My First Ironman Meltdown

I used to love to go sledding as a young girl. With four older brothers, winters in Ohio were like living through our very own Xtreme Winter sports season. Our Dad would take us ice skating and sledding. My favorite was being in a sled while tied to the back of a three-wheeler and racing around the neighborhoods on icy and snowy roads. We’d whip around corners narrowly missing mailboxes, bushes and cars for that matter. We were on our own nature-made roller coaster. One day, a snowmobile even showed up next door to take us for a ride. Eventually, though, the wet snow and winter winds would permeate our layers of clothes and I would start to feel the bone chilling cold of winter. It was the cold that only a wood burning fireplace and Mom’s hot chocolate could cure. It was the cold that actually inflicted pain upon my toes and fingers to the point where I thought frostbite had surely won the battle. I couldn’t believe how quickly pure pleasure could turn to extreme pain. I didn’t know a body could feel that cold. I couldn’t remember…until yesterday morning.

80 Mile Bike Ride
Saturday’s key workout was an 80 mile bike ride. I had a series of challenges surrounding this ride which didn’t ease the tension of actually trying to complete the mileage. My friends, Raul and Tracy, were getting married at 2pm on Saturday afternoon in Austin. That meant that I had to be at home and in the shower by 1pm (and that was pushing it) in order to make it to the wedding on time. Fortunately, the church is close to our house. I also knew that it would take me a minimum of 5 hours to even get close to 80 miles. Essentially, I knew from the get-go that I probably wouldn’t be able to complete all 80 miles, but I was fine with that. I just wanted to get as many in as possible. Plus, the group I was riding with wasn’t even starting until 9:30am since it was supposed to be so cold in the morning. Knowing all of this, I still wanted to start riding at 7am. So, I reached a new level of discipline yesterday morning and drove to the parking lot at 6:45am, set up my bike trainer by moonlight and started riding until the sun came up. It was 27 degrees according to the Weather Channel. I had prepared for this. I was wearing three pairs of socks and toe warmers, two pairs of gloves, ear warmers, tights and three layers of shirts. I rode on the trainer until the sun rose enough to where I felt safe hitting the streets. It was about 7:30am and I had worked up one hell of a sweat. In my bag, I had actually packed those things that you shake to keep your toes and fingers warm. However, I was sweating enough and thought, “There’s no way I’ll need this.” I knew I had about two hours of riding to do before I met the rest of T3 where I would join them for the Dam Loop. I started on my own and headed towards the Bee Caves Loop.
On the trainer by moonlight
Well, riding on the trainer is one thing and riding while generating a 20 mph wind is another. It didn’t take long for my hands and toes to start to feel cold. I just kept telling myself, “You’ll warm up. The sun will warm you.” For some reason, I just couldn’t shake the pain, the stinging and the numbness. I was having trouble shifting gears because my hands hurt so bad. I was struggling up all hills because my feet and toes just wouldn’t work. I did the entire Bee Caves Loop before deciding to head back towards the car and put the toe warmers and hand warmers in my gloves and shoes. I was hitting stop lights and the pain was excrutiating. Mentally, I was already pissed, upset and self-defeated. I was only 25 miles into the ride. What started as such a pleasurable experience had quickly gone south. When I pulled up to my car, some of the T3 crew had already started to arrive. I got off my bike in tears (mostly from just being in pain). I tried to take my cleats off and couldn’t because my hands weren’t working. I tried to take my gloves off and couldn’t. The rest of my body started to get chilled and I couldn’t stop shivering. Then, the wave of dizziness and nausea hit me. “What the hell is wrong with me,” I lamented. Suddenly, the thought of 55 more miles was completely insurmountable.
I had chilled myself to the bone and couldn’t warm up. At that moment, all I wanted to do was get in my car, crank up the heat and drive home to my husband. I just wanted to lay by the fire and drink coffee.
In an instant, I did just that. With my cycling gloves and cleats still ON, I loaded my bike in the car, got in and drove home after quickly telling a teammate that I wasn’t feeling well. I can’t describe the conflicting senses of relief and failure that I was feeling at that moment. Most of all, my toes and fingers were just aching so bad that I think I just cried the entire drive home. I got home and didn’t want Shawn to see me crying. He obviously knew something went wrong so I told him the story and then told him that I was just going to set up the trainer in the house and ride as long as I could. He graciously made me coffee while I waited for my body to warm up.
Somehow I was able to salvage the morning and I still got a sold 4+ hour ride completed for about 70 miles (which probably equates to more like 60 miles on the roads). For much-needed inspiration, I popped in the 2006 Hawaii Ironman DVD and felt the exhilaration and determination all over again.
To this moment, I don’t know exactly how to feel. Part of me feels like a complete failure for not being able to fight through it, but the bitterness and pain was indescribable. As I said, the pain was so intense, it was literally making me nauseous and dizzy. There’s a reason why the rest of the crew wasn’t meeting until 9:30am. That just wasn’t an option for me. I’m in a bit of a bike slump at the moment because I haven’t turned out a good ride in a long time. The indoor training rides are going great, but my road rides are suffering right now. Next week, we’ve got a 95 mile ride scheduled. Fortunately, I can just focus on that, but I’m totally nervous and scared.
On much better notes, the wedding was utterly beautiful and I was so honored to be there in that church for Tracy and Raul. There’s also something very comforting about being in church surrounded by friends and hearing that lovely music. It also provided some much needed comfort and solace for such a tough morning. Immediately after the wedding, Shawn and I headed to San Antonio for the Alamo Bowl and a night with his parents. It was a whirlwind day and I was completely exhausted last night.
However, there’s no rest for the humbled or weary because this morning, I was up before anyone else and on the roads for a slow and painful 17-mile run. (avg pace 9:20) Painful mainly because my body just feels beat up at the moment. I don’t even know what I was thinking…On Friday, I did THREE workouts and then expected to feel good for an 80 mile ride the next morning. I went to an hour core class, swam at Barton Springs for an hour and then ran for an hour on Friday. I didn’t hydrate well and I didn’t eat well. Every now and then I take for granted that my body will dig deep and get through. I totally disrespected myself and my body. It only responded how a real human should.
The meltdown was good as it brought me back to a little reality. And now I need to continue to face my bike fears….95 miles next Saturday. I can do this. I just hope it’s a little warmer.
How ironic that my meltdown came as a result of being freezing.
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2 thoughts on “My First Ironman Meltdown

  1. Wow, what a tough day, but it sounds like you pulled it out with a loooonnng trainer ride.Everyone faces those kinds of days and it is good to hear that you got yours out of your system early in your training.

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