Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Team Drea Challenge Guest Post #5 - by Elizabeth

My (un)Race Report

My journey to the finish line at the Lowcountry Trail Half Marathon has been weird and winding.  I set out on January 1 2015 with plans to complete this October race as part of the #TeamDreaChallenge while raising money and awareness for ALS research.  In 9 months I trained 241.2 miles while posting weekly #tbt memories of my most favorite roommate ever, Andrea Lytle Peet.  Along the way, I had a variety of training partners who I’d like to thank:
  • James Lawrimore: James is my 9 year old nephew who was more than willing to take on training for my first ever race, the Kids Fun Run (1 mile) as part of the Cooper River Bridge Run weekend.  He posted a fastest training time of 9:42 and was ready to take on the 1 mile course on Friday March 27.  We had a special spectator cheering us on as Andrea was visiting Charleston that weekend.  Rain wreaked havoc on us that day and many of the fun kids’ events were cancelled.  We posted Andrea up under a tent and set out to the start line of the course that had been altered by the recent downpour (hmmm….this becomes a recurring theme for races I have entered…).  Despite my warning to stay with me, James shot off the start line and it took about ¼ mile before I actually caught up with him.  There was no official timing but James and I felt great as we crossed the finish line of the shortened course.  James continues his training as part of the running club at his school and plans to run the Kids Fun Run again in 2016.
  • Lizzie Walters: Lizzie is a 17 yo high school cross country-running superstar.  While on a yearly family vacation to Hendersonville NC with my church, I was just over halfway through my training period with a 7 mile run looming large over the mountains of NC.  I asked around to see if anyone would be interested in running with me and Lizzie gladly agreed to slow her average pace enough (ok, A LOT) to jog along with me.  I really enjoyed this training run with the elevation change and the first cool temperature of my training period.
  • Mark Lockett: Actually, it’s Dr Mark Lockett and he happens to be my boss.  My normal weekend training partner was out of town and Dr Lockett agreed to step in and join me for a shortened 6 mile run after I had taken a few days off since my hip was bothering me (hmm….may have been the first sign something was wrong).  Dr Lockett routinely runs the annual Cooper River Bridge Run 10K and his yearly goal is to beat the guy dressed as a banana (is there anything worse than getting passed by a guy dressed in a banana suit?)  My average pace on runs had been 9:30/mile and Dr Lockett thought he could keep up with this pace without any recent training.  Unfortunately, I was so excited to be running again after a short break that I finished the first mile in 9:04.  An equally quick 2nd mile set us up for failure we required multiple walking breaks on our run/walk tour of the historic Charleston Battery.
  • Miranda Head and Megan Staley: Megan is a neighbor on the coolest street in Carolina Bay: Bermuda Stone.  While at a neighbor’s house to honor Megan’s husband Bill’s first overseas deployment with the Air Force, I started talking about my plans to train for Lowcountry Trail.  Megan was looking for a way to stay busy during Bill’s deployment and agreed to sign on as an official training partner, along with her dog Chole.  Megan was my early morning buddy for short runs during the week.  We met at 5am and were often joined by another neighbor, Miranda Head, and her dog Roxy.
  • Monika Aune: When it came time to get serious about my training program, I called Monika and asked if she would be interested in training and running the event with me.  I knew she’d say yes with no hesitation.  Monika is a former rower and coxswain extraordinaire with Ohio State and she taught me everything I know about coxing.  Last August, she completed a half-Ironman so she was more than well prepared to join me on my long runs on Saturday mornings.  Now, Monika likes to sleep in on her Saturday mornings and rarely signs up for an 8am Saturday row because of this.  However, she agreed to meet me weekly at earlier and earlier times as our distance increased.  We enjoyed running through the Citadel (cute boys in uniforms) and surrounding Hampton Park. 
As many of you know, that nagging hip pain turned into a full blown injury (stress fracture) after an 11 mile training run.  I was less than 2 weeks away from the October 10 race day and it was devastating to know that I wouldn’t be able to complete my goal.  But I was still committed to supporting my training partners who planned to run (Miranda, Megan and Monika). 

However, Rain-mageddon happened the week prior to the scheduled race, a trail run at a Parks and Rec facility on the Stono River.  Even 1 week after the devastating rains and flooding, the trails of Mullett Hall Equestrian Center were not raceable, and the event was rescheduled to Sunday October 25. 

Unfortunately, Megan and Miranda were unable to run on the rescheduled date.  But with warrior spirits, they refused to give up and held the first annual Carolina Bay Half Marathon on the morning of the original event.  

I met them at the halfway mark with my sign of support, water and sustenance.

They celebrated with champagne at the finish line (every race should have this) and homemade finisher medals.  Bill came home on Sunday October 18 and we celebrated with another neighborhood party.  Welcome Home Bill and thanks for your service!
[Editor's note: Team Drea members are getting really adept at making up our own events.]

Monika managed to extend her training by 2 weeks to run the rescheduled event. Many people who originally registered were apparently not available on this date, so it was a light turnout of about 150 for the grouped start of the 5K/Half Marathon.  My mom tagged along (I think she’s worried about me getting around on the crutches) and we set up camp at the start line.  The course was planned to repeat one time, but due to continued flooding of some of the back trails, the new race plan was a loop x 3.  Just before her start, Monika proudly announced her plan for a 2 hour race.  She’s ambitious, that girl, considering we trained for a 2:10 race. 

Monika came around to finish the first loop in 38 minutes, so she was definitely on pace her 2 hour goal.  We watched as people fast and slow came around to complete their first loops.  There were no costumes, though, which was quite disappointing (I was hoping for at least 1 banana).  Monika looked great again as she came around after her 2nd loop in under 1:20, still on pace for a 2 hour race.  After she passed, we moved our little camp over to the finish line to see the first man cross the finish line in under 1:25.  It was warming up quickly at this point and reached nearly 80 degrees by 10:30am. 




I can’t tell you how excited I was to see Monika make the last turn and head for the finish line as the clock rolled over to 2 hours.  Her official time as 2:00:35, good enough for 2nd place in her age division!  I am so grateful that I was able to live the race vicariously through Monika!

Thanks to everyone who donated and helped raise over $2000 for ALS research.  I am so grateful for the Team Drea Challenge, despite my injury, and look forward to becoming a triathlete in 2016 as part of the Ramblin’ Rose super sprint triathlon series. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Ironman Louisville Spectator Report

I don’t have a formal bucket list because, well, I worry what would happen when I crossed everything off. Call me superstitious.

But I do have a running list in my head of things-I-want-to-do-in-life, which contains things like “Watch Julie Teach 3rd Grade.” (Done!)

“Watch an Ironman” was definitely on that list. What it should have said was “Watch an Ironman that Friends are Racing in Your Honor.” Watching an Ironman is unavoidably inspiring – seeing the power of human bodies, trumped only by the strength and depth of the human spirit. Watching an Ironman that your friends are racing gives you time to contemplate those wonders AND provides you a unique-in-life opportunity to share moments of total elation transmitted through a wave, smile, blown kiss, “hey!”, and if you’re truly lucky, a hug. And it gives you something to structure your 17+ hour day around.

[Side note: If you’ve ever wanted to be a celebrity, doing an Ironman is for you. I can’t imagine any other activity where people would willingly stand around for hours just to catch a glimpse of you and then scream like crazy.]


DP and I have been planning to watch Ironman Louisville since last November when our friend Molly told us she’d decided to go for it. After all, Molly saying I’d inspired her to take the plunge is one of the moments that contributed to my idea for the Team Drea Challenge. The fact that it was the same weekend 10 years after Jon Blais accomplished his unbelievable feat at Kona made it all the more special.

Turns out we had several other people to cheer for: Liz, an online friend who joined Team Drea a couple of months ago, is a speed demon who somehow managed to qualify for (and race) Kona while in med school; Meghan, a friend from Davidson whose triathlon star is rising along with her pro IronTwin sister, Kelly; and Meredith, aka Swim Bike Mom, whose book, blog, and online Tri-Fecta group got me to and through my 70.3 and has had my back since my diagnosis.

Pre-Race

We drove from Silver Spring to Louisville on Saturday, which took 9+ hours (still less time than an Ironman…even for Meghan!) and drove straight to Liz’s hotel to drop off her care package…and, you know, MEET her since we only know each other through Facebook. We talked with her and her parents – good, good people :)

Then found our hotel through the crazy maze of overpasses, bridges, and construction that is downtown Louisville, and settled in for the night.

Swim

We were still in our hotel room during the swim start, a fact I felt moderately guilty about because – a) we weren’t out there supporting our friends, and b) because if this was my one chance to live out my Ironman dreams vicariously, missing the starting line wasn’t a great way to begin.

Since I really wasn’t racing though, I rationalized that getting bent out of shape over it would have meant I’d traveled too far into my own fantasy. Also, IMLou has an unusual dock start where athletes jump into the water one at a time. No mass start like Kona or even a large wave start so I figured it wouldn’t be that dramatic of a visual. Had I been participating, that absolutely would have been my kind of start, but sadly, I digress…

When we got to the swim finish, I saw I’d been wrong. Set against the backdrop of the rising sun and bridges crisscrossing the Ohio River, there was still a mass of thousands of athletes moving together, thrashing through the water like a feeding frenzy of sharks, which was at once terrifying and beautiful.


We stood along the bike out chute so we could watch the athletes running their bikes to the mount line, sopping wet and still pulling on clothes one-handed. Energy was high – a collective sigh of relief that the 2.4-mile swim was over combined with nervous anticipation of the 112 miles of biking ahead, to say nothing of the 26.2-mile marathon after that.

We saw the back of Meghan’s Timex kit as she sprinted down the chute (in fact, Meghan’s backside was all we saw of her all day, she was that fast). We cheered on Meredith, as well as every neon pink helmet we saw, looking for Liz, but missed her. The highlight was snagging a hug from Molly, who gave us a joking-but-not-quite “so this is happening” in quintessential Molly form.

Bike

After a leisurely continental breakfast back at our hotel and a stop for good local coffee, we drove 20 miles out to the town of La Grange to watch the bike leg. The course includes a 30-mile loop, providing ample opportunity to see our folks.

We found ourselves at an interesting spectating spot: down a small hill so most people whizzed by full speed, as Meredith mentioned in her race report, constantly yelling “on your left!” as people tried to pass. We were also close to an intersection where the police were trying to maintain order as they waited for gaps in the riders wide enough to direct cars across, or worse, to turn onto the course. The crowd clearly didn’t like their judgment on some occasions and shouted their displeasure like they were football refs. It got kind of raucous. I kept thinking about the tacks and oil that sabotaged the IM Chattanooga course – it could have been kids…or people who didn’t like their small, sleepy town taken over by thousands of riders and spectators on a Sunday once a year. Civility please.

We saw the speed demons, Meghan and Liz, on their second loop, Meredith on her first loop, and Molly on both. Thank goodness for the IronTrac app giving us regular updates when they passed checkpoints every 20 miles or so.

After we got our second “hi friends!” from Molly, we headed back to Louisville. We stopped by Slugger Field for another leisurely meal (& obligatory photo). I mention this so you have a concept of how loooooong 112 miles on the bike takes. And then you get to run a marathon!


Run
Back at transition, we met up with Kathy, Molly’s mom, who reported that she saw her daughter with a BIG smile...now that she was off the bike.

I was worried about the marathon, since Molly has been battling painful foot issues all year. I was mostly concerned that she wouldn’t quit if she needed to – this the girl who ran 9 miles with a stress fracture to finish a half marathon.

“Oh, that’s the least of her worries!” Oh yeah?? It was just after 5pm so she had a whole 7 hours to WALK the marathon. She was going to be an IRONMAN!

The run course also had a double loop so we stationed ourselves to be able to see everyone we were following...and happened to be across from the most hilarious man and his daughter imploring racers to pet his lucky beaver. We dissolved into giggles, every time.


Meghan had already passed our spot, twice, on her way to winning her age group in 10:07:43 and stamping her ticket to Kona! We saw Meredith, who recognized my trike and blew kisses (major thrill for me!), then moved closer to the finish line and finally connected with Liz just before she was about to cross the finish line, 9th in her AG at 11:25:50. We saw Molly a few times – she looked so strong, and so very happy.

Just before she passed us for the last time on her way to becoming an Ironman, a bumblebee biked up and gave me a huge hug. I assumed it was Coach Carrie McCoy from JustTri, but it turns out she wasn’t feeling well so her athlete, Kelly, took over bumblebee cheering duties with David (all Team Drea members). She gave me a care package from Carrie that included a sweet card that made me cry. Love you guys and can’t wait to see you at City of Oaks!

Then we chased after Molly and found her past the finish line – now an IRONMAN having beaten her ambitious 14-hour goal by more than an hour, coming in at 12:52:38!! She pronounced it “awesome” and wants to do another one – not bad for a first-timer! She promises to do a race report, complete with an explanation of how it came to be that she covered an entire Milli Vanilli song in the changing tent…

Molly, I couldn’t say it to you in person because I would have cried, but it meant so very much to me that I could play a small part in your Ironman journey. You are a true friend and I loved watching you out there – smiling even while you struggled, appreciating the reward of being able to do this race after a year of training. I’m so glad it went so well, but I would have been just as proud of you if you just set foot on the starting line. Enjoy your achievement…you worked so hard to earn it!

After escorting Molly and Kathy back to their hotel, I wanted badly to go back and cheer Meredith and the later finishers in. But my back and legs had had enough of being in the trike and I am learning when not to push myself. I shouldn’t even post this, but here’s how I watched the finish line until midnight…
It was such a fun day. Even if you aren’t into triathlons (or think you aren’t), I highly recommend putting spectating one on your bucket list. Every single one of the competitors are elite athletes in my book, heroes to their loved ones, and role models to their children. It’s so inspiring to watch…and envision what you could do!



Monday, October 5, 2015

Renegade Rose Dri-athlon Race Report

To date, Team Drea has raised:
$65,305 for the Blazeman Foundation +
$1,197 for ALS-TDI +
$2,888 for the ALS Association
 = 
$69,390 dedicated to finding a cure for ALS and caring for those with it.
Thank you.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I woke up this morning (still in my neon green 179 shirt) overwhelmed with how to describe our unofficial "race" yesterday, officially titled the 1st Ever (and Only!) Team Drea Renegade Rose Dri-athlon. Looking back at all the photos on Facebook made it that much harder. How do I distill all of the love, friendship, camaraderie, and spirit down into words?

L-R: Stacy, James, Heather, Robin, Kristy, Aaron, Monica, Rylan, Sandy (Mom), Julie, DP, me, Andy (Dad), Julia, Amy, Lindsay, Aimee, Shannon. You all ROCK!! Thank you so much!!
Well, I can't. But I'll still try to do it justice.

Joaquin

When Ramblin' Rose sent out their race week email to all athletes on Tuesday, here was the perfect weather forecast:

But as the week went on and local TV carved out more and more time dedicated to Hurricane Joaquin, we began to get worried. It was already raining in NC and had been for a week+. Ironman Maryland was cancelled, then the Pinehurst International triathlon. I'd hoped the pool swim would spare Ramblin' Rose Chapel Hill, but when Julie and I came out of the gym on Friday after our last pre-race swim, we got the word that it too had succumbed to the deluge of rain and mud.

Like sane 30-something women, we headed straight to the nail salon for pedicures and perspective. I was already getting text messages saying things like, we should still get together and do SOMETHING! Sure, but what can we organize in 24 hours for early on a Sunday morning?

By the time we left the salon, the rain and wind had picked up and the temperature had dropped. I was shivering. Julie and I looked at each other and said at the same time, "I don't WANT to do a triathlon in this!" and "Thank God it was cancelled!" Then we cracked up and went to dinner with my family, leaving the planning for Saturday morning.

A Dri-athlon is Born

By the time I woke up on Saturday, Heather had already emailed the GM of LifeTime Fitness Raleigh and gotten permission for us to hold an alternative race there on Sunday at 7am...for FREE! The only catch was they needed to know exactly who was participating.

So I polled everyone from Team Drea who had planned on doing Ramblin' Rose...we lost Carissa who was going to drive down from Ohio, and Carolann, who was nursing a sick dog, but we gained Monica and Shannon, who'd planned to spectate, AND Ramblin' Rose's race director, Amy, in between sessions at Fleet Feet handing out shirts to disappointed RR participants.

[Side note: I have serious respect and appreciation for the way Ramblin' Rose handled the cancellation. It absolutely would not have been safe to hold the event on Sunday. They waited til as late as they could, hoping the weather would clear, but not too late that people had already started to travel, couldn't get 24hr-in-advance refunds on hotels, etc. It's a no-win situation for them, and yet they were awesome on communication, offered 50% discounts on future races (even though their policy is no refunds), staffed a desk for two days to hand out shirts, etc. And that is leaving out some pretty harrowing personal circumstances that went on for some of the race organizers last week. Seriously people, there is no reason to complain that they can't mail shirts for out-of-town competitors, sheesh.]

Heather and I decided to do a modified version of LifeTime's Indoor Tri. 250yd swim (like RR), 30 min on the stationary bike, 20 min on the treadmill. No timing. DP volunteered to be the race director (to which he said: This is also my first (and only) opportunity to be a race director. In case you were wondering, it is strikingly similar to any other race in that I am doing whatever Andrea wants! Ha!) As a private gym, it wasn't spectator-friendly, so we arranged to reconvene at a Panera down the street for breakfast afterwards. Annie named it a "dri-athlon," Shaw called it "Renegade Rose," and voila...just like that, a race was created in less than 24 hours via text and Facebook.

Race Report

After a bleary-eyed check-in at 7am, we tromped out of the locker room as a group and split up into lanes. Julie and I shared a lane like we'd planned to for RR and away we went. I had a couple of nose plug issues and mental "can I do this?" freakouts, but all in all, it was a good swim for me. Julie estimated 9 minutes, which creamed my 12:43 time from last year.

"T1" in the locker room was hilarious. Showers, clothing changes, no sense of urgency -- except from me, since I'm so darn slow. A few people (not naming names!) even had time to blowdry their butts so they wouldn't be so wet on the bike ;) We came out to find an exasperated race director, since the ladies locker room was the one place DP could not go!


The bike was pretty uneventful for me. Julie and I found some recumbent stationary bikes and pedaled along to some lovely (and deceptively flat) scenery of San Francisco on the screen. Some others got a little more than they bargained for when they accidentally ended up in a spin class that started during their 30min bike leg!

"T2" was a full 3 steps for me to get onto the treadmill. DP and I negotiated the incline and speed, but when he walked away, I couldn't help bumping it up to 1.2mph, which turned out to be too fast. I caught my dragging foot on the belt and down I went. Thankfully, it was one of my slo-mo falls in which no harm is done and I can laugh it off. But I did have to endure this I-told-you-so look for the rest of my 1mph walk:
I get this look a lot. I kind of love it ;)
The finish line was a yoga/zumba studio, complete with Heather's banner, my dad's signs, and James & Monica's kids handing out the awesome medals that Julia made for us all:

L: Aaron & Rylan handing out medals. R: Amy, me, and medal artist, Julia
And of course, a group Blazeman Roll:
Thank you, Heather's Instagram :)

A HUGE thank you to everyone who participated and helped to make this such a special day, and to LifeTime Fitness for allowing us to use your beautiful facility!

Post-Race

We had a great time at Panera catching up with each other and the spectators that would have been out there cheering us on at Ramblin' Rose. I was touched when Amy put a real podium-level RR medal around my neck (just as she promised she would!).
My thoughts kept drifting to Barcelona where, meanwhile, my DCTri mentor was doing his 7th Ironman and running the marathon in a Team Drea shirt, carrying the #179 bib from Peasantman, the triathlon he organizes every year. Well, it wasn't anywhere near the same scale, but I organized a race and wore my Peasantman swim cap in your honor, Tuan. Congratulations!!

One comment from Stacy sticks in my mind: I surprised myself. She was one of five out of our tiny field of 14 participants who became triathletes yesterday. The others were Julia, Shannon, Kristy, my mom, and my dad (who was just supposed to be spectating, btw).

I surprised myself too. I haven't spent much time on stationary bikes or ANY on treadmills, but I did okay, got a good workout, and felt better afterwards -- less stiff and stronger.

This was supposed to be my last last triathlon, but said who? ALS? Not necessarily. If there is one thing I have learned from this disease is that everyone has a different progression.

Me? Why would I say such a thing? I was trying to come to terms with "reality," but reality is that my swimming improved this summer, my triking is fine, and my walk is only a little worse than it was last year.

So here goes...I am saying out loud that I am training for Ramblin' Rose Raleigh in May 2016. I will sign up on December 1st when registration opens. I will not do what I did the past two years and be surprised 6-10 weeks ahead of the race that I could still do it if I trained. I will train over the winter and then check back with reality. If I can only do a relay, fine. If I can't do it at all, I won't. But I will be there at the finish line cheering just the same.

Because as I learned from my very amazing friend, Boston marathoner, race director, and cancer survivor, Amy, you can't finish what you don't start.

Who's with me?