Thursday, July 30, 2009
Last night Sam and I had a mid-week date night. We headed to Adrienne's restaurant in New Milford for a wine tasting dinner. It was a lot of fun and we met some great people...not to mention tried some nice wines! It was a blast, but it's back to the grind soon...
I officially pulled the trigger and got myself into Ironman Florida this Fall. Once these tests are done (a Halter test tomorrow for the Sandy Beach Tri) and an Echo Cardiogram on Monday, I should be good to go again... it will be a New Year's in July (or, well, August at that point) as I said to Eric this morning. I'm going to make 2009 a great year again!
Going out for an easy spin today and with that, so begins Ironman training again!
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
It's been a tough time, lots of things to wrap my head around, but I'm not exactly good at the moping, sad thing. Losing West last week put me near the brink and after Monday, I was feeling pretty low. Scared, but also disappointed and humiliated. Talking with Eric, friends and family has definitely brought me around. I'm not sure I'll ever let go of that irritation and upset of not getting to do those last 10 miles, what would have been a bit over an hour of racing. What would have been a new PR on the Placid course. The what-if's are awful, but I think they serve a purpose. You need that upset, you need that feeling of letdown to wake you up and make you take stock. My father always says you learn more from your failures than your victories. It's only natural that the more racing you do, there are bound to be a few bad days in there. Guess that's the hitch. It wasn't a bad day, it was a great one.
As soon as I got home on Monday, I went directly to my Doc. He started what will be a slew of tests over the next few months. As thankful as I am to the volunteers up at Ironman, my Doc is certain they were a bit over-zealous. A combination of electrolyte imbalance and caffeine overload proved a dangerous (and as my doc noted, potentially fatal) combination. That combination caused irregular heartbeats, causing my heart to beat at a rate much higher than my 202 max heart rate, so when the EMT's took my pulse, my heart was beating so fast, they couldn't feel it. Their attempts at CPR and shocking will leave me bruised and sore for months because of the damage they did to the soft cartilage in my chest.
I've been ordered off caffeine, which I don't ever really have. I drink one cup of tea in the morning, but that's it. I've used caffeine pills with great success at many other races, but I've never used as much as I did at Placid. I usually take 1/2 a pill at certain increments starting on the bike, and I was feeling like I needed more of a jolt, especially when I began throwing up and feeling the chills on the run. It was the wrong decision and negated the broth and gatorade I was taking in.
Still waiting on the bloodwork to come back, but we did an EKG on Monday and I'm scheduled for an Echo-cardiogram and Halter test, which we'll do in a variety of race environments.
This would have been my 7th Ironman finish and while I'm emotionally chafing about what happened, in the overall scheme of things, it is just a race. Time moves one way, so the what if's are no good. All I can do is get healthy and race again...race smarter.
Maybe the point of it all is to get me to appreciate the good. My charity races this year have been huge successes, my consulting business is going full-bore with 4 new jobs, Luna is growing up, Sam and I are getting closer by the day to our one-year anniversary and I have the most amazing family and friends I could ask for. There has been so much good this year, that I refuse to let the bad parts overshadow them. Isn't that how we move on? We accept those things we cannot change? A dislocated knee at St Croix stunk something awful, but I recovered and came back in time to race Ironman. I'll recover from this too and that 10:40 time I was after will be mine in Florida this Fall.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
throwing up. At mile 16 I collapsed and lost consciousness (this is
what I was told). I had a major asthma attack and my heart stopped.
CPR was unsuccessful and medics had to shock me. I'm home now and
feeling ok, but a bit sore in the chest and ribs from the CPR beating.
Dissapointed and scared, but I'm sure everything will be fine. Medical
tests are on the menu for this week and then trying to get into
Many thanks to my mom and Sam as well as all friends out there today.
As I've been reminded many times today, there will always be another
race to do and to rock... And placid, don't worry, I'll be back next
year and I'll win. Count on it.
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out and has warmed up the pavement considerably! Only a few minutes
seperating her from the front of the field of her age category. 57
more miles for her to reel them in!!
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Fortunately the sun is shining to dry up the roads from the morning showers.
Mandy looks great and as I talked to her after the press confrence this morning she said that, "this is my kind of day to excel on the bike".
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Yesterday I said goodbye to Westpoint, my child, my partner, my friend. To bond with a wild 1-ton animal is an incredible experience. To gain their trust, and to gain the trust of West, especially, was something unforgettable.
I've been around horses my entire life and my first athletic career was with them. No success was ever singularly my own, but that of us as a team. First with Mimi, then Cass and Bulletproof and later with West.
He came into my life as I was rising up thru the levels of Dressage competition. In my sophomore year of college, we decided as a family and with my coaches, it was time for a more advanced horse, one that could compete at the top levels of dressage. I tried many horses and didn't feel the "spark" with any of them. Then, one winter day, a family friend and judge called and said she had the perfect horse. She knew about my background as an eventing rider, and she said she "respected my full abandon as a rider".
The horse she spoke of was older, 18 at the time, but he was full of piss and vinegar. He knew it all and is what we call in the riding world as a "schoolmaster". He knew too much, in a way, including just how big he was, and he easily intimidated and broke many riders. At an early age, he was flown over from Germany. A purebred Oldenburg. You can see a photo of his branding below. An "O" with a crown over it. Some of the best riders in the world, including 3 Olympians rode West and the greatest compliment I ever got was from one of them we ran into at a competition. She marveled that it was THE Westpoint in front of her and proceeded to tell me that he reduced her to a small child. Here, one of the best riders in the world told me about how she couldn't even get him to move forward - she kicked, she yelled, she coaxed, and he would not budge.
A cold winter day, I came down from Boston to take a test-ride. I polished my boots, put on my britches and went thru the preparation ritual, hoping this would be "the one".
When we arrived at the farm, Beth (the judge and broker of sorts) was there and told us to be careful. His last owner was inexperienced and had tried to ride him at lower levels just to win - it backfired, he was bored and essentially terrorized the women to such an extent that she took off his shoes and turned him out to pasture. Beth warned us that he was a bully, would bite and didn't like anyone in his space or his stall. In my families experience, when a horse behaves that way, it is for a reason. They are not "naturally" like that - someone has made them that way.
When we walked in the barn, I saw this enormous black beast, a single white star-like marking on his forehead. His ears immediately pricked forward, watching, listening and inviting me in. I walked right up to him and brought my heart to his, resting my head in the crease of where his thick neck met the muscle of his shoulder. We stayed this way for a while and then he wrapped his head and neck around me in a hug. I knew at that moment we were meant to be. This was my mount, this would be my friend, my trusted confidant. I groomed and tacked him up (not customary when you try a horse as usually you arrive and the horse is tacked up) and we began the bonding ritual. Once I got on his back, I knew I was in heaven. He had not been ridden for months, and yet, it was as if he hadn't lost any fitness. It was incredible and our silent conversation was like one old friends have. We just flowed together, a perfect team already. He was a showoff and I loved it.
I remember looking over at my mom and she just smiled and nodded. Here I was this tiny 5'1" person on a huge horse, and yet we fit.
The second time we went back for a test ride, we brought the vet for the final check-up. He did a heart-rate test, similar to what runners and triathletes would do. Needless to say, he was a miracle horse from the beginning. The vet couldn't believe how good a shape he was in!
The deal closed shortly after and we picked him up. Since I was away in Boston and could only return to ride on weekends, we arranged to have West stay at my Trainer's barn. A beautiful new facility with 24/7 care. Problem was, they were obsessed with sweeping every 10 minutes. It became dusty and West developed breathing problems, struggling and in bad shape. Moving him to my family's barn, he was instantly better. We did find out later that he had a hay allergy and altered his food. Of course, no matter what, he'd always sneak bites of hay.
My babaganoush, as I'd come to call him (among other nicknames) was mischievous as all get out. He could escape from anywhere, take off blankets and leg wraps, undo difficult snaps and even the intricate stall doors. Many times we'd be at horse shoes and arrive to notes plastered on his door that he had escaped (numerous times) during the night.
More than anything, he loved to be babied. He loved all the attention, all the time. If you went to walk away from him, he'd make a nasty face and try to grab a piece of your clothing to pull you back to him. He towered over the other horses in our barn and at shows and yet all he wanted was to lower his head, his nose on my thighs, my torso resting along the length of his face with my head resting between his ears, arms wrapping around his head. We'd snuggle like this often, and all he wanted to hear was that I loved him and that he was little.
Every other horse I've owned or ridden has needed a break from work. With little Casanova, we would take a lesson or work one day and have a fun trail ride the next. Westpoint just wanted to work. And work hard. He was not satisfied with a 20-minute recovery workout. He wanted a good hour of warm-up, work and cool down. He thrived on it. Each day, we'd start our silent conversation the same way. How is my body feeling? How is your body feeling? What do you think about moving this way? Should we work on the basics today? Should we go for broke, put on some music and just dance?
One hot summer night, I took West out. It was a brutally hot day and so I waited until it was dark to ride. I turned on our ring lights at the farm and we began our workout. One of the neighbors was out for a late walk and standing in the darkness, took in our fun. He later told me it was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen - horse and rider moving as one, dancing in the moonlight. This brilliant, shiny black horse and his rider, seamlessly weaving together movements.
I loved riding West, he made me work for everything, but that horse made me feel like a million bucks. I felt regal and confident as soon as I sat on his back and his antics, while scaring other riders, only made me laugh with delight. After cruising over jumps at 40 mph on the back of an eventing horse, a dressage horse getting worked up was just entertaining.
The difficulty with West, was that he anticipated movements and wanted to constantly show off. If we were supposed to do 3-tempi changes (where you change the canter lead every 3 strides), he'd do 2-tempi changes.
We came home with championships and blue ribbons wherever we went and no one could believe his age - they all thought I was riding a young horse.
In September, my Grandmother turns 92. It was at her 90th birthday party that I had my last ride on West. We performed my newest musical freestyle for Intermediare I, in anticipation of competing the following year. We used a combination of Nina Simone's "Feelin' Good" and "Fever". I put on my FEI competition attire, my beaver skin/fur tophat, shadbelly coat, tie and pin, white britches and gloves. West wore his double bridle and we danced to the music. We did full pirouettes, double and single tempi changes and every movement under the sun.
A few days later, West came up lame. We must have had 4 different vets check him out and no one could find out what was wrong or what had happened. As a result of the injury, he developed problems in his hooves. The blood flow was limited and he foundered. His coffin bones began to rotate and move lower, eventually they would go thru the soles of his hooves. With special shoeing, massage and other treatments, we made him comfortable and for a while, halted the progress of further damage. The Vet and Farrier commented that he was a miracle of modern science. Many days, we'd arrive to see him running around in the field, perfectly sound. On good days, I'd tack walk him and we'd meander the fields behind the farm. On bad days, we'd simply spend time together. I'd dote over him, feed him treats and we'd just wait until it passed.
At the beginning of last week, he was looking great, his new shoes had even more padding and he was in great spirits, as usual. Then, suddenly, like a storm coming over the horizon, he took a turn for the worst. He could no longer bear weight on his left front leg and was putting such extreme pressure on his hind end and right front leg, it was only a matter of time before he'd collapse. Pain killers were doing nothing and the next day, the vet came out and told us it was time.
I think part of me was in denial. I didn't care if I could ever compete on him again, or even ride, I just wanted him with me. We took care of each other. He became a part of me and me a part of him. Seeing him in pain was awful. To go from being the envy of all, to a frame reduced to suffering was never what I wanted. If he was happy and comfortable, that's what mattered and then here we were, the pain would only get worse and I couldn't bear to see him deteriorate and lose that light in his eyes. The vet gave him a stronger pain killer and I spent the day with him. I gave him a long bath and we played in the water - one of his favorite activities. He drank from the hose and in classic fashion, grabbed it from me and sprayed me with it. I trimmed his whiskers, mane, tail and cleaned up his legs just like I did before we went to competitions. He loved every second.
I think he knew what was happening as did the other horses at the barn. Even though he was always turned out alone and really, didn't like the company of other horses (and he hated small animals and children), he went around to each horse, or they came to him as if to say a final goodbye.
For hours, he stood with Shiney, Cass and Red - they'd nuzzle each other and then stand scratching one another's whithers. It was a beautiful site and I grabbed my camera to take a few pictures of my boys together.
That night, West was not up for going back in the barn, so I put some water out and let him stay in the courtyard of the barn. The next morning we arrived and Mr. Mischievous had one last night of fun - the haybales were picked up and placed around the barn, ribbons and halters were strewn about and every last sunflower I planted was torn out of the ground. As my Mom would later say, "If he wasn't going to get to see them bloom, no one was". And it was perfectly fitting. He knew he wouldn't get in trouble and so he had one last hurrah. It made me beyond happy, seeing his night of debauchery. He then spent the morning in Merci's stall - a bright stall with lots of windows next to Redeemer. I came early and groomed him, gave him tons of treats and we just snuggled in our way, my torso resting on his enormous head.
When it was time, we walked out together. Him on my right as is customary when leading horses. As riders, we do this with our mounts to show them our respect - they walk to our right to show that no one is of greater importance, no one is more trusted, valued or treasured. We give them our trust and they give us theirs, along with service and devotion. As we walked out, I recited the horse's prayer, which we have posted in our barn. I told him I loved him, that he taught me so much, he taught me about parts of myself I didn't know existed and that surely he would be the best looking horse in heaven. As we stood in the rain, he kissed me, I stroked his face and he lowered his head as if to say, "I'm ready".
The vet gave him the injection and he slowly lowered to the ground, I curled next to him and just let the tears come. "Momma loves you, Baba" I kept saying. I held on and stroked his face long after he was gone and kissed his beautiful star on the center of his forehead one last time.
He was one tough cookie and I was closer to him than I've ever been to a human. To connect with a horse is something people have been doing for thousands of years and yet it is still one of the most profound experiences.
I will always love West and think of him fondly. His heart, his determination and his fun-loving attitude. You work with what you've got and you make it great. And I will West, for you.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
As the rain came pouring down, I thought about Lake Placid last year. Well, the past 3 years is more like it. I love the race, but have yet to reach my potential at it. Last year ended in a horrific crash at mile 86 of the bike after a near perfect swim and bike up to that point. I was sitting in the top 20 of the women's overall when it happened. Waking up in an ambulance after more than 40 min. unconscious definitely took it's toll. I was frustrated and beyond upset, but at that point, it was Eric who brought me right-round, reminding me of Kona and Florida later that year.
I have not been up to Placid since that crash and I am determined to get past it. To let it go and let this year be this year...a clean slate for Placid and me!
The body is feeling good. The cleanse got me down to a reasonable race weight and if my attitude today is any indication, I'll have a great race no matter what the day, weather or course brings. Yeehaw!!
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Yesterday I went out for my last long run before Placid, a nice, super easy 2 hour jaunt through the many State and Town park surrounding my house. Now that I've been in my house since November, I've gotten to know many of the neighbors, or rather, they've gotten to know me!
It was a real boost to hear cheers from passing cars and even get a few running buddies for short segments. My neighbor's sheltie, the kids on Lillis rd and a little baby fox I spied running along side me in the woods.
Once home, it was time for an ice bath and then girl's night out: The perfect end to the day.
Lots of great things happening here that I can't wait to tell you all about. I'm brokering a few new sponsorship deals right now - 2 for me personally and the others for the race series. It's super exciting. Pair that with a 2-day cross race, and 2 new consulting jobs, a few days of figure modeling and you've got yourself some nice summer stimulus!
Next on the schedule? Work on getting into Ironman Florida this fall.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Yesterday, on a ride with the Sam-boy, I realized that Placid is 2 weeks away. There is something about not having done an Ironman before that makes it easier. Once you've done one (or several) you know what it takes. You know just how much it hurts. Excitement can give way to pure, unrestrained fear.
The plan? Use any and all energy and put it towards a positive and successful race.
A big part of the excitement is the fact that Ironman Lake Placid holds a special place in my heart. It was my first Ironman years ago and this will be my 4th go-round at this particular IM. It is a brutal course, usually combined with equally-brutal weather. It is also a reunion of sorts as I get to see many friends and sponsors all in one place. Beyond that, Placid is an awesome town. It's all sport, all the time.