Wednesday, February 5, 2014

IMAZ Part 6: The Finish Line & Beyond

In case you missed Parts 1-5 of the Ironman Arizona Race Recap: 

Click HERE for Part One: The Road To Tempe
Click HERE for Part Two: Countdown to Race Day
Click HERE for Part Three: The Swim
Click HERE for Part Four: The Bike
Click HERE for Part Five: The Run

The last mile of IMAZ was one of the longest miles of my life! It was a dark and desolate stretch of road that made me feel like the finish line was still so far away, yet I knew it was close . . .

So when I rounded the last bend and saw the finish chute lined with spectator-filled bleachers and the timing clock reading 13:25 and change—I had less than a minute to beat my IM Cozumel time—I picked up the pace, a lunatic grin plastered on my face.

Tom Petty’s Running Down a Dream was blasting (So true!) and I heard Mike Reilly announce that I was an IRONMAN (again!) . . . and I felt fantastic!


140.6 PR!

An Ironman Again!!

Immediately after crossing the finish line (and setting a 140.6 PR!!) a volunteer wrapped me in a silver space blanket, her arm tightly around my shoulders. I think someone may have had me around the waist, too. Clearly, this is a proactive move meant to keep newly-minted Ironmen (and women) from collapsing on the ground! They kept asking me questions like, "Do you feel okay?" "Do you need to sit down?" "Do you feel faint?" "Are you alright?"
Yes. No. No. Yes!

Someone removed my timing chip. A medal was placed around my neck. I was handed an icy cold water bottle and a finisher’s t-shirt, and was maneuvered toward a photographer taking finisher photos. From the scaffolding overhead, I spotted Tri Dad and our friends Erik (fellow IMAZ finisher) and his wife Marcia cheering and waving. Tri Dad and Erik joined me for some happy finisher photos:

And I kept waiting . . . for the bad part to happen. In Cozumel, I felt great when I crossed the finish line, and then my body began to shut down. I couldn’t eat. The smell of food made me feel nauseous. So I got a massage instead. The therapist seemed concerned about me. Someone had to help me off the table. I sat in a chair feeling weak and dizzy with my head in my lap. I wanted something light and salty—like pretzels—and there were none. It was more sugary sports drinks (vomit!) and pizza (ugh!) and fruit and granola bars and nothing I could imagine eating. I needed salt. I settled on Cup O Noodles. The smell made my stomach roll over. I took a few sips. It came back up again. And then I was shaking, lying on the ground, covered in a space blanket, my head in Tri Dad's lap. This went on for two hours. I tried to eat some orange slices. They didn’t stay down. By that point, my husband had conspired with the roaming medics to coax me into the medical tent. They helped me walk there. On the way, I hurled into a Gatorade bin. Not my proudest moment. Thankfully it was all but empty—only 4 or 5 bottles and some ice remaining.

In the tent, I was relieved of my wet, sweaty clothes, swaddled in space blankets from head to toe, and given an IV. I was not alone. There were many of us in the Mash-like tent.

And here’s the kicker. I suffered unnecessarily for hours trying to recover on my own before finally giving in to medical assistance. My electrolytes were out of balance. The IV/saline solution the medics administered by-passed my digestive system and went straight to my bloodstream to restore my electrolyte balance. Within 15 minutes—I felt as good as new, though my finisher’s photo—taken nearly 3 hours after I’d crossed the finish line in Cozumel—make it clear that I was still entirely loopy and out of it.

Crazy town.

Loopy post-IV electrolytes. 

The IMAZ finish line was an entirely different experience for me . . . an enjoyable experience, and one that I remember much more clearly.

First and foremost, I was hungry. And when I knew I could eat, I knew I’d be okay. And did I ever eat!! I had two slices of pizza, a plate of French fries, some fruit, a granola bar and a bunch of cookies. I think I had a bag of chips, too. It was delightful!!

Then, after replenishing much-needed calories, I got a massage. Bliss! Afterward, we collected our gear and transition bags, returned our bikes to Tri Bike Transport, and changed into warm, dry clothes.

Bikes returned to Tri Bike? Check. Warm, dry clothes? Check.

Post-Race with Tri Dad, Erik & Marcia

The best part was returning to the bleachers to cheer for our fellow finishers. It was so much fun to be part of the finish-line celebration . . . something I missed out on entirely in Cozumel

That night, back at the hotel, my knees were so sore I could barely sleep. Every time I moved my legs, a bolt of pain shot through my knees, waking me up. By morning, I could barely bend my knees and I spent the entire day limping around town as we returned to Tempe Beach Park one last time to collect our special needs bags.

We capped off the trip to Tempe with a fun night out with Erik & Marcia—enjoying a Mexican feast on the outside patio of a downtown restaurant and indulging on homemade ice cream—before catching an early morning flight out the next day.

Back in Maryland, the plan was to REST—possibly for the entire month of December. However, 6 days after IMAZ, Tri D2’s cross country team was participating in a 5K run and Tri Dad and I, along with Tri D3, were all registered to run with her. MISTAKE! At least for me it was. 

                                                             5K and 1 mile Fun 
                                                    6th Annual Run of the Century
                                                     Saturday November 23, 2013

Tri Dad and Tri D2 completely dusted me. I couldn’t even keep up with Tri D3—my eight year old--so she ended up running alone, well ahead of me. Let me just say I could not even run the first mile. Both knees locked up completely. I tried a little walk/run combo in the second mile and it was a big FAIL. By the last mile I was reduced to walking only.

What really added salt to the wound (keep in mind I am entirely grumpy and frustrated and unreasonable by this point) was when the well-meaning volunteers were giving me extra encouragement as in, you know, the whole clapping and shouting “You can do it!" "Don’t give up!" "You’re almost there!" And, my favorite—“You’re looking good!” Which, clearly, I was not. I’m sure the volunteers thought it was my first 5K. Ever. It is unreasonable for me to say this but I felt humiliated and completely humbled. I wished I'd had a sign on my back that read “I did a 140.6 six days ago!!” I was an athlete on injured reserved. A member of the walking wounded. And I can also say, without a doubt, that I did my knees no favors that day. In fact, I probably set back my recovery by several weeks. So, the moral of this story is, do not race—At All! Not even the shortest distance—within a week of an Ironman!!

Finisher's Medal

Since that amazing day nearly 3 months ago (hard to believe!) I’ve been taking it easy—treating myself to some down time—and trying to recondition my body to eat less food!

For two weeks between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day, the only exercise I got involved long hikes and walks in my neighborhood and in the park adjacent to my neighborhood.

Hiking near home

Since the start of the New Year, the plan has been simple: Just Keep Moving. The “schedule,” if it can even be called that, looks something like this:


Tuesday—Swim (2400 yards)

Wednesday—Yoga (1 hour)

Thursday—Spin/Cycle on trainer (45 mins)

Friday—Run (5K or less)

Saturday—Strength & Stretch (30 mins)

Sunday—Walk/hike (30-60 mins)

Typically, there is also a 20 minute daily walk with Tri Dog and Tri D1.

This will likely continue until March, when training for “the season” begins. What will the season look like, you ask?

Well, when I was training for IMAZ, I envisioned a very relaxing, low key 2014 season. At my low points, I whined and complained to friends about how much training for IMAZ sucked and to please stage an intervention if I EVER forgot that feeling and started talking about doing another Ironman!

I started talking about doing another Ironman the day after IMAZ. It just can’t be helped. I have unfinished business with the 140.6. And, as with childbirth and most other things, you quickly forget about the pain and suffering involved once you’ve experienced the triumph and exhilaration of the finish line.

So gums are already flapping about IM 2015. The question is where . . . and when. Tri Dad, Erik & I tentatively have our sights set on IM Chattanooga . . . 

 or IM Florida . . . 

Time will tell . . .

Meanwhile, my vision of a low key 2014 went up in flames when I found out I’d qualified for the 2014 USAT Age Group National Championships.

2013 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships Olympic and Sprint

Well, that’s just one race you might say. Which is true. It could have been one and done, but it won’t be. Because another amazing, awesome, incredible thing happened—I got sponsors. THREE of them.

In 2014 I will be racing for Xterra, SLS3, and the StrongHope Elite Triathlon Team. So I now have a job to do. A rep to protect. And I’m gearing myself up for the challenge, adventure and excitement to come in the season ahead.

Use Coupon Code SA-KUHLER to get 60% off!


StrongHope Elite Triathlon Team will raise awareness and funds for pediatric cancer

My longest race this season will be a 70.3, but I may even top out at an Int’l/Oly, as I anticipate having 6-8 races on the schedule this season. So .  . .
So much for relaxing! But it’s all good :) Here’s to a great 2014! 

Much gratitude to you all for following me on this journey! I appreciate your support and encouragement more than I can express! So, stay tuned! There's more to come in this triathlon adventure and my quest for the Ironman while striving to live a balanced, healthy, and meaningful life!