Dec 16, 2007
I am always blown away by stories of triumph and beating the odds. I'm not sure if this stems from my own perspective of having spent weeks on end in the hospital many years of my life, unable to breathe, and thus having some sort of glimpse into the eyes of what it is like to not have control over your own body, or if I'm just a softy for the underdog. This week my inspiration comes from Mark Zupan, USA National Quadriplegic Rugby player, and overall badass. His book is called "Gimp", and the cover quote is; "When life deals you a crappy hand, you can fold - or you can play".
He is one of the stars of the Muderball documentary that I have previously mentioned in this blog, which is movie worth watching many times. It inspired me to go watch the local Quad Rugby team compete last year, and donate some money to their organization.
In Mark's book he says at the end of the prologue:
"But here's the bottom line: At some point, life is going to give you a swift, hard kick in the nuts. You can't control everything that happens to you, but you can try to understand it. For me, this has been just one of the many things I've learned in this painful, beautiful, crappy, exhilarating, stupid, rewarding life that started the day I landed in this chair - which I thought was my cross to bear, but was actually my salvation."
Now his story is not all roses and candy, in fact it is a lot of alcoholism and self reflection... but where he gets to in his 32 years of life is brilliant.
In the epilogue he says this:
"After my accident, I thought life was over. I was wrong. It was just beginning. We will all face hardship, pain, difficulty, and death at some point in our short stay on this planet - every single one of us. While tragedy can be a cruel teacher, it can also lead you to understand a truth and beauty that is much greater than yourself, as long as you refuse to quit. Even when you're feeling weak, alone, outmanned, or outgunned, as long as you are breathing, then you are still in the game. Because if a gimp like me can keep playing after everything I've been through, then anyone can."
Enough said, read the book:
And donate your holiday money to the Portland Pounders:
Nov 6, 2007
Oct 15, 2007
Sep 15, 2007
My inspiration for this week has been Lori-Ann Muenzer, who won a gold medal in the 2004 olympics in track bike racing, at the awesome age of 38 years old. Her book "one gear, no brakes", is fantastic, and really speaks about what it is like being an outcast in the sports and biking world. She talks about being older, being a bigger person, being isolated, without funding, and with very little support. It was a long road to a gold medal, and a very moving one. She comes highly recommended by me, and she is CANADIAN! yeah!
Sep 4, 2007
I have also come to realize that this is my calling, and this is my community.... this is where i belong. The Ironman is an experience and a world, not just a race, and everything little horrible and wonderful thing about it clicked with me in the end, and came together full circle. Having had asthma my whole life, i never thought i could be an athlete... and i always wanted to be. Sports were always about winning, and who is best, and cheer for the champion, and we all want Lance Armstrong to win the Tour, and it doesn't matter about the other million athletes who have worked just as hard to ride their bikes in France..... The Ironman is not like that. Everyone is celebrated, everyone is cheered, everyone gets the red carpet. Those who finish last get more support than those who finish first... the goal is just to finish, not to win. What other sports are like that? This is what i am talking about!
A quote i have up at work fits perfectly for this race:
If you had fun, you won.
Enough said, i won.
Aug 30, 2007
Rather than tell you how I swam 2.4 miles, biked 112 miles and then ran 26.2 miles all in a row, in a total of 15 hours and 33 minutes, I thought it would be more fitting to share my favorite Ironman moments. The race report would basically say just that: I swam, 2.4 miles, biked 112 and ran 26.2, and crossed the finish line before the cut off time. The inspirational and hilarious moments are what really bring it all together. The whole experience, including the year or more of training, to me is what makes up an Ironman. It’s a long, committed, moving, and social yet independent race.
Section one, PRE RACE:
I started to collect paranoia stories from other competitors in the two weeks prior to the race, because everyone had some quirk that was playing out in their lives relating to being afraid of not making it to the starting line of the race, for whatever reason, after this whole hard year of training. My favorite paranoia being played out is still one of the first ones I heard, from my training buddy Deb. She works in the IT department of a big law firm, and her job is to help the employees with their computers. Well, for the last two weeks before the race, Deb decided she was not going to touch anyone else’s computer, mouse, keyboard, screen, hard drive, etc., for fear of getting germs, and thus getting sick before the race. How she managed to not touch anyone’s computers and still keep her job for two weeks is still a mystery to me, and the looks she must have gotten from the employees when she explained why she wouldn’t do it must have been hilarious.
Another thought I had was that other people also must have odd things they were thinking of doing during the race since I was planning on putting an iced soy latte for myself at mile 13 on the run, I started asking other’s what their race day quirks were as well. Sorella Karen wins that prize, when her answer to me was: “You are going to think this is really funny, but I don’t think I can make it through the whole race without brushing my hair”. She wasn’t sure if she was going to brush her hair after the bike and before the run, or during the run when her husband would hand her the brush, so as not to waste any time. I have yet to ask her which method she went with! Robert wins the runner up prize, when he told me he was going to put a single use packet of chamois cream, or “butt butter” as I call it, in his little bento box (snack box) on the top tube of his bike. I asked him if he thus was planning on putting butt cream down his lycra cycling shorts while he was riding his bike, to which he responded that he wasn’t quite sure how that was going to pan out.
The last pre race moment I will share was one that happened in the carbo load pre race athlete banquet, where over 4000 athletes and guests landed themselves in the
Section two, GOOD RACE OMENS:
Getting to the starting line of an Ironman is like working through a really hard calculus problem, there are a million and one steps, and you always forget at least one of them. It is nerve racking. Having passed most of the steps I made it into the transition area where I could check my bike tires and put on my wetsuit, and ended up walking with Jasper Blake, the winner of last year’s Ironman. I had met him a couple months earlier in Portland at a talk he gave, and we had chatted about how moving last years race was when he won and his mom was wheeled out in the finish line to great him in her wheelchair and she just started crying… as I was standing right next to her at that moment, volunteering at the finish line, I too simply started crying. So when I saw Jasper right before the race, I thought that was a good omen and we started to chat. A bit into our conversation I looked at him and suddenly said “OH SHIT!”, and he said “what is it?”.. and I had left my aero bottle full of my Gleukos drink for the ride, in the hands of my dad who was long lost in the crowds. Jasper looked at me and calmly told me it would be ok, I should calm down and that I was going to have a great race and told me to give him a hug, and that everything would be just fine. I figured a hug and some peace from last year’s winner was more than enough to at least get me across the finish line, and from then on out through the day, I had nothing but confidence. I considered this good race omen number one.
The woman who’s bike was racked right next to mine had the last name Zahn, and we exchanged a few words about having the same name, sort of, and I said to her; “Well Ms. Zahn, have an awesome race”… and after that I saw her at least four more times during the race, which is unheard of in a field of almost 3000 racers, I considered this good omen number two, and I yelled positive things to her every time I saw her.
As I exited the swim I checked my watch and noticed I had the fastest and best swim of my life, and was more than thrilled as I ran up to grab my bike bag. Someone nicely patted me on the back as I ran to my bag in that “way to go” kind of way, and I turned and it was Deb! Of almost 3000 racers, we somehow exited the swim at the exact same time, and I considered that good race omen number 3.
Somewhere up the first major pass, Richter, I noticed some chalk on the cement barrier that read in huge letters “TRUST YOUR TRAINING”. This is something that Deb has said to me many times, and is meant to encourage you to believe in yourself on race day. It was at this moment on the course that I realized not only do I know how to do this, but that this is the best day of my life. This is day that all that training comes back as one big reward, and I smiled the entire day. Good omen number 4.
The next one needs a little preface. My whole family loved (and maybe still loves) Bon Jovi back in their glory days, thanks to my teenage obsession with them, I think I just played them enough that everyone eventually gave in and loved them as well. When I got my new fancier phone just a few weeks ago, the first thing I did was get Living on a Prayer by Bon Jovi downloaded to be my ring tone. Sweet. This Ironman was definitly a race for me, my Mom, who is no longer here, my sister who couldn’t make it to the race, and my Dad and his wife Jay would were my support crew and patiently watching the whole thing. My Dad, Jay and I had driven part of the bike course before the race, and turned around at what I called “The Bear”, which was a fruit stand that for whatever reason had a giant wooden bear coming out of the hillside. When I got to this point on the bike course during the race, I immediately smiled at knowing this part of the course, and recognizing the bear. As I pass the spectators at this fruit stand, I hear none other than Bon Jovi’s living on a prayer being blasted from one of the spectators trucks, at which point I yelled as I was biking “YEAH BON JOVI!”.. and happily biked up the second major pass to yellow lake. Good race omen number 5.
As I finished the bike course and entered the transition zone to begin my run, I heard the music that was blasting at the finish line right next to the transition zone, and it was none other than yep, Living on a Prayer by Bon Jovi…. Blasting for me as I grab my run bag and switch into the last leg of the race. I couldn’t believe my fate! Good race omen #6.
The last good race omen, #7, came a mile into the run course when I ran passed my Dad and Jay who were waiting out front of our hotel, which was right on the course, and my Dad handed me his cell phone as I ran passed, and it was my sister on the phone! We were able to chat as I ran for a few minutes, before I reached the nearby turn around and then gave the phone back to my Dad before I ran off into the marathon. It was a real treat to see my family and talk to my sister all at once!
Section three; POST RACE:
There is nothing in my life that will ever compare to running through that finish line on my first Ironman. With my arms in the air I ran through that finishers tape and didn’t hear my Dad and Jay screaming and cheering, nor did I hear the announcer say “ZAN GIBBS, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”, and I only know he said that because I asked my family. I was so focused on that finish line, nothing else registered.
The awards banquet the next day was extremely moving at times, bringing tears to many people. The CEO of the Ironman company, who is in charge of Ironman races all over, not just
The female winner, Lisa Bentley, also provided a very moving speech, including sharing one of her favorite quotes she uses to inspire people doing the race, which was “throw your heart over the mountain and your body will follow”. She congratulated everyone who simply made it to the starting line of the race the previous day, because she understood how hard it was just to make it to the start. There are so many logistics and factors that play out all year, and all of race week, that it is truly quite amazing that so many athletes do make it to the start line. I really appreciated her comments about this, and how much work an Ironman truly takes. It was a beautiful way to reflect on the past year, as well as on the previous day’s race.
On the run course their was chalk on the cement barrier by the road that read: “PAIN IS TEMPORARY, IRONMAN IS FOREVER”…. And now I can truly say, I am honored and proud to be a part of that community.
As Deb told me years ago: “I didn’t want to DO an Ironman, I wanted to BE an Ironman”.
…..and here I am…. forever changed…..and still smiling.
Aug 27, 2007
Aug 25, 2007
It's nice to be here on the lake surrounded by friends and family, and we can walk everywhere. At 5 something AM tomorrow we will walk to the start area, where I do all my last minute stuff.
Times will be posted at www.ironman.ca, and my race name is Zan Gibbs, and my race # is 2198.
I'll post my stories here, a day or so after the race!
Aug 18, 2007
Aug 5, 2007
Here is a segment of the WWeek article, and a link to the full article:
Amputees living in Oregon got a boost last month when Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed House Bill 2517.
The new law going into effect Jan. 1, 2008, mandates that insurance companies operating in Oregon offer coverage for orthopedic and prosthetic devices, with no caps on how much they will spend on the items. And the state Department of Consumer and Business Services is also working on rules that will govern co-pays for those devices.
The bill is the product of three years' hard work by Matthew Bradley—a 30-year-old resident in orthopedic surgery at OHSU who lost his right leg in an auto accident when he was 10.
Aug 4, 2007
Jul 9, 2007
Adventures of the Ironman Gang of Four; Zan, Deb, Robert and Nicole
Sunday July 8th, 2007
1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run
My finish time: 6hrs 53mins 1sec
There’s something to be said for good planning and good rest. I’d had a good recovery week prior to the race, with just a few short workouts, and lots of great meals. I think there’s also something to be said for a looming August Ironman, because I wasn’t worried about the half at all.
I pretty much had a solid plan for the race, and pretty much followed it, resulting in my best race ever.
I took almost a whole hour of my Half Ironman time from last summer, and also felt much better during the race. Mostly I felt like it was going by too fast, and I didn’t it want it to be over after all that prep work! I know the Ironman will be even worse, when you have worked for a whole year for this race that at the very most can only last you 17 hours. I have to remember my favorite quote “the journey is the destination”.
I slept a solid 6 ½ hours the night before the race, and woke up to a good calorie packed fruit smoothie and coffee with lots of soymilk. I tried to drink some grape recharge up until the race but I was so full I could only sip a little of it. We got to the race site before 5am, and had plenty of time to fuss with all of our stuff. There’s only so many times that I can lay out my bike and run shoes, and check and re-check my bike tires to make sure they aren’t flat, so I went and took pictures of Nicole, Deb and Robert fussing with their stuff and checking their tires…. Like I said before, I wasn’t too stressed about the race, and was really happy to be around some of my closest friends in some of our best moments; we all love triathlons.
THE SWIM: 38mins 55secs
For the Lake Stevens Half Ironman the swim started in waves 5 minutes apart by gender and age group, so I went out in a pack of 53 other women at 6:56am, with my good friend Nicole in that pack. Deb was in the next wave, and Robert was somewhere after Deb. Most open water swimmers know that there is just something creepy about looking down at the bottom. The coffee colored water in Lake Stevens was no exception, especially as all the things you could see below were not meant to be there; trash, rope, soda cans, large yellow plastic buoy rods…. So I tried to look away from all that stuff and find my position in the pack, when about 4 minutes into the swim I realized wait a minute, the rope is holding up the buoys, which are lining the course, which means if I swim over the rope, I have an automatic guide the entire swim, and I will never have to look up. For those who don’t swim open water, not having to look up is a huge advantage, because you lose a lot of speed and form when you constantly look up to sight a landmark to know where you are going. Having the underwater rope as a guide was the best gift ever, and as I settled into my stroke I began passing people (which I almost never do after the first 5 minute clamor for space). I forgot to look up for long enough that I even managed to swim under one of the giant inflatable orange buoys that are used as your visual landmark, and so I took a breath to the side and my face was in the orange buoy. Later I found out that Deb had done the same thing, inhaled buoy for a breath. I knew I was swimming well and fast, and I was listening to my swim coach Laurie in my head tell me to drop my fingers and raise my elbows. I started to pass men that had been sent out in waves 5 or more minutes ahead of me, and I was feeling really smug, but wondering if I should slow down. I got out of the swim at 38 minutes and was elated at my fastest swim time ever. I ran into transition ready for the bike.
THE BIKE: 3hrs 42mins 02secs
So we all drove the course in the days before the race, and as Robert put it: “They managed to find a course that is all uphill”. It was a hilly two lap course, so you had to repeat the endless hills, twice. I went out strong and my asthma kicked in really bad within the first 5 miles. I had already used my inhaler three times in the race, and I used it two more my breathing was so bad. I couldn’t tell if it was the hills, my pace, or all the vegetation that was growing in the area. I started to worry I wouldn’t be able to finish the race, but knew I’d biked harder roads on hotter days with worse asthma, so I kept going. Deb caught up to me and passed me too quickly for me to really talk to her, so I sprinted to pass her again so we could talk some more. Deb won’t compromise pace for conversation, and I always will. So sprinting a hill in a race with asthma is a dumb idea, but I wanted to talk to her and see how her swim was. She caught up again, we exchanged a couple lines and she went off ahead. I was keeping a fast pace on all the hills (and by fast I mean most people were still passing me, but I was doing well for me with my little lungs), so I was feeling good. Robert caught up to me next and did his usual yelling “ZANIMAL” from behind (my tattoos on my arms make me easily identified from behind, which I love)… and I yelled really loud back “NUH UH! ROBERT!”. He caught up and we exchanged a few sentences about the best swims we both ever had, and about that cool rope that lead us the whole way through the lake, and off he went ahead. I knew Nicole was ahead of all of us, so I wouldn’t see her until late on the run if at all. With my gang accounted for I biked my little lungs out, and my asthma got better 1/3 of the way through the bike course. My second lap felt harder but I didn’t check my watch to see if it was any slower, maybe I was just not looking forward to all the hills again, so I spent some time talking to other riders on the course, exchanging encouraging words. I drank as many calories as I could, and felt really bloated… I am usually good at sensing my nutrition needs, and even though I followed my plan of calorie intake, near the end of the bike I couldn’t tell if I was under calories or over calories, so I forced myself to drink more perpetuum even though I didn’t want it. I knew I was going to need a lot of fuel for the run, so I would rather be over in calories, in fact that is what you aim for towards the end of the bike. I had an aero bottle on the front of the tri bars that sat empty for the whole race. I was going to put water in it before the race even started, but there wasn’t any water anywhere near the race start, which is odd. I figured I’d get water at mile 28 when I was planning on filling my perpetuum drink again anyway if I wanted it. Well, I never filled it with water (I drank perpetuum and cytomax only, no water), and so there were a few jokes at the end about how I biked with this fancy aero bottle for the whole race, and it was just for show as the thing stayed empty the whole time.
THE RUN: 2hrs 20mins 05secs
I used the “port a let” as the race directors called it, in transition before the run, in hopes that I could run the whole thing without stopping for a bathroom break. The first three miles always hurt on the run, even if you are running first thing in the morning after a nice breakfast and stretch. The first three miles on this race hurt extra for some reason, I think maybe because I had just come off of 56 miles of all uphill. My feet were hurting in places they never hurt, which I was happy about, because none of my injury spots were hurting. You expect something to hurt on the run, and as long as it is not a new or old injury, you are elated…. It’s all relative really. After the first three miles I felt much smoother and got into a fast pace run. I walked every aid station to get water and dump some on my hat to keep cool. I talked to other racers as I ran, and monitored my asthma which was not doing too badly on the run. I saw Nicole first on the run, she was a couple miles from the finish and I was about 8 miles from the finish. She didn’t look so good but she gave me a double high five and I knew she would be the first to cross the finish line. Next I saw Robert and he yelled his usual “ZANIMAL!” from behind and we exchanged a few excited sentences. Then I saw Deb on the return of the first run lap, who was looking strong and about 3 miles ahead of me. We encouraged each other as we passed, and I felt great knowing my gang was all out there. I’d been cheered on by Mary Beth and Deb’s family along the course, and the kids had drawn “GO ZAN” in chalk on the run course, and I was moved to tears as I ran over it… I wanted to tell all the runner’s around me “That’s my name in chalk!!! That’s me right there!!!” I picked up the pace and ran a really solid second lap. I saw Deb again on the return of the second lap, and I yelled from down the hill “DEBBBBBIE!!!” because she was in an obvious orange tank top and easy to spot. She yelled back “ZAAAAAN!!!” and we crossed each other telling each other how well each of us was doing. She was 2 miles from the end, and I was about 4 miles from the end. I happily ran the last 3, and ran next to Sister Madonna for a bit on my last mile, one of my Ironman heroes, and we chatted for a bit until she told me to “Bring it Home!” and I sprinted the last bit, through cheers from Deb and her family that were now all at the finish line. I crossed with my arms up and a smile on my face and I gave Deb a huge hug. We had all four had a great race. I saw Robert a few minutes later and we exchanged hugs and stories of the race. Nicole had long left, incoherent and too low in calories, so her friend took her for food and we chatted later on the phone.
Some more sun, a few sessions sitting in the ice bags in the grass, a couple stretches and some food… and I was feeling pretty good. I was happy more than hungry, and felt no pressure to eat dinner, because nothing sounded good. I later settled into some veggie Pad Thai, and easily ate the whole thing. Deb and I looked at the results on line, then I fell asleep in my running clothes (clean ones at least), and didn’t move or wake for 9 hours. All in all I am really happy with my race, and now I can plan for how I am going to race next month’s Ironman, with only a couple changes…. Mostly I think I’ll make sure my water bottle has water in it next time… the rest was pretty much perfect.
Jul 5, 2007
Apr 8, 2007
everyone always asks what the distances are for the ironman event; 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, 26.2 mile run..... and you have to finish all 140.6 miles in under 17 hours....
but everyone I have talked to that has done an ironman, has said some version of the same thing.....the race is easy compared to the training... by race day, everything is done..
and obviously there are exceptions to this.. and a lot can go wrong on race day... but there are 364 days leading up to your ironman, each with it's own potential for successes and failures....
I have been training with a 7 month injury to my iliotibial band, that has been relentless... as in, it still hurts. mostly this has limited my running.. and it has limited it quite a bit.... as much as I hate the corporate culture of 24 hour fitness, I have been singing it's praises this year, and spending a considerable amount of time there over the last 7 months, as you can do a lot of rehab there, and a lot of simulated cross training... such as elliptical instead of running. to add a little insult to two injuries, i have had chronic asthma my whole life, and every winter it really puts me out for a few weeks to a few months... last winter i was down and out for three one month chunks, during the coldest wettest weather. with a new doctor and three new daily medications i was hoping this year would be better... and so far i have only lost three weeks to asthma... which is much better than three months....
all in all, i am enthusiastically doing all that i can to prepare... and sometimes that means things like a lot more rehab than swimming, and a lot more biking than running... but i have come to grips with the fact that this ironman for me is going to be all about what i can do... and what i can do is what i can do... and that is worth being excited about...
with the weather here getting better and long rides becoming more frequent, my mood has been elevated by some fabulous bike rides... and all i want to do is ride, ride, ride...
5 months and some to go...... and a lot more training hours ahead...
catch me in the bike lane.