Monday, August 9, 2010


I am starting this blog out on a less than spectacular note in hopes that it can only go up from here! Some background info: I am a 20-something living in Denver having moved here two years ago. I grew up in Denver but lived in North Carolina for 10+ years before deciding to move back to be closer to my extended family. Like a lot of people, I struggled after college with what I wanted to do with my life. After working in a doctor's office for two years, I decided to go back to school to take pre-med classes and apply to medical school. I am now knee-deep in the application process. In the meantime, I work as an AIDS researcher along with doing medical transcription part time. My favorite things are my two dogs, reading (books and blogs!) and triathlon. I signed up for my first half ironman distance race (Boulder 70.3) a couple of months ago. Unfortunately, the race didn't go quite as planned and I ended up quitting halfway through the bike portion. A race recap is below. As for the blog title, I would ultimately love to run a full marathon someday. I also feel like my journey to (hopefully) get into medical school has been a marathon of its own.

Boulder 70.3 Race Recap
(As an FYI, his was my first attempt at the half iron distance after two sprints, two half marathons, and half a dozen 50+ mile training rides.)
The week before the race had been stressful as I had ordered a rental wetsuit from Xterra wetsuits six weeks prior to the race. As the week went on I got more and more nervous but was hopeful the wetsuit would arrive. By Friday evening it hadn't arrived and I basically began freaking out. I know I'm not the fastest swimmer and was hoping for the time advantage of a wetsuit if nothing else. The wetsuit never did arrive (looking back now I'm thinking I should have taken this as a bad omen). However, I had done a swim at the reservoir a week before and knew the water temperature wasn't too cold. Nonetheless, standing at the beach before the start of the race I felt like literally the only person without a wetsuit and seriously began to question myself. As we headed down to the water the announcer said over the speakers "I know I will see each and every one of you at the finish line". In my head I was thinking, "I sure hope so". The start of the swim wasn't as bad as I thought it would be- I didn't get kicked or shoved, etc. The water actually felt refreshing and I just tried to enjoy the experience (being surrounded by the Rocky Mountains didn't hurt either). It felt like the swim took forever but around the turns I could see that I wasn't the last person in my wave, so that was a confidence booster. Coming out of the water I felt great and ready to tackle the bike. I ran into transition and was in and out. After getting on my bike, though, I knew something felt "off". My legs felt like lead, my helmet inexplicably felt like it was choking me, and my head was pounding. I tried to shake it off and just try to have fun. After only a mile or so, though, I was struggling. For some reason both of my hands went completely numb soon after getting on the bike (after logging hundreds of training miles leading up to the race and having never had this problem before, I have no idea what may have caused this). It seemed like the next 10 miles were a slow steady grind. I was constantly getting passed. The few racers who took the time to say "great job" or "keep it up Melanie" really were the highlight of my day. I was hoping that the pounding in my head would go away, but it started getting worse and worse. It got to the point that I was wincing at every crack and bump in the road. Every vibration felt like my head was going to explode. My hands were so numb that I was taking turns having one hand on the handlebars at a time, trying to shake the other one out to try and regain some sensation. As it was I was having a hard time keeping hold of the handlebars at all. At this point I knew I was done. It was both a blessing and curse that the course was two loops- it gave me an easy "out" after the first loop, but I knew that if it hadn't been looped I would have tried to hold on for the whole 56 and ended off in even worse shape. As I got to the end of the first loop I could either go straight or turn right to the finish. As I neared the turn a police officer was waving me through to go straight, and it was so hard to make that right turn and have to say "no, I'm done, I'm quitting". I was stopped by a race official who took my chip and called in my number on his walkie talkie. As I headed down the road back to transition, it was demoralizing to pass all the spectators cheering for me, knowing that I was quitting. I headed back to transition and went up to a volunteer to tell her I had quit the race and ask when I could take my bike out. She said "Eh, shit happens. Go on over to the beer garden, it'll be a while". I took some Advil I had in my transition bag and sat on the side of the road for an hour before I could get my bike out and go home. Of course as soon as I sat down my hands and head started to feel better and I was questioning my decision to pull out of the race. Ultimately I know it was a good decision to stop when I did. Had I decided to keep going on the second loop, I probably would have had to stop eventually and call for help.

I am trying to learn from this experience. I know that my training had been suboptimal as most of my time leading up to the race was spent studying for the MCAT, which I took only thee weeks before. I am going to keep training and will hopefully put in enough training hours for my next race that I can go into it a lot more confident than I did for this one. Thanks for reading!