Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ironman Texas...the final hours

Ironman Texas 2013

Swim start 
I think that's me right in the middle...looking up in the pink cap

I find it remarkable how the brain works.... It's only Tuesday. It's a mere three days since my Ironman and yet some of the 'feelings' of my pain and suffering that day are already melting into the background of my mind. Proof of that is that despite the fact that I still feel nauseous, my quads and calves are aching with pain, I feel like I have someone else's skin on because my feet and legs are so swollen, and to make it all even more fun, I have been in tears on and off for 24 hours because of crippling back pain, I have been searching for some other  race to get myself into this summer.
Swimming through the canal on the final leg of the swim portion. That's me , closest to bottom

I have moments of thinking, "what happened? It wasn't that bad. Why didn't I keep my pace up??" But then, I look at some of the photos. And, that mechanism in my brain that has allowed me to 'forget' releases, shuts off, and I can literally FEEL those brutal hours again. I can truly feel it in my veins. And,it was, that bad. 
Cameron, Nick & Tommy-cheering me through the canal
Done! 1st age-- off to the bike

I'm not too sure I can put it into words.  Sometimes you just have to have been there and in the same body and mind but, I will try.

Finally, the garmin read 112 and I slid easily off the bike at the dismount line. Honestly, that line is almost as delicious as the Finish line.  I withheld the incredible urge I had to Throw the bike off to the side into a fence and instead, graciously smiled at the volunteer who took my bars and so kindly put it back into the bike rack for me.  For better or worse, I was OFF that bike.  I had seen Mark and the boys as I came to the line so I knew he was also happy I had made it.

Those first few minutes after riding 112 miles are... awkward. Your body feels contorted and unable to right itself. I even laughed out loud because a handful of us were hobbling our way to the bags.  I made a pit stop in a portapotty... finally.  It is a bit too much info, but when you know Ironman, you know that Needing a bathroom during the ride is KEY! IF you don't, you have a problem.  I did need one..... I just had "stagefright" out there so I had to stop in T2. I figured I had been hydrating well for the past 5+ hrs because I  had needed that bathroom for about 85 miles!

Into the tent and again, I was blessed with 4 or 5 Great women to help me. Seriously, THANK YOU  volunteers!!!! I did say it to them at the time.... There we are: tired, cranky, sweaty, & stinky while we snap "commands" at them. I TRY so hard not to do that but... it's what we're doing!  "Can I have my visor, my glasses, the socks, no wait, the gels! " One thing after another ..... They all helped me get myself put together, one lady told me I was top 12 amateur.... ... ok... game on. I stood there for 5 seconds and just thought, "woah... what's about to happen." Then, I headed out.

Here's where it gets blurry and well, just long.

I felt ok as I started..... I had a goal for this run and I know it was reasonable. That is, before the mercury rose and the humidity rose and the farmers in Mexico started burning crops and blowing smoke into Texas.
Plan adjusted--- My goal changed and I decided to "run 8s all day long." Very doable... I thought.

This is a 3 loop course. And, it's Not hilly. At All.  The 3 loops seemed like they'd be a good way to 'break it up." Instead, it was pure torture.  For me anyway. The signs read things like this: Mile2 and next to it Mile 11 or 18.  But when you're on loop 1 and mile 18 is SO far away, well, it was torture. I tried not to look.

The first few miles felt Easy. My effort was totally easy.  My pace... low low 7s and it even dipped into upper 6s... so I backed off. No matter how easy that felt, it was too fast to start a HOT Ironman run. That would be foolish.

I hit the aid stations... and stopped. Half on Purpose, half involuntarily. My body just Stopped. I dumped ice in my shirt, drank perform and a sip of water, poured water and then, put ice In my shorts. AH! I didn't mean to! I had changed in T2 to be dry to avoid the chafing... mistake. And then, my shoes got wet. So, from about mile 2 I was soaked. Head to toe. Alright... put it out of your mind and just run Ange, just run.

It gets a little blurry here.....but it was only a few miles later when I started feeling reallly reallllllllllly bad. It's hard to describe it... I was sinking into a dark place. And I had too far to go to let that happen.  My calves were cramping... so I took a salt. I started doing that .... every several miles or so. I carried my EFS flask and started in with that.... it went down and eventually, I had taken it all. I was making my way around the first loop when I hit the Waterway section. I think we entered that part around mile 5 and then wiggled our way to mile 8 until we started back out on the big loop again. THe point is, it was a chance to see the family twice. I ran down one side of the canal and kept my eyes out for them. After a bit, I saw them. Tommy's Bright yellow shirt. ahh.. yay... support!  My heart smiled but my face did not.

yes, this is at the Beginning of the run... ouch

And.. I must note... I have ice, gels, salt tabs and who knows what else stuffed all through  my clothes here.... hence all the odd bumpiness  :) 
They were way across the "river" but they were yelling and waving and all that great stuff. I thought I gestured, but, Mark said he knew at that moment. I wasn't quite right. I held on so hard until I finally got TO them. Instead of running along and giving my smiles and high fives like I do with the kids, I stopped and grabbed them, one by one and gave them each a Kiss. I told them: " thank you guys. I need you. Give me a kiss."  Then, I stopped at Mark and whispered, "I"m struggling." He knew already.  He said something that made me feel a bit better, and off I went. It's not like I had a choice. I had to go on.  Of course.

My boys.... a moment of strength...

 I ran a bit further and saw someone who looked familiar from pictures, Sonja!? I yelled her name and it was, Sonja Weick! She grabbed me for a hug and said, "Ange! Keep your head up and you Drink and you Eat!!"
Yes... I can do this!

The air was heavy. And thick. And it felt So hard to breath!! I had already stopped looking at my watch. Damn. I did Not want it to be this way! My fitness was there, I was ready, but the air, it was suffocating me.

I stopped at all the aid stations for at least the first 8-9 miles. I did the same routine: ice, water on head, more ice, perform, water, maybe a salt, maybe some gel.

The good news... I was running. After every aid station, I ran. I didn't run fast, but I ran. My pace was slowing and I knew it but there wasn't anything I could do. I kept repeating to myself, "just keep going just keep going...."

Everything was slow. People all around me were walking. Shuffling.  Because of that, I got these comment, " NICE pace!!!! You go girl! Woah! Looking STrong!" And sometimes, I looked around to see if they were talking to me because believe me.... I did not  feel strong or in control of my run whatsoever.

There was even ONE fast brief moment of, do I need to stop? ha... no. I would never stop. I couldn't!

And then... around mile 9  or so? I'm honestly not sure, I decided I would FEEL BETTER! I was sick of feeling sick. Sick of being slow!! I wanted to get this race done. I ran faster.... I think. I felt faster. I rallied and damnit! I was going to make it and finish this thing off with a good hard run!!

Things were looking up. I made it onto the Waterway again and say the gang and this time my Aunt and Uncle too!! I waved and smiled and was excited to show them how much better I was!!!!  Yay!!!

Meanwhile, I had NO idea where I stood in the race. I knew I had passed 2 or 3 girls out of the tent so I thought I was top 10 amateur. Good.... but what about my age group? I knew the competition was fierce down there so I kind of figured I was out of it that day. But I kept checking calves... hey WTC... time to get some permanent markers or some type of body marking that Lasts through the swim and the salt of our sweat.  No clue who was what age out there.... no clue at all....

I was doing better, but I still had to make some stops. It was insanely hot and the air was thick with moisture. I had to be careful. I had to check my ego at the door and finish this things as well as I could, while being safe. I am, after all, a Mother.  My run split didn't matter as much as finishing without causing dangerous heat illness or worse. I kept dousing myself with water and ice and taking salts and drinking. Over and over and over. A few times, at those aid stations, I wobbled. I bumped into things. I was asked, "are you ok??"

Hell yes! I'm fine.  ( so I lied....I was brainwashing myself too... it must be done sometimes! )

Only 8 miles to go. Or was it 6. IT felt like forever... I had to do that whole loop.... again....

With 5 miles or so to go, I found this guy, Jeff. We  had met on Thursday while out riding.  We had chatted and I discovered his goal was around 9:20!!!   But on Saturday, I passed him on the run.  It was a tough day for so many of us.

All I  know at that point, is that I kept running. Barely. I started feeling like I might throw up. My hands were starting to tingle.And my legs, they were cramping.I write those words and they're just words. The feelings that went with those words are so much more intense. I can't put that onto this page. Only I can feel them. However,I  kept running. I wanted to see that finish line. I knew my huge PR day was gone.... I had blown it.  Well, I had blow that part. . But,  I had also accepted that. I signed up for Texas because I wanted a challenge. I have raced Lake Placid twice. Maine's "local" Ironman with a climate that matches our climate. I have nailed that one. So, time to see if I could take on something else.  Not only is it hotter and more humid in Texas, it's in May. I hadn't even had our Maine summer yet to acclimate even a bit.  Because of this, I had to suck it up out there and completely avoid feeling sad or sorry for myself. I was hanging on and I was doing my very best, on that day.  I was fit and strong and because of that, I didn't completely crumble. I had trained hard and trained smart and Doug had prepared me well.  I was weakened by the humid heat and smokey air,  and I faltered, but I also held on and dug deeper than I knew I could. For that, I will be stronger forevermore. For the rest of my lif, I am a stronger person.  I know in my heart more than before, that if you throw something tough at me, I will fight my way through it.
And ultimately, I decided that I would feel even happier and prouder of myself that day because it was so brutal and tough. It probably would have been easier for me to stop and quit. Or to walk at the very least. But, I didn't. The PR and fast time I had dreamed of was ticking away, I was watching it go by every mile, but I held my head up for myself and for my kids because, after all, I was still running.

My"see you at the Finish" wave! 
The last few miles were both glorious and torturous. I was not feeling well. I made a plan in my head:  I would finish, say hi to my family, tell Mark I was ok but that I needed some cooling and TLC  so I would go to the Med tent. I kind of knew it, before I was even at mile 23. I knew something wasn't quite right.   I passed into the Waterway and was greeted with HUGE cheers!!!  I was running... and the crowd praised me for it.  I waved a big wave across the canal to the boys and said, "See ya there!!! " ( the finish... I was almost at THE FINISH!!!)  I felt like I was crawling but I kept moving. Up, around the small hill to the aid station at 24 ish miles...I stopped and grabbed the table and stood under a hose. Then, I kept going. Up and around and to another aid station.. mile 25.xx now... I stumbled.  They almost grabbed me. Nope... I had to go... time to finish.
I made it!
still holding my "cooling towel" that I wore for 10 miles on my back
More happy kisses! 

A girl sprinted by me with only a few 100 yards to go... I didn't even care.And yet, I did strain to see her calf. All set... I saw a 2.. she was in her 20s.  Go ahead young one... I'll be there in a minute....

I think I ran a little harder down the road, around the corner, and up the little hill to the arch. hallelujah!!!!!!!!
I MADE it!!!
10:47, 3rd age group, in the  top 10 amateur women

I smiled, Raised my arms as much as I could and hit that line. Ahhhhhhhh.....

Under 11.... good..  10:47.  I'll take it.

love a good swim start photo

The boys enjoyed a water slide at a nearby pool while I biked for a few hours. So glad they found some relief!!  

after the race: 

The awesome volunteers grabbed me and I held on. I was ok... I thought. I caught my breath, told them to hang with me a minute, and we walked. I started to feel worse... so I accepted the wheel chair. I thought I could just sit a minute and I'd be just fine. I saw Mark above the crowd ( so helpful to have a tall husband in these situations :)) and told the people helping me that I wanted to talk to them but asked if they could please stay with me.  At that point... I knew I had to put that plan into action. As I stood up and hugged my family and thanked them all, things started spinning. My face was tingling. It just felt wrong.... 

I whispered to Mark that I had to go get checked out and told him to hang close by....

She wheeled me down the street and I started to get a little nervous. I really didn't feel well. 

I guess I want to make this brief--- I went into the "triage" part of the tent and joined the many others looking  horrible and sick.  I sat in a chair and tried to stay calm. But, I wasn't. My hands were numb and tingling but then they started contracting and contorting. I couldn't control them. My face felt funny. The worst part for me, was that my speech was slurring.  This scared me.  The guy helping me was very calm and consoling. My BP was very low but my temp wasn't too high.... that part was good.

They moved me inside to a cot, covered me with ice bags and towels, took off my wet shirt and put my dry finisher's shirt on and covered me with a blanket. I started to shake.  I was given lots of things to drink including about 4 cups of chicken broth. ( ick) But, it did help. An IV was hooked up. Before too long, I was OK! phew.  I could see straight. . My hands relaxed.  My speech was fine again.  They drew blood and determined my calcium and potassium were low. My BP was low. My body temp had dropped a bit.  I am not sure, but the suspicion was that I overdid it with the salt tabs. I had an electrolyte imbalance for sure. I guess I spent a few hours in there but by the time I left, I felt a Lot better and was so grateful for the very very kind people helping me. I had several doctors, a nurse, and a PT. All people there on a volunteer basis. One man, a cardiologist, said he was watching the race from his house along the course. He was watching and feeling the heat and decided he needed to come in to help.  Good souls.  We needed them. I was on a cot next to a guy from Chicago. Once we were both feeling ok, we sort of laughed at us northerners for signing ourselves up for this !!!  And yet, while I was in there, I saw three of the people  got to know at the Training camp last month. All three live there... and they needed the help too.  That speaks to how very hot it really was. 

I was released and back with the boys and that's when I finally asked, "Hey Mark? What place was I anyway??" 
Third. He looked at me cautiously.... he knew....

Third???!!!!  I was stunned. shocked. Amazed!  Thrilled. Sure, only two Kona spots. There have been some twinges of disappointment for sure. My plan for the summer is a bit lost now... 

BUT....  I got 3rd! I can not be sad about that!!! I kept moving and made it through despite brutal conditions so I am now home & in pain but very much satisfied with the way it all turned out.  

Now it's time to figure out What's next!!!   Time will tell.....

Monday, May 20, 2013

Ironman Texas --

My 5th Ironman is now complete.  People had asked me, "why Texas?" and my answer was, " I wanted a challenge. A new experience." 

It proved to be just that. A huge challenge. But, while the ending wasn't exactly what I planned or hoped for, my Finisher's shirt is drying on the line and my medal is on the counter. And that, is success. The day was brutal. I had to dig deeper than ever before. My words here will never really tell the story. It was a day that has made me a stronger person forever.  Things don't always go just as planned, but I know I fought with all my might and because of that, I feel great about my day.  

First--- At 4:22 a.m. today, I made it to my bed. I actually had to have help getting there, my back seized up on me and I was unable to get up off the floor just moments before.  We knew we'd be getting home "late" on Sunday but it was supposed to be 11 p.m. Sunday not 3 hours before work and school began on Monday.  Travel delays.... brutal. They seem to come at the most inopportune times.  

So forgive me if the first parts of this race report don't flow smoothly. My brain isn't firing properly. I'm working on 3 lousy nights of rest ( the night before the Ironman, the after {the body is a mess and unable to relax} and then a night of travel.)


I flew to TX on Tuesday and enjoyed several great days of visiting with my Aunt. I rarely get to see her since we are so far away so it was a treat. She spoiled me with wonderful hospitality and it was a great way to kick off race week.  

The rest of my family arrived Thursday night. At that point, I was ready. I had my support crew. 

Friday was... a bit stressful.  You see... something was awry with my back.  I'm not sure what happened but on Thursday, it became clear that I had done something to it.  I'm not going to go too into it....but after my big breakfast that day, I spent most of the day laying around icing it. I was pretty worried. I feared it might seize up on me during the bike and well, that would be that. I tried to stay calm. We headed into town to rack my bike that afternoon. It was HOT and very very muggy. The air was thick, heavy and wet. Tommy, bless his heart, wasn't trying to be 'bad' in anyway but said, "Mommy, I don't mean to be mean or anything but I have NO idea how you're going to do this tomorrow. " ha! :) Yeah.... have faith kiddo. But inside, I was worried too. We were soaked with sweat just from that little walk to hand in bags and a bike. And, my back was Tightening more and more as I walked.  
I had to just have faith. I took care of myself,, listened to the local weatherman warn "those Ironman folks" not only because of the high heat and humidity arriving but the smoke that was blowing in from Mexico ( farmers burning crops) and messing with the air quality.  Ok... time for bed.  Enough of the worry... 

Race day: 

I got up bright and early and felt pretty good. I put my back out of my mind as it felt pretty good that morning, and just went through my routine. I ate, I showered, and we all left the hotel at 4:45 a.m.  ( My kids are total troupers... they just go with the flow. I'm so lucky..... )  

Mark dropped me off and I walked in the dark to T1. It was going smoothly. Tires pumped, gels in bento, bottles on bike, garmin on bike, in bag, Hi to a few people I knew and off to the swim start.  And,  I was very very nervous. 

I was standing around at the lake, in a Long portapotty line, and was Totally surprised and Psyched to see Mark and the guys walking along!! I had no idea that I'd see them. We didn't know our way around so we had no way to plan meeting spots.  This made me SO calm and happy to have their hugs one more time.  Things moved along quickly and before I knew it, I was in the water waiting to go. 

The water was 77-78degrees so wetsuits were Not legal unless you wanted to be out of contention for awards.  Phew. This was good. No need to overheat from the start!!  The brown water that I knew was hiding snakes ( I hate snakes), didn't seem as nasty as I expected. To make it even better, I never got squeezed into a crowd at the start!!  Mike Reilly yelled to folks over and over to "get back"  and before I knew it, we were OFF!!!! 

Hey!! What's this??? NO contact! I started an Ironman swim in peace!! I was thrilled. I headed off to the side a bit and just swam along. I pushed a bit but was mostly on cruise mode and made my way along the course. There was a little chop but nothing serious. I made the turn into the canal and felt good! I saw Tommy's glowing yellow shirt as they stood on the side cheering and I smiled and waved! :) Love those moments... 
I saw pink caps ahead of me and... passed them! Love those moments too.... 

Finally, I hit the stairs to climb out and headed to T1. My back was tight and I felt a bit stiff. This worried me.  I had to just put it out of my mind and get on the bike.  My watch said 1:01 so that's decent. I can't seem to break an hour without the wetsuit. I should have pushed harder, that's what I thought. And yet, it's a long long day, I was set up in good position and now it was time to focus on the next job.  

I found out later that I won my age by 4 min on the swim. I had no idea while I was out there. Good way to start the day.

Ok... the next part is hard to write about. The bike is 112 miles long, takes hours and hours and hours to complete, but I'm going to keep it on the short side on this report. 
Because, as I sit here in pain on Monday, it still stings.  It stings more now, than it did then.  

You know how  they say, there's a first for everything?  Yeah... this was my first for mechanical problems in an Ironman race. The thing that upsets me most, is it was completely avoidable.  

I had my bike shipped to a shop so they could assemble it and tune it. I guess I should have done it myself.  Lesson learned. 

The ride started out fine. And, fast. The course is Fast at the beginning. I think I was averaging >22 mph without a huge amount of effort. My back was stiff and I was still settling in but as I moved along, I felt better and better. 

And then, around mile 10 or 11, WHAM!!!! There was a Huge deep crack or bump or something in the road and it completely shook me to the core.  I looked to make sure nothing was dropped. Then it happened... my entire headset dropped down. My aero bars were now pointed Down at my wheel and wobbling.  ^$&*#^!!!!
I gently pulled up on them to get them to the proper spot and Prayed they stayed put. I started asking fellow racers, "does anyone have an allen wrench????" ugh... of course they didn't!!! And, why should they stop anyway!! I had to ask though. 
Shortly thereafter, the 2nd thing happened.  My seat post started sliding down! I was getting lower and lower on the bike. 
This was not good. 
I just prayed the bike support truck would go by. I was going slower and slower because I was looking for help and totally afraid I was in big trouble.  Seriously????  Couldn't they have secured the bolts on this thing better than this?? I was mad.  
At the same time.... it was early and IM is a long long day. There was time. I made myself keep my cool. NO need to freak out and panic. I will find help. Finally, a support vehicle!!!! I waved and waved and hollered! They kept driving. 

I have no idea how long it was but I finally got to an aid station and hollered again, for an allen wrench. And, Yes! Someone had one. He ran to a truck, pulled out a box and came to help. 

I couldn't look at my garmin.  How long was I there??? Minute and minutes I know.  A little while ago, I peeked. I am not sure. But there is a gap of >10 min. I clicked it Off... I can't look anymore. 
10 min. 
And, that was just the first stop.

While I stood there SO happy to have help, and so grateful for this kind man, I was also sad. Bike after bike after bike, Flew by me. Gone. 

My swim lead, gone. All those 4 a.m. mornings to the pool....... they worked. But, there it went. On the side of the road. 

I held my head up, refused to get too down, and hopped back on. It was a long day. I would run them down. Right? Maybe I'd catch them on the bike. 

I looked at my garmin, my new ave speed was down to 20.2 now. I had  lost a lot....

ok..  just ride. 

I made up some time and was feeling good. But the winds were hitting and there was only so much I could do. I drank, I took gels, I took salts. I felt good. I kept my power in check and right where I wanted it. My effort was 100% in control. It was going just as planned. Except.... 

I was getting lower again.  #$%#^%
The seat was moving on me again. What is the deal??? 

Somewhere along the way, I had to do the same routine again. Yell for help, find it, stop, wait, fix it, and then go play catch up again.  Without burning too many matches ( or any) in the process. 

Keep your head on Ange. Be smart.  It's a long long day. 

The sun was out in full force. It was hot. The course is open without a lot of shade, if any. The roads are bright and I was baking. I cooled my face and head and arms with water at every aid station. I drank and drank and drank.  My stomach was tolerating the nutrition 100%. I took salts....... at every hour.... 

There's not much more to say about the bike.  I felt good, and I felt bad. As is typical of an Ironman ride. It's so so long.  Just like people say, around mile 70, it gets tough. You've gone SO far and yet you have SO far to go. There were sections of smooth fast road on this course and also miles and miles of bumpy, gravelly roads that made it tough to keep your pace. I had periods where I was focused and then I'd find myself in in lala land wishing for the end.  I saw a huge fat snake, and thought of Tommy. He was on a mission to find a snake. :) Thankfully, this one was dead. I hate snakes. I saw vultures. They looked like they were out of an Edgar allen Poe book. So much happens on these rides that take me over 5 hours.  Once I hit mile 90-95 I began to think more about the run. I reminded myself of my plan and made a few adjustments as I felt the heat. But, I was ready. Ready to run strong and finish this off the way I knew I was capable of doing.  I was trying to stay positive most of all. After previewing the course last month when I came to  TX, I knew I could have a faster than normal bike split if I rode smart and that would be a great way for me to set up the run..  But, those stops.... 

I tried to do math as I road. I tried to figure out when I'd finish....  I had hoped for 5:2x.... could I do it??

I felt good, the power was fine and nutrition seemed to be working. And yet, the bolts were loose. I had had some problems. And so, I rode into T2 at 5:33. C'est la vie..... Time to run!!! 

and that report will have to come next....... that is where the fun Really began.  

Friday, May 10, 2013

This one's for Mom and Dad

I was recently asked, "When you were young, did anyone tell you to get into sports?"

I thought about that for a minute before quickly answering, "No."  I think there was a bit of surprise in the face of the woman interviewing me, given the fact that I started competing when I was 8 years old. And, over the course of my life, I've been a swimmer, a runner, a softball player ( a little bit), a field hockey player( even less of that), a soccer player,  a touch of golf, and now a triathlete.  Sports have been a huge part of my life but nobody ever told me to do it. I remember a cross-country run  coach at our school asking me if I wanted to try out for her team in the fall instead of soccer since she knew I was a runner.  I think that's about it.

As I pack my bags to travel to my 5th Ironman, at age 43, this somewhat simple fact I speak about seems much more relevant.

My parents were always there for me, in my youth and now in my adulthood.  I have no doubt that their unconditional support, gave me exactly what I needed.

Starting at a young age, I had good success with sports.  Racing is my thing.  But with success, comes pressure.    Pressure to go faster. Pressure to win. Pressure not to let the team down. I put pressure on myself all the time. All. The. Time. I expect myself to be better each time I go after something. That, can be hard.

But Mom and Dad never put a single ounce of pressure on me. They were Always there at the meets. At the games.  (They are Still at nearly all my races! ) They worked at most meets, they  trekked my brother  and I back and  forth to morning and afternoon practices Every single day. They watched me win. They watched me go fast. And, they watched me have bad days, slow races and miss my goals.  They also watched me get touched out at one of the biggest meets of my life. Something I will probably never stop kicking myself for. They watched me miss turns, get DQ'd ( disqualified) on my own and  DQ Relays!! There's so much more... but not once, did they make me feel bad for doing 'poorly.'  I already felt bad on my own. And they never did anything but help me feel better.
They were my safe place. It didn't matter if I lost a race or won a race earning good team points,  the hug after the meet was still the same and the ride home was just as it would have been. It did't make a difference.  Of course, they  cheered so loud and were extra happy for me if it went well and they also had to console me plenty! But that's where it stopped. I never wondered if they were proud of me or not. They knew I had tried my hardest even if it didn't work out the way I wanted it to. That was that.

Over the years, sports have brought me so many things. I have learned to work so hard for my goals. I have learned that you have to make sacrifices and give some things up in order to reach your goals. I have made countless friends. There's been so much fun, excitement,  thrill and pride. The experiences I've had have made me who I am today. I have learned how to win and how to lose. You need to be able to handle both with grace, I believe. It's part of life.  I'm trying to keep this post short...to talk about all I have gained from sports would be way way too long to write about right now.

My parents taught me that all I needed to do to make them proud was make a commitment, work my hardest, and never give up. I've done my best over the years to do just that. When I get to mile 17 of the run next Saturday when it hurts oh so so bad, that is what I'll remember.

Thanks Mom and Dad.  This one's for you.