Thursday, July 30, 2015

Ironman Lake Placid Race Report

DISCLAIMER: This is going to be pretty long, because if you know me you know I talk a lot. As in, one of my swim coaches once paid me to stop talking. Moving on..

When my alarm went off at 3:30am I was expecting to be exhausted and a ball of nerves but surprisingly I slept really well and was no more nervous than I normally am before any race. It was then breakfast, fill bottles, add any last minute items to special needs bags, put on temporary tats, and out the door by 4:30am to catch the bus over to Ironman village. I got everything set up on my bike and then dropped off both my bike and run special needs bags. The only thing left to do was wait for an official word from Ironman about whether the swim was a go or not. (Saturday night there was a pretty bad fire right across from the lake that damaged several shops and apartments. With all the debris there was a chance that the swim would be cancelled due to poor water quality). Once we got word that the water was safe to swim in everything started to feel a little more real. Before I knew it I had shimmied into my wetsuit and was making my way into the 60-70min swim corral.

Quick shoutout to everybody who sacrificed their sleep to send words of encouragement Sunday morning. Having people to talk to so early really helped keep me calm.

Swim- 57:59, 1:30/100m, 1st AG, 4th female, 28th overall
Although I really don't mind how aggressive mass swim starts can be, I have to say the rolling swim start made the majority of the first loop pretty relaxed. The biggest issue was trying to navigate the wall of dudes. Seriously guys, if you have such a problem being passed by a girl then GO FASTER. Despite the magical underwater cable in Mirror Lake that lets you swim without sighting, I stayed on the left and sighted off the buoys. There was no way I was wasting any more energy than necessary on the swim, which meant I did not want to fight for precious space on the cable. It also meant I just let my legs float for the majority of the swim. Finally all my hours of pulling paid off.

I didn't wear a watch for the swim so I had no idea how things were going until I got out to start the second lap. When I saw the clock said 6:59 I didn't immediately comprehend that it meant I roughly swam a 28-29 minute first loop. Once I realized this I went into the second lap hoping to finish under an hour. I stayed with my plan of keeping left and sighting off the buoys, although there were less people to fight with for the first half of this loop. I was just paddling along, enjoying the beauty that is Mirror Lake until I started to run into the people still finishing their first loop. Then everything went to hell. I swam into packs of breakstrokers who would start kicking frantically every time I touched their feet. I tried my hardest to be polite because these were the people struggling the most to swim but after awhile I said fuck it and started sinking people. This lasted for probably the final third of the second loop. Needless to say I was really happy when the swim was over.

Seeing the clock showing under an hour for the swim made me even happier. As this was my first time racing in my wetsuit I forgot that it zips upside down and was running around frantically trying to get it off. Thankfully one of the wetsuit strippers grabbed me, unzipped my wetsuit, threw me on my ground and ripped off my wetsuit. I got back up, said a quick hello to Kayla who was volunteering as a stripper, and started the long run to transition.

T1- 7:02
Although long, the run to transition is lined with screaming spectators which turned the most boring part of triathlon into quite the party. I grabbed my bike gear bag, ran into the changing tent and then couldn't remember what in the heck I needed to be doing. Thankfully a nice volunteer helped me tie back my hair, get my helmet and put on my shoes. Another nice volunteer grabbed my bike and sent me on my way.

Bike- 6:46:19, 16.65mph, 4th AG
The number one piece of advice I was given for this bike course was not to overdo it on the first loop.  My plan was to cruise along, keeping it easy for the first loop and then if I felt good I would pick it up on the second loop. The first few miles are relatively flat, with the first few small hills coming just before the notorious Keene descent. This was the hardest area to keep riding easy during because of all the crazy fast guys blowing by me. I don't like getting passed so this was a practice in exercising my patience, which by the way, I am the farthest thing from patient. I just kept telling myself that if I wasn't smart now I would pay for it later on. I reached the first of the three low truck gear signs signaling the descent into Keene and put all of my descending practice to the test. I am known among the people I ride with as being a chicken descender but thankfully some patient guys have been working on my descending skills with me. While I put my safety first and didn't risk riding the torn up road next to the huge drop off into the water in aero, I also didn't hit the brakes the entire time.

Just as I was entering Keene my stomach started growling so loudly that the guy I was riding next to asked if that rumbling noise was me and then suggested I eat something. So that's what I did. Once you make the left turn onto 9N there is a long stretch that's a tiny bit rolling but pretty flat by my standards. I pre-rode this part of the course on Friday so I knew it was a perfect area to eat, drink and tuck into aero before the climb from Wilmington back to town.

To be completely honest, I don't remember all that much from the bike. I remember bits and pieces but I can't really piece together when certain things happened or in what order. For instance I remember getting trapped in a pack of dudes while climbing but I couldn't tell you what hill or what mile that was. I do know that I loved the first loop and was really excited to push it more on the second loop. From the first loop I also remember climbing the bears was my favorite part. The climbs were the only time that I was able to pass anyone. I have to say, it's a really freaking good feeling spinning up the hills past all the guys who blew by me earlier with their flashy bikes and noisy wheels.

The part from the bears to the start of the second lap was the closest thing to a party on a bike I've experienced. Papa Bear was lined on both sides three spectators deep and then turning onto Mirror Lake Drive I could not stop smiling. Unfortunately for me, none of the race photographers were on this part of the course and as such, there are zero pictures of me smiling the entire damn day. Oops.

I made a quick stop at special needs to swap out my bottles and was on my way to start the second loop. The first few miles of the second loop were an absolute blast. I felt comfortable enough with how I paced the first loop to pick it up a little and try to re-pass some of the people who zoomed by me earlier on. There were more spectators out this time around so of course I hammed it up for them. Just before hitting the Keene descent for the second time I saw a moose trespassing sign, which was quite possibly the highlight of my day. I started laughing hysterically and pointed the sign out to the guy I was riding with, except his response was uhhh, okay. 

After Keene I made the left onto 9N again, except this time I noticed it was getting pretty warm out. The weather in Lake Placid changes so frequently that I thought nothing of it and kept chugging along. But then the wind really picked up and my lower back started to feel like there was a sumo wrestler sitting on it. I waffled back and forth between staying in aero and suffering through the back pain, and sitting up and battling the wind. Either way I knew it was going to make for a long climb back to town. Somewhere during the climb out of Jay a guy rode up to me, told me liked my kit, and then said that he was sorry I had red hair because I was probably getting really burned with how sunny it was. And that's when I realized that I had absolutely zero sunscreen on. I've been hospitalized for getting too sunburned so all I kept thinking was oh shit, it better get cloudy again really soon. Spoiler alert: it stayed sunny the entire rest of the day.

The climb from Wilmington back to Placid was more brutal the second time around but it really wasn't that bad. I was desperate to get off my bike because my back was in so much pain and because the weather was slowly killing me but the climbing itself was okay. Although it's hard to find the types of climbs this course has in York, I had climbed harder hills in my training, and on most days I truly love to climb. Just before the bears I realized I still had a bar left to eat that I wanted no part of. If I didn't still have to run a marathon I probably would have skipped it but I know what too little nutrition on the bike does to me and so I choked it down with the hopes of not feeling like a zombie when I got off the bike.

Just like the first loop, from the bears to transition was another party. The amount of screaming spectators was unreal. This was also that moment when you realize that all you have left is the marathon. And then you realize Ironman has made you crazy because running a marathon, especially after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112, is no small feat.

Nutrition: two Bonk Breaker bars, one pack extra sodium Clif shot bloks, one caffeinated Picky Bar, one bottle Osmo active, 2.5 bottles Skratch, and 2 bottles water

T2- 6:50
I have no idea what I did for seven minutes in T2. Let it be known that quick transitions are not my specialty. I did however, spend a few of those minutes getting sunscreen put on me. My skin was already red enough to match my hair at this point but I shuffled over to a nice volunteer and told him I needed as much sunscreen as he could put on me. He asked if I wanted it on my arms, yes, my legs, yes, and when he asked about my chest I again said yes. He asked if I was sure, not realizing it meant him rubbing my chest, and I said yes. We then joked about how after the numerous questionable things I'd already done that day any amount of class I had was already long gone.

Run- 5:11:23, 11:53min/mile, 5th AG
After the sunscreen debacle was over, I started on my way completely unsure how this marathon was going to go. I've heard more horror stories than I can count so I was just trying to make it as far as possible before what seems like the inevitable marathon upset stomach. I felt pretty good for the first few miles considering I'd already been racing for 8+ hours. When I looked at my watch and saw how fast I was running I pumped the brakes really fast. I knew I had absolutely no business running that fast, especially with how hot it was out. I later found out the heat index was in the 90s. I did question more than once why the hell I was running a marathon at 2:30 in the afternoon with zero shade on the course.

I think it was somewhere around mile 4 that I started walking both the uphills and the aid stations. I figured even if I was moving slowly I could hopefully keep somewhat of an even pace. Mile 4 was also where I started my aid station routine of pouring water on my head, drinking a cup of Gatorade, and dumping a cup of ice down my shirt. I have to say, this is simultaneously the best and worst feeling. With how hot it was outside I couldn't stomach the thought of taking in any food so Gatorade it was. The first out and back on River Road was more of the same. Once we got back to town you could hear the spectators from almost a mile away, which was good because this was also the hilliest part of the course. I swear, the spectators and volunteers got me through this marathon.

I made a quick stop at special needs to drop off my bottle and pop some Bayer. A friend gave me this during my last marathon when my knee was all wonky and it was a game changer. I felt pretty good but still had ~14 miles to go still. Going back out for my second lap I felt fucking amazing knowing all I had to do was get through one more lap. By mile 16 I felt less amazing and more like my quads were about to start cramping. I didn't know what else I could do so I kept chugging along, drinking Gatorade at each aid station. Until mile 19ish when my stomach decided it was done with the Gatorade. So then I played the risky game of trying to keep both my quads and my stomach happy.

For the next couple miles I stopped drinking anything but would eat an orange slice or two at each station. Neither my stomach nor my quads got better but neither got worse and I knew if I didn't take in some form of calories soon, things would get ugly. I think around mile 20-21 I started drinking Red Bull because in my ironman-induced brain fog I thought this would help. Not long after I started to get confused about where I was and thought I saw a group of guys I know biking through the field I was running next to.

The last few miles were absolutely the hardest. I spent a lot of time trying to hold my shit together and not cramp, throw up or fall over from how dizzy I was. Running the final out and back on Mirror Lake Drive was so painful but also when it really starts to hit you that once you hit the turn around you are in the last mile. It's a little hard to comprehend only one more mile after you've been racing for almost 140 miles.

As soon as I entered the oval I finally broke down. I was pretty emotionless the entire day until this moment. Rounding the oval and seeing the finish line was the most surreal feeling. As much as my entire body wanted to be done, I wanted to soak up every second. And then before I knew it I heard Mike Reilly say those magical words and two wonderful volunteers grabbed me. They asked if I wanted anything and when I said a shower they said I was in good shape.

Nutrition: one caffeinated GU, half a bottle of Skratch, ~10 orange slices, Gatorade at almost every aid station, water at probably half of the aid stations, and 2 cups of Red Bull

Finish- 13:09, 5th AG
I really could not have asked for a better first ironman experience. Yes, it was really freaking hard but it's supposed to be. And considering the carnage I saw on the run course I did pretty darn well with the heat. (A guy I talked to after the race said he saw a guy projectile vomiting running straight towards him). What really made this race so special, though, was all of the support from my family and friends. It meant so much to me having my mom there with me and being able to share this entire experience with her.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Here We Go!

My mom and I got to Lake Placid Thursday afternoon, and we have been having a blast since we arrived. Everywhere you look there are athletes swimming, biking or running. I'm having a hard time not going out and doing more because the atmosphere here is so infectious. I was able to check out the course some yesterday and boy is it beautiful. During my shakeout ride I had to force myself to turn around and head back because I just wanted to keep riding. I'll take that as a good sign.

In a little we're heading over to the athlete village to check in my bike and gear bags, and then the rest of the day is all about staying off my feet and taking it easy. If you want to track me I'm bib #801.

See ya on the other side of 140.6!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Taper Confessions

Ironman Lake Placid is exactly one week from today. That's seven days, people. Normally I would assume you know how many days are in a week but I am currently one week into taper and have lost all ability to put together coherent and logical thoughts. The taper crazies, as you may have heard them called, are out in full force. If you want proof, please consult the following list of things I have done or experienced in the last week.

  • Lost any sort of an appetite. On Tuesday I ate an ear of corn and an orange for lunch and then tried to ride that evening.
  • Went to sleep before 10pm more times in one week than I usually do in an entire year.
  • Started craving hamburgers.. and I've been a vegetarian for six years.
  • Had a dance party in the front yard with my dog because it was too nice out to be inside but I'd already done my ride. (You're welcome for the entertainment, neighbors)
  • Avoided packing for both ironman and my move to Philly. Instead I made a list of all the things I need to bring with me. It currently reads "everything."
  • Had a dream about the Guinness I'll be having post-ironman. 
  • Developed the appetite of a football player. Gotta make up for all the food I missed out on earlier in the week right?
  • Fell asleep at 10:15pm Saturday night, woke up ready for my morning run only to check the clock and see it was 11:35pm.
  • Realized I've been riding with spare tubes that don't have long enough valve stems for my wheels. This might be the one useful thing I've accomplished during taper.
  • Developed an annoying habit of responding to texts & messages in all caps. BECAUSE I HAVE SO MUCH EXTRA ENERGY.

So that's how taper is going so far, and I have a sneaking suspicion that things will only become more ridiculous over this next week. See ya soon, Lake Placid.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

York YWCA Y-Tri Sprint Triathlon Race Recap

I had every intention of writing this recap on my way to the beach following the race nearly two weeks ago but it just didn't happen. And then I planned on writing it while on vacation, but again, it didn't happen. I debated not writing about it at all but figured this would be one race I would want to go back and read about during those times I question why I race.

If you're here for the short version, I won my first triathlon. And when I say I won, I mean I won the whole damn thing. I have come pretty close to top of the podium in the past, finishing 6th, 4th, 3rd, and 2nd three times. But this year, I finally got to claim top of the box and it felt really freaking good.

The great part about doing this race, at least for me, is that it is practically in my backyard. I can wake up, eat breakfast, change, load up the car, and find parking all within 30 minutes. With so many races requiring absurdly early wake-up calls, the extra sleep was a much appreciated perk. So I was up by 6am and getting body marked a little after 6:30. Another thing I really like about this race is seeing so many familiar faces. As soon as I started to set up transition I was running into former teammates from my swimming days, competitors from last year, fellow strava addicts and of course my triathlon partner in crime, Rachel. Knowing so many people makes racing feel less intense.

Swim (500 yards)

With a swim this short it's hard for anything significant to happen. All I really remember is having to ask the race director three times how the serpentine swim worked, tell Rachel that I would be happy once the swim was over and I was on my bike, and spending the entire swim feeling like someone was choking me. I found out after the race that the chlorine levels in the pool were high, which makes sense given that I was literally gasping for air. Oh, I also remember on my way to transition telling my mom and Rachel's dad that something was wrong because I couldn't breathe. When they told me to told me to take a minute to catch my breath I yelled back that I didn't have a minute. Leave it to me to turn on the sassy while running to transition.

Swim 07:34 (2/95)
T1 :41

Bike (15.2 miles)
To be completely honest, this is not one of my favorite bike courses. I don't have a good reason for not liking it, but I just don't like it. The one thing I do like, is being out there pretty much by myself the entire time because of the way the swim is structured. I am an extremely competitive person, which means that sometimes I ride harder than I should and pay for it later. There's something really freeing about being out on the road, competing against yourself and nobody else. Being alone for all but the first three miles also meant nobody was there to witness me throwing up while still trying to haul ass on the bike. I chalk this up to the chlorine and lack of air problem on the swim but regardless, I was happy that whatever it was only lasted a few minutes. The rest of the bike was business as usual. Go hard, drink when I remember, crack jokes with the volunteers at the turns, remember this is a race and try to go hard again.

Bike 50:39 (1/95, 18.1mph)
T2 1:08

Run (3.1miles- really 3.25 because of a detour)
This, this was the fun part of this race. The run in my last race was more like a death march/shuffle than a run, which left me really nervous about how things would go this time. As soon as I got my flats on and took a few steps I knew things were going to be just fine. I haven't been doing too much hard running these last couple months with ironman training so I wasn't expecting anything super fast out of my legs. It was pretty much 25 minutes of plugging away, running knowing that if I wanted to win this race I needed to get moving. The last few minutes were pretty brutal, as they should be. Making that last turn onto the track all I could think about was my dad and how proud he would have been. He is who I think about when things get hard, when I want to quit. And in those last few minutes I knew, because of him, that no matter what the outcome of this race was it really didn't matter because I raced a little more fearlessly than in the past.

Run 25:19 (7/95, 7:48min/mile)

Overall 1:25:21, 1st place

Post-race was a mix of awkward interviews where I surely embarrassed myself, cheering in friends, and anxiety waiting for results to be posted. I was 100% that obnoxious person who stalked the results wall for a solid 75 minutes. But seeing my name first was everything. And the perfect kickoff to the last few weeks of ironman training.

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.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Bend Before You Break

Sometime in January I woke up with a kink in my neck. The kind where you don't really notice it until you turn your neck just the right amount and suddenly you're screaming in pain. I tried poking around my neck a little to try to ease the tightness and instead discovered that my neck pain was really shoulder pain manifesting itself as neck pain. Why is this important, you might ask. Well, because my shoulder/neck/upper back is still not quite back to normal more than two months later. I don't notice it often-- sometimes at night, when I raise my arms above my head-- definitely not often enough to call the big guns yet. I've debated getting a massage and if they weren't so darn expensive I would have gotten several starting back in January. When it occurred to me that I was still dealing with this same issue all these weeks later I thought maybe going to yoga would provide some relief.

The yoga at my local YMCA is nothing like the hot yoga studios where you leave feeling like you had a great workout. This yoga is gentle, more like a stretching class with some yoga poses thrown in there. And you know what, I love it. I went to class Friday morning and spent the entire class feeling like I couldn't get enough stretching. Suddenly I was realizing how crazy tight my hamstrings were, and how my hips barely let me get into pigeon. I remember thinking during class about how athletes spend so much time beating their bodies up, many until they reach their breaking point. We constantly hear about the importance of recovery but for so many of us this pillar of training is neglected because it isn't as glamorous as running 14 miles and doing an open water swim.

I have dealt with several small nagging injuries and one more serious one in the few years that I have been an endurance athlete. Before that I swam competitively and spent the last three years of my swimming career seriously injured. I'm talking three surgeries in three years. While some of them were accidents, so many of our injuries are unpreventable. Since the start of the year I have been struggling with my run because my IT band has been acting up. I went to yoga on Friday and on Sunday did the longest run since my 70.3 back in September. And it was pain free. Coincidence? Maybe, but I think there's some kind of connection.

I ask so much of my body, constantly taking it through really hard workouts yet I never give it the reward it needs. Don't we owe it to ourselves to treat our bodies like temples? Like goddesses? There's this notion in the sports world that our bodies are somehow disconnected from us. All the time we are being told to listen to our bodies. But you know what? Our bodies are a part of us. They are connected to us in every way and deserve as much love and respect as we give our minds. So why wait until our bodies are screaming at us to do something. It doesn't have to be yoga. There are so many things you can do that aren't training to make yourself feel good. For me, movement is a game changer. I'll go to yoga, take the pup for a walk, hike at the local trails.

So go. Go beat yourself up the best way you can and then build yourself back up. Give yourself love and nourishment. I promise you'll feel amazing.

Monday, March 30, 2015

On Numbness and Vulnerability

It's funny how the universe works, right? Earlier last week I was talking to my mom about this numb feeling I've been having, like whether something good or bad happens I'm tuned out to it. Right now I am in this weird in-between period. December was a whirlwind month, with graduation, Christmas and my birthday and within three weeks. So much of the past few years led up to December. All the papers, all the hours studying for exams, all led up to graduating college. And it was exciting, it really was. And then most of January was spent prepping for my grad school interview. By the time February rolled around I was strikingly aware of the lack of things going on in my life.

It felt like everyone was starting the spring semester or getting a new job, and what was I doing? Binge watching Grey's Anatomy and eating too many pierogies, that's what I was doing. I spent countless hours thinking of all the ways my life would be perfect once I moved to Philadelphia, which in turn only made me spiral further. I wanted so badly for things to be different, to be happier, to feel more joy. I felt helpless, but it was in the helplessness that I found joy. You see, for the past few years I have felt this numbness. It swept over me slowly, so that by the time I noticed it I was incapable of feeling any emotion at all.

It was at this moment that it hit me that I no longer recognized myself. Sometime over the last five years I lost myself. I never noticed it because I was slowly chipped away at. I woke up one day, unable to feel excitement over something good happening, terrified of the person I had become. I hadn't thought about this numbness for quite some time, until last week. I had been in such a funk, sabotaging my training, moping around the house, that I was unable to see what was happening.

Friday I watched this TED talk by Brene Brown. I found myself nodding along in agreement, as if she was speaking directly to me and everything I was experiencing. She talked about how we numb ourselves to avoid vulnerability, and quite frankly, truer words have never been spoken. This got me thinking about so, so much. What emotions have I been hiding from? Why? I know for one, I'm afraid of getting hurt. In the span of three months I lost both my dad and my boyfriend, two of the most important people in my life at the time. When you go through a loss like that it is really freaking hard to make yourself vulnerable again. To open yourself up to getting hurt again.

But in hiding and trying to protect myself from experiencing more pain I was preventing myself from experiencing joy. When we numb ourselves from the bad we inevitably numb ourselves from the good too. So where do I go from here? How do I ease this numbness? Honestly, I'm not quite sure. I wish I had an answer but all I can do right now is acknowledge that I am in a period of decrease. I may not have tons of incredible opportunities on my door right now but I also don't have loads of stress to deal with either. Right now I'm acknowledging that I am lost. But you know what, I'm on the way to finding myself. And I know that the universe is on my side because it gave me exactly what I needed exactly when I needed it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I Am Me

Sometimes writing is hard for me. I have so much going on inside my head, so much I want to say, but when it's time to write I don't know where to start. I feel overwhelmed, like what I have to say doesn't matter. I love reading blogs and credit it with helping me discover triathlon and giving me an incredible network of strong, fierce female athletes. But blogging has also put me in this never-ending spiral of comparison. At the beginning of the year I started documenting my weekly training. I wanted to be able to look back at what I had done while training for this goal that I've had for so long. Yet, each week I dreaded writing those posts because I never felt like I had done enough in comparison to everyone else. I was afraid that people would scoff at me or criticize me.

After taking a few weeks off of blogging I realized that while I don't want to write weekly posts about my training, I do still want to share my journey. I have enough training logs that I can look back at and see all that I have done in preparation for this ironman. What those logs don't tell are the stories, though. They are filled with numbers. How far I biked, how fast I ran. I do write comments for most of my workouts in my logs but they are only a snippet of my experience.

In these past few weeks I also realized that only sharing my journey from the perspective of my training does not tell the whole story. Yes, this is a training blog and yes, that is what I will continue to focus on. But there are more parts to me that just triathlon and training. I want to be able to use my little corner of the internet in whatever way I want, which right now means sharing in my journey from all perspectives. I recently read Matt Dixon's The Well Built Triathlete and that's when it really hit me how much our lives outside of triathlon affect our training. I can't change the cards that I have been dealt but I can change how I handle them.

For so much time I felt like I had multiple personas. I felt like I was juggling two different lifestyles, in large part because of some of the people in my life. They took from me, chipping away until I couldn't recognize myself anymore. I tried so hard to be the person they wanted because I thought that was what I wanted too. But it never felt natural. Something always felt off. I felt the most like myself when I was training, running with my dreams. It felt like I would take one step forward toward my authentic self, only to be pulled two steps back by someone who was trying to mold me into what he wanted.

Recently I've had a lot of time to think. And now more than ever has it been made clear to me how important it is for me to honor who I really am and what I truly want for myself. The other night I navigated a potentially dangerous road, imagining what my life would look like had I not broken free when I did. I wasn't sure what I was expecting but I knew it was something I needed to do. What happened next was I was overcome with relief, this feeling of freedom. It's hard to realize someone you care about is not the best thing for you, but boy is that statement true. Someone who was supposed to be building me up was instead tearing me down. Imagining this alternate life made me realize how truly destructive things had been.

In an effort to fully embrace who I am, I'm putting back together the pieces of me that were taken, destroyed. I don't want to feel like part of my life isn't good enough because what it all comes down to is that you cannot choose the things you like about people and discard what you don't like. I am me and I will not change that for anyone. I want this blog to be a place where I can say whatever I want. A place where I can share insights into my life, with the hope of maybe inspiring someone. I have been frequently reminded that I am not alone in my feeling like this and I think it is time that we embrace who we are, instead of trying to hide.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Road to Ironman Week 6

One of my favorite parts about blogging is getting to share my accomplishments with all my internet-friends. When not everyone in your day-to-day life understands or cares about endurance sports or triathlon training it makes it challenging when you have something exciting to share. The downside to this, of course, is sharing the failures, missteps and weaknesses. Nobody likes to admit to defeat, especially in such a public format. But for the sake of being transparent and keeping it real around here, I am admitting defeat this past week. I had a rough few days at the end of the week for no real reason other than I was throwing myself a pity party. I was unhappy with myself for missing a workout, then unhappy about my weight, and before I knew it I had sabotaged two entire days of training. I felt like I was trapped inside myself and everything I did, every thought I had only trapped me further. The good news is that I brought myself out of this spiral and am back on track. We all have down days and weeks but what matters is bringing yourself back and allowing yourself to have good days again.

Monday. Strength

Tuesday. 40 min run + 60 min trainer ride

Wednesday. 40 min run

Thursday. strength + 60 min trainer ride

Friday. Rest

Saturday. Rest

Sunday. 60 min trainer ride

Onwards and upwards. Happy training!