Monday, October 31, 2011

a Toy Story Halloween

Buzz Lightyear to the rescue!!!

And what is Buzz Lightyear if he didn't have Sheriff Woody to throw him out a window?

I made sure there was a snake in his boot.

I made all the parts of my costume except the jetpack (wings) for $12 and the gloves for $6, both at Amazon. I painted my shoes, which were leftovers from my cheerleader outfit last year. We went out to the Halloween Loop...even thought it was actually SNOWING (!!!) and I met two other Buzz Lightyears, but no one else had a space helmet but me!

The space helmet was made out of clear vinyl from the fabric store (half yard for $2), beading wire ($4), and a $3 plastic embroidery loop. It was essential that it was super lightweight and that I could breathe (and drink) with it on. The space helmet totally protected me from the elements (rain, snow, and drunk boys that stepped a little too close). Oh, and I was the only girl who was dressed as Buzz Lightyear. Come to think of it, I was the most covered up girl (and definitely the warmest!) all night!

I'd have to say, this definitely shows why I ended up as a prosthetist-orthotist. I like making stuff.

You've got a friend in me! Happy Halloween everyone!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Shocker & Cheetara: Halloween 2011, Part 1

Since Halloween is on a Monday this year, technically we have the opportunity to celebrate it 4 nights in a row, starting Friday! (Or heck, if you partake in Thirsty Thursdays, make it five.) Ok, notice I said "technically," which really means after going out the past two nights til wee crazy hours and NOT feeling guilty about it (perks of the "being injured off season," hey-o!), I am pretty tired tonight and will be hitting the sack early!

I did however, manage to double book me and the Sherpa on Friday night. I know you are excited to see how awesome my Buzz Lightyear outfit turned out, but remember that the first of my 5 off-season goals was to make TWO Halloween costumes. I've always loved Halloween because my mom would make us our costumes from scratch. Dressing up is fun but making your own costume is half of it!

Let the shenanigans begin!

First up was the Bone Bash, a fancy charity gala at a local country club benefiting the Arthritis Foundation. My boss at Independence P&O had bought a table as a corporate sponsor, so it was important we at least swing by before we went to the Delaware Ultimate house party. We weren't about to do wardrobe yes, for the fancy fundraiser party at the fancy country club, the Sherpa went as this:

I'd say only maybe 10% of the guests were in costume. There were a lot of orthopaedic surgeons that we work with, since they were the primary sponsor of the event. They had this cool photo booth, with extra props in case you didn't have a costume, so we put some hats on the Sherpa's "big hand" and so they were finger puppets!

A lot of people asked what he was supposed to be. The ones that could tell they knew. I was not quite as inappropriate, but I was running around in tights and a leotard, and a big stick. I was the original Cheetara from Thundercats...the original series, circa the 1980's! I've seen the new reboot of it on the Cartoon Network and it's radically just not the same. It's a "reimagining" of the 80's version, and is just too weird and different. This picture is from the next party, where more people were dressed up:

Obviously we didn't stick around all the fancy people at the country club long enough to cause too much trouble, despite the Sherpa being approached by one of the costume contest judges and trying to explain what "The Shocker" is. At the ultimate frisbee party, there were other inappropriately dressed guests. Such as a pussy kitty magnet and cock chicken magnet. heh heh

The Sherpa was more comfortable playing beer pong:

There were also adorable twins. If I had an identical twin, we'd get in all sorts of trouble!

Some Terminator action...I'm still not done with Sarah Connor Chronicles but am sad I only have 2 more discs left!

and the inevitable, costume prop switcharoo. My favorite Ninja Turtle was actually Michelangelo, not Leonardo:

I mugged the chef and Cheetara became a deadly kitchen assassin. Wait, is that a bottle of Haamonii Shochu by the sink? I just noticed that. It totally wasn't staged!

But I totally deny spanking innocent bystanders with the spatula, or being the source of the occasional outburst of "I'M NOT WEARING ANY PANTS!"

Next up, Buzz and Woody hit up a strange new planet, covered in snow. Stay tuned!!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Kangaroo pull-ups.

Hooray! My kangaroo band pull-up helper arrived yesterday. Lucky for me, Food Coach Amy is also a super ripped Crossfit coach so she told me what a pull-up wimpling like me needed to get started on my off-season goal of 5 unassisted pull-ups before the next Ironman.

It's like a super thick rubberband that helps me kangaroo up to the pull-up bar. Feel free to laugh at my wimpiness all you want, but we all have to start off somewhere! Baby steps!

Being as observant as you are (or as my former teammate Scottie described, "the fans like to be all up your in business"), you probably noticed I've been blogging more. Most people blog a lot less when they are injured, but for whatever reason, the internal turmoil and stress from the past few months (or hell, the past YEAR), has finally quieted down. I know it might not even be until January that I can really start training again, and I'm okay with that.

I kind of feel like I'm repeating the month of July over--where I couldn't run or ride my bike outside--but I'm not going crazy or frantic or depressed. It just is what it is. I know what's wrong with my knee now, and I know it will get better. I'm not in a rush to get back into racing. I've taken all the pressure off myself, and shut out all the pressure I was feeling from all around me.

Don't even bother asking when my next race is. It's all TBD.

For now, I am working on my pull-ups. And my abs are really sore! BONUS!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

PRP post-needle pokage

Don't worry, I totally am wearing shorts in this photo! Or at least underwear. Definitely.

So this morning the bandaid on my knee came off and I realized why it hurt so much yesterday. There are at least 13 distinct jabs at the injury site. Jab! Jab! Jab! I knew the needle was big, but wasn't exactly sure HOW of course I Googled something like "PRP injection needle size" and learned it was anywhere from an 18- to 20-gauge needle.

Wait a second. Being a bit of a piercings and tattoo kinda girl (just a bit!!) those numbers sounded kinda familiar. 18- to 20-gauge is like the standard size for an eyebrow or nose piercing. Which is just very slightly smaller than a bellybutton piercing.

WHAT! Ok, I feel less like a wuss now. I didn't even take any painkillers today and won't be touching them again :) Because I'm totally not a pain wuss, and also (just as importantly) because you're not allowed to drink alcohol with the pills. ;)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

big needles!

Make pain my b!tch, huh? Well I'm sitting in bed with my leg propped up on two big pillows after getting sent home following "the injection" with two bottles of prescription painkillers. This was the blood centrifuging machine...for size reference, check out the magazines in the upper right corner:

"The injection" is in quotes because the needle was so big (in order for the platelets to get through or something) that it required multiple smaller injections of novocaine to numb up the area before the MULTIPLE site injections of PRP. I'm trying not to sound like a super wuss, but I was limping my way through the pharmacy and have strict orders to take the next 3 days completely off training. Then very slowly build back up again.

It's like one of those "it's gonna get worse before it gets better" kinda things. I'm not suppose to take any sorts of anti-inflammatories because the idea is that we WANT inflammation to promote the healing process. am I not supposed to be following my super healthy anti-inflammatory diet right now? ;)

On the bright side, the MRI report shows my injury is actually a muscle tear of the VMO, with only minor ligamentous involvement. So that's an update on the initially suspected MPFL tear--but the MPFL and VMO tendon combine as I very skillfully described before, so it was hard to differentiate on the ultrasound. This is actually GOOD NEWS because muscles have much better blood supply than ligaments, so my recovery time will be relatively quicker! Not surprisingly, there was still evidence of a bone bruise on my femur 3.5 months post-crash, albeit a minor one that won't be causing much trouble.

My activity is going to be more limited than it's been in the last couple months (ugh did I really do an ironman on this thing?!), but like the doc said, my job is just to heal now! Send happy healing vibes, thanks :)

Monday, October 17, 2011

buy Wongstar stickers! help fix my knee!

Tomorrow I'm going back to Dr. Shiple's office at the Center for Sports Medicine for my first ultrasound-guided PRP injection. PRP stands for "platelet rich plasma" and he will basically take some of my blood, centrifuge it, then inject all the happy little platelets (which have magical healing properties) back into my knee. It's a pretty awesome new procedure that will help my ligament get put back together again, unlike Humpty Dumpty. It actually sorta kinda sounds like blood doping but I am making sure it gets cleared through WTC and USAT so I'm not busted for cheating. But that's how effective it is! Olympic athletes need to get a "therapeutic use exemption" thingy if they are getting these magical shots.

Here is an article that was just published last week in the NY Daily News about it: "Runners can turn to Platelet Rich Plasma injections for hamstring issues, but cost is a deterrent."

Oh yes. The downside is that since it is relatively new, there aren't enough published studies for most health insurance companies to cover it. Including excited as I was about having some big girl health insurance from the new big girl job, even mine is being a wet blanket. It will cost $900 per injection. (Cue all kinds of cringing!) Dr. Shiple says I will probably only need one or two. I'm totally crossing my fingers for just one, since I have extra magical superstar blood, and because all my money is going towards paying off my massive credit card debt. ("How much debt?" the nosy Momma Wongstar asked. "Too much!" was the Wongstar's reply.)

Sigh. So what to do?


I've been meaning to manufacture some cool Wongstar stickers to help promote myself as a superstar and perhaps sell them for a good cause. There are lots of good causes out there to fund raise for; I always wanted to help out some of those international prosthetics & orthotics organizations... Well, over the past 4 years, I've learned that the best way to help them out was not to send money, but to donate my own personal time and skills. Many patients in the Philippines, Thailand, and El Salvador all got some good Wongstar karma and smiles.

And now I'm a patient too...does that make me a good cause?

SO. For a mere $10, you will not only get TWO of the super awesome 2011 LIMITED EDITION Wongstar fan club stickers shown above (3 x 3 inches) will actually get to help my knee heal faster so I can get back to the business of being a triathlon superstar!

I will even throw in a personally autographed Haamonii postcard (while supplies last of course). $10 includes shipping. International fans may need to throw in an extra $1. I am hoping to have 100 fans take me up on this deal so that I'll have enough money for the cost of the injection after the printing expenses.

Stickers won't come in for another 2 weeks, in the meantime I will go ahead and setup a P.O. box (so stalkers can't find me) and configure the Paypal account. Or you can write a check if you are like Momma Wongstar. :) I am also happy to take bank transfers!

Who wants to buy a sticker???

Edit: after consulting with my art team and lawyers, the final sticker design has been updated with a smiley star (seen at the top of the post but not in the middle "preview" screenshot). So that A) I won't get sued by Nintendo and B) what is a Wongstar without a smile? :)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

MRI-ing and 5 off season goals!

Yesterday morning I had my first MRI. I made sure to shave my legs. It was really noisy, so they gave me earplugs and noise cancelling headphones that played a local radio station. There was an Abba song...Dancing Queen. But I wasn't allowed to move at all or the image would get all blurry.

They gave me a CD with all the images, but I'm not a radiologist so even with my O&P background I don't know exactly what or where I'm really looking for. I should get the official report sometime next week... But it IS rather cool seeing the insides of your bones and muscles!

I think I have a really great looking femur, don't you???

I was getting pretty bummed about my knee injury but Coach Beck told me to stay positive and focus on the things that I *can* do while my knee continues to get better. So here are 5 things I will do before I step on the starting line of my next Ironman. You heard it here first!

  1. Work on my two Halloween costumes...yes, the deadline is actually in just 2 weeks, and yes of course I have to have more than one outfit. I always make my own outfits, just like last year. There's Friday parties and Saturday parties...well and probably Sunday too. offfff season!!!!!!

  2. Focus on my nutrition plan. Keeping eating well and get leaner. It is actually easier to focus on this when you are training less, because you don't have to eat as much!

  3. Get out of credit card debt. I didn't open any credit card accounts until I went off to graduate school...and it only got worse during my 4 years on teamTBB, while "living the dream." (The true secret to losing weight at training camps? Not having enough money to buy groceries. I'm serious.)

  4. Keep growing the Wongstar brand. This means more blogging, and printing out fan club stickers I promised long long ago. You would buy a sticker, wouldn't you?

  5. FIVE PULL-UPS. Yes! Be able to do 5 unassisted pull-ups before my next Ironman!!! I've never been able to do any, and my swim coach friend Kiet once told me that all real swimmer girls can do them. Obviously I will swim way faster and have a six-pack if I can do pull-ups!

Yup, all 5 things that I can be excited about accomplishing. You probably noticed I didn't put down "work on my swimming" because that's a given...I'm ALWAYS working on my swimming! And if there is one race performance I can be really proud of this year, time-wise, it is the 1:02 swim I did in IM Korea before the sh!t totally hit the fan. If I can do it once, I can and WILL do it again.

Love you all! happy training or even more exciting, happy off-seasoning like me :)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

officially out of the Paleo closet

So before I left for El Salvador, I mentioned taking on the 30-day Primal Blueprint Challenge, which just ended yesterday and went pretty well. To confirm that I shouldn't be a hypocrite and keep eating well, the latest issue of our local Wilmington magazine, Out & About, came out last week. And hot off the press, there I am in a feature article about what I eat!

You can access the digital version at this link to read the full text:

I am pretty excited because it's the first time there's a ginormous photo of me filling up an ENTIRE PAGE in a magazine! Also because the interview is on a topic that I've become pretty passionate about, but have been a bit apprehensive about shouting it off the rooftops.

So yeah, it's official. I'm out of the closet now. The Paleo closet. I've been gravitating towards the Paleo Diet for the last few years after first dabbling in it during college back in 2001-ish. (Oh god. That was A DECADE ago. !!!) I haven't really blogged too much about it because talking about food and diet can be as controversial as religion and politics. I've met plenty of [insert religious group here] and um *cough*vegetarians*cough*, who either try to convert you and/or act like they are so much better than you. And I never want to come off that way.

I'm not going to pretend like I have it all figured out yet, but I do feel like I've been moving in the right direction. Some people call it eating like a caveman, or eating primal...I sometimes just call it my "cavegirl" diet. :) There are all sorts of variations on the Paleo Diet, like how the top of the pyramid above has the "optional" categories. Dairy or no dairy (I'm currently in the "no dairy" camp), nuts or no nuts (experimenting with no nuts right now since I can eat a whole bag like it's nothing), and macronutrient %'s for carbs vs fat vs protein. Food Coach Amy has really helped me dial it all in and move towards optimum race weight & body composition. When I'm training more (which is not right now), there are more carbos (from sweet potatoes and bananas).

It's been kind of an on-and-off relationship I've had with Paleo over the last few years, as I felt kind of like a foster kid moving from home to home: living out of a suitcase at training camps, jumping from homestay to homestay when I did that USA Ironman tour last summer. The food available in different countries and cooking facilities always varied, and at homestays I wasn't always comfortable voicing my dietary needs and preferences--when someone welcomes you into their home as a guest, you already feel like they are offering you so much...and that you shouldn't be so "picky." But I've finally started to see that it's completely reasonable for me to have a "special diet." After all, I'm a professional triathlete. Duh. It's part of the job description to eat what's best for me.

Dating a Sherpa who eats the polar opposite of me can also be a challenge, but we make it work. (I am in charge of groceries, which means I make him eat more veggies.) What's helped the most is finally being able to stay somewhere long enough that I can get into a routine instead of having to change Wongstar HQ every 2-3 months. Oh yeah, it definitely also helps to have a regular paycheck so I can afford to buy organic and higher quality REAL FOOD!

Anyway, people are always interested in what I eat and I know there are others in the Paleo community who are endurance athletes trying to find their way. Like I mentioned in the interview, "I love food and I love to eat" (hahaha) so I'll be posting more about all this. In the end I think it'll also help me not feel like such a weirdo when I eat burgers with bacon but not the buns. ;)

I'll get into more details later, but one of the primary reasons I eat this way is because it's an anti-inflammatory diet. Of course after getting beat up by that minivan in Korea, I have more reason than ever to stick to this. Magical healing properties? Sign me up, please!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

it's a girl! no, it's a boy! no...

Oh, how lucky you are today! TWO blog posts in one day!

So this morning after my last C-Man blog, I went to the doctor and had my very first ultrasound. it a boy? or is it a girl? Or is it too early to see any little penises? (that's right, I totally said "PENIS!")

Oh! Oh! Is it twins?

Well, if you must know...

It's a partially torn MPFL. That's the medial patello-femoral ligament. Not to be confused with the medial collateral ligament (MCL), even though that's what Wikipedia would redirect you to believe.

Yeah, I had a diagnostic ultrasound on my sometimes complaining knee. (Did I totally PUNK you or what???) It's gotten significantly better since that #@!$(&* minivan smashed into me (or vice versa) 3 months ago in Korea (I mean, seriously I got through an ironman on it) but still wasn't 100%. Since my new health insurance just kicked in with my new job at IPO on October 1st, I figured hell, let's get everything checked out for sure. If for anything, peace of mind.

The good news is that it's not permanently damaged, and I didn't make it any worse by training with it. But since it's ligamentous, it has a poor blood supply and that's why it's taking forever and a day to get back to 100%. I'm actually allowed to continue training as long as I'm wearing a knee brace or Rocktape to help keep my patella stabilized. 

No wonder I felt it when I was biking and not running--my extensive Google researching shows that "As the MCL approaches the patella it combines inseparably with the tendon of the VMO and together they insert strongly into the most ventral aspect of the medial border of the patella all along its articular surface." (Reference article is here if you don't mind seeing photos of dead people's dissected knees.)

Yes, the infamous VMO (vastus medialis oblique) is known for its patella-stabilizing powers. It's that quad muscle on the inside of your knee that totally sticks out if you are a badass cyclist, or nonexistent if you are a scrawny basketball or volleyball player. Back in college, one of the athletic trainers actually told me I'd never have patella tracking problems because my VMO's were so strong (unlike the basketball and volleyball chicks who came in with knee issues). Well, I guess "never" doesn't take into account when your knee gets slammed into a car with the same force it takes for a chin to break a window.


When I am biking under load, I'm activating my VMO's, which is "inseparable" from my sadly stretched and partially torn MPFL as they attach to the patella.

Ohhhhh. That's why it hurts when I bike, but not when I run. It doesn't look like I need to have it surgically repaired, but I'm getting an MRI this weekend, and will get a shot or two of this magical PRP injection therapy thing soon enough.

All right, well think happy MPFL thoughts for me, and be sure to thank your own MPFL's for the hard work they do. Promise them you won't take them for granted any more!

ChesapeakeMan Part #5, the aftermath

Ok, so you probably noticed in my previous C-Man blog segments, there's really no mention of what place or position I was in. There's a reason for didn't really matter to me. Before I did the race, at least 4 or 5 randoms actually told me "oh, you're SO going to win that race." Which is kind of rude and offensive to the other women that were racing. You should never assume that you can win a race (especially on bare minimum training and sleep), because you never know who is going to show up on race day.

Sure, I looked up last year's winning time (which was over 13hrs) and I was pretty sure I could beat that. But I had no idea what I was capable of with my current fitness level and temperamental knee, or who else was toeing the line. Turns out that this year there were some pretty strong age group women in the field. Still, the organizers granted me bib #101 (which was the very first number, heehee) since I was the only pro racing. Or maybe just the first who registered. ;)

The women's winner went an impressive 10:02, big congrats to her, and I ended up as the 8th overall woman. When I went to awards with Noreen the next morning, I still didn't even know my splits or final position--the results sheets that were printed up on the wall didn't include the special professional category. (I think because usually a pro would get top 3 and show up in the overall. ahaha!) I just knew I wasn't top 5. It was still fun to hang out and walk around funny like everybody. Various racers recognized me from the day before and thanked me for being so cheerful. One guy even insisted on giving me a hug! (Yes, these are all random people I hadn't officially met.) Here I am with Viggo, head of TriColumbia:

So I was fairly surprised to get called up as a special guest. TriColumbia was so happy to have me there that I got my very own crystal Skipjack sailboat trophy! It was such an honor and totally unexpected. It even says I'm the women's pro champion. Which technically...I was. (n=1)

As I went up to get my award, a guy from the crowd yelled "best smile on the course!!"

Hey, I do what I can.

Me and Sam got photos with our awards when we got back to their lake house. Or bay house...because it's on the Chesapeake Bay. He won the grandmasters division at the Bugeye sprint race, he was done waaaay before I was on Saturday! I wanted to say thank you again to Noreen and Sam for hosting me, and giving me the world champion treatment.

The sherpa had a work emergency and couldn't make it at the last minute, so Noreen got to step up as emergency sherpa and did a fabulous job. Post-race they even got me gluten-free pizza (loaded with bacon) and french fries and potato chips. And for my drive back home, Noreen loaded me up with more Natascha goodies--some FRS and mix1 drinks for recovery along with more snacks! I can't wait to go back even just for a training weekend.

I also would like to thank:

  • TriColumbia for welcoming me to race as a pro triathlete and accomodating my crazy international travel schedule. I didn't get a chance to pick up my race packet or check in my bike the day before...since I was barely back in the USA yet, and they sorted me out quickly on race morning. The course was gorgeous and the event itself was extremely well-organized. I say that as a veteran of many WTC ironmans...well they are in fact, the same people that put on the Eagleman 70.3 race sanctioned by WTC, and the course does overlap quite a bit since it's held at the same venue, so they know what they're doing here!
  • SLS3 for providing my new racing outfit and compression socks. I've been in their socks and sleeves for almost 3 years now and my cute magenta top is both comfortable and functional! I have yet to get any logos blazed onto it...I've been ridiculously busy and it's kind of fun to have "gone rogue" and be logo-less.
  • Rocktape for being stylish, super sticky, and keeping my knee together throughout a full ironman.
  • The Bike Boutique of Wilmington, DE: yeah, I'm not on teamTBB any more but I'll always be part of the TBB Wilmington family in Delaware. Huge thanks to our mechanic John for always making sure White Tiger is race ready!
  • Token for the shiny fast race wheels!
  • ISM Saddles for keep my girl parts comfortable while biking. The Sherpa loves you too!
  • Haamonii favorite post-race "recovery beverage" ;)
  • my boss and the whole crew at Independence P&O, for the opportunity to help all those kids in El Salvador, and of course for helping my "financial rehabilitation" from piss-poor pro triathlete to debt-free pro triathlete!
  • Mark Cathcart, the travel sponsor, thanks for believing in me through the ups and downs!

And of course, all the members of "Team Wongstar": Coach Beck, Food Coach Amy, the Sherpa, the body mechanic, and last but never least--all of you awesome blog readers that continue to follow me whether I cry tears of happiness for going super fast, or tears of misery and frustration because I want to quit. Never quit!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

ironman #21 = ChesapeakeMan Part #4

The best thing that Noreen and Sam said to me on race morning was that they would be there for me at the finish line, no matter how long it might take me to get there. I had told them I really wasn't sure, but around 11 hours would be pretty good, and they were well aware that it was to be my first ironman race back since the car crash. So Noreen said she'd be there between 10-12 hours after we started...but added that it was perfectly fine if I ended up needing another hour or two or three....etc.

That helped me quite immensely when I was debating against my demons whether or not to finish. Because even though I said my only goal was to finish, I couldn't help but want to do well too. I wouldn't be a professional triathlete if I didn't feel that way, and it is hard to quiet the killer instinct which always wants to do more than "just finish." But given the options, DNF... or finish without causing more damage to my health, I chose the latter.

So I made a new "just finish" plan. The first priority was to get rid of the headache. If I could get rid of the pain in my head, I knew I could get through the marathon, even if I had to walk and take my sweet time. I don't have many pictures from during this race, so instead you get random cartoons:

I ended up rolling up to the next two aid stations, stopping, and taking my time to figure out a headache remedy. I had only been drinking Gatorade in addition to eating snacks, maybe my hydration was off because I needed some plain water. So I tried some of that and took a bottle for the road. I also asked if any of the volunteers had Tylenol or Advil. I'm usually against medicating myself with pills but desperate times call for desperate measures! Luckily someone had a single tablet of ibuprofen to spare.

As I spun home to T2 in an easy gear, my head started to feel better and my spirits began to lift. I had slowed down quite a bit and my final ride time on the bike computer was 5:32. The official split was 6:08, so that was an extra 36 minutes from ineptly changing out the flat tire and the two leisurely aid station stops for headache management. Not too bad considering all of that! I think before joining teamTBB, 6:08 would still be faster than my previous Ironman bike splits I did as an amateur,'s kind of hilarious.

I took my time in T2 and kind of just relished it. There were 2 or 3 other girls in there with me and I was feeling really chatty and chipper. I was psyching myself up for the marathon ahead and wanted to make sure I felt good starting out, and erase the mindset that I was racing so I wouldn't put too much pressure on myself to run fast. It was like pressing the "reset" button.

I had a leisurely porta-potty stop and then I was out on the run. Over 5 minutes, when T2 usually only takes me a minute!

The run has always been my first love and it's still my favorite part of the triathlon. You are going slow enough (and on land, not submerged in water) so you can see and hear all the people cheering for you, and let's face it, I'm an attention whore (Jan Brady middle child syndrome). There were actually a few Wongstar fans that recognized me and yelled for me by name. I beamed, and I was so happy to be out there!

Flashing back to race morning--I had been standing in the porta potty line and randomly talking with the guy behind me, who would be attempting his first iron-distance race today. After learning I was a pro and had raced 20 ironmans before, he wanted to know my best piece of advice for a first-timer...other than "have fun and just finish, don't even try aiming for a specific finish time." (Advice I was taking myself that day!)

So I told him this: "You will experience very low lows and very high highs. Ironman is a complete emotional roller coaster and if you are feeling really bad, have faith that you will feel better." More foreshadowing???

My run was going to be my "very high high"! After the first couple of steps, I knew that my knee was going to be okay. (The injury seems more quad-related--running feels better than biking, which is unusual for most injuries.) Anyone that has ever seen me race before (or heck, seen my race photos) knows I am usually a super smiley face when I am out on the run. I was genuinely really happy to be there, a complete 180 from how I felt during the bike. I was smiling and cheering for my compatriots who were also racing. If I wasn't having a good day, I could at least give my fellow racers some positive energy!

I need to get my own set of
smiley face mugs, like Natascha!!
Later some of them would ask why I was so happy during the run. The truth was, I thought about how I couldn't run at all for a whole month after getting hit by a car. I was doing these long walks with a backpack. It was TORTURE. I can't stand walking for exercise (I'd much rather run really really slow) and I had some dark moments there when I wondered if I would ever be able to run again, never mind do another ironman. So to be running again, and in an ironman marathon, well, it was pretty much very smile-inducing.

I surprised myself by clocking 8:20's the first couple miles, and then settled into an 8:15/mile pace that entire first loop. (The run course was out-and-back, 3 times, so just under 9 miles each loop.) It felt easy, I felt awesome. Then at the end of the loop I got the stomach gurgles. So I hit a porta potty and took my time. Truth be told, I was already having the stomach gurgles during the last couple days in El Salvador, so I wasn't surprised at all.

Then it was back on course and having a happy long run. I stuck with a group of guys for a little bit. One guy had a FuelBelt full of all kinds of stuff--like pickle juice in case he had cramps! I had never heard of this before...he said if I cramped up later, he would be happy to share some with me! I was super chattery. I would tell guys they were awesome. I would tell girls they had the cutest socks...or top... Not everyone would return my smile or thumbs-up (some people are way too serious!) but many of them did, which pumped me back up. I could tell we were all hurting out there so it was important to keep the positive vibes flowing.

University of Maryland's triathlon club was manning an aid station and they were always happy to see me because I would always yell "woohoo, COLLEGE BOYS!" and they would give me whatever I wanted. On the last lap, my lack of fitness finally caught up and my quads were just screaming. They were so sore--remember, I hadn't run more than 2 hours for the last 3 or 4 months--and I had to take a walking break. I stopped at the UM aid station and told them, "I need something magic to get me going again. What do I want?" and one of the guys was like " boys?" LOL.

Another of them had a bag of "Munchies" which consisted of Cheetos and Doritos and other tasty chips. It was his own personal stash and not part of the aid station offerings, but THAT'S what I wanted. I was tired of all the sugar from Coke and Gatorade and wanted some salty savory goodness. They filled up an entire cup for me and I walked a whole mile just relaxing and eating my Munchies.

Ok! Then I felt better and was ready to run again! My legs were still super sore, but I could now will myself to ignore the soreness and do a hobbling run (the ironman shuffle) through those final miles. There was another leisurely porta potty stop...

...for the stomach gurgles, and when I emerged, a fellow running behind me saw my Bike Boutique shorts and said "were you on teamTBB?" "...yes..." and the inevitable:



He was so excited he said he had to shake my hand. The first thing that popped in my head was "Um, I was just in the porta-potty and my hands are freshly anti-bacterialed" (because the posh porta potties were well stocked--big thumbs-up!) and I think it came off wrong, like I was saying I didn't want to shake his hand if he was all gross and germy. (I meant that I myself wasn't gross and germy so it was ok to shake my hand.) But he replied that he was happy to fist-bump with me! We chatted a bit and ran the next few miles together--turns out he had been in a horrific skydiving accident years ago, breaking his neck, back, and femur (his race report is on ST here) and this would be his first ironman ever! WOW. It was really made my car accident seem pretty minor, but I felt I could relate to him even just a little bit.

I had a lot of energy to talk with people and cheer for was more like I was limited by my level of fitness. After kicking the bike demons to the curb, mentally I felt like I could go faster but physically my body was holding me back. And that was okay. I was still able to hold 9-min miles even though my quads felt like they were all locked up. Maybe time for some pickle juice?

Except I had left my pickle juice friend somewhere back in the race. Oh well, only a couple more miles. I stopped stopping at all the aid stations. I wasn't racing with my signature Camelbak this time...I was SO unbelievably unprepared for this race, and just picked up whatever I felt like at the aid stations. Perhaps another contribution to the stomach gurgles.

Anyway, "mind over matter" I kept telling myself. Even if my quads were super duper sore, I would will the legs to keep turning over, turning over until I got to the finish. And there it was! The finish chute! My face lit up extra as I SPRINTED through the last section and Noreen caught it on camera:

My knee has been taped up with the blue argyle Rocktape, a super sticky brand of kinesio-tape that is as stylish as it is functional. It's like having a knee brace on without the bulk!

I was happy to cross the finish under 11:30, which was right on target if you subtract the silly flat tire change. Later I was surprised to learn that my marathon time was 3:56--even with two leisurely potty stops and walking a whole mile. Kind of impressed with myself given the amount I've been (not) training! Another sign that I'm still fitter than my amateur days--my fastest IM run back then was a 4:20. So I haven't lost everything.

I was very happy to see my foster family for the weekend--Sam and Noreen. They were great at being my finish line catchers along with homestay hosts! And it was nice to do a non-WTC race, it wasn't crowded at all and TriColumbia treated us very well. And I mean all of us athletes...not just this lone pro here!

Let me tell you...finishing an ironman is still one of the best feelings in the world. Ok, euphorically if not physically. ;) I still get the heebie jeebies typing this up. This one was #21 for me after having to "re-do" #21 with the bike crash in Korea. Maybe it wasn't the smartest idea in the world, maybe I was too impatient trying to get back onto the racing scene, but it was still worth it to once again experience the awesome "run through the ironman finish line" feeling--which helped erase the bitterness of the "get taken away on an ambulance" feeling.

This 11:28 race is over 90mins slower than my fastest, but it's one I'm extremely proud of--with everything stacked up against me the past few months, the El Salvador week, and how close I came to quitting so many times on the bike; I feel I really conquered some big demons out there.

There's more photos from the awards and I have more thoughts and props to give out, but perhaps I'll end up doing a part #5 with all that. Since right now there's a little race called Ironman Hawaii going on that I'm spectating online.

What I will say though, is that it's been 2 weeks after ChesapeakeMan and I've decided to end my 2011 triathlon season early. I was pretty hell bent on racing IM Cozumel over Thanksgiving and start chasing Kona points for 2012, but Project Kona is officially on hold for the time being. I took a few steps back and decided to prioritize getting my knee completely healthy before attempting to race again.

I now know that I can finish an ironman on very limited fitness--and it's soooo, soooo painful--but in order to race at the professional caliber, I must have a fit and healthy body...and mind. To anyone reading this, thanks so much for all your support this year and for continuing to follow me through the ups and downs!!! xox