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Saturday, June 17, 2017

And the hardest part...(on Australia)

  I'm overdue for a Chattanooga race report, and I do have one mostly written, but I'm going to go a little out of order here, for therapeutic reasons, and try to dissect what happened last week in Australia.  I thought I'd have finally finished IM #10 by now.  I hoped that I might be in a position where I was able to entertain thoughts of Kona points and strategy.  Instead, I'm once again trying to pick up the pieces, put disappointment behind me, refocus, and move on from the latest disappointment.

  When I first started training for Cairns, I didn't really have high hopes for my performance.  I just wanted to do an IM.  In the weeks leading up to the race, though, my fitness began to click.  While the distance intimidated me again, my workout evidence pointed to the fact that yes, I was ready, more ready than I had planned on being at any point along the way.  I never would have openly admitted it, as I like to keep the expectations and pressure down, but I did feel like if I could remember how to put it together, I had a shot at contending for the final podium spot on a great day, and top five on a good day.  I was heading down under to compete, not just participate, and it excited me.  I checked the boxes of the final week, got myself through, and was in the homestretch.

   Dave and I had a conversation with my parents one evening over dinner about IM.  You have to have such good luck to make it work, he'd been arguing.  I wouldn't say that, I countered; you just have to put in the work, avoid bad luck, and execute.  And so it went.  I feel like I should have run out of bad luck by now.  I feel like I should have earned something good when it comes to IM.  I feel like I've paid my dues, and it should have worked.  But, that's not how it works.  It's not like I've built up little bad luck antibodies that can ward it off.  Our flights got screwed up on the way to Cairns, despite the fact that Dave had checked and called and confirmed with the airlines the day beforehand.  We were able to get rerouted and rebooked, but the butterfly effect had been set into place-somewhere on those planes or layovers that we weren't originally supposed to be on, something microscopic got into my system that would prove to undo me.
Brief stop in Brisbane during a layover for a run along the river!  So much hope.

These kangaroo signs were everywhere.  Much like the moose signs in New Hampshire, they were a TOTAL disappointing fake out.  We didn't see ONE kangaroo in the wild.  Only in the crocodile park thing, which doesn't count.  Asshole elusive kangaroos.

   We got to Australia on Sunday, a week before the race.  I was tired, definitely dragging, but nothing I wouldn't have associated with travel and jetlag.  Monday morning, I got up, assembled my bike, and went out for a little bike and run.  Both felt like crap, and I had no energy.  I again brushed it off-flights, time changes, no caffeine, still recovering from my last push into the race.  The lower GI symptoms started later that evening.  Well, ok, weird, but my internal clock was still off, and I'd had a giant salad and bunch of popcorn earlier that day.  I woke up starving on Tuesday, but the lower GI symptoms persisted.  We walked down to the beach to catch the sunset, and on the way back up, I really just started feeling awful.  Like, dragging my feet, could barely walk awful.  While Dave pestered me about what we were going to do that day, I yelled at him that I just needed to lay down.  I got back and hit the couch.  My stomach began to turn on me.  At first, simple foods calmed it down; as the day progressed, I stopped eating.  My temperature rose.  I didn't even have the energy to sit up, all I could do was lay and watch TV.  I tried to stay calm about it-probably just a 24 hour virus, I'd feel better the next day, I'd be fine by the weekend.  I chose to worry about missing training instead.  I went to bed that night expecting to wake up in the cold sweat of my fever breaking, but it never happened-I was only waking up to my GI system.
The sunrise was pretty, though.  So at least I got to see that.

I never actually made it into the water down there.  This "treat your jellyfish sting" station helped to ease that "disappointment".
I had to.  This blog entry needs some levity.  If I can't unsee Dave's freakishly pasty thighs in a paisley speedo, then the internet shouldn't be able to, either.

   The next day (Wednesday), still feverish, nauseous, entirely drained, and with less than desirable intenstinal happenings, I found a doctor that would take walk ins, figuring that if I could at least get my hands on some anti-nausea meds to calm down the stomach pain, I'd be able to get in food and fluids to get my strength up and be good to go for the race.  I did get some meds, and while they did help, I still couldn't get much into me.  Thursday morning, I did feel better.  Not wanting the whole trip to be a waste, Dave and I went to a crocodile park, saw animals, held a koala, and then ventured off to a waterfall.  Somewhere in there, my fever and fatigue returned, and I still wasn't eating.  He started having some early symptoms.  Friday morning, while Dave's symptoms were seeming to stay less systemic and more lower GI (he was eating the whole time), I was still mildly feverish, repulsed by the thought of most food (which NEVER happens), fatigued to the point where walking 5-10min wiped me out, and letting go of the race.  Checking in and going to the pro meeting was painful, as I felt like a fraud.  Dave opted to switch down to the 70.3, but I knew that I wouldn't be able to race.  Well wishes and advice telling me to eat, drink, keep my hopes up were sweet, but I couldn't force myself to eat and drink without feeling sick, and the fatigue was crippling.  Even minimal activity was a huge effort.
Crocodile sanctuary dude.  Pretty sure this guy was like, eating golfers or something.  

This little wallaby guy let us pet him!!  So cute.  Petting furry animals makes everything better.

Koala!!!!!!!!  No amount of feeling like crap was going to keep me from my koala moment.  He was SO SOFT AND SNUGGLY.

They let Dave in for a picture, too.  I feel like this is sort of an awkward family photo, only with an adorable koala instead of a baby, so it's ok.  And for the record, here's where I verify that no, I did not withdraw from an IM and call it "stomach problems" when I'm really pregnant.  Because yes, I have been asked.   Which is fair.  But koalas only for now.  And dogs when at home.

The waterfall we went to

   I talked to Jesse Saturday morning, and to my relief, he didn't even suggest that I give it a try.  If I thought I even had a chance to get through any of the race, I would have showed up to the swim start, but the thought of 2.4 miles in rough salt water was enough to turn my stomach, I just wanted to spend my time laying down, and at that time, I was suffering from acid reflux that made being prone impossible.  I turned in my chip, which was easier than picking it up had been, and focused my attention to hoping that Dave would be able to survive the half.  Given how I felt, I couldn't believe he was ok enough to race, but he was going to go through with it, and I hoped it would salvage the trip a bit.  Race morning, I found him before the swim start, sent him off, and despondently walked along the beach to the bike out, beginning my day of trying to hold it together.  Dave had a decent swim and looked ok heading out on the bike, so I breathed a small sigh of relief, and left to drive down to the run course before I could hear the canon sound for the full.
Race morning sunrise colors.  Seemed to fit the vibe.

   The rest of the day was an emotional roller coaster.  I couldn't see Dave's splits, but he was moving up in his age group on the bike, so I kept my fingers crossed he'd be ok.  He didn't look great on the run, and was definitely feeling the effects of whatever we had, but he held it together well enough to snag 8th in his age group.  Waiting for him at the finish line hurt; I found myself staring down the red carpet I'd spent so much time dreaming about from the outside.  Afterwards, we got some food (I was having a brief reprieve), and had hours to kill before rolldowns.  We got bored sitting in the car, and finally opted to brave heading out to catch some of the IM run.  Needless to say, watching the pro women come through tore my heart, already scarred and pieced back together a thousand times in the past few years, out of my chest and stomped on it yet again.  At the end of the day, though, Dave was able to snag a spot to 70.3 worlds, salvaging something out of nothing, and we explored some night markets, which was a really neat, unique experience.
Dave run pain face.  Sponsored by immodium.

Ticket back to America punched!  Dave didn't want me to take a picture or make a big deal out of it, because he's annoying and doesn't see it as an accomplishment given it was just sort of a so-so day for him, but I did anyways.  Because, it is an accomplishment, and I've wanted to punch him several times lately over his negativity about his abilities.  Everyone tell Dave he's good at this stuff.

   We spent a pleasant Sunday packing up and exploring Port Douglas and Cairns a bit before heading out to Brisbane to start the long journey home the next morning.  My "feeling better" progress was slow to seemingly nonexistent at times, as my appetite and energy were barely recovering.  I tried a couple of 30min jogs in there, which were 2min/mile slower than what I'd been running heading in and loaded with breaks.  They spiked my nausea afterwards and drained me, but absolutely confirmed that no, I could not have even attempted to race.  Thankfully, I have no regrets haunting me on that decision.  In fact, until I had my first MRI a couple of weeks after crashing in Cozumel and found out that I actually did break stuff, despite the fact that I could barely walk in that time, I felt more guilt and weakness over that DNF than I ever did about this DNS.  I can't say that travel home felt good in the least, and my first couple of days back in Rochester were about survival (especially given I somehow still can't stomach coffee...SAD FACE).  I'm not entirely sure what struck me down (trying to figure it out at the moment), other than the fact that it was/is pretty nasty and prolonged.  Dave and I still are very slowly coming along.  Both of us are struggling to do any sort of training, he's now in the reflux stage, I'm still hit or miss on the eating front, and I'm still struggling a bit with waking up in the middle of the night, needing to sit up to tame the waves of stomach upset.  But, the past couple of days (well, mostly today) have shown actual signs of improvement, so I'm hopeful that I've turned the corner to the home stretch of whatever got me.
Random restaurant in Port Douglas called "Dave's", that offered a discount to anyone named Dave, and featured a "wall of Daves".  Help me.

Another picture of water that looks nice but is probably loaded with man-eating crocodiles and giant jellyfish up in Port Douglas.

Last morning in Australia!  View from breakfast in Brisbane.

This is what it looks like when the third seat in your row ends up empty, and you get skycouch without having to pay for it on your 11 hour flight!

And an airline reschedule resulted in first class on the final leg!  All the other women were all done up and proper while I watched Anchorman, greasy and unshowered from hours of travel, wearing some old comfy run pants.  According to Dave, I was probably the first person in first class to watch Anchorman.  And?  I watched Dodgeball while in peasant class on the way there, sooo... #stayclassy

   I remember starting out one of my long runs when training for Cairns, back when my butt pain was more prominent and I wasn't sure if it would hold out or not.  Something clicked in my head then-yes, I so very badly wanted to race an IM in Cairns, and I feared another setback.  But, although I had moments of thinking that every piece of bad luck was the straw that's going to break the camel's back at the time, I've managed to find my way around them thus far.  No matter what happens, as long as I have the choice to press on, I will.  I can't control everything along this journey, but that part, the not quitting part, is entirely up to me.  Some part of me still holds onto the belief that it's going to come together, and when it does, it's going to mean SO much more than all of the times that it came together before I knew what it was like to deal with all of the BS that I used to only worry might happen someday, back when my triathlon journey was some fairy tale journey.  Shit happens (sometimes literally), to absolutely everyone on the planet.  When you're living it, you deal with it, you make new plans, and you move on.  I've made new plans, and as soon as my body gets its strength back, it'll be full steam ahead.  Maybe they'll work out, maybe they won't, but that's no reason not to go after them like they can work out.  In the great scheme of life, missing an IM is HARDLY the end of the world.  I mean, I've had plenty of times in the past couple of weeks where I've internally whined about how I could possibly still be nauseous, before realizing that it's just a drop in the bucket, in reality.  I'm not undergoing cancer treatment, which would make me a lot more nauseous for a lot longer while, you know, worrying about my life, not just some stupid race.  Perspective.  Yeah, it's still disappointing, because I put so much into it, it's been so long, and I was finally ready, but...I was finally ready.  My "new normal" body can get itself ready, even if there are a few imperfect stretches along the way.  Food poisoning (or whatever it was) doesn't change that.  My heart will scar over and heal.  I'm looking forward to ponying up and getting back to work, because I can (or hopefully will be able to in short order), I still have this opportunity, when so many can't.  And for that, especially when I've gone through periods when it wasn't possible, I'm grateful.    

  So, that was Australia.  Not the kind of report I was hoping to write, but such is life.  We still got to visit the other side of the world and experience an entirely new place, so that's a gift in itself (and, Master Chef Australia was actually pretty entertaining when on the couch :) ).  Many thanks to everyone who took the time to reach out to me, wish me well, and show me concern and caring when I was down and out.  I had wanted to complete that race to prove those who had believed in me throughout this time right, and that remains my goal moving forward through the summer.  The fight will continue!  Also, thanks to Big Sexy Racing, and our fantastic team sponsors including Zone3, Reynolds, QR, Ice Friction, Kask, F2C Nutrition, and others who had me fully equipped and ready to go, even if my body didn't cooperate!  Next time. :)

One of my favorite little cartoons.  Because, this.

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