Friday, June 8, 2012

Mental Toughness built through EPIC events~

My 4:45 am wake up call came all to soon.  It's the weekend most of us have been waiting for, or at least I have.  I knew that once this weekend arrived I would be that much closer to my event. On the IronTeam calendar it read "EPIC WEEKEND."

And it was Epic and changed me into a stronger person; evolving into iron or so I thought.

My week had been emotionally draining, trying to deal with upcoming personal issues.  I found myself edgy and tired.  I knew the weekend would be here before I knew it which meant not only preparing my gear for the weekend, but mentally preparing myself for what was in store.

Friday night came all too soon.  I  "carbo" loaded with pasta for lunch and dinner.  I also made sure I hydrated all day with water and Gatorade.  I packed for what would be sure to be an EPIC Saturday; a 2 mile open water swim and a 98+ mile bike ride which included 10,000+ feet of climbing.

Hearing the alarm going off at 4:45am I got myself to roll out by 4:50am.  With what felt like one eye opened I splashed my face with water, put my swim gear on, toasted my bagel, spread my PB & honey on it and chowed it down with a banana.  Matt had gave me a quick kiss during the commotion, told me to be safe, have fun and an I love you.  He had already racked my bike for me so all I needed to do was load up my car with my gear.  I took a quick sweep of the house, hopped in my truck and was on my way to Steven's Creek Reservoir.  We were to arrive by 6am and our swim was to begin at 7.  IronTeam is consistent with start times, so I was sure to be there early and I was.  I was the first to arrive at 5:50am.

As the team began rolling in, my head started spinning.  I kept thinking, I can't believe I'm actually going to do this.  The thought of swimming 2 miles and then jumping on the bike for 98 miles of hill climbing made me second guess if I would actually be able to do this.  

Before I knew it, wetsuits, swim booties and goggles were on.  Stephanie, one of my team mates, suggested I don't swim with my booties because I'd be too hot.  I shared with her my "phobia" of squishy things touching my feet and she assured me it would be fine.  She even walked me down to the water and showed me that I would only be touching gravel and before I knew it, I wouldn't even be able to touch the ground.  The week prior she also was thoughtful enough to send me an email with some pointers to get through my 1st ocean swim. And when it was done, sent me another e-mail checking up on how that swim went.  AMAZING.....My team mates! ♥

Running a little behind we began at 7:30.  We were to do 4 loops around the buoy's that were placed out in the water.  As I looked at them, I thought, "How?" and "How in the allotted time?"  And then I thought, "Will I be able to swim continuously for 2 miles?  And If I can't how will I complete my Ironman?"  After all those thoughts hit me at once, I started my Garmin and began swimming. It wasn't until I reached the first buoy to get my rhythm.  At that point I told myself to take it one lap at a time.  Count, stroke, technique and clear your mind of negative thoughts.   When I reached the end of the 1st loop, I hit the lap button on my Garmin, took a glance at it and it read 20 minutes.  At that point I thought to myself, not bad.  If I keep that pace I will be way under 2 hours.  That excited me and thought, once I finish this next lap, I'll be halfway done.  One, two, one, two, ten and two, place your hands in the water like you are sticking it in a mail slot, high elbows and don't forget that you are a rotisserie chicken; all things my coaches and team mates shared with me.  These words kept me focused for the next 3 laps.

Finishing lap 2 and hitting the lap button, glancing at the time, again I completed it in 20 minutes.  Happy with that time, I thought I'm halfway there.  I continued to stay focused and began catching up to some people, bumping into a few and I was passed by a few.  I recall Camilo running into me and me saying to him, "You're trying to lap me aren't you?"  We both had a quick chuckle and we continued to swim.  Completing this lap meant I only had 1 to go.  When I saw that I was at 1:01 after 3 laps I was overjoyed!  I was almost done and would surely be out of the water within an hour and a half time.  This was far beyond my anticipated time of 2 hours.

The last lap felt like an eternity.  I kept zig zagging to all the buoys and the last one felt like it kept moving further away.  But when I did finally reach it and began heading to shore, I tried to pick up my pace.  It would all be over soon. When I reached shore, I hit the lap button at 22 minutes.  I was done!  2.03 miles in 1:23.  Vineman I got your number -  Goal Time - 1:30!!

As I stepped out of the water Coach Ron was there cheering us on, and was very encouraging about how well, all of us did.  I staggered to my transition area, put my bike gear on and set my Garmin up.  I enabled the alert to go off every 15 minutes.  This was a reminder for me to eat or drink something, and something I promised myself to do since the weekend prior I had suffered from dehydration.  I hit the bathroom before riding and I was off!   Prior to taking off Christy gave me a quick suggestion - start off slow.  I found this advice very helpful and I knew it was going to be a long day.  I figured minimum of 8 hours on the bike and a max of 10. I was ready so off I went for a 98 mile EPIC ride!

First up was Mt. Eden.  This was a ride we've done several times in training as well as do hill repeats on as a team.  I knew this I could handle. Once I reached the top it was a nice descent to Pierce Road.  I knew Pierce was going to be tough and I had done it only once before when I first began riding.  Boy did I forget how tough it was.  Yes, I made it to the top but not without the feeling like my heart was going to explode out of my chest! I swear my heart rate felt like it was at 190! 

Once Pierce was completed it was time to get down to real business.  Next up, Highway 9. The climb was about 2000 feet and 5.5 miles but those 5.5 miles felt like eternity! I recall looking at my Garmin and it only read that I was at mile 6.  At that point I honestly thought I was going to quit at the first opportunity I got.  I thought to myself, how can I continue doing 92 more miles?  This is absolutely ridiculous.  What is the point of this ride? This is no longer fun to me. This will be the one and only time I will do this because I will never join IronTeam again. I was passed by the Stanford cycling team twice and by a few others. They whizzed by me like nobodies business.  And I just shook my head thinking, "Really?" and tried to mentally boost my confidence by telling myself, "I did swim 2 miles before getting on the bike."  After what felt like hours but only was about a little over an hour, I made it to the top.  We had an "unofficial" water stop there, which was awesome.  Cold water is exactly what I craved.  I topped off my bottles, looked at my map and told myself, "Only 15 miles to the 1st scheduled water stop. I can do this."  So off went with Cole. We rode together for quite a while and then he lost me going down Page Mill Road.  That descent was steep and I took my time doing it.  Once at the bottom and a quick left I hit the 1st water stop.  Again, fueled up on food, filled my water bottles, used the restroom, looked at my map and mentally prepared myself for the next climb; Old La Honda Road.

I was in awe of the beautiful scenery of the ride and I wish I had the opportunity to stop and take pictures, but when you have a ton of hills to climb in a day, for me I had to stay focused on staying on my bike and peddling through it all.  La Honda was the most challenging for me.  I was surrounded by the beautiful redwoods and found that there were several cyclists on the road.  It was very narrow but very smooth. At one point I finally caught up to Cole as he was pulled off to the side and I asked it he was okay.  He said he just needed a little break.  I continued up the hill and when I made it to the top I crossed over Skyline and hit water stop #2. I was ecstatic to reach my next mark.  At that point I met up with Donella.  I fueled up on water, had a couple of recess buttercups, a few pringles and prepped my bento box with a PB&J and Gu.  Once done it was time to make my way to water stop #3 but not before our next climb; Pescadero Road.

We descended on Old La Honda and I took my time since the road was very narrow.  Once we hit Highway 84 and the road opened up a little I flew down the hill.  It was fantastic!  When the road is open and wide, I love going FAST!  The scary part on that ride is the horrible accident that happened. The car's whole windshield looked shattered, a person was on a stretcher and from what it looked like it was a motorcycle involved accident. As bad as I felt for whomever was injured, I was relieved it had noting to do with anyone on my team.

Shortly after that site it was time to hit Pescadero, which was our next climb.  I honestly didn't think that climb was so bad, especially after what I just went through on Old La Honda.  So I punched through that hill the best I could and before I knew it, I was at water stop #3 and more than halfway through my ride.  This was my favorite stop because it had a very special treat there - Banana Bread! YUMMY!  I had 2 pieces at the stop and put 3 more in my zip lock bag for my ride.  I also fueled up on water and Gatorade.  By this point the weather did a drastic change from warm 80 degree temperatures to what felt like a low 60 degree.  A big change and I didn't want to sit around too long and get cold. I knew that from this stop to the final rest stop, it would be the most mentally challenging part of my ride.  Up next were two sets of hills; Stage Road and Tunitas Creek Road.

The wind was blowing and it was chilly leaving water stop #3.  I began riding with Christy and Chienyo. It was nice to have company since a lot of my ride I found myself alone.  It was pretty windy on Stage Road and that is one element I find myself struggling with- WIND.  But soon enough it was time to climb 1 of the 3 hills Stage Road would throw at us.  I didn't think it was that bad but it did seem quite tedious and long.  The climbs were not nearly as challenging as some of the ones prior but I still had a good sweat going which was warmed me up in this cooler area of the ride.  The uphill climbs were evenly rewarded with the downhill descents.  Once we hit the final hill on Stage Road it was onto Highway 1 for a couple miles and then we turned onto the long awaited Tunitas Creek Road.  I've never experienced it, and only heard stories of how difficult and how long it was.

I remember seeing Coach Karen at the turn and at that point both Christy and Chienyo had stopped, I kept going and before I knew it Christy caught up to me.  We chatted a little and then she went on her way, in her words, "She only has one speed."  She is a great cyclist and it was the last time I saw her.

The first 2 miles of Tunitas were somewhat flat with a slight incline.  The road was windy and I didn't see anyone on my ride.  I had no sense of the time of day, I only knew it was getting cooler.  It was right about mile 69 that I was met a surprise - a hill that I almost didn't make it up. I was feeling tired and fatigue. I was forced to get out of the saddle and peddle.  The incline was ridiculous.  Everyone talked about Tunitas and how long and annoying of a ride it was, and right about that moment, I began to curse the road.  For the next 2 grueling miles it was in the saddle, out of the saddle.  I had to stand to make sure I could make it up certain parts of the ride.  At one point I finally caught up with someone.  It was Beth.  She had stopped and I checked up on her to make sure she was okay.  She had been complaining about pain in her hip/leg.  She assured me she was okay so I continued on.  And she was, because about 5 minutes after I passed her, she came up behind me, saying "This is ridiculous right?"  And it was.  She flew up the hill and I didn't see her again until I hit the top.  Once the hill began to flatten out, I looked at my Garmin at it was at 71 miles.  I knew I only had a couple left until I would hit the final water stop and that gave me the biggest sense of relief.  But during those last miles the road just seemed to go forever.  There wasn't much traffic on the road, only a couple cars passed me and during my final mile and a half a vehicle came up beside me.  Coach Ron stuck his head out the window and said, "A-MAZ-ING!"  "You are almost there."  I sighed a sigh of relief, smiled and they continued on.

Left with my thoughts, I began to cry!  I knew I'd finish this ride.  I knew once I reached the water stop the remainder of the ride would be a piece of cake. The fact that I would still have 25 miles to go didn't even phase me.  Then it happened, I hit the top and saw the rest stop!  I hopped off my bike said, "YES" with both hands up and the volunteers gave me a little cheer.  Beth and Sandy were at the top as well.  I quickly used the restroom, borrowed a little chamois butter (Oh ya, I feeling the chaffing right about now - OUCH) from Sandy, filled my water bottles and I was off, for a long descent down Kings Mountain!

I knew it was really getting late now as the temperature dropped dramatically and the wind picked up.  I pulled up my arm warmers for the descent.  Being so windy I took my time going down and was absolutely chilled to the bone.  The sweat cooled me to the point where I was shivering.  At the bottom of King's I almost went the wrong way, but saw Sandy so I turned around and followed her.  My legs at that point was not the issue, it was the chaffing of the female area.  I just wanted off the bike!

I continued to follow Sandy and when she turned it didn't look familiar but I continued to follow her and then it hit me.  We were going the wrong way.  We took a left turn and should of taken a right.  I called to her, she stopped and we decided  instead of backtracking we would just continue in the direction we were going.  She said we would  eventually make it to Foothill.

As we began peddling my chain got stuck.  I almost fell but clipped off in time.  Sandy had already begun going and I had hoped she would realize I wasn't behind her.  I looked at my chain and it was stuck in my derailer.  It took me about 10 minutes to finally get it fixed.  Jumping on my bike and peddling my butt up Sandhill as fast as I could to catch her, to my relief she was waiting for me at the top.  Once we met up, we were on our way, again.

Arriving at Foothill, I thought to myself, We are on the home stretch.  Only 10 miles to go and it was great to have the wind at our back.  Eventually we met up with a few other IronTeamer's.  We ran into Beth and about 3 miles on Foothill.  I told Sandy that I just wanted off my bike so off I went.  I eventually caught up with Greg around the 280 and foothill mark.  At the light I recall hearing a yelp, and I said to him, "I hope that wasn't a dog, I don't want to look!"  But about 10 feet in front of us was a coyote, just howling.  I was relieved but also hoped the little guy wouldn't get hit by a car either.  I could see Beth at a distance and catching up to her became my goal so out of the saddle I went and I began peddling as quickly as I could.  Eventually I caught up to her at the base of Montebello Road.  I told her "Great Job!"  I knew she had been in pain earlier at rest stop #4 and I thought it was awesome how she pushed through the pain and finished out the ride ~ I find her very inspiring and motivating.

When I rode up to the cars I was overjoyed to have completed the ride.  My Garmin read 97.82 miles!  Sandy and my wrong turn actually shaved off a mile, but it was close enough to 100 that I am more than okay saying that I rode 100 miles!  Getting off my bike I saw "the new guy - Mike" and asked him to take a picture of me!  I couldn't stop smiling!  I was so happy! I had wished I had the energy to lift my bike over my head but I didn't, just posing with it was good enough!


I quickly changed out of my bike clothes, put on warm ones and met my team at the picnic area where most everyone was there eating.  I quickly walked down, hands raised up, saying "YAAAAY!!"  I was happy!  I did it! 100 Miles with my Garmin reading 9 hours 45 minutes!  It was EPIC!!

I shared with my team, somewhat embarrassed, that I felt like a "BADASS!!"  Harold, one of my team mates even commented how I had the biggest grin on my face.  I know I did.  It was a proud moment for me.  I received Hi Fives, hugs and knuckle bumps from everyone.  I wasn't the last one in and I felt honored to cheer on those who came in behind me.  It's never about who finishes first or last on this team, it's about supporting your team!

I quickly chowed down, two burgers, a chocolate milk and my recovery drink.  And before I knew it the time read 8pm and needed to get home to prepare for the next day.  A 12 mile EPIC run!

Arriving home I unloaded the car, showered and was off to bed.  It took me a while to calm myself from the days events.  I was still in awe of what I had accomplished.  I wasn't in too much discomfort, my legs felt a bit tight but not in pain.  After about an hour and a half I was finally able to fall asleep.  But 7:30am came all too fast.  Time to rise and shine for Day 2 of "EPIC Weekend!"

12 - 15 Miles was the option.  My mind was set for 15.  I told myself 15.  My legs only allowed me 12. I ran/walked a 4:1, which was running for 4 minutes and walking for 1.  The course was hilly, and much harder than I had expected.  It wasn't until the 1st water stop at mile 4 that my legs finally felt loose.  I didn't even try to attempt to run up the hills.  I ran each flat, downhill and any small incline, and even then I felt exhausted. I hydrated myself well, took my Gu every 4 miles but the 100 miles and 10,000+ feet of climbing the day before took everything out of me.  When I reached mile 8 I was just ecstatic to be 4 miles away from finishing.  Although, I had another obstacle that was causing me concern; the need for a restroom.

A group of my team mates kept telling me to go in the bushes, but for me it wasn't that simple. Feeling pre-occupied with baby wipes in hand, off I went praying I'd make it to the end of the Reservoir to the restroom.  My run/walk seemed like eternity!  All I could think of is what Lydia said, "I hope you have buns of steel."

Making it to the restroom was heaven! As I stepped out, washed my hands, bent over to tie my shoe all I could hear is, "Let's go Tyza!"  It was Anna.  She kept me company the remainder of my run.  We had some good laughs, she shared some good advice and it was just all around good company the rest of the way.  Running in felt great because I did it.  12.51 miles in 2 hours 40 minutes.  Today's time didn't matter to me.  What mattered is that I survived IronTeam's "EPIC" Weekend!

We finished it off at a very enjoyable breakfast/lunch at Sue's house where we grubbed on eggs, bacon, oatmeal, fruit, bagels, toast, juice; it was PERFECT!

In reflection to this weekend, and in sharing my experience with other I'm sure some people question, "Why and what was the purpose of 100 miles with 10,000+ feet of hill climbing?  Why swim 2 miles before that? And why run so many miles the following day?"

What I can answer for myself is this:
~ Epic Weekend built up my confidence to a new level.  I can confidently call myself a "BADASS" after what I did on Saturday.  If I can be on my bike in the weather, road conditions and the length of time I did, come Ironman day, I WILL FINISH!  And as for my getting my legs going the next day after a non-stop 12 hour day of swimming and biking, is so that I know what it feels like to run on tired legs.  Tired legs is what I will have on race day.  So as difficult as it was, I proved to myself, my own worst enemy, that I can swim 2 miles non-stop, and I can stay on my bike for 100 miles and run on tired legs after that. It's all preparation to my event.  I knew one day I'd understand the madness to my coaches workouts.  There is a reason why we do the insane workouts we do.  It's so that on July 28, 2012, I WILL BE AN IRONMAN! ~

With 7 weeks to go, I can almost taste the end. As much as I enjoy the HIGH's of Ironman training the reality is we do also hit LOW's which I think is equally important to share.

My week has been a struggle.  The personal issues I had been emotionally dealing with the prior week came crashing down on me Monday.  June 4th was my late father's birthday and it hit me much harder than past years. I believe it's because I'm on the brink of embarking on a monumental event in my life.  It saddens me that during this event, he will not be a part of it; especially at the finish line. This along with a few other personal life events, have taken a lot out of me emotionally which has effected my training. The entire week I've found myself completely exhausted, sad, full of anxiety and left with very little energy to function.  This has led me feeling completely guilty for taking the last 4 days off from training.  A good friend of mine said, "To let that go for it has no benefit to me" and she is absolutely correct.  I am ready.  I know the excitement and anticipation of race day will return but it's scary how at the moment it feels like it's disappeared. She believes it sounds as though I'm displaying symptoms of  burnout which is common when you turn your life upside down to focus on physical and mental training 6 days a week for the past 7 months. Hearing that provided me with a little relief.  I never really looked at how much I do in a week when it comes to my training both physically and mentally.  

The previous week the coaches also sent out an e-mail about the over training and to be very cautious of it during race phase as this can be a very common practice. 

Speaking with both my coach and friend today was very insightful.  Both said the same thing:
-Do some daily meditation techniques
-Take an extra day off or two
-Have fun and enjoy the things you love
-Take time for YOU and RECHARGE
-Watch a movie
-Get a massage
-Stick to the schedule and don't do anything extra 

Going forward I must have a new outlook.  I am human.  IronTy is just a name.  It's okay to take an extra day off.  It's okay to take it easy.  Give yourself a pat on your back for your accomplishments.  STOP and look at how far you have come!  

We have the guidance from coaches, mentors and friends for a reason and I intend to do what they suggest.  I have the desire in my heart to keep going, quitting has never be an option but I have to remind myself that I am human and will have high's and low's.  It's normal and perfectly OK because in 50 days I WILL BE AN IRONMAN!

Not only did EPIC Weekend built Mental Toughness it also taught me a little bit of myself.  I may be IronTy but I also can't forget about Tyza. 

Today I'm left with the following quote of my friend ~

"If less than 1% of the population does a marathon in their lifetime, then how many do an Ironman? Even less. One of the things that encompasses the journey & makes the success of reaching the starting line & then the finish line is the highs & the lows we experience on the way there. Focus on how far you've come & what it has taken to get here." 

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