Friday, April 25, 2014

Week 4 1/2 Post Surgery

Week 4 1/2 (post-surgery):

Appt. with orthopedic surgeon - new x-rays taken which showed that the titanium plate and 7 screws were still in place and neatly lined up.  The doctor said in about a week or so, I can periodically take my arm out of the sling and begin doing gentle range-of-motion movements (such as pendulum swings, reaching down to the floor, raising my arm up using the assistance of my left hand).  As he had me do this, it really pulled/ached in my shoulder area.  He said this was stiffness from being immobilized in the sling for so long.  I wondered if it might be a rotator cuff issue, but he said possibly, but not probably.  The arm had to be immobilized so the clavicle could heal and it will be stiff initially.  He also suggested doing ROM in the pool.  Still, no driving until I have more movement in my right arm (motivation in itself)!  My husband is getting really tired of chauffeuring me around even though I try to schedule appointments in the afternoons so he can do his workouts in the mornings... and I'm getting tired of this lack of independence by having to rely on someone else to drive me!

Foot Update:

Finally was able to see the podiatrist who took more x-rays and also ordered an MRI.  He then took out his scalpel and sliced away at a thick callus that had built up on the bottom of my foot just below the little toe.  He said he sliced off 2 inches!... an exaggeration, but there was a pile of callus next to my foot.  It took years of cycling to build up that callus!... He also noted that my bursa was enlarged and thought that I probably had an infection in either the bursa or the callus.  X-rays and the MRI did not indicate a fracture nor soft tissue (tendon/ligament) issue but it did show bursitis.  The swelling is mostly gone in my foot but my skin is peeling like a snake!  I think I'm turning into a "reptile!"  Particularly bothersome is the peeling of the tough skin on the bottom of my foot exposing tender/sensitive tissue.  I have to let that toughen up and also protect it when I am out (with non-stick padding as any adhesive pulls more skin off).  I have to hold off going in the pool while the foot is healing but hopefully, in another week or so, I can return to walking and also go in the pool (good place to move my arm as well).

Occupying my Confining Time:

Housework - Since I cannot drive nor meaningfully walk right now (due to the foot issue), I have been housebound pretty much.  I have been doing housework (laundry, mopping/dusting with one hand, fixing meals and other daily activities that do take longer with my limitations although I am able to use my right hand now as long as I don't lift my arm much).  Actually, doing these chores makes me feel more normal plus I have all day to do them.

Reading - I think I'm on my 5th book now!... just finished, "What Makes Olga Run," (about a woman in her 90's who still competes in Track & Field)!... currently reading, "Unbroken," which is inspiring.  Angelina Jolie is directing the movie that will be released later this year.  It is the true story of Louis Zamporini who had been a track star and was taken hostage during WWII.

Wildlife Observer - Our house is next to a wild area and I have been enjoying the wildlife that appears regularly.  There is a group of deer that wander and also rest in the wild area.  I counted 12 the other day!  Also, the coyotes whoop it up usually during the night and/or early mornings.  I see them dashing across the golf course chasing each other playfully or after some prey (i.e., rabbit).  Sometimes I sit on the side of our house in the morning sunshine or put something on a chair there to dry.  When I went out there the other day, I glimpsed movement out of the corner of my eye and spotted a big "reddish" snake!  It heard me and slithered under the concrete base of our air conditioning unit (where pack rats have, in the past, developed a condominium complex).  I googled, "Snakes of Arizona," and found out that the snake is a "coach whip" (AKA - "red racer") and it is non-venomous (although it will bite)!  I have spotted the snake several times now as it "hangs out" behind the A.C. unit enjoying the sunshine and the probable food supply.  My husband is happy to have the pack rat population somewhat under control!  I have named the snake, "Whipper!"

Friends/Neighbors/Visitors - Friends and neighbors check in on me and have come to visit.  My neighbor even had surgery on her right hand (thumb) and is also in a sling (Photo is posted on Facebook).  I have been giving her support on using her non-dominant hand.  We are going to have a one-hand, non-dominant buttoning contest any day now!

Email -  Thanks goodness for email and communication with the outside world!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Bike Accident, Fractured/Displaced Clavicle

                                              Post-surgery with titanium plate and 7 screws

On Monday, March 3rd, I met the guys I normally bike with for our regular bike ride up to Oracle.  There were a couple of guests from Canada that day and I was excited to meet them and have them bike with us.  I also didn't want them to think I was a "weenie-girl" and was biking at a fast clip down Saddlebrooke hill and enjoying some of their draft... when suddenly, I spotted a huge rock (bigger than my fist) but too late to maneuver around it and I hit it and crashed to my right side.  The guys asked if I was all right to which I replied that I had broken my collarbone!... How did I know that they asked... and I said that I could feel the bone end poking into my skin!... Luckily, I had on cycling tights and my red TriSports' jacket which saved me a lot of skin... still the force of the impact did cause some road rash especially to parts not covered but even under the jacket and tights.  One good Samaritan stopped and took me to Urgent Care where x-rays confirmed not only the fracture but the displaced bone.  It was recommended that I see an orthopedic.  Fortunately, there is a great group of hand/shoulder orthopedic specialists here called Southwest Hand.  They even sponsor a cycling team (How smart is that)!... also some of the doctors are cyclists!... so I thought this would be the best place to be seen.  The earliest appointment I could get was two days later and believe me, I was really uncomfortable but refused to take pain killers figuring they would make me loopy among other side effects.  However, every little movement was agonizing because the displaced bone would just poke that much more.

On Wed. I saw Dr. Chafit and had more x-rays taken.  My clavicle was fractured in three places with a segment that was really crooked and tearing into my upper trapezius muscle.  The following Monday I had surgery to realign the bone and it was stabilized with a titanium plate and seven screws... amazing what they can do!  At the follow-up visit, I was shown the x-rays as to how really messed up my bone was and then the repair job with the meticulously placed titanium plate and the neatly aligned screws.  I was to remain in a sling for another 6-8 weeks, no driving, no lifting of the arm (and it had to be my dominant right side, too), no physical activity... not even walking... just taking it easy and laying low (so difficult for a Type A person)!

After a couple of weeks, I was permitted to return to some walking... and being so excited about that, I walked excessively.  By the weekend my right foot (where I had been having some issues) swelled up like a balloon and was red and warm to the touch.  By Monday it was worse and you couldn't even see my ankle.  I was supposed to be accompanying my husband to Galveston where he was still doing the 70.3 (I had to cancel) but now I wanted to find out if I had perhaps pushed so hard that I had a stress fracture.  I couldn't get into my local podiatrist but my husband's ortho "knee" guy was willing to see me and take x-rays.  When he saw how swollen and red my foot/ankle were, he diagnosed it as "cellulitis" and put me on heavy doses of antibiotic which if it didn't knock it down could become really serious and even lead to sepsis!  So, I opted out of going to Galveston and stayed home and tried to keep my foot elevated and take it easy.  I couldn't put weight on it anyway and just dragged my foot around (while wearing socks so the floor got dusted anyway)!  I didn't want to be in the middle of Texas and have a medical issue.

Fortunately, the foot is improving and the swelling is almost gone but my foot is still a bit sore as it blistered and now the blisters are cracking/peeling and the tissue underneath is sensitive.  This is really frustrating as I'm not getting any activity... but luckily, it is healing.

Yesterday I had a surprise phone call from Sister Madonna (in her 80's now and still racing up until her recent bike accident in which she fractured her pelvis.  She was supposed to be running Boston next Monday)!  I admire her faith and she puts things in perspective but both of us agreed that it is hard to be patient.

I have been getting a lot of reading done... posted race reports onto my blog... spent a lot of time cancelling out on races and doing whatever paperwork was involved.  Plus, it takes me a lot longer to do daily activities with my left hand (like dressing, cleaning, washing/combing my hair, brushing my teeth) but I'm getting better at being a "lefty!" so perhaps that will help me when I return to my activities especially in swimming where I was less than effective with my left arm.

Having worked with people with disabilities and also fundraised for the Challenged Athletes Foundation, I realize that I am one of the lucky ones. I will heal and gradually build back my level of fitness which is at a low point right now.  For such a quick accident, it is such a long recovery.  I so appreciate all the support family, friends, neighbors, other athletes and especially have given me.

2014 Flapjack 30K Time Trial

The Flapjack Time Trial was held on Saturday, Feb. 8th on Park Link Road which connects Hwy. 79 to the Frontage Rd. that parallels the I-10 just south of Picacho Peak.  We drive this road often when heading to the I-10.  There is absolutely nothing in the way of services along this road but there is beautiful scenery.

This was my 4th race this year but only my 2nd ever Time Trial.  The first one was years ago on the Frontage Rd. near Picacho Peak.  I decided to do the Flapjack Time Trial because I thought it would be good training for upcoming duathlons/triathlons and a way to focus just on biking.  The good thing about Time Trials is that there is NO drafting.  I have to give a lot of credit to people who do cycling events which are draft-legal (which carry a higher risk of crashing)!  There was a 20K TT which more people did but also the 30K which I did... although some people actually did BOTH!

Once again as I had in the running races I've done this year, I was able to watch the sunrise!... and it was spectacular!  I have to remember to bring a camera!  I arrived at the race site early as I wasn't really sure just where on Park Link Rd. the race began or what the parking was like.  I was definitely one of the earliest arrivals.  I waited in the car until packet pick-up and watched more and more people arriving.  As they began unloading their bikes, I did not see any with aerobars!... and began to get concerned.  Did I misread something?  Was this a draft-legal race in which aerobars were not allowed.  So, I asked someone and was told they were racing in the "Merckx" division which meant that did not have aerobars, aero accessories or even an aero helmet (not that I have one either).  I thought it was a throw-back to basic cycling roots.  Then I started seeing bikes with aerobars and quite a few people who brought trainers and were setting them up for a warm-up!

The people whom I met were extremely friendly.  Summit Velo puts on this event and they were busy setting things up.  I went over to pick up my race bib and there was a fellow whom I know (Dick Reynolds) volunteering.  He checked me in and later even pinned on my race bib (goes on the side of your body)!  Dick is an incredible cyclist but when I asked him if he were racing, he said he was still recovering from an accident which apparently he was run over by a vehicle after being thrown from his bike and was laying on his back.  The vehicle went over his chest vertically and although Dick had cracked ribs and cruises, he did not break any major bones or have major internal injuries... even the paramedics were amazed!

Then I saw Phil Holman (a top-ranked cyclist who bikes with the group of guys I bike with on his "leisure/recovery" days)  He had his new Italian Time Trial bike and it looked FAST!  Phil was actually the one who encouraged me to do this Time Trial.

I also saw Stephanie Keresztes, Pam Kallio and Michael Gibbs... nice to see some familiar faces!  I saw Carolyn Audilet and Holly Reed after the race as well as Mona who said she hadn't biked since Ironman Arizona and was a bit anxious but did well in the TT.

To warm up, I biked down and back on Park Link Rd. once the temperature warmed up... was chilly when I arrived... but once the sun was up, it warmed up nicely.  Since the 30K race was after the 20K race, I didn't want to warm up too soon and then get chilled.  Other people were cranking away on their trainers.

This event has a friendly, low-key atmosphere so a really good way for an inexperienced Time Trial racer to get into the sport.  They Start Line and Finish Line were drawn on the pavement.  Officials send you off every 30 seconds.  There are kilometer signs every 5K.  At the Start, someone holds your rear wheel... very awkward for me... but I managed to get going when given the signal without falling over.

Basically, the course is an out and back course on a rough chip seal road with one cattle guard to cross (over and back).  There is a slight incline on the way out but then a decline on the way back.  There wasn't a lot of wind.  Once I was on my way, I pushed the pace and could feel that I was breathing hard and my lungs were being challenged.  I'm not used to going all out so much as I tend to favor the longer triathlons/duathlons which require pacing the bike as you still have to run afterwards.  My throat felt really dry and I had to take some sips of water.  Once at the turn-around, I pushed even harder knowing I was head back.

Summit Velo did a great job of putting on this event.  It wasn't called the "Flapjack TT" for nothing and yes, there were flapjacks (pancakes for everyone including chocolate chip pancakes).

Results for the 30K were not posted yet so I headed home.  Since I was the only one in the 65-99 yr. age group in the 30K, I knew I won but it wasn't until the next day that I found out how well I did when my friend Phil (aka "Fast Phil") congratulated me and said I had even beaten a younger CAT 3 female cyclist!... and averaged over 19MPH. Now that made my day!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

2013 National Duathlon Championships

                                                     National Duathlon Champion W65-69

For the third year in a row, the National Duathlon Championship was held in Oro Valley.  Of course that makes it convenient for locals.  People came from all over the country to compete and were so impressed by our beautiful majestic area!  I competed in the stanrd distance which consised of a 5K run/35K bike/5K run.  There was also a sprint distance race.

The best part of these events is meeting like-minded people.  I have been competing in duathlons for 5 years now and look forward to reuniting with friends as well as meeting new ones who share such an active lifestyle... especially the older athletes as there is a special bond among us!  We do not think of ourselves as "old!"  In fact, during the first run, I heard someone yell, "Go OLD ladies!"... I felt like clobbering him!

This year the race was held in the fall (at the request of many people who found the spring duathlon difficult for training as many do not have the luxury of being able to train outdoors year-round).  As a result, the level of competition seemed even higher this year.

I had been away visiting family all summer so had less on-course training that the previous two years but still, I was able to train on the course with some Tucson Tri Girl friends (Kathi, Eve and Kandy) as well as friends who arrived early for the race from Pennsylvania (Barb & Dick Morgan whom I've come to know through these events).  This made the training much more fun!  Also, I know the course well as it is a regular biking area.  I had to laugh at comments from others who did not live here about the hills on the bike course!... Yes, there are some rolling hills and steady climbs (but you can make up time on the downhill sections).  Most locals do not consider this really hilly.

Here is a summary of the race:

Packet Pick-up - At the Hilton El Conquistador went smoothly and fun seeing volunteers whom I knew (from, TriGirls, Grasky Endurance, neighbors/friends and families of competing athletes.

Race Day - Glorious morning, little wind, cool temperatures (low 50's) - arrived at transition about 6:45AM and had fun seeing friends as I set up.  We wished each other well.  A gal sang the National Anthem (well-done, too) and we headed out to the Starting Line.

1st Run - Women over 50 and men over 60 were in the 2nd wave right after the elites.  The run course began with an uphill, then a right turn, U-turn, and back downhill passing transition and continuing down a somewhat long steep hill to another turn-around and back to transition.  I managed to stay ahead of all my competition whom I recognized except wasn't able to spot one other whom I did not know.  I heard a lot of people calling my name and cheering me on!  It helps to be a local and know many of the volunteers!

Bike - The bike course went uphill then turned left where it continued to go uphill and then some rolling hills to a turn-around and then some great downhills where you could pick up speed.  The bike course consisted of two loops for the standard distance.  Biking is my strong suit and I was happy to be on a course that I knew well.  I passed quite a few people on the bike.  I also saw about three people with flats and hoped I didn't get one (I didn't)!

2nd Run - This is the real test.  Did I leave enough in the tank to have a decent second run?  The 2nd run seemed harder, longer and steeper.  but the crowds kept me going... especially Debbie and Susan from and also Barb & Dick who were cheering me on as they waited for their sprint race following the standard distance race... in addition, there were Tri Di & Len, Brian, Stephanie and others from Grasky Endurance, Estelle Maes, some Tucson Tri Girls (including very pregnant Chrissy the President), Laurie, Joan, Ted, Jack, Dave, Gerry and many more out there cheering.  Once again I realized I was still ahead of the gals whom I knew in my age group but kept looking at the calves of people ahead of me trying to spot the one other gal listed in my age group (only finding out after the race that she did not come)!...but the thought that she might be out there kept me pushing harder as I really wanted to defend my National Duathlon Champion title having won last year.

As I was running down the Finish Chute, I heard the announcer say that there was a TriGirl catching up to me.  I figured it was Eve because I had passed her on the bike, but I knew she was a faster runner... so my last goal was to not let her pass me!... and I succeeded but it was close!.  Congratulations to Eve, too, because she had a great race and this was only her second duathlon.

When I cross the Finish Line, the announcer called out that I was the National Champion in the F65-69 age group... but I didn't know if he meant this year or last year.  When I picked up my results print-out, I found out it was both!... as I had won again!  Woo-hoo!... I wish my husband could have seen me race but he was in Maui for his first time competing in XTERRA World's!

That evening at the Awards Ceremony, it was so exciting to see such a large crowd including the mayor of Oro Valley (Mayor Hiremath) who presented the awards.  He said the town of Oro Valley is going to miss having Nationals here.  I told him we are going to miss having it here, too!

The top 18 in each 5-yr. age group qualified for World's in Spain!... Interestingly, I will be competing at World's in the next age group (F70-74) as I age up in 2014.

Many thanks to the town of Oro Valley, the Oro Valley Police Dept who did an outstanding job of controlling traffic, the Golder Ranch Fire Dept.,, Grasky Endurance, USAT, Tucson Tri Girls, Tucson Sports, Gatorade and all the wonderful sponsors and volunteers without whom this even would not be possible.  A special "thank you" to my friends who trained with me (Kathi, Eve, Kandy and the guys with whom I regularly cycling who make me push hard to keep up with them)!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

5150 Marseille Triathlon

My husband Rodger, our son Mark and I all did the 5150 Marseille Triathlon in July 2013.  It was the inaugural 5150 Marseille Triathlon.

We arrived the Thursday before the race and located the apartment we had rented online.  It was in the highly touristy area of the Old Port ("Vieux Port") which has a gorgeous setting with a boat harbor lined with historic buildings, outdoor cafes/restaurants/bars with apartments above, performing street musicians, outdoor vendors and within walking distance of several museums as well as bus and metro stops so you can get anywhere from this location.  Our apartment was on the 5th floor which meant carrying all our gear, bikes up all those stairs.

The studio apartment was small but well-equipped, newly renovated and tastefully decorated in a modern decor.  It looked right out onto the Vieux Port.  At night it was particularly beautiful to see the boats in the harbor lit with blue lights and the historic buildings lit up as well.  It was also quite lively with street musicians, enthusiastic spectators, people dining/drinking/socializing in outdoor cafes/restaurants or bars.  As a result, it was also a bit noisy especially with windows open as there was no air conditioning.  We settled in that first day and ate dinner right along the harbor in an outdoor cafe.

Friday afternoon we went to Packet Pcik-up at the small Expo on La Plage du Prado (Prado Beach) where the Race Start/Finish were located.  Volunteers were fantastic and tried hard to speak English with us and I made the effort to speak French.  I can honestly say their English was much better than my French.  We looked at the cours maps posted on a board but there was not much information on the bike course other than a map with no street/road names, recognizable landmarks or course profile, but we heard that once you left town there was a lot of climbing.

On Saturday morning I took the public bus to the beach to do a practice swim.  I was hoping I could swim on the course but that beach was closed so I ended up swimming in the nearby public beach.  The water felt warm.  I heard it was close to the wetsuit cut-off temperature.  I did not swim in my wetsuit during this practice swim.

When I returned to the apartment, our son Mark had arrived.  He still ahd to pick up his packet and plus, we all had to turn in our bikes that afternoon.  So, we all biked down to the Expo through the busy streets of Marseille taking the scenic route that went along the harbor and then by the sea.  Once Mark had his packet, we got in the bike check-in line.  They wanted you to have your helmet on when you checked in your bike and they did a check of the bike itself and took a photo of you and your bike! They also body-marked you then.  After locating our assigned bike spot, we had to pick up our timing chips.  We then took the bus back to the apartment and had an early dinner there.

We set the alarm for a little after 4AM.  There were still people out partying on the local streets as we headed to the parking garage to drive to transition.  We drove down in the dark and were able to find parking on a side street.  It helped that our bikes were already racked.

We went to transition, checked our bikes, added fluids/nutrition, set up our bike shoes/run shoes/race belt.  We were not allowed to have anything else in transition as it was tightly packed.  Instead, you could check your gear bag and pick it up after the race.  Then it was off to the porta-potties... only 6 for about 1000 athletes!

SWIM - There were 4 swim wave starts (Pro's, AG women, 2 AG men's waves).  It was wetsuit legal.  The winds were gusting, the current was strong and the water was choppy.  Some people seemed to be swimming all over the place and the volunteers on kayaks were blowing whistles and trying to keep swimmers on course.  I can honestly say I swam the whole course (and then some)!..

BIKE - The bike started out on main roads with a lane blocked off for cyclists.  Once out of the downtown, the route became a winding, climbing two-lane road that kept going higher and higher.  Mark passed me on the ascent.  It reminded me of biking Mt. Lemmon except the views included the sea.  The winds had really picked up and were gusting adding to the challenge.  Once you crested the big hill, there was a series of winding roads and two segues with a turn-around and then back to the steep, winding descent.  My husband passed me on the descent and ended up having a slightly faster bike split but by less than three minutes.

RUN - The run paralleled the sea and was two loops.  It had some flat parts but there was also a hill that seemed longer and higher on the second lap.  To show that you finished the first lap, you were given a yellow "chou-chou" (band) to wear around your arm.  Winds had really picked up and at times gusts would kick up sand.  I had to duck my head to keep from getting it in my eyes.  The air temperature was in the 90's.  I was happy to cross the Finish Line.  This was one of the toughest Olympic-distance triathlons I have done.  I did end up taking 2nd in my age group.  Rodger was the only one in his, so got a 1st place.  For our son Mark, he completed his first Olympic distance triathlon.

This was the first time all three of us had competed in the same race so that made it extra special.  The volunteers were terrific, supportive and put in a lot of hours to make this race successful.  Now that we've done the race and know the course, we are considering doing it again.

Thank you to the city of Marseille, the race organizers,, the Montpellier Triathlon Club, the volunteers and all the sponsors who did a great job to make this event successful.  A special thank you to for continuing to sponsor me, for the Tucson Tri Girls and friends and family who continue to encourage and support me.

2013 IM France Race Report

We arrived in Nice the Wednesday before the race and settled into the 4th floor apt. we had rented after unloading everything and making several elevator trips in a tiny old wooden elevator (max. 3 persons and they better be slim) that looked like it was from "Phantom of the Opera" with a heavy metal grill exterior door and two interior folding wooden doors with glass inserts.  The apt. required 3 big old fashioned keys to enter (one for the building, one for the first door entrance that served two apts. and the other for the actual apt. we were renting)... quite cumbersome to carry around.  We had dinner at a small traditional French restaurant near the train station and off the tourist path that had been recommended to us by the desk clerk at the hotel where we picked up our apt. keys).  It turned out to be so great that we even returned there the next evening and happened to meet our friend Dave Lowe as we were walking there and he joined us for dinner (small world).

The next morning there was "swim training" as they referred to it on the schedule.  Basically, it was a lot of athletes swimming at that time and some safety in numbers as well as a tent set up with wetsuits... Fun meeting other athletes from all over.  The course was not marked yet so people just swam where they wanted.  The hardest part was entering/exiting the water with moving tide and small waves because this is not a sand beach, but rather rocks!... not little pebbles... but bigger rocks... 3" or more in diameter... the kind you paint for "pet rocks!"... and talk about a beating as you tried to maintain balance esp. exiting (usually unsuccessfully)... and ended up being raked over the rocks!... Ouch!... Grown people were on all fours trying to exit the water!... The swim that morning was cut short due to thunder and lightning!...luckily everyone made it out of the water although some did not even realize right away that it was thundering/lightning!... including my husband.

Later we went to the Expo and I picked up my packet.  Reminder:  If yo do one of these International events be sure to bring not only a photo ID, but also your triathlon affiliation card (i.e., USAT card)... not something everyone thinks about since this is not a USAT event... but without it, you are subject to a medical exam/certification right there and must also purchase a temporary day license.  It was fun looking at the various triathlon gear/clothing/stuff at the Expo.  We talked with a representative from the European "Triathlete" magazine... and very nice triathlete who lives/works in Paris.  We told him about our son who lives/works there and they ended up talking on the cell phone and hoping to meet sometime.  People were really friendly.  It does help to know some French.  They seemed to appreciate my efforts.

Thursday/Friday were more "swim training" and the weather had cleared and was wonderful... but still more raking over the rocks!.  I met Lisa Ribes (Pro whom I know from Tucson) and her fiance Jon and wished her well in the race.  Also, I met some Team-in-Training athletes from California.  Mostly, though, there were Europeans at the race and mostly men with only about 7% women in the race.  I had some questions about the course and stopped at the Info Booth.  There I met the most wonderful represtative of (European network) named Sandrine.  She answered all my questions and seemed to take an interest in such an "old gal" attempted to do the race.  She told me about a 70.3 in Lisbon, Portugal and encouraged me to consider it.

Friday evening was the pre-Race dinner and it was one of the best we've attended.  It was held in a huge outdoor park and instead of packed tables, there were little tables and cube-like seats that could be re-arranged wherever you wanted.  The food was some of the best food I've ever had at a pre-race dinner!.. It's France!... They even had beer which my husband enjoyed (He wasn't racing)!  the program was efficient, showed a video, named the competing Pro's, talked about their charity and wished everyone well!

Saturday was bike/bag check-in at various times based on your race number.  My check-in time was the very last (6-7:00PM) and took a long time.  I would rather have eaten dinner early and gotten to bed early the night before the race.  Also, at check-in you were given your timing chip and got "body-marked" (I slept on a beach towel as I didn't want black magic marker to get on the white sheet in the rental apt... seemed an odd time to body mark)!

The transition area was the longest one I've ever seen at any race!... It went on and on... medical, transition tent, rows of bike bags, rows of run bags, rows of bikes... luckily my bike was racked near the bike out so I did not have to run so far with my bike... but still everyone had to run from the swim exit passing all those rows to the Bike Out.

As its typical, I didn't sleep much the night before the race... kept checking the clock... got up at 3:30AM for coffee, yogurt, etc. and headed down to the start.  Some locals/tourists were just getting in from partying all night!... and here were all these athletes heading down to the Start.

Ironman France begins at 6:25AM with the Pro's followed by the age groupers 5 minutes later... earlier start than most IM events... plus, the race ends at 10:30PM (16-hour cut-off).

First stop was to uncover the bike (Power Bar had provided plastic covers for the bikes), add nutrition, liquids, pump tires, check bike, etc.  Then I put on my wetsuit half-way, grabbed my goggles/cap and made my way down to the "street clothing" bag drop and there was a line.  You had to be out of transition by 6AM... so you really needed to get there early.  Next it was down the ramps to the rocky beach area.  Fortunately there was carpeting on the swim exit itself although you still had to go over rocks.

SWIM - While standing on the rocky beach awaiting the Swim Start, I stretched out my race-numbered official swim cap and it ripped!... Oh great!... I rushed back to see if there were any extra caps... No!... so I went back to the line up and hoped my cap would not tear any farther and that my ears/head would not get cold.  (Note:  Bring an extra swim cap)!

At 6:25 the Pro's went off... and they were all over the place.. seems they weren't sure which buoy to go to either and plus there was current/tide throwing you off.  The swim consists of two loops... first a clockwise loop of about 2.5km and then a run out on the rocks and back in for the 2nd lopp but this one was counter-clockwise and about 1.3km.  Then the age groupers took off.  Since I'm a slow swimmer I was near the back with "Mr. Zig-Zag" in front of me! (clobbered me a couple of times).  I had to keep trying to sight as I wasn't in the pack and the few buoys were difficult to see and also a bit of a challenge differentiating between buoys for loop 1 vs. loop 2.  It seemed like everytime I put my head down, I would go off-course... so I ended up doing some breaststroke so I could sight better).  Heading to the rocky shore was particularly challenging and although there were kayakers out there, it wasn't always clear where to head to the exit.

When I finally approached the exit, I tried to stand up and my right leg and foot cramped big time!... There were volunteers assisting people over the rocks onto the exit carpet and there I was with this stiff leg!... which finally uncramped and I made my way up the ramp, grabbed my bike bag and was directed to a changing tent that said "hommes" (men) but who cares.  I proceeded to strip off my wetsuit (NO wetsuit strippers here), change, drop off my bike bag and head down the very long transition to my bike.  My swim was slow but I was relieved to have made the swim cut-off since my swim training had been less than optimal due to months off with skin cancer surgery/treatment.

BIKE - The bike course starts out along the Promenade des Anglais and there were tourists cutting across the bike course... almost ran into some woman oblivious to the fact that there was a race going on!... had to yell at her to watch out!  It seems I was out there a lot on my own since my swim was slow (although there were some athletes who missed the swim cut-off).  There were volunteers and police at major intersections/turns but since I was so far back, I think some of them didn't notice I was out there and I actually missed the turn to the first climb with a 12% grade.  I heard the volunteers yelling after me as I had followed some other cyclists but it turns out they weren't in the race!... So, I had to U-turn and head up the steep hill.

Much of the early bike course was getting out of the city and through an industrial area... but then it started climbing... not real steep but definitely up... then it would level off and climb some more and began winding a lot more and going through beautiful residential areas with lots of foilage... passing small towns... speed bumps... winding descents... climbing, climbing with the first high climb being the Col d'Ecre at about 70km.  It was slow going especially with the technical winding turns... Every now and then you caught glimpses far down the valley below and thought, "Wow!... This is really high!"  The views were spectacular!   Everything looked so green (especially coming from Tucson)!... flowers were blooming (not that you had much time to admire it all).

I passed about 6 people (5 guys and one gal... the only other "older" woman in the race at age 62).  Then a couple of guys passed me on one of the steep descents where I wish I could have gone faster but not knowing what was around the next corner made me more cautious especially since there were that many cyclists back where I was that I could follow.  As I approached the Special Needs area, I heard an ambulance siren and moved over... then stopped at Special Needs only to find that my bag was not there!!! (and I had dropped it off as directed in the morning).  I was looking forward to my personal nutrition but ended up using the PowerAde drink provided on the course (which did not settle well) and also had a banana but would have preferred my own nutrition.

Then more climbing and this time I could see cyclists winding back and forth ahead so I knew what I was in for (a lot of work)!... then level stretches, more small towns, some cars on the road, a catering van trying to get to a wedding, sightseeing turn-outs with cars pulling in/out... some hairpin turns with a big "!" painted on the road, some road construction, more exclamation marks and even some speed limits.  Then there was an "out & back" stretch around 120km where there was a turn-around with the first bike cut-off time.  If you didn't make it to this point by 3:15PM, you were pulled off the course and couldn't continue.  The volunteers were saying something to me as I was approaching and I thought they were telling me I didn't make the cut-off... but they were yelling to hurry over the mat!... and I did make it.... apparently being one of the last to do so.  I headed on and then came the really long, winding descent (about 20-plus kilometers of descending).  I was cautious and feathering my brakes.  There were stone walls, rock hillsides, crop-off's into who knows where and I didn't see any other cylists out there then.  This is where you could really make up time... but also where you could lost it and crash... undesirable outcome.  Finally, I came to an aid stationa nd there was a gal whom I had met before the race.  Her derailleur had broken and her race was over!... Bummer!

Off I went again trying to maintain control and yet make up time.  About 25km or so from the Finish a motorcycle policeman appeared and told me he would follow me... probably because the road was opening to traffic soon and there I was all alone... so he kept blowing his horn to alert traffic/people.  It got really hairy as I approached the Promenande des Anglais and he moved in front of me as there were so many people out there crossing in/out and the runners running on the run course which paralleled the bike course and plastic cups all over which I was trying to dodge plus water on the road from the showers et up for the runners on the course.  People were cheering me on; runners were cheering me, too... and I knew it going to be close.  As I approached the Finish area, the motorcyclist left and I was faced with people all over the place as I tried to make my way to the Bike In... but I couldn't get through the crowds and figured I must have missed the bike cut-off... so I went to where we checked into transition and there were long lines of athletes with finisher's medals around their necks and their bikes/bags waiting to check out!  I asked the volunteers where I should go as I I I had probably missed the bike cut-off and then was directed to rack my bike and head down the long path with long lines of athletes to pick up my bags), then worked my way through the lines to get my bike and was checked out and chip removed.

My fantastic husband was there to say he was proud of me anyway and helped me carry my stuff through the crowds and back to the apartment.

So, Ironman France was not an official finish for me... but later I heard about more crashes out on the bike course including a 30-yr. old male from the U.K. who crashed on the course, was helicoptered out and died on his way to the hospital... so very tragic!... so in the big picture, I am thankful I did as much as I did and remained safe out there.  My training had been less than optimal with the time off for skin cancer treatment.  Plus, with a 16-hr. cut-off, with each segment having less time) this race is particularly challenging for the older athletes.. and yet I want to give it another "go" as I consider it "unfinished business!"

The Awards Ceremony was another fantastic event... again wonderful food... relaxing setting... great camaraderie... with a somber part as they had a moment of silence fo the cyclist who had died during the race.  Great to see that Lisa Ribes placed 4th among the Pro women in spite of having her bike stoled prior to the race and having to race on a borrowed bike!  Sandrine from whom I had met at the Info booth came over and sat with us and told me I was an inspiration.  I would have felt more inspiring had I actually finished the race... but she seemed to give me credit anyway for hanging in there and finishing the swim and the bike.  Then she left for a few minutes and back back with overall female Pro winner Mary Beth Ellis (whom Sandrine knows well) and introduced me to her.  I was very impressed with how personable Mary Beth was.  She also said what a hard bike course it was and that she had even crashed during it but managed to get back, finish and win!... Now that's inspiring!

Merci beaucoup to IM France Race Organizers, to, to my husband, family and all my friends who continue to support me!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

IM France - Ready or Not!

GADS!  Ironman France is this weekend and I am not feeling very confident!  Having completed 10 Ironman races, I have an idea of where I should be in my training... and I'm not there.  My excuse is mainly too much time off dealing with skin cancer treatment leaving me less time to prepare for an Ironman event.  I can only ramp up my training so much without detrimental effects.  My training is coming along but is not where it should be... so I am going to have to dig really deep and rely a lot on "muscle memory" to get through this event... not the easiest of Ironman races either (as "if" any Ironman were "easy")!... but the bike course is particularly challenging with 5000 ft. of climbing and then some hairy steep descents which are described on the website as "dangerous!"... Hmmm!... so I am hoping I can keep the "rubber side down!"  Then there is the time cut-off... 16 hours total... with less time for each segment... unlike a North American Ironman that has a 17-hr. cut-off.

Still, I plan to give IM France my best effort.  There is some advantage to being the oldest woman in the race.  If I don't finish, people might say, "Well, look how old she is!"... and if I do finish, they might be amazed.  I really hope I stay safe out there.  Our son Mark gave me some advice saying that if I get hurt and the ambulance picks me up and they ask whether I want to be transported to a hospital or a clinic, tell them "a clinic!"  I think it's a longer wait at a hospital.  I just hope I don't have a need for either one.

On the positive side, the race is in Nice!... a beautiful area... No wonder people want to go there with its setting along the Mediterannean Sea, lovely weather, great food... so whatever happens, we'll be in a good place (to celebrate or commiserate)!