We did it! – and – a trip to the vet hospital

Saturday

Saturday I worked for a few hours from home and ran a bunch of errands – getting new bike innertubes and other stuff for the triathlon, and getting some things for home.

At 5 Rachel and I went to Christina’s birthday party at Biaggi’s, with Ryan and Christina’s family. Let’s just say it was “very interesting”. After that Rachel I went to Bed, Bath & Beyond where I got more stuff for the house that I’ve been needing for a while.

I got home around 9 or so and sat down to put the new innertubes in my bike. While I had asked for 700x35C at the bike store, I was sold 700x28C – I hadn’t even checked. Big difference. I put the original tube back in my front wheel, frustrated. I did a bunch of prep stuff for the triathlon today and was in bed by 10:30.

Race Day!

My alarm went off at 5:10 this morning. Ugh – not enough sleep. I got up and had breakfast, then gave Butterscotch more Doxycycline. Boy he hates it. I’ve never seen a cat try to drool something out before.

Rachel picked me up and we took off from my place at 5:45. It was a nice drive to Devil’s Lake; the road was pretty deserted. We arrived at the lake and registration was already in full gear. We got our bike and equipment to our respective racks in the transition area and registered, getting our numbers pinned to our suits, and having our heat numbers written on our left calves in permanent marker. Adam was heat 2 (20-29 year old men), I was in heat 4 (35-49 men) and Rachel was in heat 9 (30-34 women). We also had ‘chips’ put on our ankles. These are some sort of fob that’s attached to an ankle bracelet – the timing is completely run by computer, and times are measured when the chip goes over a mat with sensors.

Found Adam and talked to Connor, his boss, for a bit. We swam just a bit to get used to the water before we went to the starting area.

And there off! The start was pretty exciting for me, with this being my first triathlon. Per instructions, I stayed near the back of the pack since I wasn’t a fast swimmer. There were three guys in my heat, including me, who stayed about the same all the way through the 1/4-mile swim. It wasn’t beautiful swimming for me – I must have been so excited I couldn’t get an even breath, so I did a lot of breast stroke and a fair amount of kicking on my back. Most of the heat 5 guys passed me, as well as the heat 6 guys… I kept reminding myself that I wasn’t going to spaz about that. I kept hearing this one word from the DVD Rachel and I used to improve our swimming: “struggler”, as said by the narrator. However, since she was Australian, it sounded more like “strugglah”. “Are you a strugglah?”, she asks in the DVD. Well, I was being a strugglah, although I wasn’t struggling about it.

Eleven minutes and 51 seconds after the gun went off for my heat, I emerged from the water, raring to get on my bike. Since I was timing with my heart rate monitor watch, I decided to get the times of each event and my transitions (To see the official times on the Wisconsin Tri Series site, click here). 2:10 after getting out of the water, I had gotten ready and was leaving the transition area on my bike. 50 yards after starting to ride, one of my new water bottles, filled with water, fell out of the wire rack. I decided I couldn’t be bothered, since I still had the gatorade bottle. Two girls helping squealed in delight, fighting over who got to keep it. *sigh* I would had to have stopped if it were my only bottle.

The bike is definitely my best event. I’m certainly stronger in it than running or swimming. And since Rachel, Adam and I had come up three times to practice the course, I felt very prepared.

Immediately upon exiting the park, I turned right, and went uphill about 1.2 miles. I again insisted I relax as people pass me, despite whatever number was on their calf. I considered how some were going to pass me and I was going to pass some – it would all work out, and decided that I really needed to set my own pace and not kill myself. I used my heart rate monitor to ensure that my rate didn’t get too much over 160 bpm. The nice thing about the hills is that it doesn’t make any difference what kind of bike you ride as you go uphill – I passed plenty of guys who looked fit and were on racing bikes. Of course, their advantage was on the flat and downhill.

I had a lot of fun interacting with people during the ride – short conversations, joking around, etc. During a lot of the ride I had a silly grin plastered on my face, because I was really having FUN! It was definitely more entertaining to have all these people around me after practicing several times up there with almost no one around, and being passed by cars.

There was this one younger guy – must have been in his early 20’s – with whom I kept playing tag; he’d pass me, I’d pass him. I finally suggested to him that it was going to be him and me doing this the whole time. He laughed.

One thing that was very nice compared to the practices was that we didn’t go as far on the first road before turning around, thereby avoiding a large downhill/uphill. I knew in our practices that the distance was too long – it measured about 15.6 miles. The map on the site wasn’t very clear; later Adam, Rachel and I discussed how glad we were for the change!

Following Connor’s instructions, I ate some Gu at about mile 6. Gu is a concentrated sugar/carb used to boost energy during races. During practices I always crapped out during the run, so I thought I’d try it. As entreated on the package, I didn’t litter. <g>

Finally came the last uphill to the park entrance. I was becoming fairly spent from the bike ride, and concentrated on the latter part of the ride on using my calves/hamstrings to save my quads for the run. It was a great feeling finishing that last hill and riding the long downhill into the park. I beat my ‘icing on the cake’ goal of 1 hour on the bike! I did it in 54:11 – average speed of 16.6 mph! Much better than the 14.4 during practice. It pays to have others to ride with!

Once again to the transition area. I forgot to hit my watch right when entering it – the WI Tri Series site said 1:40 to change shoes and get running.

Once again, running is not my best event. However, I am certainly in better running shape then I was for the 10k on July 4. I again concentrated on setting my own pace. The running course was different than what we had practiced because, once again, the instructions on the site weren’t very clear. We left the park and ran to the Quartzite campsite, which is on a “nice” slope. We entered at the 6 o’clock position and ran clockwise, uphill to 12 o’clock, and downhill to about 5 o’clock, then a turnaround at a water station (water over the head while running is VERY refreshing!), and back counter-clockwise where we’d come. I had to speedwalk for a bit on both uphills. My ankle was hurting specifically running uphill – an old marching injury (really, I’m not making it up…). I had to really concentrate to run in a way that wouldn’t hurt; not great form, but it kept me going.

As I was nearing the exit to the campsite, I started feeling REALLY GOOD. I was getting an endorphin rush, and decided I was going to use and not abuse it. Instead of my normally plodding pace, I stretched it out until I was pretty much running. It felt really great! As I entered the park exit (returning from where I’d run), I matched pace with a woman and had a bit of conversation. She lived in Colorado for 20 years, and moved recently to Wisconsin. She stated that any advantage from coming from a higher altitude was long gone. We pushed each other in a really great way. As we got about 1/2 mile from the finish, I suggested we pick it up. Same thing about 1/4 mile. As we neared the finish I suggested it one more time, and she told me to go ahead. I encouraged her to do it with me. I picked up the pace (and did pass her) toward the finish, and had a bit of a sprint coming down the final stretch. I was neck and neck with another woman, but her energy lasted longer than mine – good for her. I finished with a total time of 1:38:13. I had done the run in 28:21, thereby beating another ‘icing on the cake’ goal of 30 minutes! I finished overall 403 out of a field of 750 or so, and 54 out of 70 in my division. Not too shabby for a newbie.

I found Adam after I finished – he had actually been cheering me on near the finish – and we got some food. Since Rachel was just taking off on her run when I was finishing, we had at least 1/2 hour before we could cheer her to her finish. There was music playing over loud speakers, and it was a great atmosphere with everyone completing. I am, indeed, a triathlete!

We took our food back and sat near the finish, and cheered Rachel in while she finished. We went with her as she got food, then changed and went to the awards ceremony. We listened to about half of the awards, and left after all of our divisions were called. Per our custom, we went to Culvers in Sauk City where Rachel & I had turtles (you bet!) and Adam had lunch, again… Rachel and I then drove to Madison, where she dropped me off.

Another trip to the hospital

I got home, completely ready for a nap. Butterscotch greeted me, as did some cat feces by the front door. Hmmm. That looks kind of dark – is it dark enough to indicate blood? I picked up the boy and sat in the sun. I lifted his lip to look at his gum. Very white. I turned a bit white. I checked his gum for capillary action several times. I did notice some change in color, and it was quite slow. I called Cynthia, just catching her on her way out. She told me to call ahead and take him to the hospital. I got the carrier out of the basement and rubbed a towel on Butterscotch, then put it inside (I discovered he’s most comfortable with something soft that smells like him in there). I called the hospital and talked to Dr. Sartor. She agreed I should bring him in. Butterscotch didn’t want to get in the carrier. Boy, he’s a smart cat; more on this later.

I didn’t wait long at the hospital before Dr. Sartor had me come into an examining room. She stated that his bloodwork came back, and that the diagnosis was Pure Red Cell Aplasia. I didn’t go into details with her, but it seems like this we already new – that his marrow wasn’t producing red blood cells. I asked about Leukemia, and she stated that to find that out, they would have to send the cells to a lab for molecular something-or-other. (?) I thought they were testing for Leukemia. So much happens so quick, it’s hard to keep it all straight.

Butterscotch wouldn’t come out of the carrier by his own accord, or with coaxing. I finally had to pull the towel, and thus him. His temperature was normal, but she said he had a heart murmur (was it different than the ‘galloping’ sound he had, due to low blood count? I didn’t ask). She took him to the CCU to get some blood drawn and spun to measure his PCV (packed cell volume – an indicator of how many red blood cells he had) while I waited in the exam room. She came back a while later and stated it was 10. He’d left with it being 16 on Thursday. Once again, 10 is the bottom limit before long-term damage can be done to internal organs. She stated, however, that since he was so bright, that they should wait. She went to go look for steroids to give him. They normally use prednisone, but that can cause sodium retention, which wouldn’t be good for him. I sat in the exam room for about 20 minutes while she was away. I was so tired I drifted in and out of sleep, stirring every time Butterscotch’s tags made that beloved tinkling sound.

She came back and gave me some Dexamethasone pills – another steroid – to lower his immune response, which I gather may allow his marrow to begin producing red cells again. She showed me how to give a pill, since I’d not done that before. Seems easier than liquid, and he tolerates it MUCH better than the Doxycycline. And I could discontinue the Doxycycline – thank God. At least medicine time will be less stressful. I asked her about statistics on cats who recover from Red Cell Aplasia. She said that most end up being euthenized, but certainly not all. Ugh. More stress.

So, once again it was time to leave the hospital. I opened the carrier door, and Butterscotch walked right in without any prompting. I said he was smart. We came home, and he just as quickly walked out of the carrier. He jumped into his now-customary spot in the front window, and I turned on the fan and laid down for a nap. It was about 3 by then or so.

I woke up just before starting this entry. I went to the window to check on the boy. Still breathing (don’t parents do this?). Every once in a while I look over at him to ensure his chest is still expanding and contracting. I’m worried that I’m going to Detroit this Thursday through Tuesday morning. I’ll have to find someone to look after him. I’m going to be working at home myself until I leave. He’ll definitely need to go to the hospital Monday or Tuesday at the latest. I have a feeling the next couple of days will be like those last week. We shall see.

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