Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Funding Request

Every once in a while I post something that I really hope you'll be willing to support.

I don't do it very often.

In case you don't want to read this whole post, yet you trust me implicitly and are eager to help, this is the donate link:


The last time I suggested a donation (but didn't outright ask) was almost a year ago, for the Ironheart Racing Foundation.

Ironheart was producing a documentary at IMAZ 2012, and I inadvertently sat next to the wife of one of the stars. She was friendly but didn't start telling me about the project until, as a total stranger, I peppered her with a billion questions... as I'm wont to do.

She introduced me to the stories of each of the documentary participants in turn, and I teared up as they crossed the finish-line.

Then I outright cried when the wife of a man who had died in production came across the line in his place, holding a photo of him high above her head.

"Touching" doesn't touch that.

At Yuba, the reason I came in 8th of the 8 women in my age-group was that I was passed up in the last minute of my race, quite literally. She beat me by 51 seconds.

No one had been behind me for a long stretch then suddenly she appeared.

Mandy Seeley.

I know her name because it was scrawled all over the course in chalk:
Go, Mandy! You can do it!

She turned on the burners right before I careered into the chute. I congratulated her as she jogged by.

Then I noticed her Ironheart racing shirt.

"Wait!! Are you Ironheart?"

"Yeah!" She slowed down so I could catch up, running alongside me as she explained. "I had open-heart surgery 5 months ago."

I almost started crying right then and there.

Mandy Seeley. So, so cool.


Here's the second foundation that I'm heralding, brazenly asking you to donate to a cause.

At IMAZ 2012, I volunteered next to a man named Mike Arabia.

We handed out water to parched and weary runners during the marathon. I was dressed as Batgirl, which is neither here nor there, but the racers liked it.

Though I was planning to sign up for IMAZ 2013, Mike had already decided to race in the inaugural 2013 Lake Tahoe Ironman and use it as a chance to raise money for the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

This is Mike.

Like me, this will be his first full Ironman.

Unlike me, he has less time before his race.

(I realized today I have exactly and only 2 months to finish training.)


Mike's race is this weekend.

He's trying to wrap up fundraising in the next 5 days. His total goal is $3500. That, and crossing the line and hearing those four famous words, "You! Are! An! Ironman!"

You can donate here: CAF Donation

I had actually thought about using my own racing journey to fundraise for a cause about which I'm passionate, but I've decided to take a different approach and do an unconventional matching program.

(Details to be revealed, eyebrow waggle.)

Since I'm NOT trying to raise money, I really want to help Mike raise his. I didn't actually ask his permission. He doesn't know (yet... hope you don't mind, Mike) that I'm putting this out there.


Now for the inspiration.

Alongside the Ironheart racers at IMAZ was a woman who did the entire race on a prosthetic leg.

Not actually her: Google image.

She was making good time initially, but then came across the line late, I think in the final hour.

(That's 17 hours for those of you who are new to the sport.)

I heard the reason was that she fell, her prosthesis detached, and she scraped up her leg at the stub, forcing her to reattach the prosthesis over the wound in order to continue.


But she finished.



Or, if you've never heard of the Internet before, here is an Ironman story that will make you cry. Every. Time.

Watch it.

Watch it again.


The Challenged Athlete Foundation helps disabled people pursue an active lifestyle, including sports and competition. Their flagship program steps in where rehabilitation and health insurance end providing funding grants for equipment such as sports wheelchairs, handcycles, mono skis and sports prosthetics.

It's a registered 501(c)(3), so all donations are tax deductible.

$1 or $1000.

And while I have no idea if the Ironman finishers above have ever been helped by CAF, here is a profile of someone who has and continues to give back via CAF mentoring programs:


I am inspired by people who live life to the fullest despite their challenges.

By giving, you could be helping someone who will, in turn, help inspire you back.

Full circle.

If you have the means to contribute, please do. Once again, here is where you can give: Mike's Donation Page for CAF.

Whether it's fundraising or racing, every step toward the finish line counts. Even (especially) the smallest ones.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Report: Camp Yuba

I'm notoriously bad at writing timely race reports, but my impressions of a race on race-day are different than when I've had time to sleep and think and recover and forget.

I thought it would be fun to do this today to keep me honest.

And honestly, just a few hours later, my impressions are already much ... softer ... than they were as I was putting my body and soul on the line this morning.

Camp Yuba was my last scheduled triathlon before IMAZ, though it's only the start of my hardest training yet.

Last night I felt calm.

Compared to my first basket-case Olympic triathlon in July, merely 8 weeks ago, evidently I'm a different person.

Not so different that I did substantially better time-wise. But different enough that I was generally more at peace doing it.

I improved in some areas and devolved in others. All in all, I was a total of 12-minutes faster than I was 2 months ago over the same distances.

One big difference was that this was the first triathlon (and only the second race) where I had supporters with me. It was so nice to have Jeff and Bridgette come! In fact, I lost a few seconds here and there enjoying and interacting with them, but it was totally worth it.

So let's go back to last night and distill this event sequentially.


Camp Yuba Tri was at Yuba State Park, approximately 85 miles from home. The drive down was lovely.

Sunset near Mona Lake

We stayed in a hotel (and by a hotel, I mean the hotel) in Scipio -- a town in which there is a Subway that no one staffs, so you can't get a sandwich.

It's pretty small.

You know your tri is out in the middle of nowhere when the Park Ranger says, "There isn't a sign on your way back, so turn at the big tire."

Yep. This is where we turned!

Scipio is a 10 mile drive from the Camp Yuba start line at the main boat dock, so all 5 of us bunked down in a king-size bed for a night of peaceful slumber.

Wait. Five of us?


Even the dogs.

In one bed.

By the way, thiiiiis did not work out so well.

Chewy and Piper (and Stardust) on my legs.

Bridgette on my pillow.

All the youngsters seemed to need to be touching me at all times. It's like I'm a magnet. Mommy-magnet.

It's just the way things are.

No doubt they kept me extra cuddly warm, pinned into 2 square feet like that. But the trouble really started when the dogs couldn't adapt.

They are hyper-vigilant and felt compelled to warn our pack of possible dangers by barking every time they heard a voice or a door snapping shut.

In a hotel.


It wasn't long before the dogs were locked in the car.

This left only my daughter mashed up against my face or back or stomach or legs the entire night.

An acceptable though slightly uncomfortable arrangement.

Personally, I had a night full of the worst nightmares. They included Bridgette wandering dark streets alone, and everyone in my family being beaten mercilessly by a rogue band of gorillas.

But let's face it, nightmares mean I was sleeping occasionally! That's what really counts, right?


In the morning we had too many people/dogs to sort and organize, so we headed out *much* later than I had planned.

It was stressful. Me no likey.

Despite this, I got an excellent transition spot right by the bike in/out area. Not sure how that happened.

I hurried through my body-marking, bike check, chip pick-up, and transition layout and headed to the pre-race meeting late.

As I put on my wetsuit at the meeting, I started to get nervous. Tight stomach. Shallow, rapid breathing.

Though maybe it was constriction. Those wetsuits are not forgiving.

Johnson Family at Dawn
Race meeting in the background.

Sunrise over Yuba Reservoir!

Checking out the swim course.
I love this photo.


As the meeting ended and they announced the starting waves, I realized how few people I'd be racing against.

116 people were doing the Sprint tri, a small group.

But there were only 80 people in the Olympic distance race.

And of the 80, there were only 16 women. Not just 16 women in my age-group. 16 women total. All age-groupers plus Athenas.


We moved down the boat dock to the water.

And then we were off!

I think that's me with my arm high, second from the front, but I'm not totally sure.

Swim is my best event, so I really tried to swim hard and strong.

I'd never done that before!

Every other open-water race (count 'em ... two!) I've arranged myself at the back of the pack and paced off a slow, easy stroke and observed.

This time I decided to just ... go for it.

I came in 5th of 16 in the swim!

I was also faster than about half the men. I know this is braggy, but it's the only thing I have to brag about. So I'm just going for that, too.

The women who beat me pulled ahead early, in the first few seconds.

I passed one of them back eventually and managed to keep the others behind me the whole time. I also passed plenty of men who had each begun in waves starting between 2-4 mins before me.


It was also the first time I've been kicked in the face. Really hard.

It was both surprising and painful.

I came up short my nose and cheekbones throbbing. He came up short, too, and apologized. It was an accident of course. It was bound to happen sometime. Now I know what it feels like.


The swim course was a big, slightly obtuse triangle. Obtuse, I say!

A photo taken by someone else.
The farthest buoy is the little dot between the two boats.

The first point of the triangle was an orange cylindrical buoy close to the dock. I think you can see it in the photos in which we're wading into the water.

The next was an orange pyramid buoy, and you can see that one in the photo of me and Bridgette checking out the course, pre-race.

The third buoy is pictured above.

I swam around this large triangle twice. The water was deep. There was no walking.

The hardest part of the swim portion for me is that I go in cold. Not because the water is cold so much, though that doesn't help, but because my body isn't awake.

Swimming is a hard way to warm-up in a long workout because, as my heart-rate and breath-rate increase, it's challenging to have my face in the lake.

I don't breathe water very well.

My body wants immediate, regular, panting gulps of air -- can't get them of course -- so my legs start to burn from oxygen deprivation. And until I get warmed-up, I kind of (really) want to stop swimming.

(This might be most people's biggest problem with swimming. They stop when they should just keep going. That, or they fight the water instead of gliding on it.)

My first 1/2 mile was slower than my second 1/2 mile as I tried to regulate my body and get in rhythm. I get faster as I go further.

I had few mental sighs when I swam slightly off course which meant I'd wasted those strokes plus gone extra distance. I usually sight fast and maintain a straight line pretty naturally, so I'm not sure why I pulled off a couple of times.

In the home-stretch I swam in feeling like ... well. Like I'd just swum a mile and then got kicked in the face.

Which I had.

Yet unlike my normal head-talk which is short and positive (at first) a la, "Stay strong, Kel," I found myself chatting to myself like an English gentleman. So I was obviously still calm and okay.

"Swim your own strokes in tried and true fashion. Don't let circumstances dissuade you."

I'm not kidding.

I was all like, glide glide glide ...

"Maintain your natural rhythm, maximize efficiency, ignore external factors. Circumvent the zig-zagging man."

Full sentences. Lots of syllables.

Later, in the run, I was like, "!%*!? the bleepity ^&#*! Uh-huh. Yeah. And bleep #@!# if I'm *%& another step up this hill!!!!"

I did reference devolving above. It's not always purely physical.

But I get ahead of myself.

Swim time 32:50.


I emerged stripping my wetsuit and was greeted by my very own very special Supergirl.

I honestly thought my first transition was fast. And compared to the EIGHT MINUTES I took at Echo (my first and only other wetsuit transition), it was.

But at 2:52 it was certainly nothing special.

(Though I'm not crying about it either.)

Room for improvement.

No leaping mounts for me.
Remember, I clipped-in for the first time in May.


So then I was off for my little 25 mile bike ride. :)

Back at the hotel, a woman had told me the bike portion was as flat as a pancake.

Remind me not to eat breakfast at her house cuz thems were some mighty lumpy pancakes!

The Sprint portion was fairly flat, so must have been what she raced. But the Olympic included 19 miles of mostly gradual but unrelenting hills. On some rough potholed roads.

I definitely need to work on my uphills. As I slowed down going up, I took the opportunity to drink and GU and try not to let my hydration or electrolytes slide.

On the flip side (of the pancake?) there was one decent descent, and I flew down that sucker. I don't actually know my speed, but I'm going with... super duper fast!

I bet it was around 35 mph.

You scoff. But I'm totally holding up my Scouts honor fingers right now.

If only that downhill had lasted longer!

No pics on the bike course, but if I get any (like official ones or what-not) I'll post them here later.

Hammies got tight, breathing hard for sure (and coughing a lot through the whole race -- really need to figure this out), but otherwise I felt good coming into transition.

Coming in -- bike time 1:25:50


Wherein, for the first time in my life, I recognize myself as looking strong. Even though all I'm doing in this video is changing shoes. I feel like a small child, fascinated by myself in the mirror.

Second transition 2:06.

I miss my Pearl Izumi isoTransitions.

Zero laces. Way less time.


Here's where things get sad.

And I get cranky.

And I lose.

WHHHHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!? Why do we have to run in these oh-so-official triathlons? 

Why can't it be swim, bike . . . dance? 

Or maybe swim, bike, kayak? Or swim, bike, read a book? 

And then. The ultimate question. Why the #*&@ can't I run any faster!?

If we evolved from sea creatures in the ancient past, apparently I didn't get the memo. Because the water is dandy. Let's just stay there, people.

With very few women in the race, I was able to track where I was in the line-up. Sorta kinda. And at the end of the bike, I actually (whether true or not) thought I might have a shot at the stand.

It was heartening, even if I was totally misleading myself. 

See, they remove the top 3 women for the overall awards. And then the remaining top 3 in each age-group get age-group medals. That means a total of 9 medals.

And I wasn't sure because this was a funky-small race, but I thought I was maybe competing against everyone 39 and younger.

So if I was anywhere in the top 6, I had a chance to earn one.

At the end of the bike, I thought I might have been in the top 6 Olympic-female. Legit. After the swim and the bike I was in reasonable standing.

But I sure wasn't after the run!

I watched everyone and their mothers pass me as I stumbled along.

(Their mothers are really fast, by the way.)

When I die, they're totally going to name a triathlon move after me. 

It's called the Trudge-Run (TM).

Trudge. Trudge. Walk a little. Trudge.

It's the Kelly way! Join in! Everyone's doing it!

Well, no. Actually that's the problem. No one was doing it but me. 

I did try to run faster. But it hurt. And I thought I might die. And looking back, I don't think it was solely about acting like a baby. Like, even now I don't think I could have gone any faster.

This is more of a lament than a regret.

It's not that I think I could have medaled if I'd just tried harder, "Well, Kel, you could have sucked it up and run that one stretch where you didn't give it your best effort."

Naw. I think I did the best I could.

Yet I do think the whole head-space thing contributes. There are a lot of confident runners out there. And I'm not one of them.

In addition to joint pain, coughing, stomach cramps and bleeding toes, running turns my brain inside out. I deal with it in weird ways.

On this particular run, I went back and forth between menial and degrading curses and the most hilarious pep-talks a person could possibly procure. I gave everyone I saw a high-five. Sometimes I'd run between two people just so I could get two high-fives at once.

Like a nutty, slightly drunk runner-girl.

For example, I sang a lot. (See statement above.)

"Oh what a beautiful morning! Oh what a beautiful day! I've got a beautiful FEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING ............. everything's going my way."

And I sang songs about loving to run uphill.

(I made those up.)

And I sang a song about not being eaten by a bear because it was far too hot for a bear to be eating me.

(I made that one up, too.)

And you know what's the worst? I didn't care that people were listening.

I was walking uphill next to this other guy who was only doing the Sprint and was struggling as much as me, and I started talking to myself.

And then I realized I was talking to myself and he was next to me, so instead of shutting up like a normal person, I turned to him and said, "I'm talking to myself. Feel free to listen in."

He said, "Yeah, thanks. I think I will."

And then I said, aloud, "You love uphill. Keep it clear. Run at the turn-around. Run downhill. Make the most of it. Keep it positive."

But as soon as he was out of earshot I totally shouted, "#*&@+%  the  @#$(@*)$ !!!!" 

Because that's really how I was rolling today.

Run time 1:21:21.


Total time 3:24:56.2

Place 8 (of 8)

Place 2 (of 2)

Place 12 (of 16)

Place 69 (of 80)

I'm not lying: RACE RESULTS

Hey look! That's me!

Hey look! It's the Trudge-Run (TM)!

Many thanks to Jeff and The Bridgenator for coming and cheering me on, and for making it to the finish line before I did (barely!)

Thanks to the dogs for suffering in not-near-enough silence.

And additional thanks to the race organizers for a great event. Despite the hills. Maybe because of them.

Though honestly disappointed by my run time, as Bridgette repeatedly pointed out, I got a medal.

So, really? It was a good day.