Wednesday, February 27, 2013

My Running Journey, Part 6: Emergency Preparedness

Tomorrow I fly to Arizona for my first half-marathon, and I'm in good spirits!

Tonight I'm doing normal pre-travel things:
--packing my bags
--printing my plane ticket
--making a reminder list for Jeff
--shopping for enough bananas that Bridgette can live off of nothing else while I'm away
--cleaning the house (minimally)
--writing blog entries

It crossed my mind this morning that I'm not really prepared for this race in any way.

Like, I've really only got one set of running clothes.

And since it's been 4°F nonstop since November, I've been putting on that same set of ultra cold-weather gear every day and then stepping outside to realize that my gear is only good for one thing.

Dashing to my car to drive to the gym to dash inside to run on a treadmill.


So. What to wear in 70° weather?

I don't know.

Will my compression pants be too hot?

Seeing as I have yet to run in shorts, if I don a random pair, will they chafe?

Is there anything I might wear that would make me stand out like an obvious non-runner? Because we wouldn't want that. Better to blend in at first and THEN walk the whole race.

I called Marathon Mindy to ask her advice, and she said with thousands of people on the course, it wouldn't really matter too much. Which was good news because I was thinking of wearing my Batgirl costume.

In addition, I went to a couple of stores to stock up on extras. Stuff I may or may not need, but plan to test out this weekend.

Like, sunglasses.


USA Triathlon (USAT) keeps sending me emails and magazines, ostensibly with training tips, but mostly they're full of advertisements for high-end triathlon sunglasses. They look fantastic.

I went to Walmart and got some there.

Here's one of my deepest secrets. It's so secret, I'm only telling YOU.

I have never bought sunglasses anywhere other than Walmart and gas stations.

That's because within 2 weeks/months, I will have lost or broken them. So for me $5 does in fact seem like the better investment.

This time around I got some lightweight, super flexible, non-smudge, UVA/UVB rose-colored (I always prefer rose-colored) sunglasses with nice soft nose pads for .... $20.00.

My Walmart standards are increasing. I'll let you know how that goes.

Then I went to an Elite Triathlon store where the nice guy who works there helped me learn all about GU and Chomps and other things that make a lot of triathletes throw-up.

I got samples of each flavor to try out while I "run" on Saturday.


I already ate (more like sucked on) my sample of Jet Blackberry GU. I was really hoping "Jet" referred to color or speed and not to airplane fuel.

It tasted okay.

Apparently it's the gooey texture of GU that gets people worked up. My guess is that those people have never cleaned diarrhea off their child's walls, bed and body three times a night for something like 893 consecutive days.

Not much gets to you after that. Not even Jet Fuel Blackberry GU.

Then that pesky question, how to prevent my silly Achilles from getting more injured?

Answer! I'm now the proud owner of a pair of full CEP compression socks with built-in Achillessehnen-Protektor. Because (duh) Germans make the best compression socks.

Unfortunately, the Germans made me pay more for my socks than Walmart made me pay for my sunglasses.


Oh! I almost forgot. I had to measure my calves for a proper fit. Well, just one actually. And I know you're wondering what it is so that you can compare your muscles to mine.

I'll save you the embarrassment of asking.

My calf is 13" in circumference. You know, so if I die in this race, you can use my calf measurement to identify my body. Just make sure they measure the right leg. By which I mean, the RIGHT leg.

I was gonna get the shocking pink socks (because who doesn't want to be noticed for walking an entire race?) but they were out. The store also carried green, red and black, but I settled for white.

Figured matte-white socks would pair nicely with the rest of my shiny black faux-leather Batgirl uniform.

So this Saturday is shaping up to be pretty epic. Or is it epoch?

Epik.

That's German.

See you on the other side!

The One and Only

My love for my daughter hasn't changed, but my amusement at our experiences together continues to increase. She's wonderfully unique.

Here are a few anecdotes from the past 24 hours.


IKEALAND

We've had an IKEA in the area for some time now, but yesterday was our first visit. 

Bridgette's preschool had scheduled a field trip for yesterday, but they actually did it a day early. Disappointed that she wouldn't be doing the field trip on the day I had told her it was going to happen, we created our own instead.

Wow. What a field trip.

It was super fun! Then it was just fun. Then it was sorta a little bit interesting. Then it was long. Then it was tiring. 

It's a big store.

By the time I had finished checking out, we were ready to be gone two hours before.

I grabbed my receipt and was headed out the door before I realized Bridgette was carrying an extra item with her. I hadn't paid for it. 

There was NO WAY I was going back through that gigantoid maze of a behemoth store to replace it on the shelf, and plus, Bridgette seemed very attached.

At $2.99, we purchased Bridgette's new best friend.

For a girl whose favorite "stuffed animals" of the past have included a sword, a shark, a leggy spider bigger than herself, and plastic flies with heads that come off, it was no particular surprise that she was carrying around a rat.

She was sure to tell me how much her rat missed her today while she was at preschool. She shared her cheese with her rat at lunch. 

She loves her rat.

In pure Bridgetteness, she has named her white rat "Rainbow."



PUZZLING

Since she was very young, Bridgette has been good at sorting colors and shapes but has given up very easily on puzzles. As a result her PT and OT both wanted us to do more puzzles. 

We try, but she still has a tough time with it emotionally.

Last night she asked to put together a puzzle of the human body. It took us about 30 minutes.

In all honesty, it wasn't the hardest puzzle, but it wan't the easiest. It had 100 large pieces, many of them filled with blue background or veins, but on the back of the puzzle was a second puzzle... of a skeleton on the same blue background. 

So if you were to say to a child, "Flip the piece around," or "Turn it," the piece would be as likely to end up in the correct/incorrect position as it would to become the wrong puzzle altogether.

First Bridgette ably connected all the words in the yellow key, and then I gave her the pieces for the internal organs. 

She had a particular piece in her hand and could not place it properly. 

She was exceptionally frustrated, on the verge of beating herself in the head like she almost never does anymore. 

I was trying to help her with normal suggestions like, "Look at the shape of your piece! Two holes and two bumps. Do you see any spots where you could put a piece shaped like this?"

Frustration.

"Look! Your piece is purple! Look for some matching purple, and put your piece next to it!"

Frustration.

Finally and fed up, I said, "Bridgette, chill out. It's a piece of lung."

To which she responded, "Oh, luuuung." She slid herself to the top of the puzzle and placed it exactly where it needed to go.




SIDE-TRACKS

We headed out to our favorite snowfield for some free exploration today and happened upon a train en route.

We like trains.

I pulled over into a side lot, rolled the windows down, and we watched the train back up and add cars, switch tracks, pull forward, switch again, back up and add more cars, etc. 

Each time the train pulled forward next to us, Bridgette waved and gave the conductor a big thumbs up!

He was so friendly and repeatedly waved and blew his horn for her!



FIELD TRIP OF THE FIELD VARIETY

There's this field in which we like to play. It's isolated enough that I feel comfortable letting all three of my little folks roam. It's hard to find much open space around here, still in city limits, that's far enough away from traffic and other animals and construction and trains. 

This particular field is slated for construction, but we hope it staves off a little while.

In the meantime, the tiny ones are free! 

Bridgette has been choosing her own clothes and dressing herself lately. She usually dresses mostly-appropriately, but today Bridgette assured me she did not require boots or a coat. 

Experience being the best education, we went without boots or a coat. 

When we arrived, she changed her mind. 

So she got my coat, but she had to keep her slippers on dry surfaces. 

She still had fun.




UNDERSTANDING GRANDPARENTS

On our way home from the train and the field, Bridgette and I saw three old cars being hauled on a flat bed truck. 

Bridgette asked why they were on the truck, and I was trying to explain that they didn't work anymore and were either going to be refurbished or sold for parts. 

She asked how old the cars were, and I said, "About as old as Gramma & Grampa Hoose, but not as old as Gramma & Grampa Summa or Grandma & Grandpa Johnson." 

With immense understanding she replied, "Ohhh! Riiight! As old as fossil bones."



HOW PUZZLING AGAIN

As I've been typing this, Bridgette's been playing with 48 heavy duty magnets. No doubt I'll find ruined electronics later. 

However she called to me a moment ago and said, "I take the puzzle apart! It's my favorite! Let's do it again, Mom. Let's do the skeleton."

And when she gets frustrated I'll remember to say, "Bridgette, calm down. Look at your piece. It's the xiphoid process."

Sunday, February 24, 2013

My Running Journey, Part 5: Making Peace with Peas

Last week I shot like a bullet into the sky, hit my mark, and like all bullets, came crashing down,  a then-wasted slug buried and lost somewhere in the mud.

Of course, this is about running.

On February 9, 2013, I ran a 10K (6.2M). In case you don't want to read more, I finished the race, and it was a good day. It was after the race that things went awry.

Post-Race

Set-up:

The night before the race a snowstorm raged in.

One moment the skies were a placid blue and swathes of grass were showing through melted patches of snow. I kid you not, the next moment the wind was knocking our house around.

Less than five minutes later, clouds that had hitherto not even been on the far horizon rushed toward, up and over us, obscuring the mountains behind my house. The way those clouds swirled is as close as I've seen to tornadic-action in Utah since the SLC tornado of 1999.

And I know my tornadoes, folks.

Temps dropped 15 degrees in about 60 seconds. A few minutes later, snow was pummeling in horizontally and accumulating fast. In fact, Utah County saw more accumulation than elsewhere in the state.



I was . . . nonplussed. I mean, I knew I could end up racing in any weather. But this was a surprising turn of "any weather."

As it ended up, morning dawned bright and chipper, where chipper = 29.5°F at the 10AM gunshot. Practically (but not quite) a balmy day. Plus the storm blew out the inversion! Definite bonus.

For the most part, the sun was out. Snowflakes flurried on me for 10-15 minutes of my run, but nothing to write home about. Oh, wait. I just did.

So my friend Mindy C. ran with me.

Mindy is a runner. She has always been a runner.

I met her back in 2001 at a time when three different Mindy's Mindies persons named Mindy came into my life. To distinguish, each received a nickname. Mindy C. was dubbed Marathon Mindy, and I still call her that.


Marathon Mindy heard about my Ironman aspirations and shortly invited me to run three races with her this year: a half-marathon in Phoenix, a half-marathon in American Fork canyon, and a 180-mile relay from Idaho to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Having accepted her invitations in the name of personal progress, I felt it was my feeble duty to invite her to run my minuscule 10K that was a SUPER BIG DEAL for me. :)

She accepted, despite it being such a "short" race. I will never forget her saying, "Anything under 10K is almost not worth it, you know?"

I held the phone to my ear nodding emphatically, though I said nothing aloud because my mother taught me not to lie.

It was pretty chilly pre-race, so we only stood around in the snow for all of 2 minutes taking photos and videos before the starting gunshot.


She took off like the speed-train she is. So after the start, I didn't see her again.

Well, that's not exactly true. As I came into the last mile, she was waiting for me on a street corner, having already finished and come back for me. She ran with me, took some video while running, then sprinted ahead to cheer me across the finish line.

Wait. Did I mention she's a runner?

And did I also mention that she's awesome? Because she is.

So here's how my race went.

I set myself a goal to finish in under an hour, even if I came in at 00:59:59.

For those of you who can count, that's slightly under a 10-minute mile. If you didn't believe me before when I mentioned a couple hundred times that I'm a slow runner, may you now and forevermore believe me.

One result of the snowstorm was the course was 65% snow & ice and only 35% clear roads. That slowed me down a little but mostly because this race is so far from my terminal goal that risking injury on uneven and icy surfaces was not worth it.



We also ran downhill for the first 2.5 miles. The end of race being positioned near the beginning, that meant we ran uphill for four miles. There were different grades of uphill, most of them "tame," but the trend never stopped trending, with one fairly-short-but-nasty 45° hill around mile 4.

Cold. Snow. Running. Uphill.

I know I'm kind of the biggest baby ever, but those four words might be my four least favorite words in the English language. Individually.

Put them together?

Hale Freezes Over, 10K Course Route, 2013

I hoped I wouldn't walk at all, but I did. About the time we started uphill actually. But I only walked a handful of times, and literally each walk was not for more than a few seconds apiece. I give myself allowance for that. It's cool.

Here's the video Superwoman Marathon Mindy took of me in the last mile:



And here's me crossing. Because I feel you need proof.



Mindy, it ends up, came in 3rd place in our division (Female 30-34), and was 22nd overall. She had a beautiful time of 46:35.4.

I came in 13th place in the same division, 84th place overall. I had a beautiful time of 1:04:15.4.

Our times, if you didn't notice, were semi-palindromish -- her 46 mins to my 64.

An 84th standing put me about 2/3 of the way back through the pack.

If 2/3 seems a loose comparison to the other runners, that's okay. This race was not about other people. It was not actually about racing at all. It was just about running.

It was just about trying something new -- running, in the cold, at a distance that was new for me.

And it felt really great.

Well, actually, it hurt a lot.

But after that, it felt really great!


It wasn't anything amazing by universe standards. But it gave me a shot of confidence that I really needed.

I woke up Monday and was excited to run!

So I headed to the gym to run on the treadmill. (It was still snowing!)

I did 5 miles and noticed my lower-right calf hurt. The longer I ran, the more it hurt. Each individual step hurt. I'd never had pain there before, so I figured it was a muscle cramp.

On Tuesday I went back to the gym and ran 7 miles. At mile 4 my calf was really hurting, so I stopped to stretch (first stop of the run, btw, because Saturday's race gave me the confidence to really run and believe in myself).

I did a reverse stretch pointing my toes behind me and putting pressure on the top of the foot.

Ow.

No really really really.

It hurt a lot.

It was the kind of hurt that means something is wrong.

So I finished the last three miles of my run and went home to look stuff up on WebMD.

Achilles tendon injury description matched my pain exactly.



This was very depressing. At the moment when I finally felt like I ENJOYED running. Like I WANTED to run. Like I could run LONGER and FASTER and do it on PURPOSE, I became injured.

Adding to my distress, that first half-marathon I told you about? The one in Phoenix? It's on Saturday.

Like... this Saturday.

I only had three weeks to move myself from a distance of 6.2 miles to a distance of 13.1 miles. And I needed my training to count. Every. Single. Day.

Instead, I skipped training on Wednesday completely and went to a physical therapist who works with the BYU sports teams. I saw her Wednesday night, and by then the back of my foot was swollen and bruised behind my ankle bones.

She did some weird squeezy reflex tests to check whether my tendon had snapped. The best news ever is that it's just inflamed. Which is not good news, but it doesn't take me out completely. Achilles surgery would have equaled an end-of-the-line for 2013.

Sam said I should ice it, elevate it, rest it. She gave me permission to cycle but not to swim (at least, no kicking in the water... it's the pointed-toe position that strains it after all).

She said that running is the most common way to hurt your Achilles, especially if you run uphill!!!

(I knew it. All uphill running should be banned.)

She also said it was up to me when I run again, and for how long, etc. But that if I injure it more, it will only be more injured. So I've got to maintain a long-term picture here. Everyone heals differently.

Each of the last 10 days I've sat in whatever short stints I can manage, nursing my Achilles by resting it on a bag of frozen peas. Mmm.... peas.


Looking back, I don't know exactly when I hurt myself. During the race? Maybe. During my treadmill runs? Certainly that's when I first felt the pain. Or noticed it, anyway.

Or maybe it happened over time. This article fell into my lap last week: NYTimes Achilles Tendinopathy.

I took Thursday off, too.

And now might be a good time to mention that I'd started a new medication on Monday (the same Monday I first felt my Achilles pain).

The medication literally made me chemically depressed. And fatigued. And less motivated than I've ever felt in my life.

There is no good word for that level of anti-motivation. There's a reason this blog didn't get written after the race. I couldn't do it. I couldn't do anything.

Actually, my experience with short-term medically-induced depression deserves it's own blog entry, and so it shall get one.

I'm off the meds now.

It still leaves me not knowing what I will do about my race next this week. I already bought a plane ticket to Phoenix, so I'm going down either way. I'll visit my brother and sis-in-law at least.


My plan had been to run another slow race. Start with a 4 mile non-stop, a few minutes of walking, 3 more miles, a little more walking, repeat, etc. I figured it'd take me around 2 hours 30 minutes.

Now? I may do that.

Or, I might walk the whole thing.

Or, I might skip the race and watch from the sidelines. I'll decide the morning of.

And no matter what, for now my cross-training will have to suitably prepare me for running.

Perhaps I should have been doing more cross-training all along, but I wanted to focus on my weakness first and try to make it a strength.

In any case, it's not worth looking back and appointing blame now. No reason to look back at all unless it helps me not to get injured in the future. I'm moving forward in the ways I can instead of feeling guilty for damage done.

No use beating myself up. My Achilles is enough.

Here's how I'm training now.

After two days off for Achilles rest and mental recovery, I picked up on Friday, February 15.

Friday: cycled one hour, indoors
Saturday: weight-training
Sunday: rested
Monday: workout at home
Tuesday: spin class (will get its own entry)
Wednesday: swim (laps sans legs; also deserves its own entry)
Thursday: spin class
Friday: swim
Saturday: weight-training
Sunday (today): blog/rest

Tomorrow? Swim. And on it goes.

Is swimming & cycling sufficient training for running? I'm not sure. Certainly I enjoy them both, so that's something. And they're both good exercise, so I can still work on strength and endurance.

Then I pack up and fly on Thursday to my maybe-next race. Wish me luck! And if you have experience/advice about tendinitis, I'd love to hear that I'm not a lost cause!

Friday, February 8, 2013

My Running Journey, Part 4: Signing Up for IMAZ

Let's face it. With my first race happening tomorrow morning, if I don't do a quick retrospective today, it's not gonna happen.

It's one of those "don't look back" things.

Here it is.

Three months ago, I bought a plane ticket and bounced down to sunny Arizona to volunteer at Ironman AZ in Tempe. The race shall heretoforeverandalwaysafter be known as "IMAZ."

The idea was to man a Run Aid-Station for a few hours, get an IMAZ t-shirt, and thus be qualified (loosely) to sign-up for IMAZ 2013.

The trip was fantastic.

First, I was joined by accidental yet amazing travel companions, both to and fro. It's so rare that I sit on an airplane next to other women, but it happened twice on this trip. I must say we had wonderful conversations. I love to learn from strong ladies with unusual and challenging lives. We've continued to stay in touch since then.

When I arrived, my fabulous brother and his even more fabulous (sorry, Jon) new wife, Christina, let me stay at their apartment. In my off hours, they fed me pomegranate seeds, took me to a hilarious production that Christina co-directed, gave me a very comfy couch to sleep on, and generally and otherwise provided for my welfare.

Jon and I even got to play mini-golf, one of our family's favorite family pastimes. You've heard of a good poker face, right? This is a good mini-golf face. Only we pros can pull it off.


On Saturday, I tried to attend a mandatory meeting for volunteers at the race venue, but mostly I got lost.

First I got lost trying to find a parking spot. The local mercenaries roped off every spot possible and would accept nothing but cash for payment. (Like Ferenginar at its best/worst.)

The more I tried to find a cashless and available parking space, the more times I was forced to turn corners, search down rabbit holes, and fly to the moon and back.

By the end, I didn't know where I was in relation to anything, even though I think I drove past every building, person, house, and car in Tempe in the process.

And because of that, it took me a long time to get to "that big gray building" the parking-attendant in the ONE garage that accepted credit cards sorta-kinda pointed out to me.

No better way to find your way than to wander about alone and aimless for a while though right?

I found the floating dock harboring rescue boats for the swim portion of the race.


I found a couple of (thousands of) bikes, racked and ready for the next day.



I found a cool bridge with people crossing in the distance.


I found out those crossing-people were ALSO planning to sign-up for IMAZ 2013. But unlike me, they already owned their own super cool gear. They invited me to lunch which was extra friendly-like.


I partially walked around the marathon course by which means I found out that the Tempe Town Lake is every bit as man-made as its name suggests.

Don't believe me?

Well, here is where it ends. The lake I mean.


Recognize that bridge? It's the same that's pictured above. Go ahead. Take another look. It's not a bridge over placid water. It's a bridge designed to block water, callously mocking the thirst of the opposing desert.

Here's a panorama.


So, on to race day!

On Sunday I showed up early to Run Aid Station #2. My official volunteer time wasn't until the afternoon, but I didn't really have anything else to do. And since I generally like to help out, I figured time spent doling refreshments to hot, exhausted runners was as worthwhile as anything else I could be doing in Tempe that day.

Several of the aid stations adopted themes, for the entertainment and diversion of the athletes I presume.

Ours was SUPERHEROES!

Now, I know what you're thinking.

"But Kelly . . . you *hate* to dress up and you're so, so, so shy. How did you handle the pressure of a group theme?"

It was tough. But I managed. Somehow.


Here I am with my hard-working if slightly less authentic bat siblings.


And here's the morning crew, set up and waiting. And waiting. And waiting. I mean, *come on* what was that all about? It's like the racers were busy elsewhere before they ran the marathon or something...


By the way, in the first costume photo, the girl on the far right, Melanie, was our station manager. What's more important is that she was the first female age-grouper to cross the line in St. George 2012, right behind the pros.

She very much qualified for the championship Ironman in Kona, Hawaii. In my usual shy way, I asked her every question I could think of that might help me with my own training.

After a few hours, we finally spotted runners across the dry lake-bed. When they turned the corner and hit us up for our goods, it was about the most exciting thing ever.

In fact, it was so exciting that I took a photo of the first pro to take a water cup from MY hand. Giggle giggle tee hee! He took MY cup!

He came in third. I'm not responsible for that. My water was pure.


As the day wore on, shifts came and went, but I stayed, dispensing water for more hours than was required. It took a little practice, but it sort of became my inner-calling.

Hanging out on the sidelines with other future/past racers was cool, too. And not that we were competitive by nature or anything, but I *totally* gave out more water than the guy next to me. Just sayin'.


In case you're wondering, there were different tables for different substances: sponges, ice, water, cola, sports drink, snacks (grapes & pretzels), and basic medical (Vaseline & band-aids). The runners became proficient by lap two or three at shouting out what they wanted before they even got to us.

It was not uncommon to hear, "Water! Water!" followed by, "Batgirl! She's got it! Go to Batgirl!" So if nothing else, my costume was ... efficient.

And actually I got a lot of compliments and laughs. One guy having a good time from the Philippines stopped to take a picture of us together, so I asked him to return the favor.


That was near the end of my stay. A new crew/shift showed up, so I changed clothes and headed to the finish line to cheer folks through the chute.

On my way there, the course turned truly beautiful at sunset.




When I got to the grandstands, I sat with one of my fellow run station volunteers and new friend, Mike. We watched finishers cross until the nail-biting last athlete a few seconds before midnight.

Mike will be racing the inaugural Lake Tahoe Ironman in September and just ran his first marathon last weekend. It's a good thing I have an extra two months to train since I'm only about to do my first 10K.


It was interesting to see that some people seemed to have no one in particular cheering them on, while others searched desperately (and sometimes in vain) to find their family members in the crowd.

Still others didn't have to look too hard for their fans. (Ie: the guy whose friends had made multiple giant replicas of his head in honor of his accomplishment. He grabbed one and held it in front of his face body as he cross the finish line.)


At midnight, the street scene wound down pretty fast. For some reason people were tired after a 17 hour race. I walked around Tempe Town Lake back to the obscure place I'd found to park my rental car. It was definitely chilly, but it was also clear and lovely.



And that brings us to sign-up the next morning.

I SHOULD HAVE JUST SPENT THE NIGHT!

By the time I drove back to my brother's apartment, it was about 1AM. I was hyped from the day and deeply anxious about my decision to sign-up for IMAZ 2013. So it took me a while to fall asleep. Yet I had set my alarm for 5AM in attempt to get back to the volunteer sign-up line by 6AM.

When my alarm went off, it was as if THIS was the true beginning of my Ironman training. Because let's be honest. I already wanted to quit.

But I dragged myself back to Tempe only to find a scene worse than ... than ... than ...

It was like Disneyland, only the line was longer than any line you've ever seen anywhere, and there was no awesome ride at the end. There was only a chance to pay a lot of money to total strangers in order to sacrifice hundreds of hours in pain and fatigue to subsequently race a race a year from the day for which everyone you know says you're crazy.

I wound my way past all the people who had camped out overnight, past all the people who had arrived at 4AM, at 5AM, all the way back to the lake. Which is where we SLACKERS who arrived at 6:30AM were relegated.

I was at the end of the line. I suppose everyone is at some point.

Registration began at 8AM.

I made friends with the people around me. We shivered together and made small talk. They were *all* runners, but for once I did not ask for advice. Mostly I just felt out of place. I graded my students' term papers.

When the line began moving, it moved along fairly fast. That was good because it gave me less chance to change my mind and run away in sheer panic, although at this point, I was pretty set.

As I approached the point of no return here were the volunteers in line *behind* me, a seemingly-infinite serpentine mass of crazy people:


And here were the people *in front* of me:


And after the crazies curved around some vendors and trees and buildings, the line continued to meander out to the right of me:


Where we finally met up with a sign and the tent of doom:



So that's it. This is where the big choice was finally made, the money forked over, the couple-of-big-breaths exhaled, and where the excitement and determination began to well. This was the place everything became real.

And if you're wondering why the volunteering? Why the line? Why didn't I just sign-up on-line like everyone else?

It's because when IMAZ 2013 registration opened to the general public, the final slot(s) filled in 40 seconds.

I picked this particular Ironman race because of the consistent weather, generally flat-ish landscape, and fan-friendly course. I guess I wasn't the only one!

Since then (3 months later), I haven't regretted my decision, though I do question it from time to time. My endurance has increased, my eating and sleeping patterns have improved (by necessity), and I'm gradually becoming more consistent in both exercise and results. I'm generally training alone, but I've already made a few friends along the way. And except for a new and gnawing pain in my hip, I feel more healthy than I have in years.

I still have a long way to go! Let's see what happens, shall we?