Sunday, June 22, 2014

DC/NYC 2014

This past week I spent three days in Washington DC and three days in New York City with a group of eighth graders.  This is my fourth time doing this trip.  I did one trip as a parent with my own daughter. This is my third trip as a group leader.  The last two years my friend and partner in crime was technically in charge and I was her backup.  This year I was solo but it was a small group and I had a parent along so it worked out well.

The first time I went with my daughter I had just graduated from OSU.  I literally graduated that morning and then left on the trip that evening.  I was at my absolute heaviest I have ever been.  Two years of full-time school with 21 credits each term, including summer, did not make exercise a priority at the time.  On the trip my feet were swollen and I was a hot, sweaty miserable mess.  I could hardly keep up with the rest of the group and was very aware of my size and general lack of fitness.  When we went to the Broadway play I could hardly fit into the seat and was very uncomfortable.  And because my legs and feet were so swollen I was having a hard time being comfortable and sitting still during the show.  It was hard to enjoy the Broadway play when I was in pain, uncomfortable and felt like I was invading the air space of the poor students on either side of me.  The airplane ride did not do much for my swelling and by the time I got home I had seriously swollen ankles that I affectionately termed "kankles."  They were huge, my ankle was the same size as my calf so it was big all the way down to the bottom of my foot.  It took over a week for the swelling to go down.

The past three trips I have been working on becoming healthier.  Each trip I have weighed a little less and have been a little more fit.  The last two trips I still dealt with some swelling in my ankles but nothing as bad as the first trip.  Usually it started in New York City and I would get a little more swollen on the plane ride home.  This year I was determined to not have that happen.

In Washington DC it is easy to remember to drink lots of water.  The very nice bus drivers always have a cooler filled with nice cold bottles that they will sell to you for $1.  Every time we got back on the bus we make everyone get a water bottle.  There are also many places to use restrooms in DC so dealing with the consequences of drinking lots of water is also not terribly difficult.  I get really hot when walking around so this year I usually bought two water bottles, one to chug down and the other to drink more slowly.

In New York City it is a little more difficult.  We don't have a bus in NYC, we walk or take the subway everywhere we go.  There are vendors selling water for $1 though and I just determined that I was going to make a point of asking our tour guide for a moment to grab water on a regular basis.  They were great about it.  The next problem is that many of the places we went to visit didn't have public restrooms to use.  The rule of thumb was if there was an opportunity to use a restroom you went, even if you didn't need to.  You never knew when you would get another chance to go.  But like I said, I was determined to not get swollen this year and I was positive drinking more water was the key to making that happen.

We do a ton of walking on the trip.  I have my Fitbit this year and loved being able to tell the kids how far we walked each day.  The first day we flew in to DC and didn't get going until after 4:00 p.m. and we still managed to walk over five miles.  My Fitbit goal for miles each day is five miles.  Everything over that is a bonus.  I had lots of bonus miles this week.

The next day was our first full day and we were busy!  Mt. Vernon, Arlington, the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial, and visiting various memorials.  My Fitbit is water resistant so I wasn't to worried when I stuck it in the ice water to grab a water bottle.  Then I realized later that it wasn't lighting up when I tapped on it.  I was concerned because I had just recharged it the day before on the plane so I knew it couldn't have run out of juice yet.  When we got back to the hotel that night and I synced it I could see that when I stuck my hand in the ice water was when it quite working.  Luckily it reset and worked again after I put in the charger to get juiced up again. 
Only half the day recorded.  9.87 for the entire day.
So it only has us walking a little over six miles but that was as of about noon that day.  One of the other adults on the trip has a Fitbit as well and hers had us walking 9.87 miles for the day. 

Monday was another busy day which included a visit to the Holocaust Museum, a tour of the Capital Building and seeing more memorials.  
Tuesday we got on the bus and headed to New York City.  The bus ride was a little over four hours with one pit stop in the middle.  We got dropped off at Battery Park to catch the ferry to Liberty Island to see the Statue of Liberty.  
We then were supposed to head back to Battery Park and walk over to the 9/11 Memorial.  We had gotten tickets for the 9/11 Museum but the tickets were for an appointment time so we had to be on time.  Well, that became a problem when half of our tour group ended up on the return ferry while the rest of us were still on shore when they closed the ferry because they had reached capacity.  It was over 30 minutes before we finally got on the next ferry.  Needless to say we were very late to our appointment (90 minutes late).  We practically ran all the way to the museum and it was very hot and humid.  Then we were running into issues with our dinner reservations if we tried to change our museum time.  We didn't get into the museum but our travel group, WorldStrides, managed to get our appointment into the museum changed to the next day.  At the end of the day we had had a very busy day.  
Pretty decent amount of walking considering we spent a considerable portion of the morning sitting on a tour bus.  

On Wednesday we went to the Today Show, The Top of the Rock (The Rockefeller Center), the 9/11 Museum and the Broadway show "Wicked".  The 9/11 Museum has been open for about one month.  We had about 90 minutes to walk through it.  We weren't able to see everything in that amount of time. But that was the perfect amount of time to be in there.  I was emotionally done after that amount of time so I didn't need to see the rest this visit.  It is an experience to be sure.  One I am glad I got to have.  The students were respectful and appreciated the significance of the museum but didn't have the emotional reaction that the adults did.  We lived through it and how our world has changed since that day.  They were babies and have no memories of what a world without going through security in every building was like.  If you can get tickets into the museum I would recommend it in a heartbeat.  
This was our biggest day of walking yet.  This was also our hottest day of the trip so far.  It felt hotter the day before because on Wednesday there was a breeze which felt great.  
Selfie with the FAO Shwarz guard.
The last day we were with a tour guide and just my students and parent.  The other schools that we had spent the week with from Washington, California and Texas, had all gone home the day before.  We walked all over New York City.  We did a tour through Central Park, went to Greenwich Village, went to Brooklyn, walked the Brooklyn Bridge, shopped in Chinatown and Little Italy.  At 4:00 p.m. we got on a bus and headed for the airport to begin our trip home.  The kids were tired and a couple didn't want to walk the Brooklyn Bridge.  It was sprinkling a little but I told them that would make the story better.  They walked the Brooklyn Bridge in the rain, no umbrellas because we are from Oregon and umbrellas are for sissy's.  
Now I will have proof to show next years students that when we say there will be A LOT of walking we aren't kidding.

I was rather discouraged when I looked at pictures of myself on the trip because I don't look much different than I have in past years.  But when I really thought about how I did there are a lot of things to celebrate.  The changes are there, the outside just hasn't gotten on board with reflecting how far the inside has come. (Wish it would hurry up and figure out that I'm serious about this! lol)
Walking the Brooklyn Bridge

  • I wasn't exhausted.  The last few years I have been dealing with the underlying "always tired" issue and then you add little sleep and long days that made for one tired chicky.  This year I was tired at the end of the day because it was a busy day.  The end.  That was a great thing.  Helps me keep my patience with goofball 8th graders who don't always listen.  
  • I wasn't sore.  I walked all those miles each day and I felt great at the end of the day.  I didn't have sore muscles that were protesting because I was doing something out of the ordinary.  I was doing what I've been doing, just spread out over the whole day and walking not running.  I got a bit tight in my calf muscles the last couple of days but nothing too extreme.  
  • When we went to the Broadway play I fit comfortably in the seat.  Plenty of room on both sides of my bum and my legs weren't achy so it was easy to sit and enjoy the show.  If you get the chance to see "Wicked" where you live, do it!  It was an amazing show!
  • My feet did not swell, at all.  They got the tiniest bit puffy on the plane but that was it.  I could still see my ankle bone when I got home which was a first.  Being in shape helped and being consistent with ridiculous amounts of water did the trick.  Worth all the trips to the bathroom.  :-)  My friend had texted me to make sure I was drinking enough water.  I sent her this picture to prove that I was doing good.  I had two small water bottles and then this big one all before 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday.  

1 Quart of Water!  Just the beginning!
One of the other schools we were with had a wonderful woman along that was the aunt to two of the students in their group.  She was a very sweet woman and I enjoyed visiting with her the entire trip.  She was a heavy woman and told me that she had lost 40 pounds and been working with a trainer for a year in order to be ready for the trip.  She didn't want to embarrass her nephews or not be able to keep up.  She also had a Fitbit and we liked comparing numbers.  She focused on steps or flights of stairs while I tend to focus on miles.  She was awesome, Badass with Sparkle for sure!  She never complained one time about the heat, the amount of walking or how hard it was to keep up.  The hardest day for her was the day that we were late to our 9/11 appointment.  We were moving super fast and she got further and further behind.  I lingered back to encourage her and help her know where we were going.  She kept apologizing and I finally told her she didn't get to do that anymore.  She was doing great.  Not her fault that we were late, going ridiculously fast, that we caught every crossing light on the way and that it was incredibly hot and humid.  She was me the year I went with my daughter, just shorter.  I talked to her about it later and told her that it would have been SO much worse if she hadn't been preparing.  Now she knows that she has to keep working on it but to be proud of how far she has come!!  It helped remind me how far I have come and how much I have to be proud of.  Pictures don't tell the whole story.  I will focus on the list of good things above and remember that I also am Badass...with Sparkle.  

Next week is the Pacific Crest weekend.  I don't know if I will do very well on my 10k but I do know I plan to have a great weekend cheering on my friends, husband and daughter.  Life is good. :-)

Friday, June 13, 2014

Guest Blogger :-)

One year ago my husband was getting ready to do Ironman Coeur d'Alene.  I wrote about my experiences during that race right after it happened.  After much nudging and bugging by me and some friends Joe finally wrote down the experience from his point of view.  It is amazing and I wanted to share it with you.

Here's a link to my blog about it last year in case you want to read them back to back.  Ironman Coeur d'Alene 2013 Anyone who says this isn't a team sport is fooling themselves.  I was, and still am, proud to be the biggest fan and number one support crew for my husband.  He does the same for me!

In honor of the upcoming anniversary of Ironman 2013, Joe's side of the story:

I finally got to this. My wife and a few friends encouraged me to write this down. Hopefully it gives others a glimpse into what that day was like for a guy who only dreamed that this could ever have been accomplished. 

Thank you to all who encouraged and cared enough to watch and keep track through the day and all the training that lead there. It's kind of roughly written but you should get the general idea of how things went.

Ironman CDA


Here I sit with 2000 plus other athletes on the beach at Lake Coeur d Alene in west central Idaho preparing for the start of IMCDA. It is 630am on Sunday June 23 2013. This is the culmination of a year and a half of training that has come down to this one day. The extended focus has been grueling at times and at others the challenge has been nothing short of amazing. With new limits reached and setbacks overcome. Now it is time to begin what all of that time, effort and training has been moving toward; the 17 hour challenge of finishing an Ironman triathlon.

For those who are unfamiliar with what an Ironman distance triathlon entails, here it is. The race starts at 7 AM with a 2.4 mile swim in a lake or other large body of water and finishes with the running of a marathon (26.2 miles). Oh ya, sandwiched in between both of those events is a 112 mile bike ride. To have the official title of “Ironman” all of this must be accomplished in no longer than 17 hours.

For me the journey to ironman started 4 years earlier when a close family friend who had entered a sprint triathlon (750 meter swim, 12.5 mile, 3.1 mile run) invited me to join her. I had been running for a while and was looking for other ways to keep myself interested in staying healthy. I had made a decision a couple years before to get in better shape and had lost about 20 pounds just running and watching a little better what I took in for food. I started at 250 pounds. This first triathlon was going to be a stretch for me. I liked to swim recreationally but had never got in the pool to swim laps for any kind of distance. I didn’t own a bike. The only thing I had going for me was that I had been running and knew what it took to run 3.1 miles, but not after doing the other 2 events first. Over the next few months I managed to learn how to swim well enough to finish the 750 meters without stopping. I barrowed a mountain bike from my brother-in-law and worked my rear end into shape so “things” didn’t go numb after 5 miles sitting on a bicycle seat. I finished that first triathlon in 1:45 minutes. I was happy with that and had found a form of exercise that I felt I could stay interested in long term.
As I sit on the beach at CDA that first triathlon seems so long ago. Back then I couldn’t have fathomed swimming 2.4 miles let alone doing it in the washing machine that can be an Ironman swim start. In the past, Ironman swim starts have been described as being akin to throwing all 2000 bodies in a washing machine and everyone fights for a comfortable swimming position while it runs at top speed. People get punched, kicked and scratched, goggles get lost and for some a major panic attack ensues. Most if not all of this is unintentional, but when you put that many people in that close of quarters there is going to be some issues. So in the interest of a safer more pleasurable experience for the participants, IMCDA was the test site this year for a new way of entering the water. A rolling start was substituted for the mass start. At 6AM the gun went off and the professional racers started. At CDA the swim is two laps of 1.2 miles. When you finish the first lap you exit the water and run a short distance down the beach and re-enter to do the second lap. At approximately 630AM the pros had finished their first lap and it was time for the rest of us to start. We had placed ourselves in an order of how long we anticipated it would take us to finish the swim with the fastest people at the front. When the cannon goes off we all funneled through a start chute so it turns into a controlled entry to the water over the course of 20-25 minutes.


I have had this before in other races, but when you are on the beach and looking out at the course, it looks soooo long. I know I can do the distance because I have in training, but it still can be a bit unnerving. The cannon goes off and it’s time to get this thing started. It takes about 10 minutes for me and my friend Josh to work our way to the water. We give each other a high five and head out. For about the first ¼ mile I swim next to Josh and try to keep him in sight but there are so many people that at some point we get separated. At this point I try to get into my own little world and not think about anything but getting a rhythm and pace I know I can sustain until the end. Now, I am sure that everyone says this, but there are some people who can’t swim a straight line for to save their life. I liked the regulated start. I think it did what it was designed to do with taking out the washing machine affect and alleviating some anxiety. The nature of swimming with that many people is that there will be contact. As I try to swim my own race I swim other people’s race as well. I get crossed in front of many times. On a couple occasions I manage to get an unintentional shot to the hip or shoulder in just to create a little space so I don’t have to come to a complete stop. A couple of other times I do stop just to make sure it is not me who is crossing in front of others. It is not. Once I look up and there is an individual swimming almost perpendicular to the rest of the crowd. I finish the first lap, exit the water, trot the 20 yards or so from the exit to the entrance, take a deep breath and start my second lap. By this time the swimmers are pretty much swimming with others who are their same pace. There is not near as much bumping and swimming over each other on the second lap. By the time I make the turn for the swim finish the sun is breaking through the low cloud cover and the day is setting up to be warm and sunny. I finish the swim in 1 hour 16 minutes, about 15 minutes faster than I had envisioned going into the race. It is a good start to the day.


I mentioned that when I started the swim I had started with my friend Josh. Many people who haven’t done any kind of endurance race think that these races are accomplished as an individual effort. I am here to tell you that this is not the case. Yes, the race is an individual effort on that given day, but getting there is definitely not. Many of the longer days in training, for me, were done with some sort of training partner. The bulk of the swim training was done in the local pools, but there were a few open water swims and those were done with Josh, Rosco, Korey, and Kristin joined in also. On the bike Josh, Korey, Rosco, David H., and Kathy C. all were good company. Because I am a slower runner than most of the others I already mentioned, I did the run training with Dwayne, Faylene and Keith. As you can see the physical training actually has quite a few people who are involved. To these people I will be forever grateful that in some way you pushed, encouraged, and flat out were awesome training partners. More on the support crew later.


After the swim it is time to exit the water and prepare for the 112 bike ride. This is known as “T-1”. When you get out of the water after swimming for over an hour it takes a bit to get your legs to function correctly. I am sure for the spectators it is quite entertaining. People who haven’t been drinking any alcohol are staggering like a bunch of drunken sailors. The volunteers funnel the participants to a common area where other volunteers assist with taking off the wetsuits. When I say “take off the wetsuits” it sounds somewhat orderly and you may picture in your mind the participant doing most of the work. I am here to tell you this is nowhere near the case. If you haven’t unzipped the suit, the volunteers will do it for you, tell you to sit on the ground, and in one violent motion turn your wetsuit inside out with you left on the ground like a peeled raw banana. If you don’t get a hold of the trunks you are wearing under the wetsuit they may just go with it. They hand you your wetsuit and send you off to get your bag with your bike gear in it. Once you have your gear you head to a large white tent similar to the tents seen at outdoor weddings. I took my time in T-1. I wanted to make sure I had everything I needed on the ride: Gatorade, food, clothes, etc. A very helpful volunteer came over and assisted with packing my swim gear into the bag and getting that back to the staging area.


I have mentioned a couple times that volunteers helped to do this or that. I cannot do justice to how helpful the volunteers are at these events. If it were not for the volunteers these events would not be able to go off as seamless as they do. These people volunteer for many different reasons. Some do it because the organizers donate funds to their non-profit organization while others want to have first shot at registration for the next year’s event. Still others, like a lady my wife ran into, do it for the shear enjoyment of being a part of such an extraordinary event. This lady had volunteered numerous years just because she wanted to see how people do it and see them cross the finish line later in the day/night. I did not have one bad experience with a volunteer all day. THANK YOU VOLUNTEERS!


I have finished the swim. Been stripped of my wetsuit by two ladies, and have changed into my bicycle gear in about an hour and a half. In my mind the day is going just about as good as I ever could have imagined. I come out of the tent and start to look for my bike. The first thing I notice is there are not near as many bikes on the racks as when I had dropped mine off earlier in the morning. It gives me a little apprehension in that I start to wonder if I am too slow. I don’t let that kind of mental negativity last long. I remind myself that if I stick to the times I had anticipated going into the race I would be fine and I am about 15 minutes ahead of those numbers. I locate my bike and head for the bike-mount-area. My bike has all the water and Gatorade that I will need for the first 56 miles on board. I have packed a couple of sandwiches in my bike jersey so I have calories to burn. I know there are aid stations on the course but the anal me did not want to leave anything to chance so I packed most of my own stuff. There is a place just over half way through the ride where I can get more of my own stuff if I need it. If I follow the plan I have set, I should need to replenish everything at that aid station.

The bike ride at CDA is known in the Ironman world as one of the more challenging courses. It is not any longer than any other, but it does have more elevation gain than most of them. Depending on who you talk to and what device they used when they measured it. The elevation is somewhere between 4500 and 5000 feet over 112 miles. The largest chunk of this elevation comes on 2 significant grades out on the course. At CDA the bike course consists of 2 56 mile loops over the same roads. Each 56 mile loop consists of two out and back loops, one about 14 miles along the lake, the other out through the countryside that is 42 miles. All of the loops begin and end at the main transition area so the families and fans of the athletes have the chance to see the person they are cheering for often. I mount my bike and head out along the lake for what I anticipate to be about an 8 hour ride. I intentionally start out a little slower than I normally ride just to make sure I don’t overexert on the first 56 miles. I figure if I have the energy to bump up the pace I can do that on the second 56. I also know from driving them the day before that the hills are significant and will take some effort to get over. I do the first 14 miles and get back into town where I see my wife for the first time that I remember since I started the race. She is cheering and holding some sign that she has made. I don’t remember which sign exactly but I know there was one that said something about nipple chafing that was pretty funny. It is good to see her and the rest of the crew who are supporting the group of us who have gone to CDA from the Albany/Corvallis area. I haven’t seen any of the others since I lost my buddy Josh in the swim. I try to get an update and find there are a couple ahead of me and a couple of others behind. I figure I’m not doing too badly since I am the second oldest of the bunch. I head out for the first time on the 42 mile loop. This is where the first major challenges come on the bike ride. About 6 miles out of town is the first climb. “Micah Grade” is approximately 2 miles of 6% or better incline. It seems to go on forever. The nice part is that what goes up gets to go down. On the backside of the hill you go down about 1.5 miles. This is very nice until it dawns on you that you get to go up that same 1.5 on the way back into town. The rest of the ride is mostly rolling hills. There are not too many spots I would call flat on this ride. I make the turn and start to head back into town. On the way out I was looking for the guys who were in front of me but did not see them. I try to look for who I know is behind me and can’t find them amongst all of the other people. As I come back into town I locate the “crew” and give a wave and keep on moving for the return to the 14 mile loop. Just outside of town my friend and training partner Josh catches me. I hear somebody from behind me say “I’d know those calves anywhere”. We trade a little banter back and forth and end up doing the rest of the ride together. At mile 7 of this loop (mile 63 overall) we come to the aid station where I can restock my supplies of liquids and food. I have done a good job of getting the calories down on the first loop so I take most everything again. This should sustain me for the remainder of the bike and keep things topped off and ready for the run. Josh and I finish the 14 mile loop and ride into town and by the “crew” together. We wave and pose for pictures and head out for the last 42 miles of the ride. Micah Grade is not any easier the second time I go up, but I make it and look forward to descending it on the way back into town.

At about mile 85ish Josh and I run into Joe. Joe and his dad are both friend’s of Josh and over the last couple days leading up to the race I have gotten to know his family as well. Joe is having some cramping issues and is walking his bike at the time. Josh assists Joe with some electrolytes and gets him moving again. There is an aid station just ahead and I need to use the facilities so I move ahead and wait for them to get there. At this aid station is where one of the most memorable moments of the event occurs. For those of you who have never ridden a bike for more than a couple hours it is necessary to apply some sort of anti-chafing medicine to the nether regions that contact the seat or the day and subsequent days can be very miserable. As we are getting ourselves collected to continue, another rider who we don’t know rides up and asks if anybody has any “Glide”, it’s a brand name roll on type anti-chafe. Think about that for a minute. This guy is hurting so bad that he is willing to apply someone else’s roll on to his nether parts. None of us have any, but a rider who has overheard the conversation says he has a packet of “nutter-butter” that he will share. So these two guys open what looks like a ketchup packet of goo. One puts some in his hand and the other does the same. The first rider with a look of pure relief on his face looks at the second rider and says, “Dude I could kiss you on the lips right now.” We all get a good chuckle and continue on to the finish of the bike ride. We see the “crew” before we head into the tent to change for the run.


Joe has gotten enough relief from the cramping that he, Josh, and I all end up in the tent together. I feel sorry for the lady volunteers who are running the water station just outside the tent because the only place that had room to change and enough light to see what I was doing was located just inside the tent from where they are filling cups. In Ironman it seems that all modesty goes out the door. It’s kind of like going to the doctor’s office. You don’t necessarily like dropping trow but the moment dictates that you get it done and move on. So, in that spirit, we all did a full change into our running clothes. Now, my buddy Josh had done an Ironman the previous November and had some shirts made for the people who supported him in his effort. I received one of these shirts at that time. I liked the idea so much that I had Lisa design one that I could give to some family and friends. Josh received one. I don’t remember if we talked about it before, but when we came out of the tent we each had the other’s shirt on.

At this point we have completed the 2.4 mile swim, T-1, 112 miles on the bike and T-2 in roughly 9.5 hours. This for me is right where I wanted to be if I had my perfect day. Things are going according to plan. I felt going into the race that if I had 7.5 hours to finish a marathon I could almost walk the whole thing and finish in the 17 hours that were allowed for the event.


Josh, Joe Y. and I came out of the tent and started the final 26.2 mile leg of this journey called Ironman. Josh and Joe Y plan on walking the first part of the marathon. My plan is to run, and when I say run that means a slow trot, the first part and then walk when I need a bit of a break. I want to do this because if there is an unforeseen issue, I have time to spare so I can deal with it. The other reason is because if I start with a walk I may not be able to get my body to run. I wish my friends good luck and head out.

The marathon course is the same course as the 14 mile loop of the bike just shortened a bit to make it 13.1 miles. This in my mind is nice because it gives your brain the ability to shorten the marathon into more manageable 6.5 mile segments instead of looking at the more daunting task of 26.2. All I had to do at first was get to the turnaround 6.5 miles away. This first 6.5 went quite well. I managed to trot the first two miles before having to walk. That was a bit sooner than I had anticipated for the walking, but I was fine with it mentally because I knew there was plenty of time as long as I could keep moving. During this part of the marathon I finally get to see Rosco and Korey. They are both running fools and are looking good. They are finishing their second lap and I’m not even done with the first half of my first lap. This is also the first time I get to see another member of the “crew” I haven’t seen all day, Regin.  Regin works at the bike shop I use and he has been a great resource for what to expect and how to go about finishing this kind of event. He is at about mile 2.5 of the marathon and he is yelling support. He trots along for a bit and fills me in on the progress of the others he has seen. It is a nice little mental break from the task at hand. He wishes me good luck and I continue with lap one.  I have made the turn around and am heading back into town. There is aid stations located about every mile and a half to two miles along the course. I stop and fill a water bottle that I carry when I need to, but the best part of the aid stations becomes the potato chips and chocolate chip cookies. The chips are great because they replenish the salt you lose from sweating and the cookies, because of the simple sugars that give your body the energy it needs to keep going.

I finish the first half marathon in about 3 hours. This means that if I can keep the same pace I will finish in about 15.5 hours. At this point the reality of maybe finishing this thing with time to spare is starting to set in. I have to remind myself to stay focused. There is still another 3 hours minimum until the finish. At the halfway mark of the marathon I see the “crew” for the last time before the finish. This is also the time when I have access to my marathon aid bag. I have food, socks, and most anything I may need in this bag. The only thing I do is switch my shirt from Josh’s to my own “TEAM VANV”. I figure that the food on the course is going to be good for me to finish on. I head out for the final 13.1 miles to the finish. Two 10k’s that’s it.

On the first leg going out I have slowed some from the pace I had on the first lap. I am still doing fine but my legs are starting to get sore and I am trying to be extra careful not to aggravate a foot/calf issue that I had been nursing the last couple of months leading into the race. At about mile 5 of this loop, mile 19 overall, I start to feel a spot on the bottom of my right foot getting tender. It feels like I have a small rock that is poking me. I stop and try to dump my shoe. This seems to help for a bit, but as I climb the small hill just before the turnaround I can tell this is something more than a pebble. I make the turn and start the final six miles to the finish. I can still trot once in awhile, but the walking is way more prevalent. At mile 21 I take the shoe and sock off to investigate what exactly is going on under my foot. I discover there is a half dollar size, red, hot spot; in other words, a blister. I have made it through the whole day without any problems, so I figure to get within 5 miles of the finish and this be the only bodily malfunction I have had, is pretty good.

At this point there really is not any more running going to happen. A quick check of the math and I figure there is plenty of time to finish, even if I walk the entire 5 miles back to town. So, I walk. It is pretty much dark by now and the lights of the city are visible in the distance. There are some boats on the lake with their lights flickering. The next goal becomes the aid station that I can see in the distance with the big gas powered construction light acting as a beacon. I know that when I reach that light there is just over 2 miles left to the finish and this journey will be near its completion. As I near the aid station I start to realize that I am still meeting other participants who are headed out to the turnaround. Most of them are walking as I am. I start to do some quick figuring and realize that unless they can start to run they will not finish in the 17 hour time limit. I give as much encouragement as I can but what do you say to someone who is not, for whatever reason, going to meet the goal that they set out to accomplish. The same goal I had and am going to achieve. This was hard for me. My day went according to plan and theirs did not. All I can hope is they try again sometime. I make the aid station. I grab the last cookies and chips of the day and head out for the last two miles.

People will tell you that the last two miles of a marathon are the hardest, I won’t argue. In this case though, for me, it was not so much harder physically as it was mentally. Yes, my foot hurt. Yes, I was beyond tired. But, physically I have dealt with more pain and been more tired. Trying to keep it together emotionally while walking by myself in the dark was not easy. Over the last two miles many things were going through my head. I was sad for the people who were still on the course and probably not going to finish. I thought about my friends still behind me and if they were going to make it by the cut-off. I thought about the endless miles that WE had put in together getting to this point. I thought about friends and family who were home following the progress on the tracking page. I thought about how it would feel to hold my wife at the end. There were many things going through my head and still two miles to go to the finish. 


I have covered about 1.5 miles of the 2 miles to the finish when I turn onto Sherman Avenue. This is the last turn I will make before the finish line. As I make the turn the streets are lined with the waist high barricades used to keep the crowd back during the busy part of the day. This is not the busy part of the day. It is somewhere around 10:30PM. There are few people still watching, except by the front doors of the bars and taverns that line the streets. In the distance there is a bright light and the sound of a party. This is where the people have congregated. The “crew” will be there. The one person who I care the most about will be there. I have about five minutes before I get there. The reality of the accomplishment is starting to set in. I get about 2 blocks from the finish and somewhere in the darkness I hear “come on, you’re almost there. You can run that far.” I decide that voice is right. I can run that far. I start a slow painful trot toward the “chute”. There are a lot of people here. I try to spot my wife, but I go down the wrong side of the chute giving high fives. When I get to the line I throw my arms in the air and celebrate this moment. This is where it all culminates. The hours upon hours of training, the missed family time, all of the juggling of schedules comes down to this moment in time. After 16 hours, 6 minutes and 30 seconds I have completed my first IRONMAN.


At this point it is time to talk about my biggest supporter through this entire crazy adventure that is Ironman. At the beginning I mention that triathlon is an individual endeavor on the day, but by no means is it an individual sport.

A year before CDA I had just completed my first half-ironman event and before I did it we had discussed if it went well that we would consider the possibility of me attempting an Ironman. It went well and the next day I signed up for CDA. Those of you, who know me, know that when I set my mind to something I generally don’t do it half way. She knows this about me also. She knew that I would be anal about the training and semi-anal about the nutrition. I like to eat so I cheat sometimes. She never flinched once when I said I would like to attempt Ironman CDA. Through all of the training, if I needed to do something she filled in the gaps of picking up kids or getting me supplies for my smoothies or letting me sleep when I needed too. So when I crossed the finish line I instantly started trying to find MY “crew”, my wife. When you finish this event they throw a medal on your neck and funnel you to the finisher picture area, snap a picture, and if you are physically well they send you on your way. I got my picture done and started to scan the waiting crowd. When our eyes met I knew she was so proud and that WE had accomplished what WE had set out to do. Even if I gave her a minor anxiety attack when my splits kept getting slower and she realized that something was wrong with me physically. Not knowing what that “something" might have been would be a difficult thing to have to deal with for her. I walked over gave her a kiss and we hugged. This wasn’t a brief hug of congratulations. This was a hug of pride and accomplishment. It was a hug of I love you more than I could ever say in words. It was a long drawn out hug that only a couple who have been together almost twenty-five years can have because it says so much without a word. In life my wife and I do things together. My failures are her failures. My successes are her successes and vice versa. We did this together. I love you honey.


MEDICAL-Once time started to move after the “hug” I went to the medical tent and had the blister on the bottom of my foot drained. As I sat waiting to have my turn I looked around the room and felt very blessed on how my day had gone. There were numerous people in differing states of physical distress. Most of the issues seemed to be related to hydration and nutrition. Some people’s bodies handle those kinds of stresses better than others. My body seemed to come through with flying colors. I was sore and had a blister, but I could walk and talk which seemed to be difficult for others. I was told before the race that I needed to be prepared for at least three issues that I would have to deal with. Whether it was a physical issue with my body or a mechanical issue with my bike, I was very fortunate that I only had to deal with the blister.

FRIENDS AND FAMILY-I mentioned friends and family back at home that were following the progress of the day. I can’t put into words how much it meant to me when I finally got a chance to see my Facebook page with all of the encouraging words through the day and the congratulations after the finish. I felt bad for the guys at work who, if I understand correctly, followed along at every station and right when I was getting ready to cross the finish get tapped for a structure fire.
All of the guys I knew who participated in the event, finished.

Their names followed by their times:
JOSH GUM-16:20.11
JOE YENCHIK-16:21.12

This represents all of the activities done from the time I finished the half ironman distance triathlon at Pacific Crest at the end of June 2012 to the end of Ironman CDA at the end of June 2013.
Training-hiking miles=42, elliptical miles=23, swim miles=172, bike miles=4523, run miles=791, total=5551, July 1, 2012-July 1, 2013.

Thanks for sharing Joe!  Even though it has been a year since you did this I am still so incredibly proud of you.  :-)