(Here's me with my Team Timex Camp roommate and close friend, Paolina Allan, at transition area race morning.)
I had intensely debated going to Ironman FL (as a spectator). My doctors had strongly cautioned me against going and, frankly, my own common sense meter told me it wasn't too smart of an idea. I hadn't yet been in a car longer than 10 min since returning from Hawaii, and am still exhausted by outings lasting longer than 1 hour. 5+ hours in a car to get to PCB would likely be uncomfortable at best and I worried IMF would be much like Kona 3 weeks ago: most of the day spent in a bed, difficult to navigate around race site, slow movings, people bumping into me accidentally (OUCH!) etc., etc.
I also was concerned how difficult it would be for me to be at IMF and not race....
The other side of the coin was that there were tons of my friends racing, many of whom I never see except at races, so it would perhaps do my spirit good to be around people I love to support their day. I had planned to share a condo with my teammates, Kyle Marcotte and Cat Brown, and had been so excited to see my roommate from Timex camp, Paolina Allan. I really wanted to see them, as well as so many other good friends.
I decided this option was much better than just feeling sorry for myself at home in bed. The race would be hovering at the edge of my awareness the whole time. I wouldn't be able to escape it. Going down to PCB might delay my recovery progress but if I had some fun then it was well worth the physical pain. So, I decided to go and just storm that damn beach like it was Normandy - instead as a race supporter. :)
I was scooped up in the SUV lounge :) by my friends, Brent and Barbara Johnston, late Thursday night. I was able to stay fairly horizontal in their car so the drive wasn't too bad.
On Friday morning I went to the Gatorade swim. Though I looked like an idiot with both arms and my back in a brace, and moved at the pace of a 90-year old, it was still nice to be there for a bit. I talked with Bella (Comerford) for a few min. She looked really fit and I encouraged her for her race. Lots of people came up to me, many I didn't even know, to tell me they had heard about my accident and were wishing me well. This was so kind and I appreciated every person who took the time to say hello. Our sport is truly the greatest.
Race morning I wasn't too bummed. Thank God! It was actually nice to get to wish luck to some friends and athletes I coach without the normal race nerves. One athlete of mine, Brian Rell, was completely calm as he prepped for his first IM finish - BRell was hit by a car in April while biking and unable to compete in IMCDA. Sentimentally we were all rooting for BRell! I chatted for a bit with pros Chris Hauth and Jacqui Gordon, and got to support Paolina as she prepped her bike. I searched all over for Tyler Stewart (I had done some training with her in Jan 2006 - the girl is a BEAST on the bike!) to wish her luck but couldn't find her. :( Anyway, it was really nice to get to be there for other people. I gave Paolina a hug and some private words of psych up as she headed to the swim start.
Paolina's boyfriend, Steve Fleck (Nineteen Wetsuits), invited me to help him do splits for the women's race for IronmanLive. I was concerned about being in the car for the 5+ hours with a lot of getting in/getting out of the car to clock the women ... but I also knew this would be FUN and I would be good at this job. I'm used to getting splits on race day so I thought I'd be good at providing information the women needed during their race. My Timex teammate, Jeanne Roth, would also be in the car so it would really be a lot of fun and the tasks required would distract me from not racing.
Though perhaps a mistake, I decided to go. I chose passion over fear.
It was really incredible to view the race from this vantage point and I learned a TON as an athlete. Steve, Jeanne and I continued to leapfrog the women to get splits from the lead (Nina and Katja) back 10-12 spots deep, and would then radio them in to Kevin at IronmanLive. We would yell the time splits to the girls as they biked by and then drive along side to shout info/encouragement to various women as needed. Soooooooooooo much happened during these 5 hours in terms of what some of the women said, information asked for, jokes exchanged, some things we saw, etc. It would take pages to record it all - but I will try to tell a few things:
Watching the race play out, some women getting stronger while others continued to fade was so educational for me to observe. Marie Danais was so funny early on in the miles, yelling "Wheeeeeeeeeeee!" as she rode by. Tereza Macel looked so strong most of the day - watching her fade so dramatically towards the end was really heartbreaking. I know the work gone into the prep for this day - I was struck by how truly upset I got watching people fall apart. Later in the race when we gave Bella some splits she asked if Tyler could run. I answered, "Yes, but so can you, girl. Hang in there!" Though frustrated by her position in the field she looked great and I believed she could still run down everyone ahead of her.
Timex Teammate Tim Hola was riding strong all day, and he continued to flash 'thumbs up' each time we cheered for him. He was in the overall top amateur spot most of the day, which is amazing given the dude just raced Kona. Tyler Stewart was flying yet barely seemed out of breath whenever we saw her, and when I yelled info to her from our car she was always so sweet and happy and as casual as if she was on a Saturday easy ride. I thought to myself that the only way I would have been in front of this chick today was in a car. :) Both Nina and Katja looked strong and controlled all day.
Kyle Marcotte was all smiles and giggles the whole dang ride - he was pretty far back all day (not what he is capable of) from the lead men and I could tell he was just riding to have some fun after his recent 6th place finish at Canada. I wanted to upgrade the fun meter so I mooned him as he approached us on the side of the road around mile 60. He cracked up, which was great. :) Later, when Kyle finally caught and passed Nina and then Katja around mile 90, he yelled out to us, "I think Kraft is clean!" Steve, Jeanne and I died laughing.
Once our job was complete on the bike course, Steve dropped me off at the Rell condo where I was staying so I could rest for a bit. I was really hurting by this point and shed some tears before I regrouped to urge myself to get to the run course to do vigil for the athletes I know and love. Brent came and picked me up and we headed to the All3Sport tent area at mile .5 of the run course. I knew once I made it to the All3 tent I could stay there and sit.
Of course once there it was impossible not to scream for people and truly "rest" but I wouldn't have traded it for anything. I continued to give splits to the top women as they went by and loved seeing the tons of other athletes I knew being tough and getting it done.
I made it to about 7:45pm before the pain had reached all I could stand. I had to get back to the condo to lie down. I barely slept that night as my back radiated so much pain, but as I struggled to move, trying to find a millimeter difference to relieve even an ounce 0f pressure, I told myself it was worth it. It was! I actually had a lot of fun and I know that did a lot for my spirit.
From this point I have no idea my prognosis. Though I can move around a bit easier than a month ago, I am in just as much pain and the improvements in mobility seem tenuous at best. I had hoped I'd be back to some sort of activity by early November but somehow this is looking more serious than I had anticipated. I'm now setting my sights on December and am *hopeful* I'll be able to tolerate the incredible boredom and frustration until then. My spirit does not thrive in a sedentary environment ... so .... I am trying to be a trooper... but this is tough.