Now THIS is 40!

Yes, it’s Meredith Hijacking the blog…

I was starting to worry about turning 40: a turned ankle/swollen painful foot at Mt. Masochist and then two weeks later strep throat and deep self doubt, fear, and really just feeling icky.

In February I completed Ultraman Florida. I thought, “cool that’s done let’s move on.” But I couldn’t quite move on. I knew the Ultraman World Championship was lingering out there over Thanksgiving weekend…9 months after Florida. I went back and forth with Julie (Julie Shelley who won the women’s race at Florida and we kept in touch). It was almost a dare to each other: “I’ll put in if you do.” And so we both did. AND, we were both accepted. From the beginning it felt so different than Florida because circumnavigating the Big Island of Hawaii seems sooo much bigger than a jaunt through Florida. I had never raced in Hawaii while Julie and Paul were Hawaii Ironman veterans. They seemed to have a feel for the island that I couldn’t fully wrap my head around.

The true training began in May, with what I knew Mike Le Roux would put the finishing punishment on starting in August. As he said it wasn’t just about swimming, biking, and running, it was about becoming strong enough for the ocean swim; having the strength and power for the winds and the climbing on the bike; and then getting to the run. With me he never worries about the run. He knows that even if it’s not on the schedule I always seem to find a way to run. He liked to remind me that this race is about being able to get through days one and two not so thrashed so that I could have a good run, meaning I would have to focus on the bike. My darn lack of cycling always bites me in the butt J

So I made some big choices if I truly wanted to be prepared to survive what the Island had to throw my way. I would seek out the hills and the wind in Austin. I would spend 10 days riding in Colorado and learn how to climb for over an hour and descend with less fear. And I would take advantage of every ounce of heated sunlight to get ready for the hardest race I would ever attempt. I can still remember the great training days: climbing Cheyenne Canyon, riding every climb around Golden, CO (don’t know if I will call the descent one of my finest…might have eaten through my brake pads and kept asking Paul if I would need spare brake pads for Hawaii), a Sunday morning fartlek run on Magnolia Road after days of punishing climbing and descending (might still be cursing Silke on these), riding Bandera to Leakey and the 5 mile climb…I kept thinking how can you possibly climb for 5 miles in TX, well you can and I did; 4x1K swim for my birthday, and my very last Hamilton Pool repeat ride. But, with those came the hard days: riding Hamilton Pool repeats into the middle of a cold front while ignoring the beginning of strep; a few days I chose the trainer vs. road for no good reason; so many runs that I just felt darn slow; and after 4 hard long days really being over my own company. Would all of this be enough? It was a question I couldn’t stop asking myself no matter how much Mike and Paul tried to have me believe.

Finally, the week was here. We arrived in Hawaii, got settled in, and made plans for our first pre-race workout. We met Gary Wang for an amazing swim to Captain Cook monument and back. It was a wonderful 2 mile swim to remember how saltwater ocean swimming is. I had a bike ride on the schedule as well, and Gary suggested riding the first climb from the water. After lunch that day Paul dropped me off at the swim exit and off, ummm up, I went. I maxed out my gears, my heart was in my throat, and all I could think was “MERCY.” All I could think is that I would be the first person to DNF 2 miles into the ride. How could I finish this ride? I wasn’t ready? OMG! I continued riding up, and finally at 7.5 miles turned back and DOWN to the house we had rented. To say I was shaken was the understatement of my life. Julie came to our house that night and I shared with her the only piece that I was feeling comfortable about…the weather looked like it would be forgiving. Sure enough she went for a ride the next morning, and cursed the heck out of me because I stirred Madame Pele and the winds with my prediction. Lovely.

That Tuesday we hitched a ride with the Canoe Club out to the last 1.5 miles of the swim. The waves and swells were screaming. Apparently there would be NO gifts from the Island for me. The swim was rough, but honestly the canoe ride out was rougher so I felt at peace with whatever the water would deliver. I met Karen and Rebecca from the Canoe Club. We set a plan of Karen paddling and Paul riding on the boat to care for me. They were wonderful. I felt so calm with them and loved their genuine excitement for me, my race, and Hawaii. They didn’t even know me and were willing to give of their days to support me and then come back and cheer for me. I was and still am speechless.

Tuesday night was the one true break from the pre-race thoughts as we had family Thanksgiving with Sarah, Todd, Julie and Alyssa. I think there were times in training that Julie and I were looking more forward to this meal than the race. And, YES, there was turkey because apparently it is NOT Thanksgiving without Turkey.

We did check-in Wednesday, and then pre-race meeting on Thursday. There was definitely more of a calm during this process than in Florida. Maybe it is because I had done it before or maybe it was the looming bigness of the race that made all of the other details seem so minor.

Thursday afternoon and evening was filled with eating my pre-race dinner, legs up, and then the ridiculousness I decided to put myself through. I start examining the % grade of each and every climb I was about to face. What in the world was I thinking? Who does that? The work was done, and all of a sudden I was put myself into a self-doubt panic. My head starting saying, “this is impossible. I am not a cyclist. I can’t do this.”

And, then I woke up the next morning and this happened…

There are so many stories. Really, there are too many stories. But if you want to hear:

  • Our buddy at the Hostel passed out drunk and then having a beer at 5AM so that he could retrieve his sunglasses
  • Changing bike shorts at the side of the road at mile 30 Day 2
  • My love for Fanta
  • My crew concocting chemical concentrations of fuel
  • My apologies to the Lava
  • A bottle spike on Day 1
  • A “I didn’t come out here to walk” bottle spike during the run
  • And, the best exchange between Dan (Julie’s husband) and Paul before I finished: D “how did you get her moving so well again” P “I pissed her off”

Take me to lunch, let’s grab a drink, or let’s go on a hike and share stories!

HUGE additional thanks to: Jack and Adams for EVERYTHING on my bike, Pearl Izumi, Drymax, Bonk Breaker, and Organic Valley.

Until then, thanks for reading and sharing in my journey with me!

mer

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2 Responses to Now THIS is 40!

  1. pittbrownie says:

    Let’s go get a drink, I want to hear about the passed out drunk guy. Better hurry though, at 40, you don’t have much time left!

  2. paulandmer says:

    YES! I will even drink a beer with you to tell you that story. Trust me I was feeling that early on in the turning of 40. Now I am ready to hold on until at least 50. PS – I am working on Paul for the 100K this summer. I will make a great cheerleader there (I don’t do races with a 24+ hour cut-off).

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