Running with Her Soul: Dana Platin’s Iron Man Report

Aug 17
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Race Reports

You may remember my pal Dana’s race report on her DNF (Did Not Fail). Well, she made it to her Boulder Iron Man and she’s back on my blog to give a full–and inspiring–report. Here we go.

 

So, you did it! Congratulations, Dana. Tell us about your experience.

It all began in 1979 on the Appalachian Trail.  I was six years old, fascinated with adventure, exploration, setting new challenges, the woods, gear (check out my first pair of Nike’s and puffy down jacket!), and of course keeping up with my big brother and his friends. Thirty-four years later, I find myself in similar circumstances of stepping outside of my comfort zone, exploring the unknown, embarking on new adventures, and learning what I “can” do versus what “I cannot.” I still try to keep up with the boys, and my obsession with gear continues.  Here’s my post-race report of the Boulder Ironman (IM)—August 4, 2014. I had an incredible journey and learned more about my mental and physical capabilities as well as the power of “community” during my 13+hour adventure on the hot, dry, high altitude Boulder IM 140.6 mile course (2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike and a 26.2-mile run).

Dana 1978

 

What was running through your head at the starting line?

Breathe, Focus, Deliver. I repeat that over and over in my head as I stare out over the Boulder Reservoir, watching the sunrise and trying to eye the 2.4-mile swim I will navigate today.  The water is calm the sun is rising.

sunrise

I head over to the couple thousand swimmers: men wearing green caps and women wearing pink caps. We are asked to place ourselves in the corrals based on anticipated swim time for the 2.4-mile swim.  I have been swimming around 1:31 for that distance so I place myself with the 1:15-1:30 group, which happens to be a very large group of swimmers.  I take a deep breath as I walk over. I find my friend Laurie, and a great calm comes over me as we stand together chit-chatting away about what life will hold after this IM (woohoo Laurie is getting married,). We talk about race day strategies, and we just stay close together as we wait since we are both smaller women and can’t see in front nor behind us. We were surrounded by many large men.

Slowly we are being pushed forward until we are next in line to take off for the swim leg of the race.  We hear music blasting, and the announcer is getting the athletes psyched up to race.  I hear a loud voice come through the microphone and yell, “Today you will be an Ironman.”

Really?  I think. Here is that inner critic that I have been working on hushing.  Will I be able to finish?  I have had an incredible training season, no major setbacks and lots of solid preparation.  I am feeling good.  Yes, think positive. I will finish today and will finish strong.  I start to focus on what could go right versus what could go wrong.  My old cards would focus on the latter and I have worked really hard this past year on what will work, what will go right… dialing into that… mental skills training.  I take a few steps forward as the crowd moves us to the swim start line.  I look up and see hundreds of swimmers off to the first buoys. This is it, no turning back, right foot forward. Own this day, no matter what happens.

swim start

I take my first dunk into the water and off I go. I swim calmly, practicing my orienteering, checking out my surroundings, protecting myself and finding my line. Breathe, focus, deliver, breathe, focus, deliver. I look up every six strokes to make sure I am swimming in line towards the yellow buoys and not zig-zagging across the reservoir. I know once I hit the orange buoys, I will be at the halfway point. I come round the bend and see those orange buoys. Phew! I am “in” this. I am calm. I say to myself, Take your time, you have a long day ahead of you. I keep swimming and notice many pink caps around me. Strong women, you go girls. I notice a guy swimming right up to me, he isn’t passing or dropping back but swimming “on” me. I pull back so he can pass. I keep going and there he is again. I am not able to get my pace back as he keeps bumping into me and won’t go around, ahead or drop back. I try to move over more and there he is again. I stay patient and put in a few more strokes and then BAM, I get a swift kick in my stomach and get the wind knocked out of me. I swallow water and get pissed. “Come on buddy, find your line.” He yells back at me, “No, you find your line!” Am I really going to have an argument in the middle of the IM swim? Should my energy be spent on this? NO!

I try to catch my breath after getting the wind knocked out of me and just take another stroke, but AGAIN he elbows me. I decided there is no time for negotiation or providing feedback in the middle of the reservoir. It’s time to pick up my pace and get the heck out of there. As I take off, I take a fast, hard stroke, and I accidently, slammed my hand on top of his head, giving him a good dunk. I turned myself into a speedy minnow and get the heck out of there, and I never looked back. I get out of the water in 1 hour and 34 minutes. Pretty close to the 1:31 time I anticipated. I probably lost a few minutes due to the wind being knocked out of me and IM water brawl J.

 

What were the highlights of the experience for you?

The bike…

I take off slower on the bike and plan to build up since I have 112 miles to ride and then later a marathon to run. A slow start makes sense to me. As soon as I’m on the bike, I kick into mountaineering mode (my first love) and go slow and steady, keeping myself in check. I stay my pace, my race and let the masses go ahead. I know my strategy will pay off later when I hit the 70-mile mark (where the race will really begin.) I spend the first few hours properly hydrating, fueling, and prepping for the remainder of the day. I feel intense happiness; I have a huge grin on my face. Its all coming together, today is my day, things are going as I envisioned earlier in the morning. I keep smiling and keep riding. I am enjoying this, I am not in pain, I am not suffering, I have trained hard and trained well and I am now feeling/experiencing those results.

I have now been riding for about 3 hours and start to notice many cyclists slowing up. I push my cadence and move. My engine starts revving. I am feeling good; I start to pass people—a lot of people. I am hitting the hills and hitting them hard and still feeling good. Of course, the inner critic shows up, telling me to slow down: “You shouldn’t go this hard; you’ll run out of fuel,” I hear inside my head. But I decide to throw the inner critic in front of my tire and keep going—even harder. I am riding.

I am having so much fun. I keep hearing this woman beside me yell at me, “GO GET IT!” Then she rides past me and screams, “Let’s do this, let’s get it girl!” She’s motivating me to push even more and I do. I pass her and cheer her on. She says “I’m Liz. What’s your name?” I introduce myself and spend the next hour seeing her ahead of me, climbing the hills. Sometimes I catch her climb in front. Sometimes vice versa. I never do any drafting, but I just start to see the same folks, and I keep them each in sight. Each time I pass another woman or they pass me, we all acknowledged each other and provide encouragement. This inaugural IM Bolder race is made up of only 25% women. It’s turning out to be a nice community of female athletes supporting one another versus competing against one another.

When I hit the 70-mile mark, I feel good and continue to ride. At 80 miles I keep going. 90 miles comes and goes. At 100 miles, I turn the bend and see a group of smiling faces and all of a sudden, I know these faces! It’s a group of my work colleagues (young women) who came out to cheer on the athletes. I get so excited I just start screaming at them and they at me, then I turn the corner and fly off. I got to see them for only a split second and that was it, but it was great motivation to see them.

At 100 miles, I know I have 12 miles to go. But I still have the famous “3 bitches” to climb. Yes, these last 3 climbs are called the “3 bitches.” I am sure you can imagine the steep climbs—and after cycling 100 miles already. I decide to envision this going well for me. Breathe, focus, climb, and now DELIVER. I take the first climb, stand up on my bike and nail it. I sit back down, get some hydration, and then go for it on the next climb, also nailing it.

For the past hour there’s a guy in an IM tri jersey passing me then dropping back. We are now on the 3 bitches together, and I pass him. He catches me on the flatter section before the final climb, and we repeat our magical dance until I make it to the top first. He catches me at the top and introduces himself as Marty from Texas. He says, “Young lady, you are one strong cyclist. I have been following you and letting you pace me for the past few hours. You’re climbing really strong.” This pumps me up, especially since I still have lots of fuel in my tank and know that the race is still just getting starting due to the fact that I have a full marathon awaiting me. Marty from Texas shouts to me, “Get out of here and give it all. You got to hit your time.” I thank him, wish him all the best and tell him that he too is looking strong.

Off I go, pushing hard for the last 6-miles. I love the camaraderie here! This is effin’ inspiring spirit!   Where is my GO GET IT girl, Liz? I hope to see her again, to finish the bike leg together, but I never see her again (and I probably never will). But its women like Liz that make the race so special for me.

 

IM DP 1

I roll into transition and hand my bike off to a volunteer and run into the changing tent.  The transition zone is located on a hot asphalt track. I take off my cycling shoes to run quick but still burn my feet on the asphalt. It’s like running on hot coals before running a marathon!

 

Did you ever hit a wall or bump into trouble? What happened and how did you handle it?

For the run, I’d been training for 9:00-9:30 minute miles and had been consistent on hitting those targets.  Now on race day as I begin the run, I immediately notice my stomach is acting up. I suddenly feel like I’m carrying a water balloon in my belly.  I have to slow it up and begin at an 11 to 13 min/mile.  I keep it slow and steady (mountaineer mindset) and figure I will pick up the pace later when I can… I’ll do negative splits—I’ve trained for that, so it’s okay.

At this point, I am 8 hours into my day and still have this marathon to do.  I anticipate a 4:30 marathon, but realize that isn’t likely to happen when I’m starting slow. As the race goes on, I never do hit my pace time, although I remain steady. I choose to go with what my body needs.

The spectators along the marathon course are fantastic; it’s like a street party: cheering, signs, music, motivation, tears, joy. I saw it all—experienced all of it.  Athletes beside me walked, limped, ran, jogged, and slogged.  I make it into the first 6 miles of the race, turn around a bend, and see my husband Daniel (who is also participating in the event)!  I shout out “Daniel, how are you? This is insane; we can run the rest of the marathon together!”  He looks at me and tells me he is at the 20-mile mark.  WHAT! I am so happy for him, but then it sinks in, I still have 20 miles to run HOLY SHIT!  Daniel only has 6 miles to run.  He says he has hit the wall and worried about the last 6 miles.

I look at him with no pity, “MOVE IT! You are crushing this course and only have 6 miles left before you’re DONE!  You have already done 134 miles. Nail this. Don’t slow up for me.”  I let him know how much I love him and trot off thinking, “Man I have 20 miles to go.” Just for a moment I feel negative, but I smack it out of me and envision what could go “right.” When my right calf muscle tightens up at about 130 miles into the day, I handle it with grace.  No hitting panic buttons, just walk through the aide stations and do the best I can.

The run course was curvy, hilly, flat, odd. It makes me dizzy, but the spectators and fellow athletes made it so special.  I hit my own 20-mile mark and look up to a huge movie sized screen and see and hear my husband Daniel rooting me on.

That was one of my “highs” during the race: to see Daniel up there cheering for me. My biggest supporter, fan, love of my life.  The race organizers had these 15 second videos taped the day before dialed in with our timing chips, so when I ran over the 20-mile carpet, there was my husband on the big screen, motivating me to cross that finish line, a very special moment.  I am so elated I just stand there until one of the race organizers yells to me, “Keep running. He’s waiting for you at the finish line.”  That was the last motivation I needed to finish the final 6 miles of this race.

In my last mile it dawns on me, I have raced 139 miles today and I am still standing. I am really going to do this.  I don’t want it to end; I want to hold onto this last mile.  As I move forward, I high five every kid on that course.  The kids were amazing, out there volunteering all day and supporting the athletes.  I am now in the last half mile;I am beaming with a huge smile and really living “in the moment,” loving the day, the process, my life, and knowing I am seconds away from crossing the finish line.  “Dana Platin, you are an Ironman.”

IM DP 4

 

How did this experience change you as a person? What did you learn about you, your life, or your approach to life?

I am so results-oriented that it can take away from the journey, the process and the enjoyment.  I challenged myself for this IM to “stay in the moment” and be focused the entire race.  I struggle with that in daily life with so many tasks and distractions yet when I am in my element of racing, I go to one of the more peaceful places in my mind.  That being said, all the physical pain and suffering is somewhat alleviated, does that make sense?  I had the biggest smile on my face throughout the rough patches during the day and several people commented on how happy and fresh I appeared.  I had my targets and process goals on what times I wanted to achieve, and I was an hour off of my run and 10 minutes over on my transition times. That’s ok.  I had such a blast and just learned to love the culture, community, and energy of the IM; I stepped out of myself and was part of a bigger community.  I love racing IM as it keeps me in check.

#1—consistency and training will equate to success,

#2—you must keep a good attitude “no matter what,” and regardless of the results you must focus on what you did do right versus all that went wrong.

#3—learn from what went wrong, make adjustments, tweaks, and changes for the future.

I learned that I am quite capable and mentally stronger than I ever thought.  The mind is so powerful, and when our physical capabilities are tapped out, a positive mind will carry you forward. I learned that I can run with my soul when my feet are tired.

 

What encouragements or thoughts would you offer to others who might decide to go on some kind of huge life-altering journey such as you have done?

There is never a perfect time, you can start “today.” Everyone has their own Mt. Everest. It can be a little mountain next to their house or a 5km race 2 months away.  Whatever it may be, get started today.  Don’t wait until you lose weight or until the summer comes. Pick your “life-altering journey” and get started. Once you decide, put some smaller goals out there to take you to that bigger end goal.  Sort of like a road map. Start with the date of the goal date and work backwards. What needs to happen each day in order to achieve this? Write it out, have fun with it.  Once you have it written out, it’s time to put it into action.  Get started. The most important thing is to enjoy the process and the journey; reaching the goal is a celebration. And like my new friend “Liz” said, “GO GET IT!”

 

Join me in congratulating Dana in this awesome accomplishment! And let’s all take her advice and GO GET IT–whatever “it” may be for each of us!!!

 

 

Did Not Fail!

Jun 25
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Guest Blogger, Race Reports, Training

Dana Platin is a rock star. She’s one of my heroes. I asked her to do an interview with me, and she agreed. Here she tells about her recent and only DNF (Did Not Fail).

Q. Dana, tell us about the half ironman you’ve been training for. How did you choose this particular race? What drew you to it?

I chose two half- IronMan races as part of my training plan to work toward racing a full IronMan in early August 2014. An IronMan endurance race consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run with a total distance of 140.6 miles. Not normal, I know. The half distance is 70.3 miles with a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, and 13.1-mile run. I raced two of these 70.3 IronMan races between May and June 2014 as part of my preparation for the IronMan race coming up on August 3, 2014 in Boulder, Colorado, 38 days away!

depositphotos_11295520-Woman-runner-jogger-running

Q. What was your training schedule like as you’ve prepared for the big race?

I train 6 days a week with a combination of speed swim trainings, strength swim trainings, long distance swims, speed work on the bike, climbs on the bike, speed work with my runs, hill training with the runs as well as long distance runs. Some days, I would combine the biking and running. I wake up at 5am and grab a cup of coffee before I head out the door; this has been my ritual for years. I train between 5:30 am and 7:30 am and then get home, shower, and go off to the office. I have a busy job and have had to learn to plan out all my trainings and work tasks every day, week and month in order to be able to fit this all in. It sounds like a lot, but the training actually is the most peaceful time of day for me. It’s quiet time where I can be alone with myself. I believe my best ideas come to me when swimming, cycling, or running, and I use this time to help me meditate, decompress, and recalibrate for the day to come.

 

Q. I know you recently had to make a difficult call with regard to one of your half Iron Man races. What was that race like? Highlights? Lowlights? Funny/scary/frustrating/victorious moments? Paint a picture for us of your experience. Take us there (this is where you tell the story of the event).

I have raced over 12 years with a mix of 5km runs, 10km runs, half marathons, marathons, and century rides, 8 half IronMan distance races, IronMan full distance, trail half marathons, mountain expeditions…you get my gist. I have a LOT of mileage under my belt, and I have always finished every race. Now, I haven’t always finished strong and have even finished injured, but this recent race was the first race that I DID NOT FINISH.

In racing, there are terms such as DNF (did not finish) and did not start (DNS), in which the individual signed up for the race did not show up to race or actually dropped out. The results are posted on the Internet and the entire world (if they are looking) knows you were a “no show” or didn’t finish. So I knew I would have a little bit of “ah shit, gotta explain this one.” I usually don’t care what others think, but the explaining I have to do for myself is the hard part. I have been close to not finishing before when I was injured. In those cases I would have to walk to the finish line, slow down the pace, but never have I fully dropped out.

Here’s a snapshot of the series of events leading up to my first DNF…

We showed up at 6am to get our wetsuits on for the open water swim. The temp was about 50 degrees in the morning and the water was a brisk 61 degrees. Everyone was nervous about the cold including me. I hadn’t swum in waters that chilled before but had so much training under my belt that I felt my strength would help me overcome. I put on my wetsuit, which was warm and toasty. I step into the water, my toes felt frozen but the water didn’t seep into my wetsuit. I stood in up to my knees and still didn’t feel anything. I figure, “I got this, it’s not that bad.”

The gun goes off and I dive in headfirst. I come up gasping for air and a shock went through my system as I felt the cold. WOW, this is freakin’ cold!!! I try to take a deep breath and swallow some water. I then get kicked and pummeled by the lovely men to my left and right as it’s a mass start with a couple of hundred people. I had the onset of a cold the day before, nothing major but a bit of congestion and an earache. Still, I start to find my place in the water, set the pace, find my stride and rhythm. After about 5 minutes, I felt my chest tighten up and had a hard time breathing, I slowed it down as I wasn’t sure why I couldn’t breathe, I wasn’t swimming that fast? My legs felt like dead weight and my arms even heavier. I was only 5 minutes into the swim; I had at least 35 more minutes to go! What was going on? I stayed calm and mentally put myself in check. You can do this and “will” be ok. Do not wave the kayak guy to come rescue you, I said to myself.

I turn around and see the shore right there, I can actually swim back and get out of this right now. I tread water, try to breathe and have a moment of “knock this negative talk off” with myself, and onward I go. I have never been scared in the water or panicked. I have seen my triathlon comrades hugging the buoys waiting to be rescued by the safety kayakers or small boats (if you raced in South America, we had fisherman as our safety water peeps J), but I’ve always been fine. This was a strange new experience for me and I didn’t realize the cold had such an impact on me, I just thought I was slow and the wetsuit was too tight causing me to feel cement arms and legs. 40 something minutes later, I make it through the 1.2 mile swim. I get out all water logged with frozen cheeks. My arms were still there and moving. Phew, I am done with the swim!

I try to run to the transition zone to get out of my wetsuit to grab my bike. There are 2 guys there who are serving as volunteers—called “strippers” (LOL)—who help you strip out of your wetsuit. They grab my suit and strip it down, and I fall backwards as it was so quick and I was still frozen. I think of the movie frozen and all the hype around that song “let it go” and just start singing to myself the same lyrics! Am I going insane? I am out of the wetsuit and find my bike. I put on my cycling helmet and shoes, and off I go. I have my race nutrition in a small pouch on my bike, so I drink some electrolyte mix and eat 2 fig newtons (my favorite on the bike) to get the proper fueling for the next hour. Pedal, chew, breathe, drink, pedal, chew, breathe, drink and breathe some more. Off I go. I am cycling like a bat out of hell.

timerI am cold and trying to warm up and still in a bit of shock that I made it through the swim. I am hitting it hard, flying past everyone on the bike. I am in my aero bars on my bike which has me arched forward in order to be as aerodynamic as possible to move at a faster pace. I am confident, pedaling harder and harder, making up time, breathing well and pushing on. I have a total of 56 miles to ride and it looks as though this will be my personal record for timing on the bike. I am 1 hour and 20 minutes into the ride and my bike clock shows 28 miles have been completed already. I am on track for a 2 hour and 40 minute 56-mile ride. WOOHOO!!!!! I am flying and feeling good.

In the aero bar position you shift your gears up and down from the aero bar shifters. Suddenly, I shift one of the gears and notice the shifter is coming off and flimsy. It comes lose and is hanging, meaning I can’t change the gears and need to ride the remaining 28 miles in the same gear! OMG, this isn’t happening. As I am processing the new mechanical situation of my bike, I fly over a bump and my water bottle sponge that is nestled in between the aero bars pops off and I am being splashed by my limeade electrolyte mix; I am sticky, thirsty and riding single speed in a half IronMan race being bathed in this sticky, sweet and salty electrolyte mix.

Instead of hitting the panic button, I make sure to put myself in check—laugh at how ridiculous this is and then stay calm. I put my mental skills training to work at this point; I carry on and stay focused on what needs to happen next and stay positive. I have learned that when I get negative in a race it just sends me on a downward spiral, and I refuse to let negative talk take over. Just keep pedaling, find that cadence with the one speed you got and make it work. No need to panic, just pedal, push, breathe and ignore the annoying splashing of limeade electrolyte mix in your face. I roll into the finish line in 2:59, completing the 56-miles happy that my gear didn’t completely fail and that I made it through the arctic swim and bike ride. I didn’t get my personal record (PR) on the bike that day but did get my PR on mental skills training and putting up a good fight when the going got tough!

Next, I get off the bike with my sticky face and fingers from the limeade bath I took and race to the transition zone to leave my bike, take off bike helmet and cycling shoes, and put on running shoes. Every minute counts, so I am trying not to fiddel faddel in the transition zone. If it were up to me, I would take a nap in the transition zone, but off I go… I start running an 8:30-minute mile. Whoa slow that down, I tell myself. Then I am at a 9-minute mile, which is the pace I usually race at.

I start to feel my chest tightening up. I have never felt this before during a run. I am not sure why since I just biked so strong and felt fine with no breathing issues. It was the same tightness I felt on the swim, so I slow it down and take some deep breaths. I can’t get air in my lungs. I am now at a 12-minute mile and still can’t breathe. I start to worry and think, Should I tell someone? But maybe it will go away. Just run it off… I continue to run and now at a 13-minute mile, it gets worse. I see an aid station and some very cool women volunteering. I stop and I wait for a minute, deciding if I should share my secret. “Hey guys, do you have any water, gels, bananas?”

“Yes, we do,” they give me the “looking strong” cheers, and I choose not to tell them how I am truly feeling as I am worried about the consequences of my sharing. I would be told STOP, DROP OUT, DO NOT FINISH. I keep going. It starts again; I can’t breathe. I am thinking now, Do I have asthma? It’s not going away and now it’s getting scary. I make it through the next mile and see another group of volunteers. This time I take the plunge and tell them about my symptoms.

They immediately help me, worried it was my heart. They got me all nervous, but I know I am in perfect health, I don’t have heart issues… but could I? SHIT!!! This is “it.” My first DNF…

They ask if I want them to call a medic and I say no, that I will walk back since I didn’t feel dizzy—just tightness in my chest and lack of breathing. The two women stared at me like my response wasn’t going to work for them and they didn’t want me left alone. I convince them that I will walk slow and be fine. They let me go, although one of them came to check on me on her bike (she was awesome.)

I had that long walk of shame; the walk I always wondered about with fellow DNFers. On the walk, I am processing how this feels; I am not finishing this race. I had these moments of asking myself if I should push a little harder and see? But I realize this was the right decision, a wise one, and the decision of a person who knows her body and is being smart about her health.

This wasn’t about getting a PR or the best time or always finishing. It was about making sure my health,

well-being, and security come first. I actually felt empowered and good about my decision knowing it was the right thing to do. I had enough racing under my belt to know that I would finish if I could. I had done it many times before, but today wasn’t that day. DNF it would be.

I walk back, and as I walk, my breathing gets better and my chest is doing better. The medics checked me out and said I had bronchial spasms from the cold water, and it got exacerbated on the run from the up and down motion. While on the bike, I was crunched over and protected, and that is why I didn’t have the spasms like I had in the swim and the run. They wanted me to watch for signs and symptoms of edema and pneumonia that night, and luckily I took care of my health and recovered the following day. I felt more like a badass that I was even able to persevere through the swim and the decision making of saying “enough” on the run and not beating myself up afterwards.

So there it is DNF, DID NOT FAIL. I turned the Did Not Finish into a Did Not Fail nor Fret. It is what it is, and as long as you can walk away from each experience knowing you gave it your best, then there is no failure. I went on to race another half Iron Man five weeks later in Boulder, Colorado and had no medical problems. There I finished strong. I enjoyed the race, stayed strong mentally, and obviously had my bike shifter fixed and bought a new aero bottle so my electrolyte mix wouldn’t bathe me again!

Lessons learned. There can always be another race. One race shouldn’t be the way we measure our overall performance. I have been 100% committed to this Iron Man plan. I know there will be good days and bad; the important piece is “how” we race and “how” we deal with the setbacks.

I was a Peace Corps Volunteer many years ago and lived in the northern Andes of Ecuador. It was there that I learned to persevere and push on. Some very powerful women and girls taught me these lessons that I carry with me on race days.

Dana on her bike!

Dana on her bike!

 

A huge thanks to Dana for sharing her experience! We learn as much from the struggles as we do from the victories. 

On the Road to Boston

Apr 14
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Race Reports, Travel log

What a trip Bill and I have had so far. As you might remember, we were in Boston last year when the bombs went off (here’s my report from last year). Right from the moment we got home, we knew we would be back for the 2014 marathon. We both felt we needed to be at the race this year to show Boston our support and to connect with the many thousands of others who were present during the baffling and frightening tragedy that created so much grief for our country last year. We’ll arrive in Boston on Saturday so Bill can pick up his packet and I can map out my cheer-leading plan.

But before we land in Boston, we wanted to do a few other things out here on the East Coast.

First, we visited Philadelphia…

Philly

and took a tour of Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence was penned.

Philly 2

After Philadelphia, we drove to Lancaster County so I could run the Garden Spot Village Half Marathon. In my mission to meet women runners from typically non-running communities who wear head coverings (see this post for more info), I’ve really hoped I might find an Amish woman or two who run. Since it’s been my understanding that the Amish don’t use email or Facebook, I didn’t think the internet would be my best bet for meeting anyone to talk to, so I decided I needed to find a race in Amish country.

Buggy

The Garden Spot Village Half Marathon was a wonderful race that weaves its way right through the quiet community of New Holland, PA. Because I’ve been fighting plantar fasciitis in my left foot and haven’t done a run longer than 5 miles since the Austin Marathon in February, I gave myself the gentle personal goals of having fun and enjoying other runners for this race. I figured that even if I walked a good portion of the distance, I could appreciate the course. If I met a female Amish runner or two, all the better.

Race Day 2

As it turned out, I had a pretty good race (2:29). The first nine miles were on beautiful rolling hills that weaved through farmland. And the last five miles were gloriously downhill and/or flat. The weather was perfect (around 75, probably), and the course was well-supported. Several Amish and Mennonite families came out to watch the race along with their “English” neighbors. And there was at least one Amish woman and several Mennonite women in the race. Very briefly I was able to chat with one of them (whose finish time was 2:10!) after the race. Running is clearly not a common activity among the women in the community, but my sense was that, just as it does for me, running brings a lot of joy to those who do participate.

After the race in Lancaster County, we drove to Washington DC, where for the past two days we’ve wandered the streets of our capitol.

MLK

Yesterday we attended the Cherry Blossom Festival

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Cherry trees

and went to the National Portrait Gallery, and then today we walked through the White House grounds, had lunch with friends Tacla and Richard, and then visited the Museum of American History.

As usual, Bill and I are cramming every minute of our travels full of adventures so that we come back to our lodgings exhausted each night. C’est la vie. Or at least c’est our lives.

Stay tuned for a Boston Marathon report.

 

Austin Marathon Race Report

Feb 17
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in 2013 Challenge, Race Reports, Reflections

Long distance running humbles you; it reminds you that you’re mortal. You wake up the morning of a marathon feeling prepared and excited about your race. But when you finally meet her, the one you’ve been waiting for for months and months, the marathon says to you, “Hey, you think you’re ready for me? Well take a look at this hill. And this one. And this big one here. Oh, sure, you’ve done your training, but don’t get too big for your spandex britches, my dear. I’ve got 26.2 miles to teach you a thing or two about endurance.”

And so it went for me yesterday. After training for all of 2013 to shave an hour off my marathon finishing time, I came in–as usual–right around 5:30. Don’t ask me my exact time. You can look it up if you’re inclined. I think it was 5:36ish. What’s most important is that I would like to register my sincere apologies to Texas–and to Austin in particular–for calling it “flat.” Even after we arrived in Austin on Friday, I continued to think, “Where are the hills everyone keeps telling me about?” Well, now I can tell you where they are. They are on miles six through fifteen of the marathon course. I bow in respect to them, ask forgiveness for scoffing at those who told me the Austin Marathon would be hilly, and commit to adding hill repeats to my training regimen. Amen.

Yesterday, I arrived at the starting line with the Fit School women, anxious to do my first marathon in over a year. The thrum of excitement vibrated in the air at the State Capital.

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The air was warm and humid; we all glistened with moist anticipation. I positioned myself directly behind the 4:40 pacers, hoping I could hold with their 10:41 pace until the course flattened out at mile 18–where I would then surge forward and pick up my pace. Ha!

For the first six miles I was solid. Though the humidity in the air was more than I’m used to, I felt good. Even the plantar fasciitis I’ve been fighting with seemed to go into temporary remission. Right around mile seven, the hills started. As long as an UP was followed by a DOWN I didn’t lag too far behind the pacers, but once the UPs were followed up by other UPs, I began to watch my pacers drift farther and farther into the distance ahead of me. Eventually I lost sight of them.

The Austin Marathon, though tough, is also one of be most well-attended (by spectators) races I’ve ever done. So, while I was lagging behind my intended pace, I was loving the atmosphere. The course winds through several neighborhoods where people set up lawn chairs and signage and settle in for the whole morning. And Austin is a dog town! In fact, one of my fellow Bellinghamsters, Mayumi, told us later that she passed the time by counting black dogs. If you know me at all, you know that seeing dogs out on a race course gives me little bursts of oxytocin (which, sadly, doesn’t make me faster, but it does make me happier). It seemed like there was one dog for every two human spectators along the course. What’s not to love, even if you are struggling with a hill or two–or ten?

The fans at this race had the best energy I’ve ever seen. “Hit this spot for more power,” one sign said, with a big star outlined right in the middle. “Quitters get your margaritas here.” “Smile if you’re not wearing underwear.” “Run like you stole something,” one little two-year-old boy’s sign read. And then there was the guy in the Michigan sweatshirt who met his runner (right behind me) at least seven times on the course and played the song “Eye of the Tiger” at every appearance he made.

But even love from a happy crowd couldn’t help me hold my pace beyond the half-way point. At mile 16 I had to stop to stretch and rub out a cramp in my left quad. At mile 18 I saw the 4:55 pacers pass me. When I couldn’t keep up with even them, I knew my last eight miles would be hard and slow. I could see that I wouldn’t be getting a PR, or even coming in under five hours.

Do you know that moment when you have to surrender to NOT achieving what you hoped you would? Not getting what you want? In those moments you have to give yourself a good think. Will you berate yourself, whisper hateful, angry self-recriminations? Or will you turn toward metaphor and try to listen for what the experience can teach you? I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent too many years of my life feeling sorry for myself and internally lashing out. So I don’t do that anymore. I listen for what I can learn. In a practical sense, what I learned is what I mentioned earlier: I need to add hill work to my training. But in a wider view, I understood that some things (in my case yesterday, it was the marathon) never get easier. I started thinking about areas of disagreement I have with loved ones or sadness I feel about losses I’ve experienced throughout my life. No, some things never do get easier. You just regroup, recover, start training again, and go back in when you’re ready. I knew this was what I’d have to do after missing my mark yesterday.

Determined to take what I could from the run, in spite of my disappointment, I presssed forward. Slowly. At mile 26, my friends Carol, Julie, and Leah cheered for me from the sidelines and gave me the boost I needed to get up the last 800 meter hill before dropping in for the finish line.

Thanks to all who followed the journey to improve my marathon time. I guess I’m not there yet–but we don’t always reach our goals on the first try, do we?

And thank you Austin Marathon! You kicked my ass, but I love you anyway.

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With the Arizona Road Racers

Nov 4
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Race Reports, Travel log

Bill and Cami B4 race

Yesterday we joined a group of Arizona Road Racers for their 18-mile Mazatzal Trail Run out by the little non-existent town of Sunflower—about an hour and fifteen minutes away from Bill’s mom’s house. The course was to be a loop on mountain roads and trails with a barbeque afterwards back at our starting point. For fifteen bucks.

I’ve been training, as you know, mostly on the track or on the well-used not-very-technical trails around our town in the past several months, so I was excited to do a rugged run—something that would challenge my sense of balance and get me into the desert mountains. Bill had found this race on the Arizona Road Racers club website, which he follows closely since we come to see his mom a couple of times a year (and hint: if you’re traveling and looking for races or casual runs to take part in, the local club’s website is the first best place to look).

P1050756The race started on 8 miles of dirt road that mostly wound up, up, up into the mountains. I’m not a strong up-hill runner, so while I watched the experienced Arizona trail runners (not to mention my own beloved) jog up the switchbacks, much of this was a fast walk for me, interspersed with running when I could catch my breath. We climbed 2000 feet of elevation before all was said and done. That put us about 6000 feet in the air; I could feel this in my lungs, running mostly at sea level as I do.

Race Course2

The one and only aid station was 8.3 miles in. As I reached it, I noticed that several runners were turning around and heading back the way we’d come rather than carrying on to complete the rest of the loop, and I was tempted to do the same since I knew most of the return trip would be downhill. But I also knew that the trail running hadn’t really started yet, and I wanted to see what was ahead of me. If I’d known what the rest of the course was like, I would have turned back. It’s always better that we don’t know what’s ahead of us in life, don’t you think?

When I bade adieu to the folks at the aid station, there were two runners behind me (there were only 29 runners in all and I was among the 5 or 6 oldest in the group for sure). Off the road now, we would be strictly on trail—or so I thought. Apparently there HAD BEEN a trail the year before, but the rains had come and washed out most of what you could call a real trail. The route was marked with yellow and blue ribbons hanging from trees or on stumps or cactus. Yellow for “yes, go this way,” and blue for “don’t go here.”

Before I was far into the most rugged portion of the course, the two runners behind me passed me up, and I knew I would be on my own out in the middle of bear country for the better part of three more hours (I’d estimated the run would take me 5 hours at the longest). There was bear shit everywhere, much of it fresh, and when one of the other runners at the aid station asked if I was wearing bells, I got sort of freaked out. But the course would keep my mind on task. It was dangerous enough without bears.

I wish I’d stopped to take pictures of the terrain. The next two hours were literally unrunnable for me. A “trail run” in my Northwest world is soft, wet, rooty, and rocky, yes, but not populated with cactus and “waitaminute” bushes. Yesterday there was a lot of loose rock underfoot, and above the ground the brush had overgrown what trail there was with stickery plants that grabbed hold of my clothes and required me to come to a dead stop to untangle myself a few times.

When the route finally dropped directly into a dry riverbed, I felt relieved that the blood on my legs would have a chance to dry. Little did I know that the hardest part of the course was still ahead. Apparently, because some of the trail had washed out beside the river, the race directors had decided to keep runners in the bottom of the river bed for a few miles. I’ve never run on rounded river rocks before, and I couldn’t tell which rocks were stable and which weren’t. If I picked my way through as carefully as my instinct told me I should, I’d be putting in 25 minute miles, so I tried to run—which was a mistake. Just before mile 12, I caught an unstable rock with my left foot and when my right foot landed to try and bring my balance back, it got stuck between two rocks and I tumbled and fell and twisted my right ankle.

Sitting on the floor of the river bed, I assessed the damage. I could move the ankle and, although it was sore, I didn’t sprain it. So I got up and carried on. But I was frazzled, which is probably why I didn’t see two blue ribbons that in the breeze had wound themselves around the branches they were tied to. I wandered off course for about 12 minutes before I started to go into full-on panic. My new iPhone was useless since there was no reception, and as I backtracked, trying to find the last yellow ribbon I’d passed, I started to cry—only briefly.

I knew I had to keep my wits, so I talked myself down with “C’mon girl, your worst case scenario is that you find the last yellow ribbon and sit there until someone comes to find you. Not your ideal day, but you won’t die.” I knew if I were out on the course for longer than 6 hours, Bill would worry and send someone after me.

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I did find my way. And with six more miles to go, I managed to complete the run in one piece (and dead last, too, but what the heck—who cares?!). I’ll say this, Arizona trail runners are a tough lot! I’m impressed and humbled. And pretty sore, too.