By Cherie Epstein Co Owner of Running Wild
July 5th 2011
Buffalo Springs Half Ironman. We bought a camper trailer in October and I had just been inspired by my friends Chris, Mel and Jules to jump back into that tri thing…you know, shaking up the run thang with some biking and swimming. Since we were going out West to see my mom anyway, I thought ,”Hey, why not do a half ironman in Buffalo Springs on the way out???” It seemed like a swell idea at the time. Every time I mentioned the idea out loud or on face book, I either was sick with some stomach bug or pneumonia so I really tried to keep it under cover.
It is hard to comprehend that 6 months ago, I was trying to bargain with God when I was laying in bed with pneumonia. “God, if you will let me live and get well I promise that I will be a good girl” but then I remembered that God does not bargain so I said “God, if you want to take me home….please do so as quick as possible”. If it had not been for my phat friends Livvy, Nicki, Stephanie, Lynne, Alexia and Frency….as a famiy, we might not have made it.. The phat nation was helping with dinners and my kids and especially their love and support. I can not imagine any longer what my life was without the Phat Girlz. I will try to mention and thank the ones that directly supported this six month journey but they are all so beautiful and amazing to me…even the new ones that I would meet each Friday.
When i got the go ahead to run in January, I could not run 3 miles without stopping!!! But I plugged along with my friends: Livvy, Alicia, Stephanie and Lexus. This was my favorite part of the journey. Girl friend runs are the greatest. You can solve all problems and no matter how wrong the day may have started, your run changed the direction to the most positive energy that no man could ever capture. I sometimes run with the Naked Swagger Boys at six at six. Good work out for me. They are often entertaining. But you don’t solve problems and leave like you left everything negative on the road. You can’t do that in a swim, either. You could drown. You can’t do that on a bike ride (I tried, but got reprimanded!!!)
I was able to borrow a computrainer from Steve and Sue Violette so 2 to 3 days a week I would pedal which was lonely but time efficient and then run with my phatties on the other days which was so good for my soul. This was a doable plan…but I knew i had to start swimming. I enlisted a phat mermaid, Jana, to give me some lessons and then of course, I had to bring Phatties into the plan as well because I mean really…how exciting can swimming be? (Thank you to Cathy, Jessica and Mindi!!!) You can’t talk unless you have passed the certified mermaid test or you will drown. I still am nothing but a mermaid in training…but i did knock 2 minutes off my open water 1.2 mile time! Pretty amazing considering I swam less than 10 times training for this but I think the mermaid lessons and one insane pool work out with my insane friend Jules and the whole serious tri groupies at Portofino (this was arguably the hardest work out I have done in over a year!) helped me to prepare for that oxygen deprived experience in a race!
7 weeks before the race, I finally start a structured plan. Can I tell you…I am not a fan of structure. It cut out my run time with most of my phatties and i was doing so much stuff all by myself. I did get a couple of workouts in with Jules (she is a freak of nature…a true Goddess) and chris and mel…and with MPI group…and maybe one run with my very sexy coach…and my final run with my core phat group and the girl who always fixes my head, Livvy, but mostly…it was solo stuff and i was ready to get it over with one week into the plan.
so the actual race: did I mention it was June 26th in West Texas? That must have slipped my mind when I registered for the race. IN NOVEMBER!!! no one else was doing it to train with. No wonder. It was friggin 110 degrees. Yes. I know that is a “dry” heat as opposed to our sultry Southern conditions BUT guess what….the road still melts and is squishy when you are running on it!!!! Your nostrils feel like they are going to spew blood because it is so dry. and the wind is equivalent to putting a hair dryer set on hot 3 inches from your face.
The day before the race, I got to do a quick swim with a new friend I met at the camp site and my very dear and long time friend Gretchen. Although we talked about seeing so much of each other at the race (she lives in my hometown of El Paso) it was only 2o minutes in the lake and 2 minutes on the run the next day. (Gretchen….you must come to Pensacola for SRI TRI!!!!)! I also did a 20 minute bike ride and checked out the new cleanliness that Don Davis did to it. He has magic cleaning abilities and cleaned my bike before i did IMFL in 2007 and I felt that I should not jinx it so did not clean it again until he could handle it again in 2011. ( I may need to learn to clean my own bike….it is amazing how quiet a bike can be when it is clean!) and COach Hot Stuff put some new tires on my wheels and it felt like they were gripping the road. Very exciting. and a 20 minute run chit chatting with my new friend, Heather, and giving her the Phat scoop! (Jules…20-20-20…check)
Traveling with the kids in these conditions might not have been the greatest race prep plan but you know….if it were not for the girls and going out to visit my mom then I would not have chosen this race in the first place. Therefore, the two people that I have to thank the most (besides Coach Hot stuff and support crew) would be my very gorgeous big sister, “Tia” Sheila and her handsome husband, “uncle” Charles. These guys pretty much raised me as i was a flower girl in THEIR wedding when I was 7….and I won;t tell you how long ago that was. So Sheila and Charles come riding up on their white stallions (or their SUV) and save the day by getting a hotel in Lubbock with incredible AC power and …..AN INDOOR POOL!!!! I know that they can not do what Jesus Christ did for me….but that day they pretty much were second in line! Also, my kids and Paul, Sheila, and Charles cheered me on in the run and it really meant so much. I am so blessed for my family and friends.
Race Day: swim. i get wet 5 minutes before the swim and realize my goggles are leaking. The lenses were popped in the wrong direction and there is no time to fix them so i crank them down like my kids do. I do not like swimming. I try to be positive. Let’s just skip that part but I DID get a 2 minute PR. You will have to check results if you want to know the times. Probably nothing anyone wants to get excited about. but i did not drown. I wear hard contact lenses. my lens popped out onto the goggle during the swim. I did not realize this until Paul, Charles and I were collecting my gear in transition. The lens was still on the goggle!!!! I can’t believe that God did not have a hand in that. I would have been blind the rest of my vacation!!!!
THe bike was a such a blast. A very joyful couple of hours. The heat was not bad yet, but it was windy. GREAT tail winds…tough head winds and wicked, scary cross winds. I tried to keep Sadie in mind when I was riding. She is so ferocious on the bike.!!!! and joyful. But I still had to exercise some caution when going down steep hills with that cross wind (unlike her…she was ME a life time ago. Now I am middle aged mother on a phat mission…WHOA!) The computrainer could not prepare me for that and I only rode outside 5 times so I was good in the fitness department, but could stand some BGP’s (for you non phatties…that means big girl panties) in the skills department. Jules Karhirer is the most type A person I have ever met. she gave me her race plan from a year ago. on it she WRITES down to encourage every girl she sees on the course and talk smack with the boys. I loved that. I encouraged every girl by name since our names were on our bibs. I hope that helped. I know it helped me when I was walking at mile 11 of the run and a girl told me to get back into the race and not give up. never. give. up.
I thought about what Ryan Hall said he prays about before each work out: how is he going to glorify God? It occurred to me that encouraging others was how I was going to glorify GOd on this race and each girl that i encouraged along the way gave me more and more energy. (i am sorry to others on running races…i just can’t spare the extra oxygen but I am there in thought!!!)
Back to the race. Did i mention it was hot. and hilly. and then there was this section….about 3 miles out into a head wind (think hair dryer again) and the fields were bare and i thought…why in the world would anyone live out here? and WHY would anyone put on a half iron man out here? and WHAT am i doing out here???? Lot’s of stinking thinking going on. A good time to stop and walk but it is just as hot if not hotter if you walk because the temperature is rising by the minute.
I had no less than 12 endurolytes. they are what saved me. I crossed the finish line feeling terrible. went straight to the lake and floated with JC (does NOT stand for Jesus Christ but she is still a total bad ass princess warrior!!) and was feeling fine in less than 5 minutes. I got a PR by 5 minutes from my last half 9 years earlier on a much more difficult course. I suppose that is my measure of success?
I am glad i did it. won’t do it again. I do want to do another race next year but for now i return to being a runner. a Phat Girl. i will swim and bike for fun if another phattie wants some company because that is what Phat Girlz do. We encourage. We inspire. We push each other. We lead. We follow. and we wear pink sparkly lipstick and not ashamed of it (ok…maybe Livvy skips out on that part but I am working on her!!) Sometimes we even get on each other nerves. But we love each other and we are better women with each opportunity to be phat.
As we were gathering my gear out of transition Paul informed me that my mother had had a bad car accident the day before. no one wanted to tell me because there was nothing I could do. My mom is doing ok. She was very. very. very lucky. she flipped her van on her way to meet up with us the next day in Ruidoso and broke her C1 on neck. She gets out of rehab hospital today and is going home and will have 24 hour health care for a while. She is 84 next month. She is a total red headed pistol but there were very tender moments seeing her that broke my heart. Please keep her in your prayers.
We packed up immediately and left so I did not soak in the whole race experience but it is good. The experience for me had much more to do with relationships in my life. New ones and ones that are on the mend. I feel extremely blessed and happy and cherish what God has given me. Sadie and I drove to El Paso to see my mom and she is very close to her and I am so happy for that. Nice visit with my sisters Becca, Sheila and Karen and brother Johnny. The weather in the mountains was lovely and I hated to leave but it is nice to be home again.
PS I forgot to mention: one of the dudes camping at the site asked Paul if he was racing. He said no, that he was just my support crew. He looked me up from head to toe…i guess i do not look too intimidating with my sparkly lipstick and softness…but he said that he understood this was a man’s race. I said well good luck then but what I thought was ” oh phew!!! good. i thought it was going to be hard because I don’t know a single man who has birthed a human or two or three or more!!!!”