Tuesday, August 28, 2012

IM Mont Tremblont Pre-Race Training

So, on August 19, 2012, I started and finished my third and final IM distance race!  I have to say that given this training year, it was nice to have a rather boring race.  My race report will follow, but the training was in an of itself, a trip.  Let's summarize it:  2 bee stings, 1 bike wreck,1 "Bob", fog, rain, thunder, heat, humidity, some 800+ miles of biking with lots and lots and lots of elevation, 250+ miles of running, 20+ miles of swimming, gosh only knows how many miles of driving over 3 months and in three states.

Bees and me are not a match made in heaven, given I swell up like a balloon, and their stings hurt like hell.  I got my first sting on my ankle during a "fun" little Adventure Challenge in Wintergreen.  It was only 7 miles.  But, those 7 miles were literally up and down all the freakin ski slopes at Wintergreen, and included some fun obstacles, the slip-n-slide on steroids being the most fun.  There I was, walking in a line of people in the woods, and a bee finds me to sting my ankle.  Ouch.  Kept going but called it a day a little early given the race was a week after the Rev3 Half-Rev (70.3) in Quassy Connecticut and I was still tired.  That sting swelled up my ankle for a week.  My second sting occurred whilst I was bombing down a hill on Skyline Drive during one of my longer hilly bike rides.  The bee somehow flew through my helmet vent onto my forehead, where it stung me.   I knew it was still in my helmet, so I stopped and shook it out, showed the sting to my "training bitch" (who, unbeknownst to me was actually training for the same race, but more on that later) who didn't seem impressed.  Put my helmet back on, kept riding.  Stopped again at a camp store, and took off my helmet, to find out that I looked like a Neanderthal because my helmet pushed all the swelling up in a band across the top of my forehead.  I continued biking, now calling myself "Lil Shawnene" and wondering if my forehead would start swelling out of my helmet.  After the ride, it just got worse, the swelling moved down my face, changing me from "Shawnene" to "Asian Shawn" to "ShawnPuffyface" and after nearly a week, back to normal.  I think I'll get an eppipen.

The bike wreck wasn't mine, but I did see it all unfold in front of me during an ill-fated attempt to ride a different route out of Ashland.  Things that day didn't start well, flat tire, grumpy riders, and some wet roads, but we pushed on until BrianD decided to try to shove MyKaren's water bottle back into the holder on the back of her seat, while the five of us were riding in a small pack.  Needless to say, it didn't end well for him.  Front wheel went sideways, he went over like a rocket, Training Bitch ran over his bike and wrecked as well.  Lots of drama, but they were all banged up but ok,  BrianD's helmet took the brunt of the hit, and we are all glad for helmets.  As we limped back towards the car a stray dog started following us, in a friendly manner, on a busy road.  So, we stopped and tried to get her to go home, she wanted to stay with us, we didn't want to see her hit.  Called the number on her collar, got a country woman, who said the dog was one of her husbands hunting dogs and he would come to retrieve her.  Seems hunting dogs are let loose in the summer to get their hunt on or some such nonsense.  At any rate, another car stopped, said they knew who owned the dog and left with her in their car.  We think that it was dog snatching, but were just glad that the dog was not running on the busy road.

Bob first appeared after a 50 mile ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway, for which I decided to wear a pair of Tri-shorts instead of bike shorts.  Baaaaddd decision.  I believe Bob's birth came from sitting weird and pinching the right side of my woowoo area on my seat, followed by an hour ride the next day.  Bob stayed with me for the remainder of the training, fluxuating in size from a baseball to a golf ball, and necessitated some 3 trips to the doctor to make sure Bob wasn't infected.  Bob did require antibiotics once.  I cannot say that I love Bob, and will be glad when Bob goes away, if  he will ever go away.  Needless to say, every ride after Bob appeared was somewhat painful.  Waahhh.  Bob did behave for the actual race, and for that I am grateful.

Garrett County, Maryland is a really pretty locale in western Maryland.  It is home to Deep Creek Lake and the Savageman triathlons.  It is also home to the Garrett County Gran Fondo which somehow I was talked into doing.  It was, by far, the hardest biking I have ever done.  Training Bitch and I did the 102 mile route which had 12,755 feet of climbing.  Ouch.  I was out on the course for almost 10 hours, and it took my sit bones about 2 weeks to recover.  I was happy I made it through, even though I did walk up some of the absurdly steep and neverending hills, it was still an accomplishment.  MyKaren, BrianD and Carrie all did the 125 mile version, with 16,400+ feet of climbing.  Absurd.  It was like a bad dream, every damn turn ended with a freakin hill with a grade of 15% or better.  I'm surprised I have any cleat left at all on my bike shoes!  But, it was good for me to be tested on the bike.  I'd recommend that ride, just for the pure absurdity.

One day, my Training Bitch and I rode up Crabtree Falls, it was a Friday, and overcast with some fog on Blue Ridge Parkway, when we flew down Reed's Gap to begin the loop.  We figured by the time we finished, the fog would have burned off.  It didn't.  The ride up the falls was fine, and once we got to the Blue Ridge Parkway, that seemed fine as well, until we climbed up the hill around between MP 26-25 and saw the line of cloud cover.  It was like riding into a horror film.  Visibility was about 10 feet in front of us, and of course, us on our tri-bikes which do not have lights, b/c we are too cool for lights and reflectors---idiots.  It was a long, cold scary ride down to Reed's Gap and thankfully, the fog and weather kept traffic down to a minimum.  We were freezing at the end of the ride, and bought some cheap fleeces to warm our stupid-asses up.  Would not recommend riding in the fog without lights or reflective gear.  Won't do that again.

I guess the final weird thing is my mental breakdown during a little 80ish mile ride.  I was in a bad mood, I'll call it a menopausal rampage in the making, and early in the ride, got buzzed by an SUV.  Happens to us all when we ride.  Somehow, that was the trigger for what I can best describe as an out-of-mind experience.  It happened close to a stop sign at the intersection of a busy road.  The SUV stopped at the sign, I hammered to the stop, and proceeded to scream at the top of my lungs at the SUV driver, hurtling out onto the busy road and nearly getting hit.  The SUV stops, the driver and I are yelling at each other, well I was screaming about them almost hitting me, etc.  to the point of me spitting as I am screaming out of control at this person. I knew in the back of my mind, I was overreacting, yes, they almost ran me off the road, and yes, it scared me and they were wrong, but I was certifiably crazy at that moment and couldn't stop screaming at them.  MyKaren calmed me down, I started crying, the SUV drove off to think that women cyclists are nuts, and it was then that I realized there was an outdoor book sale going on about 15 feet from my screaming fit, with the poor shoppers and staff looking on with horror.  Somewhere that day, and perhaps for days to come, someone is describing the crazy screaming woman on the bike as a cautionary tale.  If it is a cautionary tale to never piss off a woman cyclist, then I'll wear the shame from my breakdown with pride.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Angry Starfish-the Tale of the Charleston Half-Marathon

A few weeks ago, I participated in the Charleston (SC) 1/2 marathon. I did finish. It wasn't a pretty one. The angry starfish was my prize for finishing. I'll explain, but first some context!

The trip to Charleston was fun, Karen and I were hosted by an old friend of mine and her partner, both of which were running the half as well. Karen of course, was running the full marathon. Something about trying to get all 50 states....me, not so much. the weekend was to include the run and then a bike ride the next day.

Our friends are both into triathlons as well, and of course our conversations somehow always steered towards training. We all know how it feels to ride long distances on a bike, the girly parts can and usually do, get sore. Evidently, some friend of theirs convinced them to examine said parts by using a mirror after a ride to see what a sore girly looks like. It apparently looks like a squashed eggplant. I cannot think of a worse idea than doing that, but the image stuck in my head, and from now on, I may complain about my squashed eggplant after riding.

So, on to the race report. The morning was cold, and I wore my favorite pair of tights. I had conveniently forgotten that they caused chafing in the nether region the last long run I did in them, so I quickly knew that I was not going to have a relaxing shower after the race. But, I toddered along and for the first 6 miles or so, everything seemed ok, except for the chafing. Around mile 6, I started to feel like I needed a porta-potty....a quick duck behind something was not going to cut it. I recalled how, at the DC 1/2, I waited in line for a random potty for 17 minutes, so I vowed to go to the first one I saw. There it was, a random porta-potty, across some railroad tracks, clearly not part of the race. Off I went, across the broken glass field, railroad tracks to the potty. There were only a couple of people before me, so my wait was short. After my business, I realize there is no tp....so I am looking at my throwaway shirt or my $1 gloves as my only options. The gloves went. Thinking I am good to go, I continue onward, only to be stopped after about a 1/2 mile with serious intestinal pains...nope not done yet. Waddle on, walking and running to the next porta--one major complaint about this race is the paltry amount of portas on the course, there was one every 2 miles or so and that my friend is not enough.

I stop and wait and just before I get to go, oops happens. Wow, that is not something that I prepared for, but luckily, I still had my throwaway shirt to cover my accident. Clean up myself, dump and wipe and go running again. Like clockwork, I had continued pains, and porta stops, I started feeling the effects of frequent wiping with cheap tp. This goes on until I finish, and then I think I am ok b/c I stopped running. Nope. No stopping. Every 15 minutes I go, now at the finish area where they have all of 10 porta-potties and they have run out of even the cheap tp they had. On to using paper towels. My ass is on fire but I gotta wipe, right?

Waiting for Karen to finish the full marathon, tried to eat some food, going to the porta, scraping my ass with paper towels, not my best few hours. Finally, she gets done (it wasn't that long, actually, but I was feeling pretty shitty--ha.) We all four pile into the shuttle bus back to the start and the car. Walking back to the car, oh no.....not done yet! No porta potties in sight! Thankfully, there was a bank, and someone my friend knew so I avoided another "accident" but not by much. Arrgghh.

When I finally go into the shower and the water hit me, it was like liquid fire spraying on my ass. I wasn't sure I could even wear underwear, with the chafing that I had from the tights and all the potty breaks. After complaining about my sore ass, it was named the Angry Starfish. Needless to say, I did not do the bike ride the next day. The angry starfish needed some rest.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Peru-lat part

Peru, Last Part!
Ok, so I am in the hyperbaric chamber, under pressurized oxygen, kind of freaking out since it is shut like a submarine. To combat the fear, I am lying on my stomach, with my face as close to the oxygen as I can. I was so glad when the hissing stopped and they opened the chamber and I got out! I felt better already, finally able to take a breath, a full breath! Still a bit dizzy, but the weird wet breathing noise had stopped.

Back in the mini-van ambulance to the clinic, where I was put back on the IV for the remainder of the night. They were nice enough to let Karen stay with me, and she slept in the other bed as I lay awake staring at the ceiling, with the freaking IV and old-lady oxygen tubing not letting me roll on my stomach or side, which is where I like to sleep.

In the early morning, things got a little chaotic, as the doctor came in to tell me that I needed to fly to Lima and stay there for at least 2 days before I flew home, and that he needed to go with me. No problem, I thought. Well, there was a problem, b/c the stupid idiots from our tour tried to tell Karen that she needed to fly to Lima at 7 am, when I wasn't going to be able to go until 11 am. That caused a lot of angst for me, as I didn't really want to be alone in a Peruvian clinic without Karen around! Finally it all got worked out, and I was bundled into another ambulance to drive the 3 blocks back to the hotel to shower and pack up. I managed to talk the doctor out of making me fly with oxygen, telling him that I hiked for days on 1/4 of a lung, so I thought I could make it on the flight.

The flight to Lima was kind of strange, the doctor really meant he was flying with me, he sat beside me and checked my oxygen levels a couple of times during the flight, as well as got us to the hotel and checked it there, and gave me some medicine. Nice guy, interesting talking to him about Peru and his thoughts on the country.

Karen had booked us into a nice hotel, well, very nice--JW Marriott--to spoil me a bit. Lima is an interesting place, doesn't rain and is basically a desert. It sits on some very high bluffs made of dirt. Great views, but kind of weird since the bluffs are crumbly dirt. We visited some pre-Incan ruins in Lima, as well as some Incan ruins on the outskirts. We basically had a private tour, so that was cool. The ceremonial sacrifical area was creepy, and there was a place where the sacrifical girls lived until they were selected for sacrifice. A huge honor for the family, not so good for the girls.

We walked around Lima a lot, got a strange near tour of the City by a taxi driver, going to a famous museum of Peruvian items, and then he took us to some famous Spanish houses where we were able to touch a book from the 1500s, everything was just out in the open and not protected! We also saw a catholic church with some beautiful tile work.

New Years Eve came and we ate at some Italian restuarant, and saw some fireworks over the ocean. I was feeling much better at this point, but Karen had come down with a cold. Our trip ended with the long flight back to Virginia. I was never so glad to get home, and this was the only vacation that I've ever been on where I lost weight!

After we got back, we got a copy of the doctor's notes, and then I got kind of freaked out. I was dehydrated (which is why it took the nurses 5 tries to get the iv in) and basically in super bad shape due to the pulminary edema. Lesson learned and happy to be ok! I don't have an itch to go back.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Peru Trip-Out of Cusco

So, light-headed and dizzy, which was becoming the norm for me, the group made our way back to the hotel in Cusco, via our bus. We disembarked and upon entering the hotel lobby, a nicely dressed man was waiting for me---the doctor. We went upstairs to our room where he checked my pulse-ox and stuff. So, the reading on the finger thing was 80, and I am thinking it is ok, b/c that would mean I had a B. Wrong. The doctor told me to lay down on the bed and not to move while he went to get the hotel O2. I asked him what the deal was, and that's when he told me that a normal reading would be 95+ and that he was concerned about the sounds in my lungs. Huh? Then he said that anything under 85 required constant O2. Hhmmm, I thought. Maybe that explains my unability to walk up steps.

The plan was for me to go to his clinic, just down the block, and get on O2, go to a hyperbaric chamber, and be on intrevenous fluids and anti-biotics overnight, and then to fly down to Lima the next day. Karen and I were not going to Lake Titicaca--the doctor said that he has trouble breathing there, and he was used to 11,000+ altittude. So, off I went on my next adventure.

At the clinic, they gave me a bed to lay in, some old lady O2 (the nose clip kind) and then the poor nurses jabbed me 5 times to get a vein--evidently I was really dehydrated, didn't know that-- to start the IV drip. It was ok for a while, but time moved very slowly and thankfully Karen stayed in the room most of the time. She did leave to go eat and bring me back some food to eat. As the night wore on, things got weirder--Carlos our guide stopped by once shortly after I arrived, and promised to come back-he didn't.

The doctor made arrangements for me to go the another clinic with a hyperbaric chamber, we left around midnight in a van that was an "ambluance". They brought a gurney, but I walked out on my own, thank you very much. At the chamber clinic, I had to put on PJs, since nothing metal could be in the chamber. Karen slept while I lay in the air-tight, kind of freaky chamber. It is like a sub doored tube--no handles on the inside and clear plexiglass for about 2 feet so the occupant can see out. It was weird--hissing O2 came from the bottom, and I was trying my hardest not to freak out b/c I was trapped with no escape. The plexoglass fogged up and I could see where other occupants had written on the fogged glass---kind of really freaked me out.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Jungle Days 2 and 3

Ohhh, poor me! My insides were unhappy, resulting in multiple trips to the bathroom. Much to my chagrin, the water is shut off each night at 10 pm. Let's just say that being unable to flush was not a good thing at all. I was up all night, sick and sitting on the toilet. The snoring from next door was incredible, never have I heard such loud snores from what sounded like 10 people. If this family had a dog, the dog would have snored as well. I am sure the noise from our side, while not snoring, was not much better. Sorry!

Day finally dawned and I felt worse, the intestinal issue moving up to my stomach. I hate feeling like I am going to throw up, and the mixture of that feeling plus the need to sit on the toilet made for a really bad time. Karen tried to get me something to drink, but I really couldn't drink or eat anything. I felt like crap. Finally, I puked in the trash can and slept a little. I was miserable, but at least it was kind of nice in the room, not hot, small breeze and I could see the jungle outside of the room. Karen brought some ginger ale and crackers which I nibbled on, and then some chicken soup, which I could not eat. It was bright yellow. The color alone made me gag.

Karen got to go on a little hike, and pond boat ride, and took some good photos for me to see. I could not stand up but did rotate between the bed and the hammock. Finally, in the late afternoon, I took a shower and felt a teeny bit better. Still could not eat anything but crackers, but did try to drink ginger ale. The snoring family left, so night 2 was better and I got some more needed sleep.

By Day 2, I could actually get up and showered without any problem. I ate breakfast and walked around the big lodge a bit. Even after 2 days at sea level, I was dizzy and winded when I climbed to the second floor. I knew this was bad, and told Carlos I needed to see a doctor when we got back to Cusco later that day. It was really unfortunate that I got super sick in the jungle and we had such a short time there, as there was a lot that we could have done there. They had biking, hiking, kayaking, canopy climbing, etc. that Karen and I would have loved to have done. But, all I saw was the view out of the room. Oh well.

We left early to go back to fly back to Cusco. The boat ride back was much faster, given we were going with the current and the bus ride back was much the same as the one out to the boat launch. Bright orange dirt road, many unfinished bridges, people on motorcyles, people doing laundry in the water. We went to an ice cream place in town, and then flew out and back to Cusco. Not a terribly exciting town.

The minute we landed in Cusco, I got dizzier. We were to leave the next day to go to Lake Titicaca, several thousand feet higher than Cusco.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Christmas and Jungle Day 1

Sooo, back in Cusco for Christmas eve and day. Slept in sort of, and away Karen and I went to walk around town to see the Christmas parades. It was kind of neat, all the surrounding villages get dressed up in costumes and march around the main square. Very colorful and interesting, most seem to make fun of the Spanish, but at the same time, are deeply Catholic. We watched from a second floor coffeshop and then it began once again to rain. A Peruvian woman who said her name was Paula, latched onto us, trying to sell us some carved gourds (yes, we did buy some). Anyway, she wasn't as obnoxoius as others and we negioated what we thought was a pretty good deal; $50 for 3. They are pretty intricately carved and a nice reminder of Peru.

I managed to make it through a good part of the day, but as the group decided to continue walking about, I got too tired and went back to hotel to sleep. At this point, my breathing sound was freaking me out a bit, so I asked Karen if she could hear it. She said yes, but that it had happened to her and it was no big deal. I may be able to use that line for the rest of my life.

The group went out for dinner on Christmas day, and then out drinking and dancing. I didn't even eat dinner and laid around trying to rest and sleep. The next morning, we left for the jungle, another travel snafu as we weren't even sure when we were leaving or what we could or should bring. We landed in Puerto Maldonato in the early afternoon and were met by our jungle guides. We were bussed to their company headquarters, given some fresh fruit juice and water and then a tour of this snake rehab center. Very interesting. They also had humping turtles, a small cheeta-like cat and lots of snakes. Got to hold a boa and had my photo taken. Down at sea level, I thought I'd feel better, but not really.

We drove around Puerto Maldonato for a bit, not much to see but unfinished bridges, dirt roads, an unfinished highway, lots and lots of motorcyles and scooters and the usual unfinished buildings. We finally drove off into the wild, down dirt roads to our long boat canoe for the boat ride to the jungle encampment. The boat was about 30 feet long, and about four or five feet wide, wooden with one of those long handled motors that can be raised in shallow water. The ride was interesting, passing multiple unfinished bridges, as well as several families doing laundry in the muddy creeks. The boat ride was fine, we were fed lunch once we were underway, and the trip was pretty and interesting, but very, very long. The river was kind of high, with quite a bit of flotsam such as trees and large branches. Thankfully, we didn't see any dead animals or bodies. As the sun began to go down, we were not near the lodge, and then the trip became an adventure. One guide was in the bow with a light, shining on the stuff the captain was to miss and there was a lot of trees and large pieces of debris in the water at this time. I was slightly nervous, because although I knew I could swim, I wasn't sure if things in the water would let me!

Finally we arrived safely at the lodge. We had to climb up an embankment and walk a bit to get to the lodge, and I nearly passed out trying to walk up the slight hill. I was really getting tired of the not being able to breathe thing. The lodge was very neat and we ate a nice dinner immediately. Afterwards, we were shown to our rooms, which were partitioned off under a large roof, with two beds with mosquito netting, a hammock, and a seperate bathroom. The walls did not go up to the roof, and they were quite thin. There was a family next to us that had the loudest snores I have ever heard and all of them snored. As I struggled to sleep, I realized that it was not just the snores keeping me awake....my guts had started to roil.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Inca Trail Day 4

The final day on the Inca trail was an early one; the porters scratched at our tent at 3:30 am and before we even could get out, they started taking the tent down. It was early, it was rainy and we were hustled out of the tent to breakfast before we were even really awake. So, breakfast up until this morning was pretty hearty--not so on the last day. We got one pancake and that was it. Not a lot for an entire morning. Everyone at the camp (there were probably over a 100 people) was crammed into the bar/restaraunt building to wait for 4:30 since the checkpoint didn't open until 5am. So, we all sat there, stood there, waiting to get going. Evidently, since it was Christmas eve day, the porters all wanted to hustle down the mountain to catch early trains to get back to their familes--which I understand, but really? 3:30am?

Finally, we all left and then waited at the checkpoint for a bit until we could all get through. Day 4 was mostly downhill again, so I was able to keep up; not that I could breathe. At the Temple of the Sun, the sky unzipped and the rain intensified to the point of absurdity. We could not see Machu Pichu from there, and of course, there was no sun. Rain, rain, rain pouring rain as we walked down the mountain past some other ruins and then finally into Machu Pichu itself, well past it to the final checkpoint. The rain was hard and sideways. We huddled under some cover with a bunch of other tourists and hikers, trying to decide what to do. Finally, most of us agreed to brave the rain and get a truncated tour of Machu Pichu, a couple of our group elected to go down to the Aqua Caliente (town) to dry out.

I wish I could say that Machu Pichu was the best thing I ever saw, but I didn't see much of it since it was raining too hard to see. The Incans had cut slots into the walls and drainageways for water removal, and the water shooting out of these slots was more like a fire hose than not. The water was coming out so hard, that it shot out more than 10 feet and would have knocked a person over. Water was pouring down the steps like mini rivers and the rain just kept pounding. Our guide, Julio, said he had never seen it rain this hard. Still, it was a pretty location, and the buildings were cool. We scooted off the mountain down to Aqua Caliente and met up with the others at a restaraunt at about 10 am. We were told we were not going to get lunch until 1 pm and we were all very hungry. Our trip guide, Carlos, was supposed to meet us at Machu Pichu, but he was a no show, and he didn't show up until close to 1pm. We all had to buy food early or we were going to be very grumpy.

Walking around the town was still hard for me, I couldn't climb steps or go uphill and the sound of my breathing was getting weird. Since I was on antibiotics for my brief stint of diaherra, my ears got sunburned, adding to my happiness. The town was very touristy, and of course, it had a craft market packed with the same crafty things. Finally, and I do mean finally, we got lunch (pizza, ok but not great) and then really finally, we got on the train to begin our journey back to Cusco. The train was cool, an old train that had been redone and was very nice. The ride was slow, but better than walking! At the station, we transferred to a bus and then back to Cusco. I was beat. Carlos had prepared a nice Christmas eve meal, with a cooked turkey and we ate a lot and I crashed. Karen and some others went out to see the festivities on the town. There were lots and lots of fireworks, and they said it was almost like being in a war zone with everyone shooting off fireworks in large crowds.

I slept and listened to my bubbly breathing.