Last February I decided to take on the challenge of competing in the Wildflower Triathlon, one of the nations most difficult Triathlons,which took place in May of 2006. The distance I would cover included a 1.5K (1 mile) Open Water Swim, followed by an intense 40K (25 Mile) bike ride and finishing off with a 10K (6 Mile) Run. I finished this race in 5 hours, since then I have continued to document my journey.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Week 9: Wildflower Practice Weekend !!!

Hi Everyone

I apologize for getting this out so late but I was on a business trip all week. Last week was amazingly fun on the training front. On Thursday we had track practice at Foothill College (typically we do track at Mountain View High School but apparently they had a scheduling conflict). We started off with a long meeting about the upcoming practice weekend and discussed many last minute details then of our honorees, Jim Delaney, showed up to practice and talked to us about what its like to feel like your body is literally freezing because of the chemo. He basically said that if we were cold at practice weekend to just think of the people we are doing this for and how they feel during their treatments. Wow...that was powerful.

After the meeting we started practice. We began by doing some running drills on the grass part of the track. We did some weird drills that I have described in earlier entries. These included walking on your heels and pointing your feet forward then out then in, walking on your toes and pointing your feet forward then out then in, some karaoke’s and skipping. Then we did some building runs which entailed jogging to the 30 yard line and sprinting the rest of the way. I know that I said this last week but its really amazing how much progress I have been achieving since getting off that medicine which caused my heart to run more quickly. After that we did some scary drills on the bleachers. I say scary because I am extremely anxious about hurting my ankles and we did a lot of hopping up the bleacher stairs on one foot. Despite my fear I think I did pretty well.

We then all proceeded to the track for what we all believed would be the end of practice but, of course, why would we have track practice without running the track. Silly us!!! We did a building run where we would run a lap then try to run a quicker second lap and a quicker third lap and an even quicker fourth lap then we cooled down and did it again. I have to share with you all how excited to find that I was able to not only keep up with the other runners but I wound up in the middle of the pack. I love this training stuff...all my hard work shows up in a tangible way. After running we stretched and I chose to forgo the post workout burgers and beer so that I could pack for the next week.

On Friday we left for practice weekend. We were all supposed to have taken half days so that we could get to Lake San Antonio while their was still light. Unfortunately, I had work obligations that did not allow me to do so. Fortunately, I was able to find someone to carpool with me because we were leaving during traffic hour and not having a carpool buddy would have tacked at least an hour to the already long trip. We made it to the lake around 9PM and I still had an hour to hang out by the camp fire and have some smores and beer before we turned in. Have I told you how much I love my Team In Training Group? Well...I love the group. They had set up my tent for me so that I wouldn't have to worry about setting it up in the dark. These people are AWESOME!!!

Saturday morning I woke up early to the sound of rain drops on my tent. Ugh...I was dreading the idea of biking in the rain but I new if it was dangerous they would cancel or modify the course. This option did not make me very happy either because I really wanted to know how the bike was going to go for me. As usual I was the first one up so I started making breakfast for everyone. Well...making breakfast only entailed boiling hot water for instant oatmeal and tea :-) We then proceeded to the lake where we did a strange mating ritual which we triathletes call putting on our wetsuits. This proved to be difficult since our bodies were wet from the rain and we had to put these tight wetsuits on over our tri-shorts. After several minutes of wrestling with the beast I finally transformed into a perfectly aerodynamic orca. Above is a picture of us before we entered the freezing lake.

After a speech by Coach Alfredo we proceeded to the lake in order of skill level. Oh wow...was it freezing. It was so cold that people immediately started hyperventilating. I couldn't put my head under water and had to doggy paddle for about 200 yards before I could actually breathe. I really didn't like the feeling and for the first time I felt as though I couldn't do the triathlon. Swimming is my best sport and if I couldn't do that well how was I supposed to finish? About that time is when I swam upon Michelle who was in a Kayak. She told me to Pee in the suit and I would warm up. "Are you kidding? You want me to do what?!?" She said as strange as it sounds that single piece of advice changed her life. I kind of chuckled at her and proceeded to try to swim around the buoy. After the long struggle I had experienced thus far...I finally decided to take Michele's advice (hey...if you were desperate you would do it too). You worked. Somehow I was able to warm up enough to complete some decent swim strokes. Who knew!!! Once I really got into my stride...BAM...I crashed into Yvonne one of my teammates. Wow...did we hit hard. We kind of laughed and hugged and then continued to swim. Overall...I felt that it was extremely difficult and I know that I am going to put in a lot of time in the bay before next month. I also need to buy myself a squid lid which is like a wetsuit for my head that will help to keep me warm.

After the swim we peeled off our wetsuits and proceeded to the bike. It was super cold outside and the fact that my tri-shorts were wet from the lake made it even colder...ok...maybe I wasn't as cold as those people going through chemo. I then began the 25 mile hilly course that would be my nemesis and friend for the next 2.5 hours. Look at this graph of what my bike ride was going to entail:

Here is a description of the bike course that is listed on the Wildflower website just in case you were wondering if it is difficult "The bike course is 40K (24.8 miles) long and should be considered relatively difficult." Agh..if athletes think this is difficult how would I feel about it ?!?! Since were quoting the site already lets check out what they say about the start of the course "Cyclist will leave the transition area to the north and proceed directly up "Lynch Hill" (a very steep climb.)" A very steep climb is an understatement...we were going to be gaining over 300 feet in elevation in just a mile. That's a 5% grade. Well...Lynch Hill proved to be very difficult but I slayed that beast. At one point I got off my bike and walked it a little but that was because I was going so slow that I felt as though I had no control. Once I got to the top I hopped on my bike and started an exhilarating descent. At one point I looked at my speedometer and noted that I was going over 30mph. Hey...gravity works both ways and my extra weight really helped me get down those hills and gave me some momentum to make it up the proceeding hills. The ride was awesome and I particularly enjoyed the fact that I was keeping up with some really fit people Although I have to admit it had a lot to do with not only the fact that gravity was helping me down the hill but it also had a lot to do with the fact that most people are afraid of picking up too much speed on their bikes. Heck...I'm going to take advantage of whatever I can. I have never seen so many flat tires in my seems like everyone was having problems keeping air in their tires. But my feeling is better during the practice run then race day. At each descent I was having a great time but I really felt my bike moving around. At the turn around point I realized that a rubber stopper was missing from the front of my aero bars which caused air to come in and really throw off the aerodynamics of my bike. That's when I was inspired by a stroke of genius. I grabbed a Gu Packet and proceeded to stuff it into the hole. Would you believe it really worked?!?!

The trip back was a little hillier and the wind really started to pick up. I was ok though because I had fixed my bike and the grade of the hills did not seem as steep. I made it without incident but my hands really felt the vibrations of the bike. I had tried doing the ride without gloves but I think during the real thing I will take the time to put them on. It was difficult to change gears when I couldn't even feel my hands. Overall the biking portion was a BLAST. I totally can't wait to do it again!!!

We then packed up for the day and were asked "If you had to run a 10K right now...could you do it?" Yes...I really think I could have. Everyone was full of energy when we got back from the ride. We pieced together a lunch and told war stories about our ride. That day I had such a positive experience that I felt the happiest I have ever been. I really think I could call myself an athlete now and not chuckle at the end. We had a great evening filled with LOTS of laughs and great campfire stories. Well...I use the word campfire in the loosest sense of the word. It had rained so much that day that the logs were soaked through. Berend was throwing everything he could think of in the fire to get it going. At one point he through a big corona box in the fire which did produce some fire but only for a bit. Fortunately, Sabine was there to save the day. She brought over a few dry logs which got the fire going. At about 10:00 we all proceeded to bed because there was going to be a long hilly run in the morning.

At 6:30 I woke to a beautiful morning. The sky was clear and the birds were chirping. I was looking forward to the run but in the back of my mind I knew that I had to be back at work before 4. Mark (a friend from elementary and high school) came out of his tent looking like he had a rough night. I asked him if he was ok and he explained that he had a really bad tooth ache. Since I had done the run before and was satisfied that I could complete it fairly easily I volunteered to take him home. I'm actually glad I did because I really wanted to make it to church. I couldn't imagine having such a phenomenal weekend and not thanking God for every moment.

Overall...between my time in the swim, bike, and my earlier time in the run I finished in a little over 4 hours. Not bad...I am a lot quicker in the run than I used to be but I hadn't just swam in the freezing lake and biked 25 miles so I think the trade off is more than fair. I now know that I really can do it and am looking forward to the race in just a little over 5 weeks. looks like I hit my goal but I would love to continue to raise money for such an important cause. I have to thank each and every one of you who have donated...the extra support really means a lot to me. If you have not yet donated to my Team In Training site I would like to ask you to still do so despite the fact that I have already reached my goal. Every dollar that is raised gets us that much closer to a cure.

Here is a link to my site:

Update on Ethan

SATURDAY, MARCH 25, 2006 10:54 PM, CST
Hi, Everyone!
Ethan had a very fun week playing with all his cousins who were staying at Papa's house while visiting (from Washington). He also enjoyed playing with Auntie Monica and "Uncle Stevie" (as Ethan calls Steven) and he enjoyed playing with "Gypsy Doggy", who they also brought along. Colin ended up on antibiotics for a sinus infection, and was finally able to spend time with his cousins starting March 16th. Erin also enjoyed all the time with the cousins. It was a very fun week!
Ethan's blood counts looked good on Monday, except his hemoglobin was a little low. We're hoping that number goes up so we can avoid another blood transfusion.
Ethan has been coughing a little the last couple days, but so far it's not slowing him down! Please pray that Ethan can avoid anything else that might cause fever, or that would interrupt his treatment course.
Some of you have asked about what Ethan's treatment involves right now, so here it is:
--Once every three months, he has a lumbar puncture with chemo into the spinal fluid.
--Once a month, he has chemo (Vincristine) injected into his port, along with his blood work.
--Once a week he has to go in for blood work.
--Once a week he has to take oral Methotrexate (a chemo drug)
--Five days out of every month, he has to take steroids orally (dexamethasone).
--Every night, he has to have another oral chemo (called 6MP).
--Every weekend, he has to take Septra twice a day (on Fri, Sat, and Sun)
This treatment is called Maintenance, and will be until about July of 2008, if all goes as planned. Sometimes adjustments are made depending on how his blood counts are looking. (Sometimes if his ANC is too low, they will hold off on some of the meds, or if his ANC is too high, they may increase the doses.)
So far, Ethan seems to be tolerating everything pretty well, and it's nice not to have to go to the hospital as often as we were! Please continue your steadfast prayers for our little guy, as we know what a difference they make!
Andrea (for the Marleys)


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