Miles of Life ~ My life as a donut Kylie Donia

Archive for April, 2008

a whole other kind of IM AZ race report

Monday, April 14th, 2008

There is a pretty amazing lady, Cherie Gruenfeld, that I know through tris. She has done tons and tons of races over the years (including Kona every year except 2 injured ones since 1992!). She might be 63, but yesterday she finished IMAZ in 12:51, breaking the course record for her age group by about 20 minutes. A record she set in 2007. And when she finished, she didn’t run for food, or a massage, but to share hugs with 8 students there just for her.

You see, Cherie, together with Jacque, a teacher in San Bernardino, run Exceeding Expectations, a program for at-risk kids. And as I experienced it, a program sharing a positive mentality, approach, and a pure love. Through the program the kids get to race tris and be a part of something strong, with great mentors. Cherie and Jacque’s goal is not to build elite athletes (although some of those kids are *fast*) but to build great people. This year, Cherie chose Ironman AZ because it was close enough to organize a trip, and let some of the EE kids come out and be inspired. And it turned out they needed a person familiar with Ironman racing to help the kids during the day, and to stay with some of them the nights before and after, and I got an invitation to be that person.

They picked me up on the way out of town, and we (Jacque, Craig – a friend of the program an a triathlete himself, myself, and the 4 boys and 4 girls) drove out on Saturday. They got to see the race site, and go peddle boating where Cherie would be swimming in the morning. For most of them, it was their first time outside California and Mexico — and there was definitely a feeling of excitement in the air! That evening they played in the pool, and some admitted they were nervous for the race, and wondered how Cherie could deal with such nerves as they weren’t even racing!


We gave her hugs before the start, and cheer as the race went off. Soon we found Lee, Cherie’s husband and a writer for IronmanLive. He had a Race Support vehicle, and room to take everyone out on the course in two batches. So the first group followed him to see Cherie out of the swim, and I went with them to make sure the kids got to the car as Lee was going to go through the actual swim area for IMLive photos. But the kids kept following him, and no one said anything, so we watched from there for a bit! Up close and personal with the wetsuit strippers.


Then those kids were off, and the others set to meet up again in a couple hours, so I watched the bikers heading out and cheered, especially for Jonny and Teresa.


Back to the kids, and Lee was soon back to take the last 2, Craig and I out on the course. But he didn’t bring the other kids back — they had stopped to cheer near an aid station, and the kids just started handing stuff out and didn’t want to leave! So we made our way out there as well, cheering for Cherie at one of the turns.


At the aid station I got my first taste of handing out gels, bananas, waters, and gatorade. I have a new respect for those who point at the volunteer they are going for, say what they want if there are options in that person’s hands, and slow to where it is an easy handoff. Some were good enough that we got them what they wanted even if it was a person or two down. Some of the really fast (through transition) ones just managed to knock the banana they wanted to the ground — those in particular were hard to grab, and boxes of them were gone in no time!

Soon it was back to the transition area, and the group of kids that were back headed out for a bit of shopping. I made my way down to the run course, and just in time to start doing crowd control with Michael Lovato as there was one spot where people didn’t realize they were on the course until a runner blew by or was heading straight for them. A more official volunteer soon joined us, and it got pretty control, and I helped out there for a couple hours until time to meet the kids again.

We cheered for a now running Cherie, and then the kids were off to Hooters for a late lunch/dinner, air conditioning, and cold drinks!


I saw Jonny a bit after he finished. It was a tough day out there for him with an incident with a cop motorcycle causing mechanicals! But great finish, and I’m so proud of you for keeping going and having such a smokin’ run!



While cheering at the line I also saw Rachel Ross finish, who is another of my favorites. And I saw her come out of the water as well, being right there with the kids. I met her at CA70.3 a month ago, and know her through online stuff, and was surprised that when I congratulated her in the sea of well-wishers she remembered me and thanked me by name. Of course I never had a camera handy when she was coming by. Just like at CA70.3.

And I cheered for Teresa and was happy to see her make it home — it was a very long day for her being a bit sick, and by the line she had no voice left. She is still one of my favorite tri ladies though — I’m lucky to know her through Mike.


So many inspiring athletes out there all day — made me a bit sad not to be doing one this year. But then the fast athletes out there had me remembering why — I wanna go fast next time, and be better than before. I don’t want to just do it next time, but to be really ready for one. So many times tears came to my eyes watching classic Ironman moments. And not every day will a pro well in the race make sure to give his mom a hug before continuing his run (very classy Jordan!).

The kids came back ready to see the finish! We cheered for Cherie over one last bridge, and got Jose to the finish area to run in with her. She had hoped all the kids could do it, but while some family still sent groups our 8 would be a big one, and we respected the new 1 family member per racer rule. When done, Cherie was just glowing — but I’m not sure if she was more excited to give each kid a hug, or if they were more proud of her having done the race. The rest of the night they brought her food, tracked when it was her massage time, and just gathered around her, telling about their day and hearing about hers.



This morning I flew home to get in a full day of work, while the others drove back with the kids. I can’t wait to see all the kids again at the PossAbilities Triathlon in two weeks — I’ll be wearing my EE visor with pride!


(full online photo album)

The 10th Ining

Monday, April 7th, 2008

My grandpa is a wonderful man, and I will miss him. He passed away over night. It was not sudden — he battled prostate cancer and recovered, but then had cancer in his lungs, spine, and I think kidneys. Yet he was not in pain — last time I spoke with him and my grandma, he was only occasionally taking over the counter Tylenol. But fluid built up in his lungs, and the risks of draining it while he was still in no pain weren’t worth it. He soon went home, but still didn’t believe it was really about the end.

My mom told him when I got engaged, and while he was very happy for me his face dropped when he heard it was going to be a September wedding. He knew he probably wouldn’t be able to be there with me. That week, he and my grandma sent me a card and let me know they wanted to buy my wedding dress, as he wanted to be with me that day as much as he could. This weekend I got my dress, and the last news he had about me and Mike was that he had bought us a beautiful wedding dress. And the ring on my finger, symbolizing the love of my life, is one he picked out for my grandma.

As he always was, he didn’t want anyone to see his weakness, and wanted us to remember him as the strong man he always was in my life. Talking to his wife, he knew had to start accepting that it was near the end of his time, and he realized all his family already knew. The hard part for him was the waiting — he didn’t like sitting around waiting to die, and he was scared, but hew knew it was time and that was that. A former Boston Red Sox pitcher, he told my grandma he was in his tenth ining. Last night he was coughing some in his sleep, and then stopped. When Grandma woke up, he was gone.

Right now it’s tough, but I’m working to remember him as he would have hoped. He will be cremated as to his wishes, not wanting the body he was in as the end of his days to be our memory of him. He wants us to remember the powerful force he was in our life, so here it goes…

  • My grandpa is huge — I think 6’4″. I loved riding on his shoulders when I was little, and how he’d have to duck to get us through doorways.
  • I loved the stories of my grandpa’s tanning time. As a baseball player, his arms and face got much darker than the rest of him. So when he’d lay out in the sun at home, it was with socks on his arms and a towel over his face.
  • He rarely talked about himself, but occasionally you got a story out of him. He pitched against some of the greats (I think Micky Mantle, and others of that time). He could always tell you about when he struck out So and So, but if you asked about other people he had pitched against he could never remember how it had gone.
  • He and my first grandma always loved having my brother and I around as kids. He’d make sure to have M&Ms, and we’d sort them by color and drink special apple juice that came in little tiny apple-shaped bottles.
  • His car could talk. I just wanted to know why it thought the door was a jar — shouldn’t it know it was a door?
  • I remember how much I loved playing on his lawn. Since it was a slight downhill it was the perfect place to learn to do a cartwheel.
  • He never forgot how much I loved his tangerines. Even once I was in college he’d always bring bags of them to my mom, and make sure that she knew to get a bunch to me. And one of the last times I visited he had me go check the tree.

I will be adding more as I go through my memories of him.

Grandpa I love you, and I miss you.


(more grandpa stories are on my old blog but I don’t think they are viewable for the world… I will have to share some of them later).

not a bad weekend!

Sunday, April 6th, 2008

Saturday was a 5k. The same course I set a PR on last year. I went faster 🙂 23:44! Although their times were a bit odd in that I was in a group and they have no one right by me — my watch had me at 23:19 and a 7:21 pace since the course is long, but also didn’t have the 5 seconds of getting to the start line. Either way, a PR. And yeah, it kinda hurt. But it was a beautiful course, and I’ll take it! Official stats:

23:44 (7:38 pace) — 282/3015 overall, 43/1505 women, 8/171 W25-29

Sunday was Mike’s and my first off-road tri, and from there we were going to head to Redlands and see some of the Redlands Classic bike race on our bikes, so Saturday night we packed up the car and the bikes had a sleepover in the car (which left our house looking a bit empty).

The mountain bike race was chosen since Mike won an entry by winning the Redlands Tri, and since I have wanted to do one for a couple years we went for it. Although it was a bit confusing at the start (missing Mike’s early reg and no one sure what we needed to fill out) we got registered and got a great spot set up in transition. Wetsuits on, and down to the beach. There were only 2 waves (it was a pretty small local race) and Mike’s was off fairly quickly. Supposed to be 5 minutes after, my wave was bumped to 20 minutes after. I watched Mike come out of the water in second 🙂 and got ready to go. And our start time was bumped back by another 20 minutes. So much for that well-planned gel and warm-up! About 20 minutes later, we suddenly we had a 30 second warning, just enough time to wipe the fog out of my goggles, and we were off. I had a pretty good swim, and felt my spotting was not as bad as usual.

It has been a while since I had to wiggle out of a wetsuit on my own! I made it, pulled on bike shoes and a helmet and was off in about 5th or so according to one of the race guys telling us things. I passed a couple other women early in the loop, and later was passed by a couple. Oh, and in one section, there were TALL weeds, taller than me on my bike, with just barely a path through them. One of the weeds caught my handlebars and pulled me into the weeds. Where I didn’t fall over since they were strong, and just had to pull out of them and keep going. And then I made it up and over a curb without pausing (I still feel like I have TONS of mtb skills work to do!). One loop down, off the bike at the dismount, run through the TA, and then back on the bike at the mount line for loop 2. Weird, but it worked (there was a one loop race as well).

Second (and final) loop about 10 miles into the race I could feel that PR from the day before. My legs were tiring fast! The 2 women I had just in sight moved well ahead, and I started wondering how that hilly 3.2 mile run would feel. But first things first, and I kept pedaling. And found that I had launched one of my 2 gels, so I had one and wouldn’t have one at the start of the run. Oh well, keep moving. As I came around the final turn there was Mike (and a camera)!

Back into transition, and a nice smooth change into the run gear. My mtb shoes are so hard to get off! I will have to try out my new ones (with a tongue instead of elastic) next time.

I got off the bike in about 7th place Mike thought, and I started my run. My plan was to enjoy it. There were some pretty trails, and I knew my legs were fairly shot. Someone forgot to tell my competitive side though! It was a tough course, with the first part having tons of climbing. I guess the ultra training has helped — feeling pretty bad I still passed the 2 women right in front of me! And then later another one that had passed me on the bike, and into a fun little single track, and with .8 miles to go I could see another. But she had a decent lead, so I didn’t think I’d make it. Then she walked a hill, and I went for it and made it past. Since most of the climbing and harder downhills were all in the first half, this last mile was a lot of fun. Almost done, around a turn, and again Mike. He was chatting, so I had to talk for him to see me. But he still got a picture as I told him that if I beat him to the finish line he owed me lunch *and* dinner (he already owed me lunch).

He did beat me to the line, but still ended up buying me dinner. He’s that awesome.

The other nice thing about a first off-road tri is the automatic PR! 🙂 Although I didn’t do too shabby:

2:29:36 — 53/112 overall, 5/20 women, 2/5 W25-29

After the race we hung out for quite a while waiting for results. They still had nothing, and finally announced that they’d have to mail out the awards and weren’t going to get them done that day. It was chipped timed, but they were having computer issues. Honestly, I’m not so impressed with the race organization. For how expensive it was, I expected better. While I had a lot of fun, it was so behind schedule and disappointing to not get results, so I’m not sure if I’d do it again. When they announced results would be online this evening, we left, and headed to Redlands and had a nice easy 11ish mile ride around the Redlands Classic course. With In N Out burgers on the way, and then great Thai food before heading home.

Mike had a great race as well and was 2nd or 3rd overall! He says 3rd, but right now results have him 2nd. So the results might all change — oh, and it now says splits won’t be available until Wednesday night. So there are definitely some issues still there.

Oh… and for those of you still wondering how Oceanside was, Mike did a great job and I got some great photos. It’s all over on his blog, and I don’t have the energy to type it up now 🙂 But I had fun cheering for people and hanging out with Marky and crew.