I miss you Vala…

My sweet baby is gone.  My soul mate.  Vala mal Doran, my Tibetan Mastiff was much more than just a dog.  She was my confidant, my heart, my trusty companion, she was always there for me when I needed her.  I will miss her every day.  No more the wagging tail and expectant smile when I drive into the yard. There is a blank spot there now.  Just the darkness of the Alaskan winter, not the golden beauty that waited patiently for me every day.

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Im am heartbroken that some horrible person took your life without thought or mercy. You did not deserve to be shot, you were a kind soul.  I can only think that for those few minutes how hurt and scared you were and my heart breaks to think that you were alone and scared. I wish I could have been with you so that you would know just how much I love you and I would have done my best to hold back the darkness.

I remember you sweet baby face the first day you came home.  You were the prettiest animal I had ever seen.  I was in love. I couldn’t let you out of my sight.  You had the sweetest disposition I had ever seen in a Tibetan Mastiff. Like your namesake, you used your absolute beauty to charm and wiggle your way into everyones heart. You loved your people fiercely and were the most loyal of protectors, though you were just the most sweetest lovable creature on earth.

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No matter how bad things got, you were always there for me.  With a doggie lick and a smile you made everything better.  You were my rock when my marriage broke down and everything came tumbling down.  I held you tight when the sadness would overcome me.  I would bury my face into your soft fur and know everything would be okay.  You smelled like sunshine and happiness.  What I would give to be able to do that just one more time.

This week and well the last 9 months have been so hard.  Not only did I lose you, but by a churlish twist I lost even more.  How I wished you were there to listen to me pour my heart out about the loss of someone who was important to me. Reeling from the loss of my sweet golden girl, I was faced with another loss, that still none the less hurt.  At that moment I wished more than ever you were here to comfort me.

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I will miss you so very much. There is a giant hole in my heart right now.  I will miss your sweet kisses, how you always would sleep on the bed and hog all the covers.  I will miss how you would sleep in with me on the weekends and how breakfast was the best meal of the day. I will miss the feel of your fur and the silkiness of your sable ears. I will even miss the shrubbery you used to drag in the house attached to your tail and pants. In my eyes you were perfect and I wouldn’t change a single thing.

I will remember you always and I look forward to the day when I see you again.

Vertical Rhythm

You see them coming toward you. Two people close enough that their shadow is one. Indecipherable from each other. One leans and the other counters. They are older than you but far from old. The shadow moves with a unity that conjures nature. Like trees in a forest. A give, a take, a pull a push. Always in step with each other. Before you are close enough to see, you know right off the bat that you want that. A visceral want that gnaws deep inside a place you didn’t know existed.

You are a solitary figure cutting through the drab grey.. Barely a whisper, a wisp, a sliver in time. One step backwards and you would cease to exist. A retreat into the shadows of time. Solitude. Alone. One.

The power or one or the power of two? The choice has been made. Past decisions have put you here, at the crossroads of time and space. You are one. A solitary creature poised on the edge of the precipice. Looming in front of you, the future. The one thing you cannot control. Dark and dangerous, it is just past your field of vision. If you turn you head fast enough, you can almost catch a glimpse of it out of the corner of your eye. Just a glimpse to know you want to hold it back with all of your might. Keep the darkness at bay. One had reaching forward to the future, the other holding tightly to the past. Willing the decisions you made to change the course of action. But it never happens and you can’t will it differently.

The course has been set. Wheels in motion. A juggernaut. A force that cannot be stopped

You are one.

They are two.

They approach. Like trees in the wind. Sway and counter. Stop, go, they meld together. Tearing through the horizon.

The motion is hypnotizing. A vertical rhythm. Look away, but you can’t.

Blue, greens, reds swirl at the event horizon. Colours so vibrant you can hear them. The shimmer of colour so like a tinkling of bells, a pleasant vibration in the ear. An entrance has been made. The contrails of colour swirl behind them as they glide past you. Without a glance toward you and they are gone. The lingering sounds of colour are the only things left in their wake.

As it passes, it leaves you with one thing. Longing of what could be, what is, what is not. I give them names. How? Why? You ask yourself. How did they come to this place and time? Together as one. You want this so badly. You shake with need to be like John and Jane. But you stop and look around. You are alone, moving through the world, insignificant. Nothing more than a sliver of humanity occupying time and space, yet at the same time nothingness.

Once again, the world poised on your lips is why. Why not me? You recount choices. So many choices that have brought you to this point. Point and counterpoint. Nothing more than a pawn. Moved around at the expense of man, woman.

Hands intertwined. A beautiful thing. Like a Celtic knot, intertwined to infinity. The beginning indecipherable from the end. This is what we strive for. That symmetrical beauty. You see it and it brings tears to you eyes, the sheer power of the symbol.

You keep walking forward, past the colour contrails. You walk into the future holding that image in your head, in your heart. The feeling of longing never leaves, never abates. You weigh and measure your choices so you can be more like them, the ones you never forget. You want to feel the power of that everlasting knot, to bend and sway as one. You want to be a part of that. The power of oneness.

Half Ironman NC – B2B Race Recap

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Warning…this might be long 🙂

Preparations almost done for Beach to Battleship Half Ironman.  One last very important thing to do, one very pathetic thing.  Time to meet up at Poe’s Tavern with some of my triathlon group, the Pathetic Triathlon Group.  I so wanted to wear my Pathetic shirt, but I was already out and about and the meet up time crept up on me.  But seriously isn’t this shirt awesome, its a classic retired design.

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So time for the meet up, a few of us were able to coordinate our schedules so that we could meet for beers and burgers, fairly early after bike drop off. Met some amazing people, the kind of people that make that group great, though it does have it share of trolls, these people were amazing! We even had a very high quality yet pathetic sign marking the spot.  A lot were local, so it was good to get some insight on the swim course from local experts.  Then we were off to view the swim course exit.  Talked to the Ironman official there, which was good.  Then off to our respective homes and hotels.

I had a super hard time getting to sleep. My body was still on Alaska time. But wake up at 4 am was going to come fast, so I tossed and turned and before I knew it, boom time to get up.  Start my usual morning race prep.  Bathroom, Quest protein shake, diet coke, and a energy bar.  I fail at nutrition so badly its actually comedic. But my body is not used to eating before 10 am. I just cannot do it.

Now comes the hard part, which kit to wear.  I guess I should have figured this out the night before.

Team kit won.  Felt I needed to represent my other Tri Club, Tri-It Together out of Temecula, California.  I felt that a Cali kit would summon the warm sunshine.  Grab a jumper, because it was cold, and headed over the Hilton to grab the shuttle to Transition 1 and onward to the swim start.  Load up and low and behold who comes sauntering down the aisle?  My high school friend Charlie!  How awesome. I had hoped to run into him while I was here as we have been talking about this race for the better part of the year.

Once in T1, we both check on our gear bags and our bikes. We are down at this point near the swim exit. It is cold, even this alaskan girl is cold.  Charlie and I wait for our turn to load up on the bus for the swim start. We both quickly put on our wetsuits on the lower half to keep warm.

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Swim start time. We had to wait about an hour after we got there, we were early, but thats better than late 🙂  I was given the wrong colour swim cap, so I was very confused about when I should swim. I got florescent orange instead of dull orange. So I start asking people, what age group are you….over and over till I figured it out.

Swim start time. I line up in the last 1/3 of my wave.  I didn’t feel like getting run over.  And we are off, congestion and flailing arms, per the usual swim start.  I tried hard to get out deep near the fastest current channel, but I could not get past the wall of people. So I ended up in the slowest swim current channel.  Had a decent swim not great but not as good as it should have been with the current assist.  I ended up swimming 2,171 yards in 36, but I had to wait a while to get a ladder and got pushed around a bit there as people clammered over me, which was pretty spot on, so my spotting was much better this time.  Honest, I have not swam sine July.  I know…..I should swim more but my pool has been either closed or on weird hours.  The transition to the bikes was about 0.25 miles with no shoes on concrete and asphalt.My tender baby feet did not like that.  I ran through the showers, careful to wash off the “channel beard” and did my best to trot over to T1.

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T1, grab my bike bag and head to the changing tent.  I get my shoes and towel out. Had to put socks on because it was pretty chilly and I did not want to get cold feet.  Its so damn hard to put injinji socks, aka toe socks, on wet feet!  Drats! I forgot my chamois butter, but thankfully the lady next to me had and extra one use packet and offered it to me. Thank you most awesome lady person!  I dry my arms enough so I could get on arm warmers. Then trot into the sea of bikes to find mine. Boom, there he is and I get everything secured down and make way to the bike exit.

Now things get fun and not in a good way.  The first 10 miles of the course were so congested.  You could not help but to draft.  I am a strong biker and I had a hard time passing people as many would not give way and let you past.  The wind was also playing havoc on those with deep dish or disk wheels.  The wind was about 12mph for 2/3 of the bike course. UFDAH!  Finally we got off the big overpass, which was the worst. The concrete was grooved and the wind was howling. It really pushed me around and I was only running Zipp 404, which are a moderate deep dish wheel!  I can only imagine what it was like on a rear disk!  Once we got off that overpass and onto the highway, things got a little better. Still lots of packs of riders but much more manageable.

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I wish I had photos, but there was a railroad crossing, which was rough, that you passed over twice. It was bike bottle carnage. There were at least 15 bottles and various bike parts there when I passed over it!  I so wanted to stop and pick up some of the ejected goodies 🙂  But I pedaled onward.  The first 2/3 of the bike were that horrible headwind. I saw my speed plummet on flat ground trying to keep abreast of the wind. OMGERD. It was harder than hills for sure. I love hills, hate wind. At least with hill I see my progress, with wind I feel helpless going forward.  Bike was uneventful until about mile 20 right after the first aide stationand rats!  I have a flat.  I am not good at changing flats. Its usually lots of cursing, beer, and about an hour of me fussing with it.  Okay Susie, you got this. I pop off the bike and get my tire gear out of my jersey.  Lever it off, pop in a new tube, and one chance with the CO2. Thank you tire gods,I got it done in less than 5 minutes. That is amazing!  And with no help.

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The rest of bike was uneventful. Finally once we hit the turnaround of the loop section, we got the blessed tail wind.  I was seeing speeds on the flats of 29.5 mph. I am flying past everyone now. I was surprised how many I passed. I think a lot just blew themselves out in that headwind and had nothing left.  I paced myself in the headwind, buying time for the tailwind. I had a half IM PR of 3:08 even with a flat. My last half IM bike was 3:40. Take that!

The transition in T2 was pretty long. You dismount quite a way and have to motor your bike down a long rubber path in the middle of sand and rocks.  My legs were like drunken sailors. I could not get my feet and legs to obey me.  The lady behind me was a royal pain and kept running her bike into the back of me. She was not pleasant at all. As I was about to give my bike to the bike handoff person she rammed me in the back with her elbow as she tried to get in front of me while I was handing off my bike. Seriously lady, be nice!  So I stumble with my bike and about take out the bike handler. Sigh…..But I run as quickly as I can in cleats in the dirt to my run bag. Head over to the changing tent, get my race belt, shoes, and cap.  Then I am off down the long run transition, which was about 0.45 of a mile.  Whew.

The run, well that is always where I struggle.  I give to much on the bike usually and that leaves me little gas for the run. I did my best to pace myself and start off doing intervals.  I kept up with intervals for the whole run portion.  Run 5 @ 10.30 per mile (roughly) and power walk 2 @ 13.30 per mile. This strategy worked pretty well. I was passing people even when power walking!  There were a lot of runners, shuffling…they should have power walked and saved the energy and actually moved faster doing that!  Course ran out roughly 7 miles then back to the start and finish area, minus some distance.  I ran mostly with myself, but during races where I cannot have music, I make my own.  I admit, I sing a lot during races.  I can’t help it.

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Around mile 11 I ran into John, who is the chapter captain of another  RWB group.  Best sight all day. Chris from my chapter hooked me up with the Wilmington group.  Seeing John cheering and so upbeat, really gave me a lift to get the last 2 miles done.

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Power through the last 2 miles and there is the finish line. All I can think of is pizza and soda.  I wanted that finishing soda so badly for some reason.  I throughly enjoy a nice cold diet coke after my runs!

And then, I hear Mike Reilly announcing my name over the PA and I have crossed the finishing line.  6:56.  Under 7 hours, which is great. But I know I had more in me and without that flat or the wind, could have easily broken 6:30. Next time, I will do better!

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I hung around at the finish for a while, then went to collect my gear. Now I know why people bring others to help with this part. Its hard when you are so tired, to grab your 3 gear bags and you bike!  Next time I need a handler! I did make it back to my apartment, showered and notified my people that I finished!

I went back out to cheer on the last of the full finishers. Got to cheer on a few eagles, one of which was the racer that John was supporting. She finished looking strong and amazing in her new black/white RWB kit.  She looked sharp.

Finished the evening with a relaxing dinner with a fellow racer, who has done what seems like a billion Iroman’s, which is totally awesome!

Now to plan for my next adventure.  Hopefully soon there will be some official race photos to share!

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Beach to Battleship Ironman 70.3 PreRace

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I have arrived in the little gem of a town Wilmington, North Carolina. I braved interstate 40 and Hwy 74 to get here.  Of course my flight arrived into RDU just in time to hit the peak of rush hour traffic.

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To add insult to injury my rental car, which was brand new, decided to take a digger about a mile outside of the rental agency.  So back I had to truck to the agency to wait for another car to be available.  But the agent hooked me up with a nice upgrade, which was nice not having to worry about if the bike box would fit or not!

After a quick pit stop overnight at my mom’s house, I was on my way to Wilmington finally.  This trip is bitter sweet, a race I was so pumped for in June has slowly become an Albatros hanging heavily around my neck. A IT band injury after Santa Claus Half Marathon that was further aggravated by my running Ragnar Great River (which was awesome and worth it) set my training back 5 weeks. Which luckily wasn’t so bad since I have been training since December for this race and already had a strong base to pull from. That along with personal turmoil rollercoaster, the prospect of cross country travel and peak racing were daunting at best. Up to the day that I flew out of Fairbanks I was questioning if I should even go.  I still am questioning if I should have traveled.  Another cross country race, shleping my gear alone through the airport…. which is par for the course.  I can only hope racing well will clear my mind.

The worst part of the day so far was humping my giant bike box up these stairs!  My apartment is part of the Momentum Surf Shop, thank you Hunter for hooking me up with your place!

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I checked into Ironman Village got my gear and only half listened to the athlete briefing.  Which of course led to furious texts to my high school friend Charlie, who is also doing the race, questions about transitions and bag drops 🙂  Thank goodness he is much smarter than I am. I am slowly trying to get my bags packed tonight. Which means I have gear strewn all over my apartment.

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I hit up dinner at the Front Street Brewery.  Food was meh, but the beer was cold and free.  I sat at the bar and for the length of the bar all you could see were people wearing blue and orange Ironman arm bands. These are my people!  The gentleman sitting beside me, John from Atlanta, was great dinner company.  We talked about Triathlons and tech gear.  As a gear head, I was right in my element.  As a single traveler its always nice to meet new people.  The bartender was even more awesome, as he bought my beers for me. Which totally made up for the food being kinda crappy.

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After dinner its time to walk off the carbs!  I took a short walk up and down the river walk. Enjoying the 80 degree sunshine. Race day will be much cooler at around 63 for a high, so its best to enjoy it while you can. Saw lots of athletes walking and running the river walk, along with the normal homeless people.  I did sit down and talked with the lady that was sitting near the coast guard boat. She was a hoot and very friendly.  She offered me some of her dinner and some of her hooch!  I did decline 🙂

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Even got a great shot of the sun setting behind the Battleship NC.

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And this one: Sorry for the lens flare, but my lens is cracked.

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And last but not least was the apple pie ice cream!

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Back to my apartment and time to put Frank together.  I love my Cervelo P2, its fast, light and beautiful.  Frank has been an awesome bike. I am so glad that Bree trusted me with him years ago 🙂

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Tomorrow I gear check my T1 and T2 bags along with my Frank.  I hope to get this done early so I have the remainder of the day to relax, explore, and take in the Ironkids race in the afternoon.

I am hoping that I have an awesome race non the less.  I need this personal victory to overcome the set backs of 2016.  Learning that a friend you thought were there for you, were not, and have actively made your life harder, the break up of a 4 year relationship, the fits and starts of trying again, and moving have all made 2016 a year of transitions.  I like to think that I have made it through T1 and T2 and now all I have to do I propel past the finishing line and everything will fall into place. A simplified analogy, but fitting.

Onward and forward to Saturday!

-Suze