Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Curvy Running S'mores

So two days ago, I decided I needed some pants for work. The ones I've been wearing are 4 years old, and the first round of pants I bought after I lost some weight. They have served me well, but are looking pretty ratty and I have already had to sew them several times. I've tried to find some cheap pants--checked Target, Kohls, etc, but no such luck. Went to the Gap, and their big thing is the Audrey Hepburn style "skinny pants." Um, yeah. No. Just doesn't work for me.

I finally set on Gap's Modern Fit Size 6 "Curvy."

I love that they have "curvy" sizes, BTW. I like to call it "Bootylicious." Or, to kick it old school, "Baby Got Back."

Anyway, I bought 2 pair--one gray and one khaki. And when I bought them, they gave me a coupon for 15% off my next purchase. Next purchase? NO! I want 15% off my pants NOW!

I read the fine print: "Cannot be used on price adjustments."


Well fine then. So I drove to another Gap, returned one pair of pants, then drove back to the original Gap, and then re-bought the pants. I saved me EIGHT DOLLA.

To quote Flava Flav, YEAH, BOYEEEE.

Then, I realized that this is quite sad, and that Ironman training prevented such sad occurances. So I went out for a run.

I did 3.75 miles SLOWLY. I felt pretty good, but almost that I was in slow motion. I didn't feel like I was going as slow as I was, which bummed me out a bit. But, oh well. Just good to be out there.

Then, today, it was SOOOOOOOOOOO nice outside. So, I ran again. And it just didn't feel really good...I mean, it felt good to be out there and enjoying the day, but my RUNNING felt sluggish and slow, with my HR pretty high. Ugh. I threw the towel in at 3.6 miles.

3.6 miles?

So sad.

But, I must remember what I did to my body 17 days ago. I guess the rest of me feels just doesn't hit me until I start to run how TIRED I am. Hmmm. So, I think I'm just going to have to keep it REAL ridonkulously easy. Like, no HR monitor, no watch easy. No worrying about pace, and just get out to enjoy it.

I got to have breakfast with TriEric and the rest of my YMCA crew Tuesday--so fun! We met for bagels and coffee. It was me, Eric, Dave the Lifeguard, Noodle Lady, Navy Guy, Jason, CJ, and a few others. It was fun to see everyone out of the water and a nice way to start the morning.

I'm getting excited for this weekend--tomorrow, I have to stay at school late to help the freshman decorate their assigned hallway for Homecoming (I'm one of their class advisors), so we're gonna get some pizza and pump some tunes, then I'm running with the other co-advisor. SLOWLY though. :) Friday night, I'll probably pop up at the game since it's Homecoming--I usually make an appearance at that game to see the parade and stuff. The kids get all excited and it's pretty doggone cute. Saturday, riding with Jeff and Kelly--who are doing IMFL--for a few hours nice and easy. Then, gonna do a fire on Saturday night and make some s'mores. Hopefully the weather will cooperate. And Sunday is the Tri Club picnic! Yahooooooo.

And that's. About. It. Oh, and one more thing.

Yesterday on my run, I listened to Fatboy Slim's Right Here, Right Now, which was the song playing when I was treading water in Lake Monona.

Heart rate and pace--wayyyy up. But in a good way. :)

Then, last night I watched the Janus IM Wisconsin Highlight video TWICE.


Am I an addict or what?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

I think I get it.

I just got back from a run.

My coach advised not running for two weeks. This way, my body can recover from a lot of the damage that Ironman did to it.

Two weeks? Two whole weeks? But...but...I NEED to run...

OK, so two weeks is technically at midnight tonight, right? So I'm not TOO far ahead of schedule.

I started out at an easy pace and my heart rate monitor was set to yell at me anytime I went over Zone 2. And it yelled at me--a lot. I had to really slow down. But you know what? It didn't bother me. Because I know that if I want to recover, if I want to come back stronger, then that's what I have to do.

So I ran down the road and passed the center of town. I then passed the Middle School, where little 5th and 6th graders were playing tackle football in their big equipment, and little girls were in little cheerleading outfits. Still looking a little overwhelmed, but improvising, and growing into their new surroundings.

After that, I passed a little park, where there are tons of trees. The air was humid, but at the same time, there's a new crispness to it...a sign of my favorite season. Autumn.

I love autumn.

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Everything around you seems to be a bit more vibrant. The trees you've passed a million times turn yellow, purple, and red. Eventually, the leaves fall and everywhere around you, you can hear "crunch, crunch" under your feet. The clouds coming over the lake are a little grayer, as a sign of what's to come. Whitecaps crash onto the shore, and the wind whips the leaves under your feet.

Even the smell of the air is different.

I love this. I love to run in this.

So on this, my first run since Ironman, I really had to just slow down so I could do it right. Right for my body, and right for the future. And I really got a chance to look around at everything.

The leaves are still very green, except at the top. I noticed that they are already starting to show different colors--mostly yellow. A little yellow just peeks through the end of the branches. I smiled, because I know that if I'm patient, I will get to see what's really coming soon.

And then I got to thinking.

The trees are a little behind me.

The trees remind me of myself--but not now. Myself about 9 months ago. I started to change, but very slowly. So slowly that those who didn't really watch very, very closely, wouldn't even know. Eventually, in this crazy journey of the past 9 months, I shed a part of myself. I left a part of myself behind that had some doubts and fears. And I arrived in Madison and as I entered the water, I was down to just me. No one else, no leaves, just a vulnerable yet strong thing that was stripped down to its core. I lost a lot of things I didn't need at the time, but kept what would keep me going--and what would keep me surviving.

And eventually, by May or so, the trees grow their leaves back. No one tells them to do this. No one rushes them. In fact, you can't control it at all. It comes from within, and it will happen on its own time schedule. Usually in March I notice little red buds. By April, some of the buds are turning green--but the kind of green you only really notice when you look at the whole tree--not the individual branch. And then, one day you realize that the leaves are all open. You don't even remember watching them open, but all of a sudden, they are just there, and you can hear them in the breeze and there is green everywhere you look.

And it's always the same tree. But it is renewed. And as the cycle begins again, you know you'll never see the same colors.

So in some sense, I think I'm finally understanding the way that Ironman has transformed me. I'm still just me--same old me, with my values and thoughts and friends and job and laundry.

But despite this, something is different.

I'm me that's been totally, completely made vulnerable to become stronger. I've broken myself down and shed quite a bit. And I know it will take me a little bit of time to build back up, because that's just how it goes. But if I give it time, I'll have a whole new set of colors to unfurl.

I'm me that really knows, with all of my heart, that Anything Is Possible. Anything.

So I can't rush the next round of colors, and I can't even tell you what they are and what they will look like. But they'll come. I have plenty of time.

And I'll promise you they are worth waiting for.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

So the REAL funny thing is...

...I cleaned out my tri bag yesterday to get it ready to head to the pool to swim in the morning.

And, there it was: my little baggies filled with pre-cut Clif Bars, an opened bag of Clif Shot Bloks (strawberry of course), and one M&M minis canister of 24 enduralytes.

Ahhhh. My Ironman race day bike fuel.


I literally laughed out loud.

So, what did I do?

Threw it in my school bag. Put it in my desk drawer. Ate a few pieces before I headed home today, and took my bike for a nice hour-long ride in the chilly, sunny, fall day.

Bike fuel.

Might as well put it to use, huh?

Wanna see something cool?

Me crossing the finish line in Madison!

Well, it's like 45 seconds of other stuff, and about 10 seconds of me crossing the finish line. In retrospect, I guess I shoulda waited until those people went before me so I could get the "tape," too...but I was just so darn excited to be there I plowed on through. :) Note that I turn around and wave my hands up and down to the fam and my girls.

Here it is!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Ten Major Side Effects from Ironman

Exercise great caution when completing an Ironman, as the following side effects may occur:

1. A big, goofy smile may permanently be on your face for an extended period of time. There is no end in sight, and this side effect usually lasts longer than four days.

2. You may experience an overwhelming appreciation for every single aspect of your life. Sheer euphoria may be achieved while making waffles on a Saturday morning. You may feel a strange love of rain falling on your window as you read a magazine. This usually makes above goofy smile even bigger.

3. Cell phone batteries typically will run out. You are so excited to return phone calls from all of your friends and family, that as you sit on your couch and watch the rain fall you feel an overwhelming appreciation of friendships and support that were magnified during the past nine months. You want to thank each one personally and explain that they were with you that day, whether they knew it or not. And this leads to cell phones dying.

4. You may experience cramping in the fingers, from writing personal thank-you notes to your friends and family, who supported you in so many ways. Some were actually on the course. Some had their students make construction paper cards for you. Some put Gatorade in your mailbox. There are varying amounts of acts of kindness to repay, and inevitably you will feel extreme cramping in your writing hand.

5. You may experience restlessness at night, as you play out the last half mile of your race. You will not remember the pain during the race as much, but that last half mile--you remember every second of it. And you will keep thinking about it, over, and over, and over again until it's 2:37am.

6. You may find yourself desiring the strangest things. Said things may involve actions that you NEVER in a million years would have expected to desire. Do not be alarmed if you miss getting up at 5:00 to go swim, or wish you could go out and ride a nice, hilly, 75 miler.

7. You will feel an overwhelming sense of love. It might be for a friend, or for your family, or your spouse. Most likely, it will be a combination of all these people. You will not realize that an Ironman triathlon can bring out these strong feelings of love and loyalty. It might bring tears to your eyes at the strangest time, like while making dinner or grading papers. Because, you realize that without this love as a support over the past year, you would not have made it to the starting line, let alone the finishing chute.

8. You may feel a little lost. You might wonder if you can top this, or what to do next. You should breathe deeply. You have plenty of time for all of these things, and you do not have to make a decision rightthissecondforcryingoutloud. So slow down, and enjoy the moment, Mr. or Mrs. Type A.

9. You will ultimately realize what it was all about. You will look back on this and remember the best part about it: the perspective. You will remember that when you trained for an Ironman, you had to let go. You HAD to. If you didn't let go of unnecessary feelings and doubts and drama and events, you didn't make it to the starting line. And that, you will realize, was the best part about the journey. The all-encompassing and all-simplifying manner in which you arrived in the water at 6:50am on a September morning reminds you of this. With Ironman, you cut out all extraneous activities and focused on what really mattered: namely, love. And you will vow to carry this into your life now that Ironman is over.

10. You dream about your next one. When you can finally fall asleep, that is.

Running Down a Dream, Part 2

So that's about it.

And here I am, now with some title of Ironman, but pretty much the same person when it comes down to it. It's been a long and sometimes crazy journey, but I crossed that finish line and for that I am just still really thankful.

A little more than a week has passed, and many people have been asking me two questions that I've also been asking myself:

1. So, are you going to do another one?

Absolutely. No question about it. It's just a matter of when. Right now I'm thinking Florida, 2008...

2. Now what?

I don't know. I do, but I don't...and that's pretty exciting. Finish lines are really just starting lines for new things, I think.

So what will I do now?

I will sleep in until 8:47am and make gingerbread waffles on a Saturday, and eat them with my husband while I sip on my Traverse City Cherry coffee and read Outside Magazine.

I will do some indoor rock climbing--I've been meaning to give that a try again.

I'll get back into yoga, for relaxation and for stretching.

I will swim. For fun. I will maybe give the Master's team a shot, just to give Competitive Sara something to do, since she might get bored otherwise.

I will read your blogs and be inspired by all of you.

I will spend time with my family and friends.

I will try to get a little better at snowboarding--I've only done it once, and ended up on my butt pretty much the whole day. I don't like to let things "win" like that, so boarding, here I come....

I will do some mountain biking with Matt and enjoy the fall colors, and ride with my friends preparing for IM FL, too. Not the full length rides that they are doing, but I'll join them for a few hours and try to support them as they hit their high volume weeks. I know how hard these weeks can be.

I will run with my running friends again and enjoy the company of group runs.

I will travel to Chicago to support my friend in her first marathon!

I will head to Hawaii in December with Matt and enjoy some time in a paradise that neither of us has been to yet.

And next year, I'll do triathlons, of course, because it's as much a part of me as breathing and blinking are. Probably shorter stuff--maybe try to get my Half Ironman time down? Who knows....the possibilities are endless.

For now, I'm enjoying the little things...all the little things that I had to put on hold this past year...and it is wonderful.

So I've definitely changed, but at the same time, I'm still the same old Sara. But I know now that really, truly, "Anything is possible."

And I can't seem to stop dreaming of all the possibilities.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Runnin' Down a Dream, Part I

I have never been so relieved to reach the starting line of a marathon.

Usually, in the marathons I've done, I've felt anxious...wondering if I'm going to reach my goal, nervously biting my lip, probably yawning (remember that little trick I mentioned?). But this time, I exhaled and smiled.

This was probably very naive of me, since a lot STILL could have gone wrong. But, I just knew I was going to make it. I didn't realize the extent to which I was already hurting, and my body was angrily reacting to the beating I was giving it.
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I was just happy to run.

So I started. My goal, if I could hang, was to break 5 hours. I knew that I was capable of this, but could my stomach do it? My legs? I felt great, but some of that was a false little high of getting off the freaking bike. I thought to myself, "Well, just try...just one foot in front of the Rob says, 'Just Keep Moving Forward.' "

So that's what I did.

I saw Trina! Man, she's going to finish soon...she's a rock star. Then I saw TriAl, at his mile 12! I told him to GO--that he looked strong. I expected to see him again later.

I was still shivering, but ditched my mylar blanket as I warmed up a little around mile 2. I would later regret ditching it. "Stupid, should have held onto that..."

At mile 3 or so, just before the stadium, I saw my girls for the first time!

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They were at a bar appropriately named, "The Stadium." This way, they could stay warm and drink some beers, and Jim and Doug (Hedda and Po's hubbies) could watch football. A win-win situation. It would be my knowledge of them there, on that corner, that would keep me going when things got really rough.

I entered the Stadium to do my first loop around. At this point, when I hit mile 3/16, a teeny little blonde girl with a clear trash bag ran besides me.

"Only 10 more miles," she said.

"Oh, am I jealous of you...not ten for me," I replied.


"I am only at mile 3." I smiled, trying to crack a joke.

"Oh....don't be jealous of me," she said breathlessly. "I have abdominal cramps and I'm dry heaving."

Oh boy. I'd better not get ahead of myself here. It's a long way to the finish line.

I wished her well...I later saw her on the side of the road, crying, and two people I assume were her parents begged her, "Don't stop, can't stop now..."

I don't know if she made it.

I tried to block out some of the pain and bad stuff I was seeing around me, and I went down State Street...and lo and behold, I heard a "Go Sara!" I turned around and thought..."Hey...why does that guy look familiar....?"

"Zeke?!" I yelled.

He smiled and nodded.

"Running Zeke!" I laughed--he said he'd be there, and he was! I didn't see a beer in his hand to torture me with, though. :)

The first 5 or 6 miles went rather uneventfully. I was holding a pace that I thought was just about on target for a 5 hour marathon. I was, just like my coach said, passing a TON of, granted, some were on their second lap and had actually lapped me by, oh, about 2 hours...but STILL--it felt a little good for the soul. We headed back to State Street to hit the 6.55 mile turnaround, and I saw RobbyB and Kris again! Those guys are absolutely amazing. They must have been so tired--and had to head to do their 9-12am finish line duties soon--and were STILL out in that cold rain. Seeing them lifted my spirits.

Pretty soon, around mile 7, I realized I had to make a potty stop. There would be no more Miles Davis-ing like I did on the bike...there were port-a-potties and I had to wait in line (ugh) to hit one. Man, I really wish I was a guy sometime.

I made small talk with the girl next to me after that stop. Her name was Becca, and it was her first Ironman, too. We passed through what must have been hundreds of signs--some were hysterical--for athletes. I found a few for me from my Second Sole friends, Jeff and Tracy! It gave me a little lift to the next food stop. I was just doing Hammer Gel and water, some e-caps, and gatorade, alternating with every stop.

So far, so good.

I made it back towards the stadium, around mile 10/23. And that's when I ran into TriAl again. I can't remember exactly what was said, but I remember saying, "You're gonna be an Ironman." And he said something like, "You are, too." And then I said something like, "You are sooner."

DUH! I swear Ironman makes me say and do the dumbest things.

I remember telling him to go for it--and finish strong. He told me to finish strong, too. I said, "See you at the end!" and he took off. I could see how happy he was just by seeing his face and his smile--he must have been so tired, but just took off on an adrenaline high that carried him to the end, to finish in 12:35--and negative split his last half marathon by THIRTEEN MINUTES. Amazing. That's finishing strong, alright.

Finally, I was around mile 11/24 and...


I saw my girls again! They cheered like I was some kind of rock star. It was awesome. Doug held up a sign that said, "Go TriSaraTops!" I knew it took a lot to have these guys be out of Columbus during the OSU/Texas weekend (or shall I say the DOMINATION of THE BUCKEYES), and it was so cute to see them all there.

That gave me a lift towards the Capitol. I felt great, but was very jealous of those who would go straight at the finish line, instead of me, who would turn. As I was running toward the line, a guy next to me, obviously ready to finish, yelled, "WHOOOOOO! WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!" I told him to go finish strong--his energy was contagious. I headed towards the finisher's chute. Oh, man. I gotta run through it...and then turn around.

On one hand, it seemed cruel and unusual punishment to do such a thing. But, on the other hand, I think it was sheer brilliance. It essentially gave you a taste of the finish line--a little glimpse of the joy you would feel--and then sent you on your way. I saw my parents and Matt standing there, and I said, "I'll be back!" to them as I hit the first mat.

2:32. Pretty much dead on where I thought I should be. Truckin' along, walk through the aid stations. 10 minutes to the other side of the Prozac patch....just like Wil says...

So far, no Prozac patches needed. I still felt great. I told some random strangers, too: "I'll be back!!!!" They laughed and hi-fived me. I thought of Wil, IronJohnny, and Pharmie...they couldn't be too far behind. I had already seen Mr. Pharmie a few times on the run course, camera in hand, big smile on his face. I knew that Pharmie must be OK...but what about Wil and IronJohnny? I started to worry a bit. I hoped that they were having a good time, and they were running strong. You just never know with this marathon...things can change in a blink of an eye. I tried to focus and keep my pace.

At this point, I started to get cold. Really cold. The sun was almost down, so when a volunteer at an aid station offered me a black trash bag, I took it. And that became my new fashion statement for the next 13 miles.

I passed special needs, and grabbed my bag..."Go Mrs. Z! You can do it!" "Mrs. Z, swim fast, bike faster, run fastest...." "Mrs. Z hope U win and represent RIVAHHHHHH!" These little construction paper cards made me smile as I grabbed a few extra Hammer Gels, just in case. I grabbed a red shirt, too...I don't know what I was thinking of doing with it, as it was going to be way to hard to get into my trash-chic ensemble. So, I ran with it. In my hand. Yeah, pointless.

I saw Zeke again, somewhere...this is when things start getting to be a blur...I saw my girls again and they screamed like I was N'Sync, as usual. I saw Jeff and Tracy, and asked them to hold my shirt. I asked where IronJohnny was, and Jeff said, "He's back there...he's hurting a bit. Coach Kara had to walk with him for a few miles."

Oh no. I hope he's OK....

"Wait," I asked...."What happened to Kara?" She started the race with us this morning..and then I swore I saw her on the bike course with Brady.

Jeff's face fell. "She missed the swim cutoff by one minute."

Oh no. "But she's here, and she's cheering for you--keep going, keep going!"

I felt really sad for her, but I knew she has so much to be proud of, namely finishing DOZENS of marathons and inspiring HUNDREDS of runners in Cleveland. She was a HUGE part of me ever believing in myself as a runner and as an athlete. And she still will continue to inspire me and guide me into whatever the future race called life might throw at me.

I started to really worry about IronJohnny. He is my training buddy and we've been through this whole crazy ride together. I said a little prayer for him, too...

And I thought, "I hope Wil's OK....." I thought of her out there in this cold, and the knowledge that Stu was with her made me feel better. I just knew Stu would take good care of her.

I knew I needed to focus--on the moment, on my pace, on my breathing. I felt so worried for my friends and so proud of those friends who had already crossed that line, but I knew that I had to stay in the moment. Ironman can jump out in front of you and kick your ass the second you are lulled into a false sense of security, and I respected this. I focused on my breathing. The second loop was more isolated than the first, and I kind of liked it this way. The people I was passing this time were on their second loop, too, and for some reason it made it more legitimate. Man, I thought...I sure am passing a lot of people...just like Coach said..."Don't worry if they go blowing by you on the bike. Chances are you'll see them on the run."

Okay, I ain't seeing ALL of them. :) But, I have to admit, I saw several hundred. I didn't realize it until the end, but I really did pass several hundred people. That made me happy. Even though my marathon was "slow" in comparison, the fact that I was passing many made me feel strong. It was the strongest-feeling 5:24 marathon I was ever going to run.

I would realize, the next day, when I actually saw my splits, that this marathon was only 10 minutes slower than my first marathon. And that is something I will always, always be proud of.

And then, it came. Mile 17.5. I was hoping it wouldn't make an appearance, but it barged right on in, uninvited.

The Wall.

I knew it before...I never hit it in Cincinnati, but I do remember hitting it in Cleveland. 17ish-23ish for me can turn into the Berlin Wall. And, to quote Death Cab for Cutie, "There was no doubt about which side I was on...." At this point, I started playing little games with myself.

I walked up the hill on campus. It was the only walking I did...not that my running was all that fast from 17.5-24, but for me, I just gotta keep moving at a steady pace. I don't do so well with walk/running. So I shuffled along. I remembered my girls were at 23 so I started singing in my head:

"5 miles til I see my girls, 5 miles til I see my girls...."

"4 miles til I see my girls., 4 miles til I see my girls...."

You get the picture. I started to hurt. My stomach started to feel a little queasy. I got to the point where all I could ingest was water and the occasional Hammer Gel. The chicken broth they were so generously serving at the aid stations started to make me nauseous--just the SMELL of it really made me want to hurl. I thought of Dodgeball, where she says, "No problem...I just threw up in my mouth a little bit..."

I saw people throwing up. Tons were walking. I felt like a circus freak for still running, even though my "run" was almost a glorified shuffle. But, I kept on putting one foot in front of the other. "Just Keep Moving Forward," I thought, like Rob says...I knew I was slowing down, and 5 hours was slipping away. But, at this point, I thought: SURVIVE...SURVIVE...

I saw my breath in the cold foggy night air. The light reflected off it as I ran down a dark path.

And then....

I saw them. I lifted up my arm to wave.


They were still there. They are amazing. They have no idea how much I needed to see them there.

"How are you??" Screamed Jacks and Luscious as they shuffled with me, umbrellas in tow. I gave a weak thumbs-up.

"You're gonna do this!!! You're so close!!! We'll see you at the finish line!!!!"

And then, just across the street, I saw Jeff, Tracy, Brady and Coach Kara. They screamed for me, too...Kara ran alongside me and said, "Think of all the money you raised for people with cancer! You're going to reach your goal! All that hard work and you're going to DO IT!" Even now, she was still inspiring me to stride harder. She's amazing.

Jeff and Tracy had big smiles on their face. "Where's Johnny?" I asked. They looked a little worried..."Not far behind," Jeff said. "How are you? How are you feeling?"

"I hurt," I said, smiling.

"What hurts," Jeff asked. "Stomach? Legs?"

"Everything," I got out, weakly.

"You're almost there! Keep going! You can feel it now! GO SARA!"

So I went. They were right...I could almost feel it, now.

Before I knew it, I heard the finish line. I made a turn, and a girl said, "Up that hill, and around the bend, and your life will never be the same!"

A guy shuffling next to me said, "You might want to take off your bag." He had an awesome accent.

"You're right!" I said, wiggling out of the bag. "Where are you from?"

"'s bloody cold here."

I laughed and said with my horrible Ohio accent, "You're right! It IS bloody cold. Let's go home!" I thought of Wil, and knew if she was with me, she'd look at me to say, "Damn, that accent's HOT." I smiled just thinking of it--and in a way, she was with me then, just like she had been over the past year.

We took off, as best as our legs could go.

I tried to remember the chute. Eric told me to really look around, so I did...I saw the chute coming and I really can't describe what happened next except to tell you this.

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I have never felt more alive in my 29 short years than I did in those 20 seconds.

I felt so aware of being. Of seeing light and feeling wet and hearing laughter. Of feeling my feet ache and loving my husband and adoring my friends and feeling unwavering gratitude for my parents. The smell of rain and mud and sweat all around me...the squish of my shoes on my feet, the feel of my hands holding my head in disbelief, that this body--this collection of bones and nerves and cells could do this.

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It's funny--I always thought that I would cry at the finish line. Always. I'm not a cryer, but I just thought I would...after a year of my life being dedicated to this goal...I thought if I made it, and if I got to cross that line, I'd be so overwhelmed with emotions that I would just cry.

But that wasn't it at all.

I was screaming, I was jumping. I shook my hands in the air. I turned around to see Matt, my parents, and my girls and screamed again. I didn't feel tears--I felt my heart soar through the fog. I felt a direct rejection of all things cold and wet, and I laughed in the face of all that had been thrown at me today. Of all that had been thrown at me in the past year.

In the past 29 years.

And much to my surprise, I crossed the finish line in 15:32.32 with not tears, but laughter--with my hands up like I'm at a freaking Motley Crue concert.

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It was pure celebration.

The first people I saw when I crossed the line were Greyhound, Kris, and RobbyB. I was so excited to see them that I just kept screaming. "AGGGHHHHHHHHH!" I screamed, and RobbyB did, too, as he put the medal around my neck. It was just like I dreamed it would be, except with me laughing hysterically in pure joy. Then, I saw TriMama and TriDaddy again--and Walchka! We all screamed and hugged each other.

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"Where's Wil?" I asked.

The screaming stopped. TriMama and Greyhound looked at each know, that look when you know something but you don't want to be the one to say it. Greyhound said, "We don't know...Stu's not really saying...."

Oh no. No. This isn't how it's supposed to be....

They hugged me again and congratulated me, and I started to get swept away, but I still thought of Wil. "Do you want to get your picture taken?" TriDaddy asked, I think. "Sure!" I laughed--and bopped over to the table. Snap!

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Somehow, in the excitement, I missed all the food...all the water...I made a beeline for my family and friends. And we went nuts.

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And I gave Matt the sweatiest-nastiest-God-only-knows-whatelsiest-hug there was, just like I had imagined. I knew I needed to get we went inside, and I tried to warm up. I found Pharmie: 15:55! She's amazing. We hugged and Mr. Pharmie snapped a few pics. Then I heard the news: IronJohnny--16:29! He made it--I felt elated for him.

My mom was appalled as I grabbed some random mylar blanket off the floor, used, to cover up. I slid down the wall to sit. "Mom," I said, "You don't even want to know what I'm already covered in...I'm sure this is just fine."

Then, Stu came up to me and told me the news. My heart sank.

And Wil came up to me. I waved to her, and tried to stand up. She gave me her hand to pull and steady myself on, just like she had so many times before in so many ways. And I hugged her as hard as I could.

And that's when I cried.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Lovely Day for a Ride

So I made it to the changing room. The volunteer there was amazing. I wish I could hug her right now.

She sat me down and helped me go through my bag. "Here's your you want me to help you put them on? Here's your Clif Bloks--I love these! Do you want me to open them for you? Do you want me to put them in your back pocket for you?"

Yes, yes, yes. You rock.

"Here's a note: TriSaraTops..." She read me a note from Siren, who had put it in my bag before the start.

I got a little choked up as I tried to keep my emotions in check.

I asked if there were a bag of ClifBars anywhere or an M&M mini case with my e-caps.

"No, I don't see them here..."

My face fell again.

"You'll be fine! You've got lots of food here. There is special needs in just a little bit."'re right...I'll be fine...

I got up to head out. I wanted to thank her but I didn't know what to say, so I said breathlessly--

"You're awesome." (LAME!)

She smiled, and I took off.

I had to run back and forth across Monona Terrace for what felt like an eternity--put on my arm warmers and vest "just for the first few miles" (HA!), and found my bike. As I was walking quickly to the Helix, I looked up and saw my Mom, Dad, and Matt.

"I love you guys!" I screamed!

And then, I dropped my bike.

And all the water spilled out of my JetStream.

A volunteer ran over to help me, but I had no more water..."Help! Is there water?" I pleaded.

No water.

Oh no.

And then, a volunteer came running over and poured her personal Dasani bottle in my Jetstream.

"Thank you..." I said, out of breath...

I ran to the Helix and tried to get my bearings....

BEEEEEEEEEEEEP T1. 12 minutes. MAN. That was long, but Coach Angela said it would be, so I tried not to worry about that--she said allow at least 10 minutes for transitions...

I hopped on my bike and headed down the helix, when I heard,

"GOOOOOOOO ARCAROOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!" It was my girls! They had signs and looked so cold, but there they were!

"I LOVE MY NUTTERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!" I screamed! (FYI: Nutters = Nuthouse, the name of our house we lived in senior year of college, named after our sorority's mascot, Earl the Squirrel...for Alpha Gamma case you were wondering.) And Luscious snapped this picture:
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So I was off.

I tried to keep my HR down, which was hard. You know what else is hard? (But I'm used to it by now) Being a decent swimmer and a weaker get PASSED like MAD CRAZY on the bike for the first 25 miles or so.

I tried to block it out, and remember what Coach Angela said,

"Ironman really begins around mile 80. If they blow by you on the bike, you will see them on the run. Just ignore it."

So, I did. I focused only on heart rate, and it took me about 10 miles, but I finally got it settled in at zone 2. By this point, it was raining--not hard, but consistently, and the temperature was dropping. I got to special needs, grabbed some clif bars and more e-caps (whew!), and decided to keep my vest on. I even saw Bubba! Good to see a familiar face--he was smiling, as usual.

Little did I know, that without my new vest, I never would have finished Ironman.

I was about to learn that over the course of the next few hours.

I made it to the hills without too much problem, but I was aware that I really had to slow down to keep my HR in check. "Don't worry," I thought. "No numbers...I can pick it up a bit on the second loop..." The wind picked up. The hills became my favorite part of the entire ride.

Wait--did I just say that?

Yes, it's true. Because, people, the hills were the ONLY part of the entire day where I felt WARM. That, and, um, when I did something else that would make me feel warm. Or maybe I should say it made my left leg feel warm....

Anyway, the hills were amazing--the people there were ringing cowbells and screaming, "Go Sara! You can do it, Sara! Looking good! Great spin! Go! Go! Go!" I saw a guy dressed in drag and Scooby Doo. It was hilarious. And just like that, they were over. Loop two was ready to begin, but not without me going through Verona and seeing Matt, my Mom and Dad, my girls, and Jeff and Tracy.

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"I love you guys!" I screamed again to Matt and my parents.

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And this is the strange thing--I started to just really really think about how much I loved my husband. As I began the second loop, it was all I could think about. I couldn't wait to get back so I could hug him. It was so bizarre....I guess I didn't think I'd just fixate on that for miles and miles, but that's what I thought about as I was riding.

It helped me block out the cold. And the things I was seeing around me. People flatting everywhere. A few people crying as someone else told them, "You can't quit now..." I saw Jim, a guy in my tri club, and he had gotten hit at Mile 1, fell, and dislocated his shoulder. "I'm trying to decide what to do," he told me. "I can't move my left arm."

"Jim, no matter what you do, you're Iron," I said. I didn't know what else to say.

He went on to finish in 16:56, by the way. With a scraped up, dislocated shoulder, the ENTIRE DAY.

Now THAT'S an Ironman.

I was a little worried about my, um, bladder activity. I NEVER pee more than 2 times on my long rides. At the start of the second loop, I had already peed (I think?) ten times. TEN. I was beginning to worry that I had a bladder infection or something. I tried to keep taking ecaps so I didn't flush out all my electrolytes, and slowed down a bit on my drinking. It seemed to help, but I was still worried.

Turns out, according to some medical-type friends, I was experiencing, "cold-induced diureses." Which is one of the first stages of hypothermia.

Whew. Good thing I didn't know that at the time. I just kept smiling as I remembered what I told my girls at dinner last night and we recited our favorite Billy Madison movie quote: "If peeing your pants is cool, consider me Miles Davis."

I was hurting on the second loop. Again, I looked forward to the hills to warm me up. (Sicko!) The people were still there, although not as many. I thanked them. I saw many people walking up the hills, and I thought to myself, "Just keep spinning, just keep spinning...."

I made it to Verona again and saw Matt. I was homesick for him. My parents were there, too, and so were Jeff and Tracy. I knew I just needed to make it back to T2, and I'd be OK.

Therein lies the problem. Headwind, and cold, and I was running out of steam.

I knew my original goal of 7:15 was shot to hell. There was no way. I didn't know how long I'd been out there, but I knew it was a long time. And I knew if I got a flat, or anything went wrong at this point, I might not make the cutoff. So I played it very conservative. I beared down into aero, and tried to ignore the headwind that was bringing me down to 8 miles an hour at times. "Just keep spinning...just keep spinning.." I did a lot of praying--I thanked God for my family and Matt, for my friends, for my health that I have the privledge of being able to be on this course today...I prayed for no flats. I prayed that I could make it to T2 for all those that I had helped raise money for for blood borne cancers, and so my Aunt Betsy could watch me from heaven and see me finish. It was probably the longest and best conversation I've ever had with God. And before I knew it...I saw the Capitol.

"There's a sight for sore eyes," a guy next to me said.

"You bet!" I smiled. It was at this point, I knew I'd make it. As long as I made that cutoff, I'd make it today, and I'd become an Ironman.

I rode up the helix and crossed the mat:

9:57 total time. Made the cutoff by 33 minutes.

Total ride time 8:17. Absolutely, positively, nowhere NEAR my goal time of what I knew I could do.

And you know what? Who cares. I was going to do it. I was going to be an Ironman.

I ran into T2 with a ridiculous smile on my face. Matt and my parents were waiting--I gave Matt a huge kiss and the crowd laughed. "See you later!" I yelled, and took off. It turns out that Matt was so worried about me. He said that he saw many, MANY people who could barely walk, who were shaking with blue lips. He saw one guy run into the wall because he could barely say his name. So he knew then that I was going to be OK.

I saw some awful looking people in T2. Girls and women under mylar blankets, blue lips, teeth chattering, rocking back and forth. I wondered how IronJohnny, Wil, and Pharmie were...Stu said Wil wasn't far behind me, so I said a little prayer for her all all of my friends who were biking and running. I felt pretty bad, but the high of getting to do this marathon made my spirits soar. I just simply couldn't wait to put on my running shoes.

I love to run.

I made it. I was going to make it. I had 7 hours to do a marathon. It was just a matter of how long it would take me to make it.

I grabbed a mylar blanket to run with for the first mile or so, just to stop the shivering. I grabbed my gel flask of Apple Cinnamon Hammer Gel, and put on my hat from my coach.

I ran away, and nine minutes later, I was on the run course.

And I pretty much smiled for the next 5 hours and 24 minutes.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

We'll pause for pictures.

So blogger is cooperating...I'm gonna try and put the rest in the story, but here's what you missed so far:

My favorite card from a student, that hung on the bathroom mirror all weekend:

Wil, Me, and Manitoba Guy.

Wil and I as I molest, I mean...ADMIRE...her sweet new ride at Stu's CycleOps Presentation.

Dropping Arcaro off to be with her sexy, hawt friends on Saturday:

2,450 Swim-To-Bike Transistion bags, all in a row....

Matt, looking REAL excited to be at the Expo as I am talking to Pharmie and Steve. :)

And...that's all blogger will take for now. I hate you, Blogger.

At least it's somethin'. :)

Happy IronDay

The alarm went off. I jolted up.

Is this it?

I gotta move...

Went to the bathroom where all my clothes were laid out...and saw the card from one of my students on the mirror.

Okay. I can do this.

My next instinct was to call Wil. I told her, "Happy IronDay!" She laughed, and we agreed to meet up down at Monona Terrace.

I had my bagel with peanut butter and a banana in solitude in my bathroom. Seriously--who eats in the bathroom? But Matt was sleeping, and it would be a long day for him, too. I took a quick shower at the advice of my coach just to get the blood pumping and wake up.

At 4:45, I went into the hallway to meet Manitoba Guy. He was ready to go, and we headed to Chewie (the Chevy) to drive to the Alliant Energy Center to get on the shuttle to Monona Terrace. It was so dark out, but I could still feel a buzz in the air as athletes and volunteers headed to the buses.

I saw that you weren't supposed to bring your whole tri bag to the Terrace, and that everyone was just putting stuff in their morning dry clothes bag to then drop off at the race. I still needed to load up my Bento Box with 2 Clif Bars (broken into pieces) and an M&M mini case (thanks TriEric!), as well as haul my goggles, wetsuit, etc. So, in the dark, I put everything into my morning dry clothes bag and headed to the bus.

Or so I thought. More on that later.

On the bus, Manitoba and I were chit chatting when I looked 2 seats in front of me and thought--"HOLD UP. That guy looks familiar."

Is it....could it be....he's wearing volunteer clothes...I think it is.....!

"Um, excuse me...."

Guy turns around

"Are you Mike?"


Talk about CRAZY. What are the odds--the same freaking 4:50am bus?! It was the Silent Fury himself. We were laughing at the craziness!

We all got off the shuttle and made our way was only 5am, but the buzz was whirring all around me. I dropped off my special needs bags for the bike and run, and ran into Rob, too! I knew he was going to kick butt today. Then I saw Stu and he helped me find Wil.

And we didn't leave each other's side for the rest of the morning until the cannon went off.

It was so good to have her there. You guys don't even know...she is amazing and has been such a great support for me as I've gone through this whole journey. We got our bodies marked, and I saw Trina and Cassie and wished them good luck. I really wanted to see TriAl one more time, but I was running around trying to get everything done that I didn't. I headed to my bike to drop off my fuel and bottles.

Except for one thing. No fuel. No ClifBars and only one little M&M canister of E-caps. Not two.

Oh no. It's in my tri bag, in the trunk of Chewie.


Don't panic, don't panic...I still have peanut butter crackers, and Clif Bloks, and some will get me to special needs on the bike. I'll be fine. Really. I will.....won't I?

Ugh. How could I have been so stupid! I filled my Jetstream with water, put my two bottles of endurance gatorade with carbo pro on my bike, and lifted up my bento box to put the lack of fuel in...

And I saw a blue post-it note. From TriAl. Just to say good luck.

What a guy he is, people. He took the time out to wish a bunch of us good luck with post-its. Class act friend, he is. It really made me feel better--I might be missing fuel, but I am not alone. I'll be fine.

Then, before I knew it, it was time to head to the water.

Oh no. Now the panic started.

I yawned--the first sign I was panicking. It means I'm not breathing. I used to always look so cool, calm, and collected at cheerleading tryouts and before pitching a tough game, because I yawned... a lot...little did people know I was terrified.

Wil was with me as we headed down the helix, and I saw RobbyB directing swimmers..."Swimmers to the left, spectators to the right..." I think she could sense the panic in me. She kept talking to me, making little jokes...trying to keep it light...we heard the star spangled banner and I looked at her but couldn't really say any words.

She grabbed my hand and smiled. I said, "No matter what happens today, we're iron, you know?"

She agreed.

OMG--less than 5 minutes, and I'm still on the concrete. "Hurry up, swimmers, 3 minutes to start!"

Panic. Panic.


I'm a strong swimmer. I'll be fine.

I think.

At the last second, I saw TriMama and TriDaddy...who I want to be half as cool as someday. These two are amazing. I hugged them both, and then got in the water.

I knew I had to say bye to Wil. I knew we had different swim goals. But I felt like I really wanted her there. I didn't know what to say as I dove into the water. She was behind me about 10 feet. I turned around and yelled, "Tracy!"

She looked up.

I just blew her a kiss--how dumb is that? I didn't know what else to do. "I'll see you at the end!"

She smiled and said, "Good luck!"


OMG. OMG. Where do I go? Stay to the side, coach said...I think this is the side...isn't it?

(side note: it wasn't. I was DIRECTLY IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAMN SWIM. Dumb.)

I saw TriThomps and wished him luck. And I looked around me. Everyone had glassy eyes...everyone was floating and trying to breathe. Everyone had a story.

And the last thing I remembered was hearing on the loudspeaker, "HAVE A HELL OF A DAY!"


Jump! I felt like a horse that just jumped up, startled at a shotgun.

Go, Sara! Go....

So I started.

Have you ever swam with 2450 people? In the same spot? Yeah, I haven't either. It was everything like I imagined and nothing like I imagined at the same time.

I am used to swimming in choppy water, but I am not used to getting my ass kicked by other people around me. I think I must have had a sign on my wetsuit that said, "A-HOLES...FOLLOW THIS CHICK!" It was unbelievable.

About 6 or 7 times, people grabbed my ankles and pulled. HARD. For 5-10 seconds.

5 times, I was elbowed in the face so hard my students asked yesterday why I had black eyes.

At one point, some guy next to me took both arms and PUSHED me hard to the side. There's no way it was an accident. For the first length, I just tried to remain calm.

Don't get mad...don't worry, just glide...glide...reach...ignore...OW...ignore....DAMN!...ignore it....

I never, NEVER got into a groove. I got in exactly the WRONG spot. I got stuck in bottlenecks that I couldn't get out of. I was trying not to get mad, but felt my time goal slipping away...

No numbers. NO NUMBERS.

I felt OK the second lap for about 10 minutes and was able to glide a bit...and then heading back to make the last turn was brutal. The wind must have picked up and the chop was really bad. I just thought, " your is a long day and it's not won or lost here...."

I made the last turn and got to shore. I got out and saw the clock.


My heart and head sank. I was hoping to come in between 1:10 and 1:15, like I had done all summer in the pool and when I practiced the distance in the Lake.

I felt the disappointment in my heart, and then,

"Go, swimmers! Go, Sara!"

It was Kris, RobbyB's wife! It was time to get to the strippers. Not those strippers...:) The wetsuit peelers.

And I smiled again.

No numbers. I said it before and I have to let this go NOW if I'm going to finish.

Because you know what? In the scheme of things, it wasn't going to matter. My swim time, I realized, would matter about as much as my SAT score does right now. Which is, like, not at all. What would matter is if I made it to that finish line.

I thought, it's still OK....I still have plenty of extra time for the bike...and it was starting to drizzle. Good thing I have my vest--I'll just ditch it at the first aid station when I feel warm.

(famous last words)

So I ran to T1, and left my swim time behind. There was a lot of work to do, and I needed to get going.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

No more numbers.

Friday morning--time for the Gatorade Swim.

I met Wil, TriThomps, Stu, and some Cleveland Peeps like IronJohnny and Coach Kara down at the swim. It was so good to see everyone! I was on Cloud 9 at this point. All worries. I felt great.

We jumped in and Stu got some great pictures of us with his underwater digital camera! How cool is that? Mr. Wil took some pictures from the shore, too. As we waded by the ski lift, I recognized Manitoba Guy somehow! He joined us for a little swim as we just kind of got our bearings. I felt really strong and the weather was great--a little cloudy and some wind, but nice and warm. The water was a bit cold at first, but it felt great to swim in--much better than the 90 degree Y pool I was used to!

I registered and picked up all my stuff. It was bizarre...we stood in this really long line, and it was very well organized, but for some reason I just felt unsettled. I think it was just because I was missing Matt some more. I couldn't wait for him to get into town. So I stood in line, alone, for a while. I saw Stu and TriThomps, so that picked me up a bit.

I felt butterflies as I told the volunteers my number: "2198," I said. I felt my stomach somersaut a bit as they handed me my chip.

Wow. There it is.

"Let me just activate this thing...."


I shuffled along to the next station. We had to get weighed, which of course is for safety purposes. What happened next is interesting, but didn't surprise me...and at the same time, led to something good.

I got on the scale and the volunteer recorded the number.

It was 5 more than I thought it would be.

Now, mind you, I had just drank 2 Nalgenes of water...I was wearing clothes, blah blah blah. But there I was, in the midst of beginning my Ironman, and I saw that number and the floodgates of old feelings rushed in. Feelings that I have had before--when I was 7, 10, 13, 16, 22.....

Oh no! What happened? What can I do? I need to get that lower NOW!

This is stupid. And irrational. And idiotic. Here I am, on the eve of an Ironman, and I'm letting this bother me?! It made no sense. And I knew this, and it still threw me into a little 3 minute tailspin. I felt old doubts and fears creep in, from years and years of battling with issues relating to weight and my image of myself.

So for about three rotten minutes, I let it really bother me. I didn't think about the things I'd accomplished to get the honor of standing on that scale, on that day, in that city. I just saw a number, and it made me irrationally upset.

And it was at that moment, standing in the Monona Terrace alone, that I snapped out of it and changed my entire approach.

There would, from that point on, be no numbers in my Ironman.

The only number, I decided, that I was going to pay attention to, was my heart rate. I don't want splits, and I don't want time. I will still have my A, B, and C finishing goals, but I'm not going to worry about how I get there--I'm just going to get there. To one of those letters. Without any numbers or splits.

Because, see--I don't do so well with numbers.

And I knew I couldn't let the numbers do this to me on that day. I knew it might jeopardize everything I've worked for.

And suddenly, I felt a huge relief. Heart rate, and that's it. Whew.

Okay. I'm allright.

I went to grab some lunch alone. See, I think there are really two different kinds of people at Ironman--those that love to be around the buzz, and those that need to step away from the buzz. I am the latter. I deliberately stayed away from downtown as much as I could. I knew that my focus needed to be relaxed, and for me, that meant away from the action I deemed unecessary. So I ate alone, rested in my room alone, and waited until Matt arrived. He's much like me in that sense, and when he walked into the hotel lobby my heart soared. I missed him so much and was so glad to see him.

I was also so glad to be able to enjoy dinner at Stu's house with my friends, new and old, of Pharmie, XT4, Wil, TriThomps, Robby B, Chris, Michelle, Siren, and even Manitoba Guy came along! Pictures will come once I can get them up there. It was such a perfect night--we relaxed, ate some really good grub, and talked.

I didn't go to the athlete meeting. Some people left to go and Matt said, "Should you go?" Maybe. But I didn't want to. I needed to step away from the buzz and the action, and the people I was with were so knowledgeable and all had completed the course--so I stayed and we watched Ironman Videos. It was absolutely perfect, and I can't thank Stu enough for letting us into his home for such a perfect Friday night.

Saturday was a blur.

It hit me then, and it hit me hard. I can't really remember much, except that it was kind of like the day before my wedding--I felt like I had so much to do, and was trying so hard to stay relaxed, and failing miserably. I began freaking out a bit when I started to pack my bags. Just seeing all the gear and bags was overwhelming. I threw a few of my students' cards into my special needs bags, along with extra copies of the names of people I was racing in honor and memory of. I put in as much food as I could, and some enduralytes. The weather forecast was calling for 64 degrees with a 30% chance of rain.

On a whim, I told Matt, "Maybe I should get a vest--I probably won't need it, as that weather report looks good...but just in case it rains that way I can wear it for the first few miles on the bike until I warm up and then ditch it."

So, operation find a vest was in effect. We tried everything: WalMart, Kohls, the frustration grew as I couldn't find one that would actually keep the wind from getting through.

We finally found one at Dick's...but ugh. $65. I didn't want to spend that.

At that point, I had no choice. $65 it was. I was mad and frustrated. But--no worrying about the numbers. If I needed it, I thought, it will be worth $65.

Little did I know. Heh. I had no freaking idea what was about to happen.

That night, I enjoyed dinner with my college girls--some of the best and most supportive people in the universe, that came to share the day with me and cheer me on. My parents were there, too--I have the best parents in the world, just so you know.

And I was determined not to let the number of hours I slept bother me, either. I heard that it's really 2 nights before that matters, and I got 9 hours that night. So I set the alarm for 3:58am, arranged to drive up with Manitoba Guy, and layed in bed.

"I'm really going to do this, aren't I?" I asked Matt.

He squeezed my hand.


And then, I fell asleep. I think all the worrying all day about numbers--64, 30%, 65, drained me.

And I had 6 glorious hours of sleep.

And then--BUZZ---

My IronDay was here.

The long drive alone.

I'm going to start telling the story. Blogger has hated me for months and won't let me post any pics, so it will be mostly words for now, and pics through Picasa.

It's gonna be a long story.

It starts on Wednesday, as I packed up from school and left to head to Chicago, and then Madison. I had been stressing out about leaving school for three days. I left my sub plans, I had made all my copies. I had stayed until 4pm to help some students that were worried about next week's test. It meant a later start on the road, but oh well--what's my profession again? Pro triathlete? No. I am a teacher--that's what I do, and that's what it's all about. I was happy to stay and help.

I packed up my car, including flowers and a few bags of gatorade, blow pops, and peanut butter filled pretzels that my teaching friends gave me (they are awesome), and a bunch of construction paper cards from my students. These almost made me cry when my friend Elizabeth gave them to me. My favorite one said, "Good Luck MRS. ZIEMNIK--U Can Do It Ironman" and the "M's" in Mrs. and Ziemnik were big red M-dots. I knew I'd need them and brought them along for the ride. They would be there for another ride, too.

And finally, it was just me, alone, in a car, for 5 hours.


Sitting down.


It was great. It was just what I needed. I stayed with Jacks that night in Chicago and had Giordino's pizza--we always get it when I visit--so yum. Then the next morning I headed to Madison.

I checked in at my hotel around noon, and a fit-looking guy was there too.

"You here for the race?" I asked.

"Yep, we just got in a bit early." (said with a heavy Canadian accent)

And that's how I met Manitoba Guy. Manitoba Guy was really cool, and it was his first IM, too. He was with his wife and mom, and we were both antsy from our long drives, so we decided to go for a little ride.

I remembered a bit of the course from our WIBA weekend, so we headed out that way. I felt great. It was 80 degrees and not a cloud was in the sky. My bike, thanks to TriEric, was running like a dream. Everything felt perfect, and I absolutely couldn't wait to race. Manitoba Guy asked if I had ever heard of Simply Stu. I was like, "Have I heard of him?!" I laughed as I told him of WIBA weekend. He said how helpful Stu's videos of the course were for him.

I got back to the hotel to clean up before heading to Stu's CycleOps presentation, which I was SOOOO excited for. Manitoba Guy decided just to hang with his family. So now I had to head downtown to try and meet up with Wil, TriAl, RunBubbaRun, and Mr. Wil for some dinner.

So I drove downtown. My car, by the way, is a total beater which smells a little like dill dip from when I spilled it on the way to the pool party 3 weeks ago and sounds like Chewbacca when I turn the steering wheel. One of many things I've been putting off until IM is Chewie and I made it downtown, calling Wil, and trying to find them.

And then I saw them. Right on the corner!


She turned around, and our faces both lit up. It was our weekend, and we'd been waiting so long to see each other again.

Turns out, they were lost like me! The light was red so I said hop in! They did--but the light turned green, and I was so discombobulated from driving all over the place in circles around the Capitol ("Look kids, Big Ben!") that I started to drive away with poor Bubba struggling to get in the car!

So I almost took out an Ironman before the race even started. Oops. Big oops. :) Sorry Bubba!

We made it to Stu's thing--it was great. I got to see TriThomps and RobbyB! These guys are amazing and so cool. We had a good time, and then I was so tired, I headed back to the hotel. But--not until I dropped TriAl off at Rocky Rocaco's pizza place to meet up with Trina, Cassie, and Josh. We hung out a bit and joked around until my eyes were so heavy that I had to leave.

I really missed Matt. It just wasn't the same without him there, but he couldn't get off work. He'd be there Friday though, so I just needed to make it to Friday evening, I told myself. But even though I was surrounded by friends, without Matt, I was a little bit lonely.

So I got back to the hotel, went into my room, and turned on the light. I just sort of stood there and stared at the room. Why? I don't really know. I guess I was just in awe that I was there. If I was there, that meant I was really doing this. I had my favorite card from my student with the M-dots on it right on the mirror, where it would remain all weekend. I looked at it, and knew that they would be watching. That was a little scary, at the same time. It's one thing to do this with no one watching.

It's an entirely different thing to do an Ironman with friends, your students, and people you've never even met watching you.

I have to admit, that was a little scary. But, I tried to tell myself, that's not why I'm here. I'm here for me.

So I flopped on the bed, set the alarm for 7am to head to the swim with Wil, Stu, and TriThomps, and turned out the light. Before I knew it, the alarm was buzzing, and it was Friday.

Time for a little dip in the lake.

Monday, September 11, 2006


I made it!!!!!

15:32~not quite what my original goal was, but it became very clear about 20 minutes into the water that today was going to be about one thing: SURVIVAL. As long as I could put one foot in front of the other, I knew I'd be OK. It was BRUTAL out there....if you would have told me that on my Ironman I'd be shivering with my teeth chattering the whole way, I would've laughed at you. But, in a classic case of "be careful what you wish for, it just might come true," we DIDN'T get heat. We got 51-55 degrees and pouring rain the entire day with nasty wind. Oh well--I made it, and I am so thankful for my amazing family and friends, as well as all the AWESOME volunteers and bloggy friends that I met along the way!

I'm at the hotel now and ready to hit the road---just wanted to say thanks for your encouragement and kind words. It means more than you could imagine.

EVERYONE out there yesterday, no matter what happened, is made of iron.

More to come fo know me....I will provide a full report but it will probably take me a few days, as I gotta get back home by 10-11pm tonight and head to work tomorrow!

IronSara--out! :)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

"Friends should be preferred to kings." --Voltaire

I'm running around crazy here, trying to get everything packed, done, and ready for me to leave school for 3 days and attempt the biggest physical challenge of my life.

So I will be leaving you now, and will return next week...with lots of stories, no matter what happens. It's all about the journey and the adventure in my book.

I'm amazed again at the generosity of friends and family, and of people that I've never even met, as my fundraising has reached almost $2,000. This is what my day is really all about.

Thanks to my friends and family for supporting me, and to those of you out there who give me encouragement in all different ways. I'm inspired by each and every one of you.

When I got home, I had a little package from one of my best buddies, Sammy. She, as usual, knew JUST what to say to me through the card she sent. The card has a picture of a little girl getting ready to dive off a pier into a lake, and the quote on the card was this:


So, in a few days here, I'll dive in.

Thanks for being with me.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


Went to pick up Arcaro today at the bike shop.

They wheeled her out and she looked great. She gave me a look like, "Well, I'M ready....are you?"

Then, as I checked out after buying a few spare tube and a spare tire, the song on their XM satellite radio was "Ironman" by Black Sabbath!!!!! (Or is it Ozzy solo? I think it's Black Sabbath...)


I went to a picnic today. It was fun--the first time I've really had time in a long time to enjoy a weekend picnic.

I really need to work on making a few CD's for the drive to Chicago and Madison. The catch is, these CDs REALLY need to be CHILLIN' OUT music. NOT pump you up music. I have to drive by myself, sans iPod, as Matt is bringing it a few days later. If I am in my car, left to the radio or my own CD's without a plan, I might start freaking out. So, I am planning ahead.

I need some GOOD chillin' out tunes. Enough to last me like 10 hours.

So post me some of your favorite artists and albums, if you please. Here's what I'm constructing so far:

Bright Eyes
Jack Johnson
Rilo Kiley
Death Cab for Cutie
Ryan Adams
David Gray
Simon and Garfunkel
Elliott Smith

Who else needs to come with me?

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Well, it was bound to happen sometime.

Minor freak-out today.

Matt left for Windsor, Ontario for a bachelor party this morning--so I'm swingin' solo today.

BTW, Matt is one calm dude. Like, he might be the most laid-back, calm dude ever. Which is perfect for me, since I sometimes have little freak outs. Keep that in mind.

So I got up and it was pouring--thanks, Ernesto. Since I've been fighting this cold and it was chilly, I pansied out and did my 2 hour spin in zone 1 on the trainer. It was not very fun. But, I figured better to do that and be insanely bored than to have my little head cold thing get worse.

And then, I showered and headed to the LBS to drop off my bike. My bike, by the way, now has a new name. It's Arcaro. It's still Italian, and you might know why it fits perfectly. It's a she, too. I know, I know, most girls ride a male bike. But Arcaro's a sassy bad ass. She yells and me and stuff. So Arcaro, it is. Arcaro and I went to the LBS and I left her there. I told them what to do and walked out.

And since then, I've been a little bit of a mess.

Matt took the checkbook with him. He said he needed to write a check for the hotel room. OK, that makes sense. But when I am feeling a little uneasy, I like to pay bills and clean my house. Why? Because it gives me a sense of accomplishment and something to focus on besides worrying. So I've already cleaned the house several times over, and bills it was.

Except he has the checkbook.

And for some reason that set me off.


Um, I'll be home TOMORROW.


The usual way a Sara Freak-Out Session ends is by Matt making fun of me until I realize how stupid I sound and then I stop. So that's what he did. And now I'm OK. For now. I think.

Nah, all joking aside, I'm fine. But it will be nice to have Matt back tomorrow, just in case.

So tonight I am heading to Marie's for a girls night of eating and watching old Sex in the City DVDs. If that's not girly I don't know what is.

Tomorrow I'll pick up Arcaro and then probably head to TriEric's house Monday to have him give her a second look.

Tuesday and Wednesday I teach. And Wednesday, at 3:08 when the bell rings, I will head to my car which will be all packed up, jump on I-90 West, and drive until I get to Chicago.

Holy crap.