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and so it begins.....

and so it begins….

The beginning of another Triathlon season.  

Triathlon seasons are filled with finding the perfect race, getting the seasons coolest race kits, equipment preps, structured schedules, early bedtimes, even earlier wake ups, (o’dark thirty does not look good on me) race day nutrition planning and prepping, tapering, traveling, transition area set ups, pre race start jitters, crossing finish lines, medals, podiums and 5 months of relentlessly chasing your triathlon dreams.  

It is a season shared with hundreds of other triathletes who share not only their love and dedication for their chosen sport but their love and respect for their fellow athletes.  

Last year, while standing on my little towel in the transition area of the Lavalette Tri, I felt  overwhelmed and frankly a bit sad. There was a sea of people buzzing around me, sharing the collective vibrations of pre race energy, yet I felt completely alone.  

What a terrible feeling.  

I always considered triathlon to be more of single athlete sport, not a team sport.  Honestly, I am not sure why that was and boy was I wrong. The more events I participated in, the more I would see groups of athletes dressed alike, helping each other, walking together, laughing and supporting each other and I realized this is what I was missing.  

Last fall after IM, I was on the Medic truck flipping my way through Instagram (shocking I know), I came across this really cool picture of a triathlete in his blue and orange suit facing a sunset.  I clicked on the link and there was the application for new members and I thought they genuinely looked like great group of people. I filled out the application and patiently waited. I honestly didn’t know if I was going to be accepted or if I was even good enough to be a member of the team; Speed Sherpa. (www.speedsherpa.com)

November 2, 2018:  “WELCOME TO THE SPEED SHERPA RACING TEAM FOR 2019!”  

See, now the thing here is, I don’t make friends easily.  Not at all. I can be really socially awkward and quiet if I don’t know you and I am not very trusting.  Immediately, I noticed that this team is different. Somehow, it just felt right from the very beginning.  (Not to mention I look really good in Blue and Purple) I was immediately welcomed in and made to feel as though I was a member of this huge family of incredible triathletes.  My Speed Sherpa family has athletes of all types and abilities, from novice triathletes like me to the Elite. They provided me with inside access to the best resources for questions and concerns, training aids, proper gear and most importantly to me:  CONFIDENCE Coaching.

Speed Sherpa introduced me to my fellow Sherpa and an all out fabulous human, Kelsey Abbott (www.kelseyabbott.com) Kelsey coaches our team on our individual confidence, the power of positive thinking and the bane of my existence: SELF SABOTAGE.  I was actually kind of surprised that I am not the only person who deals with this. Lack of self confidence has always been a huge problem for me, forcing me to get in my own head more times than I can count.  Why am I not fast enough? Why can’t I do better? Why can’t I be as good as that other person? Why is it so easy for me to want to quit something I love so much and want so bad? The worst of all was I wondered if I was even good enough to be doing triathlons? On my first webinar with our team I was one of the first people to have logged into the Zoom app.  It was nice to be able to see everyone’s face in attendance and like every other class or seminar I attend I did what I usually do and kinda sink into the background and observe. It’s what I’m good at: observation and sizing people up.

Well.  Let me tell you.  Miss Kelsey called me right out on that!  She zoomed right in on me but didn’t do it in a way that made me feel uncomfortable, on guard or threatened.   She made me feel like I was reconnecting with a bestie from college I haven’t seen in a few years. You know that friend, the one we all have. The one that knows all of your strong points as well as every chink and dent in your armour, the friend embraces all of your parts and reminds you what an amazing person you really are.  That is Kelsey.

She made me feel like she knew every layer of the Tracy “7 layer cake” and everything kind of made sense.  She said to me…”Instead of focusing on how your doing something wrong, focus on all of the things you ARE doing right” I had to retrain my brain to only focus on the positive things I was doing right.  That’s a lot hard work.

After I was given some confidence coaching homework, our zoom meeting was over and we were sent to finish winding down our day.  I stood in my dimly lit kitchen and stared at the dark screen of my phone for several minutes processing all of the things discussed between my teammates.   Then, slowly but surely, the proverbial light came on.

One of the primary reasons I started this triathlon journey was to prove to my kids that with hard work, anything is possible.  I mean, realistically, my kids see me getting up 4 or more days a week at O’Dark thirty and going to work 12 hours shifts on a Medic truck.  They know I work a lot. They just don’t know how hard, or stressful it is because they don’t see it. Training for a triathlon allows them to see COMMITMENT and FOLLOW THROUGH.  Jake and Courtney see all the stupid early wake ups, hour after hour spent on the bike trainer in the basement, endless miles of running and swimming. They see my commitment to my chosen sport, they see that improvements no matter how small are made with persistence, consistency but most importantly they see FOLLOW THROUGH .  No matter how hard I fall, I keep getting back up and starting over. That is in fact, Life. In life when shit gets wonky, warped and generally bent out of shape: find one thing positive and focus solely on that. “Did you show up when you didn’t want to?” Kelsey asked me. “Yes, yes I did”, I replied. “Then that is your positivity, commitment and confidence in yourself shining through.”  “You just have to redirect your focus”. Damn, Kelsey, you are a ROCKSTAR.

In January, I took a fall off the bike trainer again. (Admit it, you just either rolled your eyes or laughed out loud.)  Without getting into too much detail, I can say this. SO MANY BAD WORDS. ALL OF THEM. I jammed up my right wrist and shoulder pretty bad.  Did some rehab and tried to push through it the best I could. Then, I finally broke down and went to the Ortho. Torn labrum in my right shoulder.  FML. No swimming or heavy arm use for a few more weeks. Guess what that meant? No Ironman, 70.3 in Virginia. W. T. ACTUAL. F.

It’s hard to mentally regroup after this shit continually happens.  The bike, which used to be my best and strongest suit, has now become my absolute worst after my AID diagnosis.  I had to dig deep and focus on WWKS (What Would Kelsey Say), dust myself off, rehab and find at least one positive thing to focus on.  I found three. I believed in myself, my kids and family believed in me, but more importantly: MY SPEED SHERPA TEAM DID.

With my teams help and support, I worked harder than I ever have to build up my shoulder and try to be prepared for my next race: IM 70.3 in Connecticut June 2.  On race day, I will show up for myself, my kids and my team. I now know that when race day comes, while standing in a sea of Triathletes...I will never again be alone, for I am a Speed Sherpa triathlete.

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Team Work Makes The Dream Work....

I am back with a literal and figurative point to prove.  After a humbling medical DNF in Placid, I came home to nurse my injuries and wipe the slate clean.  I had nothing but time while laying in bed allowing my spleen and ribs to heal to read, research, watch videos, read blogs and take notes on everything triathlon.  

The first thing I felt I had to address was my diet.  I considered myself to have been eating the “right” foods for my Autoimmune Disease, cutting out all things Gluten as I was allergic to wheat.  I wasn’t a label reader by any means, the extent to which I would look was if the packaging said “Gluten Free” it was fine for me to eat. Lazy? MMMMM, Maybe.  For the most part, I’m like every other single parent working two jobs it was time, distractions and everything in my life was fit into a neat little compartment, I didn’t have the time or energy to put into structured shopping and meal prep.  I was a linear thinker when it came to nutrition and “diet”. I knew I had to follow the rules pertaining to the food pyramid. Eat your veggies, proteins, grains and dairy. This stuff is mashed into our lives from the time we are small. As a child of the 70’s and 80’s there were no water bottles at lunch for us.  We had trays stacked up outside of our classrooms of those little red milk cartons that make the fantastic bubbling sound with a straw. Admit it, you just giggled because you did it too.

I opted a few years ago to try various, internet and multi level marketing promoted shakes. What a learning curve.  Every product I tried or was suggested to me was made in a lab, compounded into a power to be consumed once or twice a day.  Are these good for some people? Yes. Are they expensive? YES. Were they right for Me? NO.

For each new shake trial, most days I felt worse than I felt better.  It became cyclical for me with a combination of good days and bad days, trying to find that perfect “shake”.  Daily I wondered what I was doing wrong and why it was working for all these other people and not me?? The more I read and took I notes, one thing kept becoming more clear.  Eating right is not a “one size fits all” thing. It is a thing that is specific to each individual person on a cellular level.

Because, you know...SCIENCE.  

In September, 2018 after Ironman on my follow up post Spleen injury I was 5 feet 5” tall and weighed in at 155 pounds.  I thought I was in relatively good shape and kind of just resolved myself to the fact that this was my “healthy weight”.  I thought my Hashimotos was for the most part managed as well as my asthma and other AID symptoms. (Prior to being diagnosed with Hashimotos Hypothyroid with Autoimmune (Celiacs) I was 5’5” and 124 pounds in October, 2010.  At my heaviest before finding the right dose of TiroSint (150mcg) I was 178 pounds in April, 2011. 54 pounds. In 6 months. Holy cow. I looked and felt terrible.

The end of September, I bought the book “The Plant Paradox” written by Steven R. Gundry, MD.  It was the first time in recent memory that everything that was going on in my body made any sense. I felt empowered.  Shortly after, I called my Mom, Joan on the phone. “Hi, Mommy!!” “Hi, Baby!!” (Our daily greeting for each other. ),  “Mom, I know you already think I am a crazy person with the Ironman obsession, but I need your help” “Sure, what do you need?”  I began to explain to my Mom in detail this super structured, daily food plan and diet I needed to try. I got the usual “Your Crazy” from Mom but surprisingly it was followed by a “I think this is fantastic and I’ll do what I can to help”.  

I first had to address my “vices”.  I don’t drink or smoke but, damn do I like my candy and potato chips. I had become dependent on their comfort food feel on a daily basis. Dare I say, I was addicted to simple sugars and starches.  I went through my house and purged it of any and all synthetic sugars and potatoes. (I cannot confirm nor deny that I cried a little). Next came the grains.  They all got packed up and stored into the bomb shelter in my basement, along with anything that contained any Soy byproduct. (I genuinely had no idea that Soy is in almost everything)  This was becoming a labor of love. I love my chocolate, however I had zero idea that most commercial chocolate has soy in it. I spent 45 minutes in my local health food store reading the back of every label of dark chocolate.  Know where I found the best one? Starbucks. As much as I love my dairy, that went too.

Then, I proverbially sat back and waited to embrace the suck.  The suck of withdrawing from synthetic sugar and grains. It was hard, but tolerable.  When it got bad at work and I was stressed, I would immediately have a thought pop up to grab for a comfort food.  I was crabby and a touch irritable but it was tolerable. I refused to get on the scale. (I do this every morning religiously to keep track in my upswing of maintaining water weight) I began to follow a daily, structured routine of certain foods and started to religiously meal prep.   My Mom helped. She would help me with my grocery shopping, reading labels with me. Everything became about “pastured” meat and dairy. Makes sense if your allergic to certain grains, to stop consuming things that consume grains. I would come home, Mom would have meal prep suggestions and find the best prices on pastured chicken and beef.  Courtney then jumped on board. “If your doing this, then I’ll do it too. Maybe it will help my Crohn’s”. It became teamwork.

About three weeks in, I noticed it.  My anxiety level decreased. My clothes began to feel loose and I genuinely began to feel like I had some energy back.  Initially, I thought it was a coincidence between my spleen healing and feeling better. But quickly I realized it wasn’t.  

Mid October, I went to Labcorp and had my annual blood work for my thyroid.  Dr. Fomin runs my Vitamin D, TSH, T3, T4, Cortisol and Thyroid Antibodies. I went to see Dr. Fomin on November 8th.  Dr. Fomin is a whirlwind of an Endocrinologist, her office staff is incredible. She comes buzzing in shakes hands, sits at her little glass computer desk and asks me how I am doing as she is pulling up my lab work.  I state that I am well, I now weigh 142 pounds, however my hair is falling out and my anxiety level has been a bit off the charts at night as I am not sleeping well. She looks up at me and back at the computer screen and asks what I am doing different.  I explain to her my diet and all of the changes I have made in the last two months. I talked to her about my training schedule and how well I have been doing with it.

She comes back from around her desk and says…”Well, these symptoms are due to you now taking too much Tirosint”  Wait. What?! She said “Your Thyroid antibodies have come down 60 percent, you have lost weight and your numbers show your taking too much, so we need to lower your dose.  That is what is causing your symptoms”. She told me it looks like I’m well on my way to “healing” my thyroid. Gave me a Script for more blood work in 6 weeks and told me to call her after I get it done.  

You know that feeling you get when you WIN at something?  That was the feeling I had walking out that door that day.  

Eating the right food initially was a labor of love, it turned into a love of eating right.  It made me more driven than ever before to be the best version of myself. I committed 100 percent to eating only the things I should eat to give my body the fuel it needs to succeed in healing.  Two weeks ago, after two really long training days (usually adds two pounds of water weight) and 5 12 hour shifts, I got on the scale. Unprepared for what I was going to see. 139 Pounds. Oh. EM. GEE!!!  This morning, I weighed in at 137.5. I have never been hungry, I have no gas or gas pains, I have zero joint pain, my anxiety level is almost gone (minus the one or two pucker factor jobs I have had at work), the brain fog has completely dissipated.   I am back to my 03:30 am wake ups and two hours of training before work. The most important part is I feel fantastic and have a positive mental attitude, which is palpable to all who know me.

Teamwork, has made my dream work and for that I am grateful.  

Here is a one day sample of what I eat on the Medic Truck:  (Most of what I get is from either Whole Foods or ShopRite)

Coffee is life.  Medium roast coffee with one teaspoon of coconut sugar and some Organic Heavy cream from Pastured cows and 1 tablespoon of organic MCT Oil.

1 tab of AltRed

Banana with shredded coconut, chocolate flax and chia seeds.

“So Delicious” brand Coconut milk yogurt.  (The Key Lime is crazy good)

Raw, unsalted almonds.

Broiled brussel sprouts baked with avocado oil and pink sea salt. (I love snacking on these while on the Medic truck)

1 pan fried then baked chicken breast, with organic pastured fresh shredded cheddar on top and ½ cup mashed red sweet potatoes with kerrygold butter and pink salt.  

½ avocado or broiled asparagus

If I really am in a jam and need something sweet, 1 teaspoon Manuka honey.  (Keeps the bad virus JUJU away)

For 2019’s Tri season, I am now a proud member of the Speed Sherpa Nation (www.speedsherpa.com). I have an entire, national Tri family who now has my back. They help me train, keep me motivated to help me be the best version of myself. Feel free to read all about them and their mission on their web site!

Next week Denise and I get in the pool for the start of our training and my cycling classes at Cycles 54 in Wall, NJ start January 3rd...can’t wait to tell you all about our training shenanigans!  Until then, stay safe and be good to each other! ~ T

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How it all went down...

I worked last weekend on the Medic truck and by Saturday night, I could feel the burn of a sore throat looming on the horizon.  Sunday morning, my ear hurt and I couldn’t swallow so to Walgreens I went. By the time I left for Placid on Tuesday, I was having a hard time breathing and was coughing up a ton of mucous.  Travelling through the mountains was nothing shy of painful, I felt like my left ear was going to rupture. I started a vigorous routine of rinsing, Zicam, Dayquil and was leaning on my puffer pretty hard.  Walking up the twelve steps to the top level of the Wilmington house was painful and I was super short of breath. I locked in and locked on in every attempt to rid myself of my lung plague before the 9th.


I have a saying.  If something messed up is going to happen, it will happen to me. IT DID..  


While not feeling great and finding myself generally exhausted from fighting a virus, I was angry that I had made it this far without having gotten sick in months.  Such is the peril of working around sick patients, I guess.


My Mom and Dad said that if I chose not to participate in the 70.3 because I was sick, they were ok with it and they were sure that “everyone would understand”.  “I’m ok, Mom. I didn’t travel all the way up here to not do this because of a cold”. “Whatever you decided, Dad and I will have your back”. “I love you, Mommy.  Thank you.” “We love you too, Tracy.”


I rested all day on Wednesday and tried to purge the demon mucus from my lungs.  Thursday, Michael made me an amazing breakfast, we had our coffee and I went to walk to clear my head and see how my lungs felt.  I was winded easily, but I figured a few more days and I will be good to go. Sometime after lunch, I meandered my way to where I keep my equipment in the house and walked up to the living room to get on the trainer to spin a bit.


I got the side eye from Mike.  “You need to take it easy”. “I’ll be good”.  


FAMOUS LAST WORDS.


About 45 mins into me spinning, I was leaning down on my bars and felt the bike move.  Weird. Maybe it is sliding on the hardwood floor, I thought. I kept spinning. I felt it move again, looked down at my blocks and instantly realized the BACK of the bike was moving not the front.  A split second later, with no time to react, the entire bike slid out from under me, listing me up and to the left. My left side came crashing down onto the hardwood chair that was pushed up against the wall with nowhere to go.  I slammed onto the chair, which then promptly bounced up and fell over and on top of me while still attached to the bike. Michael came running over, trying to free me from being bound up in the trainer and chair but he couldn’t move me without me screaming in pain.  

I laid on the floor for what seemed an eternity, Michael was able to get my boots off and started slowly sliding everything away from me.  I couldn’t move without feeling like a knife was in my side and I knew immediately something was terribly wrong. I rolled to my left side, laid there and caught my breath then when I could, rolled to my belly and tried to stand up without vomiting.  After a few more minutes, I was able to get to the couch with some help and packed my left flank and back with ice. “Michael, how bad is my bike?” (For the love of all things holy, I know) “I could care less about the bike, do you need to go to the ER?”  “No, please check on my bike. I’m pretty sure it’s really messed up.” About 20 minutes later, Michael came in and said “Yup, the skewer is bent and the bad news is...so is your back tire.” Well, SHIT.


The messed up thing here is this: I knew how bad I was hurt and in all actuality, if any other person other than me presented like this to a Medic at that time, they would have been treated and taken to the hospital.  But, nope. Not ME. Like a complete jackass I was worried about my stupid bike. Then I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to compete on Sunday. Again. Well, SHIT.


When I was able to move a bit and the advil started to kick in, I called Placid Planet Bikes (a Specialized dealer) explained to them what happened and asked if I could please bring my bike in to have them assess the damage.  She clearly heard how upset I was and said to come right in. We made the trip into the village, I tried to get out of the car and I genuinely couldn’t. After a few minutes, Mike was able to help me out of the car and we walked my banged up little monster into Placid Planet.  


The woman who greeted us was the same woman who had answered my call.  She first asked if I was ok, because she said she could hear how upset I was, then ushered me to the back of the building so they could look at my bike.  They worked to fix it, but most importantly, helped to calm me down a bit. What a great group of people they are and I was super appreciative. We left with my girl patched up and ready to go on Sunday.  Me, however not so much.


I spent the next two days in and out of the tub, soaking in epsom salt.  Damn, I was miserable.


This was nothing shy of a bad idea.   


Sunday morning at 03:00, the alarm goes off.  I meander my way to the tub, make it as hot as I can tolerate it and dump in epsom.  I get dressed and head up for breakfast and coffee, Michael and Mel are already on it.  We pack up all my gear and take the 20 minute ride to the village and I have my way with the radio and my playlist.  “This is ME” comes on and it is turned up as loud as is tolerable and we all sing. It makes me happy. For a few minutes at least, I forgot how miserable I was and tried to enjoy the process of having my tribe with me as I geared up for this test of mental and physical endurance.


I laid out all of my equipment and wiped down my wet bike.  It was so damn cold, the air hurt to breathe. I laid everything out in order of use, put my wetsuit on grabbed my “morning bag” for whatever I needed to wear to keep me warm before I got into the water and headed down the carpet to a quarter mile to the beach.  


Everything burned, my lungs, my nose and with that...my back and side were unbearable.  I turned in my gear, walked over to Mel and Michael said my “I love you’s” and walked to the tent.  I hear the announcer say “This is the coldest start to an Ironman LP in history. It is 31 degrees out right now” WONDERFUL.  I waited for my wave and watched the pros walk through the entrance and disappear into the fog. Time to find my happy place….


A girl walked past me, frantically looking down and moving her way through the crowd.  I asked “Are you ok?” She looks up and stares up at me, visibly upset. “I’m beside myself, I lost my goggles, have you seen them?”  “No, I haven’t” “Oh my God, I don’t know what to do.” I said, “If you cannot find them, please come back and find me” An older gentleman turned slowly and shook his head, “that sucks”  “Yes, yes it does”


About 5 minutes later, she came back and said.  “I’m screwed, I can’t find them and they don’t have any extras”.  


Now, let me go back.  On Thursday’s check in before I fell we went down to the lake so I could take a picture of the Ironman rock.  (I know I am a freak with the pictures but it’s my thing) while standing there a little whirlwind of a woman comes down the path with a purpose.  She immediately starts up conversation (My kinda girl) and asks if Michael is doing the Ironman (She saw his tattoo) “No, She is” she giggles, we giggled, and we all talked.  She gave me some pointers, I helped her zip up her wet suit and showed her the easy way to do a surfers loop with the strap. As it turns out… She is an Ironman. Several times over, starting the sport at the age of 50 after her babies were all grown up.  She qualified for KONA….MORE THAN ONCE. This woman, of small stature was a legit badass and personified what being a triathlete was all about. She is a ROCK STAR. She left me with some positive reinforcement and a word of advice about the swim: people will swim over you, crawl over you, kick you in the face and head. Be smart about it, shove an extra set of goggles in your wetsuit to protect yourself and your ability to finish the race.  “That is fantastic advice, Thank you” SHe made my day, she made Michael’s, we took her picture to prove to her kids that she was in fact going for a swim, wished her good luck on Sunday and left with a smile on our faces.


“What do I do?” This young girl says to me.  “Here, Take my extra set” I reached into my wet suit and pulled out the goggles I had because of advice offered to me and handed them to her.  “Wait. WHAT? Are You serious?” “Yes, absolutely” “Oh My God, How can I get them back to you after the race?” “Don’t worry about it, just go out there and have fun and do right by me and finish”  She hugged me and I hugged her back and she hurried back to her group. The old guy standing next to me, turned slowly and smiled. He knuckled me up and said “I’m super proud of you, that was an amazing thing you just did”  “Thank you.”


It was now my waves turn to get into the water and I did exactly how I was trained.  I gave myself space, paid attention to who was around me and started my breast stroke to get myself to where I needed to be so I didn’t get trampled in the water and began my free style swim.  I had one of the best swims of my life. I felt strong, I moved past people and I wasn’t fatigued. I exited the water to hear Mel and Michael screaming “GO T!!!!” I smiled.  It made my heart happy. The swim after all, has always been my weak suit.


I came up to the carpet, started peeling off the layers and attempted to jog down to transition.  Michael ran alongside me yelling that I did great on my swim and like an affirmation of all my training was finally coming together I carried on determined to get to my bike and keep moving.  I couldn’t catch my breath, it hurt to inhale.


I got changed, got on my bike and headed out for the 56 mile course.  My left side hurt so bad I couldn’t get comfortable on the bike and holy shit was it cold.  It had only climbed up to 35 at this point and with wet hair and minimal clothing this was going to be a challenge.  For the most part, I kept good time until I hit mile 25 and something started to change. I felt like I had a grapefruit on my left upper quadrant, I was nauseous and couldn’t catch my breath.  I tried to stand up by felt like a knife was tearing through my flank when I did. Something was wrong. I came to mile 35 and finally decided to make a pit stop to use the bathroom. I couldn’t stand up straight.  A NY State Trooper offered to hold my bike for me, I thanked him when I was done and carried on trying to figure out how to get around this terrible pain I was in. Never in a million years did I think I was putting myself in harms way, but somehow I knew I was going to time out as I didn’t have the strength to push any harder.  


Mile 46.4.


The van pulls over and I knew I had timed out.  “You are not going to make the time cut off, you can finish if you want but we need your chip”  The Trooper who had been rooting me on for the last 5 miles stopped when I did. I unclipped and said, “No.  I’m done. I need to get back to my family.” The Trooper exited his car and said “You fought until the very end, I am proud of you” “Thank you, Sir.  I am actually proud of myself too.”

I rode back in the van with other athletes, some who got pulled because of equipment failure that was unable to be fixed, some because they were injured and others that this brutal course just ate up whole.  One of the riders stated that there were “dozens” of athletes who tapped out at the first “aid station” in Keene due to the cold. I thought to myself, I at least made it close to the end.


I came back into town, grabbed my items from transition and began the process of exiting the area.  I was met by my tribe and was so damn happy to see them with smiles waiting for me. I was happier to know how proud of me they were, I literally tried my hardest but today was just not my day.  “I’ll get it next time, this was fantastic learning experience”


We made our way through the mountains, back to the house and I went back to the tub.  See, here is where I knew I was really in trouble. I couldn’t get out of the tub without feeling like I was going to vomit.  I couldn’t expand my chest wall to take a breath, I couldn’t cough and I couldn’t lift my left arm at all. At dinner, I was crazy uncomfortable and getting more so every minute that passed by.  Then, the crushing chest pain, shortness of breath, left shoulder pain, nausea and sweating.


OH NO.  NO. NO. NO. NO. THIS IS NOT HAPPENING.


But it was.


Mel and Mike packed me up in the car and we headed to Saranac’s ER.  I was taken right in and evaluated. EKG, ok. IV, Aspirin, Toradol, IV Fluids, Zofran.  Physical assessment. Diffuse left upper quadrant pain, radiating to my left shoulder. “We need to get you to CT scan right away and take a look at your Spleen”.  Off I went.


To hear a Doctor talking about traumatic injuries while on the job is one thing, but to have it be you a Medic on the receiving end is something completely different.  It turns out, I significantly underestimated how badly I was hurt. I had bruised my Spleen and left lung in my fall on Thursday. The Doctor informed me that the Bike was not only really bad news, but the run may very well have been catastrophic as my already swollen spleen could have ruptured.   He gave me a look, and a list of things I needed to keep an eye out for and if they appeared to come right back in.


We were up for a solid 24 hours that day.  Longest day. EVER.


I spent most of the day in bed Monday, resting enough to be able to make the 6 hour ride home.  We came home today and here I sit. In bed. Resting. I am thankful that things didn’t turn out worse and that given time, I will heal and be able to start training again in a few weeks.  My body may be bruised but my ego and most importantly, my spirit is not. I have learned so much to this point about me, the real me, what makes me keep getting back up and trying despite my body’s best efforts to force me to quit.  Mostly, I have learned that there are so many good people out there who love and support me in everything I do. For that reason, I will pick myself up, dust myself off, get back on that damn bike and work harder to earn the title “Ironman”.


Stay safe out there and be good to each other ~ T



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I AM TITANIUM....

So, today I left my local Starbucks and headed North toward my Medic shift at JSUMC.  I was sipping my green tea and had a warm feeling on my right cheek.  It was the rising sun, My promise of a new day.  Even after 20 years on the Medic truck, the anticipation for what is awaiting for me between the punches still gets in my head.  I am still kind of groggy, this is the third 12 hour shift in a row. I haven’t really slept in a few days as much as I should have and today, I feel it.  I’m distracted with my own thoughts (so many of them) specifically, the bike course of IM 70.3. I’m still gun shy from my fall. I have been working on my hill climbs and getting comfortable being out of the saddle and pushing my non cooperative legs.

Suddenly, my attention is immediately drawn to what is coming over the radio from my iTunes.  “Titanium” I am a firm believer that when we need it the most, signs are thrown at us from the universe but most are too distracted by life to pay attention.  This time, however I was locked the hell on with all of my senses and I hear this specific phrase:

“I'm bulletproof nothing to lose Fire away, fire away.  Ricochet, you take your aim. Fire away, fire away. You shoot me down but I won't fall, I am titanium.  You shoot me down but I won't fall I am…”

Titanium.  Yes, I have it.  It’s a constant reminder of an injury that has prevented me from being the athlete I always wanted to be. That’s always been how I processed that song, reminding me of my own personal titanium.  Then I realized, wait. That’s not the song’s message. This song is not so much about titanium, but about taking whatever life has to throw at you and not letting it take you down. It’s about always getting back up.  It’s about perception versus reality. That’s it. Universe, I got your message loud and clear and thank you for the reminder.

Last week, I started the “taper” process portion of my training.  It’s that part you look forward to as you know the super long hours of training start to wean down, theoretically giving you some more time with family and friends.  The downfall of the “taper” process is loving referred to as the “taper blues” and apparently, I have a raging case of it. It’s hard to describe honestly. The easiest way is maybe to say it’s like the week before summer is over. You know the days are getting shorter and you have to go back to school and you grumble in anticipation.  I have come to rely on my pre medic shift exercise induced endorphin rush and I miss it terribly. I’m legit a crab and ball of stress.

Last week, I went through all of my pre race “to do” list.  Bike check up, pharmacy refills, supplement refills, things that are lost and or missing.  WHERE THE HELL DO ALL MY WATER BOTTLES GO?!?!?!  Ugh, Jaker and Ladybug that's where.

Most importantly, I went to the Podiatrist to make sure my feet are in good health.  I make it a point to take exceptionally good care of my feet since I broke my leg. I go every three months for evaluations and injections.  At some point over the last few years, I developed “Tarsal Tunnel” syndrome. If you haven’t heard of it, I’m not surprised, I had never heard of it either but let me tell you.  That shit hurts. Years of not running in the right shoes, hyper-pronating, not using orthotics and a totally different method of running post fracture lead to this. When you add to that annoying thing called AutoImmune Disease where everything is swollen and hurts and it makes for a miserable way to be.  

This week, I went to see Dr. Greg Clark from Jersey Shore Podiatrist Associates in Sea Girt.  He assesses my feet, states I’m doing a great job keeping my toes in line (I started to develop a bunion on my left foot in January.  GO GENETICS) and it looks like I caught them in time. He reviews what therapy I am doing on my feet and suggest some new ones. He pushes my instep and on the medial part of my ankle and I quickly retract in pain.  “Ok, it’s time for more injections. When is your race?” “The 9th. Oh My God, I just said that out loud. It’s coming!” Ladybug giggles. Dr. Clark says its perfect timing and sets me up. Then the manipulation and injecting a tuberculin syringe into the sheath of the nerves that are trapped and causing me to lose feeling in my feet.  This is miserable. I shudder. He says, “after everything your feet have been through, this is nothing” He is 1000 percent correct. He puts on my lovely little latex free bandaids, wishes me luck and sends me on my way. “Good LUCK! We are all rooting for you, we will see you when you get back!” Yes. YES YOU WILL.

I am TITANIUM.  Literally and figuratively.  

So after a minor pity party this morning during shift change, I got my shit together. I got a pep talk from Anna and Michelle my Medic Sherpa’s and started my day.  I have a 12 hour Medic shift and two wake ups before I leave and holy shit it's coming fast!!

I AM READY.  I WILL TRUST MY TRAINING.  I am, after all:  TITANIUM.

For those interested in following the incredible triathletes I will be sharing time with on Sunday, September 9th you can track each one of us through the Ironman Tracker app or on www.ironman.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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AltRed Ambassador!!

I have long been a huge proponent of exercising, eating clean and most importantly, eating properly for my autoimmune Disease.  I eat natural foods that help decrease the inflammation in my joints and help build up my immunity because, as a Paramedic I work around some pretty sick people.  

A few years ago, my Endocrinologist told me that when I juice, to juice beets as they are one of the best “super foods” you can consume.  They are loaded with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. What a mess to juice! On top of that, it goes everywhere, the smell can be a bit unsavory as well as they contain nitrates and some sugars.  

Having Hashimoto’s, there are certain things that when you eat them they become counter productive to thyroid health even making your medication only partially effective.  They are mercury, perchlorate and you guessed it, NITRATES.

About a month ago, I was reading one of my USA Triathlon magazines and came across an advertisement for AltRed. I actually read it and was immediately intrigued.  Beet betalains in a tablet?? DO TELL! I logged on the the web site and began fervently reading. The beauty of this product is they actually have the science to back up their claims.  Sur, the company behind AltRed took the best part of the Beet, the Phyto-nutrient and “unleashed” it from those nasty thyroid eating nitrates and the sugars. AltRed is naturally designed to increase your red blood cells.  This makes it easy for them to carry oxygen to your vital organs helping your endurance. What else? It helps to mitigate your lactic acid in your muscles to make it easier to go long distances without that terrible, “I’m starving for oxygen” burning feeling in your legs. This is what aids in quicker recovery times.

Does it really work?  Well. I bought a bottle, I followed the instructions and started.  On the second day, I noticed I had little to no fatigue on my run. Then, I noticed I had little to no recovery time after a three hour workout.  I figured it was a fluke, maybe I was just having a good day. (Having AID, there really is no such thing as a GOOD Day) I tried it every day for the next two weeks.  Not only did I not have any GI upset, but I had more endurance, my times improved and I had cut my recovery time by not minutes, but hours. This was not a fluke. This was the real deal.  Then I noticed something else. The inflammation in my hands and feet began to go away after the third week and haven’t come back. I am a month into using AltRed and I’m not looking back.  

My Birthday was August 23rd.  On that day, I was working the Medic truck and I got an email telling me I was invited to be an “AltRed Ambassador”.  I was over the moon. Being honest, forthright and sharing my story made me a good candidate they said. Basically, being ME.  Anyone who really knows me knows I don’t promote products or sell things. I just do my own thing. This time, however I am going to share my experience and trials with you and tell you this product is worth trying.  If you are interested in trying AltRed, click on the link and get 50 percent off of your first bottle. I’m sure you won’t ever look back once having tried it. I didn’t.

https://shop.sur.co/discount/TCONNELLAN-ALTRED

TCONNELLAN-ALTRED is my code.  

So, Now I will proudly be wearing the AltRed colors as I am now on team Alt Red!!  

T

 

 

 

 

 

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"The Seeds of Doubt"

In an earlier blog I talked about my doing a sprint tri in Lake Placid while we were on vacation.  Here is the back story to what could have easily been me walking away from the sport of triathlon.

 

 

My swim was rather uneventful, I took my time and actually enjoyed the process, something I have come to learn from some amazing athletes on a Facebook triathlon forum, Women For Tri.  I came out of transition and actually had a smile on my face. I walked my bike from the transition with a group in front of me and a group behind. Clip in the left, clip in the right and here I go.  About 250 feet in, I hear a female voice behind me. “Hey. On your left.” Me: “thank you” Her: “you need to get out of my way” Me: “OKKKkkkkkkk?” I could not have possibly been any further to the right.  Whatever, carry on.

 

Toward the end of bike portion, I was coming up to the top of the hill toward Main Street and my legs gave out on me.  You see, part of my Autoimmune Disease (AID) causes me to not feel my extremities very well at times. This is a dreadful part of my new reality.  I manage on most days, but this day was hard. I was tired as I had already done my run and swim circuit that morning. Mid crank, I could not get my right leg to move at all anymore, it was as if my body said, “That’s it, I’m done” and just gave up.  I fell, still attached the bike as I could not release my cleat fast enough as my legs were not responsive. Crashing down on the side of the road, I landed with my right hip on the edge of the curb and my head (helmet attached thankfully) and shoulder went into a concrete pillar.  My right hand blocked my fall and immediately swelled. Pain everywhere. Well, SHIT.

 

As a child, falling from your bike is like a right of passage, at some time in our youth, each one of us had scraped knees and palms as well as a mental note to not do whatever it was that caused us to fall in the first place. As an adult, however we all know that is much different.  Chronologic progression, I like to call it. (I refuse to say I am growing up, I am just chronologically progressing) As an adult when we injure ourselves, everything in our body immediately locks in, memorizes what happened and tries to prevent us from doing whatever “thing” injured us.  It’s a mental note persay. “The coffee table is there, please do not put your little toe into it again”. “”Dopey, your elbow is right there, so is the door jamb. Remember, It’s not so funny, that funny bone”. As a person who suffers chronically from all things gravity, I can tell you very bad, colorful words come from this little person on a regular basis.

 

When I fell during this race a rider behind me immediately dismounted his bike to help me up, saying “holy cow, are you ok??”  Two cars stopped on the hill to assist. I popped myself out of my boot, still attached to the cleat, pushed the bike away and stood up.  Immediately, after with now the post fall adrenaline surging through my system, I looked myself over quickly to assess the damage. Well. My favorite Garneau tri shorts are ripped, I can’t move my hip that well, right knee and thigh are bleeding and crap, I think I broke my hand.  Now, as a Paramedic we are rigorously trained to treat and correct life threatening illness or injury. This training is hard wired into our brains so it never has an off button. I think to myself “Is this anything that is going to kill me?” “NO.” “Is this anything that will prevent me from finishing”  “NO.” “Can this wait?” “YES.” The rider grabbed his bike, and says I’m going to ride back into town and go get you help, stay right here”. “No, thank you. I really just need to get back on the bike and finish as long as it works”. “Your bleeding…” “All bleeding stops eventually” (Insert smile here) He says, “You sure??” “Hell, yes, I am going to get back on this damn bike and finish”.  

 

I knew myself well enough to know that if I had quit and walked off the course, the seed of doubt would be permanently placed in my head and I would second guess over a years worth of training.  

 

I came back in to the transition for the run, Mel immediately assessed my hand. “I am going to finish, I don’t need my hand to run” “The Lion lights up, she says.  It’s showtime” “It’s Showtime” I repeated.

I started the run slow...EVERYTHING HURTS!!!!  Came up to the top of the hill and made the right turn onto the side street.  As I am now at a decent trot, I recognize a face coming toward me, one of two runners.  He sees me approaching, the recognition washing over his face. “YESSSSSSS!!!!!!!!” “WAY TO GO!!!!!!!!”  We high fived, had our moment and both kept moving. I turned to look back and noticed an “M Dot” (the Ironman tattoo) tattoo on his calf.  “Rockstar” I thought and suddenly, spontaneously I gained my second wind.

 

I ran to the top of the hill and turned that terrible orange barrel marking the halfway point.  “I got this” I thought to myself, looked down at my ripped up hand and headed down the hill. It was getting dark, twilight had set in.  Everything hurts. THIS SHIT IS HARD. I came down toward the end of the gravel road to make the left to head toward the finish line and turning off Mirror Lake Dr toward me was a girl.  She was looking down and concentrating. “Wait. I KNOW HER.” She looks up as she heard someone rapidly approaching her from the front...ME. Her: “Are you F-ing KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?!?!”  Me: “NOPE! Enjoy the rest of the run!!” I smiled and trotted toward the finish line pulling off some of my best run times to date post ankle surgery and AID diagnosis. I was so proud of myself.   The gentlemen I saw on the run, came over and said how proud they were of me for not quitting and what a huge deal it was that I got back on the bike. Initially, I agreed.

 

The next day however, was a different story.  I woke up, found the coffee pot and began the long arduous wake up process.  Then I headed toward my bike. Nothing really out of place. But was it? Physically, the bike was intact as was I.  Mentally, however… the seeds of doubt had been subconsciously planted. SHIT. Mike said, “we need to get you on that bike today.”  (By WE he meant, ME) “Not today, My hip is killing me” I took the day off. Then the next day, “I’m too tired” and “I can’t” every excuse I could.  The day before we left… My bike shoes were handed to me. “There’s no excuse today, your going” This was followed by many volleys of no’s, yes’s and a myriad of excuses.  I lost. Mike won. Lots of bad words. I would ride, then pull over, dismount and stop. Over and over for an hour. It was brutal. I am stubborn and obstinate. The session ended and I went back to the house with my tail between my legs.  PITY PARTY.

 

We came back to Jersey and I quickly transitioned back to work and Mom duties.  My bike loomed on the trainer, like a vulture awaiting my self imposed demise. Then the email came from Ironman for IMLP 70.3 with the bib numbers and instructions.  AWESOME! Hold, on put the brakes on. I read the time cut offs for each event that would lead to a DNF (Did Not Finish) and being pulled off the course. FULL ON PANIC MODE.  I called Mike shaking. I was not going to be able to do this. I was in full on freak out mode. And just like that, there it was: the “seeds of doubt” had grown into a full sized “I can’t do this” tree.  SHIT.

 

Since last week, I have had multiple conversations with fellow triathletes, both professional and non professional.  The resounding theme: “TRUST YOUR TRAINING”. So I showered the tree of “I can’t do this” with a healthy dose of “trust your training” and I hit my shit bricks hard.  Blocks of risers, intervals of hitting the “Hills” hard and learning how to come up out of the saddle with heavily cramped legs and hip flexors. Spinning. Intervals.  Spinning. Intervals. Hours at a clip. Run intervals. It has been a physical and mental reprogramming process. Any triathlete will tell you, this shit is hard, but what makes an endurance athlete different is how we are wired, it’s how we handle the hard shit.  Our “seeds of doubt”.

 

So now, I am digging up those “seeds of doubt” and liek caution, I am throwing them to the wind.  I am going to go out there on the 9th, trust my training and remember this one thing:

Every amazing athlete standing in the Triathlon trenches with me on that frosty morning has at one point, had their own “seeds of doubt”.  “It’s SHOWTIME”

 

Stay safe and be good to each other ~ T

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