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70.3 Archives - A Familia Adventure

From Mom to Machine – All the Gory Details

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It has taken me 4 months to finish writing about my first half iron man. I don’t think I have a good excuse for it, I think I had just reached my limit on thinking about it. I have spent the last 4 months re-living the race and what I could have done differently, but here, I will just give you my account of race day. Some of it might be overshare, but it’ll give you a good idea of what it was like. After taking a challenge that looked from the outside like an incredibly crazy thing for me to even attempt, I owned it. I didn’t smash the time I wanted, but it’s done – finished! I’m alive, although I didn’t manage that part on my own (see below for details). I have, in hindsight, likened this race to childbirth. The pain isn’t as intense – obviously (men don’t go thinking you know what childbirth is like now) but it does leave you in awe of what your body is capable of. I’m pretty sure as the days pass and the memory of the pain fades, I will want to tackle the challenge again.

 

For those who haven’t done a triathlon (or Ironman specific event) you might find the details interesting, or at least informative. It might put you off wanting to try, but don’t let it! Race day details are seldom fun when you live it, but in hindsight I think most people are pleased they did it.

 

This is my day in review:

 

4.30am and the alarm signals the end of a difficult nights sleep. In a way, starting the day is welcome. After such a build up, I was looking forward to getting rid of the nerves. So up to breakfast we went. Getting food down your throat before 5 in the morning is always a challenge, but it has to be done. We sorted our gear the day before, putting ‘swim to bike’ transition gear in one bag, ‘bike to run’ gear in another, and ‘street wear’ in a separate bag that hangs at their respective ‘finish lines’. We took our bikes to the transition area and racked them the day before too, so all our gear was ready and waiting. The only thing left to do was arrange bottles of juice and make sure we had our nutrition sorted.

 

5.30am had us walking down the East London peer, on route to the transition area and start line. It is imperative to re-orientate yourself with where your bags hang and where your bike is racked. When your bike hangs amidst 2200 other bikes, best you know exactly where your number is so you don’t get lost during the race. You’d be surprised at how many people take the wrong things in their flustered state during transition. In a recent ironman event overseas one of the pro’s ended up running the 21km’s barefoot as she couldn’t find her shoes in transition! So, re-orientation, last minute touches and bottles done, it was time to head down to the beachfront with the 2200 other competitors to suit up for the swim.

 

6.30am by this point in the game, you should have a pretty good idea of how long it will take you to swim 1900 meters, so your start time is left up to you. If you start amongst swimmers of your speed, you will be swimming over fewer people and have fewer people swimming over you, both very advantageous if you’re not looking to drown. Pick the pen with your estimated finish time and wait for your start. Oh the nerves!

 

7.15am my time had come. Thankfully Shaun and I swim at similar speeds so we could wait in looming fear together, huddled like seals amongst the other wetsuit clad participants. All I could think was; don’t forget to put your goggles on! And then we were off. The water was magic, after training in the Atlantic in 11 degree water, East London’s Indian Ocean felt like a hot tub by comparison. Starting with people of a similar speed was the cherry on top, we swam as a pod instead of a school of piranhas, making it a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The conditions were close to ideal and there was only a mild current. The fact that the swim was 300meters further than it was supposed to be didn’t bother me at all, I could have swam happily for hours, but the bike was waiting and out I had to come.

 

Swim time: 40:01 minutes – 1900m (in reality 2200m)

 

Transition time: 6:20 minutes

(This is how long it took me to run from the sea up to the transition area, find my ‘swim to bike’ bag, get out my wetsuit, into cycling gear, find my bike and run out of the transition area – you only mount the bike on the road)

 

I started the cycle feeling strong, and ahead of the crowds, which was a great feeling. I could find my pace on the road and start notching the hills off the race profile. There is no slipstreaming allowed in triathlon so it doesn’t matter where you begin. The 90km cycle is gruelling, you have the same amount of climbing in the first 45km’s as you have in the whole Cape Town Argus, it is no walk in the park. 10km’s in and my stomach was protesting, I could feel it was full of air but I was far more focused on climbing the hills than I was on trying to burp the air out. Whether this would have helped or not – I don’t know, but what I thought would pass only got worse the further I went. By the 45km turn around point I was so sore and so emotional that when somebody shouted my name and some words of encouragement, I dissolved into a whimpering mess, trying to stifle my sobbing so I didn’t attract the attention of the race marshals who were told to pull anyone who looked like they weren’t coping off the course. At this point I reminded myself that I was half way through the most gruelling part and all I have to do is make it back to transition and I can walk the run if I needed to. Getting back to base was harder than you would think given that we’d done the climbing on the way out, but East London has a howler of a wind, and it blows right into your face on your return. All you can do is grit your teeth and sink as low as you can onto your bike to minimise your wind resistance. I drank my fluids and I forced my granola bars down my throat, keeping to our race plan of when to eat, even though it was the last thing I wanted to do. I would be thankful for this later. I was pleased as punch when I rode along the East London pier towards transition, all I wanted to do was get my running shoes on and hit that last leg. This was undoubtedly a mind game and mine was working over time.

 

Bike time: 3:29:43 hrs – 90km

 

Transition time: 5:12 minutes

(This is the time from hopping off your bike, handing it over to get racked, running to find your ‘bike to run’ gear, getting out of your cycling gear, getting your shoes on and running out of transition)

 

It was at this point that I was hoping for a miracle. My stomach still wasn’t happy and I was hoping that standing up straight would help straighten things out… It was wishful thinking. My legs were feeling ok, I had juice in them at least, but I couldn’t put any juice in my tummy. Without being able to top up the tank I knew my legs would eventually give in, but I just couldn’t do it. I grabbed some water from the first water table and after taking a sip I had to walk for a few minutes to prevent it coming out again. This turned out to be the routine for the race. I tried periodically to get some fluids in because the temperature was around 34 degrees and I knew it was crucial, but I had more luck with squeezing the water soaked sponges over my head and drenching myself to bring my body temperature down. I think the volume of fluid I took in on the cycle was my saving grace. I put my head down and thought of why I was doing this race, but when you are that tired most thoughts are random and fleeting, leaving you fixating on things like peoples shoe colour and how many bands they have on their wrist (you get a band for each lap you do). All I wanted to do was get to the top of the hill and score my second band, I knew once I had it I would be home free. Well, not quite home free; I still had 5km’s to get back to the finish, but that’s nothing at the end of a race this long. I would have crawled it if I had to; it’s amazing what your body can accomplish when you put your mind to it.

 

Run time: 2:18:17 hrs – 21km

 

As I made my way over the finish line I couldn’t have been more relieved. It was without a doubt the hardest race I have ever done. I was in more physical discomfort than I have ever been in a race, and not from sore muscles or tired limbs. I mean they were tired, make no mistake, but whatever had gone on with my stomach was beyond anything I could have prepared for. It’s incredible how as soon as you don’t have to carry on, your body seems to loose the ability to keep itself together. Suddenly I couldn’t take another step. I literally collapsed in a heap. I sat that way, not getting up for food, or looking for Shaun, until my body suddenly screamed ‘BATHROOM’ at full volume. Apparently when your body is chronically dehydrated, it is unable to absorb fluids or food, and your stomach actually rejects it. It comes out either end with large amounts of gusto, leaving you shaking uncontrollably, and largely unable to move.

Thankfully a good Samaritan was on hand to call the paramedics and alert Shaun to where I was. I was hooked up to a drip and rolled off on a stretcher to the medical tent, where I had to have 2 bags of fluid injected intravenously, and lie there until I stopped shaking. When I finally managed to accomplish this, I had missed all the festivities and largely ruined the excitement of the end of one of our biggest races. I was still suffering the effects of dehydration and my stomach felt battered and bruised and full of air, leaving me with little to no appetite and feeling very sorry for myself. After all the excitement and all the training, to have been thrown off my game by my stomach was rather depressing.

 

Shaun obviously had an ordeal waiting for me outside the medical tent while I recovered from my 60/40 blood pressure (not for the first time), and he had some stern words for me on taking care of my body and not carrying on when I am clearly in no condition to. It’s hard to accept that sometimes there are times when no matter how hard you have trained, and no matter how much you want something, it’s better to take care of yourself than to almost die reaching your goal. A bit melancholy, but true none the less.

 

I have no regrets, but that’s because I made it out alive. In hindsight, I should have stopped when I realised I couldn’t take in any fluids, especially on such a hot day. It was one hell of a race, but I am so glad I can say that I have done it. I have opened a door I never expected to open, one where you glimpse exactly what your body is capable of and what your mind is capable of overcoming. I’ve often wondered just how a person gets through big, physically challenging events, now I’ve gleaned a little more understanding, and it’s addictive!

 

Friends and family have asked, despite everything, will there be more? There really is only one answer …most certainly! Hopefully with a little more finesse.

 

From Mom to Machine – It’s a Balancing Act … Week 4 and 5

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Yes, I’m 3 weeks behind on filling you in with my training. I know I know, this wouldn’t be the first time my time management skills were called into question. In effect, it sums up what my days are like at the moment. Juggling kids and their activities, work, writing, home stuff and training is leaving me scrambling for time and dropping more balls than usual. Certain balls can’t be dropped, lest they break, but luckily children are pretty pliable, I work with my husband, and the house will wait. So I guess I have it easy. Unfortunately writing does get side lined though.
Making training a priority is a luxury I count myself lucky to have. I have older children who understand what Mom and Dad are doing, a supportive family and a husband who constantly encourages me to push myself. I wonder sometimes what it must be like for people who don’t have a support network. How they fit training in around full time jobs and getting home late to their kids and spouse. It puts my life in perspective and I count my privileges daily. Counting those helped me get through week 4…

Week 4: …Moping.

Monday was a rest day after our first sea swim and bike day on the Sunday. The kids were on holiday and taking a day out to just chill with them was awesome.

On Tuesday I went for a 35km solo bike ride. The idea of riding on my own is a nerve-wracking process; I avoid it as much as possible. It is never so bad when I am actually out there, but the thought of heading out on my own is scary for some reason. A fear I know I will have to get over because Shaun can’t hold my hand through all of this. “Man the f*** up” or “put on my big girl panties” comes to mind, but panties are not something you want to wear when you go cycling and I think woman are tougher than men, so I’m going to make my motto: “Woman up and just get on with it”!

Wednesday we were heading off for 3 days away with the kids in Kogelberg Nature Reserve, so we had some breakfast, packed the car, and on the way stopped at the gym for an hour weights session before continuing with our journey. We managed to fit in some good upper body and core work, a nice bonus before 3 days of pigging out – as is customary on holiday 🙂

On Thursday we managed to walk 3km with the kids in-between beautiful sheets of rain. We had hoped to fit in more hiking but the weather encouraged us to put our feet up and soak in the solitude as the ground soaked in the water.

It rained for half of Friday as well but by midday the sun peeked out and we headed off up the valley for an 8km hike with the kids. At the top of the valley Shaun decided to turn his hike into a 24km run and he parted ways with us while I walked down the valley with the kids. I know we couldn’t both have done that distance with the kids, but I felt sad and despondent about the limits my shin splints were putting on things. Although I was happy Shaun had had a good run, I actively had to count my blessings so I didn’t grump on our trip back home.

Back in CT and feeling sad I didn’t get in a blissful long run, I headed off for a good Saturday morning swim to burn off my frustration. 2.2km with drills had me feeling more purposeful again. Still no fins, more arms than kicking, but getting there.

Sunday Shaun and I did a 65km ride with hills! Up Kloof Nek to the top of Signal hill is a view to work for, but by golly it’s worth it! We then rode back to Hout Bay and over Chappies, to Noordhoek, to meet Shaun’s brother for breakfast. Hills and more hills. This better be making my legs strong!

 

Thoughts on conclusion of Week 4:

Getting back into the swing of things. My shin splints don’t hurt so much and I’m looking forward to being able to run again. If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be sad at not being able to run for 2 weeks, I would quite probably have wet myself laughing.

 

…and because I’m behind you get a double whammy!

 

Week 5: Feeling good about my training and getting into a good pattern.

Monday was an upper body weights and core session, at gym.

Tuesday was rest.

Wednesday had me swimming 2.4 km with drills and no fins. More arm work than legs still but I got into a great rhythm. My swimming times don’t seem to be getting much faster but I’m waiting until my legs are allowed to get involved before getting despondent about that.

Thursday was cause for celebration! FIRST Run back!! Only 3.5 km’s which took less than 20 mins (as emphatically instructed by my physio). Followed by Watt bike in the gym for 35 mins – quite hard. And planks. My legs didn’t hurt!! Whoop whoop. Not even a little bit!

Friday Shaun and I cycled 45km to waterfront and back. He had me doing some sprint work on the flats, issuing instructions like; “If at any point you feel like you could be going faster, go faster”! There is no wonder I had sore legs afterwards.

Saturday I rested. Tired, sleepy legs. Felt like I had a knot in my left calf so made sure to ice and rub it down with Arnica after giving Shaun’s legs a warm up rub for his race on the Sunday. A wife who’s a massage therapist… Shaun doesn’t know how lucky he has it! 😉

Sunday the kids and I supported Shaun at the Gun Run. We raced between viewing spots and drank hot tea while we waited for him in the early morning light. Other than that I rested. And had FOMO. (He did a personal best by the way and came in just under 1.30, earning himself a silver medal!)

 

Thoughts on conclusion of Week 5:

I’m feeling nervous getting back into running after not doing it for 3 weeks. Worried I’ll set myself back by hurting my shin, and concerned I’ve lost some of my running strength. But it’s good to be stepping back in. Feeling tired, but pleased with the training I’ve been doing. For me… this is some pretty consistent training!

 

 

From Mom to Machine – Learning to Overcome

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When you’re a mom, mid-night wake up calls are inevitable. I wouldn’t list it as my favourite past time, but they are part of the drill. They hamper recovery, test your patience and have you swearing repeated oaths to throw away all the lego!
Monday night had me swearing for different reasons though, while wandering down the stairs with Lincoln I realised I had a shin splint from hell! Curse them bloody downhills!

So, week 3: …Despondent.
How am I suppose to train properly when my body keeps telling me to get knotted! Injuries are seriously demotivating.

Monday was a rest day after my 15km road run on the Sunday, so I chilled, while noting some pain in my shin when I walked. I rested, and waited. I wanted to see whether my leg was a twinge or something more serious. So I iced, used Traumeel (I’m thinking of buying shares in the company) and cursed a lot.

The expletives got worse Tuesday mid-night when I wandered down the stairs to the blatant realisation that my leg was getting worse. Dammit all to hell. I had done a gentle session in the pool Tuesday morning and kept it short, only half an hour. Clearly I had done something wrong.

Using all the customary grace I apply in all aspects of my life, I threw myself into an hour swimming session on Wednesday so I could mope in silence. With a rare moment of resourcefulness I contacted my physio before my session to find out the do’s and don’t of a shin splint injury. A self diagnosed injury and an hour of ‘internet treatment options’ left me discomposed and needing the guidance of a professional. So armed with the facts, I hit the pool with no fins and a pool bouy to encourage leg resting. No kicking left me feeling rather lazy but I am told my upper body is working harder. I’m not so sure about that though, I’m convinced I’m just going slower. But treatment is treatment and I am determined to kick this thing, so if laziness is required, so be it. The good news is that I swam the half iron man distance (2000m) with relative ease, without the use of my legs.

With my physio session lined up for Thursday eve and the go ahead from her that cycling was ok, Shaun and I headed out for a 50km bike ride. I’m loving being on the bike again! Even in the rain. Pushing it up the hills and cruising the flats is exhilarating. I’m not sure my legs agree with me yet but they’ll get there… I hope.

Friday was gym day. But no legs! They are protesting. Shaun doesn’t believe in climbing hills slowly on your bike so every hill is a killer. My legs have been murdered on every bike ride with him. But arms are ready to go. Time to get these swimming muscles strong.

Saturday was rest. Every muscle in my body needed it after this week. Despite my shin splint this was probably my hardest week in a long time. About time too. I need to start upping my mileage. (mild panic attack #1)

Sunday was exciting! I saw the day in with a 1 hour ride on a Watt bike at gym – with a friend. Thank goodness for friends or I would have been dizzy with boredom! The wind was howling outside and despite the craziness of training for this race, I have maintained my scruples about foul weather training – it’s for the birds.

Sunday afternoon had us travelling to Big Bay for what was to be our very first open water swim. (mild panic attack #2)

After decanting yourself into your wetsuit, with heart rate at about 180 beats per minute (that’s almost my limit), you head for the frigid water with the greatest of hopes that all the sharks in the vicinity have already had their lunch. It was absolutely terrifying!! I think the only reason I climbed in the water was because my wetsuit was blocking off sufficient blood supply to the brain as to render me mentally incapacitated. But so be it, I was in, and it did a lot to quell my nerves and make the bile retreat back to my stomach. Thankfully, being with Shaun, my fearless cousin and 2 of her mates, made my transition to ‘seal’ fairly simple. We did a pleasant 1200m swim without so much as a “hello” from a nearby shark! I cannot share my elation with you as we made our way out of that water.

I am not naïve enough to think it will be plain sailing the next time, but I do hope it will be a little easier than this first time was.

Thoughts on conclusion of week 3:
This whole exercise so far seems to have been one in learning to overcome things. Bending and moulding with the process. The road is not the straight one I envisaged when I signed up. Only 3 weeks in but already I am seeing why this journey is a gruelling one. One step at a time. Each corner as it comes.

 

From Mom to Machine – But Still a Mom Too # week 2

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After commencing my training program with all the finesse of a rhinoceros, I tentatively stepped into week 2 reminding myself not to get carried away. After all, this isn’t a sprint. And thank goodness for that, because after seeing what my sprinting legs had in them, I was in for a rather rude awakening!

Week 2: Entered into feeling pumped and ready for some harder sessions.

Monday saw a weights session at the gym, but it was short and fleeting. Spending the morning working and the afternoon driving the kids around doesn’t leave much time for a long session of anything.

Tuesday was just as busy, and when Shaun and I finally managed to leave the house and head for the gym it was 5pm. With kids in tow and a swimming session lined up, we got them in their swimming togs too and stuck them in the pool with us. We didn’t have many options. We had to fit in a session, so arming them with boards for kicking, we set them adrift on the edge of our lane and the 4 of us went about our evening training. Despite the distraction of having them darting in between us and playing porpoise in the pool, we had a great session. It was fun with the kids, and it takes the seriousness out of the training, which I always enjoy! Stopping for a hug and a smile reminds me what’s most important.

Wednesday was biking. First day back in the saddle since the Argus in March! It hurt. My muscles weren’t accustomed to the churning of the peddles and the hill sprints left me doubting why on earth I was undertaking all of this. Every time I watched Shaun shoot off ahead of me on a sprint I cursed that I wasn’t a male. It’s frustrating to always be left in his wake, even when I am training as much as he is. I cannot compete with my husband – he is a poor choice in competition partner. But I can’t help myself. I’m constantly comparing apples with pears.

Thursday I hit the gym hard, doing a weights class that leaves me with the distinct impression that I have legs made out of jello. The instructor (think Demi Moore in G.I. Jane) leaves no muscle un-touched and walking down the stairs after her class is always undertaken with much care and attention, lest my legs crumple beneath me. Unless you’ve been in this position yourself it’s hard to comprehend the exhaustion you are faced with when doing something as mundane as washing your hair. I had to assume a position with my head somewhere near my naval so my hands only had to reach shoulder height to accomplish the task.

Friday. Rest day. I needed it.

Saturday had me ambling around the school field for the kids mini-walk at school. I can hardly call 2km’s training, but I suppose it was a bit of a leg-loosener, and in Shaun’s wise words, your body only gets stronger when you rest it.

Sunday was run day and it was awesome! I hit the hills for a bit of stamina and endurance training, and I sang my way through 15km’s before meeting the family at the beach for a leg icing session in Llandudno’s frigid waters.

Thoughts on conclusion of Week 2: I’ve got to own that I’m female, and forget the injustice of having to train twice as hard to go the same speed as a male. I have hips, boobs and significantly less testosterone. I’ve got to be proud of my own times; I’m doing this race for me.

From Mom to Machine – But Still a Mom Too

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My Dad used to warn me that music was dangerous. It took me a long time to understand what he meant. Three weeks ago I was reminded. After listening to what can only be describe as an emotionally punching song, resonating with undiluted inspiration and leaving me vibrating with determination, I felt sufficiently pumped to commit to my first real sporting challenge in years. No, this might very well be my first real sporting challenge ever.

* The Half Iron Man *

For those of you who don’t follow triathlons, this is a 1.9km sea swim, 90km bike ride and 21km run … in a row! Just one song, at the perfect moment; that’s all it took to break my vow of sanity. Shaun had me signed up before I had a flitting change of heart, and here we are…

Three weeks into my decision and I would be lying if I said I haven’t doubted myself, had those moments when I think; what on earth am I doing?! But I knew they would come, they are inevitable. So are the bad training days. It wouldn’t be a challenge if it was easy. So that’s what this column is for, a place where I can bare my soul and share my journey. Some of it may amuse you, some of it may bore you to tears, but I hope some of it inspires you, even if just a little, to undertake something resonating deep within your own soul…
 

Week 1: Entered into with power and determination. Also a lot of naiveté. 

After the excitement of signing up and getting my mind around what I was about to undertake, I launched into my training by getting flu in the first week. I woke up Sunday (2 weeks ago) with a tickly throat. To hell with getting sick I thought, and charged off in search of a mountain path to run on. Boy was I glad I did, it was sublime, and peaceful, and energising, and I felt wonderful! After 13km’s of letting myself loose on the mountain, I felt like a new person… Until roughly 2 o’clock that afternoon. The sneaky sore throat reared its ugly head and added a side of headache and fatigue for good measure. Can’t say I was surprised, but I was hoping for divine intervention. Alas, I dived head first into flu-ish oblivion for 2 days, lingering lurgies for another 2 days, and then found myself in desperate need of some exertion. You would think 4 days of rest when you’re looking at 4 months of hard training ahead of you would be welcome, but I can tell you all it did was stress me out and fire up the panic boosters.

Keeping a low profile and gingerly testing my strength, Thursday afternoon I found myself pottering around the weights section in the gym, desperate to do something to quell my nerves. I didn’t have much strength but it felt good to try.

Feeling ok that afternoon I decided I would attempt our swimming training session on Friday morning with our coach. It was a first for me since high school, and I was keen to see what had transpired in the last 16 years. All stokes being equal, was I able to glide through the water, or was I the pebble that refused to skim the surface, glugging beneath the water on the first bounce, never to return?

As it turns out, I have no problem staying on the surface of the water, my rather ample rear-end ensures I bob to the surface with a lot more ease than Shaun (at least there is one thing I can beat him at). I enjoyed the swimming and found I wasn’t as backwards as I thought I would be. Three heavenly cheers for that!

Throwing in some extra resting time on Saturday so as not to invite those lurgies back, I waited until Sunday morning before throwing myself onto the mountain again for a soul satisfying trail run with Shaun and a friend of ours visiting from Joburg. We all took it easy and enjoyed a peaceful 7.5km’s perusing waterfalls and breathing in the freedom.

So week 1 round up:

Awesome 4 days of sleep!
Thursday – 1 super mild gym session
Friday – 1500m swim session
Sunday – 7.5km run

Thoughts on conclusion of the 1st week: Being sick blows! I’ve got this, plenty of time to train – 4 months to go.