Thursday, November 17, 2016

From Boulder to Cabo

After I crossed the finish line of IM Boulder 2016, I had just a little over 2 months to toe the line for IM Cabo one more time.  Two months of recovery and staying in IM condition.  My back/spine felt pretty good considering that I had just finished another Ironman competition.  

Monday was Bloody Mary Day as Jessica and I celebrated our accomplishment together and then Tuesday, I was back in the pool followed by a session in the recovery boots.  

There are many people that believe in a complete passive recovery after an event like an Ironman.  Some believe passive followed by active recovery is the way and fewer still prescribe to the immediate active recovery.  My education, personally being a coach and 40+ years of being an athlete has given me a very good sense of who I am and what I need to do.  Each race and every event potentially has a different affect on ones body and I believe it is important to listen, understand and give your body what it needs to best heal and get you back in the game.  I certainly don't have all the answers but I know that this boy needed to move after Boulder IM and to the pool I took.   I laid off the bike to relieve any pressure on my back and stayed away from the pounding of my joints with running that first week.  I just swam and sat in the recovery boots.  I went to see Darcie for some manipulation and a great recovery massage the beginning of the second week and added an easy short jog mid week with leading a Boulder Tri Club 40 mile bike ride to finish the week off and add to my swimming sessions.  

Post race week three saw an increase to my swim, bike and run.  It also saw me take a trip to my favorite PT Heather for a once over.  Some more work on my back/spine with electric stimulation and dry needling to go along with those magic thumbs and getting in there.  The month of September saw, in my eyes, some great training and had me wishing it was June and just heading into the season rather than finishing it off.  I was feeling the strongest I had felt in over a year.

October rolled around and it was time.  Time to walk down the aisle.  Time to marry my best friend  and my biggest and my best supporter.  It has been a long wonderful journey, almost a half a century through life but each step, every day lead me to that point at the alter when we looked into each other's eyes and made a vow to one another in front of our family, friends and God.   

What an incredible day!  What a truly fantastic time.  I could only wish that every day could be as loving and perfect as that day. 

 I, of course, did get an easy training ride in the morning before all the festivities began.  I did have an IM to compete in a few weeks after all!!

The wedding weekend was over and Tuesday, I was back in the pool.  Another week of feeling good and training.  That is, until Saturday rolled along.  

I met Eddie early Saturday morning to hit some interval threshold riding.  5 intervals for 10 minutes each holding at 90% threshold.  I decided to do these on Nelson Road as I like doing threshold intervals up hill.  1 through 3 felt pretty good.  Number 4 and then 5 not so much.  A cool down and 45 miles later back in the parking lot, I knew I was in trouble.  Perhaps doing the intervals up hill wasn't the best idea as riding uphill puts a greater stress on my lower back and spine.  This was then immediately followed by traveling to Phoenix for work and spending the next 3 days in meetings all day.  I couldn't sit still for more than 30 minutes and I had to get up and move around.  While in Phoenix, I set up sessions with both Heather and Darcie to try and get me right again.  All through this back/spine process it has been....once pain is felt STOP.  Stop training and wait it out, then start again.  Baby steps.

I arrived back in Colorado to very little training for the following week and then back on a plane.  This time heading towards Cabo.  I sometimes thought to myself.....WHAT AM I DOING?  Jessica couldn't make the trip with me as she took additional days off of work due to our wedding.  So I was heading down there solo.  On the anniversary of our engagement, on the same beach that I proposed and she said yes, a year later but this time alone.  

I made it down to Cabo but Bella didn't.  She decided not to make the transfer in Houston and I was now running around trying to figure out where she went and if she would make it in time for the race.  

My friend Susan was going to head down to Cabo to support me in this endeavor but suddenly I get the call that she is not feeling well and would not be able to make the trip.  Boy someone seems to be telling me something about this race I thought.  Wendy and I managed to find one another and spent the next couple of days registering, going to the practice swim and heading to the race briefing together.  

Wendy like myself, did not finish Cabo '15 and was also looking for a little redemption.  My back and my spirit just was not truly feeling this race.  Hurting my back a few weeks prior, my newly proclaimed wife was not by my side, Bella decided to take a longer route to get to Mexico, my dear friend Susan had fallen ill and was unable to also head down.  It just felt like things were not aligning for myself.  What was the universe telling me?  I shook this all off as I believed it was just more steps to take along my path to reach the goal.  I reminded myself that I can not worry about those things that are not within my control and I released them out into the universe.  

The day before the race a slight switch was turned on as I went for an early morning easy ride.  I felt great!  My power meter and Garmin watch were in sync.  I was getting my data, which did not occur my last two out of country races.  My back was loose as I rode most of the run course and towards the finish line.  Yes, I am here and I am ready I thought.  

Warrior Mode.  Same game plan as Boulder IM.  Take it step by step along the way and make your way to the finish line.  If the back hurts, not just discomfort, bail and live to fight another day.  BUT take it methodically and there should be no issues.  I truly was finally here.  I reviewed my game plan, my hydration/nutrition plan, my staying cool plan, my electrolyte replacement pan, my cleaning the sand off my feet after the swim plan.  I had a little mini plan for it all.  I dropped Bella off at TA1.  I dropped my run bag off at TA2.  I went back to the hotel and put my feet up.  

I prepared my fuel for the bike portion of the race.  8 hours of fuel in one water bottle.  An extra 1~1.5 hours of fuel.....just in case.  I brought it down to dinner with me and gave it to the waitstaff so that they could put it in the freezer over night.  By the time the race began and I finished with the swim it would be cold and drinkable.  It was oriental night at the hotel restaurant but in the corner they had some pasta.  I was able to put together my traditional prerace pasta with veggies and a glass of red wine meal.  

For a crazy beginning, this is really falling into place nicely, I thought and I went to bed.   I got a solid 7 hours.  I woke up fresh.  Stretched out my back and rolled my hips, hammies, glutes and quads.  I went and got some breakfast and started to hydrate to stay on top of the heat/electrolyte loss curve.  I picked up my fuel from the kitchen to see that is was only cold, not frozen.  I was a bit disappointed as it would then turn into a hot mess while on the bike.  Oh well.  I caught the bus in front of my hotel and headed out to the beach.  It was funny as I was the only one on the bus.  Damn Type A Triathletes, I thought.  They all caught earlier buses.

I looked at my Garmin and it was frozen.  My food is cold and my watch is Frozen.  Ha!  I knew it was too good to be true. I finally made sure my power meter and watch was all synced and now the brand new Garmin was frozen.  I began pushing every and any button but to no avail.  Finally mid way to the beach, it clicked and started working.  That was weird.  Oh well.  

The bus dropped me off the and sun began to rise over the water and horizon.  It was beautiful.  I made my way down to Bella.  Filled her tires with air.  Put my nutrition on her and just sat and prepared myself. It was so calm and tranquil.  I watched people race around me but that was not the space I was in.  I continued to hydrate, take in electrolytes and have some conversation with Wendy whose bike was just a few away from mine.  

The day was starting to heat up just as the 70.3 race began.  I changed into my speed suit and gathered my belongings to drop them off to the bus so they can be brought to the finish line.  One problem.....the bus had left.  I managed to get permission to put my clothes bag along with my TA1 bag.  No biggie.  Time to line up.  I put myself in the back of the 1:30 swim group.  I finished Boulder at 1:26 but this is an ocean swim with a little chop, no wet suit and certainly not the Boulder Reservoir.   The Mexican National Anthem played and then we began to make our way to the starting chute.  A year ago, I stood at this very same spot with my back hurting, wondering how was I ever going to make it and thinking perhaps the swim would loosen it up.  Today is a completely different story.  A little stiff but I felt good.  Down the beach and into the oncoming waves, I hugged the inside of the course and buoys and we were off.  Miraculously, I had counted the buoys prior to the start so I knew just how many I had that made up this rectangle ocean swim course.  The water was more clear than the year before.  My assessment was because there was a hurricane in the area last year the water and sand was chopped up a bunch more and the water was cloudy because of such.  Though I heard a lot of people say this year the water was choppy.  I truly didn't think that at all.  It was however very salty and I had to remind myself several times as I took in water to make sure that did not occur often as I would then have serious GI troubles.  Throughout the swim the inside of my mouth became slightly numb.  I wasn't sure if it was the salt or the jellyfish stings.  I did get bit quite a few times all over.  Nothing debilitating at all, but rather like pin pricks.  

I heard Eney's voice in my head about following a faster swimmer, much like how birds fly in a V formation  to save on energy and draft a bit.  I also thought that I'd use it so that I could keep my head down and allow the faster swimmer to site for me.  It is a bit of blind faith that you put onto someone else but I figured I'd go for it and continue to learn and grow as an open water swimmer.  I'd hang out with someone and then when it would feel like they were slowing down, I would shoot off of them and look for someone else.  At times I would also find that my lead bird was leading the flock astray and I would have to jump off and join another.  Buoy by buoy the course was going by and I was feeling pretty good about my swim, my hydration before getting in the warm water, and my game plan in general.  About 4 buoys left till I hit shore and it hit back.  My first real pinge of pain this race.  

Damn Demons got me even before I got out of the water.  I tried to stretch while swimming and loosen it up and/or just relieve the position I was in that caused the pain to return.  My pace slowed down and I allowed the flock to leave me behind.  I reached the shores and took my time heading up to the gear bags and changing tent.  1:33:41 was my official time in the water.  I was good with that.  Right where I expected.  Slower than normal but good for me on this day, in this location, in this physical state.  In Boulder, I had a nice tree to sit under and grass to lay out, stretch and ready myself on.  Here....nothing but sand.  Then I heard fellow Boulderite, Michael Lovato's voice over the PA.  Hey it's Marty Rosenthal from Boulder now out of the water.  I gave a few fist pumps into the air and into the changing tent I went.

I spent the next 18:46 trying to figure out what was happening.  I took my time getting ready.  There was no real place to lay out without getting completely covered with sand.  So I couldn't stretch my spine out like I'd prefer to.  Similar to Boulder, I brought a complete change of clothes for the bike to try and be as comfortable as possible.  Trouble this time is a pound of sand followed my feet and into my bike shorts.  That was a lot of fun trying to empty out.  I took care of my nutritional needs, got myself mentally prepared and thought.....let's see how long we can hang on.  Step by step to the finish line......or not.  As I got to Bella, I took another moment to assess the situation and see if I was truly ready for the next part of this journey.  Wendy then popped by, said a quick hello, grabbed her bike and was off.  I walked Bella to the bike mount area, got on and started to peddle up the hill.  Swimming and biking hills....the two biggest stresses for my back.  

Excellent Smithers....excellent.  

Let's just make sure you are taking it easy.  So I look down at my Garmin to see I wasn't getting a reading.  WHAT?!?!?!?!  Just yesterday it was fine.  How could it not work now?????  I got to the top of the 1st hill and got off.  This time I took a spare battery with me just in case.  I dismounted Bella and began changing the battery on my power meter so that I can read my watts.  A few minutes later I was back in the saddle but sadly enough for some wacky reason, I couldn't read any power.  Couldn't read my RPMs or the distance or speed.  Nothing but elapsed time.  It figured.  Away I went.  The first section of the bike is rollers followed by another up hill.  All in all I believe there is about 6k of climbing on this course.  There was an aide station approx every 8 miles on this course and that is how I measured my distance and would compare it to my elapsed time to try and determine my speed along the course.  I made my way passed the 1st aide station and I was hurting.  I thought it was a little too early to stop and get off so I determined that I would keep going.  I got to the 2nd aide station and was thinking to myself how am I going to ride another 95+ miles??  In Boulder I stopped about every 30 miles for 10 minutes or so.  Let me just make it to the 3rd aide station at 24 miles and we can see what happens from there.  The next 6 miles or so was all up hill and my thought was at aide station #3, I will be done.  They can call the course marshalls and come get me.  My day is done.    I got to the station about 24 miles into the race and just got off of Bella.  In my broken Spanish, I spoke to the volunteers of what is happening and I just sat down under their tent.  I asked them not to call anyone just yet and to give me a few minutes to see how I am doing.  That is when this small, round elder Mexican woman came over to me and began pounding on my lower back and massaging it.  This was the nicest thing anyone could have done for me at that moment.  She worked on my back for about 10 minutes and then I got up, gave her a big old sweaty hug, gave her my deepest appreciation and Bella and I were back at it.  The next 8 miles or so were downhill and Bella and I were able to fly through them.  There is more fight left in this dog.  Step by step.  I grabbed water and such at the aide station and kept moving.  Aide station #5 about 40 miles into the bike section, I was hurting again.  I couldn't wait till the 6th station as I had hoped and had to get off the bike.  I went to the bathroom, sat down and dumped a ton of ice down my back.  I was wishing I could have my masseuse from aide station #3 along with me.  These volunteers like in the aide stations before them were soo incredibly nice.  In my broken Spanish, again I would attempt to communicate with them and they were all just so gracious.  What to do?? what to do??  I realized that the hot corner of the bike was about 10K away.  "Hot corner" because the bike section of the race passes through this point 7 times and it is only a block away from the hotel.  I can make another 6ish miles and then I'll call it a day and so I peddled on.  I got to the hot corner and the crowd was cheering and rooting everyone.  It was a pretty cool site and I thought "How can I get off the bike and quit in front of all these people?"  and so I peddled on.  A short out and back and I was once again approaching the hot corner just before I turn onto the toll road for an uphill climb towards the airport.  And I thought to myself one more time....."How can I quit in front of all these people?" reply.....How can I not???  I made a promise to myself, my beautiful new wife, my coach, my family that while racing Ironmans for 2016, I would respect my back/spine.  I would respect my healing process.  I would tuck away my ego and live to commit stronger another day.  It was a year ago at this exact spot where I talked with Jessica and decided, I had enough.  My body, my back was done.  Now a year later, I stood at that exact intersection faced with the exact same decision to make.  The difference......last time, I gave it all and my back had completely seized on me as I was in bad pain trying to go on.  I have nothing to prove at this point in my life.  I am blessed in so many ways that I couldn't even count that high.  I am a 5 time Ironman finisher.  I've gone to 7 IM starting lines in 36 months.  I think because I pushed myself so much with my back last year, that is part of the reason why here I am a year later having to make that same decision.  To make this decision SUCKS.  Pure and simple.  It sucks.  I am not a quitter but I am smarter and I don't want to have to be in this situation ever again.  So is it wise to struggle up and down the hills of Cabo in this heat and push myself to a point where I may not be able to race strong for over another year or call it a day, take care of my back/spine, be proud that I had a fantastic Ironman race just 2 months earlier in Boulder and know that I am on the path to recovery.  I choose the latter.  So after about 55 miles on Bella, I got off, notified a race official that I was done and step by step made my way back to the hotel.  I changed my flight, my hotel and the car rental.  I wanted out  and wanted it yesterday.  The next day I packed my bags, went to the airport and headed home.

Cabo 2 - Marty 0  

We will be back Cabo....not next year, maybe not for 5 years....who knows....but we will be back.  #WarriorMode