Sunday, September 23, 2007

So What's Next?

Well the past couple of weeks have been filled with trying to get the Erickson household back to normal. Our normal anyway.:) I cleaned out the refrigerator. I could have produced enough penicillin to keep Zak and Gracie's preschool class ear infection free for a year. I then tackled the piles of laundry that built up, even though I thought I stayed on top of it. On Thursday I found myself scrubbing the bathrooms. Stop making a face, I cleaned them but not every corner. This week I will scour the front room and kitchen floors and maybe even get to the windows.

What next? I keep asking myself. Friends and family have been asking the same. I'm a little disappointed that I didn't sign up for the Chicago marathon. I've been feeling really good and think I could definitely qualify for Boston again. But then what? Would I go to Boston in the spring? Yes, I mean no, I mean .... well, what, what do I mean. I have had the good fortune of being able to live out 2 of the goals that I set for myself. Both in the same year, within 6 months of one another. How do I top that? By trying to put a happy ending on the one that I didn't like the ending to? In retrospect it would almost spoil the experience I had there. As bad as I felt initially, looking back, I learned a lot about myself and moving forward. The months following Boston I was able to rediscover the love I have for just doing what I love to do and not making it anymore than that.

I think right now I need to sit back and relax. It's time to slow it down for a little while anyway. Hey, the Cubbies might make it into the playoffs and the Bears might actually prove themselves as a team to be reckoned with. Dennis is talking about Ultra marathons and adventure races and Gil, Scott and Mike are talking about 1/2 IM's in June. The club is in need of some serious attention and my family needs, well actually, I need some serious family time. So for right now I'm doing NOTHING. Well, I'm doing some things but not trying to achiev any life long goals, not for a while anyway.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Race With Your Heart

"Race with your heart not your watch" - Doug Johnston May 2007

That's what I did. It was a perfect week-end. The weather, the friends and family, the atmosphere. All of it. It was one of the most magical experiences of my life. A feeling that has come probably 5 times - getting married, finding out I was pregnant and having the twins, qualifying for Boston, and then Sunday completing the Ironman Wisconsin. There are no words that can express the love and support I felt during the entire Ironman journey. My life truly is good.

Tom, me, Mike, Dennis, Gil and Doug after Friday night's pasta dinner

"Hey Pam, nice rack" - Thanks Gil, be quiet Doug

Room with a view. Lake Monona from my hotel window, Saturday morning.

Crew and family having coffee Saturday afternoon. You can see Scott (white cap with blue stripe) telling Doug to think positive.

That's Brian in the blue shirt holding his coffee and his lovely wife. Yes, any one familar with "Run Bubba Run" - that's Bubba - we're lucky to have him on the HumanRacer team :)

The 07 Moo Crew
Gil, Doug, Brian, Tom, Mike, Dennis, me, Herb and Scott

Holy crap - why didn't anyone tell me how short my shorts were?!

My family after the finish -

Matt, my mom, my sister Patty, me, Keri, Nick and the incredible Sam - The hubby took Zak and Grace upstairs - they were literally falling asleep on the sidewalk :)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Run - The Final Chapter

I made my way, the best I could, into T2. I was hobbling, trying to get my legs to form some kind of stride. Heck, I would have settled for a trot but the legs just weren't working that way. I almost found myself in mens transition but a volunteer with a pink mohawk guided me in the right direction. The room was empty with the exception of some pretty tired looking women. It was very quiet. First thing I did was take off my shoes and socks. Then I found a power bar and started eating. I was changing and eating. I took everything off, I didn't want anything wet on me. The sun was setting and it was already cool. The last thing I needed was to spend energy trying to stay warm. Put baby powder on my feet and laced up my shoes. I felt like I was moving in slow motion. Finished the power bar and grabbed a cup of water from a table near the out door. A volunteer met me there and took my bike to run bag while I fumbled to take a Tylenol. Once outside I saw my mom, Keri and Patty still cheering as I balked at going in the 1st p.a.p., the next one was usable so in I went. They were right in front of me when I came out. Well in front and above me. We talked as I tucked my gel away and found a spot for my inhaler. I said my good byes with a big smile and I was off.

Ok I told myself. You have 2 ways to do this. Mile by mile or hour by hour. I know I have said all along to "race with your heart not your watch" but I wasn't going to race. I just wanted to finish and at that moment, in my mind, counting the hours down sounded like a lot less than miles. Then I remembered what last years IMOO 3rd place women's finisher (25-29 a/g) told me. "Walk or slowly jog your first 2 or 3 miles. Don't run. You'll catch everyone who passes you and many more if you just start out slow." They were hard words to live by but I did. I was able to trot now, I wanted to run. But I didn't I jogged and was passed by more than a few people. Take it in I told myself. Look around you. Madison is a great city. It's a lot like Chicago's Lincoln Park. With the tree lined streets, restaurants and bars, shops and small offices. It's very clean. I was able to watch the female winner run towards the finish. "You rock" I yelled to her. She was smiling and looked so strong. Before I knew it my runners legs took over. I think I jogged about 2 miles but now my legs told my mind that the warm up was over. Keep your turn over short I was telling myself. Keri told me this several years back and it's been very helpful in keeping me focused when I run long distances. I could feel the wind in my face. I was smiling. It felt so good. Everything felt right. This was what I wanted to feel in Boston. But didn't until the very end. Today was the Ironman and after swimming 2.4 miles and riding 112, I embraced this wonderful feeling with open arms. Slow and steady I was telling myself, it's still early. I kept hearing my name called out. You look good Pam, Nice smile Pam - keep smiling. I would see the mile markers and fight the urge to look at my watch. I was wondering were the Moo crew was. Would I see anyone? The crowds were great but I really wanted to see a familiar face.

I felt my pace picking up. I was passing people now. Thankfully the queasy stomach I had on the bike was gone. Started to feel a stitch and did the breathing exercise where you push the stomach out when you breath in and then pull it in when you breath out (I think that's the order) and within a couple of breaths it was gone. Ran thru the U W football stadium. It seemed so small. On TV it looks larger than life and appears to just go on and on but running down the sidelines, everything looked miniature. The seats, the end zone, all of it was just .... tiny. As I was making my way onto the school campus I saw Scott. I let out a squeal or maybe it was a scream. I was so happy to see him. I called out to him. "You look great Scott". He smiled and waved. Not less than 200 yards later I see Dennis. His head was down and he was in a zone that I have never seen him in before. He was moving quick and steady. "Hey, Dennnnniiiisss. " I said low and loud. He gave a wave of acknowledgement but never took his eyes off the path. I have to say this, for a second, maybe it was 2 seconds I thought about chasing him. But was reminded by what he told me "stay with your plan". My plan wasn't to chase anyone. My plan was slow and steady. Shortly after seeing Dennis, probably 500 yards shortly, I saw a pack of runners. 3 or 4 people just running together. Laughing. Talking. This isn't something you see while running in the Ironman. Who was right in the thick of that conversation, GIL! It was just like Gil. GILLLLLL! , I yelled. He kind of turned as if he recognized that someone just shouted his name but kept running at his pace. And just like that, I saw Mike. He was looking a little tired but moving. "You look strong Mike", I yelled and pointed to him. He just shook his head. "Oh no", I said, "you rock, you look GREAT!" And then my moo crew mates were gone. I felt very alone at this point. An unwelcome feeling for sure. One I wanted to shake. I turned the corner and was met by a hill. What?! Who put this here I thought. People were walking up it. There was no way I could walk. If I started to walk I wouldn't start running again. Ok, head down, hills build character I told myself. Half way up I saw a sign, something about blood staining the pavement. UGH! Don't look at anymore signs. Just keep going. I kept thinking about heart break hill in Boston. I read so much about it and when I got there, well, it didn't seem like much. Why hadn't I heard about this hill. Then I did remembered Michelle saying something about 2 hills and it dawned on me this must be it. I finally reached the top and started to feel the miles that I had just completed. You're ok I told myself. Keep going. An aid station is coming soon, just keep going. I saw the 6th mile marker. I was surprised to see it because I don't remember seeing mile 5. I was so happy I said out loud to an older couple sitting next to it, "I can't believe it's mile 6, there it is." They found my comments pretty funny. And now I could check my watch. "Don't be disappointed I told myself, and if things are slower than what you want, DON'T SPEED UP. You're feeling to good right now. I looked, an hour 4 minutes had passed. I was thrilled! It was exactly what I wanted to see. The tiredness I had felt earlier was now just a bad memory. I was feeling good again. I reached the aide station and grabbed water 1st and then saw the cookies. Wonderful, store bought, hard and crumbly cookies. They were a sight for my sore eyes. Keep in mind, in the past 10 hours I had eaten a ham sandwich, pretzels, 2 1/2 power bars and more power gel than any one person should have to endure. But now I had a chance to eat a cookie. And I had my choice. Chocolate chip, sugar, oatmeal and some other unidentifiable kind. Normally I would know that they all tasted the same, hard and no taste at all but in this moment they looked warm and homemade. I grabbed the oatmeal looking one. It was hard and crunchy but tasted sweet and delicious. It was small but I was able to make it last 3 or 4 bites. I washed it down with gatorade and a sip of water. Uh, I don't think I'll ever forget that cookie. It was ssssoooo good. I heard my name on a loud speaker which made me think this was an important turning point. Probably the 10k marker. I then looked up and saw Michelle, Laura and Sheila yelling and cheering. "You guys are the best." I yelled at them. A couple of blocks before passing the capitol I heard Craig yelling. He had a choir of what I think were frat boys yelling with him. I looked up and saw him but as soon as I heard the chorus of voices my head immediately dropped down. I was laughing as I made my way by all the hollering. As I approached the turn around, 13.1 mile mark, some of the runners were actually completing their Ironman journey. I thought this would be tough for me to see the finish, but it wasn't. I felt good and was ready to tackle then next 2 hours + and become an Ironman.

Just after the turn around was runners special needs. I got my bag and dropped off the gel I was carrying and my sharkies. I felt good with the nutrition I was getting on the course and didn't want to carry any extras. I grabbed my long sleeved t-shirt and thanked the volunteer. I was off. How was I feeling so good? It had to be all the water and gel I took on the bike. I couldn't stop smiling now. I got a taste of the finish and knew I was going to make it. Saw Brian as I headed back to the campus. He was finishing up mile 10. He gave me a wave. Got to U W stadium again and the only thing hurting was my face. I tried to stop smiling but I couldn't. I was truly enjoying every step of this run. Don't get cocky I was telling myself, it's not over but with each step that I took I knew I was that much closer to my dream. Just after mile 16 my phone rang. It was Deb's. I missed picking up her call but called her right back. "Hey - I'm at mile 16 and can't stop smiling, my mouth hurts" I told her breathlessly. "You're at mile 16? Really! I was thinking you needed me, you don't need me." She said with excitement. "Call me in the morning. I'm watching on line - Love you." I said "I love you too best friend". Put the phone away. On my way back onto campus I saw Mike walking at an aid station. "I'm right behind you Mike. I don't want to startle you" I said. He told me his stomach was bothering him. We walked together thru the station. He took in some pretzels. I took water and gatorade. No cookies here. Bummer. Saw Doug on our way out. He was heading in the other direction. "Are you guys on lap one or two?" he yelled. Mike yelled 2 while I held up 2 fingers. It was good seeing Doug. The only members I had not seen were Herb and Tom. I saw Dennis 1st on the 2nd loop, then Scott but no Gil. Mike was behind me now, but not far behind. I ran the hill and said my goodbyes. The second time didn't get any easier. Got to the aid station and told the cookie lady I would pick one up on the way back. Made the turn around and saw Michelle, Laura and Sheila. They were still there. I was moving quickly now. Michelle was screaming "You're gonna be an Ironman"! I was shaking my head yes! I high fived all of them. I think I started floating at that point. I picked up a cookie, gatorade and water after leaving the girls. The cookies were still tasting good. It was dark now. I was running next to water and was pretty much by myself. I was passing the occasional runner who was now walking. I'm glad I could run at this point. It was dark and the lights they set up cast eary shadows along the path. I stopped to use the pap. And skipped walking the next aid station because of that stop. I was still smiling. I reached mile 24. I drank and ate and then called Scott. No answer. Called Keri. "I'm at mile 24" I said. "I'm keeping about a 10 minute pace. I'm coming in!" "Ok, we're right where we said we would be." Keri said. "Please tell Scott, I called him but he didn't answer." I said. "I will just go!" And I did.

I just went. Every step felt effortless. I could no longer feel my mouth, I think the smile was frozen on my face. I could hear the announcer and the cheers at the finish. I'm doing this I thought. I can't believe this is happening. I was told to take this part slow. I was going as slow as I could but was running. I could feel myself moving quickly but I could see the crowd and the capitol and park so clearly, like when you are riding in a car. I saw my sister and heard her tell Sam it was time to run. Sammy grabbed my arm and said "you're doing it aunt Pam, you're gonna be an ironman, no an ironwoman!" he said with a huge smile. I said come on Sam, let's cross together. We ran and as we turned the corner I saw my tri-mates for the last time. I saw each of their faces smiling, they were screaming GO!!! I let out a joyful scream and high fived all of them. I could hear all the people cheering. And then, in an instant it was quiet. And I heard the words I had wondered if I would ever hear, the words that Dennis, Gil, Doug and Scott I. typed to me just one year earlier to get me to do the race. "First time Ironman participant Pam Erickson from Frankfort, IL. Pam YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Bike - Final Chapter

One mile at a time. One mile at a time I kept telling myself. The weather was perfect for a long ride. The sun was shining with some clouds in the sky. It was cool. What a contrast from last year, rain, wind just yuck. And then the year before that, heat, humidity, no clouds just sun. We hit the weather jackpot. Just take your time I told myself. I was being passed constantly. Some were flying by others were slow and steady. Don't let that get in your head I told myself. It was probably mile 3 when I saw this bee coming right for me. THUMP. Put my fingers in the vent of my helmet to swish it out and was stung. AWE! I screamed. "AWE, AWE, HEY, AWE". I kept repeating it. I looked and the little sh!t got me on the inside of my middle finger, left hand. Crap it hurt. #81 rode by me, "Hey are you ok?" "Yeah, I just got stung by a bee" I said. "Are you allergic" he asked. "No just pissed" I answered. 2 miles went by and I was still feeling the burn and throb from the sting and saw something out of the corner of my left eye. It was a red and black flash. Then I saw an arm waving low. It was Dennis. He was riding smooth and fast. I started to wonder if I would see anyone else. Got to Firemans Park and took a gel and water. Was happy with how my nutrition was going. The next 10 mile felt great. I was passing the occasional rider who slowed down to eat or had trouble on a hill. Was getting ready to pass a girl when a ride Marshall came behind me and told me, "Pam you have 20 seconds to get by her." I was shocked. Couldn't he see I was passing her and that I was OBVIOUSLY obeying all the rules. And how did he know my name? It's funny, how you become defensive when you're concentrating and are suddenly interrupted. I was shaking my head yes at him and he watched as I passed and got a good distance in front of her. He then gave me the thumbs up and a big smile. I reminded myself that I wasn't on my typical Sunday ride, this was the Ironman and I needed to be aware of my entire surroundings not just me, my bike, my nutrition, but everyone and everything. Then I remembered I had my number with my first name on it on my back. Daaa, that's how he knew my name!

I began to ride with O'Callahan. A very thin, tall man. He would jockey ahead of me and then vice versa. We got to the climb in Mt. Horeb and I told him I had to get by and get up that hill. He yelled for me to "Go get it"! And that's exactly what I did. I grabbed water at the aid station by Mt. Horeb High School (while still on my bike, with a firm hand!) And he rode past me - "Hey, nice climb Pam!" We stuck together for a while. Commenting back and forth, encouraging each other with each hill that came. I lost him just after the rollers. Then right before the dreaded twisting climb, he passed me. "You look great Pam - way to tackle it!" I was taking in some gel at that point and wanted to conserve for what was about to come. So I let him go. That was the last time I saw him. The ride was going so smooth. It made me a little nervous it was so good. I knew I still had a couple of challenging hills left and then, I had to do it all over again. The trees were starting to cover the street now and I began to see more people. I could hear someone thumping a drum. A monotone, Tum, Tum, Tum, Tum. A perfect rhythm. And the twisting climb began. Seat back, toes forward, stay in the moment, I repeated these things. Tum, tum. I heared a spectator yelling - "Let's go people, ride those bikes like you just stole them!" I cracked a smile, that was funny because I always think no one would steel my bike, except for maybe me. Tum, tum, tum. The beat continued. People were cheering. "Go Met Life." Tum, Tum, Tum. I saw the woman who was beating the drum now. I was looking for the devil but never saw him. I was glad cause he freaked me out. I started moving my head to the beat of the drum. Tum, tum, tum, tum. The ride Marshall rode by, it was my ride Marshall, the one who called me by name. He was smiling. It was pretty comforting seeing that. Kind of like seeing your mom when you're a little kid. Knowing she's out there looking out for you. Tum, tum, tum and then my legs felt relief. The climb was over. Ahhh. I was shocked at how many people were at this point. Lots of cheering and yelling. It lasted over the next several miles, to the point of the next hard climb. I actually liked this part of the ride. I knew that after this point the only hard part left was "Possium hill" and shortly after that I would start the entire 40 mile ride over again.

Just before entering Verona I choked up. I'm doing this I thought. The emotion came from the fact that I don't consider myself a very strong cyclist. I'm a runner. Not a rider. But today I'm proving to myself that I am a cyclist. That I can do this. Kickstand and all. I saw a huge group of trimates cheering at the school in Verona. Michelle, Laura, Sheila, Kath and her family. I think there were more. They were screaming and cheering, I had to hold my mouth for a second to keep my emotions in check. It was a great feeling and so good to see them. I was looking for my family. Where were they? Oh, there's a port-a-potty. Stop, stop now. A young boy came to grab my bike. "No need" I said, "I have a kickstand". "Oh", he said with disappointment, "can I hold it anyway?" "Sure" I told him with a smile and handed him my bike. It was a quick stop, time well spent :) Got on the bike and took off. Hey, where are they. Did I miss them. I was heading back to Fireman's Park now. The second loop was starting but I never saw my family. Yikes, did something happen. I saw an ambulance leaving the cheering section by the school. Did Zak run out and get hit by a bike. My mind was racing and my legs were almost to a stand still. I decided before anymore tragic thoughts came to mind I had to call Scott. Got off the bike. Was asked by some spectators if everything was ok and I told them yes that I had to call my family and make sure they were ok because I didn't see them. Most of you may be rolling your eyes right now but my mind wasn't clearing, I kept thinking the worst, in order to stop the negative thoughts I had to call. Scott answered his phone.

"Hey, you better be riding and calling" he said.

"Where are you? Did I miss you?" I asked.

"No he said, we're on our way right now, see you on the second loop. You're riding right? I hope you didn't stop."

"I gotta go" I said. "See you in a couple of hours."

I was angry. Why weren't they there? Then the mother in me kicked in. The kids are 4, when at home it takes me forever to get them out the door, throw in new surroundings and a pool. Then add gramma and the cousins and there was my answer. This wasn't just a long day for me, this was a long day for everyone. With that I took a sip of water. Well, tried to. There was no water left in my cup. Grabbed my bottle. Empty. I started to panic. How could I let this happen? Stay calm I thought. But I wasn't, I was panicking. The panic caused my heart to race and soon my legs were feeling fatigued. I passed special needs. I knew water was about 5 miles away. I would stop and fill up. Literally stop. I would fill the cup and the bottle and then every water/aid station I would take a bottle and fill the cup, no matter how much water was in there, I would top it off. My thoughts were completely focused on how thirsty I was. I would occasionally try to suck the very last of any water that was left in the cup. I sounded like the annoying 8 year old at the movie theater making sure he got every last bit of soda from his cup. Finally, I got to the water stop. Filled up and was irritated by the teenage volunteer who was handing me the water. After I thanked her for her time she said "Hope you make it to the finish - I'll look for you". I almost slapped her. Instead I said - "Oh you'll see me, if I have to crawl you'll see me." And then I thought, now get the F away from me because your negative energy is bringing me down! I rode off fast. THE NERVE! What's the matter with her. Stop the negative thoughts. My legs were tired. I knew this would happen. I knew the first loop was to good to be true. The weather started to get cooler and the clouds were covering the sun. "Great I thought, I knew it would rain." I have to shake this negativeness. I reached for a gel. There was only one left in my bra. I checked the back pocket, one left. UGH! What was I thinking. How could I miss calculate. I had a good 45 miles + left. It's ok I thought. The aid stations have gel. Stay calm. You're about 8 miles from Mt. Horeb. Stay focused. My ride Marshall drove by. I smiled and waved, trying to hide the panic I was feeling. This can't be falling apart now. What if there are no gels left at the aid station, then what. I'm out here pretty late. It's possible. What will I do? Ok, get positive. Stop this negative thinking. Just keep moving. At this point I prayed. I said the Lords prayer over and over. Before I knew it I made it to the Mt. Horeb aid station and was yelling, WATER and it was perfectly passed to me, I then started yelling - GEL, I NEED GEL. I focused on a woman who had one in her hand along with a power bar, she handed me both as I balanced the water bottle in my mouth. I was able to get the water in the cup and throw the empty bottle while still holding on to the bar and gel. I then sucked the bar right out of the wrapper. I could taste the salt in the bar I was sucking so hard. I stuffed the wrapper in my cup and did the gel. Yuck it was the new Espresso flavor, but I felt the caffeine immediately. It was a strange comfort. Within 2 miles I started feeling good again. My mind was making its way thru the negative haze. I was worried about where I was on the course tho. I thought I lost time and that I was going to be close to the bike cut off time of 5:30. I couldn't even tell you what time it was at this point but the negative energy was still with me. And then I asked myself, "What made me think I wasn't exactly where I needed to be at this on the ride?" How could such a clear thought make its way thru such a cluttered mind still boggles me. But it did. Shortly after that I passed a mile marker and checked my watch. I did the math. I was happy with what I figured. I should be getting to T2 around 4:30. That was good. The negativity was slipping away. It felt like the caffeine and sodium from the gels that I was getting in large quantities from each aide station and taking every half hour was washing it away. Saw my ride Marshall for the last time with only about 22 miles left. He smiled and waved as if to wave good bye and good luck. I was wanted to yell thank you but just waved.

Headed into Verona and was excited because I knew I would see the family. There weren't many riders left at this point. Anabel was in front of me. A good distance in front. And a Marshall came by me and held up her hands, indicating that I was to close. This did annoy me. I was a good 3 1/2 bikes back, if not 4. I hit my brakes. The motorcycle pulled away. But the Marshall kept watching me. I was wondering if she thought I was going to flip her my bee sting. :) I didn't. At this point I just wanted to see Grace and Zak, Scott and Keri, my mom, Patty and everyone else. As soon as I turned towards the school I saw Scott and Sammy. And then a little further down I saw Gracie jumping up and down, screaming at the top of her lungs. Someone was holding Zak and he was waving, nonchalantly, just the way Zak does. Everyone was full of energy. I screamed back at them. And then they were gone. Ok, You're in the home stretch. I wanted to check my watch, instead I grabbed some cold water and used the pap again. "I'm back" I told the young kid who took my bike earlier. Getting out of the pap, my stomach felt queasy from all the gel. I told an older woman that my stomach was doing the wave and she suggested I take it easy riding in. She reminded me I still had a run ahead of me. "That was my plan, to take it easy." I told her. Those last 17 miles went by quickly. I told myself I was riding to Monee. Just and easy afternoon ride. And that's just what it felt like. Coming up the bike path, into Madison I could see the convention center. I choked up a little then. I had a fear of not being able to make it up the helix. I had no trouble. Keri, Patty and my mom were there waiting for me. I got off the bike and checked my watch. almost 4:00 p.m. Now I was smiling. I did it, in less time that I thought I would. I handed off my bike and did my best to quickly move to T2 for a change. It was time to change these biking legs back into runners legs.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Final Chapter in my Ironman Journey

Saturday - 4:15 p.m.

Gil, Theresa and I walked to St. Patrick's Church to say a few prayers. On our way I saw Iron Wil. I was thinking about her and was happy to see her, hug her and wish her luck. At church I prayed.
Dear Lord - Please keep Scott, Doug, Gil, Dennis, Tom, Mike, Herb, Brian and me safe during our journey tomorrow. Please keep all the athletes safe. Give us the strength to deal with whatever mental and physical challenges come our way. Amen.
I said this over and over and was snapped out of it by the sound of my phone vibrating on the church pew. It was my brother calling to tell me he won, yes won, his golf tournament. How cool is that :)

Sunday Race Day

I was awakened at 3 by Zak. He was coughing and it was becoming more frequent so I gave him a breathing treatment. Scott told me he would finish it to go lay down. Once the hmmming of the breathing machine stopped I realized I wasn't falling back to sleep. Scott wasn't either. The next hour was filled with something we haven't done for a long time. We talked, uninterrupted. We laughed and joked. Around 4 he headed down stairs and got us some breakfast. I did some yoga. We ended up eating in the bathroom. It's funny how that doesn't bother you when you're limited to 350 square feet and 2 sleeping children . The bagel and tea tasted really good. The egg tasted bitter so I washed it down with gatorade. Scott was doing his best to help me keep my nerves at bay. 5 o'clock arrived pretty quick. I was dressed and out the door to drop off my special needs stuff. On my way down to the drop boxes I called Caroline and left her a message. She was doing the Chicago half today and I wanted to wish her luck. On my way back I called Keri. I teared up a little when I was talking to her. She told me she hoped to see me before the swim but if not - that I would do great and she would see me in transition. I then talked with my mom and Patty and was wished well by both of them. I got back to the room and grabbed by swim stuff. I kissed the kids while they slept and hugged and kissed Scott for the last time. I had to get to my run bag before getting marked and to my bike. I had plenty of time. It was about 5:30. Found my run bag and dropped off my Moo Crew hat that my trimates signed. Got in line to be marked. 2364 I said as the big fat sharpie formed the numbers on my arms and legs. I started to walk away and I heard someone calling my name. Several times. It was still dark and the glare of the lights was making it difficult to see. "Pam" I heard her again. It was Dennis's wife and little girl. Uh, I was so happy to see them. She asked how I was feeling. She told me how they got ready for the day and how well the little one was handling the early wake up call. Then I saw Dennis. He looked a little nervous. I hugged him twice and knew I wouldn't see him again until the end. Took the long, long walk to my bike. I was 3 racks from the out / bike mount. Lines were forming to pump tires. I put my cup on my bike and filled it, then filled one bottle with gatorade and the other with water. Put my ham sandwich in the bento box and my phone in the little box under my seat, that Keri lent me. Turned to check and make sure I didn't forget anything. Hey, where is my wetsuit? There's my cap, my goggles, my dry clothes bag. UGH! It was on the bed in the room. I forgot it! Don't panic I kept telling myself. But I did. I looked at the tire pump line and now it looked twice as long. Then I spotted a woman with a Joe Blow pump. I explained to her that I had forgotten my wet suit and needed to pump my tires quickly and she said no problem and handed me the pump. I was so grateful to her. My heart was racing at this point. I ended up taking off my sweatshirt and pants and just had my tri suit on. I was running towards the hotel. Thank goodness it was right there. It was only 6 o'clock but minutes seemed to be passing quickly. While running I saw Sheila, Doug's wife. She has this calming aura. She softly yelled good morning to me. I yelled back that I forgot my suit and she smiled. I know she saw my panic and didn't want to fuel it. Made it to the room by 6:05. Scott met me at the door and handed me my suit. Since I was there I used the nice clean bathroom - I knew that was my last time doing that for the next 14 or 15 hours. Zak was up now so I gave him a big hug and kiss goodbye. I kissed Gracie. As I was hugging Scott Zak told me to be careful and have fun and remember mom, he said, don't call anyone names!

The Swim

I got to the water by 6:20 and didn't recognize anyone. Stepped to a grassy area just off the water and started to stretch. Big mistake. Leaned over and was bit by a mosquito on the left cheek, unfortunately it wasn't the cheek on my face. Great I thought, I'm gonna have this rubber suit on how will I get to that irritating itch? Don't think about, just don't think about. Get out of the grass. I walked to the sidewalk and was bit again. This time on my lip. I was scratching it with my teeth and it began to swell. Ugh! It's ok I told myself. Just stay on the sidewalk and put on the wetsuit. I did and then ate 1/2 a banana power bar and the rest of my water. Another woman in a wetsuit was nervously teasing me to choke that bar down! I saw that she had her goggles outside her cap and suggested to put them inside. She told me she couldn't swim like that. I told her that there was a possibility of getting them kicked off and that if there was a chance she could stand it to just try. She just shook her head no. While I was putting my goggles on under my cap the woman I gave the goggle advice too had her sister come and ask me again why to do that. I explained it and while we were talking the woman was putting her goggles on under her cap. She thanked me. I got in the water. The pro's just took off. The water felt good. Cool. I could not believe how calm I was. Swam the backstroke. On my side. The breaststroke. Just got comfortable. Stayed to the back as swimmers began to form lines towards the front of the buoys. There was nervous chatter in the area. Then the cannon sounded. I was off. "I'm swimming off Oak Street, it's Saturday morning, I'm with the group, stay relaxed" I was telling myself. Then I realized I was in a pack of swimmers. The 1st 200 yrds or so was a warm up by myself but now I was in a pack. Ok, just keep moving. "Excuse me", I kept thinking "excuse me coming thru." "There's an open spot." I would swim into it. And then another and another. Hey, this wasn't so bad. I was expecting a lot worse. I was kicked a little and nudged but nothing like I heard about. I kept jockeying forward. It was going to smoothly. I reached the turn around and the atmosphere changed dramatically. I felt like I entered the heavy duty cycle on the wash machine. I was kicked in the head, my arms and then my legs were being continuously pulled on. I would find an open spot to swim in and then it would happen again. Just before the turn back I was swum over. This was something I feared. But it wasn't so bad. The scariest part is having your head under the heaviest part of the other swimmers body. And then my head bounced up, hmmm, that was really weird I thought, ok just keep swimming. Another kick to the head, then pull to my arm,and then to my leg. Now, don't get me wrong here, I wasn't being beat'n and not giving back. I was. This beating I was taking and giving wasn't intentional, we were all just trying to swim. At that point I slowed down and looked, there was a mass of swimmers everywhere. Nothing but white caps and splashing water. Kicking, pulling and just trying to move forward was what this moment had become. I had to make a choice at this point, I could stop and let this madness swim by me or I could try to stay in it and use my energy to swim and fight. I decided to let it go. It was hard watching. It was a wave of whiteness moving very quickly. I actually thought wow, I was in that. I was moving that fast. Then Mike's advice popped in my head, the Ironman isn't won on the swim, you can hold back, you'll be fine. I found an opening and began to swim again. I prayed, and sang and received the occasional kick to the head but it was all good. I arrived at the beach beaming. I felt like I floated out of the water. I found myself skipping I was so happy. I reached the strippers. I actually hesitated going to my 2. They were very young, handsome college boys. What's the matter with you I thought, get up there. They tugged my body off, ok they yelled on your butt, "sure, um ok," I thought, bam the suit was pulled off. That quick, that easy. They were smiling with a sense of accomplishment as they helped me to my feet, "GO, GO, GO" They yelled. I was so happy. I was skipping and running. Laughing. It was the weirdest feeling. I was watching people walking and then others were running. I was taking it all in. I was half way up the helix and heared Michelle, Laura and Sheila cheering, "Go Pam". While passing them I was screaming, "I just finished the swim, I'm so happy!!!", they kept cheering! Just after that I heard Craig, "Go PAM!" WOW I thought, this is great. Changed out of my wet clothes in T1. Ate some powerbar, drank some water, put on the sun screen. Made sure I had my inhaler and everything else I would need on the bike. Started to run out and was stopped by a girl who needed help putting on her bra. Guys are so lucky they don't have to deal with this. When your skin is wet the the nylon and lycra bra just rolls up your back and you have to reach around to pull it down. I helped her and then was off. Now I was running, no more skipping, didn't put my shoes on because I had such a long run. Saw Theresa and Val screaming and cheering. I was so happy to see them. Then I saw Patty, Keri and my mom. I was closer to my bike now. "Go Pam" they were screaming. Got to the bike, put on the shoes and helmet got the bike to the bike mount and who do I hear. "Hey Paaammm" It was Gil! What were the odds? We high fived each other. We were both laughing with excitement. "Come on, let's ride down the helix together!" he said. "We can't" I said, "You go, I'm right behind you." We both laughed our entire ride down. I was so glad I saw him. And then once we were down I watch him pedal away, he got smaller and smaller and then he was gone. The bike portion started. Mile 1 just passed. Only 111 miles to go.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Hey - What Are You Wearing Sunday?

Well, in case anyone was wondering what I was wearing - I took a pic of my bike stuff. You won't really see on the swim - white caps and rubber suits, we're all gonna be dressed the same. :) As for the run, it's gonna be dark! Just so you know, blue shorts and a blue shirt with a white long sleeve shirt to keep me warm when the weather starts to cool.

Thankfully I started writing my check list/pack list last week. Everything got packed today. I may have over packed but after the weather the race has had for the past 2 years, over packing is good.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Thank You Family and Friends

I did my last open water swim and long run Saturday and my last long ride on Sunday. Caroline and I didn't drive in with the group because of our long run after the swim. We were walking up to the beach and I saw the guys just standing in the water, chatting before they got going. I was so happy to see them and sad because I knew that this was the last time. Bittersweet can be overused sometimes but I think that pretty well describes what I was feeling. Saturday was the beginning of the end of Ironman training.

I've given so much thought to the past several months. All the support I have received from my family and friends. I don't think thank you can even begin to express my appreciation to my mom and my nephew Sammy. They have taken such good care of my children while I put in the endless hours of training. They really don't realize what they have given me. Peace of mind, knowing my children were safe, well that's priceless. I don't mean to single out just my mom and Sammy, the auntie's, Jessica, Matt and Nick were a big help too but Sammy and mom were the ones who did most of the work.

My husband, his support was always there. He told me the other day, after he won his football game, GO RAIDERS!!! That he knows how long I've dreamed of doing this and he was happy to be there for me. These past several months have tested our marriage and I'm happy to say we have survived. :) Life is good. I used to think if a marriage can survive infertility it can survive anything. Well, I'm adding Ironman training to that. :) :)

My sister Patty - she has always believed in me - in what ever crazy thing I wanted to do. She will be in Madison with me on race day just as she was with me for all the other big days in my life from having the twins, to my first marathon to Sunday. I know I can always count on her for support.

I will be eternally grateful to Keri. She has supported me thru this adventure. Not to get off track but I have to tell you this story about Keri. And this is hard for me because the story is not one of my finer moments. After I ran the Boston marathon I was freezing cold. I couldn't stop shaking. I walked thru an endless line, first to get my chip off and get my medal, then to get my gear, then walked thru a maze just to try to find my hotel. During this time I called Patty and told her I wasn't feeling very good, to please get some tea ready for me. She said she was coming to find me and I told her NO please don't I'll be there soon. Finally, I saw my hotel. A police officer, who was turning everyone away from cutting thru the barricade (aka the maze) was nice enough to let me thru. He asked if he could take me to the medical tent, that I didn't look so good. I pointed to my hotel and said that's the only place I'm going. Then I heard her, "Pam" "Ppppaaaammmm". It was Keri, some how she found me. She jumped the barricade and convinced me to tgo to the medical tent where an EMT took my temp. It was 91, so they made us go to another tent, where, UGH this was the humiliating part, I was told the only way to get my temp up was to take off my clothes!!! WHAT!!! No Way. With the blink of an eye 2 EMT's started to undress me while another tried to keep a wool blanket over me so none of me would be exposed. Then, I saw Keri, she was taking off her shirt. Ok, she had a tank shirt on underneath, so she wasn't completely naked. She literally gave me the shirt off her back. She then found my baggy sweat pants that I sprayed and resprayed with water repellent- so they stayed pretty dry. I will never forget that. And, while I was warming up with this thing they wrapped me in that forced warm air all over me, she was helping other runners who were there call their families. She even went out into the cold and got the gear bags for 2 girls and returned their chips and got one girls medal for her. It was a Nor'easter and she was out there helping strangers. That's the kind of person she is. She's been there for me on the good training days and the bad and she's going to Madison for race day. She's not just my sister-in-law, she's my friend.

My tri mates. I choked up on Sunday as they said good bye and good luck. I'm glad I had my sunglasses on and was able to control my voice. I don't think they realize what they mean to me. After I hugged Rick, he yelled from his car "Hey, just think of me whispering in your ear on that ride next week!" He really will be out there with me on the ride. He's this remarkable man who has over come his obstacles an now shares his love of cycling with everyone who rides with him. He's as fast as the fastest rider in the group or as slow as well, me, who on many occasions was indeed the last rider in the pack. Those were the rides I would learn so much from him. And Tom F., he just keeps on going. He has such a love for the sport. Just being out there and enjoying the weather, scenery, and conversation. I look at him sometimes and I can see him just taking it all in. Truly enjoying what that moment is offering him. Caroline, little Caroline, she so little. Doug and Scott I. used to tease that she wasn't real because me and Keri would talk about her and say maybe she'll come to a run or ride but she never did until last spring. She's this powerhouse, "You tell me I can't so I'm gonna" kind of person. Doug, fast Doug. He was there as I trained for Boston. Then he joined Vision Quest. My heart sank. I thought for sure our Moo Crew was losing him to the big bad corporate coaching service. But that wasn't who we lost Doug too. No, he didn't die. He's alive and well and living life to the fullest, literally. He fell in love and married his first love. How great is that! Scott I. - he's like the Tin Man, he has so much heart. Cares about everyone but silently. Watching over all of us making sure we are ok, and if he sees a problem or sees a way we can improve on something he lets us know. Never, ever negative. Only positive. Gil, happy Gil. Man, I don't think he's ever upset. He was telling me about the swim at LaPorte. It was my first time doing LaPorte and as we got close to the race site we could see the lake. "Don't let the fish nibbling on your toes bother you." He warned! "What?" I nervously responded. "Oh, come on Pam" he says to me - we're all God's creatures. He looks at life and racing in such a great way. Don't let that fool you tho, he's competitive. :) Tom R., I'm giggling just typing his name. You have to meet him to understand the giggle. He can find the humor in anything. Did I mention he's our club's treasure?:) There's Ken, he tells me he hates running and then runs a local 5k in under 20 minutes. Ok, who hates running and never runs and then does that? KEN! And then there is Dennis. He's taught me more during this training than I could have learned from reading any tri book. He has pushed me when I was ready to quit. He brings out the best competitive me there is. And did I mention that other than my family he's the only one I know who has the patience to put up with my never ending nervous sighing? He told me that on race day you stop for no one. Not even if they are crying, you don't stop you keep going. Well, if he's stopped I'll have to stop. He's never left me behind and there is no way I could leave him. On the other hand tho, we both know that the only place I'll see him is standing at the finish, with a big old grin on his face, as I cross it.

I've written a couple of closes for this blog and can't seem to find the right words - what do I want to say. I know I want my trimates, friends and family to know they will all be with me in spirit on Sunday. And Debs will probably be with me on the phone - "Is this a good time?", "Um no Debs, remember today's the day!" - "Oh, oh, oh, ok, I'll let you go, call me when you're done, love you." I want them to know how grateful I am and that I have learned something from each of them. Ugh! I can't think - this damn race has my head swimming in circles. Thank you, thank you for all you've given me this past year. Now, Madison, bring it on - cause I'm as ready as I'm gonna be.