Monday, September 26, 2011

the Double Header: HTC El Salvador/ChesapeakeMan IM, part #1

So. I had been planning to do the ChesapeakeMan Ultra Triathlon (ironman distance) since back in April. It's only 2 hours away by car and the race directors were very excited about having a pro triathlete come do their race. They comped my entree fee and would be hooking me up with a wonderful homestay family. Then I decided to go back to work, landed a job, collided with a car during IM Korea, started the new job and took over a month off training due to the crash injuries. My summer racing schedule got thrown out the window and I was eager to get the DNF monkey off my back since it was an ambulance that took me off the race course in Korea.

Then with less than a month's notice, my boss volunteered me to go on the medical mission in El Salvador because the CPO who has gone in years past was expecting his second they had been scrambling for an orthotist with not much luck, and it's a pretty key role for the orthopedic team, as I would soon discover myself!

The only was the week leading up to ChesapeakeMan. Could I do both? How could I refuse a trip to El Salvador and the opportunity to help out kids who couldn't afford it? Aren't you supposed to taper right before an ironman anyway? And so began the Double Header: a medical mission trip to a foreign country right before my first ironman race coming off getting hit by a car. This was honestly the hardest week I've ever experienced in my life, and if I knew what it really entailed, I'm not sure I'd choose to do both again. But somehow I lived to tell the tale...

Part I:

Saturday Sept 17th, I flew to El Salvador to volunteer with the Philly chapter of Healing The Children with 28 other volunteers (orthopedic surgeons & residents, podiatrists, nurses, anesthetists & scrub nurses). I was basically team leader for orthotics and helped retrofit leg braces for kids that weren't candidates for surgery.

The team has been going to El Salvador for 17 years or so but this was the first time we were right by the city center in the capital, San Salvador. The sheer volume of kids I saw for orthotics was much more than any year before and I ended up working an average of 12 hours every day the first four days...and over 16 hours on the last day (Thursday).

It seemed like the number of kids and families that kept coming by would never end--very rewarding work but also extremely draining: physically, mentally and emotionally. It was hard to take time off for lunch breaks or even bathroom breaks when you had a whole room of families that had been waiting for you since early in the morning. Most days we wouldn't eat lunch until 2 or 3pm, and that was when the local Rotary Club (who took care of us and provided lunch for us each day) practically forced us to stop working so we wouldn't pass out.

Three of those 5 days, I woke up at 4:30am and did 1.5hrs of training in the hotel gym (with a 30min swim in the 15m pool...once) before getting on the team shuttle to the hospital. The last day I was too exhausted to get up early and train, but we also wanted a head start that last day--we worked from 6:30am until 11pm. "Hombre AraƱa" (Spiderman boy above) needed bilateral KAFO's (full leg braces on both sides) which is a huge project. Even making just one of them back in the USA, with a full lab at your disposal, is considered a "rush job" if you want it done in one week. We had very limited supplies and materials, and had to make four KAFO's in addition to a variety of devices for over 60-70 patients.

Early on, the motto of the trip became "Do the best you can with what you have." ...Foreshadowingly, this would also be my motto for getting ChesapeakeMan done in the condition I was in!

There was a lot of standing involved while we worked (when not kneeling down to fit the little bambinos), and Derek's legs were swelling up starting on Day 2. I only slept maybe 5 hours a night, 4 hours Thursday night, then flew back home Friday night, had an hour to pack for ChesapeakeMan then drove the 2 hours to Cambridge, MD, and slept 3 hours the night before the race (Saturday).

Not exactly what you'd call the ideal preparation the week before an ironman-distance race.

Part 2 coming up next! To be continued...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Healing the Children 2011, Day 3 update!

Our third day of work and it's crazy! I've been waking up at 4:30am each morning to get in my training at the hotel gym, and then it's breakfast buffet (nom nom nom) and off on the bus to the military hospital.

Starting on Sunday, we've been crazy swamped with patients. I'm lucky that Derek, who is in school to be a technician, is also on this trip so I get my very own assistant! Only 3 days and we've seen and treated over 60 orthotic cases, just the two of us. Sunday and Monday we worked 12+ hour days, not getting back to the hotel until 8pm...yesterday I only had one bathroom break in 12 hours. Today was better in that we got home at 7pm...and I got TWO bathroom breaks.

But we are getting to help out tons of kids and really make a difference, so it's all worth it! I am totally using my MacGyver skills and absolutely loving it. The girl above got a shoe lift, just like the Travel Sponsor. And the smiles and hugs we get from these kids is just priceless!

More soon! I better go to bed so I can get in at least...5 hrs of sleep. Hmmm. Sleep is for the weak!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

El Salvador!!!

I'm at the airport. I just checked in two bags, and sweated over if they were both under 50lbs, was relieved when I didn't get charged for the luggage, and am off to a foreign country for an entire week!

Last night I stayed up late packing...only this time, it ain't for no triathlon. This is something completely different altogether... I packed a heat gun, razor blades, tons of fiberglass casting tape, hammer and rivets, drills and drill bits, all kinds of other tools. I had to look up what TSA's stand was on flammable liquids and realized I better leave the propane tank with the torch and the flammable glue spray at home. The hacksaw was also left behind at the last minute. It was kind of huge.

Whoa now, what is all this?! I'm heading to El Salvador for a medical mission with various orthopedic and podiatric doctors as a team member for Healing the Children, the Greater Philly Chapter. I'll get to take care of the kids who aren't candidates for surgery or help fit them to braces as soon as they are out of surgery for post-op stabilization.

My boss at Independence P&O volunteered me to go! So here I go! I am actually flying out of Washington DC, Dulles airport, since it's a direct flight to San Salvador. Which meant an Amtrak ride from Wilmington to Union Station in DC, then a SuperShuttle to Dulles. It's like my own Amazing Race adventure.

Union Station, DC
My shenanigans as of late have been MIA with my own challenges of learning how to juggle training and a full-time job again, but the secret seems to be waking up at 5:30am every morning. I did it 5 mornings in a row! So proud of myself :) Now how to juggle training, working, and blogging? That's the next challenge. It helps that I just got myself a new HTC Inspire 4G smartphone. I love it because it's called "inspire," and when you say "4G" it sounds like..."orgy." And it's awesome and fast! The last phone I got that I THOUGHT was a smartphone was actually really dumb, and died on me. Now I actually have a Delaware phone number. I guess it's official then!

Here is my first travel meal for the trip, at the airport. I'm partaking in Mark Sisson's 30-Day Primal Blueprint Challenge, which started on Monday. I've actually been eating Paleo-ish/Primal-ish since college, and in various iterations throughout training camps. It's basically a whole foods type of diet, nothing processed, so grain-free and dairy-free. I had fallen off the wagon the last couple months with the stress of being injured, starting my first big girl job and then moving in with the sherpa. (Sherpa eats like crap.) So this 30-day challenge will help me get back on track. It's tricky enough being in an airport, but a foreign country...just makes it all the more challenging! The above meal is actually grilled salmon with sauteed zucchini/broccoli and a cucumber/tomato salad...from a pizza and pasta restaurant. The key is to not be afraid to ask for what you really want.

Whenever I did medical missions in Thailand and the Philippines, I usually gained weight at the end of the week, from lack of training and being pushed a bunch of food all the time. Local Rotary clubs usually sponsor these missions and they make sure you are well fed! So the training & nutrition goal this coming week is to NOT GET FAT. ;)

Anyway, I'll make sure to take lots of photos and try to get the blog updated during the week!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Activating Robot Mode

It is hard to get myself motivated for a training session after a long day of work (which is always preceded by an early morning workout of course). Coach Beck says I just need to get into Robot Mode and get it done. Less thinking and more doing.

So I bought myself a robot lunchbox with a matching freezable robot cube. That way my robot will stare at me while I'm at work and remind me to ACTIVATE ROBOT MODE as soon as I clock out!

He looks like a 3-eyed Bender from Futurama, doesn't he??

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Project Kona 2012

It's September 1st.

June, July, and August are officially over along with "The Summer of No Triathlon". I finagled my way out of my lease a month early and spent all day yesterday missing the entire big training day that Coach Beck had planned for me, to clean every last inch of the studio apartment until it was shinier than when I moved in 11 months ago. I was planning to do at least half the cleaning over the weekend, but sometimes you get a hurricane and tornado warning and have to hide in the basement. Plans change.

I felt like Cinderella. Scrubbing gives you a killer arm workout when you can't go swimming.

But the keys have been turned in and I can now focus once again on what's more important: getting back to that triathlete inside of me. The last weekend in August also signals the end of the Kona points calendar for pro triathletes. This is the first year they've switched over to a points system for professionals, so the 30 pro women who have accumulated the most points from their 5 best Ironman races from September 1, 2010 to August 31, 2011 qualify for the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii (mid-October).

Despite the weirdness of the year including cancelled races and a freak car crash, I was still more than slightly horrified when I checked out the final points standings which have just been posted up earlier this week.

Scroll down..................

Keep scrolling............

ok, are you at the end of the women's list yet?



Jocelyn Wong, ranked 130 out of 130 pro women. There are 3 of us that are "tied" at the bottom with 200 points apiece, and of course they had to go in ABC order by last name, didn't they?

I quickly realized that I should most definitely have more than 200 points, the 200 measly points I acquired from that measly IM Texas race in May. Which makes it feel like even more of a punch in the gut. Not just to be ranked last, but to be ranked last inaccurately because 90th or 130th, does it really actually matter?

I raced a crap-ton last year; my 8th at IM Wisconsin gave me 480 pts and then another 640pts for taking 12th at IM Arizona. The races are also "weighted" in that more competitive races (or rather, the races that WTC wants to be more competitive) offer more points than others. So by my own calculations, I should actually have 1320 points, which puts me in 90th place.

But who really cares how accurate the points standings are for some nobody pro triathlete girl who isn't even in the top 50-60. For all we know, the other 2 women who seem to only have 200 points may have more too. 90th might as well be DFL.

Something about being ranked DFL in the KPR sparked a fire in me, despite the inaccuracy of the whole stupid thing. I want to qualify for Kona next year, godammit. I never even got to go as an age grouper because I never was fast enough to qualify. Then I got my pro card and never had any of those glory days as an "elite age grouper". I've now done enough Ironmans as a pro to have qualified at least 10x over as an amateur with the times I've done. But I've gotta qualify as a pro now. No going back.

I'm certainly not one of those self righteous pros who says "oh even though I get a slot, I'm not going to go until I know I am ready." Screw that. I get my slot = I'm going to Kona.

I think secretly I've always doubted myself as a pro. I never felt like I was really good enough to be on TeamTBB. I never felt like I was fast enough to approach companies for sponsorship. I've been full of so many excuses this past year. I'll wait til I get faster. I'll wait til I weigh X pounds. My fitness level this past year has been so inconsistent because my head's been all over the place.

I thought I had it all figured out, and things were finally starting to click when the crash in Korea happened. Then with starting the new job, getting used to working and training again, and then moving out of the apartment, and in with the sherpa. I keep waiting for things to quiet down, to settle down, to get used to everything.

Well, I'm tired of waiting. What am I waiting for? Project Kona 2012 starts NOW. WTC has yet to publish the the points distribution for the 2012 races, but in the meantime, the first points race for me will be IM Cozumel on November 27th. I've got 12 weeks to get ready.

I'm going to Kona, dammit.