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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Perspective

Perspective is what you get when you've had time to be away from something for a while. To look back on it and ponder. I guess you could say that's what I've been doing for the last 2 months. Has it really been that long? *Sigh* Even with time passing, and perspective gained, there is still a sadness and a sort of depressing wishfulness attached to my memories of Ironman St. George.  I know I did my best...yet I didn't get to finish. I had an amazing experience...but it was horrible at the same time. People tell me they're so proud of me and that I'm an ironman...but I can't fully let myself believe it or take any praise. I know the journey is the reward. I truly know that. And my journey was AMAZING! And yet...no "reward" to take home with me. No memories of crossing the finish line and crying while hugging my family and friends. No medal around my neck. No memory of the announcement: "Jenny Crandell, you ARE an Ironman!"  Only wishful thinking that it could have been different.  I don't mean for this to be a sad post, I just simply want you to know why it's taken me so long to get back to blogging, and to tell you my story.  I was sad. I still am sad sometimes. But I'm OK. So...here's what happened, from start to finish. (Fair warning, it could be lengthy!)

Before I even left for Utah I was really emotional. I kept tearing up at every little thing. I was happy and grateful and appreciative and nervous all rolled into one, and that makes for an emotional roller coaster no one needs to be on! :) My students (did I ever mention that I had the BEST class in the whole world last year??) threw me a little surprise going away party with lots of cards, balloons, a basket full of great things, and a million hugs! I cried (see above re: emotional roller coaster), and they all promised to be praying for me and watching my progress online. Then that night my young women class from church brought me over a basket full of goodies and a big poster with notes all over it. Yep...cried again! I was just so overwhelmed with everyone's love and support for me. I knew that with all the prayers and well wishes and good thoughts coming my way, NOTHING could stop me from crossing that finish line. Not only did I not want to disappoint myself - I didn't want to disappoint anyone else!
My sweet class!
I got to St. George on Tuesday night. I was lucky enough to stay with Dan Vincent and his adorable family, along with Sarah Hankel (2 of the captains) in a really nice house he had rented. It was perfect! We checked in to the Ironman village on Wednesday morning, and I'm telling you - I sort of felt like a rock star. :) It was surreal in a way. A year before I had been there as a volunteer with the opportunity to sign up for a race that was a YEAR away...and now that whole entire year had passed! How had that happened?? It was definitely a different experience to be there as an athlete.  You get a wrist band that must be kept on at all times as your ticket into everything, you get your number tattooed onto your body (which sort of makes you feel cool when you're going around town because everyone knows you're racing in the ironman...you're actually racing in that crazy thing! And you deserve to be there...that's how I felt). I walked around looking at everyone else and wondering if they felt as nervous as me, and as out of place. I wondered if they were looking at others and then second guessing themselves like I was. I had all those thoughts, and yet secretly in the back of my mind I really did think there was NO WAY I wouldn't finish this thing. I knew I had trained enough. And I knew I was ready. But it was still scary!

During those couple days leading up to the race we didn't do much working out. We did go to the Sand Hollow Reservoir to swim in the water Wednesday and Thursday morning. HOLY CRAP! 56 degrees is COLD!  The first day it was really windy, so the water was cold and seriously choppy! Kind of freaked me out a little. But once we got swimming it was fine. My face and hands were certainly numb, though!

Dan, me, Vic, Tiffany, and Annie
 We got our bags that we were supposed to fill up with whatever we would need for each transition and special  needs area, and we did lots of talking and strategic planning as we filled those up.  Thursday night was the athlete's dinner, and they had a program prepared for us. It was fun to see the videos and be part of this HUGE crowd of athletes all here to do the same thing. The athlete meeting after the dinner kind of freaked me out a little with all the talk of time cut offs and medical needs, and violations, etc. But it was still a good evening.
Friday came, and with it...SERIOUS freak out mode for me. Up until this point I had not really been that worried, and had just been more excited than anything to finally get to this race that I had been training for for so long.  But Friday morning we had to have our bags completely packed and then turned in to the transition areas by 3:00.  Here is where it gets bad...I had been using Carbo Pro as the fuel I put into my water to give me calories and carbs on my long rides.  I had also been eating Clif bars and Shot Bloks as energy sources. They had started making me sick to my stomach, so I had been trying new things (which is a NO NO when you are doing a race of this size. You don't change ANYTHING, especially the day of the race).  I had never used electrolyte tabs in my water.  When I left to Utah I was flying, so I didn't bring the giant bottle of Carbo Pro with me because it didn't fit in my suitcase (well, it probably could have, but I didn't want to put it in there). I knew Troy was driving up with the kids on Friday, so I would just get it from him then. Unfortunately I didn't realize that I had to have everything already turned in to transition by Friday afternoon...and therefore, my Carbo Pro was NOT available when I needed it. I should've just bought a new thing, but it's $35.00 and I didn't want to spend the money.  So when Friday morning came around and Sarah and Dan had their bags completely packed and ready to go, and I didn't, I just freaked out. I started sobbing uncontrollably and completely doubting my sanity in even signing up for this race. I could not stop. I was scared to death. And I was unprepared. What was I thinking???

After quite a while I sort of calmed down and Dan told me I should just mirror his nutrition and use his stuff. (BIG NO NO ON DAY OF RACE!!!)  I had no other options at this point, so that's what I did.  I got my bags ready and we were off to turn them in to transition. We BARELY made it before the 3:00 cut off.

After that he dropped me off at the hotel where I finally got to see my family.  Insulindependence had planned a big dinner that night for all the athletes and their families, as well as our triabuddies and their families.  It was great to see London (my buddy) and her family!  They had awards for each of us, and it was really a nice evening.  My sister Dana came up to cheer me on, and she and I sang the song "For Good" from the musical Wicked at the end of the evening.  I made it through without crying, which I didn't think I could do!
London and me!





That night my dad gave me a blessing that all would go well with my ironman, and I said lots of prayers.  I didn't sleep A BIT. Not one single tiny little bit. I even took 2 melatonins...but it didn't matter. I was wide awake.  I had been receiving text messages and emails all day from friends and family, and I was feeling so loved and supported. It was great.

I "woke up" Saturday morning at 3:30 am, and I was surprisingly completely calm.  All the fear from the day before was gone. I was excited, and I was ready.  I knew all my hard work from the last year was about to pay off, and I could not wait!  We ate breakfast at the hotel, my blood sugars were good, and we got on the bus to take us to the starting area.  It was exciting to see everyone there getting their bikes ready, checking last minute things in their bags, and waiting in the LONG lines for the bathrooms! :)  (I made it JUST IN TIME to get my wet suit on and get in line!)
This is what the bikes looked like at the transition area. This was when we dropped them off the day before.

Annie (who finished), Dan (who was sent to hospital with BS of 600 +), and me before starting race

Touching up my tattooed number 197
Walking down the chute to the water with Sarah, Andrea, and Dan was one of the greatest moments of the day.  I was smiling and happy and excited. I felt great! (I was thirsty...really really thirsty...and that would play into the whole day going wrong, but I didn't know it at the time).  I took some drinks from Sarah's water bottle, wishing I had more, and then we were in the water.


I'm the one in the pink cap looking up :)

Since I'm a strong swimmer I decided to make my way up to the front of the group.  The water was freezing cold. Like 58 degrees.  But I had on my wet suit, a neoprene cap as well as 2 regular caps, neoprene booties, and ear plugs.  I was just fine!  I'm telling you what, though...NO ONE prepared me for the craziness of an ironman start.  HOLY SHNIKES!  I'm a strong swimmer, remember?  It didn't matter. It was CRAZY in there!  I was scared and panicky because people were ruthless. They just swim right over you, grab your legs, kick, elbow, you name it!  I knew this could happen, but I'd never felt that panic before. I decided I could let it get to me, or I could just keep swimming.  And that's what I did.  You literally couldn't stop because there was always someone there.  So I just swam as hard as I could.  When someone would grab my leg I would kick hard and keep going!  Soon I had a rhythm going in my head.  I had watched the video "You are a champion" on You Tube the night before, and every stroke I would say: "I am a champion!"  It worked. It helped me!  The only bad thing was that my legs started cramping up about halfway through the swim.  Especially when I would have to kick hard at someone trying to grab my leg.  It scared me because that had NEVER happened before!  I was trying to keep kicking while flexing my leg to get rid of the cramp.




I made it to the end, and I was 13th in my age group! I got out of the 2.4 mile swim in 71 minutes, and I felt GREAT! Literally...I wasn't even tired.  I wasn't cold. I was just ready for the next part! :)  There were people there to rip my wet suit off for me (which was awesome), and then when I got into the changing tent there was someone there who literally did everything for me to get me ready.  I ran out to get my bike, which they brought to me, and I was off and going and couldn't keep the smile off my face!  It was so cool to see my family there cheering me on, and my friends from Insulindependence. I loved hearing all the cow bells, and I loved being in the race.

The bike is 112 miles.  The first 28 miles take you from the swim to the bike loop, which is 42 miles, so you do the loop twice.  The first 28 miles I knew I needed to eat and hydrate a lot.  I had put electrolyte tablets in my water (which, remember, I'd never done before), and it tasted like grapefruit fizz.  I have a really sensitive stomach.  It doesn't like anything flavored.  It gets sick easily (and yet never ever wants to throw it up).  The grapefruit fizz was terrible! I was regretting that right from the start.  Also, I was trying to drink the fuel Dan had given me.  I made myself drink as much as I could...but I started to feel sick.  I made it to the loop feeling great, and only slightly nauseous, and still really excited.



I knew there were a LOT of hills on this bike route.  One in particular is called "The Wall" because it is so steep, but is less than a mile long.  Just before the wall they have an aid station.  I stopped there to check my blood sugar, and I was in the low 200s, which was just great!  I had made it up a lot of tough hills, and I was ready for the wall.  I got there and I made it to the top without having to stop and walk my bike!  It was HARD!  I almost felt like throwing up...but I didn't!  All the hill training I had done here was worth it.  I knew it was pretty much downhill after leaving Veyo, and then I would start the next loop and do those hills all over again.  I checked my blood sugar at the top of the hill.  87.  Woa!  That hill took a lot out of me.  I ate some fruit snacks, drank some more fuel, and took off.  I was really starting to feel sick. 

It was getting very hot, and my stomach was really starting to hate me.  I finally decided to dump my water with the grapefruit fizz tabs and refill it with different water, but unfortunately that flavor stayed with me for quite a while.  When I finally made it to the special needs station I stopped and got my bag, ate some of the orange slices I had in there, got some more water, threw out the water bottle with the fuel and just replaced it with plain water...I knew that was probably bad, yet I couldn't even think about swallowing any more of that stuff.

A little while later I made it to the end of the first loop.  70 miles down.  I was REALLY sick.  But just then I saw my whole family cheering for me and that gave me a serious boost! :)  I knew there would be times during this race that I would want to quit.  Everyone says that.  There are "dark moments" where you're sure you want to die, and you could care less about finishing.  But I also knew those would pass and I would have to fight through them.  I kept thinking (for the last 42 miles) that that was all it was.  I got excited after seeing my family and tried my hardest to just think about good things.  I knew I only had 42 miles left to go, and I WAS going to finish!  I also knew the crazy freaking hills I had ahead of me, and I was scared.

As I was riding away from them and into town it was slightly flat or downhill...and I was only going like 10  mph.  I knew that was bad.  My legs just didn't want to go any faster.  They also started to cramp REALLY bad.  Like, rippling legs, siezing up on me, really painful cramps.  I was a little more scared.  I knew I needed more water, and really more fuel.  I decided to stop on the side of the road and try to eat one of my clif bars.  I tried to throw up first, though.  I just kept thinking that if only I could throw up I'd feel better (kinda like when I was pregnant and sick ALL DAY LONG, but never threw up!).  Well, I was unsuccessful in throwing up, so I just tried to eat my bar.  I took one bite and did my darndest to chew and swallow, but I literally could not.  My mouth was so dry and this chunky peanut butter bar was just making it more dry, and my stomach was refusing to take it in.  A policeman came running up to me asking if I was OK or if I needed medical attention.  I told him I just felt sick, but was fine.  I was NOT quitting.  I just needed to take a little rest.  My blood sugars were just fine at this point, too.

I finally got back on the bike, and literally just around the corner was an aid station! :) I should've just gone a little farther!  But I stopped there, too.  I tried to go to the bathroom...almost fell asleep just sitting in there!  They were so great at all the aid stations.  Someone would hold your bike, give you water, pour water on you, clean your glasses, get you food...whatever you needed!  I kept wishing I could drink their Powerade or eat their Gu's, but I just couldn't!  That stuff makes me want to throw up and I already felt like throwing up!  As I left the aid station my aunt Lucy was there cheering me on. I told her I felt sick, but I just kept going.
Troy (and Cooper) cheering me on
The back roads on this loop are quite lonely.  Oh...and it was 95 degrees by this time.  The race started at 7 am, and it was probably 1:30 by this time.  I had slowed down drastically, and I was just trying to make it to the end of the bike so that I could walk the marathon.  And really, at this point I was afraid I wouldn't even be able to do that because of how sick I was feeling.  It was agony. Literally.  It seemed like an ETERNITY before getting to the next aid station (which is the one just before The Wall).  I stopped one other time to force myself to eat some honey stingers.  Then I just kept going until I made it to the aid station.  I did walk my bike up one or two hills, but other than that I just plugged along.
This is a picture of The Wall
 When the aid station FINALLY came into view I thought I would cry.  I wasn't the only one.  Athletes were just dropping off their bikes and laying down on the grass because there was a big tree which actually provided shade.  I laid there for quite a while.  I tried to throw up again.  No luck.  Finally I realized I'd better get going or I would miss the time cut off.  I got up to leave and literally thought I would throw up right there.  A lady brought me a chair and told me to put my head between my legs.  She got me water and cleaned my glasses and asked if I wanted anything to eat.  Nope.  At this point I couldn't even keep water in.  I would put it in my mouth to cool it off, then spit it out because my stomach didn't want it.

I finally got up.  I started riding.  I knew the wall was coming up soon.  When I got there 2 guys were there cheering people on and helping them have motivation to go up the hill.  I saw MANY people walking their bikes up at this point.  They yelled to me to stand up and do it!  So...I did.  I stood up and started riding up the steep hill.  They cheered like crazy for me!  And it really helped.  But it was short lived.  My dehydrated and cramping muscles just couldn't take it.  So I sat back in my seat, and then eventually I got off.  I started walking my bike up the hill while trying not to throw up.  It was SO HOT.  I was SO SICK. I didn't know how I was going to finish this race, but I was going to finish it.  Then I thought maybe I should just sit down for a minute, so I did.  A guy came up and said: "Come on, get up! Just keep walking. You can do it!" And he waited for me to get up.  So I kept walking.  I got to the sign that said 90 miles, and I HAD to sit down again.  I couldn't help it.  I had been trying so hard for so long to get out of this "dark moment" and it just wasn't working.

I laid down.  2 motorcycle sag people came up to me asking if I needed a ride, and I told them both "No. I'm fine. I just need a break, and then I will be going."  But, the next thing I know someone is sitting me up and pouring water on my  head and putting ice on my neck.  I guess I had passed out.  They asked me if I needed help into the car, and I just cried and said: "No! I'm finishing this race.  I only have 22 miles to go and then I'll walk the marathon!"  They were very patient with me, and very understanding.  They told me that I really needed to get into the car because my mouth was dry, I had goose bumps, I couldn't drink anything, I was nauseous, and if I didn't get in now I'd probably end up with heat stroke, which could be deadly.  They said I needed to go to the medic tent because I had severe dehydration and heat exhaustion.  I told them no.  Lots of times.  But finally, crying as I went, they helped pick me up and get me into the van.

I'm crying as I write this.  Because it just sucks, you know??  All that training.  All those prayers and well wishes.  All that time...and I couldn't do it.  And I had to call Troy and tell him they pulled me off the course.  I didn't call for a while because I was just too sad.  When I finally did I felt like a total failure. There were 5 other athletes in the car by the time we got to the medic tent.  And 2 other vans were full of athletes who couldn't finish for one reason or another.  All in all I think 600 athletes didn't finish this race (including the pro who won it last year.  I saw him pull out of the race).

Of course everyone was supportive and loving, and no one said they were disappointed in me.  I was just disappointed in myself.  I raced for 8 1/2 hours, which is a great accomplishment...but not as great as completing a whole ironman.  I realized that I was dehydrated going into this race.  I should've been hydrating all week, and drinking lots of electrolytes - but I hadn't been.  I also learned that I really need to figure out what nutrition will work for me because clearly using someone else's didn't work - and mine wasn't all that fine tuned either (since things were making me sick leading up to the race). 

I went back to the hotel and cried. I didn't want to talk to anyone, and yet everyone was calling to find out what had happened.  I got ready, and then went back out to the race to support my friends who were still racing.  Sadly, out of 10 triabetes people that raced, only FOUR finished!  It was a crazy day for everyone.  Nothing went right.  But the 4 that finished did awesome!  We stayed til midnight watching the last one cross the finish line, and it was a very very bitter sweet time for me.  I was so proud of them and so happy for them, and yet so sad that I didn't get to share in that victory.

So...that was my race.  Not the race I had hoped for.  Not the race I had dreamed of. And certainly not the race report I wanted to be writing.  However, one thing I did realize was that I WAS ready for this race.  I was able to do those crazy hard hills.  I could have completed it. And strangely enough, after I DIDN'T finish, I felt more confident that I could have finished than I did before I started the race.  I have to finish one of these things.  So, I'm racing in the Rev 3 Irondistance race in Sandusky, Ohio on September 11.  And I'm doing it with 6 other captains from triabetes!  After I finish that race, I'm going to hang up my 140.6 ironman hat, and just compete in 70.3 ironmans.  The half distance is awesome, and much more doable.  This year was hard, and it took its toll.  But it was great, too.  I just want to thank everyone who helped in any way. Everyone who donated money.  Everyone who sent me notes of encouragement and support.  Everyone who helped take care of my kids.  Everyone who understood why I couldn't be at some function or other.  Everyone who worked out with me.  And everyone who loved me and made me feel like I could do it.  I appreciate you all more than you could ever know, and more than my meager words can convey. I have gained a lot of perspective throughout this whole thing, but more than anything I have realized the amazing capacity the human body has to endure hard things (whether physical, emotional, or spiritual), and the amazing goodness of people. So...to everyone: THANK YOU.

11 comments:

Michelle said...

Everyone...EVERYONE has bad race days. You've had yours now. There is always another race. I have watched my friend Mike NOT finish Ironman twice now. He is doing it this year. And I will watch him finish. The first man I ever met who did Ironman with diabetes - his very first race of Ironman, he finished 15 minutes after midnight. See? Accomplishments and failures. All part of life. Come to Wisconsin!

jpnairn said...

Hmm,
I cried reading your post, Jenny, then I cried after reading this comment from Michelle.
Thank you for being such a positive force in the world, Jenny. Thank you for writing this account of your race, including so much of the internal and external struggle. I know I told you before that you were already an Ironman in my eyes. I admire you even more after reading this.

The Atomic Mom said...

Jenny, I know you said many times you were not the hero in this, but you are. You so are! There will be a next time, I'm sure of it, so don't despair, and keep on going! Even though you didn't finish, this is a very inspirational story.

Jen said...

Thank YOU for sharing your amazing story. Made me cry just thinking about what you must have felt like. The sheer determination is what kept you going. Like Jerry said you already ARE an Ironman in our eyes. Never doubt you let any of us down - cuz you didn't. I'm looking forward to following you at Rev3.

LanaBanana said...

Well documented. Even though it's hard to write and re-live, you'll be glad to have it as part of your history. And you'll be able to see your progress and hunger and strength. And when you're 90 you'll be like, "I DID WHA??" :)

azandersens said...

That made me want to cry. Like I already told you, it is an amazing accomplishment to even get to the starting line, and you were ready. It is sickening after all that preparation to have one shot with a bunch of variables (like 95 degree heat) that are completely out of your control. Can't wait to hear the story of when you finish the next one!

DianD said...

Disappointments aside, you accomplished so many amazing physical, emotional, mental pluses in that training that truly you are a champion!!! Love you, Jen-Wren!
Mom
P.S. Such a well-told account! I felt your pain, anxiety, joy, disappointment, fear,hope! "You will make it my child, I know!"

Allyson & Jere said...

Well thanks for making me all bawly. I cried all over again. I felt such sadness for you that day, can't even imagine what you felt. BUT, like we've all said, and will continue to say....you ARE amazing. And you did succeed in so many ways. Doesn't take the sting out I know, but you will ALWAYS be an ironman in my eyes.

Wendy said...

So many elements out of your control...yet you did brilliantly. It is harder to walk away without that medal than with it. I feel for you and the disappointment. Sounds like you have already dusted yourself off and are rebuilding. You will have your victory, you've already had so many victories thus far. Treasure those!

Christina said...

Jenny, I am a T1 diabetic and live in east valley. I can't even comprehend doing what you have accomplished! I'm inspired just knowing that you have 3 beautiful and healthy children. I have a hard enough time just keeping my BS up to go on regular walks and runs with my friends. The most I've ever walked at one time was 6 miles, and that was hard for me. I would love to go an all-day hike one day, like at the grand canyon. I was an athlete in High school and played Volleyball in College. After my second year of College my pancreas stopped working for no reason, I was 20. I've been T1 ever since. I'll be 30 this year and one of my biggest dreams is to have children. I would like at least 2. I also love to be active but have not been able to because of the constant lows I get from doing activity. You are truely my hero and I would love to be apart of even a fraction of what you have accomplished. Be proud!! Be so proud!!!

Sarah S. Foote said...

You inspire me with all that you accomplish. I miss seeing you and your family at church. I can't believe that we are moving back to the Seattle area in 6 weeks.