usa triathlon

Prepared to embrace the suck...

Prepared to embrace the suck…

This past week has been a flurry of activity for me.  Work, Puppy, meal preps, laundry, school and sports for Courtney, preparing for Jake’s up and coming High School graduation and oh yeah, this seasons first 70.3 for me in Connecticut,  I am a hot mess. I decided to throw caution to the wind, show up and try to finish this race. I’m not sure, but I think my Mom is right. I AM CRAZY.

I am so underprepared for this race, it makes me nervous as hell.  I have been having intermittent bouts of mini panic attacks and full on freak outs, which are usually followed by an overwhelming feeling of nausea and “WTF am I doing this for” moments.  I decided two weeks ago, I am going show up and prepare to embrace the suck and all this course has to offer me and the other triathletes participating.

I went to my parents house last week after work, plopped myself on the couch like an overly dramatic teenager, kicked my shoes off and put my feet on the edge of the coffee table.  I threw my arm up over my head , leaned back and started to watch MASH with my parents. Now, normally this would be the part that my Dad would remind me that the coffee table was not the appropriate place to put my feet and to please remove them.  He didn’t. Weird. I could feel his gaze on my right side and slowly looked over at him and smiled, still waiting for the request to remove my feet. “Hi” I said. He reached up, scratched his head and said, “You know, Trace, You don’t have to do this race.”  “I do, Dad. I have to do this race.” Dad said: “But why? Why do you do this to yourself, it’s so hard!”

I paused for a brief moment, smiled and said “Because, even though I freak out, I actually love it, Dad!  There is a saying in triathlon that if it was easy, everyone would do it.” “I’m going to show up, give it the best I can give it and see what happens.  Even if I don’t finish, I still showed up”

“I guess that’s half the battle then…showing up.”

Yes, Dad.  Yes it is.

This past week, my Mom has helped me develop my on course nutrition (Almond Brittle, the recipe is in the helpful info links.)  I have trained with the Untapped Maple products and the brittle with zero problems and I’m confident it’s just one less thing I have to worry about.  I have watched all the videos on YouTube of the course and I’m mentally preparing to work really hard on the hills and not fall off the bike.  I have been swimming in my wetsuit in my parents pool, trying to figure out how the hell I can propel myself through the water with only one strong arm.  I have been doing my HIIT training and running intervals the best I can. I dropped off my bike at Cycles 54 this week for the pre race tune up and some new gear ( I actually bought more water bottles, GIGGLE.) . (http://cycles54.com) I did all of my food shopping and even finished most of my laundry.

Am I as prepared this year as I was for last year?  Absolutely NOT. Do I think I am going to finish? Honestly, I DON’T CARE.  I was able to coerce Ladybug and her Friend Ellana to come with me this year as my support crew.  Neither have been to a Triathlon before, sprint or otherwise, so what better way to introduce them then to a Half Ironman.  So, I purchased them some VIP tickets to give them the full experience. (I just might make a triathlete out of one of my kids)  They get to be up close and personal to all the athletes, the food and most importantly: THE FINISH LINE. I am so excited these girls get to experience the pre race electricity and see all these crazy talented athletes cross that finish line.  I want them to see for themselves that HARD WORK PAYS OFF.

Today, I pick up my bike after my Medic shift.  I go home, pack up my gear and go into decompression mode.  My taper blues is in full affect today and it’s making me a bit batty.  (I forewarned my Medic partner, Kevin today there will be no Shenanigan’s. FYI. There was nothing BUT Shenanigans today)  Tomorrow, we head up to Connecticut for our check in and enjoy the pre race festivities. Saturday, I buckle in and prepare to embrace the suck.  

I might have to conference Kelsey today to make sure I have my mental clarity, LOL.  (WWKD?) (https://www.kelseyabbott.com)

I will hopefully be able to blog one more time about my pre race adventures before Sunday.  Please think good thoughts.

If you would like to track me and the other Triathletes, upload the Ironman Tracker app to your cell phone.  My bib number is 2326. My Speed Sherpa Teammate, Jen Delaney is bib 121. (Jen is a legit badass. I can’t wait to see how well she crushes this course.)

Until then, stay safe out there and be good to each other.  T



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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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My "Do Over" September 28, 2018

September 28, 2018 was a new start for me.  Well. Not really a new “start” per say but more a “do-over”.  After my DNF at IM 70.3 LP on Sunday, September 9th due to a Spleen and Kidney injury I was allowed to start training again.  


I have to say, there is not much I am afraid of.  Legitimately. But this day, I was afraid. I have determined to this point that the bike has been and will continue to be My primary nemesis and now the pain it has caused me has made me afraid of it.  AGAIN. Well, I’m afraid of the pain, not the bike. I love my bike. The pain, I don’t love that.


After much discussion and back and forth with Michael for both the positive and the negative sides of triathlon, the decision was made to start training again.  Once I made the commitment, the fear set in.


I consider myself to have a super high pain threshold, especially after the break to the bones in my right leg in 2010.  The pain I experienced with this most recent injury is the most intense, relentless pain I have ever experienced. Relentless. Every minute of every day, asleep or awake, I was reminded that my Spleen was angry.  I had swelling on my side that was pronounced enough that you could see it under my white uniform shirt. I lovingly referred to it as my “Spleen Baby”. I was tired, sore, swollen, short of breath and generally crabby.  


To my fellow EMS providers that had to put up with me for those two weeks, I’m sorry.


September 28th, I suited up, stretched and headed out with instructions from Michael.  Start slow. 30 seconds on 30 seconds off, see if you can tolerate it and only do 20 minutes.  So I did. One foot in front of the other. Right foot, Left foot. Right foot, Left foot. Right foot, Left foot.  


Zero pain.  Like a child on their first day of school, off I went. Within a minute all of my fear and anxiety began to dissipate and I smiled and continued on. I finished, came into the house mildly short of breath and Michael asked how I did.  ZERO Pain!!


Then it sank in.  Eventually, I would have to get back on the bike and ride outside. Well, SHIT.


On October 2nd, that is just what I did.  I don’t know who was more leary, Michael or I.  Well, I think Michael may have showed it more than I did.  I hydrated, suited up, pumped up my tires and went through my gear to make sure I would have everything I needed.  Then just like that, I clicked in and off I went. At about the first half mile, the fear started to take a back seat to being hyper vigilant to my surroundings (at work we call it Situational Awareness).  My train of thought began to focus solely on the traffic, bumps in the road, animals and the smells of fall in the air.

At mile 5 I looked down saw how far I had gone and I smiled.  It was glorious. The wind in my face and the quiet solitude of just me and my bike, My little green monster.  


I’m not really sure at what mile exactly it happened, but it did.  The fear completely went away. When I returned home after 15 miles, it was clear to see that it had left Michael also.  It was like a breath of fresh air had entered our home.


So in the process of me attempting to finish my first half Ironman this past September, I learned a lot of new things and made a lot of new friends.  There is one in particular who I am especially thankful for coming into my life. You know that one friend who comes into your life when you most need it, like a giant hug from the Universe saying: “Here, I made this just for you!”.  Her name is Denise, she is Friends with Michael, they were training buddies for IMLP in July 2011, she had been following my progress all along and had a vested interest in my success.


Denise is an Ironman.  She has completed 5 full Ironmen over the course of 8 years.  Her resume also includes 15 marathons, two 50K’s, one 50 miler and a 212 mile bike in one day.  


Denise is a legit BADASS.  (if you ask her she uses the hashtag #usedtobeabadass.)  Denise has become my go to girl and my biggest support system next to Michael.  She is a Nurse, She is my Sherpa and I love her. Denise and I signed up to do a 70.3 together and train for it.  Our choice? The newly acquired IM 70.3 VA on May 5th. The rooms are booked, the entry has been paid for and away we go!  On a daily basis now we compare notes, training, equipment, diet but mostly, Denise shares her wealth of knowledge and experiences with me.


So, Denise and I have decided that we will set aside two days a week with our rotating schedules for our long runs/rides with one of the two being a rain date/alternate training date.  We may or may not have Michael convinced to do one with us!


WE will keep you posted!!  


Denise, Jaker, Ladybug and Myself will be participating in this years “2018 Stomp the Monster Almost 4 Miler” in Manasquan, NJ on Saturday, October 20th if you want to join!  No timing chips, just a great group of people running for a great cause and post race hanging out at our local go to place, Leggetts!

https://runsignup.com/Race/Events/NJ/Manasquan/StomptheMonsterSpooktacularAlmost4Miler#event-245946


Until next time, Stay Safe out there 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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"You're Nuts..."

Today I had a new partner as my most recent one has left me for Medical School (Yes, Ed.  I am still holding a grudge until you return)

While it was just for today, Art and I seemed to have an immediate understanding of each other.  Our Medic numbers are only a few digits off and we both have experienced what life is outside of EMS.  We enjoyed our day, we had great conversations, saw a few patients, had a lot of laughs and because of him, I actually enjoyed my first day back to work since July 24th.  This was a relatively benign for a Medic Shift in this area (Lakewood, NJ).  So it was an easy day to ease back into the Medic saddle.

For those who don't know me...I am a walking talking shit storm when it comes to bad EMS calls.  The Nurses at Jersey Shore UMC in Neptune always give me a side smile when I walk through the doors and say "we should have known you had something to do with this" It makes me smile at times and others it makes me shake my head.   There is a lot of pressure in my job.  It's a job where you usually only see the worst things life has to throw at another human.  Let's face it.  If you have ever called 911, it wasn't because something good happened.  It was simply a cry for help in desperation or something life altering had just happened. 

After almost 20 years on the Medic truck, I still call my Mother, Joan every night on my way home.  It has become our "thing".  When she sees or hears my name being announced on her caller ID, she always answers the phone in her very upbeat voice and asks "How was your day, honey?" There is always some kind of snarky answer or a long drawn out silence, groan or grumble. (Anyone who has worked in public service knows those answers can vary greatly depending on what the universe has decided to throw at us in between punches of the time clock.) You see, I can talk to my Mom of the things I see, hear feel and experience "on the job".  She understands pressures of the job.  After some persuading by me in the early 90's, she went through EMT school and found her passion.  She loved every minute of it.  But she also got a good taste of how stressful the job can be.    

Today, my answer to Joan was: "Relatively benign for a Sunday in Ocean County, NJ".  Mom giggled. (She does, in fact have the best giggle ever next to Courtney's). While chatting with my Mom and her giving me the run down of her day, she states: "Well, now you can go home, peel off your uniform, climb into your comfy's and go to sleep". I unwittingly let out a sarcastic giggle. "Wait. What?! Why are you giggling??"  "Mom, I decided to sleep in today 'cause it was my first day back to work so I have to do at least part of my circuit tonight".  Mom:  "You're Nuts!" Me: "Well, kinda.  Yeah."  (It takes a nut to know a nut, Joanie)

My Mom and Dad have always been my own personal cheering section.  There were 7 of us growing up.  With my Dad working so much to support us, she tried her best to get to every sporting event and cheer us on.  Now, at 84, it's no different.  When I post something about my Tri Training on social media, she always chirps up with a "That's MY GIRL!" comment.  I think she lives her life vicariously through me and my adventures, I don't blame her.  I have a pretty amazing life. My generation of female athletes is only possible because of hers.  She has taught me to recognize and respect that, I do.  I go on to explain to her the amount of pressure I have put myself under as I am 27 days away from my first Ironman 70.3 and I am in fear of not being able to finish it as my body hasn't been cooperating.   She tells me she loves me, tells me I can do it, tells me to please be safe and call her tomorrow during my shift at Jersey Shore.  "I love you too, Mom".  Sleep well, beautiful. 

I disconnect the call through the magic technological person called Siri in my phone and much to my surprise what is on the Radio? Under Pressure by David Bowie and Queen.  It's Jake's favorite song.  I have listened to the words for what could possibly be a million times.  I know them.  But I never really listened to them.  Until tonight.

"Pressure pushing down on me, Pressing down on you no man ask for
Under pressure that brings a building down, Splits a family in two, Puts people on streets.  It's the terror of knowing, What the world is about, Watching some good friends
Screaming 'Let me out', Pray tomorrow gets me higher, Pressure on people people on streets, Chippin' around - kick my brains around the floor, These are the days it never rains but it pours."

All of a sudden, I got it.  Pressure comes from all sources, both Internal and external, some in our control some completely out of our control (like my job).  My fear of failure is my own personal pressure.  It's pressure I don't need.  None of us do.  So yes, Mom.  I'm Nuts.  Im Nuts if I don't think I can do this.  So even though today is one of those days where EVERYTHING HURTS, I'm swollen and exhausted, I put on my sneakers, my beats and my flasher (a gift from Michael for when I run at O'Dark-Thirty in the morning) and I ran.  Only two miles.  I did it for me.  Most importantly, I did it for you, Mom.  I love you. 

 

Stay safe everyone and be good to each other. ~ T

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Well, here we go.

So let me start off where most people do.  With me introducing myself.  My Name is Tracy Connellan.  I was born and raised in Wall Township, NJ falling in at lucky number 7 of 7 kids.  I was not necessarily shy or quiet, just the kid who did her own thing, surrounded by Brothers and Sisters who loved me and taught me all of lifes lessons. I was the littlest one of our clan in both size and birth order.  I grew up busy, involved in sports of all kinds and suffered chronically from Asthma, which I to this day have to struggle to manage on some days.

I went to college, I travelled, I worked, I met a guy, got married, had two pretty amazing humans, Jake and Courtney (Ladybug) and got divorced.  Then, I met my Soul Mate, Michael. 

At some point in my 20's, I made the genius decision to leave my crazy good paying job at UPS for a job being a critical care EMT. I wanted to go back to school to be a Paramedic.  "Are you for real?!" My Father asked.  Yes, Dad, just trust me on this one.  My grandmother, Helen told me on hearing my news, "You know, Tracy.  Sometimes, in life you just have to jump off that bridge and build your wings on the way down" "Besides, God made Paramedics for a reason.  That reason is that they do things that no one else can do, ask Grandpa!"  She was right.  It was my life's calling.

I started my career in 1997 and put 100 percent of everything I had into it.  As a Paramedic, I wanted not to be liked so much as a person, I wanted to be the Paramedic that other Paramedics wanted treating their family.  It has been 20 years.  I have become that Paramedic and my Grandmother was right.  God made Paramedics for a reason.

My whole life, when things got bad, stressful or just all out annoying, I turned to running.  There is something to be said about running alone, It's just you and the road, some really angry music, feet pounding, listening to your own breath and plenty of time to fix all of the worlds problems.  I wasn't a great distance runner, you see.  I was always the 200/400 hurdles kind of runner.  Short, quick, explosive with a general point to prove.  I was little, but damn I was quick.  I had to work really hard to do distance.  It didn't come easy.  

In January 2010, I had a very significant injury to my right leg.  I fell out of the back of a moving ambulance on a CPR call.  Flying out of the back of the bus like Superman, I broke my leg in grand fashion, tearing all the ligaments and tendons in my ankle requiring multiple surgeries to repair all the damage.  I was told I would never run again.  

Well, Shit.

In October of 2011, I got the go ahead with a LOT of not so gentle persuading of my Surgeon to start to jog again.  RIGHT.  I am Lion, hear me roar, I'll show them!

I started out pretty slow but was able to get myself back to an 8:15 mile for those 5k's that I loved to do.  By December, however I noticed that was getting harder and harder to do.  I watched my times gradually creep up to the high 11's, eventually not able to finish even a mile on a treadmill without being completely gassed and in terrible pain.  What. The. HELL, Over.

To the Doctor I went.  "It's your Epstein Barr, It's active again".  No.  I knew that feeling all to well from college and having suffered occasional flare ups.  That wasn't it.  I kept going to the Doctor.  "Something is really wrong here.  I can't think, I feel like my head is in a fog all the time.  I can't stay awake, I only want to sleep.  My joints are inflamed, my hair is falling out, not to mention the chicken skin and rashes and...LOOK AT THIS EDEMA!.  Please help!" More and more blood work.  I was then asked to come back to the office to review.  I had a diagnosis: Hashimoto's Hypo Thyroid Disease with Auto Immune. The best part? I was allergic to Wheat.  Wait, no more hot bagels for breakfast on the Medic Truck?

Well, Shit.

I went from a respectable, healthy 124 pounds in October 2010 to a bloated, puffy and painful 178 pounds in February 2011.  

This is where my good Friend and confidant, Kate Palmer, APN from Jersey Shore University Medical Center came in and saved me from myself.  She set me up with an amazing endocrinologist, Svetlana Fomin helped me set up a meal and exercise plan and I was on my  way.  A few changes in diet and daily medication (switching from Synthroid which has a wheat coating to Tirosint which is a gel cap) and I was well on my way to being a brand new me.  

If it was not for Kate listening, guiding and most importantly believing me, I would not be where I am today.  (You will hear from Kate in a later blog)  I am going to listen to my body and rest now.  This was a long two weeks for me!  My Family and I went to Lake Placid for two weeks for our annual pilgrimage.  I'm Signed up for Lake Placid Ironman 70.3 on September 9th.  I got in lot's of Ironman training for 14 days! 

I'll tell you all about it in my next blog post.  Until then, Stay safe and lead by example. ~ T

 

 

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