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I.M.M.T: Somewhere

Having just this minute finished watching Lars Von Trier’s ’Melancholia’ - a film which has an hour-long opening sequence of Kirsten Dunst slipping in and out of a depressive state, after marrying her Husband - my threshold for being exposed to art exploring the theme of “depression” is a little low. Perhaps tomorrow will be a good day for me to start getting into the thickets and branches of I.M.M.T’sHeart Failure’ record. The album itself is tagged on bandcamp as “depression”, it contains song titles like ’hurt me’ and ’fog’, its artwork is just a greyish mash of dark shades. But the Detroit producer’s latest work casts the slightest bit of optimism, giving us reason to be hopeful. ’Somewhere’ is based in the distance, beyond some alternate universe; church chimes and vocals resembling that of a child - it is the beautiful departure from an ugly world. 

It's about time...

Not the kind of time triathletes focus on - not the numbers - but the ‘finally, you’re here’ about-time that you say when it has taken a Long journey/small army/unrecognizeable path to arrive. I cracked a mental nut on Sunday. I was very alone out there (missed my coach and training partners at every turn), and yet I didn’t fail me mentally. I think I did a respectable time, but for lack of a better word, I 'flubbed’ my 'time’ - I had an 11:59:59 in me - but I didn’t fail my mind. I broke that nut wide open. For once; hopefully, for good. And on that, it really is about time. Knowing I would not make my number right from the swim exit, I biked and ran as if that didn’t matter. I smiled. I talked to people, I enjoyed the course. And reminded myself to go as hard as I could and to be the best me I could be on every piece of the day. That’s not slacking off, that’s a revelation / acceptance. I definitely pushed, HARD. I struggled, I winced inside when I realized I wasn’t going to do what I believe I can do, and I ran through the pain when my left knee exploded, and I talked myself back into the swim. What’s also true is that I reminded myself that I am fortunate to do this grueling race. I made mistakes (food, for one) but I didn’t spend more than five minutes kicking myself. I looked around. Saw a forest, not just a tree. It’s remarkable for me. Yes, it’s about time. Ironman is all mental and somewhere in the race I opened a new door. And it’s the biggest gift I’m taking with me to the next one. Yes, next one.

So since triathletes must talk 'time’, here are the 'numbers’:
Swim: 1:40 (more in the coming race report)
Bike: 6:18
Run: 4:19

So I am still going to say I should’ve nailed a 1:27/30 swim and a 4:00 run. Really. I can do a 4:00 run and i’ve done a 1:24 swim. But I am NOT kicking myself. NOT. I had a good mental race. I enjoyed it. And although My body doesn’t like me right now, as strange as it is, my mind loves me. For 'failing’ ;-)
Even I’m confused by that.
But I can sure recognize how important it is.


With my maiden Ironman voyage over a week in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look back and figure out what I learned. 

Lesson One: Choose somewhere awesome for your first long course triathlon. My sister and I wanted to make an epic trip out of this adventure, and Mont Tremblant was the perfect venue for a vacation that included a ton of exercise. It was easy-ish to get to, very different from home, and had an endless supply of things to do. We drove go-carts down a mountain on a luge course, took a zip-line adventure through some woods and visited a wild animal park where bison, moose, and elk stuck their heads in the windows of the car. And that was all before we swam, road and ran on some gorgeous French-Canadian terrain.

Lesson Two: Travel carefully. I picked up some sort of stomach bug (or terror) at one point while travelling and spent the four days before the race praying my frequent bathroom stops were just nerves. I assumed it would go away once I started swimming. It didn’t. I wasn’t able to eat all that much in the days leading up to the race, but I tried to stay hydrated at least.

Lesson Three: Just go easy! This is the one that was drilled into me before the race and validated during. I swam very much in control of my effort and oblivious to what others were doing. It would have been nice to have swum with a group and saved some energy, but I missed latching onto one at the beginning, so just stayed alone that entire hour. That swim felt like it was the longest ever, but I worked on staying present and focused. I did end up catching a few girls near the end, so didn’t emerge last. Bonus! It was border-line wetsuit legal for pros at 70.5 degrees, and felt very warm. Before getting out of the water, I took the time to take my cap off and let water in my wetsuit to cool down. It was forecasted to be a hot, humid and long day.

Lesson Four: Eat and drink a lot on the bike, while still going easy. I went so easy that halfway through I thought I could categorize my effort as lolly-gagging. I mostly felt as if I was racing in the front of the amateur men’s race. It took a ton of mental focus to not ride in their unapologetic peletons. That helped the first lap of the rolling course go by quickly. I tried to eat and drink as much as my still cramping/rumbling stomach allowed. I got down about 4-5 bottles of Invigorade and water, 3 Bonk Breakers, 1.5 pouches of Bonk Breaker chews, and a Honey Stinger chew bag from an aid station. The second lap was a little less crowded with dudes and I just kept focused on my Pioneer power readings and trying to stay present and comfortable. It was difficult to stay in the planned power zones, especially when riding around a bunch of people, but it was worth it to consciously make the effort to maintain. My legs felt reasonably fine but I must admit I got a little bored. I was super happy to give Drogon to the most-excellent volunteers.

Lesson Five: When you know you’ll be using the portapotty a lot, change into your Champion System Bella run shorts and Champion System sports bra. Even though I spent some time stopped on the side of the road during the marathon, it would have been even more if I hadn’t changed! Once I had stopped twice, and then a third time to use my inhaler when I couldn’t stop the wheezing, I knew that any time goals were shot. I tried (and failed) to get a rhythm going between stops. I used my Skechers GoRun Strada cushioned trainers, so at least my feet were happy. The town of Mont Tremblant was the reason that many of us finished that day. The entire population was either volunteering or cheering and they lined that marathon course. I’ve never experienced anything like it, and I doubt I will again. They were just fabulous.

Lesson Six: I think this is the most important. I spoke with Coach Gerardo, Coach Gerry and numerous friends and teammates about the race in the weeks prior. I was pretty nervous about getting through the long day mentally. I’ve had some trouble this year during races that weren’t going well. My mind would fail before my body, and I would think about nothing but quitting. I would invent reasons to quit that wouldn’t be embarrassing, like a slip-and-fall or collision with a tree. Even though I never actually quit, that mindset certainly doesn’t help bring a good performance around. So, cognizant of this weakness, I sought out advice for how to train my brain to handle the bad moments. 

The advice that best stuck with me was about choosing which guy on my shoulders to feed. I visualized one character on each shoulder. One guy was the positive side. He looked like a muscular version of the Michelin man/Stay Puff Marshmallow Man. I fed him before and during the race with positive thoughts to keep him big and strong. The other shoulder held a sniveling little wimp who looked like Reek from GoT. If I wallowed in the negative for too long, he would start to gain strength and assert his authority. When Reek got too powerful, I visualized the Michelin Marshmallow Man was strong enough to pound him back down and remind him that was was just Reek, no longer Theon Greyjoy. My visualizations got confused with Game of Thrones plotlessness a few times. But it worked. Even though the marathon took 20-30 minutes longer than I thought it would, I never once wanted to quit. And that alone was a huge freaking victory.

My huge thanks to the coaches, sponsors and friends who helped me get to this point in my life, where I actually completed this distance I never thought I’d do. Especially to our super cheer squad, Triple C and Nolan. These guys selflessly and sleeplessly got Rachael and me to the start line and somehow back to the hotel again after it was all over. Love you!

IMMT run: pride, pain and accomplishment

I am out the transition tent ‘gates’ and I hit the ground running. After all, Connie is 3 minutes ahead of me. (btw, I am an idiot…running after someone instead of running for me. nevereverever run for someone other than yourself.) I feel like t2 was quick and I’m pleased as I run out the red carpet, hit my stride and all is good. I feel a bit like my left knee wants to say hello. really? this early? ok, fine, I see you. I feel you. How about you go away for a while, after all, I am a runner.   

I catch Connie in the first kilometer. How’s it going? Good, she says. She’s a great athlete and she looks strong, feeling good. We chat for 3 minutes. I’m running beside her, feeling better than ok. In fact, I gotta go. I say hey, I love ya, I gotta leave ya. Understand, she says. go. I’m pretty sure she knew she’ll see me (read: pass me) later. I’ve got no self-control. Ironman is about discipline. I’ve been running 5:18 pace for 5k and we’re headed up a hill then down a hill, and I want to go. I feel good for 10 more k. In fact, I am taking the uphill at a good pace for me (I am pushing myself as best as I can be) and I`m 'on-pace’ at 5:19. I haven’t thought about my slowness on the bike, or my swim disappointment. I am totally in run zen. 

I don’t know at what point the knees blew. I know the pain in the left one began as a throb and then seared through my entire leg at each bend. There wasn’t an event, a twist or sharp turn, but somewhere between 16 and 21k, they just went. 

I’d been out more than 10 hours. At moments, I’m practically shuffling. I fear failure. I fear stopping and walking. It’s just normal pain from that length of workout, I tell myself. Move through it. I am running down the finishers` chute for the first loop. All these cheering smiling strangers, generously trying to slap your hands and cheer you on. I avoid the outstretched hands. I am on loop one. I don’t deserve the handshake. At the end of this celebration, I know I must turn right, not left to the finish, and begin the loop again. It’s a cruel teaser, a cruel kind of punishment, I think. As I near the fork at the bottom, I turn right, a hop shuffle stumble - damnit knees, get it together - and I resign myself to the task at hand. You are ONLY half way. Dear God, why am I doing this. Grumpy, I look down at my left arm - I had written 'be the best me’ along my forearm in Sharpie. I can still see it through the sweaty blurriness. Regardless, I know what it says. I know what I’m not living up to right now. Think about that, Liz. I chastise myself and search my mind for goodness to focus on. I find it quickly. He of the most goodness: little man T. Can there be anything more amazing than your little one. I can see his happy grin and hear him chanting 'go mummy go’. It`s what I need, so hang on knees, we’re going for a run.

About 5k into the second loop, Connie passes me. Strong. Happy. I smile at her. way to go girl, get to the end. She says she wants to throw up. We both laugh. Off she goes. I think what a great friend she is to me and silently will her feet to go faster. I check my watch - whatever. My left knee is screaming with every step - whatever. Look at these amazing strong people - it`s not physical altho I`m sure they have that, but I am marvelling at their mental strength. I`m running beside and chatting to a US Army officer. He`s fighting hard. He`s strong with a forceful run cadence. After 5 minutes, I look at his feet. Foot. He`s got one foot…..and one blade. Damn. You`re impressive, I say. He smiles, `thanks`. It could be a grimace. He says he`s hurting. I said yeah, me too. I gotta go. Keep putting your feet in front of you and I`ll do the same. I try to generate energy, a bounce. I plod along. Volunteers are still cheering on the course. I`m enjoying the energy. Smiling. After four times (on the out and back) this is the last time I`m going to see you I say to one of the volunteers - thank you. He laughs and tells me to move it, I`ve slacked off enough for one day. I laugh. Every part of me says I should walk. or hop. Just to get off the knees. I don`t stop. Walking will be the beginning of the end for me. But I know a 4 is not possible now, and I`m doing a 7-something pace. It occurs to me that if I keep it together, I could still break 4:24 - my last Ironman run time. and there it is. the magic: I recognize the breakthrough in the ask of myself. It`s just for me. I have (finally) arrived at the mental space to race myself, not anyone else. The shackles are off, although I must be a slow learner, because I am here, but I`m almost done. Actually it may seem almost done in distance, but it`s an eternity in the mind. I`ve got 3 or 4km left and I see people out on their first loop - wearing garbage bags and taking glow sticks and chicken soup - wincing in pain as their feet hit the ground. You can do it. Put one foot in front of the other and you will cross that line. I`m cheering for all of them now. Keeeeeep going. This is my last hill, but I don`t really notice. I`m actually speeding up and it`s a 6 pace as I pass the Oakley hot corner and haul up the hill. Go mummy go. Spectators are so amazing, I think. God love you. And then, there it is: the finishers` chute. run. run. run. I have extreme tunnel vision: I can`t see anyone or anything but the inflatable gate but I do hear Him, Mike Reilly, say the words, Elizabeth Hamilton,….

run time: 4:19; age group place: 41; life lesson: priceless

This about sums up a first-time Ironman. Mont Tremblant is the most beautiful and supportive venue imaginable and I’m glad this as the race I chose. You only get one first! thanks @channitabonita for the 📷 #IMMT #CanadaEh #finished #ouchie #help

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Mass attack at buoy number 3

[alert: do not read if you are afraid of the ow swimstart]

Dark water is swirling down my throat, I’m choking, coughing….sprays of water spurt viciously from my nose and trickle out my half-open mouth. What was calm water has transformed in seconds to waves of thrashing swells and spray as I gasp for a breath, smothered by what must be five writhing kicking bodies struggling to swim over me. They kick me; one hard thrash lands awkwardly on the side of my left shin and I reel to the left as one body sinks me while struggling to swim overtop. This is what they call a washing machine. I call it a death trap. I reel to the right as another elbow lands hard on my shoulder and the bodies grab and grasp for a stroke but only seem to land on my wetsuit, tugging, poking and pushing me further under. Omg. Just get off me. Get off me. Get off me. I flail about. I’m being grabbed and pushed at every angle. can’t see. can’t breathe. And more water is being poured down my throat.
This is the beginning of a drowning.

An open water swim is intimidating for anyone. The safest start is when like swimmers swim with like swimmers with gaps inbetween, that can be a time trial or wave start. A warmup, to determine your positioning and get used to the water should be mandatory. After cancelling the warmup, IMMT had 2500 people and lined them up on a beach, then blew the cannon for the charge into the water. It does make for great tv. 2500 crazed rubber-clad athletes, 6 rows deep, racing down the beach into the water. And we are certainly willing participants. So we must do our part to be trained and ready, and the course should do its best to be safe. This is a fun supportive community sport. We need to collectively solve for anything that prevents a lifelong engagement in the sport. When the buoys are lined up dead straight ahead and the beach start is wide, pause for a moment to think about the geometric convergence of the axis of swimmers onto the axis of buoys. If you guessed mass attack at buoy number 3, you’re right. This is the beginning of a drowning.

I am thrashing about, but weak in the water. I can’t beat the bodies. I can’t get out of the way. They just keep coming. My only solution - whether discovered through common sense or fear that had me frozen in one spot - is to stop and let them pass over/through me. They come fast, in swarms, like piranhas on the attack. I’m beaten, treading water, sprays of more water fly out my nostrils, and I am defeated mentally. It’s all over. Turn back. My body doesn’t turn. I get clobbered by another wave, Turn around. Nothing happening. Split-seconds apart the waves of people come. The thrashing of arms, pawing of parts, kicking of legs and spray of the water is engulfing and endless. Turn around and hit the beach, dammit.

No meekly enters my brain.


It’s unbelievable. It’s just plain stupid. I am coughing up / throwing up? water at every turn of the head. And tho I’ve considered the inevitable defeat, somewhere somehow I guess I am unconvinced. There’s a break in the swarming and a woman yells, ‘are you okay?’ I stare right at her, thinking, 'no!!!’ and my head makes an involuntarily nod 'yes’ - wtf! - I am not ok. Who shook my head?? I tell myself it’s over, hit the beach. I don’t move. I am facing the buoy. Staring at it. It’s been minutes. There’s lots of swimmers around me but the swarms have stopped. No one is sitting on my back now. I get one breath of clear air. 'There is no room to doubt yourself today, not today. Today is 'your’ race.’ My arms move forward. My legs flip back behind me and I stroke. One arm. Then the next. Then a cough or two…. Then one arm again, then the next. I look up. There’s wide open space to the right of the buoys. Ok then. That’s your space. I quickly figure if they want to DQ me (rules are you must be to the left of the buoy) versus me voluntarily pulling a DNF, I can live with a DQ over drowning. I will accept my fate. I start to swim to the right. Others are with me, but just as annoyed by the mash-up. And then I get it - a full-frontal fist to the goggle. Hit so hard on my right eye I feel the eye cup sear into my eye socket. Wow, that’s gonna leave a mark. 'sorry’, the aqua-ape yells at me as he continues his slicing through the water and disappears. That’s it! It’s the proverbial kick in the pants and I swim to the right of the buoys. Arms are paddles. Put them in straight, pull back, push like you’re getting out of the pool. And again. And again. 20 minutes later, the memory is gone and I am pushing and pulling through the water as best as I can, thinking only of my arm position and my bike. That’s right, my bike. Knowing as soon as this part is over I get to hop on my bike will keep me going. I push and pull for another hour. Seven days ago I swam 1:24 in open water, today, it is 1:40:48 when my feet hit the solid ground of the timing mat. I am 113/129. I look at the clock. Well, is what it is. Time to run to transition and get on my bike….