Saturday, January 13, 2018

Disney Marathon

January 7, 2018
Kissimmee, FL
Marathon #22

Marathon day started off with an early wake up alarm. 2 am!! That's what time Lynnette and Bonnie wanted to get up, for our 3am departure, so I went along with it. I did linger in bed for about 10 minutes. :) I didn't have a good night of sleep. My right leg was hurting a lot. I had many doubts about running the race and wondered if I would even finish. But, I decided I would give it a try. We all had our coffee/tea, then got all our gear together and headed to my car. Jim, who was running the marathon also, decided to stay longer and have his wife drive him over.

Me, Bonnie and Lynnette, before heading out into the cold.
We made good time getting to Epcot, finding a parking spot close to where we entered the staging area. We hung out in the car until 4ish, then headed over. There was a line to get our bags looked through by security, but it moved quickly. We headed over to the porta potties, then got all our gear together that we did not want to check in. I took 3 advil, with the hopes that would get me through the race. I had extra with me, just in case. Then we checked in our bags and made the long walk to the corral area. Once there, it was another stop in the porta potty. Then, I headed off to the B Corral and Lynnette and Bonnie went to the D Corral. By the time I got in there, it was 5:05 am. I had about half an hour to hang out before the race started. I got pretty close to the front, then huddled up behind other runners, trying to keep the wind off of me. After the elite wave went off, I tossed my top layer, which was a long sleeved shirt Bonnie had given me. That left me with a zip up jacket on top of my tank and bolero. After wave A went off, my corral moved up to the front. I was just a few people behind the start line. With a blast of fireworks, we were off!


The route
After the first burst of craziness at the start, I tried to settle into a good pace. I was feeling a bit stiff, but it was mostly from being cold. The first miles of this race can be very dark, so, I kept my eyes on the road in front of me. By mile 1.5, I was feeling hot under the jacket, so I took it off and tossed it to the side of the road, where there was already a few items of clothing piled up. Under my bolero, my arms were very hot, but, I kept it on, as well as my gloves. I didn't want to get chilled. Based on my splits, I probably took the first few miles a bit fast, but it didn't feel fast at the time. I loved seeing Kimmy and Leslie about a mile before heading into the Magic Kingdom. It was so great to know there would be friends out there on the course cheering us on. I love running through the Magic Kingdom. Lots of people cheering us runners on as we head down Main street, towards the castle. I stopped for a couple of photos and then another photo at the base of the castle. Just before exiting the park, I decided to take off the bolero. I had sweat dripping down my arms and hands! This wasn't easy. I had to take off my hydration backpack, then take off the bolero, then put the pack back on and stuff the bolero into the pocket on the back of my tank. Even with this, my mile time wasn't so bad! Miles 1 through 6 - 9:16, 9:10, 9:13, 9:25, 9:34, 10:15

Quick pic with Kimmy!

Love the Castle all lit up!

This next section of the course, before getting to Animal Kingdom, is really boring! When I felt myself lag, I would push the pace for a brief time, then slow down again. This helped with the boredom. There was a new out and back section that I really didn't care for. The only upside, was that I tried to spot Jim (who had been in the corral after me), Bonnie and Lynnette. I figured they could have caught up to me! This help to keep me distracted. My right leg was starting to hurt so, just before getting into Animal Kingdom, I walked a little, while I got out a couple of advil, then walked through the water station. Miles 7 through 12 - 10:19, 9:30, 9:44, 9:53, 9:57, 10:21

Once in Animal Kingdom, I kept a look out for the women's restroom. I sorta knew where it was, as Carolyn and I had stopped at it the last time I ran this race. Quick trip in a real bathroom (!) then out. It was a quick run through Animal Kingdom. Once again, we were on the boring roads of Disney. I was now starting to take more walking breaks, but still mostly running. I looked for my Lakeland Galloway friends at the water stop they are usually at, but didn't see them. Missed seeing you Sarah and Leah!! After passing that water stop, we turn right, heading to the Sports Complex. The last 2 times I've run this race, this is where I have fallen apart. This year was different, because I wasn't trying to PR. I already knew this was a tough race and had become one already. Miles 13 through 18 - 11:27, 11:44, 10:12, 11:27, 11:44, 10:12, 11:06, 12:32, 11:05

Leslie hold up the sign Gina made for me!

My run/walk became much more walk/run from this point. I had to stop many times to stretch my calves and hamstrings. I did stop for a photo with Mickey. Glad I did, as this was the only time I saw him out there! We spent just over 2 miles weaving around and in the sports complex. I was so happy to leave that section behind! With 6ish miles left, I knew I could do it. I continued to walk the uphills, even when a big green military dude was yelling at us to run! :) I was most happy to turn into Hollywood studios. Besides running through Magic Kingdom, this is the best part of the course. I got to see Melissa, which was a total surprise, cheering on runners. Lots of other people out there cheering, too. Once we ran out, we took the sidewalk along the waterway. I got to see Jennifer (a past fellow Skirt Sports ambassador) and Della, along this way. So great. And when I entered Epcot, I got to see Kimmy, Scott, Leslie and John. If I hadn't just popped a piece of minty gum in my mouth, I would have taken that drink of Mimosa that Scott had in his hand! Once we left epcot, we had a couple of quick turns, then the finish line was in sight. I was so happy to see that I was going to make my goal of a sub 5 hour finish. And with 26.7 miles showing on my watch! Miles 19 through 26.7 - 12:10, 12:08, 13:50, 13:10, 12:24, 13:52, 13:41, 13:26, 7:52(11:10 min mile)

Me, Bonnie and Lynette. Marathoners!!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Disney Marathon Weekend

January 5, 2018

It's marathon weekend! Starting off the year with a marathon has been something I have liked to do for many years. I wasn't able to run the Spring Hill marathon last Jan 1 (but did run the half) due to being sick. This year, I've been looking forward to Disney. I've been training with Lynnette and Bonnie for a few months now, and it had been going pretty well, despite my back issues. Well, wouldn't you know it, but another issue cropped up a couple of weeks ago. My hip has been really hurting me. With a few advil, I've been able to get through a few training runs. But, the last few days have been painful, so I haven't run. I am hoping, with the help of advil and rest, I'll be able to get through this marathon. My goal has been between 4:30 and 4:45 finish. Right now, I'd be happy for a sub 5 hour! We will see.

We hit the expo today. A bit disappointed not to get the little mickey figure I always buy, but I did get a cute backpack and Jackie picked up a Tervis mug for me the other day. I made it out of there without going crazy on purchases. :)

Race shirt and luggage tag we were given.

Two of my three purchases.  Love the little backpack.
Top was on sale for $15 off! :)

Friday, December 1, 2017

Space Coast Half Marathon

November 26, 2017
Half Marathon #78
5th and final year of the Big Bang Series - Intergalatic Challange

While I love this race, and the course, I am happy this is my last year for a while. The race was not what I wanted. I knew it wasn't going to be fast (I just wasn't in the shape I needed to be for that), but I was hoping to run it in around 2 hours. That wasn't to be. I think with my back issues, it's time to adjust my thinking on how I go about training and racing.

Beautiful sunrise.

Race morning: I left the hotel at 4:15 am. Last year, my normal parking lot had been close to full when I left the hotel at 4:30. I knew there were more runners this year, so I didn't want to take any chances. I am so glad I did leave early, since I discovered as I was about to turn into the parking area, that it was closed off! OMG! I later discovered they were using it for parking for all the buses. I have always parked there and had no idea of where else to go. So, I drove down a couple of streets, followed some other cars into parking lots. On my third lot, I found the last spot! It happened to be a block from the starting line, opposite side from were I usually park. Instead of heading over to bag drop off, I just hung out in my car, walking over to the start line 15 minutes before the start. I got in with the 1:50 group, mostly because it was super crowded behind them and I didn't think I could squeeze in there. National anthem and the shuttle launch on the giant screen. We were off!

Right away I could tell my body wasn't up for "racing". My heart seemed to be working extra hard. So, after the first half mile, I pulled it back a bit. Based on my first mile time, I must have been running way to fast! I was still hoping for a time close to 2 hours, I just figured a sub 2 would probably not be in the cards for the day, if I was feeling this bad at the start of the race. The first few miles were very dark. I had to keep my eye on the ground in front of me. I really didn't want to fall! The sunrise was beautiful! The weather was pretty nice, too. I had a feeling it would warm up fast though and be hot for those marathoners. I ate some Honey Stinger chews at mile 5, stopping to walk briefly. Miles 1 to 5 - 8:54, 8:58, 8:51, 9:00, 9:15

At the turn around, I stepped off the road to stretch my legs. They were feeling really tight and heavy, like I had done a day of  "legs" at the gym the day before. My hips were getting really tight. Over the next few miles, I felt myself slowing down, even when I would try to push the pace. My legs did not want to lift! My hips were so out of wack that my gait was thrown off. The last miles were pretty painful. The only bright spots were seeing friends out on the course. After the turn, I kept my eye out for everyone that I new was running and called out to them when I saw them. I've never stopped at the lawn were the homeowners make mimosas, bloody marys and other drinks. I almost did on this day! But it was on the other side of the road and there were a bunch of runners between me and the drinks, so, I kept going. I did a lot of walk/running during those last few miles. Super happy to have crossed that finish line, completing another half marathon! Miles 6 to 13.1 - 9:44, 10:03, 10:22, 10:45, 12:21, 10:55, 11:00, 10:59, 1:59 (for.2)

Finish - 2:13:13

All the medals from the race series. (note: I didn't take this. :)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Myakka River Half Marathon

November 11, 2017
Half Marathon #77

I've wanted to run this half marathon, since it started 3 years ago, but something else was always happening that weekend. Even this weekend, I was signed up to run the Red Ribbon Half in Lakeland. But, I wasn't going to try and "race" it, so, the day before the race, I found out there was a pacer spot open for Myakka, so I took it! I've been wanting to try pacing again. I was set up to co-lead the 2:15 group, which would put my overall pace at 10:14 mins per mile. A bit faster then I had been running my long runs lately, but the weather forecast was looking cooler, so I knew I could do it.

Race morning, I headed out east, to park, then take the shuttle over to the State Park. I arrived just before 6am, checked in, got my bib and pacer pole, then hung out, waiting for the rest of the group to show up. Quite a few pacers where coming up from Cape Coral. They arrived around 20 minutes before race start! We got a group photo, then headed over to the starting area. The guy I was pacing with suggested I hold it the first half, then he would hold the sign the second half. hmm. We met some of the runners who wanted to keep our pace. At 6:45, we were off!

The first mile, it was hard to keep the pace, since we were all getting caught up in the excitement of running the race. Our pace was a little fast. I kept trying to slow us down. My other worry was that the many trees would block the GPS signal on my watch, so I kept asking my co-pacer, what his watch was showing. Just after mile 1, I asked him if we could switch up every mile, instead of the way he suggested doing it. I'll admit, I was a little put off by him for a bit. He was talking about himself a lot and telling everyone around us that this was his easy pace. As this was probably a struggle for some of them and a goal pace, I didn't think it was cool of him to keep saying that. We had a boy, 14, who was running with us. It was his first half. He was very excited. He kept saying how this was "the best day!" and then counting off the time and letting us know how much time we had left to run. I talked to him many times, to make sure he was fine, specially as we started to add on the miles. He didn't take water at the fist stop, concerned that it would make him go to the bathroom. He didn't have any nutrition or take any of the Honey Stinger gels, that were being handed out on the course. I was a little concerned for him. He said he had trained that way, so I had to just have faith that he knew what he was doing. He had a couch at school, so I hoped he had gotten some good training advice from that couch. He did fall back around mile 7.

The course is beautiful. Large lakes, with gators and many birds. Large oak trees, with branches out over the road, providing shade. There was one big grassy area, off to the left, were we saw a family of deer. My co-pacer handed me the pole and said he would meet us at the water table up ahead. He needed the porta-potty. As we watched him sprint away, we also saw a deer off to the left, start a sprint across the grassy area, curving towards the road and right towards the co-pacer! We yelled out to him to "watch out" We saw him stop short, raising his arms in the air, as the deer cut across the road right in front of him! It was crazy!

By mile 11, we were down to just a couple of runners with us. We would pass others, encouraging them to join us. Some of them would, or they would try to stay ahead of us, to keep to their goal. As we hit mile 13, we had no one with us! We slowed down, since we were about 30 seconds ahead of the 2:15 pace. As we ran toward the finish line, a woman who had been trying to keep with us, caught up, so we both encouraged he to push through, she could still finish in under 2:15. She did! And we came in just after her, with a time of 2:14:58. Pretty darn perfect!

I had a great time out there. I loved talking to the other runners and providing encouragement to them. I look forward to pacing again next year. :)

With Gina and Wendy after the race.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Augusta Half Ironman

September 24, 2017
Half Ironman #3

As race weekend approached, my desire to run or bike, was pretty low. Since it was taper week, I wasn't very worried about it. I did my last brick Wednesday night. I had a great ride, even though it got cut a little short due to heavy rain. On my 2 mile run, I fell, after my foot hit a bit of raised concrete on the sidewalk. Really!?!?! I can't believe this was happening a few days before the race! Even though I fell on my left side, skinned knee pretty bad, and hit my bad arm, I didn't hurt the area that was fractured. I figured that this was it for the week, besides my short swim in the Savannah River on Friday.
Wendy, Gina and I headed up to Augusta on Thursday morning. We arrived in the early evening, got checked in and unpacked then headed to dinner. The next morning, we met up with Sean, then headed to the expo, after a quick stop at Target. The expo was even smaller then last year. I was pretty good, only bought a Women for Tri visor, a race pin for my backpack and a race logo'd cotton tank top. That would get more use then the zoot one I bought last year. We hung out for the race info meeting, then headed to lunch at the Boll Weevil. The lunch was ok, but the desert was wonderful! I got the Mint Chocolate Cheese Cake. I saved most of it for after the race. It started pouring while we were eating lunch, and was still raining, with lightning, when we left, so we headed back to the hotel. After an hour, we got our swim outfits on, then headed down to the river for a swim. We all swam down to the bridge then got out. I was happy it was looking like we wouldn't be wearing wetsuits race day. The suit was really tight on my back, which was uncomfortable. Saturday, we relaxed a lot, dropped off our bikes, drove the bike course, went back to the expo for a quick walk through, then headed to dinner and then bed. It was going to be an early morning!

Bikes are checked in!

Transition crazyness on race morning.

On the bus, headed to the swim start!

Race Morning: We headed out the door at 5:15 am. We got downtown, parked, then headed to the bus transport. As we figured, the race was going to be non wetsuit legal. Worked for me! I knew I could do it and I'm a more confident swimmer now. We got all our gear set up in transition, then took the bus to the race start area. We hung out in the church, next to the swim start, then headed over as the national anthem was playing. It was about another hour before my wave went. I was so ready to get going! Finally, it was time for me to get in my group. We made the walk down the plank and onto the dock. I jumped in the water and held on to the dock, waiting for the blow horn telling us to go.

Wave 16 on our way to the dock.

The Swim: I had a great swim! I felt pretty comfortable out there. I tried to stay near the right buoy line, as that is were the current was said to be faster. I did zig zag a bit, but for the most part, I took the swim at an easy pace. The cold water was bothering my arm a bit, but it wasn't painful. I ended up with a faster swim over last year! Swim time: 34:58

A PR for me in the swim!
Bike course and elevation

The Bike: I felt great heading out on the bike. I was cruising at a pretty quick pace as we headed over the bridge into South Carolina. (I had one of my fastest 5 mile splits! 14:42, 20.3mph!) About 10 miles in, either the wind picked up, or we turned into a head wind. My pace started to slow. Plus, the hills really started. I had a little weird thing happen with my heart (beating crazy fast), so I pulled back on my effort. With that, and the headwind, I kinda gave up on trying to crush the bike portion of the race. Since I was so happy to even be doing this race, my main goal was just to finish. And not to crash!! I got up some fast speeds going down hill, which was fun. One of the best things about the bike course, was seeing some of my friends out there! I got to see Gina, Michelle, Jackie, Wendy and Roxy. I managed to toss a water bottle and grab a new one, while rolling through the second transition. I really needed a porta pottie break, but this station was on a slight incline. I really didn't want to get back on my bike on an uphill! So, I waited until I got to the last aid stop, at mile 47ish. This was a very emotional spot. The side of the road was lined with photos of men and women killed in combat. As I rolled past the volunteers, I grabbed half a banana, ate most of it before racking my bike and making a quick pit stop in the porta pottie. Just after this, Roxy passed me for the last time (we had been passing each other a few times). She was looking strong. The last 9 miles took forever! I was ready to be off my bike. Plus, I had a couple of little dizzy moments. I didn't need that while riding 16-17 mph! So happy to roll into transition. I racked my bike, took off bike shoes, helmet and gloves. Put on visor, shoes and race belt. I took off my velcro arm brace and grabbed a fresh wrap for my arm. I asked one of the volunteers, who were working the sunscreen booth, to wrap my arm for me. Then I was off on the run! Bike time: 3:16:02 ( a few seconds slower then last year. If I had put some extra effort in, I would have beat last year's time!)

Smiling, even though I wasn't having fun.
The Run: It sucked! It was hot. I got very light headed around 3 miles in. Since I really didn't want to pass out, I just walked. Anytime I thought I might start to run again, I felt dizzy. I was also very thirsty. The water stop between the second one and the third one is around 1.5 miles apart. I needed it about a mile before I got to it. After I got there, and walked through, I was feeling thirsty again pretty quick. It was probably the heat, but I started to mentally check out. I just wanted to finish and I really didn't care anymore what time I finished in. I was prepared to continue to walk the rest of the race! Roxy caught up to me at around mile 6. I ran with her for a few minutes, then needed to walk again. I kept up this walk and little bit of running routine for the entire rest of the race. Around mile 12, I actually started to feel a bit better, so I started to run more. I came up on Kimmi and another woman, so I ran/walked with them for a couple of minutes before I continued on. I was ready to be done! I was so happy to make that final turn on to Broad St! I enjoyed running down the red carpet and across the finish line! Run Time: 2:48:54

Early on in the run. When I was still feeling good. :)

I did it! My 3rd 70.3!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Hurricane and a Bike Crash

Wednesday afternoon, I found out the Sheriff was letting all non essential employees off on Friday, Sept 8th, to prepare for the Hurricane, that was forecast to hit us over the weekend. I decided to use Friday morning as a chance to get in my last long bike ride before the heavy wind and rain came in. Augusta 70.3 in 2 weeks!

Hard to imagine I missed seeing this big yellow divider!
So, I headed out from the Publix on Honore. My favorite place to ride. Beautiful morning. I was keeping up a pace of 18ish mph. The problem: my brain was focused on hurricane prep and worried about the damage we might have. I was riding on the left side of the bike lane, with my eyes looking just in front of my front wheel. I KNOW better! I wasn't paying attention at all. And in a split second, I saw the barrier, dividing the road and bike lane. My front wheel slammed into it (no chance to grab the brakes). I flipped over the center of the divider and landed in the bike lane. My bike flew into the middle of the road. Water bottles flew out. Thankfully, there were no cars behind me. It took me a few seconds to get up and then walk over to my bike and drag it over to the side. I leaned it against the guard rail, then picked up my water bottles and the end caps to my aero bars, which had both popped out, even though they had been glued in. A woman, who had been driving towards me, pulled over and walked over to check me out. I sat down, to the right of the guard rail, in the shade to try and cool off. I was sweating big time. And shaking. I told her I felt okay and that I had my phone and would call someone. She took off. Then, a guy rode up on his bike. He helped me to bring my bike over out of the road way, then put the chain back on and looked it over. That's when I noticed the handle bar was very bent. I had it in my head that I was going to continue my ride!

Left handle bar and areo bars are noticeably bent.
The guy told me I should call someone. That I was in no condition to even ride the 9.5 miles home. I got my phone out of the bike pouch, then sat back down in the shade. My head started spinning. I was very dizzy for a good minute. I tried to think of who could pick me up besides my husband, how had taken his motorcycle to work. I called Carolyn, since I knew she had the day off of work. She didn't answer, so I left a message. I thought of calling Gina, but I knew she would be heading into work at any minute. Then I called Wendy, who told me she was at work, but would come and get me. While I was talking to her, Carolyn called me back. I got on the line with her. She said she was leaving her house and heading my way. The guy on the bike hung out with me for a bit, before I told him he could go, that someone was on their way. While I waited, a few more riders came up on me, each asking how I was. I really appreciate all the concern from everyone! I took a few photo of my injuries. My shoulder was really hurting, but I couldn't see what was going on back there. So I snapped a photo.

Yikes! I had some road rash! My knuckles took a hit also. Blood on both middle finger knuckles. I looked over my helmet and didn't see any cracks, so I figured I didn't really hit my head, but, my left cheek bone was a bit sore.

Carolyn picked me up, loaded my bike, then drove me back to my car. Since there was a bike shop in the parking lot, we walked my bike over, for them to check out. The guy put the bike up on the rack and pointed out that the front forks were bent back, from the impact. Since I was kind of out of it and they were closing soon, I left it there, with a claim tag and said I would call after the storm moved through. Carolyn followed me home. I felt okay to drive and I really didn't want to leave my car there.

When I got home, I told Aidan about my crash and told him to check on me every so often. I was worried about a possible head injury. My head didn't hurt, so I didn't want to go to the hospital, but I still wasn't sure. Getting that tight tri top off and the bra under, was super hard! I didn't realize how sore my elbow was. Lifting my arm up really hurt. It took me a couple of minutes to get those off. I cleaned my scrapes, then grabbed some ice packs for my shoulder, elbow and right knee. As the day continued, I would get up and walk around a bit, checking on my injuries.

I didn't sleep very well Friday night. I kept seeing that divider and the crash, over and over in my mind. The top of my hands and middle and index fingers were very painful. So much so, that I got up around 1 am to take some advil. Didn't help much. I got up at 5 am, with the plan to run or walk, with my running friends. Even if I walked a mile or two, I wanted to get some movement, as I know that helps keep my back issues at bay. I arrived a few minutes late. Everyone had left already. I headed out on my own. When I got to the bridge, I walked up, as I felt my Heart rate was pretty high. I had to walk a few more times during the rest of my run, as my right knee was feeling a bit wonky every once in a while. I ended up getting in my entire planned long run of 14 miles! Slow, but not really any slower then my normal pace lately.

No that it's Sunday, with the storm about to really hit us in a few hours, I have that to worry about. But, I still worry about getting that bike fixed and if it's even worth it. I was told it wasn't. So that means, looking for a new bike, getting it fitted and hopefully riding on it a couple of times. All before I head out of town in a week and a half! And, I have to hope that my shoulder and elbow (which is still swollen) are healed in time. So stressful! Just very happy that I didn't break anything. And that my A.S. hasn't flaired up. Very surprised about that!

Injury photos 2 days later:
Bruises are really showing up!

Lots of rash, but isn't super painful.

August 24, 2017
I’m 5 weeks out from my 3rd half Ironman in Augusta, GA. It’s my 3rd in a year. I’ve been training almost nonstop for 20 months. This past weekend, I completed the Ft Desoto International distance triathlon, placing 2nd in my age group. I’m feeling pretty strong and fit, even though I’ve put on weight. Who thought you’d put on weight while logging 90 to 120 miles a week of swimming, biking and running? Not me!
I wake up Monday morning, with pain in my upper back. It hurts to take a deep breath. My neck hurts when I tilt my head to either side, and my entire back spasms in pain when I sneeze. It’s bad. And I think, “Why is this happening to me AGAIN!”
I’ve always been an active person. When I was young, I loved being in the park, running around with friends. In junior high, you could find me on the basketball court before and after school, shooting hoops with my friends. I played softball through high school. In college, I started running. As a way to keep fit and release some stress. I ran a few miles here and there, until I signed up for my first 5k, and then a 10K, as part of a relay team for a triathlon. It wasn’t until my mid 20s, having just moved to a new town and state, that I caught the racing bug. I ran the Biloxi Mayor’s Cup 5K. A week or so later, I got an age group ribbon in the mail! What was this? An award!! I was hooked. I ran many races during the 2 years I lived there, including my first half marathon and then marathon in 1998. When I moved to Florida, I kept up my running and racing. When I met my husband and then had my son, my racing was put on hold for a bit. But, I always believed, I would get the baby weight off and get back to running a bit faster.
Then, the health issues started. I was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism about a year after my son was born. Then, I had several miscarraiges. Each one left me reeling and depressed. I would run, with tears streaming down my face. It helped to be out there pushing my body to do something other than fail me. I gradually lost some weight and started to feel healthier. And then, my back started hurting. At first, I just kept going. Putting off seeing the doctor for months, even though anytime I would bump into anything, my entire back would spasm in pain. The chiropractor worked on me for a few weeks, with no relief. She finally sent me off to see a Rheumatoid arthritis doctor, who diagnosed me with Ankylosing Spondylitis. I was happy to have a diagnoses, and some medication to give me some relief from the pain, but the nature of the condition had me scared. But, I was pain free again, so I put it out of my mind.
Seven years later, I’m training for my second half Ironman, the first one had been a few months previously, when my back started to spasm in pain again. I can no longer lie on the ground to stretch, as it feels like someone has placed a heavy object on my back. I can barely twist my head from side to side or ear to shoulder. Swimming has become extremely painful as well as running, my favorite activity. I can handle the bike fine, as long as I stay in position and don’t need to unclip my feet very much.
I was in terrible pain for 6 weeks before my race. I was depressed and trying to hide it from friends. I didn’t want to complain. I would lie in bed at night, trying not to cry, while wondering if I had to give up on this sport that I loved. I wondered if this was it. I wondered if the progression of this disease had finally started. Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic inflammatory disease. The immune system causes inflammation in the joints of the spine, which causes pain and stiffness. As the condition progresses, new bone formation in the spine can happen, creating a fused spine. The pictures are horrifying. People with their spines severely curved. Thankfully, one way to naturally keep the spine flexible, is body movement.
After weeks of pain, my doctor finally found a new medication, one that gave me some relief. I had cut back on my training. Mainly on the running and swimming. I was not where I thought I would be with training. A couple of weeks before the race, I had bought some temporary tattoos. One was the word “Believe.” It had become MY word. I had to believe in myself, in the training I had done, in my determination to get past the pain I may feel. I believed I could accomplish this goal that I had set for myself.
Race day was May 13th. The night before the race, I put the temporary tattoo on my wrist, so that I could see it throughout the day. It was there to help me boost my confidence. The race was great! The swim was canceled that morning, due to unsafe swim conditions. I felt strong on the bike. The run was rough, but I kept at it, even when the heat was causing me to feel nauseous and weak. I ended up not having any pain! I did suffer from some back stiffness during the run, but that is a minor inconvenience for me now.
After the race, I took it easy for three weeks. I hoped the easy, recovery type workouts, would help ease the inflammation in my back. When I did start back in with serious training, my back was feeling normal. I would have some stiff days, but nothing super painful. I discovered Cryotherapy, which seemed to help with the stiffness. So I hoped, I believed, that the rest had been good and maybe I would be better for a while. Maybe my condition had not gotten worse.
And, here I am, dealing with the pain again. It is 5 weeks out from the race. The pain is back. Plus, I am feeling exhausted. What do I do? I’m going to continue to train on the days the pain level is bearable. I’ll put in the effort I’m able to on that day. I will get to the race and complete it to the best of my abilities. It may not be the race I wanted, but I am going to finish it! I believe in myself. I believe that this condition may curb the level of training that I have been used to up to this point, but I will not let it keep me from doing what I love.