Sunday, September 30, 2007

The original running pal- Joycie

In the last post I mentioned that I ran/trained with friends. Back when I first started running , I thought it would be a one-off half marathon and I would go back to my carefree days of beer-league softball, golf and couch potato channel surfing.

If you had told me in 2002 that I would not only have run that half but gone on to run a couple of fulls, start coaching others to run, and planning an Ironman I would have told you, you were insane. Well to be honest I still say the Ironman thing is insane but that is no reason not to do something anymore.

Along the way I have had the distinct honour and pleasure of running with lots of truly inspirational people and have formed some fabulous friendships. One friend is Joyce - my first true and oldest running pal. She was the only person I think that noticed I was even in that first half marathon clinic.

In my first half marathon clinic I was the slowest person in the clinic for a number of reasons but mostly due to some plantar fascietis issues. The clinic group would head out for the workouts on clinic night and the long runs on Sundays and I would watch them quickly disappear off in the distance and then settle in for a run where I would beat myself up for being so slow and would almost always turn the wrong way and get lost leading to me having to run longer than planned distances because I was trying to find my way back to the store. The one good thing about this was I got to learn downtown Vancouver and got over my fear of asking for directions.

Then one Sunday as I was settling in for another long lonely run one of the ladies turned around, saw me and started to jog back to me. When she got to me she introduced herself and said she would run with me. I told her that it was okay if she wanted to go with them since I was quite slow and did not want to hold her back. Joyce said oh no I am relieved that you are here they are way too fast for me. Was she just being kind - I will never know but I was truly grateful for the companionship and conversation.

We had a lot of fun getting lost together in the trails during the training for that first race and I cannot think of a better person to have run my very first half marathon than with Joyce. This is the same lady who I like to say "tricked" me into running my first full as well. As I was working through my foot issues she continued to progress to running full marathons, being a group leader for clinics and eventually even changed careers to become the assistant manager at the Running Room.

Without "Joycie" I know I would have never finished that first race, definately never would have done a full marathon, been invited to run with the gals when I came back from injury and I most certainly would not be where I am now - starting to implement a 2-year plan for Ironman. So I guess you could say it kind of is all her fault...

Thanks for turning around that day Joycie you showed me that running is not just about finishing but it is about supporting each other and can even be fun!

Peace out

Shaun

Friday, September 28, 2007

How it all all started...

How it all started? How did I get from a Softball team (an excuse to drink- team name Thirsty Camels...) camping weekend to planning to do Ironman in 2009? It is a pretty convuluted story but suffice it to say it can always be explained by the tagline - How Bad can it Be?

My name is Shaunene - I am known by most as Shaun. I set this blog up to share a little about my journey to Ironman but mostly to introduce you to some truly fabulous women I run and train with and possibly inspire a few of you to get off the couch and do something. My friends and I come from all spectrum's of life and all age groups some of us are faster than others, some of us are beginners, some are in their 20's, some in their 50's, some only run 10km, some do Ultra's (50km and over) but the one thing we all have in common is that we like an adventure, a challenge, to push the envelope, and to have a whole lot of fun while we do it. Oh and we never, EVER unless it is physically impossible quit! It is not about the time or where we placed it is about finishing what we started, supporting each other and inspiring each other to be all we can be, looking at task and saying How Bad can it Be? and then learning that it was pretty bad but we survived and then finding the next event or adventure and doing it all over again.

So you have heard that there is more than me here there are a group that is constantly growing and I hope to convince them to either allow me to introduce you to each of them through this blog and get them to share some of their stories and accomplishments by posting them themselves or me writing about them.

So to give you just a little taste of what I hope the spirit and tone of the sight will take I am sharing my story from my First Half Ironman - what I now fondly refer to as the "9 hour incident"

Maple Ridge Half Iron Mountain - the report.

So this is going to long winded but I need to put it down just because it has been a very emotional 24 hours and maybe this will cleanse my spirit.

If you go to the website and look up my name (Shaunene Neilson) it will read DNF (sniff) and officially I did not finish in the allotted 8 hours. I however, being the stubborn .... that I am did finish in 8hr and 50 minutes and got a medal to boot.

I woke up yesterday morning filled with anticipation today was the day after almost a year of training this was it.

The swim - the distance had been corrected from last year to properly reflect the 2km - but no problem I had been swimming 2km in the pool at least once a week for months now and I had recently been doing open water swims in my new wetsuit of the same distance so it was going to be okay. Within 5 minutes into the swim I was in trouble - I could not catch my breath - I thought okay I am freaking just calm down and you will be okay but nope it was not that I just could not catch my breath. I sounded like a 60 yr old 200+lb asthmatic man walking up a flight of stairs. So I thought okay calm down think! Flip on your back do the back stroke so that is what I did - good plan right - well sort of - I forgot to spot from behind so after I did an extra 600 metres I did eventually finish.... well behind the rest of the group but I was like it is okay you finished it, put it behind you and get on your bike. (turns out today I have a great hacking cough and some chest congestion)

I was not worried about the bike except for the weather component - did I forget to mention it was raining - not a fine mist - but a nice steady down pour - but no biggy I have ridden this course every Saturday for weeks (excluding the last week) and owned it. I know this course and had completed it in 3.5 hours previously in 37 degree weather so I thought bring it on. Well as I got to the first hill it was like lead in my legs - I had nothing, zilch, nada, zero and I thought ***** this is going to be a very long bike ride. Now why did I have nothing? Well you see instead of doing what I had done through out training and practicing I changed it up based on a friend's advice. This friend has done IRonman and a whole bunch of half Iron's and said oh know the day before the race just have a good breakfast and then soup and a bun for dinner. So that is what I did against my better judgement and knowing I was hungry all day the day before I the instructions to a tee and now here we are with dead legs starting out on a 90km hilly ride. Well no time to whinge just get it done. So I am going through the ride and thinking cripes could it rain more and then it did - it rained so hard it was bouncing of the pavement and then it rained harder, so hard I could not see out of my glasses (clear) and the wind - did I mention the wind - but this was good because I was so cold that everything was numb and therefore I could not feel it. Lots of fun careening down a hill at 40km thinking I should slow down and my hands refusing to work (LOL). So eventually I finished the bike ride and I am proud to say that not once did I stop or get off that bike - not once. At times I am sure I could have walked faster than I was pedaling but I stayed on that darn bike till the bitter end.

So I am thinking bike finished and now for a "quick" 21 km when the race organizer, comes up to me and says it is 6 hours in and I don't think you can finish the run in 2 hours so I am giving you a DNF and we are not going to let you go out on the course. My first thought - 5 hours on the bike - holy cr*p I new I was slow today but that is pretty bad. Then I looked at the organizer and looked at my husband and apologized quietly in my head to my husband for what I was about to do and said okay so I will show an official DNF and he said yes. I said well I am still going to do the run - I need to do this to prove to myself that I can. He was like but my volunteers will be leaving the course in 8 hours - you understand that- there will be no-one out there - that is okay I have a map in pocket I HAD to do this to prove that I could. He was like I can't stop you but you won't get a medal. Whatever it would just go in the bottom of a drawer with the others - no biggy - this is personal I don't need the medal. I turned to my husband and said I am going out, I am getting a DNF but I have to finish this - he being who he is said - okay and a few other things that did not register finishing with a get going.

It was at this time I noticed a bunch of friend from my past clinic I coached along with my friend I coach with standing there. Even more reason not to quit now - they had all driven out to cheer me on so off I went and my legs felt pretty good. So I am running down the road and 2 things happened I hear foot steps behind me and I am thinking cripes it is the organizer he has changed his mind. But nope it is my friends Cynthia and Vic and there are like hey girl we thought we would come out and see what running in the Ridge was like mind if we join you? At this time I shared my conversation with them about the DNF and told them that I would understand if they wanted to turn back to which they were like look we came out here to run and we need to do the mileage anyways so lets go (they are getting ready to do an 80km in 7 weeks) so off we went. Aren't they the best? Then it gets even more amazing at corner I can see a bunch of people yelling and sceaming with pom poms, pink hair and pink shirts - Pink is my fav color. It is more friends and past clinic grads and their shirts say (LOL) the Shaunettes - I just about lost it! Absolultely freaking amazing - god I love these ladies! And at every corner and volunteer station there were the Shaunettes - inspiring.

So we are running and I am getting pretty tired but my spirits are up from all my friends they know the score and are still out supporting me. On our way back I am fully expecting to see most of the volunteers gone and the aid stations packed up and gone but no worries with the traveling Shaunettes and their buffet of assorted sports food and bevs it is all good. But wait the volunteers are there with the Shaunettes - apparently they were calling ahead to each station saying you have to see these supporters they are out for the last girl on the course and so they A - wanted to see the Shaunettes (a few even stayed and rode in the car with them) and B) apparently refused to leave until they saw the crazy lady who refused to quit. I told the Shaunettes to tell the rest of the volunteers that I wanted them to get out of the rain and go home -I know the score and they have had a long day, we had lots of nutrition and a map and well the Shaunettes what else did I need. So then - too sweet - at each station there was 3 little glasses of gatorade and 3 little glasses of water on the side of the road.

Finally we are turning the last corner and heading back to where the transition would have been and am I just relieved that it will be finished when I notice that besides my husband, friends and the Shaunettes there are a bunch of other people - the volunteers and the race organizer. CRAZY! Joe, my husband, said they had just finished packing the truck when the Shaunettes had called and told him I was less than a km a way so they had all decided to stay! AMAZING.

I was so tired that I just sat on a log and started to cry when the organizer walks over and hands me a medal and says congratulations - Ridiculous! Joe says that apparently when the volunteers heard I was not going to get a medal they rallied and talked to him. One of the volunteers said congrats what is next? I was like this is it - I was thinking Ironman but after today - I don't know and then he did the sweetest thing. He came up to me and kneeled in front of me and said listen this is one of the most challenging hilly routes and the conditions were as bad as it gets (did I mention the thunderstorm during the run) and you finished it you HAVE to do Ironman. I said I will think about it but right now if I could have one of those ciders the Shaunettes are holding and asome of those potato chips I would be in heaven.

SO that's my report - it was not pretty and I know there are those of you who will say but you did not finish it in regulation time so you really did not do it and you are of course right. However for me and my friends and family I did it! I did it for me and that was all it was ever about - to prove to myself that I was not a quitter and that I could do it and I am okay with that. Will I do Ironman? I really don't know - this was incredibly hard but surprising physically I am feeling pretty good - better than I did after my first marathon. Mentally well I am working through the gamut of emotions - so I think another half iron needs to be done - this time I will hire a coach and not change anything the day before the race and we will see you - never say never - really How Bad can it Be? Lastly you never realize how special your friend, family and volunteers are and I am just thankful and grateful for mine - they truly are amazing people.

Thanks for reading.

Shaun - unofficial Half Ironman.