A couple of weeks ago I had an accident. It’s crazy how life can change in a split second. As I passed a line of (illegally) parked cars on my city bike, a van driver opened their door without looking. I went flying and took the fall on my left forearm. It broke in five places. Yes, ouch, it hurt.
Thank God my husband was behind me and got me on an ambulance ASAP. My arm was reassembled thanks to two brilliant surgeons, two metal planks, two screws and one plaster cast.
I’ve learned a lot about myself and people in my life through the accident and subsequent eight days in hospital. All good, all positive.
While in the ambulance I thanked my lucky stars that I was born in a time when a bit of surgery would have me back on my feet within days. I was also very grateful that my arm saved me from further damage. This gratitude looped through my head while the sirens blared. No anguish, a little shock, but so much gratitude for my safety.
There’s induced pain (a race) and real pain, but I’m sure the fact that I’ve only needed pain killers twice (while they set the cast and post-op) was because I’ve practiced handling pain as it arises during training and racing.
I’ve been asked about Ironman Barcelona in October. Before the accident I was in top shape and had done some of my best workouts right before it happened. Now? I have no idea.
I walked the hospital halls and stairs a few times each day because that’s all the energy I had. I slept a lot, and I know rest will continue to be my number one ally in getting well. Yesterday I did a circuit workout with some running thrown in. I have a plaster cast on my arm so I consider it a strength workout too!
I continue to take my workouts one day at a time. It’d be great if I made it to Ironman Barcelona, but if I don’t, I’m fine with that because…
In the orthopaedic ward everybody coming in obviously had a broken bone. But most of the older women were also with high blood pressure, diabetes and mysterious aches and pains. The doctors were perplexed when I told them that I don’t use anti-inflammatories or aspirin. I chalk it up to making my nutrition and exercise one of my top priorities. The hospital stay made me want to up my game because there’s always room for improvement.
There was an outpouring of messages, phone calls and hospital visits that made me appreciate all the loving family and friends that I have in my life. Thank you <3
I already knew this but for better or for worse, always by my side. That thought alone helped begin my healing process.
The workout plan for the evening was to run a few warm up miles then go down to the beach for exercises on the sand.
The trainer was my husband Piero (in our house known as “Supreme Commando” when it comes to running workouts) and running with me was one of his marathon athletes, Domenico.
I usually feel uncomfortable running with elite runners but Domenico was coming off an injury so he started off slowly. Very slowly. We chatted for about three minutes, marvelling that this was the first time we’d ever run together… then he took off and left me in the dust. We continued with our respective warm ups and met up on the beach fifteen minutes later, curious to see what tricks Piero had up his sleeve.
It was 7.30 PM and the day’s heat was starting to dissipate. Groups of families and friends were still laying on the sand, waiting until the sun set into the sea. It was that magic glow moment when the sunlight amplifies the colour every object.
Piero lined up a stack of coloured cones on the sand. He instructed us to jump over each cone in sequence until we got to the end of the line. Recovery was an easy jog back to the front of the line. Repeat until you die. It’s an exercise that engages every single muscle in your body. Try it if you don’t believe me… you’ll have DOMS on your toes!
I had Domenico go first (so polite..) and he hopped over those cones as if he had springs in his feet. Remember: young male elite marathon dude working out. He made it look easy, as if he was actually having fun.
I don’t know if it was the cones, their colours, the hopping or the evening light, but within thirty seconds we had a crowd around us not only watching but wanting to join in.
Now it was my turn. I didn’t do it as well or as gracefully, but I did it. Domenico lapped me a few times and after seven rounds I was done. Kaput. Domenico went for a five minute run on the asphalt and while he was gone the crowd went bananas. Everybody wanted to try it out!
Adults and kids alike started hopping over the cones. Piero set up a special course for the smaller children so they wouldn’t get hurt by the adults falling over them. After a few minutes Domenico was back for more punishment. The cones got rearranged, the game was changed to hopping sideways and the crowd stood watching, mesmerised. As soon as Domenico left again to run strides on the adjacent street everybody went back to the cones, giving their best go at jumping over them.
This may sound silly and overly emotional, but it was a beautiful moment. People were laughing and talking to each other about their past athletic feats. Children were running back and forth on the cones yelling “I wanna try it! Let me go first! Pleeeaaaase!”. Noone wanted to leave but eventually it got too dark to see. We stacked the cones together and headed back to the beach house.
It gave me comfort to know that even in this crazy electronic culture our innate nature is still yearning for fun, play and movement. And that makes me happy.
I signed up for a sprint triathlon last Sunday knowing it would be a scorcher. Southern Europe is in the middle of heat wave with temperatures reaching 95°F/35°C, and it looks like it will stay that way until the end of the month.
I got through the 5km run section of the triathlon by carrying a bottle of water and dousing my head every time I felt like I was overheating. I stopped at each water station and asked the volunteers to put the water hose on my neck and head to keep cool. I didn’t care about my performance, just about making it to the end in one piece, which I did. First place in my age group, woo hoo!
Beating the heat is a huge challenge for runners, wherever you live in the world. While I was running my triathlon I kept my mind busy by thinking about my strategies for getting through the summer while I train for my fall race goals. Here you go!
I had running clients call me in a panic last week because they suddenly could-not-get-off-the-couch for their regular run. They felt listless and weak and were not putting two and two together. The heat even slows down your brain! Give your body time to get used to the temperature difference – it usually takes four or five days.
If you happen to live near the sea or a cool water lake, swimming is a great substitute for your run. If you want to do laps to keep up your aerobic conditioning opt for an indoor pool which has cooler water temperatures than the outdoor pools that sit all day in the blazing sun.
Unless you’re training for the Badwater Ultramarathon in Death Valley you’re going to have to get your training session in while the morning air is still chilly. That would be before 7AM. If you’re the type of person that needs two cups of coffee before being able to put a few sentences together you may be more of an evening runner – wait until after 7PM. In both cases make sure you rehydrate after your run.
You don’t have run in a tankini but you cannot wear long pants when it’s 90°F out because you’re afraid that someone might see the cellulite on your legs! Go clothes shopping and find a pair of summer running shorts that you feel comfortable in. By the way, I found my big, baggy, nondescript mid-thigh running shorts in the men’s department. Just sayin’…
Hydrating needs to be done throughout the day, beginning with a large glass of water as soon as you get out of bed and continue with fresh veggies and fruit during meals… and more water. By doing this you won’t need to drink on your run. Do carry water so you can take sips when your mouth gets too dry or douse a few drops on your head, neck and shoulders for instant heat relief. Rehydrate again throughly once you’re back home!
Runners get panicky when they suddenly see the numbers tank and feel as though they can’t run at the same speed they did a few months or even weeks ago. The summer temperatures will slow you down. If you have that information it’s easier to accept it and move forward with your training. Enjoy the summer. Before you know it the thermometer will drop and you’ll gain your speed back instantly!
Ironman 70.3 Pescara was my first important race leading up to Ironman Barcelona this next October. I wanted to use it to gauge if my current training was going in the right direction.
On race morning Piero and Evan stayed in bed while I got ready, had breakfast and hitched a ride with friends to the start. My bike was already checked in so I went into transition and placed the water bottles on my bike, checked the tires, re-checked my T1 and T2 bags and then went in search of a better cup of coffee than the one offered at the B&B.
With a forecast high of 35°C (95°F) it looked like it would be a tough day for everyone, and a small recipe for disaster for a race starting at 12 noon. After the coffee we stayed at the cafè in the shade for as long as possible.
The water was warm towards the shore and the officials weren’t allowing the Pros to wear wetsuits. I swim well without one but none of the amateurs wanted to part with theirs. Since we’d swimming quite a way out in cooler water I thought I wouldn’t boil in the neoprene suit so I kept mine on too.
I felt confident going into the swim, better than ever before. I owe this to our team’s new swim coach Andrea Ferretti. He gave us so much attention this year and put a spark back into our workouts.
I got a bit bashed in the first 300 meters but then pulled ahead. There were long rolling waves and I feared getting seasick. I kept swimming and tried to ignore them which seemed to work!
As I made it to the big buoy for my turn back to shore the first men’s wave caught up with the women and starting swimming over us. I didn’t mean to be rude but I kicked one of them off me. Too much damn testosterone!
SWIM: 1st out of the water in my age group in 37:47 – Huzzah!
#IMBarcelona Swim Gauge: I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, increasing my distance once a week so I’m comfortable swimming 4km.
This year they introduced the transition bags to the event, which meant you either had to have your bike shoes on the pedals ready to ride or put them on in the changing tent and run in them to your bike. The transitions were long, about 750 meters. I couldn’t see myself running that far in cleats. On the other hand, I’d never tried putting my cleats on the fly. But I gave the latter a shot and it was a good call. I didn’t fall over and I saved a few minutes.
I don’t have any photos of the bike section so I can’t show you the strong headwinds we faced for 70 of the 90km. I saw three bikes FLY off the course when they got smashed by sidewinds. I also saw a few athletes laying flat on the ground surrounded by medics. It was a slight mess out there to say the least. I followed my planned strategy: pedal easy but steady going up the hills, take advantage of any downhill sections and eat as much as I could in the first bike section.
At every aid station I first grabbed a bottle of water and poured it over me, then grabbed two more bottles to drink. I had to keep reminding myself to eat and drink. I know that sounds ridiculous but you’re concentrating so hard on steering and avoiding accidents that you forget.
#IMBarcelona Bike Gauge: Everything felt good in terms of speed and strength on the bike. I feel like I still need to dial in the nutrition. Something quite not right yet. I’ll be experimenting during my long training rides.
Always happy to get to T2 (two-thirds finished!). When I ran out of the tent and on to the course I wanted to die. The heat was oppressive and I felt nauseous. So I walked a lot, and as with all my races I reminded myself that this was supposed to be “fun” and for “fitness” (ha!) and that it didn’t matter what time I came up with, just that I continued to feel good.
At the first water station I poured water over my head. I grabbed a sponge that had been sitting in an ice bath and put them down my trisuit to cool my body off.
For 13 miles I played every mind counting game I could come up with. Run three minutes, walk one. Run one whole kilometer (zero success there). Run one hundred steps, walk fifty. There were a lot of athletes walking but there were a lot of athletes feeling okay and running the entire time. This is where 10% of the field had problems and pulled out of the race.
On the far side of the loop I spotted a city water fountain behind some bushes and when I opened the spigot ice cold water came guzzling out! I put my whole head under it and ran the water down my neck. When I’d finished there was a line triathletes behind me waiting eagerly to do the same. I think this was my saving grace because at every loop I stopped here and cooled off, feeling more awake and ready to tackle the next loop.
At every water station I ate as much as I could stomach and then drank whatever they had. I even tried a cup of Red Bull at one point (ick!) and resorted to Coke in the last six miles. I tried talking with a few athletes but nobody was in a talking mood. I probably wasn’t either though I found myself talking out loud to myself at one point.
Then all of the sudden it was finished…
#IMBarcelona Run Gauge: Considering I hadn’t trained at all for the run and that my longest recent distance had been 10km, I should be happy with this. I’ll make myself be happy with this! The Hubs reminds me that my knee is better than it’s been in a year and that things are looking up. They are. Remember that, Julia…
Final time: 7:05:54
I found my family and friends waiting for me at the finish line and Piero got a photo of me with my medal.
I showered right away, tried to eat but resorted to just drinking water and salts for another hour until my appetite returned. We had to stick around before heading back to the hotel because I saw that I’d placed in my age group. Ironman hands out some really nice trophies and I didn’t want to miss out on mine!
From the photo you can spot who are two are the awesome European ladies and who is the Californian hippie from the 70’s…
I took a full week off from formal training, happy to go for a walk and a swim to keep moving . I’m back to regular training now with a plan mapped out from here to October when I leave for Bar-The-Lona. Can’t wait!
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