The distressed cry woke me from the deepest sleep I'd had in weeks. My husband, who had been sleeping in the guest bedroom so as not to infect me with whatever funk he had contracted the week before, was also awakened by the screaming and met me in the hallway. We watched, helplessly, as our oldest kitty collapsed at the top of the stairs. My 15 year old, Zorro, had somehow made it up the stairs which he rarely attempts anymore, but he knew he needed our help. He left a trail of vomit and diarrhea in his path and as I scooped his limp body into my arms, his eyes, unable to register mine, rolled slightly back.
Oh my god. Oh my god. This can't be happening. Zorro, hang on baby. Mommy is here. Oh my god. What do I do? We have to help him. This can't be happening. He can't die.
Everything was happening so fast, and suddenly his life was flashing before me. I ran down the stairs and grabbed the karo syrup from the cupboard. I wrapped Zorro in a towel and held him in my arms smearing the sticky substance on his gums and tongue.
Please, baby, hold on. You can't leave me. Please don't die. Mommy's here.
I threw some clothes on and continued to plead with him as my husband backed the car out of the garage. I called a friend and skilled veterinary technician, EZ, and asked her to leave her nice warm bed to meet us at the hospital. My husband drove like we were in an ambulance, and thankfully at 1 AM the roads were pretty empty.
EZ was there waiting, and we rushed Zorro into treatment and started working. IV catheter. Blood sugar level. Fluids. Antinausea meds. IV metronidazole. We worked and sat with him while he received his infusions for an hour or two until he stabilized. I flushed his catheter, wrapped him up and took him home in a more stable condition than he'd arrived in.
My husband retreated back to the guest room for what few hours remained of our Friday night. Zorro preferred to sleep on the floor, so I made a nice bed of my best fleece blanket and watched as he curled up. I lay in bed, half asleep, but jumping out of my skin at every little noise.
I can't lose him. I'm not ready. I need to get through this weekend, and the holidays. And I promise, I won't let him suffer, but please, God, don't take him from me yet. Please, just a little more time.
I woke with a headache on Saturday morning and found my baby sleeping quietly where I left him a few hours before. I curled up on the floor next to him and stroked his fur. I got ready to go, and wrapped him up to head back to the hospital. In a few hours we were checking into our hotel for Ironman Arizona, and Zorro would spend the day on fluids and then be picked up that night by EZ who had agreed to stay with him and the boys at our house for the weekend.
This was the start to my Ironman race weekend. By the time we dropped off our gear bags and bikes, checked into our hotel and got dinner, I was exhausted, emotionally drained, and couldn't even really think about racing. It seemed really trivial now, and I was more worried about getting done so I could get home to my baby.
Race morning dawned. I choked down half a waffle and a bottle of orange juice on our way to transition. We went through our normal routine, filling our tires and water bottles, tracing our steps through transition and going for a warm up jog. Finally it was time to get our wetsuits on and begin the walk toward the swim start.
There was a time in my life when I was an avid church goer. One of the sermons that has stuck with me over the years was about sacrifice. The pastor talked about when you're hurting or in pain (physically or emotionally), rather than ask for your pain to be relieved- you should offer it up as a sacrifice so that someone else might be relieved of their pain. On Saturday I dedicated parts of my race to people that are important to me, and on race day, I was blessed with a clear mind and a full spirit. And as much as I'd like to give you a dramatic play by play of the race, there is surprisingly little to say. It was an amazing day. I had no expectations and I can honestly say that for the first time ever, I never once thought about what I was doing- I just did it.
I swam. I swam the same way I've done week after week after week for the last 6 years. I went out hard at the start, got some distance, settled in and swam relaxed and comfortably for 2.4 miles. I got out of the water just as Mike Reilly was announcing we were at 61 minutes. As much as I'd like to break an hour in the swim, there's something comforting about being able to swim 1:01 in my sleep. There's little effort involved, and it's a beautiful start to my favorite endurance sport.
|IMAZ Swim: 1:01|
I had a little trouble getting out of my wetsuit, but once I finally did I flew through transition. I grabbed my bike and jumped on to start the longest part of the day.
Normally during the bike leg of Ironman I go through stages. I feel good, then I feel bad, then I mentally fight to stay in the moment, and then I feel good again. On Sunday, I had the absolute best bike ride of my life. Not just because it was my fastest (it was), but I can honestly say that rather than sit back and wait to get off the bike and start running... I raced the bike. I pushed from the start. I paid close attention to my nutrition and I nailed it. I never went through a bad patch, and though my math is shaky in the middle of a long race, I am 99% sure I even splitted all 3 loops.
Shortly after hitting the beeline on my 3rd loop, I was passed by 2 teammates and my training partner. I was so excited to see someone familiar and we ended up back and forth the rest of the way. By the time we arrived back in transition I realized that I hadn't even been looking forward to getting off my bike. I was having fun riding my bike!
|Taking in a little fuel on my HOT new bike! Bike time: 5:27|
I cruised through transition, slipping into my running shoes as the volunteer grabbed my helmet. A minute thirty and I was out on the run course.
I didn't have a plan for the run course, I just ran it how I felt it. Having fueled really well on the bike, my energy levels seemed stable and I was able to just top off the tank every mile at the aid station. I didn't begin to feel hungry until much later than usual, and when I did I began walking through the aid stations to fuel more.
The spectators lining the course were amazing and I loved the energy. It was so nice to see everyone smiling and high-fiving. And I had several people shout for me to run for Zorro which boosted my spirits. The new 2-loop course seemed to fly by and before I knew it I had passed mile 21 and was cruising the final miles of the race course.
|IMAZ Run: 4:27|
It was only then that I looked down at my watch and realized that I was going to be within 10 minutes of my best race. I ran on clouds the last 3 miles. Turning the corner on Rio Salado I was grinning ear to ear. The crowds were loud and Mike Reilly was calling people to the finish. I had done it, again. This race, this distance... it's not a given. There are so many things that can go wrong on race day. When everything goes right, and all the pieces fall into place, it's an amazing feeling of accomplishment. I raised my arms high as I crossed under the banner reading 11:02. Only 8 minutes slower than my previous best time... I had proven to myself that I am not a one trick pony. I was thrilled.
I chatted with some friends who were at the finish line, and eventually hobbled off to find some food. My husband, who had flatted (and subsequently crashed) on the bike course came into T2 about 10 minutes behind me, and wasn't able to run more than about 12 miles. He gutted it out, and I watched him come through to finish just after 12 hours 30. We had known ahead of time that I would probably finish ahead of him, but I was thankful that I didn't have to pass him on the run. Though he had caught me on the bike and was back and forth with me during the second loop, when he crashed and gave up 10 minutes on the 3rd loop of the bike course he never caught back up. Knowing he was out there and seeing him a couple of times on the run lifted my spirits, but if I'd had to run past him... it would have been really tough for me to do. He's my inspiration. He's the one who taught me to run well, and feeds my passion for running. I may have given up and walked it in with him. But every time I saw him, he told me to keep pushing, to keep running, to keep giving it my all. And I love him for that.
On Tuesday after the race, we went to the doctor and had his Achilles tendon fixed. Or hopefully fixed. We'll find out once the boot comes off and the recovery period is over. But it is my deepest prayer and hope that he will be able to run pain free again. Needless to say, we are both ready to put 2013 behind us.
I am so thankful to have capped off my year of the Ironman with a perfect race. I am already enjoying my off season, and I look forward to starting fresh in the new year. I have learned a lot about myself this year and I am ready to set some new goals for 2014. I am proud that everything I have accomplished so far (in my lifetime) has been entirely by myself. I am proof that hard work can garner results. I am the unlikely athlete. The one who never played sports. Always on the sidelines. Many people are much faster than me, but I have achieved my goals by my own effort. That feels really good. I am excited to start working with a coach in January- for the first time ever in my life! I am hopeful that she will be able to extract the best that I have to give. It is going to be a wild ride.
There are a few people that deserve a little recognition. Nate Snell from Endurance Rehab has been my physical therapist for several years. I have a standing weekly appointment and he challenges my strength and has crafted this amazing endurance vessel.
Thank you to Matt Tonkin, our manager at Cadence Running Company, who not only partners with us to make our business successful but is a great friend. He has been encouraging me for months- believing that I was going to have a great race at IMAZ.... and he was right! I guess it is the coach in him that allowed him to see my potential even when I could not.
Thank you TriScottsdale, the best and most fun team of people involved in the sport! I am honored to represent. Together with my team mates, we took first place in the club competition at Ironman Arizona. Go Team!
And lastly, a huge thank you to Paraic McGlynn at Cyclologic. If you know him, he needs no explanation. If you don't, Paraic is a bike fit genius... and that is an understatement. I have worked with Paraic over the last couple of years and have always appreciated his skill. When we had everything stolen after Tahoe, he squeezed us into his packed schedule to get us dialed in on our new rides. I know for a fact that I rode so well on Sunday because of his efforts with me and my new bike. It's fine to have a smokin' fast bike, but if your fit is off and you can't distribute power while maintaining a comfortable aero position for 112 miles, you might as well be riding a cruiser. My bike is freakin' awesome--- but only because Paraic made it so.
|Making final adjustments at Cyclologic.|
Thank you to everyone who has inquired about Zorro since his illness a week ago. He is at home now, and stable. He was diagnosed with diabetes 2 months ago, and is not regulating on insulin very well. I know that he is on borrowed time. Anyone who has loved a pet like family can understand how difficult it is to watch him get old and decline. I adopted Zorro when I was a senior in veterinary school. I was on my radiology rotation and he came in with a mangled leg. Despite his injuries, he would lay in our laps and purr. He was 6 months old at the time, and needed a home. I took him in, paid the surgery resident to amputate his leg and he's been my little kitten ever since. He is the sweetest, gentlest soul and I will be devastated to say goodbye to him. But it is not his time yet. Thank you for your thoughts over the last week.