Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Eight months out - A report, but no pictures

Monday was my eight month "surgiversary." As opposed to my 20th wedding anniversary, which is today.

So how is it going? Pretty well, I'd say. Here are some particulars:

Hair loss and other surgery-related issues:
My scars are almost gone. I will post another picture at one year out and I'm thinking they'll be pretty much history by then.

My hair loss has slowed down a lot. I used to be able to get 80-100 hairs to fall out just by washing my hair. It was probably more since I'd stop trying at that point or stop counting at least. Plus I'd end up with tons in my brush afterwards. Now it's more like 25-35 per shower and I have to really work to get that out and my brush has a normal amount of hair in it. I'm still finding random hairs in random places, but not nearly as often as before.

As for the rest of it, I no longer feel like I recently had surgery. I have energy, my digestion is normal and I don't get a lot of weird aches and pains. I do still take Benefiber, but I've stopped a lot of my optional vitamins. I do have some sort of back pain that mostly shows up when I'm driving my car. Unfortunately, it feels a lot like the back pain associated with my hiatal hernia. Hopefully that hasn't come back.

Oh, I still am on Prilosec though I suspect I could start weaning off it at this point. I'm just waiting to get the word from Dr. Awesome. I see him in two weeks so I'll ask him then.

Goal weight
I am down to 120 and I think that's pretty close to a good weight for me. I'd like to get rid of some more fat out of my panus and thighs, but I want to build up more muscles everywhere, so I'm not sure the scale number will go continue to go down. Sunday, for the first time, I was happy with my calves! Yes, I look at myself in the mirror when I'm at the gym and admire my body parts. Quite a change from the days when I'd do my best not to really see myself in mirrors

Eating and maintenance
On the other hand, while I didn't lose any weight on Monday, my official weigh-in day, I'm still losing. If my calculations are correct, I am not eating nearly enough to maintain. So that's something I'm working on.

I don't think I can eat more now than I could at, say, six months. I've topped out at 2-3 oz. of hard protein and 4-6 oz. of softer stuff. I think this may be what I can eat. Forever. I'm okay with it, because I can eat a wide variety of food and the amounts seem reasonable to me most days. The hardest part is wanting to clean my plate and not being able to or being at a party and not having room for everything that looks good. I need to resign my membership in the "clean plate" club, but it's a habit ingrained from childhood and it keeps coming back. At least I've made great improvements in eating slower.

I'm also trying to figure out how to be an athlete who is also a bariatric patient. All the advice for athletes says to ingest carbs, carbs, carbs. One formula suggestions 7 to 10 g of carbs per kilogram of body weight for endurance athletes. That's 371 to 530 grams of carbs a day! I think that's insane. Plus, I'd be getting around 2000 calories a day just from carbs and protein alone. Clearly that is not going to work for me as I have to ingest some fat.

My latest approach is to eat like a bariatric patient for my main meals and snacks and to eat like an endurance athlete when I'm actually enduring. So before, during and immediately after a workout, I'll consume things that have a lot of carbs (but some protein) and are geared towards replacing the calories I've just burned. If I don't work out, I don't eat like that so I don't create any bad habits that I have to change if I end up not working out for an extended period of time for some reason (say, an injury).

This puts my carbs up higher than Dr. Awesome suggestions, but not anywhere near what the sports nutrition experts say is needed for optimal performance. Since I'm not a professional athlete, I'm okay with this. Plus I'm not convinced that the traditional recommendation is right for me. My body seems to love protein and do quite well on it.

Measurements

Body Part8 mon Since
Last Time
Since
First Time
Bust 33 0.75 15
Chest 28 0.5 15
Waist 27 2 14
Stomach 37 2 16
Hips 36 1.5 15
Thigh 17.5 0.5 7.5
Calf 13.5 0 3
Arm 9.5 0.5 5.5
TOTAL: 7.75 91

Clothes
I'm enjoying shopping for clothes these days. I would like to be the same size on the top as the bottom, though. I don't care if the top gets bigger or the bottom gets smaller, either. I am starting to build up my wardrobe again, but trying not to go too crazy in case I do change sizes in the next few months. I'm a size 2 on top! I'm tickled by this, but I'm finding that it's almost (but not quite) as hard to find clothes in my size as a size 2-4 as it was as a Plus Size! I couldn't find any 2's in JC Penney's Petite department and very few 4s, for example. Upscale stores have my size, of course. But, with all the clothes I need to buy, I'd like some cheaper options.

I've also noticed that I actually do have a lot of clothes. They aren't street clothes though. I have one pair of pants that fits and three that are too big, two pairs of shorts that are getting big, two dresses, two suit jackets and a handful of tops. That's it in street clothes. But I also have two drawers full of exercise wear! I have more sports bras that fit me than regular bras, for example.

Which is good because those spin classes I've just started taking make me sweat like a pig!

That's it until next month... except for pictures, which probably won't be done until Friday.

Friday, May 22, 2009

1800-2000 calories a day?

It's my turn to worry that I won't stop losing weight. I'm still losing two pounds a week! Now, back in April, it was one lb. a week and I was okay with that because I still have some fat to get rid of, but I also wanted to move into maintenance. But then I decided to train for a Half-ironman in the Fall and that means more workouts. More workouts means more calories burned. More calories burned means my weight loss picked up again just when I was hoping to slow it down.

The end result is that I'm getting kind of scrawny on top even though I still have about five pounds of fat I'd like to get rid of on the bottom.

Obviously, I need to eat more, but the volume of my food is comfortable to me as is my frequency of eating and what I'm eating. I am still restricting myself somewhat and I guess I should stop that. But I don't want to add in a bunch of junk or start cooking everything in butter instead of PAM. So I need to figure out a way to add in more calories that is healthy and doesn't have me eating every 1-2 hours either.

My spreadsheets say I need to eat 1800-2000 calories a day to not lose. That just seems insane to me. I guess that's what happens when you decide to train for a Half-Ironman. But I can't see backing off from that goal just because I don't feel like eating more. So I guess I'll have to figure out a way to do it.

The ironic thing is that I used to eat that much on a regular basis and, not only did it seem fine to me, but I was often hungry! Too bad there wasn't a way to magically remove my weight so I could start doing triathlons. Then I wouldn't have had to have surgery. But, of course, I needed the surgery to get down to a weight were I could start doing triathlons. Not to mention, I needed to get rid of the ghrelin so I would want to do triathlons.

I'm sure it will all work out though. I have a tendency to be a worry wart. Plus Dr. Awesome always has great advice and I see him in two weeks for my nine month follow-up. 

He already told me at this week's support group meeting that I need to start heavy weight training. I kind of already knew that so this weekend I'm going to join ClubSport and start up with a trainer. You know, like I've been threatening to do for, oh, three months now. But this time I mean it!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bike to Work Day

Bike to Work Day was not as fun as I thought it would be. Don't get me wrong. There were fun parts. But there were scary parts too.

The ride out of Fremont was not particularly pleasant. Lots of the streets don't have bike lanes, plus it was windy and the sky was leaden like it was going to rain any second. That made it cold. There weren't any other bicyclists either so it was lonely.

But I made it to the Dumbarton without getting lost and the sun started to shine and I started to see more bicyclists.

I have wanted to ride over the Dumbarton forever. I had this vision of sparkly water and being high in the air (which I like). The reality wasn't quite like that. For one thing, the path is pretty narrow and it was windy as heck and every time a truck drove by, I was blown two feet into the lane for the other direction. Scary! If the water was sparkling (and I don't think it was), I was too grimly focused on getting across the bridge without dying to notice.

But the trip got better on the other side. I stopped at an "energizer" station and got some free swag and some nutrition and the energy boost got me to work. The ride on the Peninsula was much nicer too. If I lived over there, I'd bike to work every day!

When I got to work, I got my free breakfast and took a shower and felt pretty good that I'd made it the whole way -- 18 miles! Everyone at work thought I was nuts, of course. That was kind of fun too.

On the way home, I had another mixed experience. The first part of the ride was into a stiff head wind. But going over the Dumbarton was better. I think not having to see the traffic helps. It wasn't quite as windy either. But Fremont is still pretty windy and I also got lost a bit. Then the clouds came back, so I did the last 20 minutes in that twilight light that I hate to bike in because I'm convinced the cars can't see me.

Because of my detour, the ride home was 20.5 miles but it took the same amount of time so I guess I was biking faster. Knowing where you are going (or thinking you do) helps with that.

I had been thinking of biking to work once a week as a way to increase my bike mileage, but I can see that is not a good idea now. I really need to train hills, not a flat, windy course. Plus the logistics are just too complicated and it cuts my work day too short. I guess I'll stick to once a  year until I live closer to where I work.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Wildflower Outstanding Performance Saucony Award

Hey, I got nominated for an award by someone in my triathlon club! It seems Saucony, makers of shoes and athletic gear, donated a tri suit (or a tri tank, according to my coupon) to our club for someone who had a particularly good Wildflower performance.

I thought about nominating myself (it was allowed under the rules) because I am still pretty stoked about getting through Wildflower in one piece and with a reasonable performance. But it felt a little vain. Plus I know tons of people in the club had better times than me. 

But luckily for me, someone else nominating me!

I am just so thrilled that someone thought my story worthy of an "Outstanding Performance" award that I didn't care if I won. But they put all the nominees' names in an envelope and my name came out the winner. So now I get a new tri suit -- which I can really use -- as well as getting to feel on top of the world for being nominated.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Happy to gain?

I gained two pounds this week and I am happy. Yes, happy! Okay, mostly happy.

The problem is that I have made Monday my official weigh-in day. But last week I did an Olympic distance triathlon on Sunday, so on Monday I was down five pounds from last time I weighed (Friday morning) and six for the week over all. I knew it was mostly water weight (because I had purposely depleted all the glycogen from my muscles) and I know it is normal to lose up to 10% of your body weight after an endurance event. But it still freaked me out to lose that much all at once.

But I figured I'd gain most, if not all of it back over the next couple of days and I anticipated being freaked out about that too; even though I knew, again, that it was mostly water and not true weight gain.

So when I only gained two of it back, I was happy. Because this puts my average loss for the past two weeks at two pounds a week, which is much more reasonable than six pounds, and faster than I've been losing since I upped my protein to 120 grams a day. So I'm happy that I'm getting closer to being done, but I'm also slightly nervous that I won't stop losing when I get to where I want to be.

For the past week I averaged 1250 calories and about 95 grams of carbs. That's not unreasonable for maintenance, in my opinion. But I'm not maintaining. I'm losing and faster than the formulas say I should. Plus, eating that many carbs tends to make me crave junk food and I'd rather not start junking up my body with Snickers and pie and the like.

I think I might be exercising more than I thought. I also may not be building up as much muscle as I want. I bet if I started strength training two days a week ... which I've been talking about doing for ages, but haven't yet managed to pull the trigger ... that would slow my weight loss right down and also lower my body fat percentage to where I want it to be.

After all, I have a ways to go if I'm going to be as buff as my hero, Harriet Anderson.

Monday, May 4, 2009

See Mac Tri

See Mac Swim. See Mac Bike. See Mac Run. Go Mac Go.

Yes, I did repeat that to myself several times throughout my run. I'm such a dork! (And proud of it.)

Anyway, the morning of the race, I woke up feeling pretty good, though my calves were still tight from my run the day before. I kept to my schedule pretty much until I had to bike down Lynch Hill to the transition area. Everyone else was riding down, but I didn't feel comfortable doing that. My duffle bag tends to swing around and it was a very, very, very steep hill. I felt like an idiot, but I walked down. It took forever too and I was 20 minutes later than I planned getting to transition.

Not that it really mattered. I was still all set up by 8:30 am -- which was probably an hour earlier than I needed to be. Body marking was a breeze and I scored a free Gatorade water bottle at the pre-fill station. The lines for the porta-potties were long, but moved quickly. I spent the remaining time chatting with my rack-mates and fussing with my equipment.

At this event, everyone has an assigned spot and they are set up by waves. So all the 45+ women were in the back with me. It was kind of fun to be able to chat with my peers and compare notes. Some of them seemed very experienced though and that was a bit intimidating.

Our racks were on the far right so we were actually not that far from the Swim In and Run Out, but we were very far from the Bike In & Out -- only two racks were farther. I also noticed a lot of people brought chalk and were marking up the asphalt like crazy so they could find their racks again later. There were also balloons tied to racks and brightly colored flags and all sorts of junk all over. With the research I've done about how to transition, I'd never heard of doing that! So I just used their markings to help me.

By 9:30 am I was ready for my warm-up right on schedule. I decided I didn't want to run more because of my calves, but walking wasn't loosening them up enough so I ended up doing a 15 min. run, as originally planned, followed by some stretching. Then I put on my wet suit up to the waist and waited until 10:00 to go down to the start line. The sun had come up by now and it was getting hot in the suit so I didn't pull it up all the way until it was closer to time to get into the water. I learned my lesson on that one from last time.

I've worn this suit four times already, but it wasn't until this time that I figured out my zipper pull had a little flap that let it stick to the velcro on the neck. Then I got to help another woman who had her wet suit on backwards (I'm glad I'm not the only one who did that the first time!) and I showed her the velcro trick and she was impressed at my expertise! I was feeling pretty experienced -- until I realized I forgot to Body Glide my neck. Luckily, I had put it on my face because my sunblock had died (there is sunblock in the glide), so I just smeared some down and hoped for the best.

The wave in front of us was sent off and we got to get into the water to acclimate. They had said it was 64 degrees and, compared to all my past swims, the water felt positively tropical. Then we had to come back onto the boat ramp and get ready for our start.

At my last tri, I had followed the common first-timer advice to hang to the left and back and found myself having to work around a lot of people who were flailing around clearly out of their element. So this time I still stayed on the left, but I put myself right behind the people who were raring to go and ahead of the ones who looked hesitant. I was kind of raring to go myself, but figured all the people in front of me would run me over if I put myself in their midst.

When the timer went off, I pushed the stopwatch on my HRM and we all ran into the water. It was pretty packed, but I didn't get kicked, hit or punched and eventually we spread out a bit. I felt like I got in and started swimming faster than last time and I was happy with my new strategy.

Then I just kept repeating the plan... go easy, nice and easy, slow and steady wins the race! I didn't want to give it all up on the swim knowing I had so much farther to swim, bike and run than last time. It was hard sometimes not to want to speed up when people passed me, because "nice and easy" kept turning into "it's a race", but I mostly refrained by reminding myself to run my own race.

I did get kicked at one point and swallowed water. I came up sputtering and one of the kayak dudes asked me if I was okay. I assured him I was and got back to swimming. Then I got whacked in the nose! That hurt. I also had trouble staying on course. There were lots of buoys around and it was easy to aim for the wrong one. So I was zig-zagging quite a bit. But at least I didn't go totally off course like two other women did when we rounded the first buoy. (I wonder what happened to them.) Though not from lack of trying.

As we rounded the last buoy, someone in a light purple cap from the next wave had caught up to me, which I expected, but then I was getting passed right and left by green caps from the wave after that, which I had not. But then I remembered they were relay people -- picked for their swimming ability. Plus there were still yellow caps behind me and hardly any light purple ones so I felt like my time was probably acceptable even if I felt like I hadn't had the greatest execution on the swim.

So, as I came out of the water, I looked at my watch and saw ... 00:00:00. The damn button hadn't registered my press at the start! I pressed it now and guessed I'd done the swim in 45 minutes. I was a bit wobbly, but not too bad, so the decision to not to wear ear plugs turned out to be a good one. (I don't like them as it makes it hard to hear.) People were pretty slow up the ramp, lots of them walking or even standing still to tug on their wet suits, but I think of transition as my time to get ahead of people who are better than me so I just powered up the ramp and into T1.

When I got the bikes, most in my rack were gone, but most in the rack next to me were still there. That was reassuring, though I did feel I was slower in T1 than I am normally. In particular, I had trouble getting my bike gloves on. Maybe I should ditch them during events, but I worry about my hands hurting on the long rides.

I grabbed my bike and ran with it to the Bike Out shoot. I was able to pass a few people here too including when mounting. Yes! In fact, I got into my pedals perfectly, which isn't always the case.

Then.... Lynch Hill. Yikes! This is the very, very, very steep hill I'd walked down in the morning and it's a mile long. Up hill. People were walking their bikes already, while stronger bikers were passing me. I was unhappy about being passed so much and determined not to walk so I  just repeated "cadance, cadence, cadence" all the way up the hill. I made it, too!

Then, I just had the rest of the course to worry about. It was a decent course. Not a lot of turns, so it was kind of boring in parts, but very hilly so it was challenging in a different way. Most of it was out where people live  on ranches and some of them had come out to cheer us on, which was fun.

There were aide station along the way, which I don't think is usual for an Olympic course. But I grabbed the Gatorade Endurance bottles anyway as I drove by, mostly to make the volunteers happy, but also because it was fun grabbing things on the move. I felt bad throwing them away mostly undrunk, but I needed both hands for shifting.

At about mile 8, I started to feel the effects of the longer course. In particular [TMI alert] my crotch started hurting me like crazy. I wonder if this means I need an adjustment on my bike fit? Anyway, I couldn't do anything about it, so I just stood up in the saddle a lot on the flat parts of the course and did my best to ignore it.

I got the turn around and realized I was behind schedule for the bike. I had thought about taking a two minute break there, but didn't see a good place to stop and I was concerned about my time, so I just kept going.

I tried to push harder, but my legs were pretty wobbly at this point. I even found myself hopping off the bike on the first big hill because I was going slower and slower and I was afraid would fall over.

This turned out to be a big mistake because, after a very short time, I got my legs back but I couldn't get back on the bike because I still had way more hill to get up and staring on such a steep hill was not going to work. Plus pushing a bike up a steep hill takes a lot more energy than you'd think. So I got passed by about five people and didn't really save myself all that much energy. I decided to remember that when I got to the next hill.

At the next hill, the same thing started to happen. My legs were so rubbery and I was slowing down, but I was damned if I'd make the same mistake again. So I just pushed as hard as I could and made it up there. On the way down that hill, I started to get a second wind and was able to get up the last hill just fine. I even passed a 73 year old dude (who called me a young chick!). I hope I can still race at that age.

At about the 25 kilometer mark, I did feel my calves tightening up again, but nothing came of it, thank goodness. I just rode from marker to marker and tried not to think about how much farther there was to go.

When I got back to Lynch Hill, there was a guy was waving a sign saying "Go Bitches". I gave him a thumbs-up which made him laugh and prepared to swoop down the hill. But it was full of runners who would NOT move over no matter how much I yelled "left" as I passed them.

In fact, I crossed the yellow line a few times, but no one seemed to care and I was not DQed for it. I had to ride on the brakes the whole way down too because it was so steep and I didn't want to crash into a runner. I was slightly disappointed in that as I was only going about 25 mph and I'd gone faster than that downhill on the main course. Of course, I wasn't playing dodge bike with runners out there so I guess that makes a difference. But mostly it was just a scary hill and I let it get to me.

Then I got back to my spot and got ready for the run. Again, I felt a bit sluggish down there compared to my normal T2 performance. I also noticed that almost ALL the bikes in my rack were back. Shoot! I hadn't noticed that many people from my wave passing me.

Well, there was nothing I could do about it, so I staggered out for my run. And staggered was pretty much what I did for the first mile. As usual. Lots of people were employing a strategy of walking up the hills and running down even from the get-go, but the first four miles of the course was pretty much all up so I decided not to be tempted by their plan and stuck to mine.

At this point, I was wondering if I had maybe used up all my energy on the bike, but then I remembered that that first mile always feels like this and that helped. I did have one hill that I walked up the last two feet because my "running" was taking more energy than walking. But otherwise, I just kept putting one foot front of the other in a kind of shuffling run-walk. And, like it normally does, eventually everything felt better and by the end of mile one, I was actually really running, abet very slowly.

The only real problems I had after that was getting some bad gas both in the beginning and near the end. I have decided to blame it on the Gatorade Endurance as I broke a cardinal rule of "nothing new on race day" when I drank that. It was probably just everything put together though.

I got to the aide station at mile 4 and decided to keep going and not take the two minute break I had considered pre-race. Besides, everyone swore I was almost to the top and it would be all downhill from there. Let it be noted that, while this was generally true, it was not literally true. As I found out soon enough when I encountered another hill. But after that everyone we passed told us it was all downhill from there. I was onto them by now though and so wasn't quite as shocked when I got to the next little hill. But after that it really was all downhill including Lynch Hill.

I wasn't surprised to see people leaning way back to brake as they ran down that hill. But I was suprised to see people walking it. I was so glad we had practiced this during our Tues. club workout because I knew exactly what to do. I leaned forward like they taught us and just FLEW down that hill passing people right and felt with almost no work on my part.

When I got to the level part where you ran into the finish shoot, it was really tempting to slow down because I was just beat to a pulp, but I made myself speed up instead. They announced my name as I ran by (and said I was "52 years young". Um, dude, I'm only 51. Don't exaggerate!) and I was given a cup of water, my timing chip was taken off -- which was good because I don't think I had the energy to take it off myself -- and they put that finisher's medal around my neck.

I was so proud of myself and that medal. I checked my watch and, with what I thought was my crappy swim, I figured I'd done the whole thing in about 2 hours and 25 minutes. That was longer than I was hoping for, but still within my window of 4 to 4.5 hours. Later on, after eating a banana and having some "Avia Red Pomegranate" gelato, I wandered by the results booth and found out my swim time was only 37 min. and 52 seconds! So it wasn't crappy at all, but very close to my plan in spite of the sputtering and the zig-zagging.

That's also where I found out that there was some kind of glitch with the timing. My T2 time was listed as over two hours! It looked like it was actually my bike time, plus my T2 time. There was no run time at all. But I was assured it would all be straightened out by the time the results were put on the internet. I guestimated my finish time was four hours and 20 minutes minus whatever overlap there was between when I finally got my stopwatch going and I crossed into T1.

Then I dragged myself back to the campsite, changed into clean clothes, took down my tent and packed up my car, still wearing my finisher's medal the entire time. I wore it the whole way home too, even in McDonald's for my traditional post-race Grilled Honey Mustard Snack Wrap. 

Because I'm a dork! (And proud of it.) I woud have worn it to work too but I try to pretend I'm not a dork at work. (I don't think I'm fooling anyone, but I think they appreciate the effort.)

My "final" stats (they keep changing the rankings as they fix people's timing problems) ended up as:

Time 04:19:40.840 at Finish Line

Rankings
2378th out of 2602 overall
929th out of 1085 women
32nd out of 41 women aged 50-54

IntervalTimePaceRank
Swim 37:52.22040:38 min/mi 26th
T105:31.010
Bike 02:06:19.83011.80 mi/hr33rd
T203:06.420
Run 01:26:52.19013:59 min/mi37th

So you can see, as I have started to suspect, swimming is actually my best event, not the bike. I only swim one time a week, too. But running is really where I lose it compared to the rest of the field. I'm doing that two times a week, just like biking, but I think I need to up that to three times.

As far as pacing goes, I swam and ran at about the pace I had planned to, but my bike was definitely slower than I'm capable of. (I see more hill work in my future.) My T1 time was slightly high but my T2 was within plan. I think I can shave some time off both of them though as I get more experienced.

But what was particularly gratifying about the entire experience is that I went into the race not being sure I could do it. It's great to prepare for something and execute, but it's even better to make yourself do something you aren't sure you can do and succeed. There is no other feeling like that in the world.

Wildflower - The Preview

Yesterday I completed my first Olympic distance triathlon. Not only that, but it was one of the hardest Olympic courses around. I'm pretty pleased with myself, quite frankly.

It all started about 3 weeks ago. I had not even completed my first Sprint Triathlon, but I was feeling quite good about my training. I was regularly swimming 1600-1800 yards at my weekly swim practice and had done several long bike rides of 25-30 miles and I could run for 4 miles without stopping, farther if it was an interval workout with breaks. Then I found out that a friend of mine from ObesityHelp.com was coming out to California to do Wildflower, a festival of triathlons that many people consider the starting event of the season and is like no other triathlon out there. I decided to come down and cheer him on and, once that decision was made, I started to get the bug to race myself.

I knew it was a little bit crazy. It would only be two weeks after ICE Breaker and it was too late to learn to run for a full 10k as I was already tapering for the first race and would need to recover afterwards. I tried to convince myself to do the Mountain Bike course -- a Sprint distance just like I'd been training for -- but I just couldn't. I didn't want to deal with finding and training on a Mountain Bike three weeks before the race and I just had this feeling I could do the Olympic Distance if I just pushed myself. So I ignored the rational part of my brain and just signed up.

After a week of prep (finding a camping stove, figuring out where our tent was, getting a bike fit), Friday finally arrived. I took off from work so I could get there early. A club member had brought all our tents down the weekend before and set them up and I realized when I got there that I had no idea what mine looked like! 

Eventually I figured it out and unpacked and went looking for my friend Chad and his coach. We had left our plans rather loose and, when it started raining and I had no cell phone coverage, I was kind of sorry about this. But one of the event workers hooked us up and I even got to go into the VIP tent with them for dinner. Apparently we were surrounded by all these famous racers, but I didn't know who any of them were. It was still very exciting. I could just feel that we were surrounded by the racing elite.

It rained throughout the night and I got little sleep. When I woke up in the morning, the rain had broken and it was clear it was going to be gorgeous out. I then had this overwhelming need to do something physical after missing my Thurs. workout to pack and not doing anything on Friday because of the rain. I realized I hadn't gone two days in a row without working out in months and this when I started to get reflective and introspective about how far I had come in such a short time.

I didn't want to get my bike dirty, so I went for a run. This was probably a mistake in some ways, because I don't like to run two days in a row -- my middled-aged body can't quite take that -- but it was good in others because I ran part of the Long course run in reverse and was able to bang out 3.5 miles and came up with a strategy for getting through the run the next day. I decided that I would walk up any hills where it was taking more energy to run than walk, but I wasn't actually going faster running than if I was walking. I also would stop at the mile 4 aide station, if necessary, and take a two minute break just like we do in our track workouts.

Then I had breakfast and went out to the Long course to cheer on Will and Chad. I couldn't figure out who was who in the sea of silver and purple caps but I knew they were out there. Once they got in the water, I ran around trying to find a better spot to see them come out of the water. I was bounding up and down stairs and picking my way through the hills and again I got very introspective. Who was this mad woman bounding around with more energy that I had as a 20-something? Had aliens taken over my brain and body and turned me into an athlete? I think maybe they had!

I was able to see Will come out right about when he said he would but I didn't realize it was him until he was past me. Chad I figured out sooner even though he was ahead of schedule and I yelled "Go Chad" and waved my sign, but he was very focused on the race. I then ran up to the shoot to see the bikes go out and got to see Chad drop his chain right in front of me. It didn't seem like a good time to yell "Go Chad" so I kept quiet. Then I went back to the campsite and took a shower and set myself up to see the bikes go by at mile 2 or so on the way out and 54 or so on the way back.

It was so much fun cheering on the competitors and people were going nuts out there yelling this and that and ringing cow bells. Next year, I'm definitely going to have a cow bell! At this point, I started to feel all the running and bounding on stairs in my calves as they tightened up. I hoped that I hadn't screwed myself up too badly for my race tomorrow.

Of course, after being out for hours, I looked down for two seconds and when I looked up, I saw Chad's back. Crap! I never saw Will, though I did see a few people who might have been Will. Then I immediately moved my chair facing the other direction for the run. We were around mile 7 or 8 and some of my club members had pom-poms and were cheering everyone that came by. I was cheering too and one of the runners came by and yelled "Hi Marie" which cracked me up. (We're supposed to yell for them, not the other way around.)

Eventually Chad showed up, a bit later than I expected, which had me worried. But he saw the pom-poms and cracked up and I screamed Go Chad and he saw my sign and it was all good. Once he passed, I ran down to the finish with my bike to get it checked out and see if I could see him cross the line. This time he was way earlier than I expected but I did see his back go by as he crossed the line and they said his name and I felt as excited as if I'd just done the long course myself.

Later on, when I got bored drooling over tri gear I can't afford at the Expo, I wandered by his campsite and we took a picture of the two of us with the, by now quite battered, sign. That's when I found out that Will's bike had conked out at mile 3 and he'd had to DNF. So none of those people I thought maybe was him was actually him. Plus it sucks to DNF. I also got to hear a bit about Chad's race and his bike troubles and how hard the run was (super hard).

We figured he'd done the whole thing in around 8 hours, which for a course that people who've done Ironmans say is harder, is pretty fantastic in my opinion. We talked about about getting choked up realizing how much our lives had changed and then they drove off and I went back to our campsite for the club barbeque.

This was when I discovered that my knees were sunburned. Great. I had put sunscreen on my face and arms, but I had on knee socks (with skulls because that's the Avia logo) and long shorts that came down to my knees so I hadn't even though about them. Now I had tight calves and red knees. I was starting to get a feeling of impending doom about the race.

But I set that aside and prepared to make my best dish -- Rosemary-Teriyaki Flank Steak. It was great to meet some of my club members and get to know them better even if the bbq really turned out to be about four groups all scattered around a large field and quite disjoint. (I think next year we need to bring some folding tables so we can have a central location.)

I was still a bit nervous about my race though, so I went to bed early and hoped it wouldn't be that noisy. I must have been pretty beat because I slept like the dead -- which is unusual for me when camping.

And thus ends the Pre-race part of my report.

Here is Chad's race report so you can see the same race from his perspective: