Tuesday, November 17, 2015

#BubbaDay at IMAZ and saying goodbye

A few weeks after IMCDA when the fog of racing 11+hours in an inferno lifted, I realized that I had more fire in my belly. With the support of many friends I joined an amazing charity  and signed up for IMAZ.(seriously, if you are EVER thinking of racing for a cause, this foundation is top notch, and the next time I race IMAZ, it will be with them!). This wasn't a quick decision, but because my training for CDA had been less than perfect due to weddings and trips and then both of my dogs being diagnosed with cancer within a couple of weeks, I wanted another shot at Ironman, and pushing my limits to see if I could qualify for Kona. I did my research on the start list, and while there were definitely a few very top athletes in my AG, it wasn't as intimdating as it had been in the past with a dozen plus names in contention.

IMCDA fatigue faded and Michelle and I got to work. I spent a LOT of time climbing hills. On the bike, on the run. I pushed max watts and was convinced my legs were going to fall off and my heart was going to explode. And just as my fitness was starting to really feel great life took some more turns and Baxter started to go downhill. The entire month of September there were signs and I started to get scared leaving him alone. And, just like that one day I came home and there he was sitting on the floor staring into a corner, and I knew the time was coming so soon.

Without going back to all of what happened again, I'll just say that 8 weeks out from Ironman my world was flipped upside down. 

As a coach and athlete I know the affects of stress on our bodies. 6 months of ups and downs caring for my sick dogs, finding out my company lost the account that I work on and I needed to find a new job, my husband working in another state and trying to train harder and stronger than ever to reach a goal.  I wasn't sleeping, my appetite was lacking, and if I'm honest with myself while I was doing 95% of my training, I wasn't all in. 

When we finally had to let go of Baxter I shut my grieving down and got right back into the saddle,  literally < than 24hours later to ride my bike for 5 hours. We packed up our CDA rental and I was home 3 short days later.  I headed for a checkup with my doctor and when I received the results 10 days later after our trip to Mexico to say goodbye to our house and bring Baxter to his beach,  reality set in. 

My body shut down.  I had the flu and a sinus infection, so talking with my doc was perfect timing. She told me that my adrenals and cortisol were absolutely tanked. My doctor (an athlete herself) wasn't sure how I was functioning let alone training. I had 4 weeks to get my shit together and try to turn my health around so I did what I could. I grounded myself to home, only really leaving to train.  I ate well and tried to keep stress as low as possible. I was advised that due to the low cortisol levels, fueling during training was extra important as my body was unable to really process fat for fuel and truly needed the sugar/carbs. I didn't really change much here as I always practice race day fueling, but I did take care to make sure I went into every workout properly fueled, then recover.

Things were looking better and I was feeling better!  In the days leading up to the race my body started to feel READY.  It was SO stress free and relaxing! I had to push any doubts out of my head and just focus on the race, and that is exactly what I did.

The swim and the bike went pretty much right as planned!  I really enjoyed the rolling start.  It was stress free and for at least half of the swim it was smooth sailing (for me). The return stretch was much more aggressive, and I found myself getting a bit frustrated, but just kept swimming! For once I didn't think about my time, I just tried to focus on the next part of the race!

Swim 1:07:20 - 11th AG.  Last year was 1:07:25 and 14th & 2013 1:10:01 and 16th so despite not feeling like my swim training was awesome this summer (just didn't have that speed or confidence) I'm pretty happy with that!

Transition was super quick and I was out on the bike feeling good. Because I had trained all season with power I had something new and solid to pace myself off. I have worked on strength on the bike so much and Michelle and I talked about bumping up my race watts to try to be more competitive on the bike. I stuck to my plan at the top end of my watts the entire race, but as I saw the fast swimmers out ahead of me gaining time I had to just keep pushing, but not go out of what I new my abilities were in order to run. 

When the wind and rain and cold settled in, I was honestly just laughing. Mother nature truly does control the day, and all we can do is keep doing what we know how! I kept pushing the watts, staying aero and trying to get all my fuel in. My stomach was not wanting my typical solid foods, so I started chewing on some pepto to get it settled.  I came off the bike a few 100 calories short, but feeling pretty good. I knew I had passed a few girls in my AG on the bike, but also knew at least 2 were so far out in front it was going to take a small miracle on the run to even get near them.

Bike 5:35:34 - 7th AG.   14' 5:44:55 - 10th AG 13' 5:18:45 - 6th AG. 

As I started running my legs felt pretty good, but my stomach was not.  I sipped on my Osmo and just kept my cadence up, letting the pace settle. 

Running in the rain felt awesome, but at about mile 3 when we had to hit the thick mud it was not so fun. I followed people in front of me and tried to find the best tracks, but really it was more of an obstacle. I started my plan of gel every 4 miles and that's when things started to go bad. My stomach wanted nothing to do with gels. I kept trying to get them down, but pace was slowing as my energy was fading (this is something I haven't experienced in years as I've had a great nutrition plan!). I started going through each aid station to see if anything sounded good, but it didn't.  After my 3rd attempt at a gel, I just gave up and handed my bottle off to a friend. I got through 20 miles of that run on a little cola, sips of water, but more importantly the support and cheers from my friends, team and husband. I teared up almost every time I saw them, but without them I would have been out on that course a much, much longer time.

In the final miles I had a hard time staying focused.  I was so emotionally and physically drained my eyes just wanted to shut. Then, somewhere after mile 21 I looked up and saw a rainbow.  In the days after Baxter passed so many people talked about the magical rainbow bridge where dogs go to wait for their humans. To be honest everything about the story doesn't sit right with me. The idea of Baxter sitting somewhere waiting for me breaks my heart. I don't know what I think or what I believe, but for some reason I couldn't make peace with the whole rainbow bridge thing and put it out of my mind until I saw one running east on the course.  More tears and more emotion took over and the rest of the race is a blur.  As I headed down the final stretch of Rio Salado and all the cheers support overwhelmed me I got to that finish line and couldn't even hold my hands up. 

I had this amazing sense of relief.  It's like all the grieving I needed to do 6 weeks ago happened over the 4:15 of running that marathon.

Run 4:15:52 - 8th AG  14' 4:00:53 - 8th AG  13' 3:56:32 - 5th AG

It was almost surreal looking at my splits from the run.  When I was out there I felt like I was barely moving, yet with all the walking through aids and multiple potty stops my pace only slowed a bit.  My legs had it all to run my planned 3:45 marathon, but my stomach or whatever else was happening with me that day didn't have it. 

I know many people were worried of my disappointment in the day, but I can say without a doubt, while of course I wish my body had cooperated, even on MY best day, the top 3 girls were stronger and faster than me. To make it to the start line that day with everything I had going on was a win in itself and I learned so much about my mental strength, and grit.  I had support that I never dreamed of, and by choosing to do this race under a charity, WE helped 20+ children receive a life changing surgery. 

I don't know what races are next for me, but as I'm sure you all can guess, I'm not done. Right now, I'm going to let my body and my mind heal, rest and recover.  My heart is full and happy and while I'm still so, so sad missing Baxter, I also feel like I can finally breathe.

I have a list full of names and addresses to thank the many people that have helped me and supported me these past few months and I truly hope each of you know how much you and everything you have done has meant to me.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Bubba Days!

We we left for CDA 4 months ago I was totally prepared that Baxter might not be coming home with us. We had a few hickups in the first week, but after that we all get settled in, I was able to come and go without stressing and everything was going great. Baxter's energy remained that of a normal 14yo Vizsla, making me laugh every night. Our determination to spoil him rotten has made his determination to get everything he wants even stronger...  #parentfail

Dinner at the table with Baxter crying for whatever is on the plate (ugh, I know). Staring at the fridge and barking for more hot dogs. And when it's 8pm and I just want to sit on the couch and veg out for a few, he's throwing his destuffed baby around trying to get me to go to bed.  Barking at every deer and wild turkey and showing off til no end for any visitor that comes to the door.

Oh, this boy....

Friday morning I got a text from Aunt Jen asking how he was (seriously, I have the best friends asking me for updates all the time. They KNOW he is my kid, not my pet) and I said, he's doing GREAT!  I think we are bringing him home AND to Mexico!!

After work I left to go swim.... since I didn't have anything planned but prep my bike for the long workout in the morning I headed to get my atrocious looking toenails done for the first time since all my nails fail off post IMCDA, then grabbed some food to get my through the big training weekend.

When I got home, for some reason I didn't go straight into my room where Baxter stays. Juliette was barking so I got her out of the crate, then headed into the room. Baxter wasn't on the bed.  Instant panic set in and I ran over to the side of the bed to see him laying there in the corner. I flew down to the floor to comfort him and immediately checked his gums. They were WHITE. I've been told this is one of the first signs I need to look for when something is wrong. It means that dogs are in pain and or bleeding. The prognosis of his cancer is that it's a cancer of the blood and it will spread to another organ, most likely his liver or lungs and at some point a tumor would grow and probably bleed out.  There is no fixing it, it's just time...

I helped him get up and while he seemed a bit weak, he went outside, went to the bathroom and was alert. He was a bit wobbly, but still walking. I called a friend to see if I could get some help to get him to the emergency clinic, but no one was answering, so I got Juliette in her crate and got Baxter loaded into the truck. He was barely keeping his head up while he sat in the back seat, but the most concerning thing was he was calm and quiet.  Baxter HATES being in the car. He pants and freaks out... He was just sitting there.

I got into the hospital and I don't even know what I said except he has cancer and his gums are white and I think it's time.

Bless the doctor's hear She was the same one that took care of us when we first got into town and Baxter's paws swelled up.  She came down to the ground to him, so gentle.  I sat there with Baxter holding his head, comforting him while they took a small amount of blood from his leg to check for anemia.  She mentioned that sometimes if they are bleeding it might now show they are anemic right away and we may need to do an ultrasound. I expressed my concern in that we had decided no more tests, no extreme measures. He had been through enough.

When she came back in and said his blood was normal but that his heart sounded muffled, she really wanted to take a quick look with the ultrasound. She would bring the machine in and he wouldn't have to move. In my head I was picturing the big fancy thing that we had a specialist come in with where we had to pick him up, shave his belly, etc....  The doctor again was so gentle as she checked out his lungs and his heart (perfect). She explained to me what fluid would look like (black) and then she found something that could be fluid by his liver, but not free fluid all over.

Her recommendation was that yes, this could be a tumor that is bleeding, but it also could be something completely unrelated.... His was stable, and thought it would be best if I took him home where he would be comfortable.  She assured me I could call with any questions, she would be there for 24hours.

As much as I wanted to be hopeful, I also know how attached I am to this boy and I didn't want to do something that would cause him any pain. I was ready to let him go. I had the doctor explain the situation to my amazing vet and friend at home so that I could have help. They both told me the same thing, he's not ready to leave me. God, it just makes me cry thinking about him. Holding on, fighting because he loves us so much!

While all of this was going on my phone was blowing up with returned calls from my panic calls.  Shane, who had just gotten back to California prepping for probably the most important week (to date) of his career was pacing outside of his car deciding if he start driving 15 hours to say good bye, only to have to drive right back. I was scared for him, but we didn't have the resources to buy a $800 flight to get him home. I made a call to my friend who had offered the last time to get him on a flight with points, and within 20mins she had him driving to a near bye airport, a hotel booked and the first flight out in the morning.

My high school friend was already on her way with bags packed to be with me, and my local friend was ready with whatever I needed. We spent the  night snuggling and trying to keep Baxter happy.  But, to be honest, he was doing the same thing. He perked up when she got here with more hot dogs.
We didn't sleep much (well I didn't), but we stayed in bed until early afternoon when my friend brought Shane home from the airport. I emailed our oncologist back home and told her what was going on.  She was sweet, but honest and direct telling us it could be just a few hours before he would be in pain and needing to be put down, or he could go on his own, but that would be very hard. We were prepared for the worst, but ready....Over the next few hours Baxter perked up, rallied like no other and we spent the day loving on him, spoiling him and in all sorts of ways coming to terms with saying goodbye.  It was honestly a perfect day!
 Back to begging for food.... even if it was just carrots
Lots of outside time watching the squirrels and barking at everything, when it got cold he got to wear Dad's T shirt ;)

Steak for dinner???? YES PLEASE!
And beautiful flowers from my sweet friend back home who has been there for me since day one of this stupid cancer.

Sunday went pretty much the same only I had to get myself together and get some of my training in.  My weekend was planned to be huge with 9hours of riding and 90' run.... After sleeping in then trying to hydrate and get some food in my system we took the dogs for a walk. Baxter struggled a little, but yet he was still all in!
I got myself onto my trainer where I stayed doing intervals for 4 hours. I figure if nothing else I was getting some solid mental training in!  I think 2hours was my previous record for trainer time, so nothing like doubling it.

We went to bed trying to get rest, but unfortunately I just couldn't sleep. I managed to get out for a run before we had to get Shane to the airport. Gosh that was hard. Coming home watching my best friend say good bye to my other best friend. These two have been in my life the exact same amount of time and they both have my heart. I was crushed, but unfortunately Shane had to go, Baxter had to let go and all I could do was watch.

We had a pretty good day yesterday.  I had another wonderful friend come sit with Baxter so I could go swim.  He ate like normal, barked at everything like normal and watched all the wonderful things happening out his favorite window.

We're now Tuesday morning, Bubba day #132. The amount of love, support and outpouring care and concern for me and my family right now is unreal. Unfortunately, I know we are on borrowed time just as I started to write this post Baxter got up wanting dinner.  I fed him and for the first time he only ate the hot dogs.... worried, I offered him some turkey meat after and he took a bite, then shunned the rest of the way. He started doing circles around the house then laid down against the couch with some strained breathing. I grabbed my phone making my (once again) panic phone calls trying to figure out what to do. About 30' later he was resting in my arms, but comfortably and I had a friend coming over to help me take him in.

And, just like that in typical Baxter fashion as soon as the pretty blonde walked in the door he perked up, gave kisses, wagging his tail and more than ready for a treat. So here I am, sitting on the couch with him. He's resting comfortably, but I'm just trying to be the big kid here and take care of my boy.  Everyone tells me he will let me know when HE is ready, and I'm just waiting for that.  He's always trying to protect me, so unfortunately, I may need to be the one making the hard call this time.  For now, I'm treasuring every second he's next to me.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015


A week into August and I thought it was time for a little update! July was a BLAST.  It was abnormally HOT here in the PNW, but the evenings still cool down, and to be honest, I can still ride my bike when it's 95 out and not feel like I'm dying. It's hot, but manageable (and doesn't stay hot for 4 months). 

It took me a solid 2 weeks to really come out of the, "I just did an Ironman in 106degs" fog. There were mornings where I physically just could not get out of bed, and when I did I wasn't accomplishing much. My motivation came around thanks to the post-ironman "WHAT next" and signing up for a spring 70.3, then a day later registering for a charity to race Ironman Arizona. That was just what I needed to get myself back in the game.

I had a conversation with Michelle about needing the month to still train, but have more flexibility.  I wanted to make sure that I didn't dive right back in until my mind and body were ready. So in the mix of training there was also a lot of fun!

Lots of boating and BBQing with some lovely ladies and their husbands that we have met here in CDA. Work hard/play hard!

FINALLY a trip to the Filling Station to try some craft beers.  I saw this place my first week in town, and avoided it until after Iroman.

Finishing off the yummy Huckleberry beer that Sherpa Jen brought from Montana! 

There has also been paddleboarding, and lots of lots of fun snuggles for Bubba day! We are officially past the "avg expectancy of 19-83 days" and on Bubba day 94.  He sleeps most the day (but so does Juliette) and then acts like a puppy after he's done napping. Every day he's happy makes my heart happy!

2 weeks post Ironman I decided (like last year) to hop into a local sprint race, Race the River. Shane & I headed out for a little social ride on Saturday stopping at the kids race and registering for the next day. I dared Shane to register as well, and for a brief moment I think he considered it,  but it didn't work. The race was in a slightly different location than last year with more turns on the bike, (think Soma 70.3 turns, but in 11 miles) but the swim was still point to point and along the shore so no sighting necessary. I felt AMAZING in the water which was good as I hadn't done any hard swimming, my legs had NO power and quads felt like they were cramping on the bike and to my surprise I had a pretty descent run negative splitting a 5k with splits I haven't seen in a long time, especially all of the Ironman training! I ended up 5th overall (by just a few seconds and local pro Haley Cooper Scott winning) and 1st AG. With no expectations going in, it made for a very nice win! I guess Bubba wasn't done with medals after all ;)  The race happened to be the PNW regional sprint championships so along with the podium medal they gave 1st place winners a very nice visor :)

At the end of July Karen came over from Seattle for some fun and bike training! I took her on my favorite hill ride (which I spend lot of time on) where we did 14' hill repeats!  My legs were already trashed from some max effort repeats the day before so I was VERY happy to have her pushing me up that hill. Thankfully, the views make going up and down and grinding away totally worth it.

 In between the hard bike rides we spent an afternoon doing the CDA lake cruise, cruiser riding to sushi and just fun girl time catching up!

Cruising around this lake NEVER gets old to me!!

Friday night after work we headed out to do a ride I've only done one other time. You can basically ride around the entire Hayden Lake.  The views are indescribable and can't be captured in pictures.  Once again my body was hurting from my poor road bike fit (long story, but it's all messed up from a saddle change) and quads burning for 2 previous hard days, so super happy to have Karen to chase around, up and down, up and down.... Nothing like a 50+mile Friday night happy hour ride!

In the last week and a half training is back to full swing.  More bike days than swim/bike run days, hill after hill and chasing power.  My 2 week vacation of swims that start with anything but a 3 or a 4 are long gone and when anything described as "easy/cruise" shows up on a run, I'm THANKFUL.

I have almost every weekend planned out for August, including a visit from my uncle, a mini camp with former TeamBSC teammate and friend planned and the epic "CDA Crossing" swim across the lake event! Unlike last year where I spent every weekend racing short course in August, this year is about getting stronger and ready to give it all I have at IMAZ.  I'm totally motivated and giving my complete trust and faith to Michelle as she helps guide me there.

My fundraising efforts are off to a great start, and I'm just under halfway to my goal. With the 5k I will raise, it's pretty darn motivating to put myself out there and ask for these donations knowing that those funds will help TWENTY kids get corrective surgery and beautiful healthy smiles :)  If you would like to help with this fund, please click on my personal page here

And last, but certainly not least, my coaching business and TeamBSC are having an amazing race season. All of my athletes are kicking butt, and we are 100% success rate for our Ironman finishes.  Race days are spent on my computer stressing out and hitting refresh, but the recaps and feedback I'm getting are reminding me the joy I get from helping these athletes. Some athletes are taking a break after their big races and at the same time I'm getting more signing on for their next year goals. It's the ebb and flow of the business and it keeps everything fun and exciting.  I'm so thankful I'm able to do something that I love and help others at the same time!

Thanks so much to everyone reading and following along on my journey! 

Friday, July 10, 2015

What's next? Post Ironman what nows no more....

And, without further ado, I announce what is NEXT.  I have a million reasons why I'm doing this, but I'm super excited to continue pursing my dreams, and doing it for an amazing cause all at once.  While I had a near panic attack with both nerves and excitement as I pushed submit on my own personal donation, I can't wait to begin this journey.

I'll try to be better about training updates, aches and pains and progress, but in the meantime a huge thanks to those who have already promised donations, but most of all for your overwhelming belief and support for me.  I have no words!

I know this may come as a shock to some of you (ha!), but I'm doing another Ironman! The beginning of this year was quite busy, and as I was trying to put in my last training block for Ironman CDA, life handed quite a few lemons my way. I got through and performed to the best of my ability, but when the race was over I didn't quite feel... DONE.

Let me back up to the days leading up to the race. As I was standing in line to register I was talking to some people about the upcoming heat forecast for the day (record breaking 106degs!) and mentioned that I was from Arizona, and while I train in the heat, nothing could prepare us for doing an entire Ironman with that kind of heat. Someone overheard my conversation and asked if I wanted to race AZ. My reply was something along the lines of, "let me get through this day!" I'd be lying if I didn't have this gentleman's voice in my head for the hours out there in the heat, or the days after the race. Unfortunately, I lost the guy's business card, but remembered he was an ambassador for the race charity, SmileTrain.

As my legs began to recover and my mind was certainly clear, I started to ponder if I were up for another Ironman. I did a little research on the charity and was overly impressed by the message and what raising funds could do for children born with cleft pallets. If I were to race and fund raise for this charity, my contribution alone would provide TWENTY children with corrective surgery. Pretty cool to imagine that putting my heart and determination and the generosity of others could provide this.

I began talking to friends about my thoughts on racing with the charity and was overwhelmed by the support. Honestly, I had no idea that so many people believed in me and my dream to not only continue to improve in this sport, but also to hopefully achieve my goal in the near future of qualifying for the world championships in Kona. There, I said it. My goal! The confidence and support of everyone made the decision pretty easy, however, it was the act of one very generous individual offering to donate a very large portion of the funds for me to do this.

So, this coming November I'm racing IRONMAN Arizona and will raise funds for Smile Train to help give children around the world not only new smiles, but a second chance at life.

Smile Train is an international children's charity that provides free surgery to poor children suffering from cleft lip and cleft palate. Children born with cleft cannot eat or speak properly, aren't allowed to attend school or hold a job and face very difficult lives of shame and isolation, pain and heartache. Some children are even abandoned or killed—all because of the way they look. Their clefts usually go untreated because they are too poor to afford the simple repair surgery that takes as little as 45 minutes and costs as little as $250 dollars. Yet with your help, we can save these children and give them the life changing surgery they both need and deserve.

Please help support in any way you can, by donating to my Smile Train fund! I promise you, I will do everything in my power putting my heart and soul into that race making you all proud!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ironman CDA, the race on the surface of the sun

I wanted to get this post out while it's still fresh on my mind, pain in my body and a slight hangover from yesterday's celebration.

Ironman is hard.  Even on a day with perfect conditions it will test your body, it will test your mind.  You can train 20 hours a week or 6 hours a week and the end result is going to come down to how well you EXECUTE a plan, and what kind of grit you can pull out on the day.

Last year training for this race everything went flawless.  I followed my plan to a T, I rested and I recovered.  This year was a little chaotic with a lot of travel then followed by 6 weeks of caring for sick dogs and packing up to move to CDA for the summer.  I wasn't resting, I wasn't recovering and all of my workouts were not the quality I would like.  However, in the last couple of weeks leading up to the race my dogs were recovering, my stress was low and I was doing what I needed to get my body and mind race ready.  I was feeling great!

In addition to getting myself ready, I had my biggest year of coaching and 5 amazing athletes getting ready to race CDA as well.  We were dialing in our race strategies with fueling, hydration and pacing.  They all had a plan and they were ALL very ready to race an Ironman.  The 10 day forecast came next and this is where everything began to change.  Honestly, I never actually believed it was going to be 100+.  This was my 5th time racing Ironman CDA, and it has NEVER been over 85degrees.

As the days clicked off and the weather only got worse, it was time to adjust our plans.  All but one of my athletes lives in Arizona.  We train and we suffer in heat, we know what it takes.  That said, we do NOT go run a marathon after being out in the heat and already training for 6+hours.  We wake up early and we get as much done before the sun is up and the temps are blazing.

As part of TeamBSC all of our athletes are getting the personal coaching from either Michelle or myself, but in addition they get a community and support of a team as a whole.  While we were all getting race ready and adjusting our plans Michelle was doing research.  She was having 1:1 discussions with the Osmo creator Stacy Sims getting exact details on what we should be doing to stay hydrated in this heat.  We all adjusted our plans (drink ALL the OSMO) doing everything in our power to keep our bodies healthy.

Before going into my race report, I just want to say that my day was hands down made 100 times better being able to watch every single one of my athletes out there on the course fighting through the conditions, sticking to their plan, not once even considering giving up and doing it ALL with a smile and high 5 when I would see them.  Those smiles and seeing them out there only pushed me harder when my body wanted to do nothing more than stop and or walk.  I can't thank you all enough for making me so proud, and helping me out there even if you didn't know you were.

My 2015 race!

Before the weather forecast my plan was to swim strong, bike strong and have the run of my life.  I had been given some intel on my competition and I knew it was TOUGH.  I knew a Kona slot was a long shot, but it's Ironman and anything is possible.  While I may not be the fastest one out there I know how to execute a race.  I have been training with power for a year now, and I knew exactly where I needed to be to have a solid day on the course.  I was able to do a few of my long training rides out on the hilly section, and had my numbers dialed in.  On a light wind day I estimated a 5:50 bike split.  Holding my power, and eating all of my nutrition and hydration would set me up to run about a 3:45-3:50 marathon.  I had been training out on the course and had no problem running 8:30's -8:40's on trashed legs.  With a 1:05-1:06 swim I figured a 10:45-10:55  would put me in contention for a podium spot, and then give me a shot at Kona.

And then the 105 degree forecast happened.  My swim and bike plan did not change, with the exception of having to basically double my hydration plan.  This meant not only stopping at special needs (planned) for Osmo refills, but also going through EVERY single aid station to grab more water, soak myself with water and also stop to refill my bottles and mix Osmo.  I've never stopped on my bike in an Ironman.  My run plan was to do the same with Hydration carrying Osmo with me the entire run.  I also added a cooling towel to my special needs.  I figured I would assess pace when I got off the bike, having no idea what my body could run in 100+temps that was the wild card.

The swim went great!  I lined myself up exactly where I did the previous year at the front of the 1hr + wave.  My first split was 31:30 and I was stoked!  Having done this race so many times I new my second lap would be a little slower, but my tendency to swim to my right definitely slowed me down getting off course a bit.  I swam a 1:06 and was 8th in my AG out of the water.

Out on the first out and back on the bike I felt AMAZING.  I flipped my garmin to show me cadence and 30" power.  While my legs felt unbelievable my power was higher than I planned.  I slowed myself down and just started my hydration.  By mile 20 I already had to pee.  I climbed up the first big hill on the second out and back, and as soon as I descended I was able to go what would be my first of 6 times peeing on my poor bike!  While I wasn't hot yet, I was still pouring water on me at every aid station.  I was passed by a friend, and girl in my AG and as much as I wanted to go with her, I held back and stuck to my plan. Just before the turnaround (so maybe mile 35 ) I stopped to mix up my 3rd bottle of Osmo.  It took some extra time, but I was determined to stick to my plan and do everything in my power to set myself up for a good run.

I could feel the heat picking up as I headed back into town to start the second loop.  My back started to feel the sun, and while my body temp was fine I was wishing I hadn't walked passed the sunscreen people coming of T1.

I picked up my special needs bags with additional calories and more Osmo and headed back out on the bike.  The big climb on the second loop was where I really had to test my patience.  My power was at the top of where I wanted it, but I had at least 3 girls in my AG pass me.  It was SO hard to not start my race then and there, but I just prayed and trusted that my plan was going to work.

After the climb I was actually running out of water.  I had already gone through both of my Osmo bottles, but there wasn't an aid station for a while.  I just watched my power and stayed on target and kept stuffing down my nutrition.  I flip flopped with a guy on the bike that was covered in sunscreen and asked him where he got it.  He handed me some Zinc and let me coat my sizzling skin with it.  Seriously, I love making friends on the course!!!

At the next Aid station I stopped yet again and mixed more Osmo, had them pour water on my head and back and then was on my way.  My pace and dropped just a little from the extra time at the stop, but it was worth it.   On the way back into town I could just feel the heat radiating of the asphalt (I later read that the fire department said it was 148degs coming off the highway).  I had to make 2 more stops to deal with a wheel issue, but thankfully it was just the tape covering my disc that had come loose with all the water.  I started taking at least 3 bottles at each aid station to pour on myself.  If I was wet, I was cool. 

In my last 10 miles this is where things got ugly (not for me).  I saw people WALKING their bikes up the hill heading out to the turnaround.  I saw at least 15 people just sitting in the brush on the side of the highway seeking shade.  Kits were covered in salt.  People just looked ROUGH.  I was so thankful to see each and everyone of my athletes smiling and just doing their thing out there knowing they would all make it off the bike!

My bike time was 6:10, and I moved down to 13th place in my AG.  I drank 6 bottles of Osmo, at least 5 bottles of water and about 8 more poured on me.  I peed 6 times and consumed 1800-1900 calories.  I took 12 xe21 and zero additional salt.  My stomach felt fantastic the entire time!

As I headed into T2 I was shocked to feel how amazing my legs felt.  I purposefully left my bike shoes on so that I didn't burn my feet.  Everyone around me was barely walking to the changing tent so I did the same.  Then I realized what am I doing???  My legs felt great so I grabbed my bag and I booked it in there.  I dumped my bag out, did a first time sock change, drank my diluted Osmo pre-load, stuffed my gels down my top and headed out with 2 other girls in my age group (they had passed me and I had I guess caught back up with them).

My origional plan was to run 2x9' miles then drop it down to 8:40's and hold.  With the heat, I had no pacing strategy.  My plan was to run what I could and dig when I needed to do.  Within the first half mile I looked at my garmin and was running about a 9:30 and it felt comfortable.  I had to stop at a porta potty just before mile 1, and after that I was on my way.  I ran with a girl in my AG until the second aid station and she fell back.  Another girl passed me and shortly after one more.  I just kept doing my thing.  Sipping on my osmo, running about 8:45-9' pace but walking through every aid station taking in ice, and water.  I ate a gel every 4 miles, refilled my bottle with Osmo and topped it off with ice water when needed.  I took sponges and water every chance I had.

At the turnaround I realized I was gaining on 3 girls in my age group.  I walked up the steep hill, and cruised down it.  My energy felt great, and I was doing what I could to keep my core temp down.  I stopped at special needs and grabbed another premade bottle of Osmo, more gel and more e21.  I also had a cooling towel that I wrapped around my neck and tucked in my bra.  I ran through every sprinkler, and let everyone with a hose spray me.

Somewhere between miles 15-20 I passed 3 girls in my Age Group.  Shane & Theresa came out on the course to tell me what Michelle had passed on to them to run myself into 5th place.  At one point they thought I was in 4th and with 5 miles left I DUG.  I gave it every ounce of everything I had left in me to hold pace.

At mile 23 my friend came flying by me and as much as I wanted to try to go with her I did not have that speed left.  She was gone.  But, I didn't give up.  I picked up the pace as much as I could, walked the last 2 aid stations, ditched my towel, ditched my bottle and when I turned on to Sherman I clenched my teeth and held back tears.

For the first time ever I ran 6 girls down in my age group.  I RACED that Ironman like it was my last.  I took in 4 bottles of Osmo, 4e21, 5 gels and maybe one cup of cola total.  I never felt stomach issues, I never felt bonked, I never cramped.

Run time 4:10, 3rd fastest run split in my AG and putting me in 7th place with a finish time of 11:33.

I found Shane, got out of the finishers chute and headed straight to dump myself in the lake.  It felt amazing.  We walked to some shade and that's where everything changed.  I started to go white, and I couldn't keep my eyes open.  Shane half walked, half carried me to medical where they moved me from the chairs then to lay down, then when my eyes started rolling back in my head and I couldn't stop shaking they carried me to the "back."  I don't remember a lot of what happened other than a lot of questions and hearing my blood pressure and O2 stats not being good.  I got wrapped in a blanket, and an IV inserted.  I started coughing.  They called Shane and got my inhaler, but that made the coughing worse so they started a nebulizer breathing treatment.  After I finished that things started to go much better!  My blood pressure went up.  My body soaked up the IV in record time and I could hold my eyes open.

I don't know how long I was in there, but I can't thank those volunteers enough for taking care of me!  They were simply amazing.  Having never been in there, I witnessed some very scary stuff and was just happy I was not in worse shape!

I can hands down say that this was THE hardest Ironman, or any race that I have ever done.  It is also one that I am most proud of.  Holding back on the bike and taking extra time to hydrate was the best plan for me.  I'm simply amazed at how my body endured that run, and I have absolutely NO regrets!  I earned Baxter THE best medal to date!  This one was all for you, B!

To top it all off each and every single one of my athletes finished the day with a smile, and I couldn't ask for anything more!!!

What's next?  I have absolutely NO idea ;)

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to my amazing support crew.  All the cheers on course (Shane, Jen, Tracy, Teri, Dad, Cindy) the virtual support (far too many to name!), and the best sponsors providing me with everything I need (TriScottsdale, Tribe, Osmo Nutrition, Recoverye21, Planet Sun Hawaii and BeetElite).  And to my coach and TeamBSC Michelle.... words can't even begin to say what I want to thank you for turning me into the coach and athlete that I am today, and we're not even close to being finished :)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

When it rains....

It's been almost a month since my last post and I feel like my life has completely changed.  I can honestly say this has been one, if not the hardest, most stressful months of my life.

I'll back up a bit and talk about the good. Before our life got turned upside down and both of our dogs were diagnosed with cancer, I was training hard, feeling great and had a pretty solid race in Rocky Point. I conquered one of my huge fears which was swimming through huge waves, basically dolphin diving and body surfing and avoiding all stingrays! I biked my legs off and ran fairly strong landing my second 3rd overall place at the Rocky Point Tri.

After our trip to Mexico we learned that Baxter had hemangiosarcoma. The really bad kind. The kind that spreads quickly and the prognosis is 1-3-6 months.  I'm happy to say that he has mostly recovered from his splenectomy (where the tumor was) and that he's doing great. We've had a couple of little scares, (most recently our first visit to the doggy ER in CDA for some weird allergic reaction on his puppy paws),but for the most part he is happy, eating (hot dogs and steaks and whatever else he wants) and just trying to be a happy old dog. I've started Baxter on an organic mushroom immunity supplement to help keep him healthy, and we also opted to do a very low oral dose of chemotherapy. We never planned on doing this, but after speaking with an oncologist the risks were low, costs were low and if there was anything we could do to help give him a little more (good) time, well than why wouldn't we do it?

A week later later we took Juliette in to have a "thing" on her leg removed before we headed away for the summer. When I took her in because she ate the stitches out of her leg, we were told that she too had hemangiosarcoma. Thankfully, hers is a less aggressive and scary one, basically skin cancer.  While her cancer is about as good as we could hope for in prognosis, her little injury on the leg has been nothing but a pain in my ass. I have spent the past 3 weeks re-bandaging, cleaning and caring for her would that she has somehow even manged to chew through with a cone on her head.  There have been many a' melt downs and tears of frustration with this dog....

A weekend up north to celebrate the wedding of one of my absolute most favorite people in the world's wedding.  Jen, my twin! Shane stayed home with the dogs for one night so I didn't stress, and we had an amazing friend and dog sitter watch them the next. It was a beautiful weekend away, beautiful wedding and we even through in a nice little training ride climbing Mingus Mountain!

It was back to business, and of course more dog drama (and leg eating), lack of sleep and training for the last weekend before heading to CDA. Another random incident happened in the long ride.  My athlete, good friend and training partner had a bike crash right next to me. Thankfully, he walked away with some bad road rash, but no serious injuries and is already back up and training. But, as luck would have it, in the mix of the whole thing, I somehow dropped my bike and broke the derailleur hanger.  A piece which I later found out could not be found in town.  I once again, found myself stressed and in tears as I was supposed to leave town in 4 days, and race 24hours after my bike arrived. I don't know how I did it, but somehow I scrambled, found a bike shop to get the part and committed to fixing my bike in a few short hour window so that I could indeed race.

The next few days were spent packing and trying to stay afloat with work, (thankfully I have the BEST co-worker and friend covering my ass) athletes, training and dog care. Then, 2 nights before we were supposed to leave my house started to smell like something was burning up. When I realized it was the AC going out, I made a call to one of my athletes who owns a home services company with a cry for help. Sure enough the AC was dying and we were left with 12 hours to figure out what to do before leaving. With the help of many friends and a nice little zero interest financing plan we somehow had a brand new AC installed while we were on the road....   Not exactly an expense we had budgeted for, but honestly right along the lines of how everything was going this month.

I don't know how, but both our travel (me flying, Shane driving) went perfectly. We got to our rental house and it is just perfect. The dogs did well and Shane had no issues with the journey. On Friday I spent the day doing everything BUT race prep. I didn't sleep well (up with the dogs), didn't rest. I moved furniture, ran errands, and drove around. I finally had my bike at 6:30 pm and had to find the rest of my race gear. Around 10pm I finally went to bed, hoping for a good night's sleep and some race day magic.

Unfortunately, I've yet to have any sort of race day magic and that day was the same as always.  While I am fit, I knew that my month of stress and tears and maybe 2-4hours of sleep per night on top of crappy pre-race chaos would take it's toll and it did. The race was (for me) somewhat of a shit show. I was exhausted. My quads burned, and on the run all I had in me was a nice jog that was at a pace slower than I had run 20miles at a week before. I'd be lying if I said that dropping out didn't cross my mind, but instead of doing that I tried to just not think about sleeping, and just put in a training day. I made some friends on the course, I cheered for the people having a great day, and the second I crossed that finish line I laid down in the grass ready for a nap. I was so incredibly exhausted. I didn't have a bad swim, or bad bike, or a bonk on the run.  I just didn't have any gears and went through the motions for almost 5.5hours. One of my slowest half ironman race times in years.

We spent the evening in our new back yard with some cocktails and the dogs.  I was so tired getting into my recovery boots didn't even cross my mind!

Sunday was spent trying to finish unpacking and purchase everything we needed to make us (and the dogs) comfortable. Extra rugs and dogbeds so they weren't slipping all around the floors and some food to get the week started. Unfortunately, we had one last little scare with Baxter as he woke up with swollen feet. Before we left for our errands I gave him some benadryl, but when we got home several hours later they were still puffy. Being completely paranoid I went ahead and took him to the ER vet in town. THANKFULLY, they weren't concerned and figured he was just having a reaction to something new in the house.  Best possible news. However, the past few days I've spent trying to keep him from licking them and it has not been easy!  We've done epsom salt soaks (for me too!), more benadryl and extra anti-inflammatories.  

It's finally June. I've taken a couple of extra days to recover from my race than normal but have finally had a couple of quiet days, catching up on sleep and just hanging out. After noticing a slightly suppressed (low) HR on my run today, I moved my bike ride to the end of the week and am spending the cold and rainy day catching up on life and resting. I'm motivated and hopeful that I can spend the next 3 weeks refocusing my training priorities to fine tune myself for my absolute favorite race of the year, IMCDA. The weather looks gorgeous (warm) for this weekend so I can't wait to get out there on the course and put in some quality time!  With any luck (and lots of prayers) we will have no more drama for a while.  The dogs love it here, and I'm pretty darn happy myself!  Can't wait for Wednesday farmers market to start up and many ventures around town on the cruisers ;)

I hope that all of my amazing friends and people in my life realize how much I appreciate their support over the past month. I honestly don't know what I would have done with out you all.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Bubba Day

For as long as I can remember we used to call our long run days, Bubba day. Baxter would get to go for a long run and then snuggle with us on the couch as we recovered from training. It's all he's known. Running, training, the stupid bike rides where he got left behind for hours, to ending the weekends snuggling on the couch. Bubba Day.

Although most people would say that pretty much every day is Bubba Day, I have officially declared every day until the end of his days BUBBA DAY!

Last Saturday afternoon I was sitting on the couch recovering from a 7hour workout.  I had a big weekend planned, a sort of mini self training camp.  Baxter was sitting next to me and started to tremble.  It was odd, and concerned me.  I worried he was maybe sick, so I decided to try to feed him.  If he would eat then I figured he would be ok.  He ate his dinner and seemed fine so I prepped all my nutrition and bottles for the next day's ride. 

A few hours later he started to walk around wobbly with some very labored/weird breathing. I jumped over to him and got him to a dog bed where his eyes went all droopy.  I freaked out and called my vet. Bless this woman's heart. She answered the phone (while clearly out) on a Saturday evening and talked me through things to look for and next steps. Within a few minutes I was headed back to an animal Hospital that I knew all too well....

Shortly after the doctors took Baxter and examined him they came in telling me that they had found fluid in his abdomen. Worried that it could be a splenetic tumor, which is often times the C word, they wanted to do a chest xray to see if they saw anything on his lungs, most likely meaning it was cancer and that it had spread. I began to lose my shit, and a very special friend whom I'd been texting with insisted that she come to be with me and I finally agreed. My heart was racing with fear and I was worried that under pressure I would not be able to make good decisions or even remember what was going on.

The xrays came back clear and Baxter seemed to be stable so we agreed that I would take him home for the night. I snuggled up to him, not sleeping a wink, worried that more of his symptoms would come back. I spoke with my vet, whom I incredibly lucky to have met a few years ago in our Mexico neighborhood (we are neighbors!) and agreed that if I took him back to the hospital and they could tell that his blood levels had not dropped we could wait until Monday to do an ultrasound at her office. All of this could have been done on Sunday at the vet hospital, but I feel safe in Dr Ferguson's care.  I trust her and her care for my dogs.

I took Baxter back to the hospital for more blood work. The doctor on shift examined him and came back to tell me that he had lost very minimal blood and that she thinks he would be fine with me at home and to wait for the ultrasound on Monday. Relieved, but scared, we were on our way back home with a plan. I had this horrible feeling in my gut that this was not something that was going to go away, so I called Shane and said I thought he needed to come home (working in California). He was already working on it but could not find a flight that didn't cost 4x the normal and wouldn't get him in until late that night so he hopped in the car and headed on the 10hour trek home.

Monday morning we took Baxter into our vet and we were all immediately brought into a room with an ultrasound crew. It was the most calm and comfortable emergency experience and I knew I made the right decision to bring him here vs the hospital. Val (Dr. F) was in the room with me and I could see the concern on her face, much like mine. I got to hold Baxter's head while they looked all around his belly and explained everything they saw to us. They showed us the small mass on his spleen, but could tell that while there was free fluid/blood in his chest, it was no longer there.  His heart looked strong,  and there were no signs of any other masses.

The decision was made to have Baxter's spleen and the mass removed right away. For many dogs that develop these tumors, they suddenly burst and the dogs die of a hemorrhage.  I'm so thankful for my over cautious obsession with my boy, as this very well could of happened to him.

After surgery we were able to come get Baxter later that afternoon.  We were told he had a 2" tumor, but that everything else looked great. The tumor was sent off to pathology to determine if it was benign or hemangiosarcoma, a very bad quickly spreading cancer. We got a very drugged up Baxter into the car and took him to the hospital where they would monitor him all night.  One of the side affects of this surgery is often heart arrhythmia, so they need to be monitored.  I was able to call Baxter and check on him as much as I wanted. On one of my calls I was told that he did have some arrhythmias so they were keeping him on a drip to control it.

After a long night it was finally Tuesday morning and I called as soon as I woke up hoping to go get him. Unfortunately the arrhythmia continued so they needed to be able to wean him off the drugs first. Finally, were were able to take him home late that afternoon.  There is more to that story, including a very unpleasant experience with one of the doctors, but I'd rather not focus on that...

The first few days of recovery were HARD. I stayed up with Baxter the first few nights laying next to him while he tried to sleep. He was up and down and getting sick.  He refused to eat, and was restless. On Wednesday, Val came over and gave him some injections to help with the nausea. While he seemed to perk up a bit, he still wouldn't eat. Thursday we got him on an appetite stimulant, and after a very long nap I got him to eat some peanut butter.  Over the past 3 days we've got him eating more.  His spirit is up, he's barking at random noises, he looks GREAT. He is honestly probably doing TOO much, but eventually passes out at night.  He's sleeping in my arms every night and back to following me around the house.

Today, I got a call from my vet and the pathology results confirmed hemangiosarcoma.  Unfortunately the prognosis for this type of cancer is not good. For now, I'm doing my best to just stay calm and deal with what comes.  The cancer was limited to the spleen, which was removed, but it is a cancer that metastasizes and it can happen quickly. As soon as Baxter is recovered from the surgery, which he is well on his way, he will be back to his normal snuggly, active old self. Eventually we will see signs that the cancer has spread and will have to do what we can to keep him comfortable and out of pain. I will be making an appointment with an oncologist to see what sort of natural treatments we can provide to keep him as healthy and comfortable as possible in the time that he as left.

I know I have been the crazy obsessive dogmom posting daily pictures of my boy, but to be honest, I don't give a shit if I'm that crazy person. This dog has been with me since I was just a kid.  He's been through every single monumental event in my life and has never left my side. I can't imagine what the last 14 years would have been like without him, and I know that my life is forever changed, and forever better because of him.  

"Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole."
Roger Caras (photographer and writer)

As I think back to this week and the amazing support for so many people.  Texts, phone calls, hundreds of comments on my instagram and facebook pictures, I realize that I am not the only person who has been touched by this amazing creature. He has been through so many stages of my life, that have involved so many different people.  My post college roommates, first running partners, current running partners, two other BFF dogs that he has outlived. Work friends from the days I brought him to the office at PetSmart, sleepovers with my niece when she was just a baby and obsessed with him.... If you ever had the chance to meet Baxter, you couldn't help but fall in love with him, and he you.

As the title of this blog post, every single day from here on out with him will be Bubba Day.  It will be filled with joy, doing things he loves, surrounded by people that love him.  He will make the trek to CDA in 3 weeks and he will get another walk on Tubbs Bub's Hill.  He will join me on Sherman for beers, and be there like he was in spirit for my first Ironman.

 I will carry him with me over 140.6 and bring him home my hardest earned medal for him to wear and proudly pose for a picture.  But for the rest of the day, I will spend my mother's day spoiling him rotten, snuggles and all.