Ironman Canada

Some days you come out on top.  Other days leave you hungry for what you know you are capable of.  They give you a reason to keep fighting.  For me, Ironman Canada 2015 was the latter.  I missed out on a 2015 Kona spot by 2 seconds but I’m getting ahead of myself so lets back up a bit.

Ominous storm clouds looming

The view from our accommodation and the ominous storm clouds looming

After months of hot weather in BC and dry conditions, with forest fires blazing across the province, we finally got what we so desperately needed.  Rain, glorious rain, in large quantities.  Everyone knew we needed rain, no one wanted it to come on race weekend.  Yet that’s exactly what happened.  After weeks of training with salt pills and practicing my hydration strategy I was left packing my T1 bag with a jacket, arm warmers and shoes with toe covers on them.  Is this really July???  I hummed and hawwwed about which rain coat to put in.  Should I put in the Gore Tex fully waterproof coat or the Hydrolite which if I got sunny and dry out I could chuck and not miss too too much next Fall.  Back and forth I went about which jacket.  A lingering side affect of my accident last June is difficulty with decision making.  I just couldn’t decide on one and accept the choice.  I was stuck in limbo like how I used to get stuck in the grocery store trying to decide which cereal to get or how many apples to buy.  Eventually I went with what I’d told Noa I was going to wear during our pre race Skype chat and told myself to stop thinking about it.

Bike check in on Saturday

Bike check in on Saturday, remind me why I tried to keep things dry overnight??

Race morning went perfectly for me.  I was up on time, had my breakfast of eggs, yams, and rice ready to go, and was out at the line ups for the bus to T1 2.5hrs before race start.  I planned to arrive at T1 with 2 hours to spare, plenty of time to check over my bike, load my nutrition on board, use the bathroom and not panic or stress.  It had yet to start raining and everyone seemed optimistically hopeful.  However, it started to spit while I was in the water for my warm up swim and by about half way through the swim I could tell it was a full on torrential downpour.  My swim was going well though, I was feeling strong, and after things thinned out about 800m in I found some feet to sit on and carried on finishing in 1:04:45, a personal best for me.  Swimming a gazillion meters a week both in the pool and at the beach is clearly paying off!!

The volunteers in T1 were fantastic!!  Lindsey helped me get my wetsuit off, shoes on, arm warmers on, jacket on top and out I went.  Despite the clothing additions I still had a great transition time of under 3min.

My first thought starting the bike was, “ok, it’s slippery out here, take it slow, its a long day and we don’t want to crash”.  That was closely followed by “it’s freezing why aren’t I wearing more clothes.  Ok calm down, we just have to get to Callahagn and then we can warm up climbing”.  I’ll leave it at that for the bike description.  If you have the time Elliot Rushton’s race report is hilarious and very accurately describes the thoughts that went on for the next 3 hours as I made my way up and down Callahagn and then on to Pemberton.  As I descended into Pemberton I could feel the air temperature getting ever so slightly warmer and it was such a blessing.  I was still freezing with barely working fingers (don’t ask how hard it was to get gels out of my bento box never mind get them open) but I knew warmer air was on its way.

Climbing Callaghan, photo by Mark Teasdale

Climbing Callaghan, photo by Mark Teasdale

Down in Pemberton I stopped at special needs for the first time in my life.  The volunteers were rather confused because all I had in my bag was a tube and CO2.  I told them through chattering teeth that I didn’t want the tube, I wanted the bag like a blanket around my chest under my coat.  I was desperate for anything that might help me retain more body heat.  By the turn around at the end of Pemberton Meadows I could see I had lost about 15min on the girls I was trying to pace with.  The good news though was I could feel my fingers again and there was only climbing to come, no more descending.  I knew I was off my pace times but focused on the positive which was my time didn’t matter my place in my age group and overall for female amateurs mattered.  I passed a fair number of people climbing back to Whistler, the sun came out, the roads dried, and I even ditched the plastic bag and jacket I was wearing.

Coming into T2 I knew I had a lot of ground to make up but told myself not to panic and simply focus on the task at hand.  In and out of T2 like lightning and off on the run, my favourite part of any race.

Heading out towards Green Lake on the first loop

I passed Robert after the first Lost Lake loop and he said I was in 3rd but gaining on 2nd.  I think he was trying to be nice and therefore excluded the fact I was about 25min down from 2nd place (which I didn’t know at the time).  I told myself if Beth Gerdes could run down 17min on Mary Beth Ellis at Ironman Switzerland I could run my way up to second.  I passed so many people I knew cheering as I went through the stretch beside and just after the Village it was awesome.  I kept up a steady pace and focused on eating and drinking as I had planned.  As I got closer towards Green Lake I saw the lead Female Pro come past and started to count the women.  One of my goals going into the race was to be in the top 5 female amateurs.  I saw my friends Steph and Fawn as I approached the turn around and knew I was in 16th (ish because maybe I missed someone) place.  Right, focus on the task at hand, run like you know how and keep up the rhythm.  I passed one or two females coming back from Green Lake to the Village but once on my second loop I had no idea if the people I was passing were on their first or second lap.

It was around 21km that I was stopped by a mother bear as she was on one side of the path and her cubs up a tree on the other.  I waited for about 2min with a growing collection of people behind me as we gave the cubs time to come down from the tree and cross over to Mum.  I hated waiting there as I knew I was loosing valuable time in my quest to catch 2nd but there was nothing I could do.  I went past my parents a second time and my Dad told me I was 12minutes back but running 2min faster.  This didn’t quite make sense to me in my foggy brain, how could I be running 2min faster per km then someone, they must be walking, that can’t be right.  But with no mental energy to try and figure it out I just kept on trucking and kept telling myself I could make up the time.  Back out to Green Lake I went, turned around, and now all I had to do was run home.  Back past my cheering friends and family who yelled I could still catch 2nd with a mile to go(again they neglected to say I was 1:20 behind).  Regardless it didn’t really register with me and I just kept running.

As I turned the corner to the finishing stretch I saw 2nd place ahead of me.  My brain said no way can you catch her now, you’ve got like 200m, but my body went for it because what did I have to loose.  I gave everything I had in those final few meters but alas I came up 2seconds to late to achieve my goal of racing at Kona this year.  While there are many things to be said for how it felt to be so close and yet so far from the goal I had been preparing for and chasing all summer I’ll save that for another post.

3rd place Female 25-29

The race was what it was and I gave what I had to give on that day in each of those moments in time.  Without the support of my coach Noa, my family, and Robert I might have never even got to the start line.  Thanks also go out to Graham at La Bicicletta for the super awesome and amazing Zipp 808’s he let me borrow for the race.  Dan for making sure my bike was tuned to perfection.  Jeremy for the knowledge on what tire pressure to run with the Zipp’s in the rain and how to save a few extra watt’s here and there on my bike set up.  Jenna, Dylan, Travis and all the other amazing cheer squads that lined the course despite the weather to encourage and motivate everyone throughout the day.  My training partners, those who I desperately try to keep up with swimming, those who’s wheels I hang onto for as long as I can biking, and those who run step for step with me at the track and across Vancouver.

A big thank you also goes out to Coeur Sports not only for the awesome kit and most comfortable tri shorts I’ve ever worn, period, but also for the community of support they surround myself and all of the other ambassadors with.  They really went above and beyond earlier this summer to get me a second pair of tri shorts to wear training and I was mega grateful!!  What’s so awesome to see is they go the extra mile like this for each and every one of their customers, day in and day out, spreading heart and courage along the way.

Stay tuned for part two, reflections on Ironman Canada and whats up next 🙂

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Victoria 70.3

Despite the fact I’ve wanted to write about my race at Victoria 70.3 from a few weeks (ok a month ago because I never got this posted) its been a struggle to sit down and actually do so.  Not because I didn’t want to, but more so because it means remembering what life was like a year ago and remembering how much it sucked.  Despite the fact it sucked I always believed in the light at the end of the tunnel and now I’m one step closer towards that light.

This year Victoria 70.3 fell on June 14th, exactly one year after my life was so rudely interrupted by that van.  So on top of dealing with all the emotions surrounding the race I also had to deal with the emotions that came from remembering the events this time in 2014.

I told Robert ahead of time that I wanted to spend as little time at the race site as possible.  I didn’t want to have to talk to anyone and I definitely didn’t want to have to answer any questions about how I was feeling.  We made a game plan to head over to the Island on Friday and take care of our race check in that afternoon.  While we still experienced a long line to check in the area in general was pretty quiet and it was great to get this step done and over with early.  Saturday we did a pre-race ride from my parents house early in the morning on the bike course around the airport.  I must say I was pretty pumped to arrive back at home after this ride in one piece this year 🙂  After that we headed down to the race site for a short swim and to drop off our bikes as soon as transition opened.  We executed this plan to perfection and were back at my parents house by noon and looking forward to an afternoon of hanging out and relaxing (aka trying not to worry and stress).

My training had been going well leading into the race.  Despite struggling with some nutrition issues, and ongoing concussion issues, I was feeling prepared and excited to see what I could execute on race day.  I felt like I hadn’t actually raced since Ironman Arizona in November of 2013 and was worried I was going to forget something important and not be able to plan out my time accordingly on race morning before the gun went off.  Again, Robert was super helpful and let me tag along in his pre-race routine which really helped me to not worry about forgetting something.

My swim went exactly as I had predicted it would and I was out of the water in 32:27.  My swim isn’t the strongest and I’ve been working hard both in the pool and at Kits beach with the Pacific Tri Works Squad this spring to change that.  Once out of the water it was straight onto the bike.

Leaving T1, Photo by Carsten Lapointe

Leaving T1, Photo by Carsten Lapointe

I love the bike course at this race as it’s in my childhood backyard.  I grew up on the Saanich Peninsula and thus the bike course presented no stress for me.  I’ve ridden it countless times and know it like the back of my hand!!  I love the beauty of it and riding past familiar landmarks and seeing my family out on course cheering is always a treat.  I was aiming to negative split the two loop course with the hope this would result in even times for both loops.  Again I executed stage two of the race just the way I planned.  Also a big thanks goes out here to Graham and Dan at La Bicicletta for the loaner race wheels and making sure my P5  was in perfect working order!!

Starting the run, photo by Carsten Lapointe

Coming off the bike I was feeling strong and ready to tackle the run, my favourite and my strongest of the 3 sports.  I didn’t know where I was overall in the race but that didn’t bother me as my goal is always to focus on the next person in front and try to catch them.  I also had a goal of going sub 1:30.  Multiple goals gives me different things to focus on depending how the race is going.  It allows me to re focus on something positive if things are going sideways or I’m struggling.  While I didn’t quite achieve that 1:30 goal (I ran 1:30:54) it was pretty darn close.  I won’t name any names but that time also happened to be fast enough to beat some of my super speedy Pacific Tri Works teammates run times 😉

 

Words can’t begin to describe the feeling of joy and accomplishment I felt crossing the finish line.  It was a long way away from where I was a year ago in the hospital.  Despite still struggling with neck pain and some lingering mental processing challenges as a result of my accident it’s a positive sign for things to come.

Finishing  as the 4th female amateur and 3rd in my age group would definitely not be possible without my coach Noa Deutsch.  Her belief in me and unwavering support is a big reason why I’m able to be where I am today.

Thanks also go out to Kebby and Hailey and the entire Couer Sports family for their support this year.  Being part of a team that embodies heart and courage is incredibly meaningful to me.  Not only do those words drive my recovery but they also drive my training and racing.  Being healthy enough to race is great.  But what’s even greater is being able to encourage other women on the run course and support and grow the community of female triathletes through our shared experiences.

Power comes from within and its supply is endless so long as you know how to tap into it.  Never stop believing!

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Recovery takes time …

Recovery is relative and takes time.  It’s as simple as that. For those who have suffered a brain injury or concussion you’ll know exactly what I mean. In my case it’s the concussion that’s taking its time to heal.

I have good days and bad days. Days when my brain functions well and days when it gets stalled and takes longer to process information or make decisions then it normally would. The hard part is no one can see this. It makes it very easy for people to say “how’s it going, you all recovered now?” because they don’t see anything obvious wrong with me. They don’t see a broken bone, a neck brace, a limp etc. They see a normal, healthy looking person.

The thing is, I’m not recovered. My brain is still healing and repairing itself. But how do you explain that to people? Especially how do you explain that to someone you don’t know very well who’s asking because they’re making polite “how are you?” kind of conversation. I often feel those people aren’t really interested in hearing the long answer, or they simply don’t understand why I’m still saying I’m not better.

You see though, progress is relative. How I’m doing this week is relative to how I was doing last week, or better still how I was last month. I don’t make big gains at this stage in the game, I make small gains measured over longer periods of time.

The other thing that can be hard for people to comprehend is that I will never be the same as I was before my accident. It’s unrealistic to think I will be because my accident and my recovery have changed me. My priorities are different now and I’m less likely to waste time on things that won’t have meaningful contribution to my life. Robert came across a great article the other day by Jordan Rapp which was very insightful and summed up nicely how I feel these days. Jordan is talking about a book by Dan Brooks called “The Road to Character” and in particular about a certain passage in the book which speaks about the crucible.  The point in your life where everything is going great and then suddenly, bam, out of nowhere you find yourself at the lowest of the low.  At the bottom of the crucible with no idea how to get back up or how long it will take for you to find a way. Brooks talks about how when you do find your way out you come out changed. You don’t go back to the side you were on before. You’re on a new side, with a new perspective on life.

Jordan goes on to reference his own accident in 2010 and speak about how this concept of the crucible is the best reference he has come across to date to describe his journey over the last 5 years. It holds true for me as well as I am most definitely not the same person I was a year ago. I make more time for my family now then I used to. I don’t dwell on mistakes I make or difficulties I’m having. I don’t beat myself up when something doesn’t go as planned. I try to focus on the now, the future, and the positives, as much as possible.

No one can see inside my brain. You can’t see me struggling with a problem that never would have been a problem for me before. You have no way of knowing that it never would have been a problem. Only I, and the people closest to me, know that I wouldn’t have struggled with that problem before. You can’t understand or see the level of effort it sometimes takes for me to pack my bag for the next day, or a weekend away from home and know that it never used to be that hard a task for me to accomplish or stay focused on. Robert used to often start dinner and I’d get home and finish it, now it can be challenging for me to come in and pick up mid creation and turn it into something tasty.

So I ask you, next time someone you know has a head injury don’t assume you know what they feel like. Don’t assume they will wake up one day and say “wow I’m better” because you don’t know what they’re struggling with and they won’t wake up one day and say I’m better. They’ll say, I’ve come a long way and I’m doing well, but I’m different then I was before and I always will be.

I look forward to the day down the road when that happens for me.

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What do you do with pain?

Here we are already half way through January already.  How time fly’s!! Recently I started reading “The Boy’s in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown.  It’s about 9 young men and their quest for Gold at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.  My family does a fantastic job of finding books I’d like reading and this one my Dad lent it to me after he finished reading it. In my days before triathlon I was a rower and spent two years racing for UVIC in their varsity lightweight boat.

The Boys in the BoatSome books draw you in right from page one, other leave you wondering for a few chapters till you either get pulled in or decide it just isn’t the right book for you.  This one had me hooked from the second page, (my family picks it right again!).

I haven’t picked up an oar in almost 7 years but I haven’t forgotten for a second what rowing feels like physically, mentally, or emotionally.  It’s a beautiful sport and to be successful you must be willing to give everything you have and more, even when you feel you have nothing left to give.  You have to be willing to give yourself to your teammates for there is no you in rowing, there is only your boat, your crew (well, unless you’re racing in a single that is).  When you push away from the dock you leave everything behind and embark on a quest for perfection.  Perfection in your stroke yes, but more importantly perfection in your ability to become one with the others in your boat.

Rowing is powerfully explosive while at the same time beautifully graceful.  You must be one with your body.  You have be able to feel exactly what it’s doing and how its moving down to the millimeter while at the same time being able to take yourself outside your body and distance yourself from the overwhelming pain.  Brown writes “pain is part and parcel of the deal.  It’s not a question of whether you will hurt, or how much you will hurt; it’s a question of what you will do, and how well you will do it, while pain has her wanton way with you.”  He couldn’t have said it better!

Canadian University Rowing Championships Fall 2007

Canadian University Rowing Championships Fall 2007

Much of what I learned from Rowing I bring to Triathlon.  People have asked me why I race long distance triathlon when Rowing is a 2km race.  It’s over in 7 to 8 minutes.  Why don’t I race Sprint Distance? How do I keep going for 10+ hours?  For me, mentally, 8 minutes or 10+ hours there is no difference.  I can be present in my body, aware of how I’m moving and how hard I’m working, while at the same time outside my body. Sometimes I’m thinking of things completely unrelated, sometimes I’m thinking of nothing, and sometimes all I’m thinking about is one word or phrase and saying it over and over and over again to myself.

I love the challenge that racing long distance triathlon brings.  The challenge to outlast, to not fall off pace, to survive, to keep fighting, to go through a bad hour and come out on the other side stronger and refocused.  I realize Sprint and Olympic distance races bring their own struggles and short is not harder or more difficult than longer.  They are simply different and require different things of ones body.

Back when I  was a junior rowing my coach asked my Dad one day what my pain threshold was like.  I don’t remember his answer but I remember thinking to myself that I had what it takes.  Even then I believed in my ability to ask my body for more and in my ability to put myself in pain and not back down from it.  If that coach could see me now and know what I’ve done and how much I give to everything I do they’d have their answer alright.

I’m not afraid of it, pain that is, because I know how to use it to my advantage.  I know how to embrace it and turn it around into more energy to pour into the water or onto the pavement.  Pain means I’m alive, I still have fight left in me, and I have more to give.  It’s a fine line being able to keep your body on the edge of that pain threshold, at a point you can tolerate without it derailing you.  I have Rowing to thank for teaching me how to manage this and how to ask my body for more without letting my brain try to stop me.

For me “The Boys in the Boat” will be a page turner without question and if it weren’t for 5:30am swim practices it would definitely be keeping me up late into the night.  I didn’t leave rowing on the best of terms so for me this is also a chance to remember the beauty of the sport and how much fun I had.  An opportunity to look back fondly and remember where I came from before turning again to look ahead to where I’m going.

Head of the Charles Regatta Fall 2006

Head of the Charles Regatta Fall 2006

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Ironman World Championships 2014

Kona 2014. Ironman World Championships. Where the best of the best come to test their fitness in what for many will be their final race of the 2014 season.  For me, it was to be not only my final race but also my first thanks to that serious concussion and significant memory loss I mentioned in my first post.
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Hawaii was, is, beautiful.  The energy in Kona was like nothing I had ever experienced before.  But it was also terrifying.  Here I was, far from home, doing my first race in 11 months against the best the sport had to offer.

The week leading up was filled with fun activities.  Robert took part in the swim and run race.  Sadly his swim was not up to his usual standards but he made up for it by winning the 5km run race.   We hung out and chatted with our friends and training partners Dylan and Jenna.  We visited the expo, walked along Alli’i Drive, went on a snorkel trip, and of course relaxed.  We took part in the famous underwear run on Thursday and had an absolute blast.  Thanks Wattie Ink for letting me be part of your squad for the day and even bigger thanks to Shiggy Ichinomiya for all the spectacular photos.

Wattie Girls with 8 time Ironman World Champion Paula Newby-Fraser

@GoShiggyGo.Com-75

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before I knew it the week of lead up was over.  My parents and Noa had arrived on the Island safe and sound and full of support.  Once again I was surrounded by people who loved me and would be proud of me no matter how far through the race I made it on Saturday.

Friday was a very stressful day and contained more than one episode of tears.  It turned out when I went to check my bike in I hadn’t brought everything I needed to bring.  A side effect of my concussion I still suffer from is the inability to process information clearly when I encounter a bump in my plans.  As such I couldn’t think through how to fix the situation.  But Robert was there for me, he calmed me down, I made a list of what I needed (my coping strategy is to write it out and visually look at it when I need to solve a problem) and off we went back to our place to pick up the stuff I needed.

Saturday morning of course brought a fresh round of anxiety, emotions, and tears.  Here I was, about to attempt what I had been fighting tooth and nail for for the past 4 months.  Could I do it? Would I make it through the swim? What would happen if someone hit my head in the swim? Would I have concussion symptoms when I got out of the water? Could I ride my bike for 180km without my neck getting so tight it caused a headache, or worse? What would happen if I made it to the point of starting the run, could I run, would I have to walk?

So many questions and so many unknowns.  I saw Noa in transition (she’d been lucky to get a media pass) and she too had tears in her eyes.  She gave me a hug and a smile and told me no matter what happened out there, no matter what mother nature threw at me, I had something stronger than that.  I had persevered through the last 4 months and come out at a place many people thought impossible given my state on June 14th.  But yet here I was, at Kona, in transition, with an hour and a bit to go before the race started.  Soon I was going to be standing (ok treading water) on the start line.  Why, because I believed in my heart I would get there, because I was determined, because I refused to take no for an answer and because I had the courage to not be afraid of the unknown.

Age Group Womens Swim

The swim was rough, choppy, crowded.  There were arms and legs and feet everywhere.  I didn’t panic, I didn’t let myself be deterred by the fact this was my first open water swim in 11months, I just kept swimming.  I focused on finishing my strokes like Noa has been telling me and didn’t think about the distance or the time, I just pushed on until I was back alongside the pier.

I hit the stairs, found my transition bag and a seat in the change tent.  I was feeling ok, my head and neck didn’t hurt so that meant I could start the bike.  There are only two words I can use to describe the bike course, windy and terrifying.  The winds were nothing like anything I had ever ridden through before.  Couple that with your 11th ride outside in months and being on a TT bike with race wheels left me telling myself over and over coming down from Hawi “it’s ok, it’s ok, it’s ok, you can do this, it’s ok, you won’t crash, you know how to ride, it’s ok”.  That went on for a solid 10-15min.  I even had someone come past and tell me once we were back on flatter more protected ground they loved my “self talk”, ha, I didn’t even realize I was talking out loud!

I thought we’d hit a tail wind on the way back from Kawaihae to the airport since it was such a killer headwind on the way out but that was not to be the case.  The Island had its own plans and the wind had shifted.  Once again I was riding into a monster of a headwind.  Monster to the point I was pedaling hard in a easy gear to go downhill!  But I wasn’t going to let myself quit.  I had gotten this far, I hadn’t been blown off the cliff at Hawi, so I could make it back to town.  I just had to get off the bike and then I could evaluate whether I had it in me to start running.  I also kept reminding myself of what Noa had said hours earlier, that I was stronger than anything mother nature could throw at me.

Finally I was back in town and heard my parents cheering for me as I approached transition.  That gave me a huge boost and I knew I was going to start the run.  I was going to give everything I had to finish what I started.  I took my time in transition, didn’t panic, stretched my neck and got started doing what I typically do best at, running.  I saw my parents first, then Noa and Robert and Jenna, all cheering, all encouraging me.

I walked at points during the first 10km, my stomach wasn’t happy and I was feeling pretty emotional and getting easily overwhelmed.  By about 10km I was running consistently and I had a new strategy.  Think about nothing other than getting to the next aid station with Lise’s determination (I knew what she went through on her IMC run) and Tiffany’s heart (she’d helped me countless times without question all summer).  It worked, and I saw my parents again cheering and telling me how awesome I was doing as I trudged up Palani hill and onto the Queen K.

Palani Hill

At the Natural Energy Lab I realized it was possible for me to finish under 11:30.  Before then I hadn’t been thinking too much about when I would finish as my race wasn’t about what place I came in.  Knowing I was close to finishing in 11:30 gave me another boost and once back up on the Queen K I gave it everything I had.  With every foot fall I kept telling myself to run with Lise’s determination and Tiffany’s heart.  Before I knew it I was back at Palani and really turning up the heat for the finish on Ali’i Drive.  I gave some hi fives to Noa and Robert and then I was there, across the finish line in 11:27:41.

The feeling of crossing that finish line was more special than any other race I’ve done.  Partly yes because it was Kona but much more so because I had achieved what 4 months ago seemed unfathomable.  My parents raised me to believe that I can do anything if I set my mind to it and give it everything I have.  Despite the odds stacked against me I refused to lose faith in myself or my abilities.

But on the other hand without the love and support of some key people I wouldn’t have had the resources available to support what I was fighting for.  Tiffany and Lise get huge hugs and a giant word of thanks for being such supportive and awesome training partners.  Always willing to join for a water run or a run/walk and helping pass the time.

Graham at LaBicicletta for his understanding and his encouragement of me pursuing my goal.  He made sure I knew that my job would be there when I was capable of coming back to it and that took a ton of pressure off my shoulders.

Noa for being by my side every step of the way and when I was ready providing me with the workouts to get myself to a point where I could complete the distance.  She is incredibly skilled and talented!  I wouldn’t have trusted anyone else to understand what I had been through and be able to give me a plan that would keep me safe but at the same time see me ready to take part in an Ironman 10 weeks later.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy family (my parents and brother, Nana, my Aunt and Uncle and Robert) spent the summer caring for me, making sure I was ok and had what I needed, driving me to appointments, helping me solve problems, visiting me time and time again in Vancouver and coming to Kona to support me.  Without them it would have been a huge struggle to take care of myself and I wouldn’t be where I am today, that I am sure of.  My Family is very precious and I love them all very much.

My Dad said it best ” On June 14th of this year our Victoria has hit by a van while training. In a heartbeat our lives changed course. When I squeezed her feet as she lay strapped on a spine board in VGH Emergency and she wiggled back I prayed she would somehow find a path back to the Victoria we all know. From that day to last Saturday when she completed the Ironman World Championship 2014 in Kona Hawaii I knew that she has found that path; but only with her on-going dogged determination, with the immense help and encouragement of friends and family to whom we will be forever grateful.
As the sun sets on our final night in Kona, we watch it leave us to bring a new day to other lands and are reminded that life can teach us so much if we let it. Like a boat on a journey, through adversity comes strength, through time comes healing, through love comes commitment, through our children comes hope.”Kona Sunset

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The day my life changed drastically in a heartbeat

June 14th, 2014, the day my life changed drastically in a heartbeat.  The day that caused my family to wonder if I would ever be the same again.  It was a day like any other, I was doing what I always did, I was riding my bike, and then I got hit by a van…

This is not story with all the details of that accident.  It is not a story detailing every step of my recovery.  It’s certainly not a story about how my accident was worse than anyone else’s.  This story is, however, the starting point.  The accident happened and when I was capable of understanding what happened there was only one option.  Move forward, get better!

Mangled Bike

Mangled Bike

The things we go through in our lives, the experiences we have, they define us, they shape our character, they influence our responses to situations.  Nothing could have changed my behavior and my outlook on life more dramatically than a serious concussion and significant memory loss.  I never thought about the “what if”, not once.  There was nothing to be achieved by that.  Achievements could only be made by looking forward.

I could have started this blog off which a glorious entry about racing at Kona, at the Ironman World Championships 2014.  I could have started it off with an entry looking way back to November 2013 when I qualified for Kona by racing at Ironman Arizona.  I could have left my accident completely out of the picture.  But like I said, our experiences in life shape who we are.  Without knowing the accident happened it is impossible for you know how much racing at Kona meant to me.

For those of you familiar with the BC Triathlon schedule you’ll know that June 14th was the day before the Victoria Half Ironman.  It was to be my first race of the 2014 season.  Instead June 15th saw me mostly in bed sleeping, battered, bruised and disoriented.  My parents took me up to the end of the driveway to watch the bike portion of the race.  I don’t remember walking up there but I do remember seeing my boss Graham from LaBicicletta, my boyfriend Robert, and my good friend Winston ride past.

The next 3 weeks were filled with doctors and physiotherapy appointments.  I continued to live with my parents as I was unable to take care of myself or make any sort of decision (including what to eat for breakfast).  But there was one thing that despite the haziness surrounding me was crystal clear.  I believed in myself and my ability to get better.  The accident took many things away from me but I was determined not to let it take Kona away.  I would do whatever it took to make it to that start line, I had 4 months.

The long road to recovery begins

The long road to recovery begins

Candace and Joelle from LifeMark Sport Medicine at the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence were instrumental in getting me back on my feet.  In those first 3 weeks they took me from being able to walk for 15min to being able to walk for an hour.  They got me back on my bike (the one that lives at my parent’s house and used to be my Dad’s) on a stationary trainer spinning away for 30min at a heart rate of 90BPM, that’s right 90! My Aunt got me back in the pool.  I couldn’t do much, I kicked and sculled about 500m in 30min, but I was in the pool.  They too believed in my ability to get better and gave me hope that what I believed in might, just might, become reality.  For reference prior to the accident I trained around 20hrs/week.

As my mental clarity improved I started to want to go home to Vancouver.  I still wasn’t capable of living on my own so in the middle of July I came back to Vancouver and stayed with Robert.  He claims not to have had to do much to look after me, but without him, coming back to Vancouver simply wouldn’t have been possible.  I really don’t know how he did it, working full-time, training full-time (20+hrs/week) and making sure I was doing ok and progressing with my recovery.  He too believed in me without question and encouraged me to continue fighting to get to Kona.

Once back in Vancouver I met up with my friend and training partner Lise.  She taught me how to water run at Kits Pool.  She was struggling with a femur fracture at the time but still fighting to be able to race at Ironman Canada.  She gave me not only a stepping stone on my road to Kona but also inspiration.  If she could get through IMC with a femur fracture, I could make it to the start line at Kona.  I also met up with another friend and training partner Tiffany.  In order to swim I had to use a swim snorkel since the motion of turning left and right to breathe exacerbated my concussion symptoms.  Tiffany swam with me, and kept an eye on me, and made sure I was safe.  She also accompanied me to some appointments and helped me make smart decisions when my concussion prevented me from making any decision on my own.

IMG_0168

I kept plugging away at training, doing what I could when my body was up for it, till the 2nd week of August when the doctor said it would be ok for my coach Noa Deutsch to begin planning my workouts again.  She had been by my side in the hospital back in June.  She knew every detail of my recovery to date, what I had done, what I was allowed to do.  I could not have asked for a more dedicated coach, supporter, and friend.  Our goal was simple; get in enough training so I would be capable of completing the distance at Kona should my body and my head be up for it.

Everything I did in training was symptom based.  If I got concussion symptoms I stopped the workout.  On the bike on the trainer my heart rate cap was 130BMP.  Then finally I was allowed to start walk-running for the first time and man did it feel good to be able to run again (even if it was only for 3min at a time).  I still wasn’t able to stay focused long enough to get groceries but that didn’t stop me from believing in myself and my ability to overcome.

September was a month of firsts for me.  First time back at work, albeit on a severely reduced schedule, but hey, I was back at work and I couldn’t have been happier about it.  First time run-walking for over 90min.  First time being able to make it all the way through a grocery shop without my brain shutting down and Robert coming back to find me staring blankly at the shelf.  I was given clearance by my Doctor and my Physiotherapist to try riding outside again.  I started with loops of a parking lot, yep, loops of a parking lot.  I did a grand total of 10 outdoor rides on my journey to Kona.  Each one slightly less terrifying than the one before it.

Before I knew it, it was October 3rd.  I was packed, had my clearance to start the race with the goal of finishing, not competing, and was at the airport waiting to board a flight to Kona.  Praying that everything was going to turn out alright.

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