Thursday, June 6, 2013

Raleigh Half Ironman by Ann Camden (Yes, you read that right.)

Sitting at my desk on Monday … I can’t remember why last fall, sitting in my bonus room after a good week of marathon training did I sign up for the Raleigh Ironman 70.3. I know I was chatting with my sister on the phone, she was in the process of moving away from Raleigh to Georgia, and we decided it would be great to finish it together and maybe even train together virtually some.

So, in January I started training … I couldn’t swim 200 yards and nearly fainted at the thought of a 60 minute spin class. I had never owned a pair of bike shoes, never biked more than 20 miles, never learned to drink from a water bottle while biking, etc. So, I covered a lot of ground in six months yet somehow June 2nd snuck up on me. It arrived about 30 days earlier than I would have liked.

The smartest thing that I did was hire a coach. Andrew Jeffries helped me build a plan and is great at holding me accountable to meeting the minimums, showered praise when I hit the plan and offered caution when I went too far. He broke it down into small chunks that made the training manageable and offered up one-on-one time for specific skills development. Andrew got me to the starting line.

I had a lot of training partners along the way. To use the cliché, “it takes a village” would be appropriate here. The great thing about cross-training – I really expand beyond just my running circle … whether it was swimming at Finley, biking to Falls Lake or abs class … I got to know a lot more people and that was truly the highlight. I thoroughly enjoyed the training … it was the juggling of family schedules and the j.o.b. that got in the way!

I know it put my husband and my daughters through a lot … and I’m not just talking laundry. And, in the final days of May leading into race weekend … they had every right to throw me out of the house. I was anxious, nervous and frazzled. I can’t say I was paralyzed with fear but 70.3 suddenly seemed like an insurmountable task.

Race Weekend
The biggest question of the weekend was over wetsuits. With the temperatures warming suddenly and quickly, the water temperature was hovering. On Friday, the race directors recommended bringing your wet suits just in case, yet by Saturday afternoon they told participants not to bother bringing them. In the dawn of race morning, the lake water temperature measured 76⁰ just one-tenth of one degree keeping it legal! When the director made the announcement, a wave of cheers went up. Several participants hadn’t bothered to bring a suit … but fortunately I had. It was a huge sense of relief to know I could wear the suit. I started feeling better about the race. I nearly exhaled.
I finally felt prepared. Just before the start my sister … cracks me up … used her diamond earring as a screwdriver to fix the bike computer – twice. She helped me with my Camelback (because I haven’t mastered lifting out a water bottle en route) for my bike. She helped ease me into the wetsuit covered in sunscreen and Pam cooking spray … yes, you read that right!

Swim 1.2 miles
The swim started in the lake promptly at 7:00 a.m. Mark, my brother-in-law, went in first with Rebecca and I following. I went into the water at 7:42 … in wave 12. Fortunately for me, wave 10 is when the snake swam through the swimmers gathered in the water. That may have been the fastest those ladies ran all day. The swim was good. I felt like I could get into a rhythm and the four open water swims I had done beforehand really helped my nerves. I only got kicked once really hard in the right eye. I veered off course a little and every time a kayak was there blocking my path and gently nudging me back on course. And, once Rebecca caught me and directed me back! The water got choppy after about ¾ of a mile but compared to the International Distance Tri at White Lake a month previously … this was nothing.

Bike 56 miles
I had a decent transition time and started off on the bike out through the country. My first hour was great and I was tracking faster than I expected. With a good breeze blowing, I was cool and comfortable. After an hour, I had a bonk breaker and washed it down with electrolyte/salt pills. My stomach cramped immediately. I never mastered grabbing the goodies at the aid stations so I’d pull over and unclip for a minute to eat/drink. I had my Camelback on and I went to use it … after Rebecca had helped me fix it earlier … and somehow pinched my lip in the valve … took a few seconds to yank that off of me as I went flying down a hill. As the miles turned into hours, I was clenching my toes on the hills. The clouds disappeared and the temperatures shot up. And, there were a lot of hills. I was kicking myself for never having made time to go out and ride the course. It was a hometown race and I should have done a better job taking advantage of that. I never knew that there are parts of western Wake County where they have clearly dug to the core of the earth to build a hill. There were lots of hills and a few steep ascents. If the race had been only a 35 mile bike, I would have fared much better. I was counting the miles by the end.

When I finally made it to the second transition to start my run, I was about 30 minutes off my predicted pace and really filled with self-doubt. My feet were throbbing, I was brutally hot. I enjoyed a Squenchers Popsicle that I had stashed at my transition in a personal cooler and doused my cooling towel that Nancy Zech had recommended. A volunteer brought me two oranges – full, not peeled or cut oranges, to eat … I couldn’t fathom how to peel one at that point so I carried them for a few blocks and threw it away. At the transition, I saw an old friend Scott Misner.

Run 13.1 miles
Scott was cheering me on but the look on his face made me wonder how bad I appeared. He looked concerned. The volunteers were all watching me closely. I took off walking pretty confident I wasn’t going to finish the 13.1 mile half-marathon. When I signed up for this … I thought this would be the easy part … I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I started walking toward the Capitol; I walked past Jeff’s office and to the aid station where Joanna Perry caught me. This was her first IM and she was also being coached by Andrew. Slowly we started running 30 seconds on and 30 seconds off … up Hillsborough Street away from downtown and without much shade … we struggled up through the campus of NC State. Rebecca passed us on her way back into town jogging strong and slow! Stopping at every aid station, we had water, pretzels and wet, cold sponges! We eventually made it to the Art Museum where we ran into the Jeffries family and my family.

As I saw Jeff, it was all I could do not to beg him to take me home. Directly. Home. I was done. We were at mile 6. We walked two little loops around the museum campus and he/Steph Jeffries (looking cool and refreshed in her polka dots and straw hat) offered praise and encouragement. They assured us that everyone was walking. Joanna took off again down a hill and that was the last I saw her. I kept walking. My stomach was cramping again. I was dumping ice in my shorts, rinsing my towel and using sponges on my head, back, etc. I ran a few hundred yards and walked … the entire way back to town. If you’ve ever thought about parking downtown and walking to the Art Museum … think again. I ran into Jean and Amanda from RunnerPeeps on my run/walk back into town.
By now I was really uttering my mantra … “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I was thanking God for a wetsuit legal swim and begging for more clouds to help get me to the finish. I spent a lot of time thinking about my training and all the fun I’d had getting to the race.

70.3 The Finish
Finally, I ran from the Capitol to the finish line. That was a crazy good feeling. The music, the crowds, the announcer … it felt awesome. Everyone should feel that sensation at least once. When I finished and they slipped that medal around my neck, it was all I could do not to sob like a baby. I was so excited and hot. Fortunately for me, it was Nancy at the finish line and she could see I looked rough. The volunteers quickly lowered me into a kiddie pool full of ice water where I cooled off and just relished the medal, the sensation of lying still and soaking it all in – literally!

It felt good to just sit! To let the tension off my back and shoulders felt like heaven on earth. My family was there smiling. My mother was on the phone before I even got out of the pool. I visited with lots of friends who had completed the race or were spectating and volunteering. Best of all, I devoured a slab of pizza without any shoes on!
I’ve come a long way since January and I certainly haven’t done it alone. It was great to participate in a hometown race where every mile I ran into someone I knew. It was a great first half Ironman. I’m not signing up for another one tomorrow … but I certainly am not ruling it out. I learned a lot about myself, I had the opportunity to make a lot of new friends this year and I feel good about the example I’m setting for my daughters. The training helped me sort through a lot of personal doubts about my physical, mental and emotional abilities.
This distance isn’t for sissies.

For now, I just want to enjoy some time at the pool lounging and paddling on my stand up paddle board surrounded by the same family and friends that were supportive of all the athletes this week. Thanks to you all and I look forward to the next adventure.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Greetings from Vietnam

Well, as the Brits say, I should look smashing in my dress at the Holiday Party because I've hardly eaten a thing this week ... don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed locus flower salad, pickled jellyfish, Chinese ribs, coconut soup ... but what I really want is a bowl of chili or a slab of pizza. I've been too busy to be homesick and can't say enough about Facetime with the girls and Jeff.

The country of Vietnam is amazing. It really makes me appreciate all of the modern conveniences. We took 120 university and growers from 26 different countries into the Mekong Delta today to look at rice and corn plots. We also witnessed a seed treating competition, by hand, that was nationally televised with more than 15 television crews on site. We had a major road bump when our bus drivers refused to go across the small bridges and we needed to be shuttled back and forth about 3K. It wouldn't have been so bad if the traffic -- majority mopeds and bikes -- wasn't so crazy out of control and the temperatures were crazy, crazy hot. I thought I knew hot from standing in LA rice fields but this was miserable. I know I must have looked steamed and miserable when the local that we hired to handle/coordinate the buses handed me a dozen roses before we headed back into town. If we could have got the bus to stop, I would have fed them to the cows along the road. I saw women leading a single cow on a rope down the highway to grass on more than one occassion.

I've also seen water buffalo, numerous family burial plots, floating homes/old barges and amazing feats of balance as the Vietnamese manage to transport everything via scooter. As we waited on the buses, which was apparently partly my responsibility, we found this woman picking cocnuts by her home. Totally throwing away all common sense, when the man from India used a sheath to cut me a hole ... I drank coconut milk. You can see it in his hand that the coconut here is smooth skinned and apparently the flesh is brown. I should have asked him to cut it in half. I had about 1/4 cup before I realized that I have broken every rule that has been given to me ... regardless, I feel fine so far and it was totally worth it! Across the road were these rice fields and this is just one of the hundreds of families that I captured as we waited on our shuttles. It's ironic, in many cases, the adults will wear helmets but the children will not. And, they often have two adults riding with small, young children nestled between them. I'm tempted to find a way to go for a ride (yes, honey, I'm getting braver).

Tomorrow we have another day of meetings and on Friday, I'm on my own. While the idea of a Vietnamese spa entices me, I'm leaning toward an organized tour into the Mekong Delta to see the sights and I suppose I should try out my keen negotiation skills. I recently polished those on luggage at the Junior League Spree and the local market is world reknown for haggling. I understand I can get a Rolex for $10!

And, for those of you who were wondering, yes ... there is a small Christian population and they do celebrate Christmas. Apparently many people celebrate Christmas and stores have started decorating. I heard some steel drummer playing Christmas music near the hotel lobby this afternoon and am hopeful to find the drummer tomorrow afternoon to get his photo. Since our trip to Disney several years ago, steel drum Christmas music makes me happy.

(Sorry for the spelling errors ... somehow it marks nearly every word as wrong tonight and I don't have the energy to figure it all out ...)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Seoul, Korea

I survived a 15 hour plane ride and am struggling to figure out how to change my watch or clock to military time. Thus, I am stalking the gate agent to make sure I don't miss my flight to Ho Chi Minh (formerly known as Saigon).

Ironically, the terminal here is well stocked with familiar US brands -- Caribou Coffee, Smoothie King, Subway and more. There are dozens of makeup and perfume counters but the signage for the flight departures is slightly tougher to read/make out.

I tried to sleep on the plane although it wasn't as easy as I would have liked. My big splurge for the trip were noise cancellation headphones. I can't say enough about them. Since I was in row 54 toward the very, very back of the plane -- they blocked out all the engine noise and made it a nearly peaceful ride. If they could just add padding to these seats.

And, en route, I've been studying my repsonsibilies for the next few days. I have very big shoes to fill and I think all of the attention to detail will pay off but I'm still a little nervous.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday ... One for the Record Books

Good Morning. And, Merry Christmas! (It's slightly after Thanksgiving ...) This morning the family dropped me at the airport at 7:00 a.m. (It's remarkably empty.) And, from here I will begin my journey to Vietnam. It will take three flights and approx. 23 hours in the air. Needless to say, I have a fair amount of angst tumbling around inside me. I've tried praying and redirecting but I'm nervous.

Over the last few months, I've been trying to figure out "what I want to be when I grow up" and while I still don't have the answers (I'm not leaving my agency -- just refining some roles and transitioning things as part of career growth), I wanted more international opportunities so I should be thrilled (and I am). But, I'm very nervous as well.

Grace had a minor anxiety attack on our way back from Williamsburg last night and I'm certain that it's connected to my leaving the country. I wanted to join her but figured that really wouldn't help anyone out -- especially Jeff. Jeff has been amazing. He helped get me doctors appointments for shots (I finally got them in DC where he and my aunt got me an appointment) and picked up prescriptions, he has researched and studied and helped me prepare all the way until this morning when he delivered me to the airport. I will miss his sense of calm over the coming 8 days. And, while Rose has been very stoic -- I noticed a lot more hand holding yesterday and some "cuddle time" before we left the hotel.

Why am I going? I'm going to oversee the logistics for a meeting for about 100 people. I love this type of responsibility and the thrill of making a plan come together. It's not really my plan as I'm stepping in with just about 10 days notice for a colleague who suddenly can't travel. She has done an amazing job and her attention to detial has been remarkable. Regardless, my biggest angst is the translations and currency exchange. Otherwise, I'm excited to be asked to lead this. If I can just get over the urge to throw up everytime I think about it ... I'll be fine. And, I just realized that I forgot my last typhoid fever pill at home this morning ... not much I can do about it now ...

Today, I'll miss the Black Friday sales (although I rarely go but love to watch they hype) and I think this week the family will put up our Christmas tree which I will really miss that and the carols. And, I feel like a Scrooge but I'll also miss out on the girls piano recital next weekend -- third time in a row for work -- amazing.

It's been nearly a year since I last wrote here and I've missed the outlet to share my feelings and concerns, celebrations and angst so I figured over the next few days that I'd journal my experiences.

If you're reading this and see my family this week, please give them an extra hug or squeeze. They are in excellent hands and Jeff really runs the house without me most of the time but I'll miss touching base regularly (I'll be 12 hours ahead of them).

And, I'd appreciate any prayers you can offer. Prayers for peace and patience, energy and strength and of course, good health.

Happy Black Friday.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Putting Jesus back in Christmas

It's been several months since my last post and we've been busy with school, work and the holidays. I've been trying to minimize my computer time at home. Tonight, I'm camped out in a stale hotel room in New York City trying to take a few minutes before the holiday hits in full force later this week. My parents are coming to town and I'm thrilled to be hosting them! This is the 2nd or 3rd year that we've been in our own home and we're still working on building some of our own traditions. It's one of the perks of parenthood!

Throughout the holidays this year, our girls have challenged us to put more of Jesus back into Christmas. It's just a few days away and I'm still struggling for things we can do throughout Christmas day to re enforce the reason for the season.

We've filled shoe boxes and shipped them off, we've collected gloves, mittens, hats and coats and delivered them. We've instilled in the girls the importance of giving money to various charities and we have completed the top of a quilt to give to someone who is homeless. (Grace actually wants to give it to a man that she sees regularly on the corner after school.)

So, I've "borrowed" the idea of telling the Christmas story from a point of view of a specific character on Christmas morning. The assignments have been made ... Rose wants to tell the story as if she were a sheep, Grace choose baby Jesus and I'm torn between either an angel or Mary. Jeff hasn't decided and I've warned my parents that they'll need to participate! I hope one of them takes the vantage point of the wise men. The idea is that we'll each tell what we think the nativity might have been like from our point-of-view. I figure we'll also spend time reading Luke 2:1-20 to make sure we capture that first ... but I'm curious ... do you have ideas? Do you have family traditions that you can share?

As a kid, I grew up traveling a lot over the holidays and I don't think we have a lot of traditions ... other than AWESOME food that my mother makes. We also usually went to midnight mass which is still special to me, and to Jeff as well. I don't think we'll spend every family at home so I'm looking for traditions that we can "take on the road." So, I'm asking ... what is a tradition? And, how can we make sure that it has impact for the girls?

Friday, October 22, 2010

The new autumn color -- Pink

I've never been particularly fond of pink. I'm more of a red person. Frankly, it bothers me that all the lovely autumn colors like green, orange and red are being relegated to the back of the closet to celebrate "Pink" month. Don't get me wrong, I'm very appreciative of all the efforts to raise awareness and fund raising for breast cancer research ... That research and awareness probably saved my life and definitely made the treatment easier through all the research funded by Komen and American Cancer Society. What has surprised me is that it has been such a reminder of last year. Some days it feels like it's hitting me all over again. It certainly doesn't help that I have had so many friends and acquanitences be diagnosed recently.

I'm reading Promise Me by Nancy Brinker. It's the history of the Komen foundation and while I'm only halfway through it, I have found it to be a love story. It's the story of two sisters who loved each other fiercely and a family that worked very hard to make healthcare better and easier for everyone. The book is a good balance between the history of cancer and the foundation, blended with family stories about Susan and Nancy growing up. Other than the obvious chapter about Susan succumbing to the disease, the other chapter that gave me pause was the history of the mastectomy and painstaking detail of what that was like before modern medicine, especially pain medicine! I can't imagine what our ancestors went through. I'm shocked anyone survived that.

So, I've been a little emotional. Overall, I'm fine. Probably even better than fine. I went in for my calcium shot last week and got a clean bill of health. I'm running nearly 20 miles a week and have full range of motion in my arm. There is not much I can complain about. (Yet, I still have a long list of complaints.)

The girls love school and are both thriving. Tonight they are with Jeff at a Y-Princess camp out with their tribe called Blazing Saddles. The weatherman forecast a low of 37 tonight and Jeff was hacking and wheezing before he ever left home. Bouncing Bunny (Grace) and Twisted Vine (Rose) were so excited that Hunting Wolf (Jeff) couldn't let them down. So he took them. I recommended they come home to sleep (they are only about 10 miles from the house) but they would have none of it. So, while they enjoy sleeping on the ground under a beautiful harvest moon ... I am tucked snuggly in our bed with the electric blanket on me and a fat cat curled at my feet. What am I doing without them? Thus far, I've had the luxury of shopping at the Junior League Shopping Spree and an Italian dinner with a girlfriend. I'm planning to run at least 8 miles in the morning. Life is good. This is the best camp out EVER ... okay, I was actually jealous when I heard about hashbrowns and bacon for breakfast although I do like having the entire bed to myself!

I've missed blogging but have struggled with what is interesting and appropriate to post. I hope to get back to it this fall in between training for a half marathon, finishing up a couple quilts, getting ready for the girls birthday and the holidays, a vacation to the Smokies, work for a school board that I'm on, my role at church and of course ... my job. I am ready for the holidays to refresh and take some time off.

When you look into your closet tomorrow ... embrace Pink for the women in your life. We can wear red in November!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

One Year Anniversary

Rose told me at dinner tonight that she had her first grade class (private school)praise God today because I'm a survivor. She must have heard Jeff and I talking that indeed, today is the one year anniversary of my surgery. She told me she was really glad that I'm a survivor. It surprised me that she even thinks about it since I feel like we've moved on and seldom mention it. We jokingly celebrated with chicken pot pie from Asbury United Methodist Church and a very over-zealous schedule of ballet, soccer and Y Princesses.

The house is quiet now and it's given me a few minutes to reflect on the last few months when we've gone at full speed seldom slowing down to rest. I just passed all my exams, mammogram, chest x-ray, bloodwork, etc. and there is "no evidence of disease". Yet when Rose brings my cancer up out of the blue I have to think there is actually still evidence of disease. Cancer definitely changed me. There is evidence, beyond the physical scars, that cancer permeated my family. We're a little closer as a family, I have much stronger friendships than I did prior to cancer, I'm not shy about telling people how much I appreciate them and I have a lot more empathy for those around me. Yes, there is still "evidence of the disease" but it's much more positive than I ever expected.

Live life large.