Monday, November 25, 2013

IronDOG!




I am sad to tell you all that we said goodbye to Apollo last week, but I am also very happy to tell you his story that really fits in with Ironnan's motto this year "Anything is Possible."

Apollo was born March 7, 2001 in Slovakia.  2 days before our wedding!  A strange series of events led us to him and we knew it was fate!  I picked him up from the Newark Airport, where they left 3 puppies on the tarmac in 80 degree weather. Customs, Animal Control, the FISH AND GAME commission had to be involved but we finally got our pup!
Long plane ride from Slovak Republic
For those not familiar with the breed, Apollo was a Bernese Mountain Dog.  An amazing breed that is unbelievably gentle and fit perfectly with our personality and lifestyle.  Unfortunately though, with most large breeds, they don't have a long lifespan.  Bernese Mountain Dogs typically live average 6-9 years.   

When Apollo was 1, we adopted Gemini and the two of them were inseparable.   Apollo and Gemini spent 9 years together.  We adopted  Athena when Apollo was 10: Gemini's mother was Athena's grandmother, it was fate, although Apollo might beg to differ that mixing a  10 year old and a puppy was a bit much. 

Apollo and Gemini!

Apollo spent most of his life with terrible food allergies.  He was only allowed to have "his food", but he was one happy dog. ALL OF THE TIME.  He was very well mannered and just wonderful.  Apollo has been to more triathlons and has met more people than I bet the athletes!  He LOVED hanging with people and getting all the attention.

We were very fortunate, Apollo got to go to Doggie Daycare or go to work with John.  John's company is fabulous and the dogs are allowed in the office! Later in his life, Apollo stayed home with me anytime I worked from home. 

He was even a babysitter. When he would go to work with John, the owner of the company would come 'take' Apollo to babysit the child that was also at work. Apollo would keep Liam occupied!

As he aged, we'd get looks of wonder, "What a 10 year old Berner? What an 11 year old Berner? WAIT IS HE REALLY 12?" -- yup we were proud, and he was one TOUGH TOUGH cookie.

In Nov of 2012, he had a grand mal seizure, caused by a stroke and they believed he had lymphoma.  We refused to do any invasive testing and decided to just make him happy.  We were given 2 weeks to "Maybe a month."    We changed his diet to a home cooked meal, and had a wonderful vet duo of traditional and Chinese medicine.  He turned around and actually started running and playing.  Except for the grey on his face, you would have never known he was that old.  He had an AWESOME extra year when given the limitation of 'a month.' I could hear him saying "yea right, whatever, I don't think so!"

As all of you know, I trained for the last year for Ironman.  In July, he was starting to slow down a little, he was starting to show his age.   I sat him down and had words with him. I gave him permission to leave us if he wanted to, but said if he waited much longer that he had to wait until after my Ironman. 

True in his loyalty, he made the trip to Florida and other than his "old man" issues, he was in great spirits. He enjoyed meeting people, and enjoyed moseying around. He got to see my family, go to a beach in Florida, and hang with his favorite people. 

On the way home from Florida, we got the first inkling that something was wrong.  One of his cancer's had spread.  Once home, we noted he had an internal bleed.  He wasn't in pain, but he was pissed that his legs wouldn't work and he was getting weak. I know many of us can empathize with that frustration!    He was rapidly losing red blood cells, but he never lost his smile or his love of food.

We said goodbye to him on Monday with a GIANT BOWL OF ICE CREAM, a favorite food he hadn't been able to eat in 8 years.  He will be greatly missed, but his can-do, "anything is possible," positive attitude will live on forever. 

 He is one IRON DOG! 

We were proud to spend 12 years 9 months with him!



Nothing like a sleeping teddy bear!

Pooped Puppy
He loved to hang his head on things,
 he did this his entire life.

If you read my blog often, you KNOW
 I had to have more cow pictures!
Apollo liked to make designs with his pee,
this continued his entire life.
Apollo was amazing with children


Apollo and Gemini








Apollo and Gemini, this was one of
her favorite positions








Apollo and Athena

Apollo out for a RUN,
only a month after that Gran Mal Seizure!




Another RUN at age 12


This was his most content pose,
We called this Chinchilla head



Relaxing on the way home from FL!

Apollo and Athena
in Panama City Beach, FL
Nov 2013






Sunday, November 10, 2013

IMFL RACE DAY - Thank You (Part 5 Race Report)


Click here to go back to part 4

The sad part for me is I know I can't do another. (well shouldn't). So this was a one and done.  I have adapted my swim and bike and am perfectly comfortable with both sports and my wiggly joints.  Running kills me. I can't keep my hip in place or my arches.  Often many other joints are falling out.  I know if I continue running, that I will end up NOT being able to walk unassisted in 10 years.  I sit here and have the 'high' that the rest of the finishers have and contemplate doing another, and I know I can't.  I will continue with my Aquabikes, I will continue with the Pan Mass Challenge.  I will continue to be a slow biker but will rack up the miles.  I am not done with the sport, just the running part.

I will look to encourage others to try something new, to push a little bit, to get "out of their box."

I get to say now and forever that I AM AN IRONMAN!


There are so many people to thank in my journey.


First, I must thank my husband John.  Seriously you cannot do this alone, it takes a village!  He has been supportive of my crazy addiction, he comes to races, drags my crap around, cleans the house, does the laundry, and doesn't complain (too much) :). He is a gem.

I would like to thank my family for making the trip to Florida from PA.  My brother took his only vacation for the year to see my race.  Thanks Mom, Dad and Norm.   Thanks to my cousins Tanya and Bernie for making it out as well!

A HUGE shout out to Kelly, Rebekah, and Naomi who administered my facebook page for 17 hours!  They did such a fantastic job, there is no way I can repay you for what you did, amazing job!

Thank you to all the Fatgirl fans!  It took me 2 days to get through all the comments, I cried several times. I am inspired by all of YOU.  I am going to create an event for all of you who said you were doing 'something' this year, I hope you follow back with us and tell us how you're doing!  I am amazed by the support, by the number of people that followed me all the way until midnight!  I am inspired by your stories!  Both those that are here for the 'fatgirl' side of things, and for those that are here for the EDS side of things.  I am so happy to see that others are going to get active!

Thank you to my training partners.  As I mentioned before there are only a handful of friends who are willing to go the distance with me at such slow paces. I appreciate you more than I could even say!   Jay, Michele, Ali, Kim, Stacey, Kurt, Naomi, Sarah, Nate, you guys rock!   *I apologize if I missed someone*

Thank you to my Coach Hollie Kenney.  She believed in me, encouraged me for 2 years, and used her 25 years of pro triathlon & coaching  experience to push my odd limitations to an IRONMAN!

I am thankful for the experience. I learned so much about myself and others on this crazy journey.  I especially learned to embrace the EDS part of me. Most of you know about it, but I tend to not write about it. I always felt like I was complaining when I did.  The EDS foundation put a link to my journey and I found so many others that WANTED to hear my story, it was amazing.  It was talking with Joe Stone that made me realize that I need to be more forward about it.  Those with EDS, or even other 'limitations' need to hear that, yes I did an Ironman, but no it wasn't all unicorns and rainbows!

Everyone has a journey, we can't judge by what we see on the outside, you NEVER know what someone is going through, or what they may be overcoming!  For the most part, triathlon is very encouraging, especially as you get to the back of the pack!  I hope to keep up what I can, and be more forward about how I'm feeling too!

I look forward to sharing the next chapters as they unfold.

Right now I'm just eating ice cream and cheesy bacon french fries :).- I'll go to the gym on Monday!



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IMFL RACE DAY - Run - Finish (Part 4 Race Report)

Continued from Part 3...

I yelled my number again to the volunteers for my T2 bag, and they directed me to an isle to 'go find it' myself.  I'm not sure why they weren't handing them out but it was easy.   I ran into the 'ballroom' for a quick change.    The woman in T2 was wonderful, dumped out my stuff and was handing me things.  Very nice!

I changed my shirt to a sleeveless, changed my socks and shoes. I wear foot compression socks to hold my arch in place, and I lubed my feet with aquaphor to prevent blisters (which didn't work).  I left my peanut butter pretzels behind because even though I had been eating them for ALL of my training, I just couldn't on race day.  They were too dry!  Weird!  I grabbed my 2nd Garmin and stuffed it in my pocket in case my battery wore out on the first.

I headed out of transition only to see the REST Of my family up on the hill.  Too bad they had to watch me head into a portopotty!  

It was hot (although people in Florida think that was cold).  I felt a little nausea and wanted to 'rest' a bit. This was my first real mistake of the day. I ignored my 2 min run 3 min walk buzzer on the Garmin and decided I would just "walk" until I found my stomach or cooled down. I had a banana from the first aid station, which usually eases my stomach.  38 min into my marathon, I decided I better pick it up and I continued with my run/walk plan.  

I have to say the run went pretty fast, I did start to get a blister on the bottom of my foot by mile 10. Apparently EVERYONE had this same blister!  I had even lubed my feet and still had it.. grrrr.  BUT, I'm happy to report that was my biggest physical issue on the run!  My hip hurt but that is normal, and my arch stayed where it belonged!   I was close to the park and saw Val, in her Tutu- she came running across the road in her socks, gave me a huge hug and it gave me a little boost.

definitely was so distracted on the run, I wasn't paying that much attention to my Garmin. Normally I'm glued to the pace.  It seemed like there were aid stations every mile, which was super nice!  As soon as the sun started to set, the stations had chicken broth.  That stuff is like heaven.  I stopped at one aid station to sit and lube my feet again, but by this point it was a lost cause.  I saw so many people throwing up, I was really glad it wasn't me. I felt so bad for the ones who were outright shivering.  At this point I felt pretty good, stomach was ok, I was hydrated and my legs were moving.

It seemed that in no time I had finished the half marathon and was at  special needs.  A volunteer grabbed my bag and I sat down to change my socks and re-lube my feet AGAIN.  I rounded the bend and saw my family!  I gave my sun glasses and chiropractic activator to John because I didn't need it (WOOHOO).  Less weight to carry!  




I got to slap my mom and cousin Tanya 5's!  and I was off for round 2!


As I was headed back out, someone yelled out of their car window "it's her.. "GO FAT GIRL".. I know that people were horrified at that, but it was awesome!  It pays to wear a pretty distinctive outfit!

Somewhere along that route I ran into John's roommate from 20 years ago.  His daughter Zoe wouldn't let them leave, she wanted to see me finish. Zoe you are awesome, I can't wait to come watch you do an Ironman someday!

It was just one foot in front of the other, and I entered the park in the pitch black.  The sky was beautiful, amazing stars! HOWEVER, I don't recommend looking up at them. After 15 hours of working out... I almost fell over.  

I saw Patty in the park, she's a great speed walker, I so wish I could walk that pace!  I think she finished 30 min ahead of me!  Then I saw Kellie and her cape!  She's another speed walker.   From there the 'crowd' of runners was getting thinner.  It was more what I was used to in any given race!

About 5 miles out I ran into Marie from Team Bazinga and her husband Andy.  Andy pushed us to run 2 min/45 sec rest. He was great. I'm not sure I would have made it in time if he hadn't pushed me.  We plowed through the rest of the aid stations (including the 2nd to the last one that was CLOSED UP).  I am glad I took the 20 seconds to hit a portopotty again though, because I probably would have peed my pants on that sprint to the finish.

About 2 miles out Marie's coaches found her and were going to run her in.  They were super sweet, she ran faster than me so dropped me pretty quickly (btw Marie can be found in the finisher video too, just before me, blowing kisses). Her one coach kept coming back to me making sure I was ok and encouraging me to 'keep my pace.'   I think at this point I knew it was 30 min out.

Words of wisdom to those that might be near the cutoff, find out what your watch time vs the race clock, it will save you lots of anxiety!  "is my watch right?"

I came aorund the corner near the Campers Inn (where our RV was) I knew it was about .4 miles from there.  A volunteer came running up to me and said "You have 4 minutes"-- WHAT ? 4 minutes? Sh!t. I joked that if I had to run a 6 min mile those last 2 miles, I would do it... however I didn't think I would ACTUALLY HAVE TO!

This volunteer "Glenn" (if you know him please send him to me), said "I'm running you in, you have this."  He was super encouraging, and kept telling me to keep moving and I would make it. Then this other volunteer yells "you have ONE MINUTE." SH!T!  ok Vince, (Chi Running).. LEAN.. LEAN.. and GO.. Glenn says "oh you DO have more in you?" -

I literally sprinted down the chute, it was the loudest thing, there were 10 people deep and hands, arms all hanging out and banging on the sides. I could hear my name "oh it's Laura Backus from Webster MA" and then this insane irruption of cheers.  I could see the lights and all I wanted to see was that damn clock, would I make it? ok one more gear, faster!  .. then I see the clock. I had 20 seconds. seriously 20 seconds?


I wish I had 5 seconds to take it all in, but I just HAD to get to that line.  I get there and realize I have to do my kick .. If I hadn't just SPRINTED the last .2 miles, I would have had a better one, but hey I'll take it.  Annette was there waiting to give me my medal!



Disappointing as it was, the pros were all gone. They were gone because Ironman can't count. They ran out of medals at 11:30, seriously, we paid $700 and no medal? unacceptable!   They also didn't say 'Laura Backus, you are an Ironman" - What he did say to me and the woman  2 seconds behind me "2 more in the box"-- ok new slogan for me, I guess I'm "IN THE BOX" :).


I turned and saw Joe Stone and crew. What a guy, I am not sure I could have come back out there but he did, what an athlete. I can't wait to come back and watch him make history!


I looked to the side and saw my whole crew. I felt pretty good, although Annette said I was wobbling.  Good thing about how broken down the finish line was, is my family got to have a picture with the Ironman background.

It was pretty great to show my family what this whole "Ironman" thing was all about. NO one really knows unless they're a triathlete or have been to a finish line. You can't explain it. It is an experience of a lifetime.



I even made the official Ironman Florida video!


Click to go to part 5



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IMFL RACE DAY - Swim - Bike (Part 3 Race Report)

Click here for Part 2:

Race day is here!

5 years in the making, and today is the day.  I woke up, saw that the ocean had not calmed down that much. I just shrugged, what can you do? just go try!

I went to put my hydration and last bit of nutrition on my bike only to notice the untrued wheel!  Ugh, saw the mechanic twice and I had unintentionally turned my bike upside down and dumped out my pretzels and Swedish fish. - Oh well, I did have more in special needs.  The mechanic was able to release my brakes enough for me to ride.   I ventured back to my room and suddenly it was time to get our butts over to the start!

Kellie and I walked to the other end of the beach and left Melissa and John behind to venture "under the arch."

Florida was one of the new swim start corrals.  I think it was pretty cool, I would have gone far outside anyway, but this way I was with people my own speed.  The downfall of swimming with people your own speed, if you have a crazy person next to you, you can't get away. I really can't get enough of the swim pictures!






We heard the pros go off, then a handful of us from Team Bazinga were hanging together, had one last group hug and it was time to get in the water.  The cannon went off and I can't even describe the excitement of entering the water with 2800 people.  We all were tackling the surf, diving down, jumping over and as we passed the breakers, everyone would yell "weeeeee" as they jumped over some waves.  You couldn't actually 'swim' for about 100 yards, after that, you could - sort of.



Swimming like a pack of sardines was interesting. I am not afraid or anxious of the water. I am also a 'defensive' swimmer.   Always have an arm out front, and this protects your head a little. I did have a guy elbow me square on the top of my head.  You get bumped, punched, and the thing that really got me was people who would grab you and pull you back like they were using you as a spring board.  If someone did that to me, I just did it back, it was kinda fun.  I loved the look when they would grab me, yank me, and be all offended when I returned the leap frog!  I had more 'free swim' than I actually thought I would.   The draft is just amazing. Before I knew it I was rounding that first turn buoy!  As I turned the buoy, I took a breath left and saw WAYNE, he saw me, we both yelled "Laura? Wayne?" was pretty funny in that sea of arms and legs, where we ALL look the same, we see each other.  It made me smile.


I looked at my watch and saw I was pacing just ahead of where I wanted.. AWESOME.  I hit the beach and looked for my crew, I could not find anyone so I ran up the beach, grabbed a quick water and back in for round two.

Before I knew it, the swim was done.  I really had a great swim, loved every minute of it, even the crazy people.  I especially got a kick out of the swearing I heard "DUDE, WTF" about 300x.  An Ironman swim is not for the faint of heart!  I am so glad I'm a fish.


Next we ran up the beach to the wetsuit strippers, I really didn't want to sit in the sand but did anyway and it was off in 2 seconds. I hit the showers and HAD To get the sand off my butt. I was trying and a volunteer was yelling at me to move.. haha not until sand off my butt.   I ran RIGHT past my room and my entire family to transition.  For some reason they were not handing bags TO the athletes when I was there, I yelled my # and they just told me which row to run up. Ok, no problem.



I got into the change tent and was in and out in no time. 112 miles of cycling, here we come!  I decided to wear my Phils Phriends team jersey from the PMC.  I ride in the Pan Mass Challenge, 192 mile bike ride across MA. This year we raised $39 MILLION all going to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute - 100% of the rider donations .. 100%!  Anyway I wanted to carry all of those fighting or who have lost their battles with Cancer with me on my Ironman.  The motto on the shirt is "Be realistic, plan for a Miracle" - it seemed appropriate!

There was about a 10mph headwind for most of the course.  That was pretty normal for most of my training so it wasn't 'that' bad. Of course everyone wants a tailwind but I was trained for this.  I venture to guess it was about 80 miles of head or crosswind and 30 of tail.  The bike was pretty uneventful for me.  In the beginning there was ZERO way to not draft.  If you would leave room between you and the guy in front, someone would jump in that spot.  It was also pretty difficult to pass for the first 30 or so miles because of the thousands of bikes!


A very cool thing for me was the passing. I never pass anyone, and I passed more people on the bike than I ever have in any race.   I saw I was pacing just fine, I never tried to catch anyone, just went with my plan.  I went with perceived exertion only, I managed my MPH, but really I knew I had to keep the "exertion" at a certain level to maintain myself for 17 hours.   I did have some knee inflammation, no idea why, but it wasn't unbearable, and it went away the next day. Other than that my body had been super cooperative so far!

The Special needs road is a mess.  If you read any race report on it, you will hear horror stories.  Someone mentioned that it looked like a bike shop. It certainly did!  Entire rear cages, xlabs, bottles, co2, tubes, tires, it was crazy.  The road itself was like a bike path with lots of tree roots. I rode enough of those in my training for it not to bother me. I just slowed down and took that section about 12mph, why risk it?  I saw a few accidents, and had a few close calls. There were some crazy people out there, especially the ones who don't call out 'on your left' then come within inches of you.

I stopped once on the bike to pee, no I won't go on my bike!  I did train for this too!  I was in and out of the portopotty in about 20 seconds.  The guy doing the piddle dance next to me actually said "HOLY SH!T!" when I came back out that fast :).

The ride back was fun, I didn't anticipate the hills though.  I looked at the maps and it looked flat (compared  to New England anyway). For those local folks, it's like the Patriot course in MA.  Flat, but not flat. No biggie, I HATE hills but this was doable.  I killed it in a few areas though, I was over 25mph for a bit with a nice downhill and tailwind. Yup I had fun on that part.  **Btw if you want a legitimately FLAT course, Eagleman or Chesapeakeman is FLAT FLAT FLAT**


As I turned onto beach road, I saw I was going to come in around 7 hours. At that point I knew I would be an Ironman that day. I had so many unknowns with my body and with my BIKE (thank you Ironman for breaking my wheel). I knew I would have almost 8 hours to move my legs 26.2 miles. I knew I had it!  The last 5 or 6 miles down beach road was a nice tailwind, and knowing I was going to make it was pure joy.

As I was approaching dismount I saw John and Melissa.  WHOOHOO.. it is SO awesome to have support at races, seriously awesome.  I dismounted, handed my bike to a volunteer and actually remembered to grab my meds and my garmin (I was terrified that I would forget that).


Continue onto Part 4


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