I never sleep soundly on Monday nights.
I used to spend a large part of every Monday, (when I was working full time), drafting my blog, then revise and post it on Tuesday morning. But, over the last few months I haven’t done that because I am too tired on Monday’s to actually sit and write, so I map it out in my mind all night, and rise from bed around 5AMish Tuesday morning, walk into my office, sit down at my computer and start typing it out. However, the state of my body and mind the past few days have been in a word, “fragile,” so I wasn’t sure if I would be ready to write about what happened this weekend for this week’s blog, but like clockwork, I was up most of the night writing it in my head, and I need to get it out, so here we go.
**Spoiler Alert** I did not compete at Ironman Boulder.
I thought I might need to spend some time explaining the timeline of events that lead up to that decision, but I think I covered it in last week’s blog, (feel free to read it again if you want a refresher), so let’s start on Thursday afternoon.
I had a short, but efforted, (I know efforted isn’t a real word, but it works in this scenario) run, an easy ride, and finally a short, but efforted swim, which rounded up to a little over two hours of training, aka, not a lot, but I was zonked. Both Hillary and I thought it was probably my anxiety getting the better of me, and that I just needed to trust the Swiss Bank account of fitness I had accrued the last few months, relax, fly up to Boulder safely on Friday, then wake up on Sunday and all would be well.
I knew all week that my cough/lung issue was not resolved, but it always improved the further I progressed into workouts, so I held on to the hope that I could work through any discomfort a few minutes/hours into the race; a belief that was equally optimistic and dumb.
I have put in a gazillion hours of training for the swim and bike, swimming nearly every day since mid-March, and riding more than a handful of Century rides since February, but I only really cared about the marathon.
I planned to be sufficient during the swim, smart on the bike, and then lay everything out there for the run. I knew I needed to run a 3:30 or under to be anywhere near the front of the amateur field, a tough ask, but I truly believed I could do it, and desperately wanted a chance to try.
I had a 6A flight on Friday morning, which meant I was awake at 3A, but the fact that I fell asleep at all is debatable. Thankfully, I slept a little on the plane.
I arrived in Boulder mid-morning, but since I couldn’t check into my hotel until 4P, I went straight to the EXPO to check in, pick up Simone, (my bike), and then meet up with my friend, and fellow Casita 15 roommate at TeamHPB Spring camp, Alysha and her husband, Russell.
It was great to see them. Alysha is a fantastic person, a phenomenal athlete, and was a real contender for 1,2,3 overall amateur, so it was fun to catch up, and talk race strategy. Speaking of talking, that was challenging. I was keenly aware that I had to catch my breath more than normal, and just hoped that they did not pick up on my struggle.
Both Alysha and Russell had amazing races. She finished 6th overall amateur and 1st in her age group, (30 – 34), earning her ticket to Kona, and Russell sliced twenty-five minutes off of his PR.
Later that afternoon I met up with my fellow TeamSFQ teammates who were racing, which included my TeamHPB training partner, Cortney, at an adorably, hip coffee house on Pearl St. Very Boulder. It was wonderful to spend time with these women, and even though I still felt the cough deep in my lungs, it wasn’t overwhelming, and I walked away from our visit believing 100% that we’d be racing together on Sunday morning.
Next, I headed off to check into my hotel, and await the Calvary’s arrival…. My sister, Sarah, and her boyfriend, Eric’s sixteen year-old nephew, Joe.
Unfortunately, Sarah had a harrowing travel day flying into a classic Colorado Summer storm which delayed her arrival by a couple hours. I told her weeks ago to grab an Uber to drive out to Boulder, because I did not want to expend any further energy driving back out to DIA, (it’s a haul from Boulder), but Eric’s family lives in nearby Longmont, CO, and Joe volunteered to pick up Sarah, (Champ), and drive her back to Boulder.
It’s interactions with amazing teenager’s like Joe that give me faith in our future.
It was great to finally have Sarah in town. We have shared a lot of adventures together over the years, one of which was a couple of years at CU. So to be in Boulder together again as adults, far, far away from when we lived there first as naïve college students, was pretty cool. We reminisced about old times, but were looking forward to making new memories.
A typical Saturday morning before an Ironman includes a short, easy run, a short, efforted ride, and a short swim at the swim venue wearing race day attire, in this case, a wetsuit. However, I scratched the swim because we weren’t allowed to swim at the Boulder Reservoir, (swim venue), but I was planning to swim later in the day at the CU Rec. center pool for old time’s sake, (I spent A LOT of time at the Rec. center between 1997 – 2001), but first up, the run.
Our hotel was right along Boulder Creek on a section of the run course, so Sarah and I set for a short run for me, and a longer run for her. I told her right after we started that I couldn’t talk while we were running, (our usual routine), especially at a leisurely pace, but as soon as my stride picked up, I knew I couldn’t spare the extra air. I turned around after ten minutes, and ran back on my own, where I was able to test out my race pace, 7:45-7:50ish, which felt okay, but not easy. I resolved that the restricted airflow could actually be an asset during the race, because I would be forced to stay within a certain range, and I wouldn’t/couldn’t push beyond that. Once again, optimistic or dumb?
Next up was a short spin on Simone.
During the ride I rode past William’s Village, the dorm where I was a Resident Advisor my junior year at CU, molding the minds of eighteen year olds at the ripe age of twenty… I loved that gig.
I had to pick up my pace here and there, and managed hitting my Ironman watts just fine, but since it was unfamiliar territory, I couldn’t really relax and find a groove. Still, Simone felt great, and I looked forward to letting her stretch out on race day.
Then everything turned upside down.
I walked up to our room, and felt slightly fatigued, so I lay down on the bed in my kit, (Sarah was in the shower), and closed my eyes. That felt really good. She went to go grab some food, and even though I didn’t want to move, I knew I should get in the shower because, a.) I was gross, and b.) I was getting the chills.
After I showered and changed, I lay back down, and lit up like a chimney.
I hadn’t felt like this in over a decade, but I knew what it was, I had a fever.
My body had had enough, she had been sending me signals all day, (all week), but I wasn’t listening, and she finally yelled, “STOP!!”
I called my mom, an action I had put off all week because I knew if she heard the deep chamber of my cough, she would tell me I was really sick. Too sick. Too sick to race. Except, now I was ready to hear her say it, because I knew it was true. If I couldn’t handle a twenty minute run and an hour long bike ride, there was no way I could handle ten plus hours of an Ironman.
I was out.
Over six months of dedicated training, careful planning, and eager anticipation of attempting an enormous life goal were instantly down the drain.
Next, I told Marion, and then Hillary. That was tough. I could write ninety pages about why, but I am going to leave it at that for now.
I didn’t want to make a formal announcement about it on social media because I didn’t want to take away any attention from my friends and other athletes who were racing. Although, I figured not saying anything would be worse, because I didn’t want to worry anyone on race morning if my tracker didn’t go off, so I figured I’d say something in the afternoon which would allow enough time for the news to pass, and not deter any attention from the awesome athlete’s on race day.
The response I received from that video was unbelievable.
I know vulnerability is important, but the last thing I want to appear is weak, and that is how I felt until I heard back from so many friends, near and far, who supported my decision. I cannot thank all of you who responded enough for, a.) taking time out of your day to watch it, and b.) spending even more time and care into writing and sending me messages of encouragement. A million “thank you’s” don’t even scratch the surface.
Sarah and I walked around campus and up to the Hill, and then she walked down to Pearl St. to shop and I headed back to our hotel to relax. A few minutes after I sat down, the left side of my chest started to tighten up, it felt like a dull, but consistent side stitch, and my breathing went from difficult to painful.
When Sarah got back we decided to go to Whole Foods to grab some dinner. I ate a couple bars in the morning before the ride, and a banana afterwards, but I had no appetite, and hadn’t eaten anything else all day. After a few minutes perusing the isles, I started to feel light-headed.
“I’m going to sit outside for a minute.” I told Sarah in line at the register.
I plopped down at a table out front just in time before my legs gave out.
“Taryn, eat some of this soup.” Sarah not-so-gently suggested.
“Okay, okay.” I raised my head and swallowed a few heavenly spoonful’s of vegetable soup, and slowly came back to life. I was still in a rough spot, but mustered the strength to walk to the car fueled by a singular focus, the sooner I got to the car, the sooner I could lay down.
All I wanted to do was lay down.
The next few hours were spent binge-watching Netflix, lots of liquid intake, and the rest of the soup plus some fruit and potatoes. My fever was down, but still humming, and my chest was still painful, I hoped sleep wouldn’t be too lofty of a request.
Then it got a scary.
All day I refused to get any medical attention, (Hospital or Urgent Care), because I had been on a litany of drugs all week and was still in this predicament, which meant I had zero faith in the medical establishment. But, at 2AM I noticed I was coughing up blood, my fever rose to nearly 102F, and whether I wanted to or not, I needed to get back on antibiotics asap, and get an X-ray to confirm if I had pneumonia.
It felt like pneumonia.
I had a horrible bout with pneumonia in 2004, I never wanted to go back there, and even though I didn’t feel as bad as I did back then, it was familiar.
“Sarah, I think I may need to go to the hospital.”
“Let’s try to talk to someone at Kaiser first.” Woken-up at 2AM Sarah suggested calmly.
Then I met Karen. Sweet, sweet, Nurse Karen. Karen assured me that the bloody chest goodness could be anything, and not to be alarmed, but that I should try to see a Dr. in the morning.
That reassuring conversation with Nurse Karen was enough to put my mind at ease, and at last I fell asleep.
I woke up a few minutes before the cannon went off to start the race, but instead of being sad that I wasn’t swimming in the Res. with my triathlon cohorts, I just wanted to breathe pain-free again. There was no way I could’ve finished the race in my condition, especially considering what happened next.
I found an Urgent Care in Gunbarrel that was both open and offered X-Ray’s, perfect. It took a ton of energy to emerge from my preferred horizontal position, but at just after 10AM, we were finally on the move.
Ironically, we had to drive along the bike course to reach the Urgent Care. Again, I felt no remorse for not racing; riding my bike did not seem at all fathomable. The athlete’s I saw looked great, though.
It seemed like we beat the rush at the Urgent Care, but kept getting bumped for some reason, and once again, I started feeling whoozy. I dropped my head between my knees and tried to breathe as deeply as possible to avoid passing out. Then Sarah stood up and asked the receptionist for a room for me to lay down in while we were waiting. There were about a thousand mini-miracles Sarah performed all weekend, but this request was the highlight. Suddenly, a nurse rushed down the hallway with some sort of equipment on wheels, pulled me up by my arm, and chirped,
“I don’t know if we can treat you here young lady, but let’s take your vitals. What’s going on?”
“I want to get an X-Ray because I think I may have pneumonia.”
“Okay, Hon, we’ll get your chest X-Ray, just lay down in here for now.’ She lead me into a room with the most heavenly bed I had ever seen. ‘Your blood pressure is good, just relax in here, and I’ll bring you a Popsicle.”
That was the most delicious grape Popsicle I have ever consumed, and I don’t even like grape flavor.
After many, many minutes, we were moved to another room with an even comfier bed. After a few more minutes, I was called in for the X-Ray’s, and finally was examined by the nurse practitioner, (a runner), who after listening to my lungs reported,
“I do hear a squeal on the right side.”
“Also, there’s this.” I proceeded to breathe out to reveal the incessant grumble/wheezing that had invaded my body the last ten days.
“Okay, yep that doesn’t sound good. We just need to wait to hear back from the Radiologist.”
She walked out of the room, and returned a few minutes later proclaiming, “It’s pneumonia.” Next she walked me through the drug she wanted to prescribe, but I already took it the week before and nothing, so I asked her to jack it up if possible and she obliged. Lastly, I asked her if it was safe for me to fly, (I was honestly concerned that my precious lungs might burst, silly, but true), yet was thrilled, and actually flattered when she replied,
“Oh, you’ll be fine. Your heart is in great shape and you look good.”
“Fantastic, thank you.”
I originally planned to fly out late Sunday evening, (presuming I may need to attend the awards ceremony), and then reminisce in Boulder for the afternoon, but since all of that was now out the window, and I was strongly encouraged by every member of Boulder Urgent Care staff to get back down to sea level as quickly as possible, Sarah changed my flight to Monday morning.
I’d like to say that I spent the rest of the afternoon cheering for my friends and fellow competitors as they passed our hotel on the run course, but that did not happen. As soon as we picked up my meds and more food, it was back to the hotel and promptly back to a horizontal position. Sarah ventured down to Pearl St. again, but I was very happy going nowhere. My overall energy was still at an abysmal level, and I did not want to risk another near fainting spell. Therefore, my apologies everyone, I wish I could have cheered for you in person, but I was useless.
Sarah had a super early flight on Monday morning because she had to go work, she lives in San Francisco, so she booked a room at a hotel close to the airport on Sunday night, and since I had no reason to stay in Boulder, and still benefited from supervision, (my chest pain had not subsided), I went with her.
I wanted to eat a celebratory veggie burger at The Sink in Boulder after the race; instead I ate one at the Crowne Plaza near DIA. It was delicious.
That was the theme of the weekend, nothing went how I wanted it to, but everything that happened was what needed to. I needed to wake up and realize that I was sick, not weak. I needed to acknowledge that by pushing myself, I was actually hurting myself, and if I pushed an inch further, I could’ve hurt the people closest to me. I needed to realize that there is no personal goal worth the detriment of my health, and that even though I do everything imaginable to be super-strong, my lungs are sensitive and require keen attention. The greatest lesson of all was that I needed to realize it is more important to follow my intuition than my ambition.
I do have other races planned this year, but if you asked me Sunday night, or even yesterday, if I wanted to race another triathlon I would’ve said, “No.” I am sitting in a conflicted position, both emotionally and physically, that I was not prepared for, and am simply wading through it minute by minute. There is a lot that I am upset about, a lot, but I believe everything happens for a reason, and I have faith there is a reason for all of this.
As far as the rest of my season, I am signed up for Ironman Wisconsin, a fact I did not want to reveal until I knew what happened in Boulder, because racing it was dependent upon my result in Boulder, but now that is a possibility. Racing in Kona is off the table, which is honestly a relief. I would’ve felt obligated to go if I qualified, but it would’ve been hard to justify that expense. The only race that I am positive I am racing, and am really looking forward to, is the New York marathon in November. I may or may not have a similar race to last year, (nearly perfect), but I simply love New York, and have so many friends and family I get to see when I visit, so that one is in ink.
For the next ten days to however long it takes, I need to do absolutely nothing physically taxing in order to clear out my lungs, and heal up fully from the pneumonia. I am not looking forward to it; long, languid stints like this are my kryptonite, but I plan to focus my time on other projects, read a ton, watch everything, listen to podcasts, and catch up with friends and family.
I did not forecast that this Ironman Boulder race story would contain zero race content, but I appreciate beyond measure the support all of you have shown me throughout my lead-up to the race, thank you very much.
Also, thank you for making it to the end!! I promise next week’s post will be a haiku.:)
The song and video this week is Katy Perry’s new single, Never Really Over. The video is silly, but the song is wonderful, and fitting this odd week.