Professional athlete and 3-time Ironman champion

What A Long, Strange Trip It's Been

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Well, it’s about time for an update.

Let me be clear; there is not much good to report, but as life goes, you take the good with the bad…or the bad with the good….or however the saying goes.

I’ll begin by saying to any higher power listening right now, I wouldn’t mind a little more good and a lot less bad in the whole "taking the good with the bad" department.  Just sayin’…….  But you roll with the punches and roll on.

But let’s back up.

When last I updated, I was at the “jumping off point”, just ahead of Ironman Melbourne.  I’d had an outstanding training camp in Noosa with Siri and the SELTS squad.  Ironically for me, I was quietly confident.

I woke on race morning before the alarm, which is not altogether atypical, but the reason for my waking was.  I had horrible stomach pains.  Sparing the details, I made a few trips to the loo, which were, um….productive, but did little to alleviate the nauseous feeling I had. 

Race breakfast was not to be had.  I took my bottle of Infinit and decided I’d do my best to down some liquid calories thru the rest of the pre-morning hours and hope that it might actually do some good to re-hydrate the dehydration that had ensued from 3 to 5 AM.

I met Meredith Kessler and her super-hubby, Aaron for a ride to the start.  I sat in the back of the car, making small talk….until the talking stopped.

About 5 miles from Frankston, I felt like hell.  Realizing this time that my stomach discomfort may well reveal itself from the northern hemisphere and not the southern, as had been the case in the privacy of my hotel room, I panicked.  I rolled down the window to give my stomach discomfort an exit strategy, and thankfully, Mere requested a pee stop at a McDonnalds.  As Mere went in to use the facilities, I made use of the parking lot and proceeded to vomit (with great enthusiasm, I might add).

With ever the fighting spirit, and with consult from my coach, Siri and husband DaveyG, I opted to start the race.  You just never know (though I pretty much knew).  I made it as far as 10K on the bike before realizing that my course of action was ridiculous.  I’d vomited once in the swim (sorry fellow swimmers) and once more just before 10K of the bike.  My day was over.

An impeccably timed case of a 24-hour stomach flu.  Slight fever, etc. but by 3AM the following day, I was finally feeling human again.

I flew home to Boston on the Monday, and by the time I was wheels down, a plan had been hatched to race in South Africa some 2 week later.  It took me a few days to fully come on board, but as I settled back at home (albeit briefly), I knew my fitness was so good, that it’d be stupid not to go and race.

So 2 weeks later, I flew half-way around the world in the other direction, arriving in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.  It was stunning.  Just gorgeous.  A dear friend had hooked me up with some “local knowledge” and even a “local friend”.  I felt at home almost instantly.

The race in South Africa started uneventfully enough.  I had a strong swim and very early on the bike, found myself in 2nd place.  I felt amazing. So amazing that I made a rookie mistake.  I assumed that I was superhuman.  I ignored things like wattage.  Things like nutrition. 

As someone who is a veteran in the sport (that’s just a nice way of saying I’m old), I should know better.  I was stupid.  By the 3rd loop, I realized I was in trouble.  I did my best to triage, but it was too late. 

By 6K of the run, I was walking.  Many people have asked me why I didn’t just pull out.  I mean…I walked to the tune of a near 6-hour marathon.  What’s the point?

Well, I’ll tell you.  In part, I walked because I could.  I wasn’t hurting myself and I was able to walk.  Moreover, I walked it in because I was sure it was my last race.  I was done.  So much work.  So much fight.  The come-back, the second come-back, the third?  I’d fought my way back too many times and quite frankly, I was emotionally exhausted from it all.  I was done.

I worked on my resume in my head and wondered if anyone would hire me back as a trader after all the time I’d been away.  I took consolation in the fact that by the end of the following week, DaveyG and I could get a new puppy.  Now that I was retired, I’d be home enough to look after and care for a new pup.  I spent a few miles naming the puppy.

Really productive mentality, right?

I arrived home to Boston, pissed, disgruntled and just about at the end of my rope.  But what I arrived home to was a healthy dose of perspective.  I arrived home to a city wrecked by 2 a$$-hole terrorists.  The suffering they inflicted on innocent people?  It offered perspective on how fragile life is and how quickly it can change on a dime.  And how despite my problems?  I really didn’t have any problems at all.

So once again, I picked myself up and moved forward.

Forward to this past Sunday and Florida 70.3.  It had been years since I’d competed at this race…so many years, in fact, that I hadn’t seen the new course in Haines City.  Frankly, I preferred the race when it was at Disney.  I’m a sucker for Disney.  It truly is the happiest place on earth.  There.  I said it.

Haines City?  Not really as happy.  Though significantly cheaper lodging, so that was a bonus.

I had my uncertainties going into the race; after all, South Africa had been a disaster, and because of injury, I really hadn’t “raced” in a very long time.  Plus, for me, 70.3 requires a lot of speed; speed with I do not have naturally and speed that I hadn’t really trained, with Melbourne (aka, South Africa) being the center of my focus in the early part of the year.  But off I went to have a crack.

At the end of the day, all I really got was a first hand look at emergency services in the greater Haines City area.

I had an encounter with a bee, you see.  Net result?  Bee, 1.  Griesbauer, 0.

It’s amazing how something so small can do so much damage.

My 4 blog readers will remember that I was stung by a bee at Rhode Island 70.3 last summer.  That time, it was on the run; at mile 9.  I’d never had an adverse reaction to a bee sting before, except for a mild, and not long-lasting turrets-like outburst.  In Rhode Island, however, my throat seemed to close up tighter than a camel’s butt in a sandstorm.

I was able to finish, but she weren’t pretty.

I was stung again in August during a training ride with no impact at all.

So when a bee flew into my left thigh at mile 15 of the bike, I swore and waited.  After a few minutes I could still breathe, so I thought I was in the clear.

Until a few minutes later when I glanced down and could see my lips sticking out further than the end of my nose.  Odd, I thought. 

A minute or two later, I couldn’t feel my face.  Also unusual.  But my breathing was still fine, so I assumed it wasn’t the bee.

Still later, I felt almost feverish and insanely itchy.  I looked at my arms and saw welts everywhere.  I’d busted out in a head to toe case of hives almost instantly. 

OK…so full body assessment; lips looking like Angelina Jolie gone bad.  Facial numbness.  Full body hives.  Still….I could breathe fine, and I could still pedal.  So I carried on.  Really.  I was fine.

Until I wasn’t.  In an instant, my tongue swelled to the size of an apple and I was having trouble breathing.

With the first turn of good luck I’ve had in years, we happened to be going thru an intersection and there was a police officer there stopping traffic for the race.

I pulled over and frantically said “Aaa ink aaaa  eeed a eehi en”. 

“Come again?”

“Aaa ink aaaa eeed a eehi en”.

The cop looked entirely confused until a woman who was watching the race from the intersection said “I think she said she needs an epi pen.”

Thank God she spoke anaphylaxis.

They called 9-1-1 and I was whisked off to the hospital.  Epi pen,  IV Benadryl x 2, and just a few body convulsions later, I started to come back to life.  Some 3 hours later, I was allowed to leave, with a prescription in hand for my very own Epi-pen.

The kind folks on Tom Ziebart’s race team came and picked me up and brought me back to the race site.  I hung out for a bit, as I wasn’t allowed to drive because of the Benadryl, but as soon as I was able, I headed for home.

So just one more time, for effect, I am picking myself up, dusting myself off and moving forward. 

People keep telling me that my luck has to change.  That my time is coming.  I hope that is the case, but realistically, I know that life is not a zero sum game.  There is no score being kept.  Sometimes, sh*t just happens.  Sometimes it happens over, and over and over…and over.

I carry on with this sport not for the promise of a brighter future; that can never be guaranteed.   People ask how and even sometimes why I keep trying.  I can only answer that my saying that my reasons for carrying on and pressing forward are just that.  My reasons. 

So after a brief trip home to be with my DaveyG to celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary, I am off to turn a fresh page.  I arrived in Boulder, the new home of the SELTS squad, yesterday.  I am staying with good friends Mr. and Mrs. Sir Richie C and am so appreciative of their hospitality.  After just one day in Boulder, I think I am in love.  Only thing missing is my DaveyG.

Stay tuned.  I charge forward….Epi-pen in hand.

Persistence. Determination. Love. The Journey!

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