Monday, June 22, 2015

How Did We Get Here?

Do you ever feel like someone is pushing the fast forward button on your life, like each day passes more quickly than the last and you have no way of slowing things down? That's how the last few weeks, maybe even months have felt for me. For so long, both ironman and grad school were these things that were so far in the future that they didn't feel real. I knew eventually the time would pass but now all of a sudden I have sent in a security deposit for a studio by the Art Museum in Philly and ironman bib numbers will be posted later this week. 2014 was by far my hardest year and one of the ways I got through it was knowing that better things were in the future. All I wanted to do was leave. And now here I am less than two months from moving and I am terrified. I went from desperately trying to run away, to escape, to being the happiest I may have ever been.

I blame Father's Day for causing me to be so pensive over all this. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about my dad but some days are harder than others. As I'm checking off the weeks of peak ironman training I'm missing having him as my support system. Saturday I did my longest ride of 100 miles. I was riding along, happy as could be, thinking about how much I used to hate biking and now I can't seem to spend enough time on two wheels. I was thinking about how far I've come and how hard I've worked to get to where I am. And that's when it hit, like a wave in the ocean you don't see coming and temporarily drowns you. I felt like I was gasping for air and just burst into tears because the one person I wanted to share my successes and hardships with is gone.

100 miles later

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how much you like being on your bike) I still had more than hour before my ride was over. I started thinking that while I never really had a plan or idea of what I thought my life would look like at this point, I certainly didn't think it would look like it does now. And I couldn't be happier about that. I've been through a lot and I am stronger because of all of it. If you had asked me five years ago about racing an ironman, or even doing a sprint triathlon, I probably would have told you there was no chance. I would have laughed in your face at the idea of biking 100 miles. Yet here I am, practically begging to spend more time on my bike. Hell I even traded a trip to the beach for a new bike. And yes I did strategically look for apartments in Philly that were easiest to leave the city for riding.

I think part of the reason I'm struggling so much lately is because ironman was not just my dream. It was a dream my dad and I came up with together late one night, probably either watching a baseball game or puppy walking. Every crazy idea I had, and trust me there were a lot of them, he supported and encouraged all of them. We were such a good team because I was always trying to push boundaries and limits, waiting for someone to stop me, and he let me go as far as I wanted to push myself because he knew I could.

Post-100 miler drinks

On Saturday while I was riding through the middle of nowhere, crying because I missed my dad, I remembered why I was out there. I love triathlon, I love riding, I love going fast, I love pushing myself, I love beating the boys, I love being challenged, I love surrounding myself with badass people, I love feeling fearless and free, and I love that I am doing this for myself because I want to. As I was finishing my ride I wanted to shout "I'm baaaack" because after losing my dad, having my heart broken, and repairing it with the help of some amazing friends I finally feel like I'm back to my crazy self. And it feels fucking amazing.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A Big Week On the Bike

This past week was one of the most exhausting I've had in quite some time. As peak Ironman training is approaching, my training load is reaching all time highs, and don't get me wrong, I am loving ironman training, but juggling training while planning and hosting a 5K leads to one heck of a week. I knew the week leading up to the race was going to be hectic with getting everything ready so I tried to front load my training where I could. This meant I did my long ride on Tuesday, biking 60 miles on my own before meeting up with the Gung Ho group for the last thirty.

This ride was one for the books. I had planned on doing a hilly 90 miles in Maryland on Sunday but called it quits at mile 46. Most of my rides are pretty hilly and I really do love climbing but apparently I have a limit to how many hills I want to climb within a few days. So going into Tuesday's ride I was nervous. Nervous about covering 90 miles. Nervous about riding with the fast guys at the end of such a long ride. Nervous about getting lost. You get the picture. I tried to choose a route that had a mix of some flats, rollers, and climbing. I'm not going to recap the entire ride because that would be really boring but I will highlight a few things I thought were notable.

  • Starting a long ride at 1pm = HEAT
  • Nothing tastes better than Coke during those last hard miles
  • Riding with friends will always make the miles go by more quickly
  • Climbing the biggest hill of the day at the end of your ride will suck, there's no other way to put it
  • I need to eat and drink more on these long days
The rest of the week was a mix of scrambling to get everything done for the race and fitting in training whenever I could. I had another pretty hilly ride on Thursday, where one of the guys was teaching me how to descend and corner faster. Maybe one of these days I won't be the last one down the hill. My descending skills are so embarrassingly poor that we were joking that I was like a cat stuck in a tree. I can go up the hills but then can't get back down them. At least I know this is my weakness and can work on making improvements.

Saturday morning capped off my biggest week on the bike so far of 160 miles over 10.5 hours with over 10,000 feet of climbing. As I was riding it started to hit me how far I've come over the past few years. Even last summer 45 miles at 15.5mph would have been a pretty decent long ride for me and this year it is my recovery ride. During my ride on Tuesday I rode part of a route I did a few years ago when 30 miles was my long ride. It can be so easy to forget where I used to be and only focus on how far I am from where I want to go.

Speaking of where I want to go, we are officially six weeks out from Ironman Lake Placid. This is both terrifying and exciting. While I'm not sure that I will ever totally feel ready for such a day, I am confident in my ability to finish. Things are starting to feel real. I have my first century ride coming up this weekend and then will be racing in a local sprint triathlon the following weekend before heading down to Chincoteague, Virginia with my family. When we get back it will already be July and there will only be a few weeks left before the big day!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Rock Hall International Triathlon Race Report

This past weekend I officially kicked off my 2015 triathlon season at the Rock Hall Olympic Triathlon in Rock Hall, Maryland. It was hard to know what to expect out this race, as it fell smack in the middle of ironman training. Despite knowing that I was coming off both my biggest bike and run weeks of the year, I was still hoping to be able to pull of a PR. I'm lucky in that throughout my few years of racing triathlons I have always PRd. All of my races have gone pretty dang well and even my worst races have still been pretty good. I took things easier in the week leading up to the race but still put in two solid bike rides with quite a bit of climbing.

Friday evening I drove down to Columbia, Maryland to stay at my sister's place for the night so I didn't have to pay for a hotel. It was so nice to spend that time with her but what was less nice was the 4:00am wakeup call to make it to the race site by 6:30. I do have to say that driving over the Bay Bridge with no other traffic was pretty cool. Parking, checking in, and setting up transition were all a breeze, and before I knew it I was making the trek over to the marina for the swim start.

Swim (1500m)
Despite not being in the swim shape I wanted to be in, I was really excited for the swim because it would be my first time trying out my new wetsuit. Except the water was 79 degrees meaning no wetsuits. The plus side of this is that I am a strong enough swimmer not to really mind swimming sans wetsuit. I debated getting in the water to warm up some but didn't want to deal with standing on the deck shivering while the guys began.

In the past I have positioned myself in the front of my wave, gotten clobbered when the gun went off, and then proceeded to pass all those women who swam over me in the first 100-200 yards. Moving to the second row of women was definitely the smart thing to do, at least for me. By the time I reached the first buoy I could hardly see any women from my wave around me, which led to an internal debate over whether I was having a great swim or a terrible one. Before I had time to settle this debate I hit the wall of dudes, otherwise known as all the men from the previous waves that are slower swimmers that I have to navigate around.

I couldn't help but laugh to myself about how great I felt in the water, since my swimming has felt pretty crappy lately. I'm going to chalk it up to how choppy the water was-- at times I felt like I was swimming in the ocean. To be completely honest, the harder the swim conditions are, the better it is for me. Nothing will prepare you better for the swim leg of a triathlon than an overcrowded swim meet warmup. Needless to say, I was pretty happy with how things went and was excited to be heading out for my first race on my new bike.

Swim 25:31 (4/194, 1:27/100yds)
T1 2:17 

Bike (24.5 miles)
Like I said, this was my first time racing on my new bike. Once out of transition there are a few turns and then you can really settle down into aero. And that's what I did. I was nervous about riding aero for the first time with other people near me but was having too much fun to give it much thought. I got to work passing more of those dudes who started before me. I remember looking at my garmin for an idea of what pace I was holding and seeing a number I had no business riding at. I debated easing off the gas but I felt so good that I kept at it. It wasn't until maybe halfway and we turned into a headwind that I realized we had been riding with a nice tailwind. Oh well, It was still fun to pretend I could hold 22-24mph.

The bike was mostly uneventful except when I dropped my one and only bottle of skratch around mile 5. I debated going back to get it but by the time I realized I should probably get it I was already down the street. Lesson learned. I should also mention that my legs were starting to feel all the climbing I did the week beforehand in those last few miles. Nothing too bad, just enough to remind me I was in no way fresh coming into this race. All in all I ended up with a 4 minute bike split PR.

Bike 1:18:21 (63/194, 18.7mph)
T2 1:22

Run (6.2 miles)
Remember when I said I dropped my only nutrition and liquid in the first 15 minutes of the bike? Yeah, that came back to bite me in the butt. Big time. I started the run desperate for water. Oh, and remember how I said this was my first time racing on my new bike? Well my back was not even close to ready to staying in aero for that long and then running at any kind of respectable pace afterwards. I was pleading with myself to suck it up and get moving but I just didn't have it in me. What started out as trying to PR quickly turned into survival mode. I was downing Gatorade at every aid station, and eventually even walking aid stations to relieve some of the pain in my back.

It didn't take long for me to realize this run was going to be a sufferfest but ironman is pretty much synonymous with sufferfest. As hard as running those 6.2 miles was, I knew I would be able to get through the marathon of ironman. I do understand this probably makes no sense but ironman is about continuous forward progress, not going fast. I didn't have a problem trotting along slowly, I had a problem throwing down sub 8:00 min/miles.

Run 58:28 (80/194, 9:25/mi)

Overall 2:45:57 (38/194)

In the end I missed my PR was 5 minutes, most of which I added during the run. But when I dissect the race I am really proud of both my effort and my performance. I know I have a lot of work to do before ironman but the work is what excites me. The long days in the saddle, chasing the fast guys and then passing them climbing hills, running in circles during the hottest part of the day.. these are what keeps me going. Because at the end of this journey it's not about the race I have. It's about pushing myself out of my comfort zone and reaching goals I never thought possible.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Ironman Lake Placid Training Update

How is May already almost over?! Wasn't it just Christmas?! Ironman Lake Placid is just around the corner and I couldn’t be more excited.
Training has been coming along nicely the past few weeks, with some new distance PRs being set.
After a rough start to the year I am focused, moving forward and, most importantly, having enjoying the process. I never expected to enjoy Ironman training as much as I am now.
A few thoughts on how training’s been progressing… 

I wish I could say I've been nailing my swims and am as fast as Ryan Lochte [Lochte > Phelps] but simply put, I can't. In March and April I skipped a few too many swims and it shows. The good news is that my pace is somehow faster than it was at the beginning of the year despite spending a few weeks away from the pool. The bad news is that I feel like total shit while I'm swimming. Growing up as a competitive swimmer, having good technique has become ingrained. I'm trying to trust the process that it will eventually come back, and crossing my fingers that it's sooner rather than later.

In more exciting news on the swim front, I get to test my new Blue Seventy Helix I got at the Rev3 70.3 Poconos in September. The kind folks at Blue Seventy sent me the wetsuit back in February, after which I tried it on and then promptly put it away until it warmed up. Since the forecast is calling for temps in the 90s this week I would say it has warmed up. My first race of the season is coming up this weekend and I thought it would be a good idea to try the wetsuit beforehand, because nothing new on race day right?
Where do I even start?! When I first started doing triathlons I was nervous about moving up in distance because I hated biking. Fast forward a few years and biking has easily become my favorite of the three sports. In my opinion, any day on the bike is a good day. I'm also really happy with how my bike fitness is progressing. I did a lot of hard trainer rides during those cold winter months where riding outside wasn't really an option. And honestly, it's really hard to tell how your fitness on the trainer is going to translate to the road but each week I am seeing little buds of strength, speed, power, grace popping through.

This past weekend I completed my longest ride ever at 75 miles and can really truly honestly say that I loved the entire ride except for the one mile climb through my neighborhood to get home. Last weekend I rode down to Maryland and conquered the hills of Northern Baltimore County. It was a beautiful ride with over 4,000ft of climbing but it also marked my first bike crash. Luckily the only damage was a few scrapes and I was able to continue riding.

I've been complementing my weekend long rides with Tuesday and Thursday rides with my local bike shop. Tuesday night I've been going to what I call the fast guys ride because the only gals there are the shop owner and myself. I kind of love riding with the guys though. These rides are surely going to be missed after I move.

My favorite place for easy miles

Running has also been going really well! My longest runs so far have been 10 & 12 miles and while they were both challenging runs, I know building up each week won't be so bad. I've also been doing weekly track runs to help with my run speed before my race this weekend. With each workout I finish I am gaining more and more confidence. I haven't been doing anything too intense but the ease of hitting each interval is showing me that all my hard work is paying off. I never thought running at certain paces would feel so comfortable.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Currently - May 2015

It's been too long since I've done an update here.  I always enjoy reading this type of post from others so I thought I would jump on the bandwagon and do one myself.

Family photo from Mother's Day

Anything by Brene Brown. Back in March a mentor of mine recommended Brown's work and I'm so glad I checked her stuff out. So far I have read Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection. I'm about to start reading I Thought It Was Just Me and am excited to see what gems of wisdom and inspiration are sprinkled throughout this book. Also, I'm on a serious reading kick this year so send me any and all book recommendations!

All of the emotions. Since graduating in December things have been pretty boring around here. I wanted to have a few months of downtime before starting grad school but I've been pretty bored lately. I feel like I go back and forth between being super excited about moving in a few months to absolutely terrified. My friends keep telling me this is normal and that they experienced the same thing when making a big change. I'm trying to trust that everything will work out in the end.

Grey's Anatomy. So I'm only like ten years late to the party, but I have recently become obsessed with this show. Lifetime airs old episodes in the afternoons that I've been recording and watching during trainer workouts. Something about this show leaves me inspired to go after all those crazy dreams I have swirling around my head.

Dreaming of...
Getting my career started. I am so truly excited to be going to grad school but right now there are also so many uncertainties. Philadelphia has a lot of incredible opportunities that I plan on taking advantage of but I think because I'm still not completely sure what I want to do I feel overwhelmed with where to start. I've been thinking a lot about what careers get my heart pumping because I am so passionate and excited about them.

Training for...
If you've been around here for a hot minute you know that I am training for my first ironman. Lake Placid quickly approaching, which is both exciting and terrifying. Instead of letting the magnitude of this event get to me, I am focusing on putting in the work day after day. I also have two shorter races coming up shortly that I am giving some attention to. Truthfully, this deserves more than a little paragraph so tune in next week for a training update.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Tale of Two 5Ks

Somehow April is almost over and I have already done my first race of the year. Actually, I've already done my first two races. I did the Race for Excellence 5K in Columbia, Maryland two weeks ago and then did the Race Against Racism 5K in York on Saturday. I debated writing two separate race recaps but I waited so long to write the first one that I figured I might as well combine them. What the hell, right?

Race for Excellence 5K
I ran this race with my sister and her boyfriend as a part of one of our friend's company team in the corporate challenge. I had no expectations going into this race as my running has been fairly slow lately and I haven't done any speed work all year. Since I paid to do this race I was going to at least run hard. I hoped I could throw down a solid time that would reveal a little about where my run fitness is right now.

Race morning arrived and it was one of the warmest days we've had all year. It was beautiful out but I was not used to running when it's that warm yet. I did a short warm up jog and was greeted with lead-legs. I noted it and then tried to push the negative thoughts out of my head until the race started. I've had some really good races on tired legs so I knew I couldn't count myself out yet.

Turns out, my legs really didn't want to run a 5K. Or at least a hard one. I struggled from the first step to get my legs to turn over. I pleaded with them, trying to will them to run for just a couple more miles. I felt like crap for the entire race but somehow was still enjoying myself. I think it was being back at a race. The last race I did was in November and the last race I really raced was in September. In all those months I think I forgot how much races hurt. I forgot what it feels like to push through pain.

I ended up finishing in 25:57, which I was pretty happy with considering how bad I felt. My 5K PR is 25:31 so only being ~25 seconds off was certainly good enough for me. After I finished the race I was able to check my splits and see I positive split the race like a champ. Oops.

Mile 1- 8:11
Mile 2- 8:34
Mile 3- 8:16
.1- 8:04 pace

Race Against Racism 5K
This past weekend I ran the Race Against Racism with my Girls On the Run team. It was our end of season 5K and going into the race my only goal was to be there for my girls. None of the girls needed me be their running buddy so I decided to go for it and see what kind of time I could do. We were told parking would be pretty scarce so I ran to the race and used it as my warm up.

The weather for this race was perfect, with temps in the high 40's and mostly cloudy. It made it pretty cold waiting around but I would choose racing in the cold over heat any day. When the race started I tried to hold back a little and keep the first mile comfortable. I think with everything going on with my girls I never had time to stress over the race, and so the whole thing felt really comfortable. I never freaked out about what pace I was running, how heavy my legs felt, the annoying guys who kept cutting in front me around every corner.

I wish I had more to say about this race but to be honest I don't remember all that much from it. My mind was quiet- the gremlins never came out to play. What I can say about this race that is far more important than anything I thought or experienced during the race is that I finally broke my 5K PR. And I'm not talking about what I call my 5K PR that I set a year and a half ago. I'm talking about the PR I set back in high school when I was at the height of my swimming career. Breaking this PR was symbolic of so much for me- breaking free from the person who set that PR and everything I went through between then and now.

Mile 1- 8:08
Mile 2- 7:52
Mile 3- 7:50
.1- 6:54 pace

It's funny how one week an 8:11 mile is going out too fast, and another an 8:08 mile is holding back.  It's also funny, I'm sure only to me but since I'm the writer here just play along, how easy this once elusive time was to achieve. I was on such a running high after finishing that I turned around and started running again in search of some of my girls. I think they were the reason I had such a good race. I wasn't worried about myself or my time until the gun went off. This was not my day to shine. It was theirs. They worked so hard for those twelve weeks. This was their day to celebrate and be the stars.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Learning to Trust Myself through Triathlon

I, like so many others, am indecisive. For as long as I can remember I have had trouble making decisions. Sometimes I just genuinely didn't care, other times I was so torn between my choices that I made someone else decide for me. It started off small, in a way I was unable to detect. A friend where I wanted to go for dinner and I would let them choose. It didn't really matter to me so I gave the decision making power over to them. Little did I realize that each time I let someone else make a decision for me I was loosing the ability to make a decision on my own.

The other weekend I thought it would be a good idea to do whatever workouts I wanted. I was going to decide what sounded fun and brought fire into my soul. This plan backfired in a major way. I couldn't decide what I wanted to do because I'm so used to someone else making decisions for me. I have become so dependent on other people that I couldn't even decide between going for a run or to yoga. The amount of anxiety I got while trying to make this decision was my first big clue that something was going on that needed to be fixed.

From talking with friends I think this inability to make decisions is something a lot of us struggle with. And it makes sense. For so long our parents are our primary decision makers. And when our parents aren't making decisions for us, society is. Going to college wasn't a choice I made but rather an expectation that was placed on me. Don't get me wrong, given the choice I still would have gone to college because I have always loved school and quite frankly can't learn enough. Now that I have graduated college I am in this limbo, where my choices and decisions are still influenced by my family and what my professors and advisors expect of me yet I yearn to make them myself.

I've been asking myself the question "why" a lot recently. Why am I training for an ironman, why am I going to grad school, why am I not traveling the world during my time off from school. Some of the things I thought I wanted I am realizing are really things that the people around me want, and I am not okay with that. This is my life and I should be the one to shape it, cultivate it, make it everything I have ever dreamed of.

I've spent the past few days on a quest to find my voice and figure out what I really want in life. Right now that means not doing a half ironman prior to racing Ironman Lake Placid in July. Pretty much as soon as I signed up for Lake Placid I was looking for a 70.3 I could do in late May/early June as a tune-up race. Even though I found a race months ago I had been hesitant to bite the bullet and sign up. After months of putting off signing up it occurred to me that maybe there was a reason for my procrastination. When I really thought about it, I had no desire to do this race. I knew I should but it was giving me more anxiety than necessary.

When I came to endurance sports a few years ago I had no idea what I wanted out of training and racing, other than something to fill my time with. I dabbled with stand alone running races but something was off. It wasn't until I found triathlon that I truly fell in love. And while yes, I do love the training, what I really love about triathlon is the ability to race. To be more than a mere participant and go head-to-head with other competitors. I love the combination of the speed and endurance that is required to truly race these events.

I was lacking motivation to train for my ironman in a way that initially shocked me, but doesn't so much anymore. My entire year is pretty much dedicated to this one race, in which I am more of a participant that a competitor. I have given up so much in order to do this race, and I in no way regret any of it, but it was starting to take a toll on me mentally. When it hit me that what I really wanted to do was race, rather than complete another long distance triathlon I was plagued with anxiety. I was up almost the whole night thinking about how I was supposed to do this one race. I was so torn between what I was supposed to do and what I wanted to do that almost couldn't do anything at all. This decision consumed me because I didn't know how to listen to my own voice and do the thing that makes my heart sing.

In an effort to find this voice, I am on a quest to choose to do something every damn day. That might be sleeping in, or treating myself to a chai tea latte. Maybe it is taking a pit stop of the way to the store to meditate at the park. All I know is that I need to stop letting everyone decide my life for me.