Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Cracked ribs... What's our purpose

It's been now a couple of weeks since we did Challenge Atlantic City... Not going to say that have been the worse weeks ever, you might think that recovering when you are in pain can suck. In part is true, it does suck, and trust me you don't realize that you use certain muscles of your body until you have to do relively easy things like getting in and out of bed, sneezing, coughing or maybe even using the microwave (when is above your head). So over the last few weeks it has been more of a healing process. Both body and soul, for the body  I think the scars show that it has been going pretty well, and little by little I've been getting more movement on my shoulder, I can wash my hair now without that much pain. After going to the doctor and feeling really sore in my chest area, after further exams, it was determined that I just had a couple of cracked ribs, which if you have ever experienced that, you probably kmow how it hurts. The soul, while is not that it was a soul searching period or anything like that it was more of a mental break. A 140.6, long distance tri, ironman triathlon or whatever you want to call it is a pretty hard thing to do regardless of how trained you are for it. As it turns out, most pros who are the ones that can crush one of this in less than 9 hrs avg, actually are amazed how we the age groupers can hammer these in 15-16 hrs and come back for more by signing up to do more of these. The mental strength that you carry through a long day like this is probably greater than your body strength. Your body can take the beating, I think we proved that a few weeks ago and also last year during Ironman Texas. However your mind is really the one that is doing a lot of the work at that point, making you take that extra step, or go the extra mile to complete it. So the mind needs recovery time too.

Being an engineer and having to sit for my EIT and PE exams I compare it to those exams. A little background, before you graduate with your engineering degree some engineers elect to take a state exam that qualifies you to be an Engineer in Training, fast forward 4 years of gaining experience and you get to do it all over again to get your Professional Engineering license. Both are pretty hard exams and each is 8 hours. You prepare for months, similar to a 140.6 Tri, stop all sorts of social life, it's you the books, coffee and the library. A lot of people tell you while you are preparing for it or the day before the test, that they will wait for you at the closest bar for happy hour. Well... Guess what... Your body might want to have a beer or two... Your mind dictates otherwise, it is simply exhausted from all that thinking. 

So after that little engineering analogy, back to what we've been feeling... The first week post Challenge it was a zero training week. Coach even loaded it on TrainningPeaks like that. The second, well while Res could do some, I couldn't do much, rashes were still fresh, shoulder hurt, ribs couldn't let me breath hard so it was another week of do what you want, but not really do a whole lot. The third and forth weeks rolled in and little by little I started, the shoulder still sore didn't allow me to swim much and after a work trip to Denver I realized my ribs wouldn't let me swim either. Ribs won. Now I can say that I'm back to the pool, yet feel like I went backwards and I know is gong to take a few more weeks if not a month or two to get back to the swimming shape I was pre Challenge, but on the bright sight I'm swimming, biking and running again. 

We've been able to go on our long bike rides together, while I could've pushed out as usual with the fast group recently I've taken the approach of just staying back with Res. Not that we never did it before, I guess we didn't do it enough. We always knew we were there but rarely we were together. Now it's different, we've been riding together, we go on our 3 and 4 hour rides together and yes I'm still stronger than her, she is pushing her self and learning to not get frustrated because I drop her at the hills, on the contrary she pushes even harder so I don't drop her so badly. So it is a win win situation. We get to ride together, quality time and she is getting stronger and we are actually enjoying the rides. That's the one main reason we do this sport to begin with. The sport is an indivual effort on race day, but in reallity is a team effort to get you there and for us that's what matters. The team effort and spending time together. We are taking a similar approach on the runs. 

I guess walking for almost 7 hours and riding for close to 45 miles a month ago really taught us a good lesson.... 2 are stronger than 1 and no matter what happens if we are with each other we will cross any finish line we have in front of us, be it a race finish line or simply a life event.

With that thought... Always remember why you do this, what drives you to get up in the morning or go in the hot summer evening to train, or why you even begun your journey and reflect back on that. Sometimes we get sucked into the competitiveness of the sport and of course who doesn't want to be better and faster, but what really matter for us, is being there with each other and for each other, 

Friday, July 4, 2014

What does Mind over Body really Mean (Challenge AC Race Report)

Well, I know we haven't post much about our preparation for this race. It was in a way on purpose, din't want to get you all bored with the details of what we have done or haven't done for it. Now that we have completed it it's time to reflect on our day... or days including the days leading up to it.

We had decided last year to do Challenge Atlantic City because it was so close to Res' home. Our thoughts were to spend time with family a week prior to the race and then go to the race with them so they could experience our racing/triathlon lives. We found an awesome home not too far from Bally's (host hotel) but not in the middle of Atlantic City which made it for a good headquarters location.

We arrived to AC on Thursday after picking up our cheering squad at Philly's airport. We headed to the house to unload the truck and bikes before we headed to the expo. Didn't want the bikes on the rack while we were at the expo. We then went to the expo which turned out pretty interesting considering you had to walk through Bally's casino to get to it. People were very nice and friendly, it seemed a little bit less daunting than the WTC/Ironman check-in. We got our packages, and then started to walk the expo. They had one of the athlete meetings around that time so we went to it, got the typical download, course changes, rules, etc... great energy from DelMo and Vigo those two guys are amazing. Our crew had a start on us since they went to the beach party at the Bally's Bikini Bar where the Challenge Welcome party was at. There we got to see T.O., Rinny, Mark Allen, Andres (whom we had seen at check-in) so we hung out there a bit. We called it a day pretty early, didn't want to get too wrapped up into the party scene that AC offers because we know how it can come and bite us later.

Friday... practice swim.. Rinny... Athlete Dinner

Rinny signing up our shirts 
Rinny and Res
One good thing about this race is that they didn't only have practice swim for 1 day, they had 3 days of practice swims on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We had decided that we were going to do that swim on Friday. So we had a light breakfast and off we went. Practice swim was great, we felt the current that we will talk about a little later but nothing too out of the norm. Salt water, dark water, similar to the Galveston swim for those of you that have done it. Practice swim course was about 0.5 mi which was a little longer than I would anticipate but didn't bother us either. As we were finishing the swim we noticed that Macca was coming out of the water with us... so of course we had the typical picture with him. Couldn't help it, major groupie move.... didn't care. Then we went back to the hotel to get the Profile Design wheels on the bikes since we had scored a free demo pair of 58's for our bikes. While we were waiting for them got the chance to talk to Rinny and she signed our shirts and wished us good luck, that meant so much, she is so nice.... we then just went back home since the rest of the family were arriving that evening so we wanted to be there when they arrived and before we went to the Athlete Dinner. We left for the dinner... having only experienced Ironman Texas 2013 Athlete Dinner this one was really good compared to it. Bally's really did a good job to feed us healthy but great choice of food, sweets, fruit, you name it they had it. The talk was great, very inspiring they had the Blazeman Challenge Award and also they had a few other stories to share. We sat with Andres during dinner and a few other athletes we met at dinner, so we just chatted a bit with them.

Saturday... easy spin... beach... rest...

Colombia representing pre-race ride on the Colombia-Uruguay game day
Saturday was an easy day, wanted to try the new borrowed wheels before race day so we went to Brigantine which is a town south of AC and we rode for about 30 minutes, loved the wheels and the bikes felt great. Short little ride around the two roads and back to the beach for some beach time before heading back home for some rest and to finish getting everything ready for the race, race bags and bikes for check-in.

Checking in with Macca.... that' was pretty funny

When we got to transition we actually had a great surprise... we were walking in when some photographers went running by us, when we turned there he was, Macca was checking in. We got our bikes racked and checked out transition and headed home. Not before we picked up some pasta dinner at Bringantine, we found Andres an italian restaurant with great food. Then went home to eat, pack nutrition, and try to rest... try... because as you know resting before an event like this is very elusive... to non-existent. I think I finally closed my eyes at midnight.
Race Day
Best surprise from Mrs. D our host before we left
Alarms went off at 3:15... we got ready and went down for our breakfast... our cheering crew had gone and explored the Atlantic City nightlife the night before so they were a bit festive :)... which brought good energy. We did our usual oatmeal, PB&J english muffings, banana and OJ breakfast. Got Res' parents ready and headed out the door. We got to Bader Field at around 4:45 so we did a quick check on the bikes, pumped air, last check of the transition bags which they allowed us to check at the last minute and we then just waited for the start.

We were waiting when they announced that the water temp was 80-deg which made the swim wetsuit optional. After a second of freakout we made the call to swim with wetsuits mainly for 2 reasons. 1. It would allow us to take advantage of them, 2. We could swim together and didn't have to get in our waves. So we decided that it would be best, no much debate after that one.
We saw the Navy Seals parachute down to Bader Field while the Star Spangled Banner played, it was pretty amazing, also knowing that 2 of them were going to race alongside with us. We said our good byes to Res' parents and we went with our crew to the swim start. We were the last wave so we had still time.
Our wave started to get called in and we pushed ourselves in, we barely made it to the water when they let us go. Didn't count that we were the largest wave of all because of all the people that had decided to do the wetsuit swim. We said our good byes in the water and off we went. The swim was one of the toughest swims we've done. The first 1000 yds were with the current, felt great with a bit of traffic but got cleared pretty quick. The first turn came by and we headed back... that's when it got interesting. Out of the remainder 2900 maybe 2500 were against the current.
Navy Seals parachuting in
By the time we had to bring it home we were just exhausted of fighting the current. Also a few things threw us off, since there were not many buoys marking the way in between the turn buoys. That made it difficult since we had the sun in front of us most of the way so we couldn't see the turn buoys. We just ended up following heads and hoping for the best. At the end our garmins ended up at 2.7 miles for me and 2.52 for Res. We came out almost at the same time out of the water with a 2 min difference.

In transition, we came out of the tents at the same time and started the bike ride together... that was pretty cool. Got to ride with her for about 2 miles and then off we went as usual, the plan was to see each other at the run. The bike course was exiting, going thorough the Atlantic City Expressway and into the towns wasn't too bad, we were actually going pretty fast, I had to keep myself from pushing since I knew the pace was a bit fast. We got back on the expressway and the wind was on our back. Since we had the last wave on the swim that meant we had a good group of people ahead of us, so had a lot of people to pass. While passing one guy, at mile 25 or so, I looked back to make sure I cleared the pass but I lost control of the bike and stumbled into the pavement. Hit hard. I don't think quitting even cross my mind at the time. The guy that I had passed also crashed and he stopped to check on me. My shoulder was in a lot of pain, I moved my arm and saw that I could move it so off I went again on the bike. I got to the mile 30 station and washed off. By then the pros were already starting to come back so got to see a few of them including Andrés. I was on the Hammonton Loop by then and trying to enjoy the scenery as much as the pain allowed it. Went through special needs station but skipped it there, I had planned to stop the second time. Going through Hammonton was OK, could've been more exciting I guess or I guess my pain was such that I just didn't enjoy it. The second loop was simply a blur, all I remember was pulling into special needs and getting off the bike. A guy in there helped me get washed off, got some ice for my shoulder and it really made a difference. As I was about to pull out guess who was coming in.... RES!!!! I was so happy to see her... She freaked out when she saw me, but was able to keep her cool. We got her special needs figured out and decided to keep going. We only had 40 miles after all which meant going back on the Expressway. Well.... Remember that start of the bike where we were going really fast with a nice tail wind??? Yup... You got it, the wind had picked up and was a head wind. Our 22-23 mph on the way out turned into an 11-12 mph on the way back. Most painful 30 miles we've ever done, we were glad to have each other and to keep each other company. Many times along that stretch the thought of quitting came across my mind but having Adriana in front of me or behind me and knowing that finishing had turned into a team effort made me simply push harder and make the bike cut. We had slowed so much due to my extended stops that we had lost about 1 hour or more between all stops so we were cutting it pretty close. Seeing the exit 2 of the Expressway was the happiest moment of that bike ride. We came into Bader Field and we saw Brian, Becky, and Jenny they were so happy to see us but saw their jaws dropped when the saw me.
Coming into T2
I got off the bike and went to medical immediately to see if they could clean me up better and check my shoulder. The medics were awesome, and I sensed they wanted me to pull from the race, but it was 4 pm... We had 7:30 to Walk 26.2 miles.... A known territory for us (been there done that). Adriana and I went to change. The tents were empty, volunteers weren't as involved as ironman volunteers that pretty much would dress you up, here you were on your own, which with one arm could be challenging. I managed to get dressed and went out to start our 26.2 mile walk. By then Brian had done the math for us and we needed to keep a 15:50'/mi pace to make the cut, so it was something we knew we could do. Luckily Adriana's shuffle is a 13'/mi shuffle so I knew I was in good hands. The walk was probably the most mental part of the whole day.
LOVE HER!!!!!!!
Walking together really made the difference. I knew Adriana could go on her intervals but she chose not to and stuck with me... What a champ!!!  She pretty much kept us on schedule. We joked around, talked about life, told ourselves we would never do this again, cheered others, got inspired by others, made new friends, I mean 6 hours is a long time, so might as well make it entertaining. Anything to take my mind off the pain considering that I was dealing with it with just ice.... Yup... Not even a Tylenol. We went off and hit the boardwalk, that was fun, seeing more people made those first miles go relatively fast. We were talking with others and got word that the first cutoff was mile 17 by 9:00 pm. We were at mile 13 and it was 7:00 pm. We had done half a marathon walking (speed walking) in 2:30. We said we are good. Only bad thing is that I was starting to fade, my pain was making me really uncomfortable. Brian and and the girls met us again and they walked with us a bit. Brian said you keep this up and you make the cut... Coach's message to us. So we had 2 hours to do 4 more miles. I had started to slow down a bit, and got worried because we were down to 16'/mi. That meant we were not going to make it. Told Adriana let's jog it, Brian started to pace us and opening the front since there were a lot of walkers on the boardwalk we didn't want to zigzag around too much... I pretty much had one speed one direction... No steering around anyone. We picked it up to our marathon pace of 10:30'/mi and man that hurt. We did about 2 miles like that. It was all I could take. We got to mile 15 and slowed down a bit, back to walking but at least we knew we had time. We passed the 17 mile marker and had 30 min to spare... We were good. Then was just single digits, 9 miles before 11:30 pm. We could do that right?  Those were some lonely miles. Our family had to leave because of the kids and the boardwalk had only a few of us running with the rest just being tourists. Loved going by Boardwalk Hall because that energy really pumped us up.
Brian and Becky sporing the Team Res-Puli Support Crew T-shirts
We saw T.J. Begg the youngest athlete at 16 and his dad John, who turned out to be Caity Begg's brother and dad (Young Tri founder). We walked with them a good chunk of the boardwalk and talked a bit. We also saw so many people that were just encouraging and were happy to encourage people along they way, you take what you can get during those times to dig deeper. When we went to the turn around and had 2 miles to go we knew we had it, it was 10:30 pm and Brian was coming to take us home. I was literally falling asleep while walking, Adriana was holding my good hand to steer me in the right direction and when we got to Tropicana we started our jog again. Amazing how seeing lights, people and getting pumped to finish makes you simply get all you have left to take you to that finish line. We took our flag out, planned how we were holding it and entered the Shute. I couldn't believe what we had done, Adriana kept telling me to smile for the pictures, I thought i was smiling... Clearly I wasn't.... I was done. Wanted to cry, jump (but couldn't), thought I was smiling, but all we did was hug each other and cry while we got our chips taken off our legs. We had done what i thought 14 hours earlier was nearly impossible. I definitely have to thank Adriana the true Ironman of this story... She made all this possible putting the team on her back and carrying us both to that finish line. All I can say is that this was definitely a CHALLENGE and it was completed.  Yup... Call us crazy... Nuts,... Stupid... But we got one more of this stunts in 4 months in Arizona. So right now, time to heal, recover, stop hurting and get back to training. As for the shoulder X-rays didn't show any fractures, we are waiting to get back home to see the orthopedist and hope for the best. Hoping with some PT and time I will get back to it, at least I know I can bike and run.... The swim might be another story.

So I guess what you might be wondering... was it a good race. I think definitely it was, it truly lives up to its name of CHALLENGE. Yes we can ask for no currents but Mother Nature can do whatever she wants, no wind and flat courses bike courses but then what would be the point, and a run less entertaining.... but nothing better than people watching through the Boardwalk. So would we recommend it... if you want a true CHALLENGE go for it... if you want to be tested and see what you are made of, definitely sign up. If you are not too sure you can finish it... then get to training and sign up for it. :) and remember "Anything is possible if you have the courage to make it happen"
Best Finish Ever!!!! priceless... and yes it the pic was FREE too :) Thanks Challenge
If you want to see more pictures.... click here