Iron Boot Camp = USMC Boot Camp – no lie.

Wow. What a day. I can hardly even blog about it, my mind is just spinning. I guess I will start at the beginning.

IronMel, Moddie the Tree Frog (wink) and I met at the Larkspur Ferry Terminal at O-dark-OO to get over to Lake De La Valle in Livermore (think that’s what it’s called). And the first of my thank yous goes to the makers of the Toyota Siena Minivan – we got 3 bikes, 3×3 wetsuit/swim/parka/run/bike/transition/nutrition before, during, after/foam roller/yoga matts in there, and Moddie even still fit. (OK she’s small but it wasn’t that bad.)

North/South Combined Photo: I'm back right, bright green swim cap

We arrived early, but that gave us time to wake up, get the bikes out, and start “lubing up” for our Open Water swim. Next thank you to Coach Mike, who arrived with a wetsuit that fit me GREAT – thank you, thank you! There was laughter and “Blow me, Baby!”s as we blew air into each other’s wetsuit arms to get them to fit better, zipped each other up, and lubed, lubed, lubed. There were some hicky-lookin’ folks afterwards (unfortunately one of them Iron Mel) where their wetsuits had rubbed their necks – I did fine. I was very thankful that the wetsuit had no arms, like my beloved Quintana Roo from the Chicago Tri oh so many years ago. My shoulders dislocate, and a full-arm wetsuit pulls my rotator cuff “back” and into that “fear” position. Thank you, wetsuit angels, for picking the perfect wetsuit out of Coach Mike’s closet for me. We took our North Bay/South Bay Combined Photo, then into the Lake!

We split into 2 groups – one to do basic Open Water drills, and one to swim to a buoy and back (about a mile I think). I took group 2, because I HAVE done Open Water, and I knew basically I just had to address my general Open Water Fear Factor. Jim K. and I got in the water together first and it was oh-my-Lord cold. Well, not really – there has been a lot of rain that has apparently warmed it up – it was probably about 52. Moddie said that the last time they used the Lake, it was so cold that there was ice on the potty seats – so we were VERY grateful! Thank you, lake heater nymphs for stoking up the underwater fires for us.

I started out towards the buoy, and had my anticipated “really don’t want to get my face in the water” reaction. I was able to pretty strongly swim “water polo style,” but that’s just exhausting. I saw Suzie flip over and do some backstroke, so I did that for a while – just kicking. I love doing that in the pool. It was really relaxing and I got to watch the clouds go by. I would flip over and do a little breast stroke, do a little “water polo style” stroke, then a little side stroke, etc. I wasn’t moving that fast, and I was getting a little tired. I knew I would need to get my face in the water, but it was definitely freaking me out.

Mentor Margaret (Serious Earth Angel in my life) swam up about that time, and we started chatting – about my Hella Week, about her kids, etc. It was like a walk in the park. It was great. Seriously. I did feel strong, I didn’t feel all that tired, my arms and feet weren’t cold (that was her main concern) – but I really didn’t want to get my face in the water. Imagine a cat-water aversion, that’s how it felt. I think I read somewhere that there is actually a mammalian face/water “response” – can’t remember what it said, but that there’s something about putting your face into water that actually triggers something deep in your brain that Just Says No.

Mentor Margaret and I stroked away for a while, and got within about 200 yards or so of the buoy. We were supposed to turn around at 30 minutes, and we’d been out about 45 or so by that time, so we decided to come back. (Some of the faster swimmers were coming back, so we tagged along.) As we headed back, we were around a bend in the lake from the boat dock – so it seemed impossibly far for a second and I felt deflated. Then something in the back of my head (my water angel – thank you water angel! Yes, I am going to be thanking a lot of angels today, just deal with it (wink)) said to me – and it really was like a separate voice that wasn’t mine – “You know that to do 25 yards in the pool, it takes 24 strokes every time, even if you TRY to do it in fewer strokes – 12 per arm. Can you put your face in the water, and stroke 12 times with your left/favorite breathing side, which will also be the side to see the shore?” And I answered (yes, it really was like I was answering a separate entity) “Yes, I think I could do that.” And so I did. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12. Stop, look up. WOW, covered a LOT MORE of the shore that way (I mean – duh. I was actually SWIMMING.) Mentor Margaret said “Hey! That was great! You’re doing it!” and I told her what I had done. She thought that was a good idea. So the little water angel voice said, “So, ready to do that again?” And I said “Yes,” and I did. Mentor Margaret stayed pretty much with me (we were with someone else too – Marina maybe?), and we actually swam. I would stop after the 12. Then my water angel voice would kick in. “How about 2 sets of 12?” And I would say “OK I can do that.” And finally we rounded the corner and the blessed boat dock was in sight. FANtastic! In sets of 12, I made it to the dock, and stumbled out onto the shore. Coach Dave said something to me, and I realized I was a little loopy. I couldn’t make his words into a coherent sentence. He did give me a little bit of a “searching look” (e.g., “Has she hit the Wall/is she going to be OK?”) but I told him I was ok, and toddled off with Mary over back to the cars, to get ready for biking.

Meenu with Cookies (recipe in a future post)

Iron Mel and Moddie were already there, ready to roll. Iron Mel had done the tutorial, and Moddie had been in the kayak with them. I REALLY did not want to bike. In fact, I said to Mel, “I’m not sure I’m going to bike.” She looked at me like I had just spoke in tongues, and said OF COURSE YOU ARE GOING TO BIKE! (She did NOT end with “…and you’re going to LIKE it!” but I might have heard that in a week small voice when I turned to get my Camelbak (laugh).) So thank you to my Earth Angel and Navigatrix Iron Mel, for putting a fire under my flames and getting me out of the wet, clammy, cold wetsuit, over to get some chicken soup (NECTAR OF THE GODS) and a cookie bar oat/chocolate/etc thing from Chris’ wife Meenu (DELISH), and into the shack to change. (BK told me to grab one – then, here’s my exchange with her: “Any peanuts in there?” “No, don’t think so…why?” “Because if I eat peanuts, I fall down from anaphylaxis.” “Oh, that doesn’t sound good” (goes over ingredients in her head), “No, no peanuts.” “OK, I will take 4 of those then” (BK falls over laughing))

Carolyn and I sat down on the bench together to get our wetsuits off, and got ourselves stuck quite spectacularly. Our hands were so cold, we couldn’t even push the wetsuits off. We were laughing like banshees and obviously in Full Loopy Mode. Lordie Lordie. We got ourselves out finally, and then even pulled a gal from South Bay Team (might have been Donna) out of her wetsuit (just stripped it off). After that we turned to each other and said “HELLO, why did we not do THAT for each other?” Funny. There were leaves and soil all over the floor of the changing shack, and I wound up with no-see-’em leaf ends under my bike shorts. Caroline humored me and wiped everything real or imagined off of me from under the pants legs, and we were off. So special thank you for patience and helpfulness and so sorry I forget who it was! Argh!

Got back to the bikes, and of course I had to go back to the shack to potty (again and again…and AGAIN) before we were all ready to go. (Shake Fist) Doggone you, tumor! I’m tired of the potty action! (OK, but thank you for being benign.) I was somewhat thankful though, in that I felt at least that probably meant I had done OK with hydration. I downed 2 GUs and put on my Camelbak, ready for the ride…kinda. I had looked at the topo map the night before, and it really had not looked very good to me. About 33 miles – but with a climb at the front end, the back end, and in the middle. I think if you click here, you will get to see the elevations.

getting ready to go (ditched the balaclava later)

I was dead last when we headed out – one more potty break, and during that time everyone had head out. I wasn’t that concerned – I had my Tunes, and I actually like the idea that I can basically take my own time. I also felt a bit virtuous to even be ON the bike. I really had not wanted to head out. It was cold, damp, and I didn’t feel great but I didn’t feel bad. I figured – What the heck?

We went out from the parking area and through the ranger station, then left and up the first hill climb (you can see it on the map if you click on it, above. At least, I hope you can). I am so thankful and grateful for Vlad (my 20 year old Specialized Sequoia) and the “compound low” gear that he has in the front. I am seriously wondering if the new bike is going to be able to climb so well. H said he’s going to try to do the math on it all – because I have this AWESOME basically “mountain bike” gear on the front, which is tiny and allows me to not have to really “push” up a hill (hard to explain). Oh sure, some hills are too hard for me, but in general, I am spinning my pedals WAY MORE (and going very slowly) than anyone else on the Team. As we were climbing up the hill, the GU and Accellerade must have kicked in, because I started slowly passing folks. Of course I also had my tunes going – Tiffany laughed out loud when I gave her my tuneless rendition of “Jump In The Line” by Belafonte, which was playing when I passed her. I put the iPod on the headsets today, because I can play the music much softer, and hear things better than when I crank it up and put it in my mini speaker set in the top of the Camelbak (of course, headsets are illegal during the race, but the speaker thing doesn’t seem to be, from what I can tell from the rules). We ultimately got up and over the hill, and I’d probably passed about a dozen people. Then it was the downhill side – YIKES – long and pretty doggone steep. I realized with a sinking heart that we were going to have to come back UP this at the end. It went on, and on, and on. I had my brakes on, but kept my feet spinning like Coach Dave told us to do.

bucolic Livermore

The ride was fairly uneventful on the way out. OK – well – truth be told, I actually felt GREAT. I sent up some prayers to my Sister Louisville Triathlete Missy, who I met because she found my blog and emailed me. It was a little creepy, because these prayers were answered like a big “love slam.” Hard to explain it. Missy is also doing the LLS workouts – I send them to her (she’s in Tennessee), and so we were both “out there” today. She LOVES to bike, and I asked for a little help “from her” as I was heading out. “Unwritten” came on my iPod, and – oh my LORD! – I started SINGING at the top of my voice, almost weaving my bike to the tune, and remember, I can’t carry a tune in a bucket. The landscape was gorgeous, the horses were out, the grass was green, the SUN came out for a few moments, wow! Two of the South Bay gals sped past me and they were LAUGHING, and I mean laughing HARD. They said, “Go girl, you are making us feel great you are having so much FUN!” I was a little embarrassed because I was singing and didn’t know the words, but, OK, I didn’t care. I was in this big biking love bubble. So thank you Missy, I channelled you today, Sis!

Mary and I traded back and forth for a while on some rolling hills – really gorgeous horse country. Somehow I got ahead, and the big hill in the middle of the ride (again you can see this in the Elevation map above) was a switchback so I could see her below and some of my other teammates. There were the big steel industrial windmills on the top of the ridge and I realized that was probably the “Altamonte Pass” that I hear so often on the radio during traffic reports.  At the top, the sag wagon waited. I felt very good. I had been hydrating with the Accellerade, and got off and stretched and had a couple of GU. Then a couple of the South Bay Team were heading back down the hill, and I figured “No time like the present” and just headed off after them, without hanging around really all that much.

windmills on the ridge

More hills, then we turned on a straightaway that looked flat, but was one of those insidious “small percentage” climbs. Not only that, but the wind had come up and WOW! At one point it blew on me in a gust from the side and I was really glad there was no traffic on the road because I went straight out of the bike lane! It was also cold, and it wicked the moisture/sweat right off you. I was wearing a LOT OF CLOTHING – 3 tops, bike shorts, and bike tights and gloves – but it was wearingly cold. (I had actually started out in a Balaclava like I had seen some of the guys wearing on the Louie, but it was too constricting, so that came off nearly as soon as it went on!)

My energy waxed and waned, and I paid a lot of attention in getting the Accellerade in. I am still not so great opening food on the bike while riding. I stopped on one straightaway and had a couple more GU – I basically would stop, stretch my back, and eat the GU every so often. It didn’t seem all that bad, and I didn’t stop for long enough that I felt like my legs were getting cold or anything.

Well, I finally turned on the road that leads into the park where the lake and our cars were. I remembered how Moddie and Mel and I had commented on the apple/almond/cherry blossoms and how pretty they were, etc. driving in and tried to enjoy them, but I was feeling surly and really just wanted OFF that BIKE. The straight road seemed to go on forever, and I knew, with dread, that the HUGE climb was coming up afterwards (again, you can see this on the elevation map – it was the downhill or “back side” of the hill, from the beginning of the ride).

Coach Dave had sent a BIG email (too long to put here) about “hitting the Wall” and “digging deep” and all that jazz. He said to try to remember a Wall you had hit but then surmounted…but it’s all just a bad memory until it really happens to you AGAIN. (Someone once told me that the mind/body “memory” of pain fades quickly…otherwise, how would women have more than one kid, eh?)

OK, that climb was the most punishing thing I have done since USMC Boot Camp. I was trying to think if ANYTHING I have done was as bad as that between the “two” boot camps. Marathon training? Previous Tri training? Training for our “length of the French Alps” hike? Driving cattle through the Snowies for days and days? NOPE. This was IT. It went on and on and ON. You would come around a corner and think you “had to be close” and you would be faced with a VISTA of climb in front of you as far as the eye could see, until it went around another corner. It was AWFUL. I put the bike into that low low gear, and just started heading on up. My new daughter Leann told me that she had asked her mother Gladys to help me from Heaven, and I have a feeling this is where she kicked in on her angel wings. Gladys lent me the grit, determination, and spirit of GLADnYS that helped her fight her cancer for years. Thank you, woman! I will take care of your daughter and grandsons.

So bad to that Hill. There is NO question that I quit – dead *ss QUIT – 4 times on that climb. But each time I quit, I had to not quit, because I couldn’t put my foot down (no way I could get started again on that grade), and it was WAY too far to walk, and there was no truck to pick me up. I WOULD HAVE TOTALLY hailed down a Sag Truck and made them take me. NO QUESTION. But I couldn’t, because there wasn’t one. So I was forced to start again, after each “metaphorical” quit. I called on Missy’s spirit. I called on Louie B’s spirit. I called on God, yes, really, I did. I talked to my bike in my head, praising it for being so awesome and keeping me going. I prayed to the Goddess in my body, because I couldn’t drink, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t do anything but breathe like a freakin’ freight train and hold on and  keep my head down and keep pedaling, and so I prayed to her to just keep me going, hoping I had enough nutrition in there not to bonk and just physically be unable to continue.

Amazingly, I passed people. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t “reel them in” or any of that great head stuff. I just breathed on past them like a freight train. Some of them said “Good job.” Most were just like me – gutting it out – no way to think about anything but keeping one foot pedaling after another. It was really helpful there for a while to think about breathing – CO2 OUT, Oxygen IN – my monkey brain would try to take me off that mental path, tell me how much I HATED BIKING – and I would just come back to the Breath. In. Out. In. Frankie Goes To Hollywood “Relax” came on my headsets and I did have to smile. “Relax, just DO IT” I would sing to myself instead of “Don’t do it.” I would pedal to the beat of the song that I was on – a little slower, a little faster – always basically just inching up the hill, and my feet moving faster than the other folks I would pass. I blessed the Gods of that compound low gear. I kept going. I went around another corner, saw another huge vista of “up,” quit again mentally, just QUIT, crying in my head, but I couldn’t cry, because I would have an asthma attack, and there was no way I could take my hand off and get my inhaler, so I just breathed. My right hand cramped up into a claw on the handlebar – yes, a claw, I couldn’t unbend my fingers – and I sent visions of electrolytes over to her, because I couldn’t drink, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t help her with anything but breathing, and continuing to move inexorably up that grade. My glasses fogged over and I could feel my face getting super red and overheated. I reached up just for a second to push the glasses down my nose, so I could see by peering over the top of them, because it was impossible for me to even think about taking them off, wiping them, or whatever else a normal person on a flat road might do. My face was hot, hot, hot and I knew that was not good.

And then – I was there. I was at the peak. There were a bunch of guys on the side of the road, flying radio-controlled airplanes. It was flat, but it looked off in all directions down beautiful green valleys, and the downhill grade was there. I had DONE IT. I had quit 4 times, and unquit 5. I put my feet down on the ground, and started to bawl. Just for a little bit…then I pulled myself together and started sucking the Accellerade out of my Camelbak and got a couple GU out of my Bento Box, and enjoyed the view. Les and Jen came up on me then and asked if I was OK, I gave them a thumb’s up, and they went on down the hill. I looked back down the slope way, way down (to the next turn) – and I was alone. All those folks I had passed – whom I actually had imagined were just behind me – were so far behind me I could not even see them. That was SHOCKING. Once I was almost sloshy with Accellerade, I got back on and headed downhill.

Jim K (his angel wings are folded back out of sight)

I ultimately pulled into the parking lot and I was shaking with emotion. I had held it together (barely) as I approached the lot – more afraid that it would trigger an asthma attack than afraid of “showing emotion” or whatever. But I rode past some of the cars, and folks were SUPER surprised to see me – I could hear it in the surprised tone of their voices and their hoots. My head was buzzing though and I felt out of body. Mentor Margaret was standing by my car and she could see something was up. I started leaking tears and and she said “Good or Bad?” and I said “Good – I did it all, no walking.” She gave me a hug and I just let loose. It was not pretty (laugh!) Then I got a big hug from Jim K., which was the BEST. I even made BK give me a hug. :-) So special thanks to my earthbound angels Mentor Margaret (again), and especially Jim, and also BK, for letting me wet their shoulders. I had a flashback of my very first team ride, where Jim and BK where these ~big!~ bike studs to me – and there they were, my teammates, congratulating me and telling me I did great. Jim was funny – I had been telling him that H was getting me a new bike – he said “Maybe you don’t need that new bike after all, girl!” That cracked me up.

I didn’t change out of anything but my shoes – I’ve found that running in the full-on bike shorts is not that bad – and then after the ubiquitous potty break, we were off on the run. It was a 60 minute out and back cross country run. I had another couple GU, and per the lecture I had gone to on Thursday, had coconut water in my 4 Sportsbelt bottles. Off we went.

I felt pretty good – I was running with Maria and Marina. We were chatting and jogging – got to another potty on the trail and of course, I had to visit it. After that until I got to the turn- around spot, I was pretty much running by myself.

The WMDs (Women of Mass Destruction) - Marina, me, Iron Mel, Susie, and Moddie the Tree Frog in all our goaty spectacularness!

I caught up with them and a guy from South Bay Team at the turn around and was thinking about running with them, but I had gotten a SERIOUS second wind so I pulled past them up a hill and kept going. I think the GU from the top of the mountain had hit! I started passing folks – on uphills. It was crazy. Then I got to the rolling path that went around the lake. A LOT of our team were there, and Mercury Blues from David Lindley came on my headset, and I TOOK OFF. It was the most bizarre feeling. I was channelling Jeff (or maybe Coach Simon). I could feel my eyes were very focused, and my body was easy, leaning slightly forward, but my feet were kicking WAY up. I just reeled folks in and passed them. At one point I passed Iron Mel who was walking with Moddie (her hamstring is still not 100%) and she told me later she literally got tears in her eyes, she did not recognize me at first as I blew on by. I heard her actually scream, and I gave her the “thumb and pinkie finger Hang Loose” wave and I kept going and going. I passed Mentor Margaret, and SHE gave a hoot and picked me up – I had set my sights on a bathroom in the distance, and I couldn’t really talk, I was breathing like a possessed demon freight train, but I was able to get out “To the house.” I knew I would start fast walking from there until I caught my breath again because that is what I planned. Mentor M. ran with me to it and she was talking and cheering but the buzzing in my head was so strong I just knew she was there, but it was like I was somewhere else. My legs and body were someone else’s. Some SERIOUS runner! I got to the potty and Margaret ran on to catch up with Liz, and I race-walked until I caught my breath, then “Gallowayed” by picking a tree, then running to that, then walking to another chosen tree, etc. We came around a corner and I could see the boat dock, and I could see Liz and Margaret up ahead. They actually slowed down just as I came up on them, and I ran between them, gave them the “Hang Loose” wave, and sped on. I was feeling REALLY spent, but I wanted to get to our parking lot, to the car. I wasn’t sure I would make it, but I wanted to “leave it all on the pavement.” There was a steep downhill in the sidewalk, and I was watching where I stepped, and then had a complete single-minded purpose to get to that van. I wasn’t really seeing anything. I did not feel like I was part of my body. My body was a machine (a tired machine!) and it was carrying me to the finish. My head was up I was leaning forward, my arms were pumping, my feet were kicking up high in back. I heard a noise though, and looked up under the brim of my baseball hat – and there were all the coaches standing on a picnic table, cheering me on. I TOTALLY did a double take. I had NO idea they were there until I was nearly on top of them. (It sort of broke my trance, and I started smiling. They cheered me in, I ran past them and then walked around a bit to get my breath back. It was AMAZING.)

I hadn’t realized HOW many people I had passed until I looked around – and there were hardly any people there. I stood with the coaches and cheered people in. Tiffany, Mary, Mel, Margaret, Suzie, and more came up to me and congratulated me, told me that when I blew past them it was amazing. I was still a little out of body. I felt fantastic.

Me and One-Lisa on the foam roller. Insert soundtrack of giggles and groans!

We did Stretching with Doug, which involved sharing my foam roller with Alissa, a gal from South Bay which was hilarious (and painful!) She told me to remember her name by thinking “Just One Lisa – A Lisa.” I can remember that!

Mel and I got out of our clothes, and LORDIE LORDIE – we were SO STINKY! We coined a new phrase – we were the new WMDs! (Women of Mass Destruction!) Yup – throw those clothes in an Alkaida Stronghold and there would be NO survivors! The 3 of us ultimately got in the van to get home – the poor van looked like a Sports Basement had detonated in the back. Clothing, nutrition, wetsuits, foam rollers, yoga mats, shoes, etc. EVERYwhere. We had our usual hilarious time – Mel has to be the funniest person on Earth, or maybe she just is with me when I’m at my loopiest from dehydration and working out! She got the Spirit Cape, much deserved (decked out by Tiffany with a new Princess tiara, etc.)

I just have to stop typing now – and rescue the laundry so that I will have clothes for TOMORROW – when we DO IT ALL AGAIN. What a day. What a freakin’ DAY! I made it over the Wall. I picked myself up FIVE times. I made it past Quit with a capital freakin’ Q. I’m so emotional, ecstatic, whatever, that I can barely believe it.

And – paradoxically – I feel detached and out of body. I feel like something just took me over, especially at the end. So thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to all the angels who helped me along – Earthbound (Coaching, Mentoring, Teammates, Tenneseean) and perhaps, not-so-earthbound. If not angels, well, maybe I just channelled my Ironman self, 5 months from now. I’m not sure. But it was awesome. AWE-freakin-SOME.

(Time to go to bed. I mean – it’s after 7:00 p.m. and everything.)

3 thoughts on “Iron Boot Camp = USMC Boot Camp – no lie.

  1. I cannot begin to tell u how proud I am of you!! You are a fighter and pushed through do it again tomorrow because now you know you can

  2. I love your intestinal fortitude! Most people are willing to do what you have done! To be able to push your spirit, mind, and body, to a perceived limit, is a blessing. There are many soldier, sailors, airman, and Marines who will never have another opportunity to experience life. You realize the gift you have been given, and you do not waste such a wonderful gift!

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