Friday, September 29, 2006

dawn's journey

So today I was wondering about the reason to do Ironman. I have a core belielf about doing things that lead others. I think about all the greats in history that have lead others to be great and the "ww_d". All have done amazing things that lead others to see and do more that what they believed in themselves. That is why I started Ironman. It was the biggest thing I could think of doing. I hope that I can be an example to others of what is possible. I fear; however that all people see is that woman is crazy. I guess when I think of the greats they were thought of as crazy as well.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Ironman means even more - IM CDa

. Ok so here is the race report…it is going to be long.

We arrived in Spokane last Wednesday to cool temps and just the perfect training weather. Coming from Texas, there wasn’t anything better than cool temps and I was certain that my high heart rates would go away for the race. We had 8 members of our team here including the “coach”. Wednesday afternoon three of us put our bikes together and rode about 40 miles of the course. That is where I got a taste of one of the “hills”. Seemed like several before it, but this one is 2 miles long! Somehow we didn’t see the next one. Rode back to the house and did a quick run. Next morning, some of us ran on some trails that were just beautiful. Then we all met at the lake for a swim. By that time the wind had picked up and that was the hardest swim I have ever done. I just kept telling myself that was as bad as it could get and that the race would be different. After that my full on Ironman junkie and groupie personality came out and I pretty much camped out at the Ironman village. The energy is just amazing and I just sit there in awe of all the athletes. The panic had happened the week before so while everyone looked fitter and faster than me, I was able to still have a good time. Friday was a rest day and Saturday was all about bike check in and getting that last little brick to test out the race wheels and open up the systems.

Race morning was calm. Up early, made my sandwiches, got my team mate/ room mate up and we are off at 4:30 to get to check in by 5am. I really had wanted a good parking space and when I got it I knew it was going to be a good day. Body marking and then to transition to fill up my bags when I realize that I have left ALL my water bottles at the house 40 minutes away! I panic, run to my teammate at the same time she realizes she forgot her’s too! We call her husband and he is on it. We finish airing up tires and then start getting wetsuits on. Her husband gets there, all is better and now down to the swim. I find our other teammate that is an Ironman virgin and she tells me that she has been puking all night long. Seems the stomach bug that has had her family found her Saturday night. I am devastated for her. She is going to try so I go line up next to my coach, in the front (now I know I am losing it or at least going for it). I take a deep breath cannon goes off and now I am in the chaos. I only got kicked once and had to swim with my head up for what seemed like forever. I finish the first lap (everything is 2 loops) in 33 min. Now back in the water. I am wondering where the “fast feet” are but I am doing the best I can. Out of the water in 1:09 (swim pr by one min). off to the bike through transition. I didn’t go in the tent this time and that seemed to shave off some time. I could sit in the grass and pee while I am putting my shoes and helmet on… that is multi tasking.

On the bike, I get passed by one of the guys on my team (I beat him out of the water?) then another and go with them for all of about 5 min. Now I have to work it on my own. Up to the 2 miler, I can do this and I am just so happy to be in Ironman once again. I pass another teammate (he beat me out of the water?) and I am alone again. The second hill is brutal. This is where I see a rider on the side of the road with blood everywhere. They must have just gone down so I scream down the hill screaming for a medic. They know so back to the ride. Later I come to an out and back and I see the other 2 guys so I am holding my own, but getting tired. First loop done in 2:51.The second loop starts and I know that the head wants to stop. Just keep moving I tell myself.. I stop about 7 miles later, because my bladder and bike are not getting along and I straddle the bike to get things “moving” to realize that I have now peed all over one of my water bottles. EWWW gross, such is the sport of Ironman. At the next aid station I clean it off. First hill, second time, it is now hot and people are dropping like flies. I run into another teammate and we end up together for most of the second ride. Back to the 2-mile hill and it is way harder and all I know is there is another one and then the head winds, “ok Dawn, stay positive and get her done”. The second hill can’t even feel my legs. Before I know it I am done with it and now I count the miles backwards to get home. Second loop done in 3:05.

Now to run. The course is also a 2-loop course, which is cool because this is where I get to see the pros. They are starting their second loop and I am starting the first. So of course I run with each of them for like a nano second. I get to the first water station and have to walk it…hmmm not good usually don’t have to until after the half way mark. It is only a bazillion degrees now. So I thought if I go almost to Canada I would get away from the 90’s and above. Just keep running I tell myself. This was mentally very difficult because there were people puking and lying down all along the course. Coming back on the second loop I see my teammate with the stomach issues sitting with the support group (our families) and I know that she is a DNF and I start to cry. I have learned that Ironman may be an individual journey, but it is very much a team sport. It is the energy of everyone there that makes it possible and pulls individuals to see more of themselves. I don’t know of another time when I am surrounded by 2000 other people, most of whom I will never know their names, and yet we will work together to realize dreams all in one day. I only wish that would have been enough for my teammate, but Florida will be her day! So after I cry for 2 miles I decide to buck up and finish because it is not getting cooler. Second loop I have to really stay on top of my thoughts. Taking it one water station at a time I get to the finish. Finish time is 11:28 and one minute off of Florida and 10th in my AG. When I finish, I see that my sister is there and that was a tremendous surprise. She lives in Oregon and came over just to see me cross the finish line. I haven’t seen her in a year so that was incredible.

I am so thankful for my friends and family. Thank you to Alyson and all my team mates for dealing with my constant whining and always reminding me that I love this stuff when I forget. Thank you to my family for knowing how important this is to me and pushing me to see it through.

Ironman Florida

Race Report

We got to Panama City beach several days early. The Ironman Village was already set up, as were some buoys for the swim course. I was amazed at all the athletes milling around. We went to the village to register and of course do some shopping. I would not allow myself to purchase or wear anything “Ironman” until this race.

According to plan, I swam part of the course and went on a short ride and did an easy run. All systems were a go. The next day I was to take completely off. That night was the athlete meeting. I spent most of the time trying to settle myself while be amazed at all the people. They showed movies of Ironman, had incredible guest speakers and great stories. Over and over I had to choke back tears for looking like an emotional basket case. Then they talked about the logistics of the race and the rules. That is when I got nervous.

The next day I was to do another short swim, bike and run. I got up early and went down to swim. There were others there and again I realized how nervous I was. Then on to my bike. I had put on my race wheels and somehow had disrupted my computer and now it was not working. I went to one of the bike tents and had some adjustments done. All seemed to be working. We went to dinner at the condo of a friend that was also competing as well as Nemo's Dh who was volunteering for the race. That did wonders to settle my nerves, having lost them several times that day. Thanks – Allison for joining me into my oblivion!

Race morning, I woke up calm, made pancakes, got the family up, ate and headed for the start. Again, the amount of people was overwhelming and exciting. Nemo’s DH was body marking and I was thrilled to find him and have him do the honors (he even added some extra art of crossbones that now turned us all into pirates). Then a final check and make my way to the beach. I had been instructed to seed myself close to the front as my swims had gotten better and my coaches didn’t want me to get stuck if I could swim faster. The downside was if I miss judged I would be swum over. After seeing all the people, I decided it was all a gamble and I would be swam over anyway. The one-minute warning came and a calm settled over me. “ I know this stuff and I have done it before”. The cannon went off and we all waded for sometime to be able to start swimming. It was scary and crowded, I was swum over and I swam over (although I tried no to). Once I was hit in the bicep and that hurt really bad. I was kicked in the face, but because of martial arts training that was not a new experience. The swim was a 2 loop rectangular course. Rounding the second buoy, I got a nose and mouth full of water that made me really gag. We all had to swim with our heads up and I got words of encouragement from those around me that settled me a little. Then back towards the beach. I could finally shoot through holes find new groups to swim with. I felt like I had been in a washing machine so I started to tell myself to “embrace the washing machine”. Ahhh my sense of humor is back! At the beach I paused long enough to pee because I have yet to master the fine art of relieving oneself while swimming. Second loop was better but with still many people around me. Back in to the beach in 1:10!!! Way faster than expected!!! Transition was incredible with people helping everywhere! Off to the bike with a pit stop at the porta potty, thus a long transition time.

The bike was great. Computer was still acting up and I was grateful for my Garmin 301. Between the two I could still get heart rate, cadence and speed. I was having a blast and my speed, cadence and heart rate were right on. With so many people on the course, there are lots of opportunities to make friends while passing or being passed. At a feed station at mile 30 there was a bad crash right in front of me where on person ran into another – wow that was freaky. At mile 50 I was a little choked up thinking I had trained so long for this and it was going well. About this time I started to try eat my first peanut butter sandwich (my fuel choice all during training and had always worked even in my 1/2 IM’s) Houston we have a problem- I cant swallow it. I had to take a bite, put water in my mouth and try to swallow. Somehow I managed to get one sandwich down for the whole ride – way too few calories. At mile 85, we had to cross a highway and turn left. I was ready to pass the guy in front of me right after the turn. Unfortunately, we had to go very close to some road construction and he lost control and ran into a construction barrel. His front (or one of them) wheel came off his bike completely and flew up to hit my handlebars, push my brake handle sideways, flip up and hit me in the face and then drop down under my back wheel. I kept rolling and all seemed to still work. I pushed my brake handle forward and a group of us started yelling for medics to go back for him. I still feel really bad for him and hope he is ok. At that time we hit a really bad headwind. My speed dropped significantly and I started to just talk myself through the next part of the ride. By the time we got into town I realized that I was off of my goal time, but still with in my secondary goal. Into Transition 2, I felt really beat up from the wind and glad to able to run. Another potty stop and out on to the road. Note to self: pee on the course and not waste time in the john. The crowds were already big and cheering loudly.

The run is a double out and back. On the way out, I felt amazing. I was running slightly off pace, but still felt good and was determined to stay calm and in my heart rate zones. At mile 6 we ran through a state park. Being a coastal town, the roads are slanted more than normal and we had to run at an angle. While it is slight, it was just enough to irritate my ankles that had been giving my problems in training. (Ok coach- I know that I need to do more stability work I promise I wont complain about it anymore) Out of the park and on to flatter roads I felt a little better. The half turnaround is at the finish line with huge crowds. That was awesome. I got my special needs bag with a Red Bull in it – yahoo for caffeine) Ok here we go again. My speed was dropping and my heart rate was stable. I just couldn’t make the legs go any faster. I decided to walk only the last half of the aid stations. It was so cool to meet people along the way. Seeing the pros fly by was inspiring. I was really hurting by the last leg back, but I knew the pain was temporary so I just kept running even if it was slow. I knew coming off the bike that I was off of my 10:30 goal due to the headwind, but I was sure that I could meet my second goal of finishing under 12 hours. The last mile was exhilarating as the crowds were huge. I was laughing and crying and running as hard as I could. Coming around the finish line with my kids right behind me was amazing. As I crossed to hear “Dawn Elder from San Antonio, you are an Ironman”, I was amazed. There was Nemo’s DH to give me my medal and all my family. What a treat!

I am at a loss of words to describe the feeling. I worked so hard for this and it went almost exactly as planned. I have the greatest friends that supported me in ways I never imagined. I am so grateful for the experience, my wonderful husband that totally gets it, my kids that accept it, and my friends that encourage me all the way. I am so blessed and am determined to live this life to the fullest as a result. I can’t wait for the next one!!! Coeur D’Alene here I come!

My first 1/2 Ironman

Well I got to the resort where the race started at about 1 am Saturday. All day on Saturday there were Triathletes all over. I got quite intimidated. Got lots of food and rest and did a little swim and bike just to tap my heart rates.

This morning I was up and ready to go early (big surprise), I got to the transition and found I had a killer spot! We were then informed that the water was too warm, for wetsuits. Glad I had swam without it on Saturday. The swim was a giant wave with all the women starting together. It was a beach start (running into the water) - I kept asking myself why I was doing it. A minute later the gun went off and I knew. I love it. The swim was great and I felt so strong. About 400 meters into it I felt my ankle strap with my chip get lose. I grabbed it as it was coming off and held it the rest of the swim. 1.2 miles in 33 min! Oh my gosh was I excited fastest ever and I was so relaxed. Off to the bike and transition went well ( no wetsuit to worry about). Got on my bike and my computer fell off! Grabbed it and put it on and went.

The bike is always my most challenging part. I was with the girls that I went into the water with most of the way. The first part I was with them and had a good peddle stroke and felt strong. Gu every 30 min and water every 10. The pack cleared out at about 20 miles and I knew it was time to work. At about 35 miles I was by myself and felt like I was only getting passed. Keep the mind clear and do the plan... 85 cadence and 160 heart rate. The course was very hilly. I found out that rolling hills in another way of saying long hills. At about 45 miles my mind drifted as did the plan for about 5 or 6 miles. My butt and bike hurt so bad and I was ready to get off the bike. Got my mind straight and went to work as I had some time to make up. The bike course was long and we knew it 58 miles. I was happy to get to the last down hill and get the same speed I had the day before on fresh legs (31 mph)! That was motivating to get me done.

Off the bike and to the run. Good transition, but got emotional. Started to cry when I say my DH. Then decided not good to waste the energy and then started to wheeze as I stopped crying. WTF, get a hold of yourself. The legs were heavy and lots of people walking. I decided that no matter what I would not walk. I would let some people go and just stay with the plan..Hr at 160-170. The course was evil. 2 long loops of hills. I could never tell who was leading, who was on what loop, I felt as though I saw the same people coming and going 15 times. I saw one girl walking and also noticed her number was 69! I said lets get this done. Turns out she is an ultra marathoner and it was her first as well. We had a chuckle and then were on our way. Just as I was finishing my second loop and thought I was headed back I realized they had added another " dog-leg" to the course to get all 13.1. This was hard, but I would not walk. the last mile seemed to take forever. Came around the corner and saw the finish line and glanced at my watch and realized I was on goal!

Hesitant to make a prediction, I had said that I thought that 6.5 or 7 hours would be expected. I would be thrilled beyond words to do a 6. My watch time was 6:01:45 and I found out my official time was the same! My average bike was 18.8 and my swim was 33 minutes. Not sure about the run as we left before the split was added. I finished 11th in my age group and not sure of overall.


I have a martial arts instructor that believes in a specific method of teaching. This is method is useful because it enables the student to learn complicated and multiple moves very quickly. This method is called chunking. Chunking can take complicated forms or Katas and combinations and allow for rapid learning. It requires taking pieces of information and breaking them into small and manageable "chunks" to practice over and over and commit to memory then moving on to the next piece. This method has proved useful in allowing any student to accomplish true feats of memorization and mastery that make martial arts achievable to anyone - even me.

I realized as I went out on a ten mile training run that this method of learning; or if you will mastery, is relevant to every type of training. I run along and the conversation goes something like this. . . Just get to the gas station. now get to the light pole, now to the corner and so on. Soon the entire run has been "chunked". A ten mile run is a daunting task for just about everyone. Throw in some hills and that task takes on a new personality. I discovered that "chunking" can be used to "master" even that type of challenge. The brevity of tackling a hill or covering any real distance while running requires a commitment from deep within. I realized while going along that I had decided in advance which hills were involved in this run and how I was going to approach each one. An amazing discovery was made going along - each hill looked much bigger from the bottom and mastered from the top. Much like life, yes

The arm workout seemed an impossible task on the busiest of days. How could the multiple sets fit in to the limited time allowed. Perhaps cutting some short would yield the results for perceived time limitations. Perhaps doing each set a little quicker would provide an extra five minutes to run a last minute errand.
For certain, neither could give the desired strength results, or for that matter the mental and emotional results that come from a rigorous and honest effort. Once again chunking this workout seemed to be the answer. Taking each rep as it was the last and each set as though it was the beginning; the workout went as planned and enough time to ponder on what to do next session was the outcome.

As the week plays out before me, I begin to see a correlation. I realize that in any given day numerous requirements and appointments much be met. Like learning a complicated kata, if the entire day is to be handled at one time, to say that handling the day is a daunting task is an under statement. However, if the day is "chunked" and one task handled and addressed one step at a time, the day coasts through my life with little more than a wink of presence. The message is remembered, that is why we do this. Let each day in the gym be the playground for life. Let each step on the road provide the instructions as to how to do this thing called life. Let each punch or kick be the ground on which the decision to succeed be rooted. May the discovery be realized the the only limits that exist are the ones that are believed.

I run to remember that I am strong.
I strength train to demonstrate that strength
I am a martial artist to never be the victim of weakness again.

love that body

I often find myself comparing myself to the latest super model, 15 year old pre-maternal baby-sitter's body or the celebrity of the day that just got out of rehab or that the papers are commenting on "her weight". While I know the futility of this exercise, indulging in it seems sometimes beyond my control. The conversations that take place in my head are ridiculous and go something like the following. "They can't airbrush all of her she really must look like that. I am sure that my hips were never that small when I was 15 and that I would give anything for my breasts to be that perky again and my stomach that flat again. Maybe she did not really need to go to rehab and that maybe she just has great self control. Why cant I have that kind of self control."

So while working out I began to ponder this situation. I wondered why and how I have forgotten the truth. I may not have pre pubescent hips or breasts and at 36 that would be ridiculous. I do not need to have an "airbrushed body" and why do I revere that? How did I come to believe that the kind of "self control" that causes loved ones to seek medical help is attractive and a sign of beauty.

The truth is that I have an athlete's body. I have received my second degree Black Belt and have done countless martial arts classes replete with the pushups and drills required. I have finished seven marathons and run numerous other races. I have logged thousands of miles on my legs and hundreds of miles on my bike. I have discovered swimming and the many meters that were necessary to learn to love it. I have began a love affair with triathlons that will be with me for some time.

My arms show the strength in my biceps that come from the pushups in a martial arts class. My shoulders have the scars from falling off my bike. My back shows the muscles needed to move this body in all the ways I demand it to carry me. My thighs shows the muscles necessary to carry this body over the miles required for training and marital arts. They also show the scars from training. My feet have well nursed calluses that have long passed the point of looking good in a strappy pair of Jimmy Cho sandals.

The truth is my body is beautiful and strong. I have landed more punches and kicks than some and taken more than most. I have run more miles than most and much less than some. On my bike I have found wonderful country roads and chased cement trucks. I have swam with the fishes and came out strong enough to ride and then run. I have run with dogs, bunnies, butterflies, baby strollers, bikes and friends. I have seen the sun come up while running or riding and seen the sun set while doing countless martial arts combinations. What more is there that I need?

The truth is that no number on a scale will tell me the truth. No number on a pair of jeans will make me feel more of me. No compliment on my body will give me lasting love. The truth is that I do what I do to remember the truth. The truth is that every mile logged is the best of me. The truth is that every time the burning in my lungs from climbing a hill resides as I reach the crest I am more of me. The truth is every time I line up in martial arts class I am more of me. The truth is that every time I start the first and finish the last lap I am more of me.

The truth is I am strong in mind body and spirit. I am resilient. I am powerful. I am beautiful. I am determined. Every time I decide to tie my black belt, lace up my shoes, mount my bike, put on my goggles, cross a finish line, bow in and finish strong I have decided to remember the truth.

who I am

Well, I am finally on the blog world. I am a 38 year old mom, friend, triathlete, black belt, runner and so much more. I am a 2 time Ironman finisher. I am in pursuit of a Kona spot. I am crazy about the journey of life and how Ironman seems to be the very window into the soul that is clearest to me.