manduka but there are numerous choices for every price point.
Manduka mats are heavier than most but I have found they are the best for grip when things pick up in a heated class. Maduka mats have a lifetime guarantee and come in longer sizes for tall yogis.
Jade mats are very popular, eco friendly, sturdy and light. An excellent choice.
Lulu Lemmon mats have a bit more cushion and are good for gripping. They are antimicrobial, so you won't worry about unrolling a moldy mat.
Gaiam, a personal favorite for an inexpensive or travel yoga mat. A Gaiam mat can easily be purchased at Target or Amazon for around $20. No frills but it will serve you well.
Avoid Pilates or workout mats, they are thicker than yoga mats and will make balancing far more difficult.

If you are going to a heated class or you just sweat a great deal you may also want to consider a yogi toes mat towel. It will help you maintain traction as a puddle of water accumulates on your mat and the rubber grips on the bottom prevent the towel from sliding. Also to consider, bike gloves. They provide a tiny bit of padding and some extra traction for sweaty palms.

What to Wear

USAT rules state that you are not permitted to be naked in transition, the same rules apply to a yoga studio. If it is a heated vinyasa, power yoga or bikram class, it is going to get very warm...extremely warm. In a heated class it is not uncommon for men to practice shirtless and women to practice in a sports bra-type top. In non-heated classes people typically wear shirts. When picking your ensemble ask yourself, would I feel comfortable wearing this outfit upside down? Loose fitting shirts, shorts and pants will slide up your legs or torso in downward facing dog and may reveal more than you intended to your fellow yogis. Fitted yoga pants and tops are easily available at yoga stores like Lulu Lemmon, Lucy and Athleta. As a triathlete, you already own a host of fitted wicking clothing. Run shorts, tri shorts and tops are fine if you want to avoid acquiring more sports gear.

There are two kinds of tri people, those who waste time in transition putting on socks and the rest of us who actually want to race. In yoga you can usually find one adamant sock wearer in a class but I assure you, you will look cooler and have an easier time with the poses if you skip the socks and embrace bare feet.

Types of Yoga
We have an inappropriate number of options in triathlon: Olympic or Full, Ironman or Rev 3, TT bike or Road? Yoga also presents options of style, something for everyone.

Vinyasa Flow combines movement with breathe, with each postures flowing into the next. There is no set series of postures, so classes vary and teachers often take requests for certain postures and parts of the body for the focus of the class (hip openers, shoulders, hamstrings). Full disclosures, I'm a vinyasa teacher.
Ashtunga yoga is known for its athletic style and broken down into four series. The first or primary series is made up of 75 specific yoga postures.
Anusara yoga is known for it's lively themes and strong heart opening. 
Iyengar yoga has a strong focus on alignment. Yoga props are used to ensure students are aligned properly in each pose.
Bikram yoga is practiced in a 105 degree room with 40% humidity. Every Bikram class is made up of the same 26 postures with a strong focus on alignment.
Hatha yoga's hallmark is slow and gentle movement combined with breathe. Looking for a relaxing class- head to Hatha.

Most studios break down the classes by levels and often include beginner classes into their schedules. If you are completely new to yoga make the beginner or level 1 class your first stop. Yes, you are an athlete and I'm sure you are very strong with endurance for days but level 1.5 or yoga classes are for experienced students and teachers rarely give directions for the basic postures. Ensuring you have a base of knowledge and an understanding of the basic postures will make class far more interesting.

Talk to your yoga teacher
I know you were expecting someone called Moon Goddess who only eats raw foods and spends weekends playing the yute. It's DC, your yoga teacher is most likely a State Department lawyer from New Jersey with the twitter handle: DCYogaPolitico, she is not to be feared. A good teacher will introduce themselves to students and inquire about injuries but if they do not, be bold and introduce yourself and let them know you are new. You are a triathlete, I'm sure you have a host of injuries miles long with MRIs and scars to prove it. Tell your yoga teacher anything pertinent, especially knee, neck and back injuries. The teacher is not a medical expert but they can tell you which postures to avoid and how to make adjustments in postures.

Namaste and best wishes for an amazing yoga class


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Ironman Cozumel 2011

This was not the season I had planned. Somehow the universe had not been instructed that this was My Ironman Year and therefore I anticipated a seamless year of building volume and progressively improving my swimming, biking and running without the needless distraction of injuries. If I had known what my year was going to look like, I probably would not have signed up for Ironman, hell, if I knew what my year was going to look like I would have stock piled canned goods and taken up residence in a bunker in Wyoming. Between numerous injuries and my life occasionally being knocked down a flight of stairs by an oddly vengeful universe, I made it to race day. Karmically speaking, I think the universe now owes me one.

 Mexico: The arrival in Mexico went smoothly, with the necessary registration, hoarding of Ironman branded ensembles, practice swim and pre-race meeting. The only slight hitch of 'where are our bikes?!?' resulted in some nervous conversations and me crying like a desperate lunatic and clutching Euge's hand during the team meeting. I've always been one to remain level headed and positive during moments of crisis.

 Race Day: I woke up, which was rather odd since it was an obvious indication that I had actually managed to sleep the night before the race. I threw on my clothes, inhaled a bagel with peanut butter, attempted some last minute hail mary foam rolling before heading downstairs and onto a bus. Important IM Mexico lesson, be super early and get on the first bus. There might not be another bus... In Chakanaab: bottles and nutrition on bike, stood in line at the port-o potties (10 for 2,300: bold Choice Cozumel race director) then huddled with the Z crew admiring IM tats and those athletes foolish enough to rock a white tri kit.

 I am not a calm person. I'm the sort of excitable extrovert driven to dispel my effervescent nervous energy in all directions most of the time. I don't know who was running the show Ironman morning but I'm quite certain it was not Noelle. I wasn't nervous, scared or excited; I was serenely numb. We watched the pros head off into the swim then shuffled up along the docks. I thought I was being very smart getting on the dock early but this only meant I had 15 full minutes in the water before the start. Like 900 of my other new friends I clung to the fence to avoid treading water. I started chatting with an amiable Australian fellow as the crowd latched to the fence started pushing and shoving for positions above water. On the verge of being pulled off the fence, my new Aussie friend grabbed the fence on either side of me with his hands and feet, sandwiching me between him and the fence. Safely kangarooed on my new friend's lap, I watched as the masses fought for space in the water as the start grew near.

 Four minutes from race start I moved off the fence and attempted to get to the front of the starting line. As I moved forward, I heard a yipping and watched as everyone began to swim. What a truly odd starting sound...if that was even the starting sound. The first 10 minutes of the swim I was trapped in the impossible scrum, I couldn't really swim, just moved along with the hoard, trying to keep from getting plowed over. It was a constant fight and 126 pound Noelle wasn't much against vicious Germans who pulled my shoulders back as their prickly tree trunk legs grazed my check. Much like in action films, in my Ironman story, the villains are usually German. I suspect the jellyfish and stinging sea lice that washed down my bathing suit, stinging my chest, stomach and legs were also German.

 At the turn I finally found some space and managed to swim normally until the final turn. Between the current and the wild hoards, I fought for every inch of clear water I could find. 1:07 out of the water and padding along the dock to the changing tent. With almost no race volunteers I settled with changing my clothing solo. A race volunteer appeared at one point and offered to put on sunscreen but sprayed it directly in my eyes and walked away, not the help I had hoped for but I sprinted out of the tent, grabbed Nikita and headed out onto the bike course.

 With one event of the three down I felt really good, my legs felt fresh and I settled in for a few hours of touring Cozumel on my bike. I learned that there is a sisterhood of Ironman, the females stick together since not all of the male racers are gentlemen. My 'big brother' Greg could really teach many of those guys a lesson in chivalry. Every time a woman passed me or I passed another women there was a shout out and a check-in 'Good job girl. Doing ok? Need anything? Keep pushing, let's show these boys how a woman races Ironman'

 My family was camped out at the first Z cheering station. Each loop my Mom screamed support, my aunt bounced about with her elaborate glow signs and my Dad beamed. After 30 years and 11 months you would think I would be accustomed to their amazing level of support but they managed to outdo themselves during Ironman and I completely lost it when I saw my Mom on loop 1. Between the constant sea of Z green cheering and the Cozumel community out on the streets I felt like a rock star every second of the race.The rush of zipping through town, flanked with screaming fans was a feeling I will never forget.
The first loop of the bike went by amazingly well. The second felt good, the final was pretty tricky. I was overjoyed to see Alexis and the Cheer Station 3 crew on the final lap. With only 15 miles to go I knew that the windy bit was finally over. Around mile 107, I celebrated, knowing that even if my bike broke down, I would be able to walk it in and still make the bike cutoff. The chances of me becoming and Ironman were almost certain, I just had to keep moving.  At mile 108 it started to rain, then it poured tiny bullets of water showered down upon me and the weary Nikita. As the streets began to flood, I slowed down and got up on the horns, not worth a bike wreck at mile 111. I pulled into T2, handed off my bike and headed into the tent. This time I had a volunteer with me the entire time, she handed me each item in my bag, offered me food and tried to convince me to sit down. Knowing sitting could mean shutting down, I opted to stand and got out of T2 as fast as I could. I ran out of the tent and managed to keep running for a solid 1/4 mile. Rockstar.

 I guess sitting would not have been such a bad idea. I walked/shuffled/ran the first 2 miles, catching friends and teammates out on the loops and getting updates about the Z crew's status. I found out Damon had crashed his bike and it broke my heart when I spotted the bloody wreck shuffling along the course. He was having an rough day and was a great sport about downplaying his injuries and cheering me forward. I felt oddly good during the first loop, running more than I walked and oddly mentally fresh.It was still raining and parts of the course were over a foot under water, I avoided thoughts of the water's composition and sloshed forward.  Loop 2 I was still able to run but I was losing my steam by the time I reached the last turn around.

 From photos I have gleaned that my race pretty much consisted of me smiling like a loon for 14 hours and 6 minutes. On the bike and on the run; all the photos are me smiling manically and waving at the adoring Z fans. Even while being clobbered by ruthless Germans on the swim, I felt happy. I can honestly say the smiles were genuine, I had an absolute blast. I loved every minute of Ironman, even the soaking wet painful final miles. Each loop of the bike and most of the run loops I kept telling Ed and Ryan how much fun this was and how I can't wait to do it all again. If I had my cell phone in my special needs bag, I would have signed up for any open IM races I could find.
I had instructed my family not to touch me on the course, don't give me anything or have any contact lest I get disqualified. At mile 8 of the run I spotted my family, cheering, waving and just plain being amazing. I ran to my Mom and hugged her; happy and lucky to have people who love me enough to scream my name in the heat and rain for 14 hours.

Heading out for my last loop on the run I ran into Damon heading to the finish. His bike crash and subsequent marathon death march had really taken a toll and I realized that my boyfriend was most likely patient zero of the zombie apocalypse. You wouldn't expect Ironman Cozumel to be the start of the zombie plague but sometimes these things happen. As he shuffled off to the finish shoot in search of brains, I headed out for my last lap knowing that by the time I had finished, DT will have conducted extensive research and written an 18 page manifesto on Zombie-ism. At the very least we will be well briefly zombies.

 The last loop of the run was painful and from mile 18 to 23 I was overwhelmed by the mentally and physical fraying. With the last timing mat before the finish in sight, I pushed myself to start running again, knowing my brother was following along back in Philly and waiting for the next split to pop up on Ironman Live tracking. Knowing I had a whole cheering crew back home waiting for updates and posting my progress really kept me going, each time I crossed a mat I knew my friends and family were celebrating another race milestone completed.

 I heard my name but the rest was a blur of noise and light. I plowed through the finish chute, arms flailing in the air, an my signature Ironman race maniacal smile across my face. I stepped off the platform threw my arms straight up in the air and screamed, 'I am an Ironman!' It was an amazing day. I feel incredibly honored to be a part of team Z, to have trained and raced with the IMcoz crew and to be the recipient of such amazing support from our cheer army. I AM AN IRONMAN.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Ironman Thankful

 In the month leading up to Ironman Cozumel I counted down the time till the race and took moments to thank some of the people who helped me get to race day. 

"I am thankful for my cheering crew. Mom, Dad, Barbara, my Z-mates and the Z families all here in Cozumel as well as everyone cheering for me in DC, PA, VA, CT, MD, FL, CA, NY, NJ, WI, England and East Timor. I love you all and will be thinking of you tomorrow during the race. IMCoz 13h, 51m

"I am thankful for my family. The families Bannister, Henze, Hollis, Bassett, Murphy, Theisen, Surlis, Strong, Peple, Hiemstra, Jones and Mahoney have all shaped my life in every way. I grew up knowing that the most important thing in your life is your family and I feel endlessly blessed by mine. Sending love and thanks, especially to my grandmother and namesake, Marion Henze Bassett! IMCoz 1d, 19h, 26m."
"I am thankful for my mother, Carol Bannister. My best friend, my most trusted advisor and the rock of our family. Her support is amazing, from signing up for my first race to Ironman, my mom is always there. IMCoz 3d, 23h, 30m."
"I am thankful for my father, John Bannister. Not until I was an adult did I truly realize the sacrifices my dad made for my brother and me. No one was prouder of me than my Dad; I still remember his beaming smile the day I became the first Bannister to graduate college. My biggest fan, my dad never lets me down. IMCoz 4d, 21h, 19m."
"I am thankful for my Z Teammates. Pre-dawn swims, track workouts in the pounding rain, long cold days on the bike; always supportive, always pushing forward. This wasn't the season I planned but whether I crossed the finish line bleeding or hobbling on one leg, I had amazing people cheering me, carrying me to the med tent and holding my hand. I am honored to be a part of this community. IMCoz 5d, 21h, 1m."
"I am thankful for my brother Drew Bannister, the most loyal person I have ever known. On the field he was a leader and an unyeilding teamate. In life he is my steadfast sentry, loudest cheerleader and can make me laugh even in the darkest moments. IMCoz 6d, 15h, 13h."
"I am thankful for my aunt, Barbara Henze Hollis. I'm so lucky I'm part hers! IMCoz 7d, 12h, 35m."
"I am thankful for Leighton Thomas. My friend, my coach, my favorite chef! Whether she is leading her friends on a 'ride of death' or rallying TNTers on a morning tundra ride; Leighton's optimism is constant. I don't know how I would have made it through the last year without her love and support. IMCoz 8d, 18h, 49m."
"I am thankful for Tim Stevens. During moments of crisis, confusion and chaos, scarecrow is always at my side, through Oz and beyond. IMCoz 10d, 16h, 58m."
"I am thankful for Coach Ed Zerkle. Within moments of finding myself in an air cast for two months this summer, I emailed Coach Ed. He talked me off the ledge, helped me plan and assured me Ironman was still attainable. In a season plagued with injuries, Coach Ed always told me to keep pushing forward and I am very grateful for his support. IMCoz 11d, 19h, 22m."
"I am thankful for Ginny Simmons. Every time I ride or run I feel a little bit safer knowing Ginny's name is on my RoadID. Should disaster strike, I know she'll be there with a bag of frozen 'fancy peppers', thai food and movies. My dearest friend and the best emergency contact anyone could every hope for, thank you for always being there during all sorts of Noelle emergencies. IMCoz 12d, 20h, 44m."
"I am thankful for my wonderful Team in Training coaches: Ted Eastwick, Christina Herold, Caroline Walsh Holt, Megan Woods, Lecia Imbery, Leighton Thomas, Jeffrey Bell, Jenny Banks and Danielle Lestage. Curing Cancer, Racing Tri, GO TEAM! IMCoz 15d, 17h, 4m."
"I am thankful for Christina Fox. Whether she is riding behind me uphill commenting on how my bottom looks, sending her spirit animal to save us on the 'ride of death' or standing on a boulder cheering her head off as I come limping into the finish, Cfox is always there for me. IMcoz 16d, 21h, 15m."
"I am thankful for Coach Alexis Lopez-Buitrago. Watching Alexis cheer riders through the last terrifying mile of Mountains of Misery is one of the most inspiring things I have ever witnessed in tri. His support and encouragement is a constant source of motivation. IMCoz 17d, 18h, 41m."
"I am thankful for Gregory DuMont, who stuck with me and got me through some of my toughest rides and has carried me to the med tent more than once. From TNT to Team Z, an outstanding friend, teammate and the best triathlon big brother anyone could ask for. IM Coz 18d, 21h, 35m."
"I am thankful for Jeffrey Bell, who spent every Wednesday for an entire summer teaching me how to ride like a triathlete. Countless hours of SLD around Haines Point with Coach Jeff cheering me onward. Little did we know, SLD would really come in handy for Musselman 2011. IMCoz 19d, 17h, 7m."
"I am thankful for Nicole Kidston. If you threw a party, invited everyone you knew, you would see the biggest gift would be from me and the card attached would say, 'Thank You for being a Friend!'. Good luck at the NYC Marathon Noole! IMCoz 21d, 14h,11m."
"I am thankful for John Hirsch; an amazing friend, activist, mentor and coach. From the moment, I signed up for my first race he has supported and guided me through the maze of tri and lets me be a member of the Conn College Alumni Tri Club, even though I'm not a pro! All radical, none of the prep. IMCoz 22d, 23, 6m."
"I am thankful for Jenny Gephart, Michael Stevenson and Sebastian Cole, who let me chase after them each week in our lane at the Lab School. IMCoz 23d 22h 30m."
"I am thankful for Liz Sherman Raymond for putting up with my bikes, gym bags and chlorine soaked towels in our shared office and occasionally scooping me up off the floor for an emergency Whole Foods peanut butter run. IMCoz 24d 22h 23m."
"I am thankful for Carol Henze Bannister, Barbara Henze Hollis, Ginny Simmons, Thomas Flores, Porter McConnell, Toby Fallsgraff, Madalyn Blondes, Rachel Jarvis, John Ryan, Lori Metcalf and Drew and Beckie Bannister who came out to support 'Team Noelle' at my first Triathlon, Nations 2009. IMCoz 26d,17h,59m."
"I am thankful for the Team in Training coaches, mentors and teammates who helped me become a triathlete two years ago. IMCoz 29d22h24m."

Monday, October 24, 2011

Rev 3 South Carolina- Half

Rev 3 was my 3rd Half distance race and the first one where the prevailing post-race sentiment wasn't, 'At least you didn't DNF'. After an injury plagued Ironman training year, I was finally ready to put the pieces together and focus on racing rather than finishing. DT and I road tripped down to South Carolina and apart from our overly ambitious choice of audio books, we had a lot of fun. Complex jargon filled books on the financial collapse are not soothing pre-race audio selections for nine hour car trips...unless you are a tax attorney. Rev 3 puts on a fantastic show and we had great fun checking out the jumbo-tron and Recovery Pump leg sleeves..

We spent the day prior to the race driving the course and getting quite lost when an angry hill billy farmer switched the course signs and subsequently argued with course officials. A solid pre-race swim, some unsuccessful Kona viewing, dinner with the Z crew and we settled in to watch a movie before bed. It should be noted that the movie was 13 Going on 30 and I was not the one who chose said film. Real men shave their legs and like their chick flicks extra cute.

Race morning was dark, really cold and some of the best pro bike viewing I've seen at a race. I circled the pro transition area a few times gawking at aero positions that looked unrideable and beautiful race wheels. It was really crowded and my pre-race yoga-ing was in a bed of pine needles.

I had an amazing swim, felt great, got a PR and was thrilled when I ran out of the water with the realization that if 1.2 miles felt easy, doubling it for IM would be ok. I could have probably pushed myself a little harder the first half of the swim. I miscounted the buoys and didn't realize I was almost finished with the swim until I was 200 meters from shore.

The first half of the ride went well, I hit a wall and couldn't build speed during the second half but I managed to get myself to transition with something left in my legs. The first six miles of run went well but I lost steam during the second half  and it turned into a completely mental game. Just past mile seven as I shuffled up and down the rolling hills, I had my traditional overly emotional race moment. I realized that I wasn't limping, bleeding or dragging any of my appendages behind me like I had for most of the last year and I was finally going to have a race I talk about proudly verses my usual, tragic injured race stories. As I crested a hill I remember seeing Cfox on the boulder cheering for me at Mussleman and I had a bit of a cry. I rolled through the hills of the last few miles, the course was increasingly deserted and was thrilled by the idea of the finish line.

It wasn't perfect but it was a great race, my best half yet and I finally feel like Ironman is achievable. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Savageman Oly

Nothing has really gone as plan this season. Major issues with my left IT band forced me to drop out of my marathon, I  DNFed Cherry Blossom and I suffered through a rather painful series of procedures to get back to running. When there seemed to be light at the end of the tunnel I tore a ligament in my foot and spent June and July in an aircast. Savageman was the first race where I was trained, healthy and thus the very late start to my season.

One of the best parts of my team is the people and I lucked out with a great house of friends. Z rolls deep at Savage and in addition to a fun race, I got two days in the mountains with my dearest friends. A super awesome, Christmas morning, extra special surprise; my dear friend and bad ass pro, John Hirsch was there to cheer me on for the Savage Oly. John has been one of my best friends since college and it felt like my big brother was there to watch me race and like a pesky little sister, I wanted to make him proud of the non-pro member of the Connecticut College Alumni Tri Club.

The swim at Savage is gorgeous: flat, cold and clear. I prefer my swims with a strong rip current and white caps but I do love a frosty lake swim. It was pretty but not my best swim, I was rather shocked by the time clock when I ran out of the water. In transition my frozen fingers were too stiff to roll up my sleeves and I spent most of the ride with very warm wrists and cold arms.
 I enjoy a hilly ride, apart from IM, I'm happier on a hilly course than a flat one but once again Savage had other plans. I dropped my chain on the second big hill, couldn't get it back, got flustered and had to walk my unchained bike up part of the hill. I snarled under my breathe as I looked down at my unruly bike and my body covered in chain grease.

Two months in an aircast kills your run fitness and I've been struggling to get myself back up to my pre-June pace. In preparation for Ironman and dutifully obeying my doctor, I have only been running on flats and the constant up and down of Savage was too much for my weak right ankle. After my mechanical issues with the bike, I couldn't get my head and legs righted until the last two miles. 

I ended the day frustrated with myself but happy to have some Savage behind me and IM ahead. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Luray Oly

I checked in with my doctor a few days prior to the race and he made me promise I would walk at least 50% of the run portion. With only a 8 days of running under my belt post-injury I agreed and promised my run time with start with a 1. As we stood on the hill trying to figure out the swim course, I told Julie I was just excited to be able to do the entire triathlon after two months out for a torn ligament and actually start my tri season. My right foot ached a bit which was slightly scared but I hoped it would loosen up in the water. Heading into the water I wasn't nervous, just happy to be back.

It was one of the worst swims I've encountered as far as getting kicked and hit by other swimmers and for much of the race I had a girl in orange swimming into me from the left. I managed to find space during the last 1/3, my right foot felt great and swam what I thought was a pretty decent swim. Out of the water I looked at my watch and was really disappointed to see I had a 29 minute swim. I need to push myself harder on the swim. I pounded up the stairs into T1, grumbling to myself about my slower than expected swim. I grabbed my bike and headed out on the course.

My right foot hurts, wow it really hurts, that's alarming. It's been a month since my now infamous single leg drill at Musselman and my right leg has felt pretty decent on the bike. Today, it throbbed, stabbing pain all across the bottom and I started having flashbacks to the day in June when I hobbled into my doctor's office. The pain and the nervousness around the pain slowed me down. I didn't mind the hills, I'll take rolling hills to false flats any day.

Back in T2 and not really happy with myself or the incredible pain in my right foot. I considered DNFing, not worth the risk of further injury just to walk 6 miles. As I pulled off my right shoe, I saw that my entire shoe was covered in blood. Checked my foot, ahh it's that massive gash on the bottom of my foot that hurts, not my ligament. Awesome! I was seriously excited to see that I had just sliced my foot open, most likely coming out of the water rather than re-injured my ligament. I threw on my running shoes and took off.

I saw Andy finishing as I was was heading out on the course, amusing reminder of the massive difference between me and the fast people. I trotted past Damon and Beth and yelled to them that I had cut my foot and I didn't know if running was a good idea but just kept on moving forward when they told me to stop. Always nice to freak out your friends with a quick, 'so my bike shoe is filled with blood' story right before you head out to run 6.2 miles.

Since I knew I had to run slowly, I didn't wear my watch, I didn't want to see my mile pace and let my ego take over. So, I ran slowly, very slowly but I ran. Amazingly, my ligament injury felt great, I ended up walking a large portion of the second half when the pain from the cut on my foot became too much. Thankfully, an also injured Lauren ran up behind me and we decided to walk/jog our way home, making the experience far more enjoyable. We ran our way into the finish shoot and I headed directly to the med tent.

The wonderful Sam and Dave came over to check in on me and hold my hand while the medic picked rocks out of my foot. After some discussion, the medics determined I needed to go to the hospital for a tetanus shot, and other exciting things too graphic for a race report. They wrapped my foot up in gauze and I hobbled over the the Z tent to regale my friends who stories of bleeding all over the course. I managed to laugh about the whole situation throughout the run, at the med tent and for a while after the race but the disappointment caught up with me and I had a good cathartic cry. Being the team cripple is starting to get old and it's been a long time since I had a race without and asterisk of injury. A quick hug from Jenny and I was off the hospital for what can only be described as questionable medical care.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Musselman 2011

Last year, I got injured during the run at Musselman and walked/limped 9 of the 13 miles, this year I arrived race race morning already in an aircast. I'm pretty sure Musselman is going to kill me next year. I was cleared to bike...ok I was cleared to bike 20-30 minutes but I translated that to mean, it's ok to bring your bike up to Geneva and ponder riding 56 miles after a refreshing swim. I had been working myself into the ground the last few months for Musselman, hoping for redemption after last year and was incredibly disappointed to not be able to do the race. Losing 6 weeks of training only made the looming IMCOZ look more impossible.

Friday: With my ridearriving in 15 minutes, I'm standing in the bike hallway debating if I'm even going to bring the bike. 'Oh, might as well to ride a little but I'm going to Swim, DNF the race.'

Saturday: I opted for inappropriate optimism and only asked the most notoriously intense people on Z if they thought it was a good idea to race. Of course, they all said they would race with a severed arm, while bleeding from the head on fire, so I figured riding with a little ligament injury would be fine.

Sunday: We arrived at the race site and strangers started immediately asking how I was going to race in the cast or made suggestions for bike-cleat or flipper mounting on the cast. My race day bouncer Andy and I headed into the transition area where I immediately put on my ipod to block out the constant stream of cast related questions.

I head over to the Z tents but was accosted by a woman, grabbing my arm and shouting at me. 'Yes, stranger shaking me and yelling?' 'OMG are you going to race in that? You really shouldn't'. 'Why hello new friend, I assure you this isn't the Ides of March, no need for panic and I appreciate your expert medical opinion.' This scenario repeated another 8 times before I made it into the water.

It's odd racing just to finish, I already decided I wasn't looking at the clock and I was just hoping to make it back post- Aqua Velo without further injuring myself. I kept repeating, you do this because you love it and tried to suppress the urge to shake my fist at the universe. Quick pep talk/cry with Coach Ed then I handed off my cast and hobbled into the swim pen. I had wanted to hand it off as I walked into the water but didn't want to get a penalty for discarding gear on the course.

Swim: My plan was to go slow, enjoy myself and do my best to keep my right leg out of trouble. 30 seconds into the swim some (obviously horrible) girl grabbed my right foot and I stopped dead in the water waiting for a wave of pain I thought might come. Ok? Ok, but I'm not using the right leg anymore and keeping it straight behind me with my foot flexed, an excellent anchor. After that, things went well in the water. I love open water swimming and just enjoyed the experience.

T1: I ran out of the water, not a great idea but it's a reflex and I take transitions seriously. At my bike, I did pause for a moment, 'Do I really want to do this?' Yes.

Bike: Heading out of transition I immediately see Jules and heard her yell that she loved me and to have a good ride (Jules= best big sister ever). Out on the course I'm shocked that pedaling doesn't hurt but quickly realized that 6 weeks off your bike and with an atrophied right leg I'm slow, scary slow. I tried to get into my aerobars and discover this is where the foot/leg pain starts and decided to do the whole ride upright and use my right leg as little as possible. Mile 5- Operation Single Leg Drill is now in effect to save my right foot from the push/pull pressure. This is great for my right foot but meant my left leg did 100% of the work for 30-35 miles. I was passed by a pretty steady stream of Zers, all of who shouted out support and encouragement. I would never have attempted or finished without my team- I am blessed to be a part of this community.

There is one hill on the course and I had promised the doc, no hill riding. So, in a move of self preservation I got off my bike and walked up the hill. Halfway up Kat passed me, shouted out support, made me cry and helped me feel better about walking. Miles 40-56 were horrible and I kept reminding myself that I needed to check my ego and this was about survival. I went slow, I had to use both legs and I just wanted to be home.

I rode into the park exhausted, stumbling into T2 and slumped into Coach Alexis. Since my race was over I slowly walked my bike back to the rack then hobbled to the Z tent to find my aircast.

It wasn't pretty, I don't know my times, I don't care, I finished. I proved to myself even with one non-working leg I can get through it and somehow this makes me feel better about IMCOZ.