Friday, November 22, 2013

What goes on between the ears....

Yet another Ironman weekend in the books.   I am so thankful for this sport and all the wonderful friends I have made since being in the sport.  What a treat to get to see so many of them lay it all out there last weekend.  I am always amazed that the quality of human tenacity and spirit that propels the body over the course of the day.  While getting in my own training with a friend, I was asked what I think about when I am racing and training.  I actually have been thinking of writing about this so the timing was perfect - thanks Megan!

I have and am very fortunate to have had some amazing mentors and coaches to light the way for me.  Some of them may be surprised to realize that their words of wisdom were not always lost on me and in fact stuck only to be replayed during any given training session.
Simon Lessing told me that the pool is the one place that I can and should always "race".  There are those times where I can get into just an easy rhythm rather than really grabbing the water.  This takes some commitment to really focus on the clock and tell myself the truth about what is showing up in the pool that day. 
Todd Erickson reminds me to avoid getting flat.  His take is "don't be a barge". This is a thought I have replayed during just about every race since I first heard him tell me. 
Susan Ingraham  is always tweaking my stroke and has taught me to ask the question "why not" fearlessly.  
Chris Aarhus was my first triathlon coach as well as cycling coach.  Volumes could be written here on all that I learned from Chris.  For the purpose of this piece I will stick to just a few.  "If you want to go faster pedal faster". Seems simple but often I find that it is easy to just get into a rut rather than really stay focused.   Sometimes it is just about turning the peddles over faster – although not necessarily in an easier gear!  Chris also taught me the importance of accepting the suffering, “give the legs time to accept the discomfort, Dawn”. 
Chris Legh was so brilliant to teach me the concept of “it’s not like you are going to die”. He should know as he gave it to himself so hard at Ironman that he collapsed.  He came pretty close and if he didn’t, the likelihood of me meeting the grim reaper on the course is slim. 
  Hillary Biscay has and continues to teach me so much about going for it.  Before every race, I ask for a race plan and at the end of each of those conversations she reminds me that “we are RACING”.   Hillary has also reminds me that the pain I can experience is directly in my control and that I can make it happen more that my competitors if I chose.  I love that I am in control and I can “make it hurt”.  So much of life feels like we don’t have a choice with discomfort and in racing, reaching my goals is in direct proportion the my willingness to embrace the suffering as a good thing.  
When I am training and racing I have realized it is critical to listen to what I actually telling myself.  Words have power - not only those that we hear from others, but just as important are those that we tell ourselves.   Being ever conscious of what is happening between the ears makes all the difference in any training session and race.  

Monday, November 04, 2013

Sometimes it is just Messy

There are those times.  It just happens naturally.  Everything just seems to fit and flow perfectly.  It is amazing.  When it does - I feel unstoppable and on top of the world.  And, Thank God it does!

And then there are those other times.  When everything seems slightly off.  Timing is just not right.  It is messy.  It feels slightly forced.  That was what Longhorn 70.3 felt like.

I had a full weekend that did not include ideal racing conditions.  It was my college homecoming and one of my dearest friends was coming in for her birthday which developed into a min reunion of some of my oldest friends.  Because adding this to my race roster was a last minute decision,  I was forced to do the 80 mile drive to packet pick up, back to San Antonio then back to Austin for the race on race morning.  Not a lot of rest.

Morning of the race the heavens decided to grace us with a steady downpour.  Now on one hand that would mean cooler temperatures and on the other that would mean a muddy T1 and wet slippery roads.  I have not been cleared to go down again and put the clavicle at risk so wet roads are not ideal.  Coachie had given me a goal for my watts to keep me honest and I was grateful for that and a bit nervous as well.  I knew the swim would be tenuous at best.  I had been banned from the pool for 2 weeks prior to the race in order to allow the scattered bones of my collarbone to find each other and connect.  My run training had been solid so I knew it would a great chance to see where the run actually was.  I also knew that this course is conducive to some fun racing conditions for me as a chance to see friends and loved ones on the course during the race.

As the sky's cleared and we lined up for our wave starts, I was relaxed and excited to meet up with a very good friend and fierce competitor. Karen and I have raced against each other since the beginning of time.  I have such respect for her as a mom, woman and competitor and I know that she will always bring out the best in me.  Lining up next to her is a treat as we become like two school girls squealing, hugging and catching up right until the gun goes off.  When it did - she was gone! Like really gone.  Now we usually swim very similar times so this was a bit telling.  About this time, I started to mentally write my race report.  That one included all kinds of explanations about a broken collarbone, lack of swimming and a fair amount of mental sandbagging.   I know better.  I know that if I allow myself the luxury of this kind of mental masterbation I am setting myself up for a crap race that I wont get back.  See once the splits are recorded no one cares how or why they are what they are just that they show a disconnect.   There is no "do over".   This is racing.  Racing requires presence of mind.  So I pulled out all the stops to get my mind back on track.  I reminded myself that the quickest way out of the frustration is to actually swim hard or at least as hard as my body would allow.  I focused on the fact that once I was on the bike I could re-asses and settle into the plan.  So I dug deep and fought against the lack of connection with the water.

The interesting thing about racing in South Texas is that there is any number of external challenges that can add to the flavor of a race.  A pleathera of sadistic little stickers required carrying our bikes through the long transition area to avoid flats.  That also required running through the mud bath in our cleats.  As I got to the mount line I realized I had cleats full of mud and a chain that was off the ring.  Crap!  Do not write the race report, do not write the race report... stay in the moment.... stay in the f'ing game. Yep at this point the voices in my head resorted to stronger language.

The bike was uneventful.  Having the pleasure of being one of the earlier waves resulted in one of the cleanest rides I have had in a long time.  I did not have the massive peloton passing me that I have had on other races.  I was thankful for the watts goal as that kept my head focused even when I felt as if I was in no mans land.  Still much of the ride just felt "off". The legs pushed but felt harder than I thought it should based on my training.  "Stay out of the Story and Dig Deep" was the mantra.  There are just times that it doesn't feel "right".  It is important to remember that just because it doesn't "feel" right doesn't necessarily mean it isn't right.  Sometimes it is just a bit messy and off and that doesn't mean it cant be good.

In to T2 and I was ready to run or rather get off the bike.  The run in Austin is different almost every year.  There is no shortage of crowd support and usually heat, humidity and  hills.  This year the cloud cover staved off the heat for much of the day.  The run was 3 loops and through plenty of mud - yep more messiness.  Again, early on it I was aware that it just didn't feel "right".  At this point in the day, we are presented with options.... walk, walk aid stations, walk the hills, jog or make it hurt.  That became the new mantra - "make it hurt".  No matter how much it hurt, I could make it hurt more. At least then the messiness would be on my terms not on factors out of my control.  The fastest way to the end is to move as hard and as fast as I could.   So that is what I did, even when the Garmin said I wasn't moving very fast.  Sometimes you just have to fake it and make it look like you aren't.

That is how it goes sometimes.  There are times that it just flows.  It is perfect and feels almost easy. That it is fast, furious and really fun.  Then there are times that it is messy and hard and requires digging deep to stay in it.   We remember that we decided to do this when it felt good and we stick with it even when it doesn't.  When we have an entire community pulling for us to make it. When we do all the hard work it is easy to think that the result will be one of "those" times and can be shocking when it isn't.  The good news is that like any great commitment - the reward comes from staying with it through the hard times, through being willing to dig deep even make it hurt a bit and staying present to the lessons to be learned, to fake it until you make it and avoiding "riding shot gun through the valley of the shadow of doubt" that gets you to the finish line and the time of your life.  Such is how it is Ironman!

Thanks to my coach Hillary BiscaySmashfest Queen for making me look great, Robert Cordova photography for capturing it all, Gu and Vega for fueling the day and Rick Avalos and Brittons Bike Shop for taking care of me and Crush so that we can dig deep. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Growing Pains

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.  - Theodore Roosevelt

My very first mentor, Dr. Jack Barnathan introduced me to the teachings of Theodore Roosevelt with applications to being in the world of fitness and physical accomplishment.  I will forever be grateful for Dr. Jack as he raised the bar for me.  I have blogged about sitting in front of the TV watching Ironman when I was a teenager.  The next piece was sitting in a class that Dr. Jack was teaching and listening a guest speaker talk about her experience in doing a triathlon.  After a weekend of being challenged to rise above conventional wisdom and choose greatness from Dr. Jack, I knew there was no turning back from the Ironman journey.

While not everyone in my circles has understood how and why I train the way I do, I have had many an opportunity to examine what is right for me.  I have been challenged to "dare greatly" in this sport by my coach, friends, team mates, those I coach and those that went before me.  When stepping out to do that, the one thing that can be assured of is the risk and most certainly the stumble.  I have made mistakes along the way.  They were only mistakes when I chose to not glean a lesson the first time and had to do it that way again.  I have stumbled and have been "marred with dust, sweat and blood".  Yet every stumble, every scrape and every break as proven to provide me with a metaphor for sport and life.  When a bone breaks and then repairs, the place where the break once was is now stronger than ever.  I remember that my soul is like a bone, the times that I feel broken are also the times that I am being forged to be even stronger in life and in sport.  It is my belief that those of us that chose to put it all out there risk much and gain even more.

So I am on the road to recovery from my epic flight over handle bars.  After Las Vegas I was to take two whole weeks non weight bearing on my shoulder.  The good news is that there has been obvious physical healing. The uncertainty is that now the structure of the shoulder is much different and the remaining anatomy is getting to learn to operate in a new way.  This is painful.  I am reminded of when my children had growing pains.  Those pains were very real as are those in my shoulder.

I get to let go of where I was in July.  I get to let go of old times and standards.  My path just took a new turn.  I will get to retrain my shoulder.  The learning curve will be what it is and will not be rushed.  That is how the sport is for me.  There are no shortcuts and only processes that demand complete awareness and consciousness.  There is not magic but there are miracles.

So for now... back to some baby steps and growing pains and lots of fun on the way to victory and defeat!  Thank you Dr. Jack for making me Dare Greatly!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Vegas Baby! Shall we Dance?

In June, when we made the call to accept the slot for Vegas I never dreamed that it would be the last race of my season.  Yet the one thing that I have learned through my life as an athlete is that the best laid plans can sometimes go very awry.  In spite of this fact, I have also learned that anything can and will happen especially in the face of adversary.  Two weeks after accepting the slot for Las Vegas 70.3 World Championship, I had an freak bike accident that resulted in my collarbone ending up in five pieces.  Now as a triathlete, we need that little bone for most of our activities.  While our initial goal was to continue on to the Ironman in Louisville we knew it would be questionable as the accident was exactly 6 weeks out from Ironman.  Las Vegas would give us an extra two weeks and we realized that every minute of those additional two weeks would be needed in order to be able to toe the line.

So why not just let it go?  Why not step out of the season and let the bone heal and come back with aspirations for next year?  Experience has taught me that anything can happen and I am an athlete at my core.  Inherently competition defines an athlete so with the support of my coach, Hillary Biscay, Dr. Richard Steffen, Dr. Justin Martindale and Nick Milnor, DC entire team and many amazing friends, I showed up in Sin City.

I knew that this would be my usual reunion time.  I have been in the sport long enough that one of the most favorite parts of racing is getting to see my friends from all over at races.  I have been fortunate enough to train and race with some of the very best age group athletes in both sport as well as spirit.  I'm thankful for social media and email that allows us to develop some very special bonds and I look forward to any chance to reconnect in person.  I knew that I was going to have a blast with many friends on this course and looked forward to it.  My good friend and professional triathlete, Robbie Wade was to be my roomie for the race.  We train together in San Antonio so it was great to spend some time out of the pool talking about our race.  All of this social time proved to distract me from the still moving bones in my left shoulder.

Race morning came with rain showers that made things interesting for 2/3rds of the race.  I had a great time meeting up with everyone in the rain. This ( I kept telling myself) is the essence of triathlon - playing like kids in the rain.  We get to chase each other in the water with a bit of "marco polo", play "king of the hill" on the bike and then have an epic game of chase after the bike.  Clearly I was in my element and thrilled to even be there.  I lined up with one of my favorite competitors, Sue Aquilla.  Sue and I have raced against each other several times and she is just one of the coolest chicks.  Our coaches are besties and that lets us have fun with them as well.

The swim started with a fair amount of questions in my head.  The goal was to swim as hard as I could with the shoulder.  I had about 6 swims under my belt going into the race and knew that I had seen some painful numbers that were close to what I would normally swim but not for the distance.  Again - this is about seeing what is possible on race day and anything is possible.  I was with the front pace of women in my age group but as we swam into the men's group in front of us I decided on caution.  Having played "tag" in the water with the men before I thought it prudent to protect what bone had already developed.

Out on the bike I was ready to settle in.  I have often said that the only flat part of this race is the swim and based on my swim times I  am pretty sure it isn't flat either. The first 25 miles I spent in the mental space of "it's raining stay off the paint and don't crash" to "we are racing".  Shortly after the turn around I saw a jersey that I determined would not gain on me.  That is about the time that the fear turned around.  I determined that if I was going to go down again at least I was going to do it on the biggest stage I could be on at the time.  This was not the time to hold back because I was afraid.  This was the time to look what demons I had and get on with it.  We had a wonderful battle and I am forever grateful for my competitors for without them I would not be given the opportunity to have this experience of myself on the edge.  I just cant get there without them.

As I transitioned to the run - "The Jersey" came into transition.  It was non other than Colleen DeReuck. Now that chick is a running stud with a resume longer than most.  A formidable opponent for sure and I was thrilled to be out there with her in spite of my collarbone.  The run was the giant question mark, but also this was the time I was going to get to see everyone!  I was happy camper most of the time.  It was hard, but getting to watch for high fives from friends kept my mind occupied for 9 miles.  By then I had seen everyone and chased as much as the shoulder would let me. At that time, well it got ugly in the hurt box. This is when I got to decide exactly who I am - yet again.  See I am not nor will I ever be a "wade in the shallow end" type girl.  I have always been a " dive in the deep end, push the limits, drive fast and jump out of airplanes" type girl.  That means that I do this stuff to bump right up against my limits and fears and shake hands with them and then see what kind of dance we do.  Sometimes its a tango and sometimes its a jive - either way we are going to get after it.  Every time I get to learn about myself and every time my fears get to be confronted.  The cool part about that is I am the one that chooses to look that fear square in the face and question the validity of its existence instead of waiting for it to rear its ugly head when I least suspect it.  Don't get me wrong, it has happened (more of late that I care to admit) but I have developed the tools to bob and weave around it through squaring off on my terms as much as possible.

All in all it was a perfect day.  I got to go as hard as I could, see my friends do the same, play in the mud,  ride my bike screaming down hills, play tag, stand up to my inner bully and giggle most of the time and shed a little tear at the end.  On the back side, I can't wait to do it all again!

Thank you so much to everyone that helped get me there - especially Gu Energy, Britton's Bike ShopRudy Project, Vega Nutrition

The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses - behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.
Muhammad Ali

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Re-evaluate, Redirect and Renew

The definition of "re" - action done over, often with the implication that the outcome of the original action was in some way impermanent or inadequate, or that the performance of the new action brings back an earlier state of affairs

There has been a lot of this lately.

As we knew it would be a long shot that the bones of my collarbone would become sticky enough to let me tackle Ironman Louisville in exactly 6 weeks from the accident.  I am so fortunate to live in a time when we do have all kinds of technology to work around different situations.  So I have done all kinds of running on a simulated moon and all kinds of riding on simulated roads while in my living room or even better set up right next to my virtual moon.  There was only one problem - there wasn't anyway to simulate a virtual pool that my left arm could tolerate.  Also seems that while my bones will and do heal, we are a bit off from being very "sticky".  Think post it note sticky now rather than Gorilla Glue.

So a few days before "game time" for Ironman Lou I got in the pool and realized that swimming 2.4 miles would be painful at best.  While I love racing and I love seeing all my friends at races and I am passionate about what Ironman represents, I have had my "Julie Moss" moment.  I knew that I would not be racing for a slot and I had to re-evaluate what I would gain from forcing a race.  We decided that what was in my best interest is to get a few more weeks of healing to happen and redirect our focus to 70.3 Worlds.  In the beginning of the year, Coachie had asked for my goals.  My goals were a top spot on the podium and a World Championships slot.  Seems I may have not been specific enough.  I accomplished my goals at the half distance so that is where we put our focus.

Sure enough, 3 days after deciding to redirect my focus I was able to swim. It wasn't pretty but I was able swim 500 meters.  Two days later we were at 1500 and two days later we were over 2000 - beauty!  My energy was Renewed as my passion for the sport.  While I won't be very competitive as the bones are still not "Super Gule" worthy, I will be able to go without creating more damage and enjoy the challenge.

This hasn't been the season I dreamt it would be, this is after all the sport of Ironman.  Just like when racing, we have to be ready to adapt to any situation with the commitment of getting the most out of the experience.  In life, we don't really get a DNF and I chose to race like I chose to live life!  The only real choice we have is what are we going to learn and enjoy while on the course.  As of late, I have many chances to make real clear choices of continuing on the course regardless of what is given to me.  I know that will make me an even better competitor when I am back on the big course.  Ironman experience seems to juxtapose with life for me.  Every day is an opportunity to renew a commitment to live life full out and train full out to learn the most that I can about myself and to know that Anything is Possible.

So next week we toe the line in Las Vegas at the 70.3 World Championships.  I am so thankful for my team that has had unending faith in my ability to overcome and get on the course.  Hillary Biscay my coach that never ceases to amaze me in her faith in me.  Smashfest Queen that has allowed me to continue to be an ambassador and allowed me to represent even during this adventure.  Dr. Steffan at Sports Medicine Associates of San Antonio.   Melissa Martindale and Dr. Justin Martindale at Promotion Physical Therapy for sponsoring this journey and letting me have a run on the moon experience on the Alter G as I needed.  Dr. Nick Milnor at 4Xtreme Health for reminding me that the body is a healing machine. Jim Britton at Britton's Bicycle Shop for providing me with everything I need to do the best I can on the day and in training. 

In the spirit of Ironman, lets go play!! 

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Around not Through

I am three weeks post "up close meeting with asphalt" and broken collar bone. What a journey this has been.  Certainly not one I would have chosen or could have anticipated coming off of the high of winning my age group at Buffalo Springs just the week before.  This is the Ironman Journey and if there is one thing I have learned in this process is that the best laid plans rarely go as they are supposed to and success is rolling with the punches as you stay present to what is happening.  So just like in racing, I have been using the same tactics in this process. 

The first step was to assemble a "team" that had experience in handling this situation as well as had my best interest in mind.  This team must know what my short and long term goals are and be on board to make those happen.  My team consists of my Coach Hillary Biscay, my Physical Therapist Justin Martindale at Promotion Physical Therapy and my group of doctors at San Antonio Sports Medicine Associates including Dr. Stephan and Dr. Allen as well as Dr. Nick Milnor DC.  I remember reading about how the Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington was instructed to "defer to no one" the eve of her inaugural race.  That is a concept I have adopted in training, racing and healing.  I recognize that everyone has different experiences and these are individuals that I have come to know well and have my goals close to their heart.  They are my team and I trust them and listen to them only. 

The second step was to use this team to create a plan.  Ironman Louisville was exactly 6 weeks from the accident.  Ironman 70.3 World Championships is 2 weeks after that.  My team and I knew we had our work cut out for us.  This would and is still a day to day evaluation process.  I have learned that as athletes our bodies are amazing healing machines as long as we are well versed in the language of the body.  This has been a challenge for me but I am getting better at it with the help of my team.  So we looked at what modalities of training and maintaining fitness are available and would fit in with this injury.  As it happens, Promotion got delivery of an Alter G treadmill right as the doctor cleared me to run on an Alter G.  Perfect! Now I can keep my run fitness without jarring the bones as they do their job of finding each other.  Coach and I both believe in the value of quality sessions on the trainer and I was entertained by the last week of the Tour De France while learning how much range of motion my arm would give me on the trainer.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that while getting into aero position was painful once there I was comfortable.  Ok, now we are talking!  With the use of a few other modalities and the watchful eye of the docs I am still getting some quality work done. 

The third step was to go to work between my ears.  This is probably the hardest part of the process.  I know how to train.  I know to trust my team.  When I am healthy - I know exactly why I do this sport. When a bump in the road (literally) shows up, we are challenged to confront the "why's".  How much of this is about forcing a situation or is this really about becoming more of who I am.  What value is this giving to me and to my life.  As a coach, I have seen so many athletes steam roll right through a situation for the sake of the "steam roll" rather than taking stock in what and why they are doing this sport.  I have also seen many athletes see an injury as a "get off the hook" card and thus become de-conditioned athletes with an excuse.  My experience is quite different.  As long as I am clear on what I want to learn about myself in the process of training and racing, I am going to be able to go around the injury rather than right through it.  Sometimes that will get me back on the course and others it will be a time to step back (not out).  I have come to trust that in either situation I will learn what I need to about myself and perhaps would not have had the chance without the change of course.  I am still in the process of paying attention to what I can glean from this situation.  What I do know is that while we look for ways to have certainty in racing, there are times where we just won't have it.  I have observed that the best in the sport revel in the uncertainty and are able to ask the little questions  - "what do I need right now", "what is happening right now" and "what can I do right now".  In any training day or race we will have the chance to experience things going awry despite the best planning.  As in life, all we can do is asses the right now.  While I think it is contrary to our nature as goal setters to stay in the moment; sometimes that is all we have.  What I know is that the only way to get to the finish line is to take yet another stroke, turn the peddle over one more time or put one foot in front of the other.  What I do know is that life can change with every breath we take and as long as we take another breath we are still alive.  So for now - I stay present in the moment, take another breath and put one foot in front of the other while I move around that which I have little control over.  Healing will happen and I will come on the other side with clarity and strength to be a better athlete and able to offer more to those I will share my experience with. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

In Case of Emergency

A few days ago I had to fill out the usual race entry form.  At the end of the form was the “In case of emergency” part.  Due to some recent changes in my life, I realized that my “in case of emergency” had un-expectantly changed.  While that took me by surprise, I found myself wondering what exactly constitutes an emergency.  Some would say that where I have been would be an emergency and there have been times that I would agree.  At the same time I am aware that there are those very close to me that have experienced a much different degree of emergency.  My friend Monica that was hit by a car while training for Ironman would assure me that there are many types of emergencies. 
While I was riding my bike contemplating this idea I looked down to see the latest scars on my knees.  Those were from my most recent need of “ in case of emergency” when I had a face-to-face meet up with the roads in Arizona.  It occurred to me that while we plan to avoid emergencies, the best laid plans sometime just change.  I could live in a bubble and avoid taking any risks.  I am pretty sure that would get me close to not needing an “in case of emergency”.  As I contemplated this concept, a truth came to me.  Living in that bubble would be an emergency of huge proportions.  That would mean that I had actually stopped living and would need an “in case of emergency” to pull me out of it. 
I chose to live this life all out.  I chose to love with all that I am.  I chose to play as hard as I can.  I chose to work with all that I am able.  I chose to lay it all out on the line.
So I sat on this blog post for about 2 months and then came the time when I had to experience a true need for an “in case of emergency” that I never dreamed would happen .  As I was riding and training for Ironman Louisville on the heels of winning my age group at the Buffalo Springs 70.3, I had another chance to meet the asphalt.  This was one of those freak accidents that just don’t happen – but did.  I was by myself and descending a road I had gone down so many times.  The next thing I knew – I was flying through the air and then a rag doll at the mercy of gravity.  I gathered my bike and my things and tried to collect my senses.  At this point I realized that my previously intact collar bone was far being in tact and was in fact in a few pieces.  I was, however blissfully unaware that most of the skin from my back was on the road.   The reality that I needed my “in case of emergency” came into acute focus.  I called my son to come get me. I called some friends in the know of this type of injury. I went to get an x-ray. And then the hard truth began to take shape – I was not going to be my independent self for awhile.  I started to realize I was going to need help with just about everything and some things I was not even aware of. 
My “in case of emergency” crew stepped in to take over.  See through this I have become aware that I don’t have just ‘an’ “in case of emergency”, but rather I have many.  I have girlfriends willing to come bathe me. I have loved ones willing to come change my bandages, to sit with me, to wipe my tears, to hold my hand, to care for my children, to encourage me, to drive me around and mostly to remind me that this is not who I am.  I am not broken, I am not alone and I am not helpless. I am blessed beyond measure.  The people that have surrounded me in this time are some of the best humans to be on this planet.  My best “move the body” friends, the most amazing team mates, my children, my incredible Coach, my family and some of the most incredible individuals that live life while loving full out.  This situation is just another that gives me the opportunity to experience who I am.  That I am strong, healthy, powerful, loved, loving faithful and happy. 
It will be some time before I will be back out on my bike feeling the head wind in my face, running in the heat of the day or pulling myself through the water.  When that time comes I will be more than ready to fill out those forms grateful that I have a plethora of “in case of emergency” individuals that chose to play in this game of life with me. I am a blessed person indeed and thankful for this sport that constantly mirrors my life back to me so that nothing is taken for granted. 

Monday, April 08, 2013

Billy Goats and Fishes

Day Three of camp was a fun one.  Having done 100x100 several times I know what happens.  Hillary makes it fun and I am sure she gets a kick out of the sensory deprivation hallucinations just as much as I do.  Although seeing some of the “deer in the headlight” looks on the first timers still is cause for some alarm.  Hillary (Aka Julie McCoy cruise director)  had also set up some Active Release Therapy for me so I knew the post swim celebration was not in the cards for me.  Good thing Tim and I got to hit Pico De Gallo on Thursday!  

The day starts with the climb up and over Gates Pass with the McCain loop.  This was strictly a “social ride” but we were still in our groups.  I have heard about the work that Tim had been doing, but as soon as we hit the loop – Quadzilla let us all see the benefits of his work at Vision Quest and solid computrainer sessions.  Still I enjoyed the ride and even though my brain was reminding me of the hit it took on every bump (which are plentiful on Arizona roads).  At the base of the pass on the way back, my friend Susan was unsure of the climb. While it is quite steep, it is really more daunting by look than by feel.  I find that there are those times while riding where the road from a distance is unnerving but once I engage it isn’t nearly as bad as it seemed.  Kind of like life.  So Susan and I tackled it together and after that she was unstoppable.  

We had a short break and then it was off to the pool. Swimming 100x100 is one of those workouts that doesn’t really compute until I am on the back end.  The best way for me to take it on is a section at a time and Hillary always gives us some good sections.  At some point my ability to do math becomes even more impaired that under normal situations.  Last year I had the privilege of leading the lane with Tim and Neal. Poor guys got to witness my inability to add and subtract thus we went on the same interval for most of the swim.  This year Coach took mercy on those at my bidding and just gave us a simple interval.  Still, we all got confused as to where we were at different times so we may or may not have swam a little more that 100x100.  Having never done drugs that caused hallucinations, 3+ hours in the pool gets pretty close I think.  Hillary likes to intensify my experience by dulling the senses while doing the first 30x100 in her lane. The oxygen deprivation from that lane lends to my incoherency on the back end.  
This was an early night because the next day was Mt. Lemmon and more adventures. 

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Camp day 2- The good, the bad and the ugly

Day Two of camp is clearly one of my favorites. It is the long ride around the shootout loop with the added on 13 mile climb up Madarea Canyon. The first ten miles are pretty gradual and the last 3 are lung busters.  Last year we all woke up in the morning to the sounds of what we thought was a storm only to find out it was a wicked wind.  The only person not phased was Michele Simmons who lives in Hawaii and trains in crazy wind all the time.  I was really excited when I got up in the morning to a calm day. Now I was going to see what a year of training with watts was going to give me.  The group gathered and rolled out. True to form, Neil set the pace right out the gate.  Maik kept us in control and the first half was pretty uneventful except that this year I noticed scenery on the rollers more than last year.  Right before the first sag stop (sag this year was one of my dearest friends Gail) the boys punched it.  I tried to go with them but knew not to use up all my coins this early in the ride. We regrouped at Sag and then headed down to the turn into the canyon.  Tim and I had already talked about how we planned on capturing our power output going up the canyon so when we made the turn I hit my "lap" split. The group started up the climb together and then brakes and then wheels touched and the profanity and then I had a face to face meeting with Arizona's asphalt. 

Now this was not my first rodeo at bouncing on the pavement and one thing I know is getting back up and riding as soon as an asessment is made that all is ok is critical.  A Once over proved that nothing on my body or frame was broken, both wheels rolled fine so it is was time to ride.  Blood dries fine and while I knew I had hit my head hard I was sure that I would be ok.  About 3 pedal strokes in, I reached down to shift to an easier gear to spin my legs and the shifter came off in my hand. Now this was a problem. We were at mile 2 of 13 climb and my bike was stuck in the hardest gear.  Maik was not thrilled about my insistence to see how far I could go and stayed with me as the rest of my group rolled on.  Stay focused Dawn - if things get wonky I can get in the sag car but you came here to see what you are about so now is the time to decide.  I can always guarantee on big ring strength workouts and I told myself this was just another one.  Sometimes I even fantasized that I would be able to make it up the last 3 miles.  Gail drove by and asked if I wanted in and I told her that I wanted to see how far I could get. At mile 10, it was clear that I would need a ride up the last 3 miles.  Coachie rolled up as she was leading the second group and told me I had taken a page out of her book and to get on up to the top.  From there I got to cheer on all the athletes doing it for the first time and decide what the next step would be. Clearly I could descend and the ride home is flat. I borrowed a helmet as mine was cracked and rolled out with my group. At the bottom, Hillary suggested I go with her group. It is flat and fast for the last 40 miles and without gears I would be a hazzard with the fast group.  Still, I was able to put in some good efforts leading the second group and that gave me chance to be with most of the crew from San Antonio.  Hillary had already called the folks at Freewheel to let them know we had a bit of an mechanical so Tim (who was also having some issues) Andrew and I took our bikes in.  The crew there was great and even had a set of my shifters. They were awesome and got us rolling in time for the afternoon swim.  Getting in the water with this- 

Was less than desirable, but the water would help loosen up the stif joints that were on the way.  My head did not love moving in any direction quickly so flip turns were interesting.  Still, we got in a good session and I was even asked to demonstrate band swimming. Who knew that even though I have grown to like swimming with my ankles tied together, I had gotten good enough at it to demonstrate!  That was great for my bruised ego. 

That night a group of us went out to eat dinner and I discovered that I was not the only one that questioned the famous 'Mr. Woodling" book. (* we got to hold the Holy Grail of swim workouts later in the week - So I can attest that while it may seem like Coachies way to get a giggle, the book exists and was typed on a real type writter!)

Sleeping that night was interesting, but I managed to stay on one side to get some rest.  The next day would be my second out of 4 10k swims of the year as well as another little jaunt up Gates Pass. 
Gail and I at the start - One of my dearest friends that I didn't get to see enough! Means I have to go back very soon!
We all looked so great in our AWESOME Smash Kits. (this was before I found out how well it holds up when you hit the ground hard) 

While this was not my ideal start to training camp, it did give me exactly what I asked for.  I view camp and the time to see EXACTLY what I can do when all other distractions are taken away.  Usually that falls in the physical capacity, today was finding out exactly how mentally strong I really am. No one was forcing me to continue, but I am about facing challenges and seeing what is REALLY possible.  Sometimes I get to meet myself coming and going when things are going my way.  Sometimes life is going by so fast I don't get a chance to meet myself at all so I just show up. And days like today, I get to put on my "big girl panties" and suck the very marrow out of the life I have been given and once again prove to myself that fear exists only in my head and I am way more than I can conceive most of the time.  

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Camp Time!!

It has been a busy week.  I usually try to write when I feel like I have some insight to share but this week has been one for the books so just a quick run down.  I have been privileged to attend a training camp once a year since I started in this sport.  For the last two years I have come to Hillary Biscay's camp in Tucson.  There is so much value to stripping away all the demands of daily life and just focusing on training and what happens between the ears when all you have to concentrate on is the next workout.  Attending a camp that is organized, supported and well run really allows for huge gains and insights which is why I love this camp.  It is challenging and pushes up against self imposed boundaries that enable an athlete to see what they really can do!  Last year I brought two girls that I coach with me.  I remember them asking me on the first night if I really thought they could do it. Of course I responded with all the faith in the world in their ability to dig deep and get the work done.  Kris and Shelly did so well and learned so much that I wanted to share that experience with more athletes.  When camp time came around I opened it up to a few more. Shelly is occupied with another project, but Kris was in as were Linda, Aixa, Herb and Jeff.  I was so excited to see these camp freshman grow in the challenge.  I also couldn't wait to see what Kris had gained in her year of focused training since being here last.  The day came to load up all the athletes in the Beast and head west. Six athletes for a week of training equates to a lot of gear.
Note to self:  gear on top of the car may not stay there.  Required rearranging things mid way through the 13 hour drive.  All in all we arrived safely and everyone was in their respective casitats ready to hit it.  Jeff and Herb were staying with me and some new friends - Kate and Marc.  Kate is from Chicago and and camp first time-er.  Marc is a fellow HPB athlete and good friend who had just crushed Ironman Melbourne the week before and then came right to training camp.  Besides being a machine, he has the best attitude about this sport. We have been virtual training buddies for months so I was thrilled to finally get to put in some miles in person.  Just like going to camp as a kid, I couldn't wait to see my camping buddies from last year that were returning as well as make some new friends.  Tim and I have been on the phone at least once a week and facebooking nearly every day as we were so excited about camp and he has been crushing the bike. I have now named him Quadzilla and I was a bit nervous to see if I could still hang with him.  Neil was returning as well and bringing his way beautiful, smart, funny girlfriend who was also doing camp. We have seen each other over the year so I was more than ready to catch up with these two as well.  Since the hoof is still cranky, Coachie (AkA - Julie McCoy cruise director) had set up some therapy sessions for me.  I was bummed to not be able to run, but I am determined to get this healing thing right and keep my eyes on results.  So instead of running during the run sessions I got to get some extra ART or do some extra bike rides.  Riding in Tuscon is so fun because it is so different than home. 

Thursday morning I had one of the "bonus" rides to do - Gates Pass.  I had done it last year and was excited to get to maximizing my time here.  Jeff wanted to go with me as did Kate ( a new camper friend and roomie for the week) so I got to be the guide.  I love that ride because the views are epic, it is hard and fast at the same time and I know that it is a staple for those around here.  Knowing we were doing it later in the week, I decided to just get my cycling legs under me and enjoy the ride.  On the way back to the casita we ran into Coachie and GCM.  The Ironman Champ rode over as well and had some choice complaints about the TRX class she went to with Hillary.  Oh Boy do I know how she feels as I got the same treatment in November. Then it was off to pick up Tim at the airport and hit my favorite place to eat here - Pico Di Gallo.  I could eat my weight in food there!  It was amazing to connect with my friend and we could hardly contain ourselves with excitement as we knew what we were in for! I love first day of camp as that is when everyone is nervous and excited at the same time - feels a bit like race morning. 
                                          Me and Marc Rubin at the first camp night dinner. 
                                                  Tim was fired up over his swag bag!
                                 The girls with Me and Coachie!  How colorful we all look!

More on the next days in the next post....

Monday, March 04, 2013

Looking Back Looking Forward

Lately I have been in a bit of a plateau with respect to training.  There are just those times when it feels like nothing I do is moving towards progress.  There are even some of those days when training feels like going backwards rather than in the positive direction.  While not my favorite part of the process, certainly one that holds some value. 

I have a poster in my workout room that was signed by a champion and it says "never look back".  Most of the time I adhere to this principal as I am a firm believer on keeping your eyes on the direction that you want to go rather than where you have been.  However, there are times where a little perspective comes in handy. 

A few weeks ago, I was on a ride that was  - well a sufferfest.  In the middle of some pretty serious mind games I happened to look up.  I realized that in the not so distant past - I was doing my very first long ride on that road.  This was about 9 years ago.  I was on a hybrid and on knobby tires and platform peddles.  I rode in my running shoes and we rode a whole 26 miles!  I remembered feeling so proud of myself and started to form the plan of getting to that "Ironman race in Hawaii" that I saw when I was 16 years old.  Talk about perspective!

At the end of this year one of my best friends moved to Miami.  If you have read any of my race reports, I often refer to these girls as my "sisters".  They have known me before I ran my first marathon.  They have known me since before I ran my first 10k.  Between us we have 11 children and at least one of us was present at the birth of almost all of these kids.  Needless to say, we have done a bit of a different kind of event together.  There were the times when all four of us had a kiddo under the age of 2 and we would put all of them in a mini van and do all of our errands together so that no sleeping child had to get out of the car.  There were the times when I was on bed rest while pregnant and they would do a girls night on my bed with me.  There was the time that the husband of one of us was in the hospital at the same time as the child of another and we just moved in to the waiting room.  That hospital had no idea what it was in for.  Miami's best resident came back for a visit to bring her oldest to check out a college. We had dinner and talked about what colleges our first born kids were going to attend.  We laughed at how much we have changed and grown as women.  We spent some time looking back and we giggled at the prospect of what our lives looked like in the near future. 

These women have been with me at start lines and finish lines.  They have also confessed to not really "getting it" with Ironman. They have loved me anyway.  They give me perspective.  The axle of the earth does not rely on what watts I can push on a workout.  They don't even know what watts are - can you even imagine!  They don't know what my 100 meter split is now nor do they really care what it was or will be.  They care only that I am happy doing what I do and that I remember that what I do is not all of who I am.  I am a lucky woman to have these girls in my life.  Perspective.

**  This was taken after Vegas 70.3 Worlds where they saw me race a triathlon for the first time. And yep they made me get dressed up and go our after :)

So while I am hanging out on this plateau, I am reminded that this is a great time to enjoy the view.  Now is the time I can see how far I have come and get a clear idea of where I want to go.  Yes, ascending is much more fun but now is the prep time for the next ascent.  We are about to embark on what may be our last family vacation in some time.  My oldest is headed for college next year.  I am reminded of a line from one of my favorite movies that I always use during an Ironman - " your life can change with every breath you take". Off to take a few deep breaths...

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Crazy or Sane?

Language is a very powerful thing.  I have had the experience of someone telling me something and it gets stuck in my head like a bad country song. The tape plays over and over.  Too often that "something" isn't necessarily positive or uplifting.  Sometimes I even find myself believing it.  In our sport it isn't uncommon to hear "that's crazy" and "that's dangerous" or "that can't be good for you".  I think many of us at some point thrive on doing that which is deemed "crazy" or "dangerous".  Perhaps that is what got us into this in the first place.

However daring it seemed in the beginning, caution must be heeded when buying into these messages.  Lately, I have been aware of other athletes saying things like "that is crazy" about a workout or referring to "us" and not sane.  From our vantage point once we cross over to being an athlete this lifestyle can not be considered "crazy".  It should be considered getting it done.  Nothing positive or uplifting can come from a negative connotation of craziness.  Is it "crazy' to desire above all else to be the best that one can be?  Is sanity in question to reach the highest state of being?  I think not!  We have a lot of examples of real insanity in our world - movie theater shootings and elementary school massacres and young children and athletes being struck down by distracted motorist- that is mother F'ing crazy.  What I do is the exact opposite!

I chose to live this life to the fullest!  I chose to experience everything this vessel that my soul resides in can do.  I plan on reaching the grave on the very last day of warranty in this body completely used up having screamed at the top of my lungs, faced my "crazy" fears and realized that I am the very furthest point from insanity possible.  I am fully aware and in complete control of all of my facilities and running on all cylinders.

Thankfully my coach and those that she coaches continue to raise the bar and set the standard for me of what is possible so that I may have just that experience.  I am grateful for every one of those athletes that share my passion for testing limits so that I can be reminded of what is possible.  I am blessed to be able to train with some of the most passionate and dedicated athletes that challenge me to find the extra gear to either keep up or set an example and never let me take the "easier, softer way".  

So the next time we hear "that's crazy" or have the urge to say it to our selves or to another athlete - lets use our language to affirm each other.  Lets encourage with the best and most possible words we can find.  Lets remember that "we" are the sane ones so that we set the example of what really is
"sane" and "insane".

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What Now?

It is the inevitable question we ask each other at the end of the season - what are you going to do next year?  Certainly, it is a valuable question and when we surround ourselves with goal oriented high achievers it is reasonable that we hold each other up to a standard.

I went into my "A" race with a plan for next year.  I encourage everyone that I work with to do the same.  That allows us to stay on course.  As a busy mom, wife, friend and woman; I have learned that if I do not claim my time something else will.  When I had back surgery, I treated my rehab just like training for Ironman.  As soon as I could, I would walk or build up to walking the same amount of time that I would need in training. This made coming back to the sport much easier because I did not need to carve our 2 hours or find 2 hours each week day.  I just put swim bike or run in there instead of walking or rehab exercises.  So I will apply the same principal to my "off season".  I haven't actually had an "off season" in a few years but my body let me know in no uncertain terms that we would have one this year.  So does that mean that I will fill my "2 hours' with all the things I have put off while training?  If I do, I can be certain that that all my careful organization during the season will much more difficult.  So my "off season" two hours a day will be dedicated to healing my body and preparing for next season.  I have some muscle imbalances that can no longer be ignored.  I have some feet that need some attention.  Even without a structure of swim, bike and run - I have a goal.  My goal is to get my body in such balance that I will be able to "burn the boot".  Why such focus even on rest? Because that is what I have learned from Ironman.

I had someone say to me "Ironman is what you are".  Close, but Ironman is just a race.  It is just a chance to swim, bike and run for a long time. It is just a game of chase just like what we did in the pool or on the playground as kids.  Yet, Ironman is about much more.  It is about facing doubt or uncertainty.  It is about dreaming big.  It is about choosing to push up against what we think is possible and going beyond that.  It is about learning that we are not our circumstances by willingly putting ourselves in really uncomfortable places and persevering.  It is about asking big questions and seeking until we find the answers.  If all those qualities are about Ironman - then I am Ironman because that is how I chose to live my life. That is how I will go into this period of recovery.  This is how I will begin the process of beginning again.  My goals are set for now and for the next year.  I am in training yet again.  I will learn more about myself.  I will face doubts and insecurities.  I will have some victories.  And when the new year rolls around, I will build on this period so that I can go play on another playground. 

Sweat and Tears

 This picture was taken on the last day of camp last year.  Needless to say, this run resulted in a few tears and lots of sweat!

Much has happened in the world of endurance sport in the past few weeks.  Big questions are being asked out loud.  These are the same questions that have been asked in whispers but now more leading edge conversations are happening in the world of sport.  I find that exciting.  I have my opinion and will share it.

We are always evolving and so is sport.  At one time, running a marathon resulted in death.  Pheidippides ran the distance and died.  However,  this year there were over 22,000 participants running with me at the Boston Marathon despite the BAA's best attempts to get us to defer our entry as a result of an untimely heat wave.  When I did my first Ironman in 2005, the total participants were 1400 and now the average total number of athletes racing an Ironman is close to 2800.  What this tells me is that sport is evolving.  Athletes have so much information available to them as a result of science and what we have learned about the body.

In the early 1700's one of the leading causes of death was by consumption or commonly known as tuberculosis.  In 2009, the total deaths in the U.S by tuberculosis was 529.  Science of the human body and the medical community seems to be very leading edge.  As a result of the evolution of science, more now is know about the human body than ever before. Diseases are cured as well as drugs discovered that benefit the body not diseased; hence the doping trend.

I am most interested in what happens in the head and in the heart to motivate someone to engage in sport.  On some level there is a deeply personal decision to test one's self that drives competition.  All the EPO and Testerone in the world is not going to get my butt off the couch and on the bike or in the pool.  Eventually, all athletes must ask themselves why am I doing this.  What lies in the answer is what I believe moves us from being the spectator to being the athlete.  Somewhere along the way, most athletes that I know have decided to see what they can do whether it is mentally, physically or emotionally.  At some point, we want to see if those fears are real.  At some point, we want to see if we can take "it".

Before I knew the athlete that resides inside of this body, I knew I loved a dare.  To really get me to do something was to say I couldn't.  I didn't always take the honorable route. (If you've read my blog you know my familiarity with Cliffs notes - God Bless Cliff whoever he is)  I didn't always follow the rules nor did I chose challenges that were smart.  If you grew up in Corpus Christi in the 80's you may remember a time when there was NOT a sign on the Packery Channel bridge that said "no jumping" and you may have even been a part of us that helped create the need for that sign.  So far be it for me to risk my fancy glass walls by tossing stones.

As I took on one of Coachies alter ego "Wooding" workouts last Thursday that left me with tears in my goggles, I was completely aware of why I do sport.  Started out seeing if I could do it and well lets just say I will get another chance.  Still I walked away from the pool with a "Oh yeah- watch me! This aint over yet" attitude.  I was well aware of the effort it took between my ears to decide that I was going to get this!

In 1986, I had a doctor that looked at my crooked and then broken spine give me a list of things I "shouldn't do".  Running was one of them.  Based on what the docs knew then - he may have been right.  In 2008, I had another doctor tell me just the opposite as he put a rod in my back.  He was the one to sign me up for my 4th Ironman.  How times have changed! Ten days ago another "doctor" looked at the xray of my feet and tell me I should "think about walking when I am 80" and 7 days ago yet another doctor told me that he could fix these up and I would be back up and running.  Science is always evolving.  Sport is always evolving.  Humans are always evolving.  One thing is certain - evolution sometimes requires sweat and tears.

So what now?  My hope is that those with the most intimate knowledge of what science can do for sport and what sport can do for science come together.  That no athlete is faced with denying what happens in the heart with some sweat in order to get to the finish line.  That all athletes get the chance to "cry in their goggles" to know that they are alive and on the leading edge all on their own!  That is where one experiences one's creator. This is what I believe.  For now... off to have just one of those experiences on my bike, in my living room and all on my own create a little bit of sweat.