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.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Week 15: I am a triathlete!!!

Hi Everyone

I am officially a triathlete!!! After a 45 minute 1.5 kilometer swim, a 2 hour 17 minute 40 km bike ride and a 1 hour and 54 minute 10K run (walk) I have finished the 2006 Wildflower triathlon in 5 hours flat. A time that won’t win any races but it got me a medal.

This weekend was absolutely amazing and I want to thank each and every one of you for your donations, prayers, kind words, and taking the time to read (skim through) these sometimes lengthy weekly progress reports. Because of your donations the Leukemia and Lymphoma society will have $3060 more towards finding a cure to Leukemia and kids like Ethan will not have to go through the pain that he has experienced. Because of you I have been able to swim, bike, and run (walk) towards a goal that seemed impossible at the beginning of the season. The support that I have had over the past several weeks has been amazing and I cannot thank you enough.

Now for the race report…

When I got to Lake San Antonio on Friday morning I was blown away by all the people. There were tents set up in every nook and cranny of the park and amazingly fit men and women were getting in there final workouts before their race. After finding my fellow TNT Silicon Valley friends I quickly set up my tent and proceeded down to the festival in order to get my race packet. When I received my packet I confirmed that I would be receiving a silver race cap which indicated a 10:10 start (a full 50 minutes before the second TNT wave). I already knew this and had used that timing in order to come up with my pre race plan. After I got back to camp I noticed my cap was purple, the same color as the second TNT wave. I then hiked all the way back down to the event and was told that they had to put some people in the second wave because the first was too full. This put a major kink in my plans. I was pretty upset about this but there was nothing I could do so I tried to get over it. On Saturday I went back down to talk to the registration desk to see if I could get into the first wave and the girl gave me a silver cap. Now life was perfect again ;-)

After watching my long course friends take off on their swims I went back up to camp to rest up because my race was too be on Sunday. I pretty much spent all day sitting on my beach chair cheering on the Long Course people. I had so much fun!!!

On Saturday night we had a pasta dinner (the same thing we had on Friday) and we talked about how successful the 2006 Wildflower TNT team was in raising over 1.5 million dollars for LLS. A Leukemia survivor talked to us about what it’s like to be a survivor and an athlete then we talked about what was too happen the next day. During the meeting about 20 Cal Poly Triathletes came streaking through the area without a stitch of clothing. Wow!!! I was NOT ready for that. After the meeting I confirmed with one of the coaches that I would be fine swimming in the silver wave. I went straight to my tent and started gathering my gear for the next day:

I went to bed early and had a surprisingly restful sleep.

On Sunday I woke up at 5:30AM completely relaxed. I got dressed, checked and rechecked my gear, and started boiling water for myself and the team. After eating my oatmeal and banana we took a group picture and proceeded down to the transition area of the race.

The transition area was HUGE!!!

When I got there I was excited to see that my bike was to be set up directly in front of the Portuguese flag (a great omen since I am a proud Portuguese) and a Minnie Mouse Balloon. Between that and the fact that I had my rack number written all over my body I was confident that I was not going to get lost trying to find my bike. I racked my bike and set up my gear and then went to get my body marked (they put my race number on my legs arms and hands and then wrote my age on the back of my calf). After taking several photo ops and exchanging hugs with my team I put my wetsuit on and proceeded to the water where the race would soon begin. Between waves I went into the water and got used to the cold against my face. Way too quickly it was time to start the race.

I really don’t remember running into the water after the horn blew. The first thing I remember is getting kicked and pushed forward. After the initial shock wore off I tried to find someone to draft off of (a method of swimming closely behind someone who is my pace in order to use their wake to make my swim easier) This attempt was purely in vain because most of the people in my wave was just as inexperienced as myself and could not get more than 5 or 6 strokes without stopping or changing their stroke. So I chose to swim my stroke “long and strong with a breath every 4 strokes” I kept saying to myself. I quickly started passing several people, then several more, then people from the wave before me (indicated by their purple caps) then several people from the wave before that. The slow and steady pace strategy that I had decided on at the open water swim practice the week before was really paying off. Before I knew it I was heading towards the finish. I didn’t even have time to get tired. I jumped up and heard the screams of my team mates who were in the second wave. Hearing my name being screamed out gave me tremendous energy which helped me sprint towards the transition area while pulling off the top part of my wetsuit.

I checked my watch and started transitioning to the bike:

Coach Barney was beside me the whole time in the transition area taking pictures and cheering me on. I felt GREAT!!! It only took me 4 minutes to transition. I ran with my bike out of the shoot and jumped on when the officials gave me the ok. The first obstacle I was to face was Lynch hill. A 1 ½ mile 6% grade straight up. After about a mile I started to lose control from riding too slowly so I jumped off my bike and ran the rest of the way up the hill. Once I got near the top of Lynch I jumped back on my bike and took off just in time to hear the screams of fellow TNT friends who had either raced on Saturday or was there to cheer us on. I then got my first big downhill which I took at 34 mph. My extra weight really helps me gain speed coming down hills. That speed helped me a lot of the way up the next hill before I had to push and pull the rest of my way up. At one point I pulled so hard that my shoe came off and I had to strap it back on. I did the same for the next couple of hills and then came my favorite hill…2 miles of speeding straight downhill. I must have passed 30 people on the way down. At one point a lady from the Golden Gate Tri Club said “boy…your fast”. THAT FELT AWESOME!!!

After hitting the turn around point I proceeded the 2 miles back up that same hill. Fortunately, the hill was not too bad and I spun up the hill at a pretty good pace before it started to get really hard. That’s the point when I looked down and saw that the TNT coaches had chalked our names on the road. My whole focus was to get to the next name…then the next….then the next. Right when the hill got particularly steep the names stopped and so did I. I jumped off my bike and ran the rest of the way up the hill only to enjoy another speedy downhill. The rest of the bike continued much in the same way except I didn’t get off my bike anymore and really pushed up those hills. It got hard but the constant sounds of “Go Team” really helped me power through it. At the end of the last hill I heard the screams of my friends urging me to keep going. This was all I needed for the rest of my ride. I jammed back down Lynch hill as fast as I can and quickly ran with my bike through the transition area to get ready for my run.

Again…Coach Barney was there cheering me on. He told me that I rocked the bike course and I was one of the first TNT girls done (of course I did start in the first wave). I then proceeded to the run which quickly turned to a walk. This was a super hilly and HOT course. I sped walked up to my team mate Tamiko and we walked together for a while then we met up with Tom, another team mate, and walked together. Soon they became to fast for me and I walked on my own. I was never really alone there was always a great person to talk to. At one point I stopped to help a girl whose legs were cramping. After stretching it out she was better and I urged her to take Gatorade and water at the next stop which was a short ways away. We walked there together and I left her there to drink and stretch out. I then power walked all the way up 2 mile hill where I noticed everyone else was walking except for a 70 year old woman who was easily running past everyone. Several comments about her age and fitness were made. I joked that she must be retired and have all the time in the world to train where the rest of us have jobs ;-) This woman was my hero!!! It was so hot that every couple of miles there was someone with a hose to wet us down in order to bring down our body temperatures.

The constant cheers of fellow TNT team mates and supporters really helped me through the rest of the 10K. I was particularly happy to see coaches Steve and Harold towards the top of 2 mile hill and Berend and Nicolas at the bottom of another particularly tough hill.

Then there was the huge group at the top of Lynch screaming that I was almost done. I was able to get large amounts of energy from each and every person cheering me on. Before I knew it I was sprinting through the finish shoot. They handed me my medal and wet towel. It was over…I could at that moment call myself a triathlete.

The rest of the day I was barely functioning. Between elation and the fact that I was so tired and hot I could not even figure out how to pull down my tent and pack my things. Fortunately, Sabine (the Tri-Stud) had the wherewithal to help me. Once we were packed up I hugged and congratulated all my team mates and started the 3 hour drive home (but first to In-And-Out to celebrate with the team).

Overall the weekend was AMAZING and couldn’t have gone better. The website showed that I was disqualified but it had something to do with the swim cap mix up. My mentor, Berend, saw this too and had already contacted the race officials to get me of the DQ list. He was successful and the change was made shortly there after. He is the best Mentor EVER!!! I finished, most of my friends finished, and everyone had a good time. One of my team mates is still in the Hospital after being medi-vacked out and I want to extend well wishes and prayers to her but I hear that she is going to be ok and that’s what matters. That and the fact that the money I raised for LLS will help in saving lives. Thank you all again for your support and love!!!


Update on Ethan:

Tuesday May 9, 2006

Hi, Everyone!

Ethan went in for labs yesterday, and his ANC was above 1300, which is great! They went ahead with his scheduled chemo, and he started on his steroids that he'll take for 5 days.

Today he seems a little irritable and tired (he's sleeping in my arms right now), but he did have a lot of chemo yesterday, as he had the injection of Vincristine, his weekly oral Methotrexate, and his daily 6MP, along with starting the dexamethasone (the steroid). We would appreciate prayer that he would tolerate this week of steroids well, and also that he would have minimal side effects from all the chemo he's getting. This is still all a part of maintenance, but one day each month he gets quite a lot at one time.

I started training today at the hospital where I'll be working 2 Saturdays a month in Physical Therapy. For the next three weeks, I'll be going in three weekdays a week (for half days) for training. Today, all the kids were with Auntie Sonia while I was at training, and Ethan did okay, with just a couple 'meltdowns'. Thank goodness Sonia is very creative in distracting him, and also very patient! I'm praying that Ethan is able to handle all the other time I will be gone for training, as well as do okay while I'm working on the Saturdays.

Colin and Erin have been quite the troopers as well, with all the time I've been gone lately (CPR class, employee physical, paperwork, etc.), and have been busy themselves with Little League, along with Greg who is one of their coaches!

Thank you all for checking in on us!

Love and Blessings,
Andrea (for the Marleys)


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